Essay Algorithms Growing in Accuracy

Do computers and people think alike?

It seems essay algorithms are quite in style these days. This NY Times article highlights new programs that evaluate a student's writing skills:

"This spring, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation sponsored a competition to see how well algorithms submitted by professional data scientists and amateur statistics wizards could predict the scores assigned by human graders. The winners were announced last month — and the predictive algorithms were eerily accurate."

Even Educational Testing Service, which develops and administers the SAT, created e-Rater, a software that can grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds, according to this article.

We at College Essay Organizer designed an advanced algorithm a few years ago showing how all your colleges' different essay questions overlap, allowing you to write the fewest essays possible. Our easy-to-use website now benefits thousands of college applicants and independent consultants looking to gain the competitive edge and work smarter. Why rush through writing 20 mediocre essays when you can instantly see how to write, say, just 4 exceptional ones?

Don't think you have that many essays to write? See for yourself here -- it's FREE.

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The China Conundrum from The New York Times

New York TimesThe New York Times has a magazine piece up today about the influx of Chinese students into the American university system in recent years. Many of the students, the article notes, are from middle- to upper-class families that can afford to pay the full tuition - a boon for schools struggling under recent budget cuts - but who often arrive without the requisite English skills to keep up in the classroom.

The onus is on them, for the most part, and though navigating a university education in one's second language is an enormous challenge, it's one that isn't dissuading Chinese parents from sending their children to America in rapidly-increasing numbers.

As with any international shift in the college admissions game, understanding the system is of primary importance, especially when choosing your school and managing the college essay process. A number of the students cited in the article admit that when they applied to the school, their English was not strong, which is all the more reason to keep the application process simple, efficient, and direct, so as not to write any unnecessary essays or misinterpret what's required for a given application.

Use of College Essay Organizer has likewise grown among international applicants and international counseling services, and that's to everyone's benefit. Keep things simple and targeted, and make the most of what you have.

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College Essay Help From The New York Times

New York TimesThe New York Times has offered up another piece about how to edit your college admissions essay, and though it is often hard to hear such advice, the point is as true now as it's ever been - good writing does not need to be long, and it especially doesn't just need to be "done" - it needs to be good. It's often very difficult for students to hear that they need to edit large parts of their essays, or in some cases, delete the entire thing and start over.

It should be said again and again - the college application essay is one of the most important pieces of writing high school students will ever do, and for many students, it is the most important thing they've written at that point in their lives. So make it count. Never send an essay in without doing at least five drafts, and be sure that you've considered the subject at great length. Be sure you've chosen something that's not cliche, and that reaches into a part of your experience that the rest of your application does not.

The tips in the New York Times article we've linked above are key, so we'll repeat them there. But remember, no mechanical advice will substitute for personal, emotional writing and honesty about your own experience. Write about what makes you feel like yourself, and don't shy away from the subjects of greatest value to you.

  1. Know where to start.
  2. Try a trusty literary device.
  3. Avoid adjectives, adverbs, and qualifiers.
  4. Pay close attention to sentence structure.

Not bad ideas if you're looking to get your word count down, but have a look at the article and hit us back up with your feedback.

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New York Times Stresses the Importance of the College Essay

New York TimesThis article recently featured on the New York Times stresses the importance of the college essay, even going so far as to suggest that students should devote their summers to crafting an experience worthy of a college essay. One of the more interesting aspects to the article is that students do not need to necessarily spend an enormous amount of money, or even travel great distances to come up with an experience that makes for a stand-out essay. Trips can be small, or even local, just so long as they are targeted, specific, and memorable:

Students do not have to spend a summer abroad for an essay-worthy experience. When Mary Lang Gill was a rising senior at the Atlanta Girls School, a private school, she hired Pam Proctor, an independent college counselor and the author of “The College Hook,” a college admissions guide. After learning that Ms. Gill loved to paint, Ms. Proctor connected her to the Florida Highwaymen, a band of renegade painters active during the 1950s and ’60s.

“I spent a whole day with them,” painting and observing, said Ms. Gill, who just graduated from Dickinson College. “It was one of the coolest things ever, and I love that and I got to put it on my application.” Ms. Proctor said she spent a great deal of time with students helping them find the right topic for the college essay. “Picking the essays is as important as writing them,” she said. After that, she said, the stories “write themselves.”

Creating a strong college essay is often about specificity and significance of subject as much as command of basic writing. By keeping that in mind, often just a few hours' work in selecting a topic, and a day or three of effort to make it a reality can yield a truly unique piece of writing, not to mention a genuine experience and new sights for the student.

Keep in mind, though, that most articles and books about the college essay process fail to point out that you'll have many essays to write, not just one. Check for free here to see how many essays your colleges require.

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New York Times Analyzes Most Expensive Schools In America

Department of EducationWith perfect timing, the New York Times has presented the flip side of our previous post about the value of pursuing scholarships, analyzing the Education Department's recent release of its database of the most expensive colleges and universities in America.

The rise in cost of education in America is clearly outstripping inflation, household income, or any other benchmark against which tuition increases of America's not-for-profit universities could be measured year over year. So what is to be done about the astronomical costs incoming freshmen are facing?

The answer is found in the data itself, and in the public response from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine (the school with the dubious distinction of being the most expensive four-year not-for-profit school in America). Increase the amount of financial aid available to students of lesser means.

Scholarships are at a higher premium than ever before, so make sure to do your homework this summer and apply to as many as you can find. In many ways, such applications are a numbers game - the more you can find, the less you'll pay up front.

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Independent Counselors Improve Global Reach With College Essay Organizer

This article in the New York Times' Education section describes a small school in upstate New York that decided to change its fate by attracting students from all over the world to learn, and, in turn, help the local economy. As the article admits, the idea sounds preposterous for a school of its size - the population of the town at the time had dropped below 500 - but the superintendent of Newcomb, NY, decided that the plan was worth a shot, and enrollment has since shot up. They expect to have over 100 students next year alone, and since beginning their efforts, they have brought in students from 19 different countries. This has had the dual benefit of improving the educational environment for the students and improving the local economy.

The key to the school's success was its global outreach and its ability to provide opportunities to foreign students that weren't available in those students' homelands. At College Essay Organizer, we have seen independent counselors increase the scope of their businesses dramatically through the use of technologies that enable a quick and simple global outreach.

Because of new communication tools such as Skype and iChat, counselors are able to transcend the local responsibilities they've had for years and provide consulting and advising services to clients the world over. As a single-stop essay editing and advising platform, College Essay Organizer can be ideal for essay development between advisor and client across state lines, time zones, even entire oceans!

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New York Times Addresses The Importance Of the College Essay

New York TimesThe New York Times posted an in-depth and informative piece this past weekend about the growing number of applicants to American universities from other countries, and how important the college essay is for gaining an edge.  The problem the article describes is simple: the number of overseas applicants is skyrocketing, increasing at more than 50% a year, every year, and the number of slots available in each school's incoming class is staying the same. With competition becoming ever more aggressive, the cost of advising and essay help is reaching into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per student. While most independent consultants are wonderful, helpful guides, some are willing to rewrite every element of an applicant's essay, or even write it for the student outright.

College Essay Organizer is the ethical solution to this problem. We have been helping foreign students navigate the lengthy and complex essay process for years, and as with all of College Essay Organizer's members, we do it quickly and at a low cost. With the circuitous application system we have in America, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. College Essay Organizer is a one-stop shop for your essay requirements, allowing you to work smarter and spend your time efficiently on the work you have to do, rather than the enormous amount that it seems you have to do.

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New York Times Reports on 2011 College Admissions Figures

New York Times College AdmissionsOver at the New York Times' The Choice, a great chart of up-to-the-minute admissions figures has been made available, and it makes clear that the trend of applying to many schools is showing no signs of letting up.

There are a number of caveats that they point out in the write-up under the chart, most notably that the budgets for advertising schools' applications have been increasing as well. The schools are in the business of increasing the number of applicants just as much as the students are in the business of hedging their bets by applying to more than ten schools a piece.

But what does that mean to you?

Notice that certain schools' acceptance rates dropped significantly from 2010 to 2011 without their academic metrics (like accepted student GPA or SAT scores) improving at the same level. These are schools that have found effective ways of boosting the applicant pool and driving down the acceptance rate without necessarily increasing competition for qualified students.

So it's not as much doom and gloom as you might think. If the schools are making an effort to increase the applicant pool without necessarily increasing the pool of applicants that deserve to be at the school, you are going to appear just as competitive as you would have in previous years, despite the increasing number of applicants. More than anything, you'll need to be focused on efficiency and making sure your pile of applications isn't overwhelmed by the typical homework you have to do in the first semester of your senior year. Get organized!

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New York Times Writes About the Common Application

Cree Bautista! Congratulations, you're on CEO blog! Weird, right?

This new article in the New York Times' Education section talks about unlikely hero to college applicants everywhere, Cree Bautista. Mr. Bautista saw fit to apply to NYU just a few hours after the Common App went live at the beginning of this month, and in so doing became the first applicant of the year through the site.

Cree's eagerness, though exceptional in degree, isn't uncommon in practice. The Common App's directors have already started talking about the speed of this year's applicant pool, and the sheer number of applications students are managing. From the Times' article:

"Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, said he was particularly unnerved by the flood of early submissions through the organization's website because he feared that students were rushing their essays. (This year’s Common Application was actually posted several weeks later than last year’s — not as a prod to get applicants to file later, but instead to allow high schools extra time to send final documents before the new year begins.)"

Remember, your top choice is not your only choice! There are many applications to be managed, and sites like CEO are here to get that work out in front of you and help you keep it under control from the get-go. While we can't all be like Cree, we can all save ourselves from those last-minute crushes of papers and apps.

New York Times' Maureen Tillman Blogs: Beware The Freshman Pitfalls

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to keep you from being taken to task.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She is the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

For high school seniors making the transition to college, this is the time to get real. It is crucial for these new graduates to be aware of the common stumbling blocks that many college freshmen encounter, and learn what they can do to help themselves have a successful transition from high school to college.

For many, this is the first time they will be leaving the nest, and it is now time to deal with the issues that will arrive when they are living on their own.

In my work I have talked with many college students on this first-year transition. Common pitfalls emerged from our discussions, some of which can have serious consequences. For example:

* Many students with learning and medical disabilities, ADD or ADHD have had support while growing up (including the monitoring of medication) from parents, tutors, schools and counselors — all significant factors in their academic success. But many students who decide to try college without this support find that this decision leads to a ticket home.

* Drinking and partying when homesick or down can spiral into deeper depression and academic failure.

* Freshmen tend to frequently text, call and use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Too much of this can take away from meeting new people and feeling connected.

It is helpful if students look ahead and learn all they can about the college terrain before they leave.

Here are three suggestions to help students in their transition:

1. Talk to a variety of college students who have recently finished their freshman year. Ask them about their challenges and how they navigated them. What myths were shattered? And what do they wish they had known previously which would have allowed for them to have been more prepared?

2. Be realistic. You can do this by taking responsibility for yourself before you leave and take on tasks that your parents may have assisted in, like becoming literate in finances, making your own daily decisions and managing stress. Use the summer months to practice self-advocacy and assertiveness in challenging situations that may come your way.

3. Read the student handbook, “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College,” by Harlan Cohen.

Freshman year at college offers a window of opportunity for students to reach out, join activities and make new friends. Yet many high school students cling to myths that could affect their ability to fully enjoy this time of their lives. When you hold those conversations with rising college sophomores you may know, don’t be afraid to raise some of your assumptions about college life; you might be surprised by their response.

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