A study conducted by AdmitSee, an undergraduate and graduate application-sharing platform created by University of Pennsylvania students, found students who used certain words, wrote about certain topics or even just wrote with a certain tone in their application essays were more likely to get accepted to one Ivy League school over another.
Upon analyzing its application archives, AdmitSee found students who referred to their parents as “mom and dad” in their application essays were more likely to get accepted to Stanford, while students who called them “mother and father” were more likely to receive a Harvard admission offer.
These findings, which were published by Fast Company, are based on essays — 539 of which were from students who were accepted to Stanford and 393 of which were from students who were accepted to Harvard — uploaded to the site at the time the study was conducted.
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So how does AdmitSee gain access to these application essays? The site invites college students, who are identified and verified by their official school IDs, to upload their application materials. Once uploaded, their application materials can then be accessed by high school students who are preparing for the college application process. Every time a high school student views a college student’s application materials, that college student is paid a stipend by AdmitSee.
AdmitSee found students whose application essays had a sad tone were more likely to be accepted to Harvard than Stanford. Specifically, essays written by students who were later admitted to Harvard focused on overcoming challenging moments in life. These essays frequently included words such as “cancer,” “difficult,” “hard” and “tough.”
This finding proved to be almost the exact opposite of what admissions officers from Stanford were looking for. Essays featuring a creative personal story or an issue the student was passionate about were among those accepted to the California-based school as opposed to Harvard, according to AdmitSee. These acceptance-winning essays often featured words like “happy,” “passion,” “better,” and “improve.”
AdmitSee also found surprising differences in the way Harvard and Stanford handle legacy applicants.
AdmitSee cofounder Lydia Fayal said that these differences play out primarily in the SAT scores and grade point averages of legacy versus non-legacy candidates.
“Harvard gives more preferential treatment to legacy candidates than Stanford,” Fayal said in an email interview. “Based on our preliminary data, the average SAT score at Harvard is 2150 for legacy students and 2240 for non-legacy; meanwhile at Stanford it’s 2260 for both legacy and non-legacy.”
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Fayal also said based on AdmitSee’s data, she found that the average GPA is three-tenths of a point lower for Harvard’s legacy students than it is for non-legacies. At Stanford, the average GPA of legacy students versus non-legacy students is just one-tenth of a point lower.
“If you take out diversity candidates and student athletes, the difference between legacy and non-legacy students gets really scary,” Fayal said.
Fayal was unable to provide exact numbers on this data – she said AdmitSee needs to wait to receive more applications containing this type of information.
Upon further quantitative analysis, AdmitSee found the most common words used in Harvard and Stanford essays have similar themes but are nonetheless different. For the Massachusetts-based Ivy, these words were “experience,” “society,” “world,” success” and opportunity.” For Stanford, they were “research,” “community,” “knowledge,” “future” and “skill.”
College admissions counselor Katherine Cohen didn’t find the differences between the application essays written by students admitted to Harvard and those admitted to Stanford surprising.
“Stanford and Harvard, while both extremely prestigious universities, actually don’t have that much in common when it comes to the feel on campus, their under-lying values, etc,” Cohen, who is also the founder and CEO of college admissions counseling company IvyWise, said in an email interview. “So it makes sense that they would be looking for different types of students, and therefore different kinds of essays.”
While the data collected from students admitted to Harvard and Stanford is the most specific, AdmitSee also collected interesting information on other Ivy League schools.
“There are 745 colleges with at least 1 application file on AdmitSee.com, and 286 colleges with 10+ application files on the site,” Fayal said.
For example, AdmitSee’s data indicates the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell favor essays about a student’s career goals. Like Harvard, Princeton tends to admit students who write about overcoming adversity. Essays that discuss a student’s experience with race, ethnicity or sexual orientation are well-received by Stanford, Yale and Brown.
Further, when looking specifically between Yale and Brown, AdmitSee found that Brown admitted more students who wrote about their volunteer experience, whereas there was no conclusive data that confirmed Yale favored essays of this type.
While AdmitSee’s findings focused specifically on applications submitted by students who were accepted to Ivy League institutions, the site has application materials for a wide variety of schools on its site.
AdmitSee co-founder Stephanie Shyu said, according to Fast Company, students who are gearing up to apply to college can learn two major lessons from the company’s data. One of these lessons: it is a good idea to craft unique essays for each school.
Fayal said that she wasn’t surprised that AdmitSee’s data reflected this tactic. It was a lesson she also learned during her time as a college consultant.
“I’ve worked with enough students to know that students should customize their application essay by university,” Fayal said. “I hope that, by releasing AdmitSee data, we’re leveling the playing field for students who can’t afford private college consultants.”
And Cohen agreed.
“Each school has slightly different values and focuses on different attributes, so the words, attitudes and themes expressed in a student’s application and college essays do matter when it comes to their chances of admission at one college vs. another,” Cohen said. “That’s why it is usually rare for a student to get accepted to every single Ivy League even if they have straight A’s, perfect SAT/ACT scores and 5’s across all their AP exams.”
The second lesson: students should aim to make their essays reflect the culture of the school they are applying to.
“The essays of admitted students are also a reflection of the community at these institutions,” Shyu told Fast Company. “It can provide insight into whether or not the school is a good fit for that student.”
Lea Giotto is a student at the University of Michigan and a summer 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent.
act, admissions essay, Brown, college application, college applications, Columbia University, Cornell, Dartmouth, essays, GPA, Harvard, SAT, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, COLLEGE CHOICE, VOICES FROM CAMPUS
Am I qualified?
This internship is for students who have completed at least one year of high school. Most students who are accepted have completed 2 or 3 years of high school. You must live and attend school in the San Francisco Bay Area, within 25 miles of campus or in San Francisco. No exceptions. This opportunity is for students of all backgrounds. There is no age limit. Interns must be mature and confident to talk to professors.
This year we will limit the home range of applicants. Applicants must live with about 25 miles. We want interns to be able to get to campus in less than an hour. We will accept applications from students living in San Francisco, on the peninsula in San Mateo County south through San Jose and Los Gatos, and in the East Bay from San Leandro south to Milpitas. Students coming from futher away complain that the commute is too much and it impacts their experience negatively.
Is there a cost to be an intern? What is the salary?
There are no costs to participate in the programs. This is not a camp! The interns are doing real work. Most interns participate on an unpaid basis and several use this experience for community service requirements for school. We do offer diversity honorarium (money) for eligible students. There are limited social events because this is a working internship.
What is the diversity honorarium?
For the diversity honorarium, students must meet at least TWO of these criteria: (a) from a group underrepresented in science (Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Pacific Islander), (b) from a low-income household, or (c) plan to be the first in their family to attend college. To be eligible students must also be legally entitled to work in the US.
For the Biodiversity Option, there will be about 7-10 honorariums of $1800 each. For the Environment and Geology Options, there will be 2-4 honorariums of $500 each.
To apply for the diversity honorarium, applicants must write a second essay (at least 2 paragraphs) addressing these questions:
How does being from a "diverse" group (underrepresented group in science or low income household) affect your view of yourself working in science? What are the challenges you foresee pursuing a career in science? How do you think your "diversity" affects your interest in or perspective of science?
Can I apply if I live outside of the San Francisco Bay Area?
No. No exceptions. This program is for local high school students only. You must live and attend school in the San Francisco Bay Area, with about 25 miles.- See the area restriction in #1. This is not a residential program. Our interns live at home and travel to campus each day. You can find other research opportunities at this site http://www.pathwaystoscience.org or youth programs at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Programs.
How do I apply?
https://stanfordearth.slideroom.com/#/Login Each year, a new application is released by February 1 and is due in mid-March. We do not accept late applications. Download InternshipApplication2015.pdf. You will have to decide which program to apply to - read about the - read about the different options. Make sure you live within 25 miles or so of campus. See #1.
A letter of recommendation from a high school teacher is required.
To check that your letter of recommendation was submitted, sign back into the application system and click to the reference page and look for status. You should get an email message when your reference letter is submitted.
Additional information: In the past we have been asked about SAT scores, transcripts and resumes. We do NOT need them. The application lists all the information that we require.
What are my chances of being accepted?
In 2012, we received 275 applications for 20 positions. In 2013, we expanded the program to include more high school students for a total of 35 positions. In 2016, there were 32 interns in the program and over 175 applications. In 2018, we do not know how many positions there will be, probably about 25.
When do I find out if I got in? When does the program begin?
by February 1, 2018: Application Available
March 16, 2018: Applications Due
March 23, 2018: Letter of Recommendation Due
About May 1, 2018: Acceptance letters sent out
Tuesday, June 19, 2018: First day of Internships
Thrusday, August 9, 2018: Final Presentations
Is there an orientation before the program begins?
There will be an orientation for all new interns and their parents in the month of May. This evening event will provide parents the opportunity to meet program staff and science supervisors. We will discuss the expectations and projects that students will be working on. Parents will be given the chance to ask questions about the permission forms and waivers that are required for all interns to participate in the program. The invitation will be sent out to all interns who are selected. We anticipate that the orientation will be held during the last two weeks in May.
How do I get to campus each day?
You need to make your own arrangements for transportation to campus. Many interns are driven by their parents. Others ride their bikes, take the train or take the bus. Parking on campus is expensive, yet interns can be sponsored so they can purchase parking permits - talk to the program coordinator. You must live within about 25 miles from campus.
What are the different options? How do I know what is right for me?
Make sure you read the options page to learn about the programs. Be sure that you apply to the program that you are interested in and can make the commitment to. More about different options.
Program Commitment: By submitting my application, I am making a commitment to fully participate in the Earth Sciences High School Internships.
Parents are encouraged to let students ask their own questions. If students have further questions, high school students should contact Jennifer Saltzman via email or call her at (650)725-2410. We want mature interns who are ready to work hard (this is not camp).