Are you an early bird?

This is the time of year when students start hearing a lot about applying to college early from peers, parents, and newspaper headlines -- and maybe feeling some pressure as a result. But before you succumb to that pressure, spend some time understanding how decision plans really work, what the numbers in the headlines actually mean, and whether it's a good idea for you personally. Check out the Chapter Excerpt on the Book page here on the website to understand how your grades and scores could figure into a decision to apply early and benefit from the input on decision plans from the deans at Johns Hopkins, Drake University, and Northern Illinois University, as well as others.

Ferris Bueller Could Be Their Dad

And the Amazon is not just a river in South America for this fall's entering class of college freshmen. The Beloit College Mindset List was released this week with these and 73 more observations about the cultural reference points of the Tickle Me Elmo generation born just 18 years ago. (In other words, the Internet is older than they are. Yikes!)

The Mindset List is the brainchild of the Wisconsin college's former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Humanities Professor Tom McBride, originally created in 1998 to provide a heads up to faculty about the rapidly changing reference points of each new entering class. Today, the list gets more than a million hits on its webpage. "Yadda, yadda, yadda." See what that means when you check out the rest of the Mindset's insights into the Class of 2015.

Win a Free Copy of College Admission

Don't forget to sign up to receive our newsletter and be entered for a chance to win one of 10 free copies of COLLEGE ADMISSION! Just select the "Subscribe to our Newsletter" link on the Home page and enter your email address. The contest is open to everyone and will end on Labor Day, September 5th. We'll announce the winners on Tuesday, September 6, as everyone heads back to school - and work - from the long weekend.

More on Essays: What are you like when no one is looking?

Kudos to Laurie Fendrich, blogger for The Chronicle of Higher Education and faculty member at Hofstra University, who weighed in on the exotic essays front, as well:

“In pushing college applicants to write college essays proving how “extraordinary” they are, we get application essays about the summer spent hiking in Nepal, the semester abroad learning Chinese, the Saturdays spent at soup kitchens, and the long hours at the violin. But all these extraordinary extracurricular activities are almost always artificially concocted. They’re a result of the savvy, ferocious ambitions of students, their parents and their guidance counselors, all of whom desperately work together to make sure the student looks “extraordinary.”

San Francisco Magazine

Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde: College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step (Crown Books)

Rising Costs and Rising Rewards

Average tuition, room, and board at colleges has more than doubled since 1990, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. But -- consider this from the U.S. Census Bureau: the average annual 2008 earnings of workers 18 and older with an advanced degree --$83,144. Those without a high school diploma earned  $21,023. All this and more stats from the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss . $7.4 billion spent on back-to-school shopping! Read more here.

What's a standout college essay? It's the one about you.

According to a recent New York Times article, students are cultivating summer experiences such as expensive internships or
exotic travel experiences "with the goal of creating a standout personal statement." We couldn't disagree more with this "strategy"! Or, as a former admission officer on Robin Mamlet's staff at Stanford put it -- more colorfully --in an email to us, "YUCK.  That should be YUCK in all caps, bold, italics, the works. With many, many exclamation marks."

James G. Nondorf, The University of Chicago

James G. Nondorf

Each month we'll pose five questions to a Dean of Admission. We may ask their best advice for applicants, how their office reads applications, their favorite thing on campus, or the most surprising fact about their college or university. If you'd like to pose a question to a Dean of Admission or if you'd like to nominate a Dean for us to feature, please email us at

We are proud to present our first interviewee from the other side of the desk -- James G. Nondorf, Vice President and Dean of College Admissions and Financial Aid at The University of Chicago.

1. How can a student stand out when applying to the University of Chicago?

Many qualified applicants to the University of Chicago have excelled academically, have challenged themselves with rigorous coursework, and are engaged in extracurricular activities and the community. The students that stand out are the ones who demonstrate a level of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and honesty in their applications.

Alice Kleeman, Menlo-Atherton High School

Each month we'll honor a high school college counselor. In our Q & A, we'll find out about their pet peeves, real life heroes and best advice for students and parents. We want you to get to know them as professionals and individuals - and benefit from what they know about applying to college, too.

Counselor of the Month


Welcome to Admission Now, the blog for the book College Admission. Here we'll bring you the latest news, vital statistics, and color commentary on applying to college. When a college changes their early decision policy, we'll explain what that means. We'll scrutinize the headlines and provide some perspective on hot button issues like rankings and cost. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will get a heads-up on what they should be thinking about right now. And there will be plenty of fun - because any journey through the college admission process can be improved with regular doses of levity (SAT word). So we hope you'll visit often and, along the way, learn more, stress less, stay informed, and once in a while, laugh out loud.