Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Book: Admissions Confidential

I received this book as a gift from my husband's aunt. Her daughter is currently a freshman at Princeton. At first, I thought this book was about giving parents tips on college applications. But it turned out the intention of the book was quite the contrary.

Rachel, the author, stumbled on a job as an admission officer at Duke University after being an editor at Oxford press. She described her first-year experience at Duke. It is a truthful recount of the whole college admission process. It was very personal for her and it revealed what was going on behind the scene.

The main point is sad. So many applicants look so much alike. They are called BWRKs, Bright Well-Rounded Kids. Who gets in and who gets rejected can be arbitrary. In the last chapter, Rachel went on to discuss whether it really matters where a person goes to college.

There are many funny and interesting stories in the book. It is a good read even for people who are not involved in any college applications. For me, the book gave me a refreshing break from all the technical books that I have been reading.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


After a long time of planning, the beta version of Cogito.org is recently live. This is a site for gifted students who are passionate about math and science. I took a peek today and found lots of interesting content there.

In a way, this website is one of a kind. I had felt that information and news about math and science are largely neglected in American K-12 schools. It seems uncool for kids to talk about them.

Cognito.org celebrates students and scientists who are seriously involved in math and science. The interviews introduce many career options, such as bio-statistician or epidemiologist. I am delighted to find links to many free course wares and on-line tutorials, such as MIT Openware. It opens many opportunities to further learning. I also enjoyed the Essays. I have a genuine interest in knowing how smart people think.

To make life really busy, students can learn about competitions, summer programs and internships. While it is great to have all the information, it can be overwhelming in choosing what to do.

Overall, this is a website worth exploring. It will expand the horizon for many students and, myself included, their parents :).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

College Application II

MIT's Dean of Admissions, Marilee Jones wrote a letter to parents of all applicants. I received that letter today. It was warm, supportive and encouraging. It is a message much needed as I am getting really nervous about the gazillion things that my son needs to do for this coming month.

She said, "You'll likely find yourself playing many roles in the coming year - friend, guide, coach, cheerleader, even therapist. While it may seem temping to be involved at every step, the role of 'applicant' must truly belong to your child. Our application is carefully designed to help us get to know your son or daughter, and to be effective the voice must be exclusively his or hers. Just remember - they have to do all the work, including writing their own essays. This is their rite of passage into adulthood, after all. ..."

"One last thing...your child will need you to stay calm and grounded in the days ahead. I like to think of parents as the shoreline and their children as the little boats learning to sail. Sometimes when they are learning, the boats get lost in the fog, or run aground or tip over. But they always use the shoreline to navigate against and the shoreline never changes. When you get the urge to become over-involved in the admission process, remember that you are the shoreline and your job is to remain steady and reassure your child that everything will turn out well in the end. They need to know that they can do it, and that you have faith in them and their future."