Grammar Quiz: A Nod to Some Grammatical Issues I See Frequently

I hardly consider a clickbait grammar quiz to be a good judge of whether or not you truly paid attention to your high school English teacher. English grammar is very, very complex! Moreover, I think that it’s under-emphasized in American high schools. (And one of these days I’ll probably write an entire post about that…)

Although many of my readers who contact me for help with their college personal statements are foreigners, I would say about 1/3 are native English speakers.

Regardless of nationality, this quiz touches on a few issues that I come across regularly, such as:
  • who VS whom
  • affected VS effected
  • that VS which
  • then VS than

Of course, a quiz like this makes things look simple. When I’m editing a personal statement, grammar is just the first of many things that I look at. Word choice, overall feeling, flow, and organization are also equally important.

Nevertheless, quizzes are fun! See if you can get a 25/25.

Nationality and College Admissions

I recently received this comment from a reader regarding nationality and college admissions:

“My education is [nationality] and it makes me feel insecure.”

Some countries are well-known for their great education systems, and others less so. You could be Malaysian, Portuguese, Moroccan, Syrian or Mexican. The exact nationality isn’t important. The question remains the same:

Should your nationality make you feel insecure about your college application?

And put another way: Should being from a country with excellent educational statistics grant you the right to feel confident?

As one of my all-time favorite quotes goes:

“Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.”

I always thought it was Hillary Clinton who said this. However, a frenzied Google search is making me second guess that. (I’d be grateful if any reader wants to investigate that one, but regardless of who said it it’s an excellent quote).

University admissions boards should understand that not everyone has the same opportunities.

Frankly, if you went to school in a wealthy neighborhood public school in the United States and weren’t president, vice president or secretary of at least one student club, then you’re probably not going to get into an ivy league school.

But if you are a bacha posh girl who grew up dressing as a boy just so that you could attend school in Afghanistan, then you probably weren’t trying to garner extra attention by running for student body president. Moreover, nobody would expect it of you. And it shouldn’t affect your admissions decision for college.

Some people are given a silver spoon at birth. Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of opportunity.

Universities want to accept the best and brightest. But they should also understand that it’s easy to be smart and accomplished when you have everything going for you since birth.

Any college where international relations or humanitarian issues are taught (or really economics or politics at all, for that matter) should be intimately aware of the disparities that exist between countries. More importantly, they shouldn’t discriminate based on nationality.

But do they?

Sciences Po claims that it doesn’t. In fact, like many other universities, Sciences Po strives to have a multicultural student body with individuals from many nationalities and many socioeconomic groups. Yet, there’s a caveat:

Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink) has a new podcast out called Revisionist History. I highly recommend it to absolutely everyone.

In particular, he has a wonderful episode called “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.” (It’s free by the way!) In this episode, Gladwell talks about how the American school system isn’t truly a meritocracy. Even though universities accept students based on merit, that “merit” is often a direct result of a student’s socioeconomic status. A child from a wealthier family will have more opportunities throughout childhood, and will therefore likely have more “merit” when it comes time to apply to college.

In other words, they might accept a bacha posh girl, but she would first have to apply and, second, at least need to make a certain minimum score on her college entrance exams. But she isn’t likely to have the forethought or resources to do that given the struggle she went through just to get a basic education.

Although Gladwell focuses specifically on the American education system, the same can probably said for most well-known universities throughout the world– Sciences Po, London School of Economics, etc.

Here’s the good news for you:
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably going to apply to college. You probably also have a decent college entrance exam score. And that means you have the upper hand.

If you have taken advantage of the opportunities that are available to you and– very important– can express that to the admissions committee, then your nationality and the school you attended should not make you feel insecure.

As far as larger life lessons go:

Regardless of whether or not you get accepted to your dream school, if you worked hard for your accomplishments then you should be proud of them.

Ultimately, the most important thing isn’t your nationality or your school’s ranking. Rather, it’s showing what you can do with the education and opportunities that you’ve had.

Sciences Po: How to Write Your Personal Statement for Sciences Po

Wondering how to write your personal statement for Sciences Po? How long should it be? And what it should cover?

You won’t get to see the essay prompt or required word count until you actually start an application.
Well, unless you’re reading this post!

International undergraduate admissions personal statement prompt for Sciences Po:

"Please introduce yourself. Describe the reasons that led you to apply to Sciences Po’s Bachelor’s Degree program. Explain how and why the educational environment at Sciences Po will help you achieve your professional and personal ambitions. You may also want to articulate how you foresee your engagement in campus life beyond the walls of the classroom. Please be specific and do not exceed 1,000 words."

International graduate admissions personal statement prompt:

"Your personal statement is where you can distinguish yourself from other candidates. What motivates you to take this course at Sciences Po? Mention how your interest developed, what you have done to pursue it and what your longer term goals are."
Once you have a rough draft, ask me to review your work.

In both cases, you are limited to only 1000 words. You cannot go beyond 1000 words as there is an actual word counter within the application.

word counter personal statement sciences po

Stumped on responding to these prompts? Check out:
Sciences Po: 4 Tips for Writing Your Motivation Letter

Language requirements for your personal statement

“The statement must be written in the language of instruction of the programme.

If you are applying for a dual degree programme, please write at least one paragraph in one of the other languages of the programme (i.e. English, German, Russian). If you are applying for more than one programme, please explain each choice in a separate statement."

If you are applying to any program at PSIA, you will need to write your personal statement in English. As a student at PSIA, 70% of your classes will be offered in English and only 30% will be offered in French. Therefore, it is easy to do the degree entirely in English. However, it is not possible to do it entirely in French. Thus, English is the “language of instruction” and you must write you personal statement in English.

Other Writing Requirements

In addition to your personal statement, you will also have to submit a copy of your CV.

"You must include a CV in French or English, according to the language of the programme for which you apply, except for the dual degree programmes for which all required documents must be submitted in English."

Making a good CV is a challenge that tests both your language skills (grammar and the like) and formatting abilities. You’re not applying to become a graphic designer, so there’s no need to use fancy visual icons. Nevertheless, consistent formatting and clear logic are key.

Use the Five-Point Resume Check before sending off your CV or resume.

And if you’d like, you can get my help editing your CV to make sure that everything looks alright.

Related links

Discussing Yourself in an Interview

One of the topics you can be sure to discuss in your college interview is yourself. Talking about yourself might sound easy, but in fact it can be quite difficult. Here are a few tips to decode the questions and make sure you are prepared:

“So, tell us about yourself…”

Often the interviewer will ask you just to talk a bit about yourself. If you’ve already written a good personal statement, make sure you review it beforehand. That way, you’ll remind yourself of any qualities or stories that you want to accentuate. This will also help you to stay true to your editorial line.

Keep in mind those things you should not include in your college essay. You will also generally want to avoid them in your interview.

The hidden meaning behind ‘so tell us about yourself’ is ‘tell us why this college is a good fit for you?

In order to respond appropriately, you’ll need to have done your research. What does the college have that you need?

EXAMPLE: “Although I am interested in engineering in general, I am also particularly interested in working for the defence industry. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to apply to this program is because I have read some of Professor Johnson’s work on radar systems, and I’m hoping to take a class with her.”

You want to show that your relationship with the school will be reciprocal.

In other words, you want to make it clear that not only you will benefit from the school, but the school will also benefit from you. Of course, this can be difficult to do if you don’t have a lot of experience. One good tactic, though, is to discuss how you plan to get involved on campus.

EXAMPLE: “I’m excited to join the Robotics Club! I like to tinker with robots at home.”

Read the rest of this blog post here

Dealing with a College Rejection

Hopefully you’ll be accepted to every school you apply to, but you might also receive a rejection or two.

If you applied mostly to top-notch Ivy Leagues, then you are very likely to get rejected. This can be hard to accept, and telling your friends and family the bad news can be a challenge.

Initially, you may be asking yourself if you even have to tell them at all! However, if you’ve been raving about how you’re certain to get your degree from Harvard, then it’s probably impossible to keep it a secret.

Read 5 simple tips to help break the news about a college rejection and help refocus your energy on what really matters.

Out with the old – in with the new!

Yesterday I received my diploma from Sciences Po!

Given that my graduate ceremony (class of 2016) was held over 6 months ago, you’d think the thing would be embossed in gold. But alas! Twas not the case.

So – in case you were wondering:

How long does it take to get your Sciences Po diploma after graduation? About 6 months.

In fact, although the diploma itself says it was given to me on December 15, I only received it on January 5.

I might also add that, despite vehement disagreement and letter-writing from my class, the diploma is only distributed electronically.

Apparently the internet is the future! And to be honest, I’m not sure it will ever matter. That said, when I get my own office space set up one day I will definitely print and frame my own diploma.

January 13 Sciences Po Deadline

Over the past three days, I’ve received three new requests to review motivation letters for Sciences Po applicants!

That’s a pretty hefty increase from what I’m used to (which is about one every 1-2 weeks).

The reason? Well, beyond the fact that everyone must just now be waking up from the stupor of the holidays, PSIA has an application deadline set for January 13.

I am more than happy to help out anyone who contacts me with their letter of motivation.

And of course, I understand procrastination. That said, if you’re reading my blog and thinking about contacting me later, go ahead and send me a message now so that I can be sure to set aside time to help you out!

Sciences Po applications: Is it bad to submit at the last minute?

A reader and college application review client recently asked me about applying to Sciences at the last minute:

Yesterday I finally submitted  my application. I am worried to be so close to the deadline as Sciences Po always advises people to not to submit at the last minute.  It that because of the amount of work they receive or because doing it says something negative about you?

At Sciences Po, the earlier you submit your documents, the earlier you will hear if you were accepted or not. Those who apply early are likely to get a decision in just 2-3 weeks. If you apply later, you can expect to wait up to 3 months!

This is because of what’s called “rolling admissions.” With rolling admissions, applications are reviewed as they are received.

For Sciences Po, you can submit your application anytime between December and mid-June. (Of course, keep in mind that there are various deadlines if you want to apply for a scholarship or dual degree program.)

Rolling admissions gives flexibility both to applicants and to the school.

Above all, it allows the school to reduce their work of last-minute application reviewing.

The people who review college applications are, after all, only human. And there are only so many university officials who are willing to sludge through and evaluate hundreds of applicants. (Trust me — after helping with scholarship applicants for the McDermott program at UT Dallas, I can assure you that it can be a grueling process. Although, it’s always a pleasure when you come across the really good applicants!)

But, is there a disadvantage to sending in your application at the last minute?

First of all, deadlines are there for a reason. There can really be no punishment for respecting the deadline, even if you submit at 11:59pm on the last possible day.

Of course, I know what you are thinking.

If the number of students is capped, then surely some good students who apply at the last minute will be turned away. Right?

What you might not realize is that colleges generally have a very good idea about what students they want to admit. They also tend to have some flexibility when it comes to numbers.

In 2014, Sciences Po decided to admit an additional 104 French students and 120 international students to their Master’s programs. Sure, the decision to admit more students was strategic, but the decision to admit exactly 224 more students? I’m sure that number could have easily been 225 if another talented student had applied — even if they’d submitted their application at the last possible second.

Here are the real disadvantages to applying at the last minute:
  • Your internet could crash or a file could be deleted, barring you from meeting the deadline.
  • You might miscalculate the time in the French time zone.
  • You’ll wait significantly longer to find out whether or not you are accepted. (Which, as an international student, can be significant if you might need extra time to plan for your visa, finances, or other arrangements.)
In my experience with other programs (not specifically Sciences Po), I know that students who submit their documents early tend to have a higher % chance of acceptance.

HOWEVER that is probably because applicants who apply early tend to be better applicants.

Students who are seriously interested in a school are less likely to procrastinate. In contrast, an applicant who is clearly not a good fit might feel more hesitant to submit.

Inevitably though, many, many good applicants will also apply at the last minute. And it may not be because of procrastination so much as perfectionism.

Maybe you are reading and re-reading that essay before submitting. Maybe you are working with me to get your work reviewed and increase your chances of acceptance. Far from making you a bad applicant, that would make you top notch!

If that’s your case, then relax.

Ultimately, the very best applicants will get an offer. Regardless of when they hit “send.”

 

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