Common Application concerns?

Lawrence University is a Common Application user.
At least for now, the Common Application is the only way to apply to Lawrence University.

The roll-out of the new Common Application has been bumpy and buggy. Despite that fact, and all the frustrations people have been experiencing with the Common Application, I offer this piece of advice from my friendly neighborhood yoga instructor:

Take a deep breath. Hold it. Lower your shoulders. Exhale.

Your application to Lawrence will be OK. Here’s why.

Time is still on your (and our) side. We are, at the time of this post, just a little more than two weeks from our Early Decision deadline (November 1), and a little less than one month from our Early Action deadline (November 15).

If you (or we) find that problems start arising leading up to those deadlines, please know that we will be flexible. If you know anything about Lawrence, you know that we take a student-centered approach to our work with you.

If you have applied, we have your application. If you have submitted yours and wonder if we have it, please get in touch with your Lawrence admissions counselor.

If you are having issues with your application, please get in touch with your Lawrence admissions counselor.

We are considering alternatives to the Common Application, in the event that problems persist.

Watch this space for updates as they happen.

Ken Anselment
Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid


The Common Application essay prompts for 2014 are here!

Lawrence University is an exclusive user of the Common Application. The newly overhauled version of the “Common App” for the 2014 academic year goes live on August 1, 2013, but the Common App board has already released the new essay prompts. If you want to start thinking about the prompts, and maybe even drafting some early versions of your essay, here is what you’ll find on August 1:

Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

I think I just strained my neck…

…sudden 180-degree turns will sometimes have that effect.

For the past few years, we have been led to believe—whether it was in news stories or even in presidential State of the Union addresses—that higher education’s purpose was (or should be) vocational: colleges should train its students how to do something, preparing them to be Useful Citizens (in other words, “quickly deployed and employed”). Disciplines like business, science, engineering, technology—you know, practical things—were offered as the pavers on the path to prosperity.

The corollary was that the liberal arts and sciences, which don’t necessarily train you how to do a particular job, are a luxury, and, therefore, a risky investment. In some cases, government reinforced that message in alarming ways, as we saw in Florida’s recent proposal to create financial incentives to study those practical things (and, as a result, create disincentives to study the arts, humanities, and social sciences).

Which brings us to a completely different piece of news that ran in the June 18 New York Times (and the cause of that neck strain—which, for the record, may be one of the more pleasant neck strains we could have experienced). Perhaps that anti-liberal arts mindset may have been a bit short-sighted:

Humanities Committee Sounds an Alarm

A new national corps of “master teachers” trained in the humanities and social sciences and increased support for research in “endangered” liberal arts subjects are among the recommendations of a major report to be delivered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The report comes amid concern about low humanities enrollments and worries that the Obama administration’s emphasis on science education risks diminishing a huge source of the nation’s intellectual strength. Requested by a bipartisan group of legislators and scheduled to be distributed to every member of Congress, it is intended as a rallying cry against the entrenched idea that the humanities and social sciences are luxuries that employment-minded students can ill afford.

People talk about the humanities and social sciences “as if they are a waste of time,” said Richard H. Brodhead, the president of Duke University and a co-chairman of the commission that produced the report. “But this facile negativism forgets that many of the country’s most successful and creative people had exactly this kind of education.”  Read more…

Bias alert: the report was published by the Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities, which may have a bit of a vested interest in the outcome of the report. You can see the list of committee members here. It’s a wild mashup of several dozen people from the arts, higher education, private enterprise, and government. (The CEO of Boeing and Yo-Yo Ma at a table together? Yes please.)

On the other hand, the study was requested in 2011 by a bipartisan group of legislators that included Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and Representatives Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin) and David Price (D-North Carolina), who were advocating for increases in research and teaching in the humanities and sciences—and looking for reasons to support that research with government and other agencies’ investments.

Regardless of the source or the origins of the report, this news is welcome to those of us in higher education who have been arguing that it is not an either/or world, but a both/and world: we need the liberal arts just as much as we need business and science and engineering and technology. In fact, they work together quite nicely. Creativity, innovation, collaboration, drawing meaning and understanding across apparently disparate disciplines—this is the playground of the liberal arts and sciences. Some of our greatest innovators and leaders have been liberal arts and sciences majors. As the sidebar in the New York Times piece shows, the two candidates in the last presidential election had undergraduate majors in political science (Obama) and English (Romney).

Our very own dean of the conservatory, Brian Pertl (a Lawrence University English and trombone performance major who went on to manage Microsoft’s Media Acquisitions Group before rejoining his alma mater in 2008), made perhaps the best argument for this both/and world in his recent TEDx talk called “Dancing Between Disciplines.” In typical liberal arts fashion, his argument is not so much an argument as it is a performance. (Warning: mind-blowing ideas accompanied by remarkably talented musicians included.) Check it out.

Yes, you are seeing things: got a makeover

If you’ve been cruising around the Lawrence website anytime in the last, you know, several years, you may have grown accustomed to the way things were laid out around here. (Our university webmistress—who, in our opinion, is made of magic—likes to refer to it as a baroque castle with a lot of things bolted onto it.)

On March 20, 2013 at 8:15 a.m. that all changed when the new launched.

Deep breath.

It’s different.

But here’s the thing. We trust it’s going to be an easier to navigate experience. We also trust that, since it is new, it’s not yet 100% perfect. We realize there are still a lot of places where we will put images to make your experience an attractive one. Our main concern is ensuring that the site itself is useful.

And here’s where we could use your help. If you run into anything less than useful (including, heaven forbid, typos), let us know. You can post a comment to this blog, and we’ll receive notice right away and, more important, get to work making your experience a better one.

Thank you. And happy browsing.

Today’s episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the letters P and I…

…and by the number 3.14159.

Yep: that’s 3.14 pies served up at 1:59 p.m., because that’s how we do things here in the Lawrence admissions office. (Time purists will insist that we technically served the pies at 13:59, but it would have been a lonely party 12 hours ago.)