Scientific Approach to Application Preparation
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Scientific Approach to Application Preparation

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Admission Application
  • Published on 06 Mar 2019

American psychologist and psychometrician, Robert J Sternberg's came up with the triarchic theory of intelligence suggesting that there are three kinds of intelligence:


Componential intelligence is the ability to interpret information in a well-defined and unchanging context. This intelligence is influential in being able to take apart problems and see solutions not often seen. People who do well on standardized tests such as the SAT or the GRE tend to have this type of intelligence.


Experiential intelligence involves the ability to interpret information in changing contexts; to be creative. People with this kind of intelligence are not often seen with the highest IQ's but are especially gifted in creating innovative ideas to solve new problems. Standardized tests do not appear to measure this type of intelligence.


The third type of intelligence is Contextual; it has to do with the ability to adapt to a changing environment; the ability to handle and negotiate the system through the three processes of adaptation, shaping, and selection. This type of intelligence is conversationally referred to as street-smartness.


This theory has had its fair share of detractors but is still relevant from an admissions’ standpoint to understand the process of developing a successful application.


In the typical admissions process, there is a disproportionate emphasis on the componential intelligence as it is easily measurable, hence comparable. However, this type of intelligence is skewed towards resource-rich people (tuitions, study materials, access to good teachers etc.) and therefore, people from a disadvantaged background usually suffer. However, the proliferation of lower-cost online education platforms like apps, MOOCs, online education programs, etc. is likely to cover this gap. Usually for an applicant to an Ivy League University, this is a given and would not be adequate enough to stand out from the crowd of applicants.


It is therefore very important that an applicant highlights his/her experiential and contextual intelligences in his/her application in good measure to stand out. This can be done through highlighting strengths in many of the variables, that Prof William Sedlacek calls the non-cognitive admissions variables:


  • Positive Self-Concept: strength of character and independence in decision-making
  • Realistic Self-Appraisal: desire for constant self-development
  • Understanding and dealing with Unfairness: ability to stand up against unfairness and unjustness without being hostile to society
  • Preferring long-range goals to short-term/immediate needs: ability to respond to delayed gratification
  • Availability of strong support person: ability to benefit from a mentor/expert
  • Successful leadership experience: leading different groups to achieve objectives
  • Demonstrated Community Service: active involvement in the local community bodies
  • Knowledge acquired in field: specialization in any domain, however esoteric


The attempt of the applicant should be to cover some of these variables at the highest level and build a narrative around them for his/her application to stand out and improve the chances of admission.

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