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NYCollegeChat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college options hosted by Regina Paul and Marie Segares from Policy Studies in Education, a non-profit organization with over 40 years of success in education.

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Episode 163: What High Schools Do Colleges Visit?
<p>Welcome back to our new series entitled <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-16-looking-to-next-year" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Looking to Next Year</em></a>.  Today, we want to look at a well-known college recruitment practice and its ramifications.  That practice is the visiting of high schools by college admissions staff.  Maybe our discussion today won’t come as a surprise to you; but, whether it does or doesn’t, it’s a sad commentary on the U.S. in 2018.   </p> <h2>1. A New Study</h2> <p>Just a few episodes ago, we quoted from an article in <em>Inside Higher Ed</em> by Scott Jaschik, and today we find ourselves doing that again.  This article is forebodingly titled “<a href= "http://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/04/16/study-analyzes-where-colleges-recruit-and-where-they-don%E2%80%99t" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Where Colleges Recruit . . . and Where They Don’t</a>." </p> <p>Here is the story:</p> <blockquote> <p>[F]or many colleges, reaching out to students in person at high school events is a key part of the recruitment process. And even for the [elite colleges], this is an important part of outreach and regularly results in applications from those who might not have otherwise applied. But where do the [colleges] go to recruit?</p> <p>A new study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests that these visits favor those who attend high schools where family income is high. And these high schools are likely to be whiter than the population as a whole.</p> <p>Two of the researchers--Ozan Jaquette, an assistant professor of education at the <a href="http://www.ucla.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of California, Los Angeles</a>, and Karina Salazar, a doctoral candidate at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the <a href="http://www.arizona.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">University of Arizona</a>--published a summary of their findings in <em>The New York Times</em>. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, let’s look <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/13/opinion/college-recruitment-rich-white.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">at that opinion piece in <em>The Times</em> by Mr. Jaquette and Ms. Salazar</a>.  They wrote about their findings, based on data from <em>college visits</em>--not any other kinds of student recruitment--made in 2017 by 150 colleges.  Here are some of those findings in their own words:</p> <blockquote> <p>The clearest finding from our study is that public high schools in more affluent neighborhoods receive more visits than those in less affluent areas.</p> <p>Only about a third of households across the country earn more than $100,000 annually, but nearly half of high schools receiving visits by private colleges and universities were in neighborhoods where average incomes were higher. <a href= "https://www.conncoll.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Connecticut College</a> visited neighborhoods with an average median household income of $121,578. Private colleges also disproportionately visited private high schools over public high schools.</p> <p>Andy Strickler, dean of admissions at Connecticut College, said the school targets high schools that have historically provided students, or other schools that have a similar profile.</p> <p>He said there was a good reason Connecticut College doesn’t always visit other areas: “There’s a trend for these students to stay closer to home for college.” (quoted from the opinion piece)</p> </blockquote> <p>I get that colleges understandably visit high schools that have sent students in the past or schools with demographic characteristics like those high schools.  I get that colleges need to recruit as cost-effectively as possible.  I get that kids in high schools in less affluent neighborhoods probably do “stay closer to home for college,” for better or worse.  But I still am a bit disappointed by all of it. </p> <p>Nonetheless, let’s not single out Connecticut College.  There is a chart in the opinion piece that shows that plenty of other colleges do exactly the same thing--that is, visit high schools in neighborhoods with higher median incomes than high schools they don’t visit.  And, what’s worse, lots of those colleges are public universities.  Let’s look back at what Mr. Jaquette and Ms. Salazar write about that:</p> <blockquote> <p>While public research universities visited rich and poor neighborhoods nearly equally when recruiting in their home states, they visited the same affluent high schools targeted by private colleges when recruiting elsewhere. Most public colleges also visited far more high schools out of state than in-state. The median income of areas where the University of Pittsburgh recruited out of state, for example, was $114,000, compared with $63,000 for areas that were not visited. . . .</p> <p>The attention public universities lavish on wealthy out-of-state schools is a response to state policy. Over the past decade, many states have cut funding for higher education, forcing public universities to become more dependent on tuition revenue. Research shows that public universities responded by enrolling more out-of-state students, who often pay two to three times more than state residents. And of course, only well-off students can afford that. . . .</p> <p>In their out-of-state visits, our data also suggest, public universities were more likely to visit predominantly white public high schools than nonwhite schools with similar levels of academic achievement. For example, [in the Boston metropolitan area], the <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Colorado Boulder</a> visited Dover-Sherborn Regional High School, which is 88 percent white and has about 154 students with proficient math scores, according to the federal Department of Education. But it did not visit Brockton High School, where just 21 percent of students are white but about 622 students have proficient math scores.</p> <p>“In order to be good stewards of our funding, we consistently recruit at schools that have historically given us applications,” said Colleen Newman, admissions director at Boulder. “Given our limited funding, we are unable to expand our traditional recruitment efforts to all regions and all high schools that have academically talented students.” (quoted from the opinion piece)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, as loyal listeners know, I love recommending Boulder.  I think it is friendly to students from the East Coast and a great all-around university.  But I have to admit that I am not crazy about this recruitment strategy, though I understand the reasoning, of course. </p> <p>Here are some more things I did not know, however.  I guess that I might have figured this out if I had thought about it, but I just never did.  I am wondering how much you have thought about this, parents.  Listen up:</p> <blockquote> <p>Colleges don’t treat recruitment lightly. It’s big business for colleges and the firms they hire. Most colleges identify prospects by purchasing lists of students and their backgrounds from the testing agencies College Board and ACT. They can also hire enrollment management consulting firms, which integrate data from the university with data on schools and communities. This helps them decide which schools should be visited and which should be targeted with emails and brochures. One consulting firm we spoke with even knows information about individual students such as their family income and net worth, and the value of their home.</p> <p>If colleges have all this data, why aren’t they better at targeting talented poor students and students of color?</p> <p>The most common explanation is that there aren’t enough of them applying (the so-called achievement gap). Another explanation we hear is that talented students don’t apply because they don’t have the right guidance (called “under-matching”). . . .   Our data [suggest] universities are determined to court wealthier students over others, and they expend substantial resources identifying and reaching them. </p> <p>There are many students from poor communities who get excellent grades but end up going to a community college because no one bothers looking for them. If colleges are serious about increasing socioeconomic and racial diversity, they should look for merit everywhere, not just in wealthy, white communities. (quoted from the opinion piece) </p> </blockquote> <p>It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion.  It’s especially hard to disagree with that conclusion for public universities, which have a mission to serve the taxpayers in their own states.  It’s concerning that public universities might be pricing themselves out of the market for the students who need them most in their home states--or even for the students who need them most from other states. </p> <p>In putting together his article, Mr. Jaschik corresponded with Mr. Jaquette about his study.  Here is part of that correspondence: </p> <blockquote> <p>Jaquette, via email, said there is a contradiction between colleges’ statements that they are doing everything possible to recruit low-income, disadvantaged students and the findings of the new study.</p> <p>“Scholarship on organizational behavior--on all types of organizations--finds that organizations publicly adopt goals demanded by the external environment,” he said. “But these public statements are poor indicators of actual organizational priorities. How they spend real resources is a better indicator.” (quoted in the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, colleges might say that they are looking hard to bring in more low-income students because it is the politically correct, or even morally correct, thing to say.  However, their actions (in this case, their spending habits) speak louder than words.                                                                         </p> <h2>2. What Does This Mean for You</h2> <p>So, what does this mean for you?  Possibly nothing, if you live in a relatively affluent neighborhood and your kid attends a high school with relatively affluent classmates.  The chances are good that college recruiters are going to come calling both now and in the fall.</p> <p>But if you don’t live in a relatively affluent neighborhood and your kid does not attend a high school with relatively affluent classmates, the chances are good that you are going to have to look harder to investigate colleges and make your kid known to them.  It might mean that you will need to visit colleges in order to get colleges to notice your kid (although I wish you didn’t have to until after your kid is accepted and you all are trying to make a final decision).  Oh, unless you live in one of the places identified in a 2012 study by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery and cited by Mr. Jaschik in his article:</p> <blockquote> <p>[The study] found a tendency by colleges to recruit only at high schools where they will find a critical mass of talented low-income students and not the many others where academic achievement may be more rare. The high schools having success at placing students in competitive colleges are in large metropolitan areas (generally from 15 cities) and their students are “far from representative” of the academic talent among low-income students, the authors write. </p> <p>So it’s not that colleges don’t recruit at low-income high schools, but they favor the magnet over the typical high school--even though there are many students with ability who do not attend magnet high schools. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed there are, and your kid might be one of them. </p> <h2>3. Happy Memorial Day</h2> <p>Well, it’s hard to believe that Memorial Day is just around the corner.  We are going to celebrate next week, but we will be back with you on May 31with the best episode we have ever done.  Stay tuned!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode163" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode163" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode163</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 162: The High School Courses That Colleges Require
<p>We are starting a new series today because we think that the college ship has sailed for almost all of our listening families with seniors.  Of course, some of you are still looking at a few options; some of you have even put down deposits at more than one college, or so we hear; and, some of you might be frantically searching for a new choice that offers rolling admissions or very late deadlines in the next couple of months.  As always, if any of you are in the still-undecided group, give me a call if you want some personalized advice.  I am happy to help, and the advice is free, of course. </p> <p>We are going to assume that the rest of you out there have juniors (or even sophomores) and that you are relatively early in the college admissions process.  It is amazing to me, as I look at posts in a number of online groups for parents of prospective college applicants, how many of you with younger kids are already well into the college search.  So, this series, entitled <em>Looking to Next Year</em>, is going to offer a few reminders for parents of high school juniors as you start down a long--but hopefully exciting and not too painful--road.  </p> <h2>1. Oh, No!  Not the Right High School Courses!  Part I</h2> <p>Let me start by saying that I love to complain about how far too many--I would say, even most--high school students do not take enough foreign language courses.  They don’t take enough courses either for their own good in life or for their optimal chances of getting into a great college.  We discussed this as recently as <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-155-foreign-languages-and-college-admissions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 155</a>, which was scarcely the first time we have brought it up.</p> <p>But today’s episode expands way beyond my foreign language criticism about high school students’ own course decisions to a criticism that is almost unthinkable:  Many states’ high school graduation requirements will not meet all of the admissions requirements of their own public state universities.  Let me repeat this fantastical and sobering claim <a href= "https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/04/11/high-school-diploma-criteria-fall-short-study.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in the words of Catherine Gewertz in <em>Education Week</em> where she reported on a study released on April 2</a> by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and authored by Laura Jimenez and Scott Sargrad, both employed by CAP:</p> <blockquote> <p>The think tank found that in most states, in at least one subject area, students must exceed their state’s high school graduation requirements in order to cross the threshold of the public four-year institutions in their state.</p> <p>The CAP study describes two big problems. Most state diploma requirements:</p> </blockquote> <ul> <li> <blockquote>Don’t meet admissions criteria for the state’s public universities. Noted by other researchers as well, this “preparation gap” can form a barrier to college when students find that the diploma requirements they completed fall short of the ones their state colleges and universities expect for admission.</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>Leave too much up to the student. In many states, students can decide which core courses to take in order to fulfill graduation requirements. That means they could finish high school with a relatively weak lineup of classes, or courses that don’t match well with their postsecondary goals. (quoted from the article)</blockquote> </li> </ul> <p>Frankly, it’s hard to believe.  But the data don’t lie.  Listen to the number of states whose high school graduation requirements do not meet <em>their own</em> public four-year university’s entrance requirements:</p> <ul> <li>23 states miss the mark in foreign languages. (I now feel totally vindicated about the number of times I bring up this problem.)</li> <li>8 states miss the mark in mathematics. (That does not surprise me, unfortunately.)</li> <li>4 states miss the mark in science.</li> <li>4 states miss the mark in social studies.</li> <li>2 states miss the mark in fine arts.</li> <li>2 states miss the mark in the number of elective courses.</li> <li>1 state misses the mark in English.</li> </ul> <p>If I were a taxpayer in any of those states, I would be marching on the state capital.  If I were the governor in any of those states, some state education department employees would be losing their jobs, and some state board members would be having serious discussions with me.</p> <p>Interestingly and for whatever reason, physical education (including health) is the only subject field in which all states’ high school graduation requirements meet college entrance requirements and, in fact, 39 states’ high school graduation requirements exceed college entrance requirements.  Comparatively speaking, only two states’ high school graduation requirements exceed college entrance requirements in foreign languages.</p> <p>Perhaps not surprisingly, English is the subject field where high school graduation requirements are most in line with college entrance requirements:  44 states have high school graduation requirements that meet English college entrance requirements and three states exceed them.  In other words, almost all states require four years of high school English in order to graduate, and almost all state universities require four years of English to get in.</p> <p>So, let’s take a glance at a few states of particular interest, using the <a href= "https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2018/04/02/447717/high-school-diplomas/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data in the CAP study</a>: </p> <ul> <li>These are the 19 states that do meet or exceed college expectations in every subject field, regardless of how rigorous those expectations are (obviously, it is easier to meet college expectations if the state university’s expectations are not all that high to begin with):  Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.</li> <li>What about our two most populous states?  California, with its massive public higher education system, misses the mark in four subject fields.  Texas, with its very large public higher education system, misses the mark in two subject fields.  I can only speculate that students in those states who are anxious to get into their super-popular public universities exceed the state high school graduation requirements on their own.  Our home state, the very populous State of New York, misses only on foreign languages (you would think that people in my own state would have been listening to me by now). </li> <li>Interestingly, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are the only two entities that technically exceed expectations in all subject fields; but, that’s because their public university systems set <em>no</em> specific coursework requirements.</li> <li>These states were not included in the analysis, so I can’t tell you whether to panic if you live in one of these:  Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.</li> </ul> <h2>2. Oh, No!  Not the Right High School Courses!  Part II</h2> <p>So, where does the CAP study come down on this issue?  Let’s look at a few paragraphs from the Conclusion: </p> <blockquote> <p>[T]his analysis finds significant misalignment between the high school and college systems. What is required to receive a high school diploma is often not aligned with what students must study to be eligible for college admissions. This can be a matter of equity when more rigorous coursework such as advanced math, laboratory science, and foreign language courses are not offered on the high school campus, thus requiring college-bound students to seek this coursework elsewhere. . . .</p> <p>Certainly, state high school graduation requirements are only a start to ensuring students are ready for college, career, and life. Many states allow or even require school districts to set additional requirements. However, not setting a minimum floor that at the very least meets state college admissions requirements puts students in districts with less rigorous requirements at a disadvantage, setting up inequities within states in access to college preparatory and career-readiness experiences. (quoted from the study)</p> </blockquote> <p>It is a matter of equity. Why?  Because poor kids in less affluent school districts with minimum graduation requirements will not go the extra yard that is required to get into their state public university. Why?  Because they won’t get sufficient help from their high school counselors and because they likely can’t get sufficient help from their parents.  And so, they are at the mercy of inadequate state high school graduation requirements that won’t prepare them for admission to their state’s public higher education system, which might well be all they can afford.</p> <p>But the CAP study says a lot more than this--much of which is very interesting.  For example, the CAP study takes this further step:</p> <blockquote> <p>Depending on course availability and the boundaries drawn by graduation requirements, students have discretion in the types of courses they take to fulfill high school graduation requirements. States may require all of the specific courses and sequences to be taken, for example, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II--or their equivalents--where three years of math are required. Where four years are required, states may require only some of the specific courses, for example, Algebra I and Geometry, and allow students to choose among the options to fulfill two additional math course requirements. Or, states may simply require a number of years of study and make no course type specifications. Each of these scenarios [is] also true for college admissions. (quoted from the report)</p> </blockquote> <p>And the CAP study continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>In almost every state for at least one subject, there is a preparation gap that necessitates students seeking admission to the state public four-year university system to take additional coursework that is not required for a standard high school diploma. What’s more, this additional coursework may or may not be offered on the high school campus. . . .  Students in high-income schools and districts with sufficient college counseling and resources to seek this additional coursework may have an easier time addressing these disparities than students in low-income areas, reflecting inequity in the availability of educational resources. (quoted from the study)</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed.  Let’s just say it again, because it is still incredible to me:  When states do not require high enough high school graduation standards to ensure that all of its high school graduates are eligible for their own public higher education--regardless of whether all graduates want to go on to college--those states are ensuring that their poorer kids in their poorer school districts are disproportionately negatively affected.  Why again?  Because in addition to the injustices of subpar graduation standards, subpar school facilities, subpar counseling, and subpar everything else, fewer of these poorer kids have college-educated parents who can make up the difference. </p> <h2>3. What To Do</h2> <p>I believe that there is no substitute for examining the entrance requirements of any college your kid is thinking about applying to in terms of credits and perhaps specific courses that the college expects or requires to be taken in high school.  We talk about this topic extensively in our second book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em>.</a>  Let me read some excerpts from a section of that book for students:</p> <blockquote> <p>Let’s look at one last admission standard--one that is less often considered and more often taken for granted--and that is the courses that applicants are expected to have taken in high school, usually listed in terms of credits (or Carnegie units) in each subject area, but also sometimes including specific courses, especially in math and science. . . .<strong> </strong></p> <p>On a college’s website, this information can virtually always be found by starting with the <em>Admission</em> home page.  You will find that the high school course or credit expectations of colleges do, in fact, differ, usually according to how selective the college is.  But there are always a few surprises (like colleges that require students to have earned career and technical education credits in high school, for example).</p> <p>After you write down the required and the recommended courses or credits, you can compare them from college to college, and you can see how well they match up with what you have taken so far and with what you will be taking as you finish up high school.<strong> </strong> Particularly if you are just a freshman or sophomore, this information can be invaluable as you plan your remaining semesters in high school. . . .</p> <p>The courses that you take in high school matter, including the courses that you take in your senior year.  Colleges will tell you that slacking off in the senior year is never a good move.  So, for example, a fourth year of math and a fourth year of science would be the best scenario for most applicants--and might be a mandatory scenario for entrance to top colleges and to some college programs, like engineering.  If you don’t have a rigorous senior year planned, think again. </p> </blockquote> <p>And that’s exactly why we are telling you, parents, this information right now--when many high schools across the country are scheduling juniors for the classes they will be taking next fall as seniors.  It is not too late to look carefully at college requirements and to make an adjustment or two in next fall’s schedule.  You might have to insist with high school counselors or administrators, but it will be worth it.  Adding a course in science or math or foreign languages or something else that is missing is possible now, but it will be a lot harder to do next fall.  Good luck!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode162" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode162" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode162</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 161: College Wait Lists
<p>As <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-160-the-best-advice-about-choosing-a-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">we said last week</a>, most of you have made a decision about what college your kid is going to by now.  You all have compared and contrasted the colleges that accepted your son or daughter and made the best decision you thought you could.  However, there might be one or two of you still holding out some hope for coming off the wait list of your kid’s favorite college choice.  I know that some of you have even put a deposit down on a sure thing while not entirely giving up hope on the long shot that is the wait list.  This episode is not so much about giving you advice, but rather about making you feel not so bad. </p> <p>While we are not experts in the practice of wait listing, I can tell you anecdotally that I have seen kids this year and last year <em>not</em> get into colleges from the wait list when those kids were absolutely qualified to attend those colleges.  I imagine we all have stories like that.</p> <h2>1. Are Wait Lists a Waste of Time?</h2> <p>Let me read you some excerpts from <a href= "https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/04/05/599755974/college-waitlists-often-waste-would-be-students-time" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a short piece that was heard recently on National Public Radio (NPR) on <em>All Things Considered</em></a>, as presented by Clare Lombardo and Elissa Nadworny.  Here we go:</p> <blockquote> <p>[High school seniors have] opened their mail--or, more likely, an online portal--to finally hear decisions from colleges. But many didn’t get one. The number of students placed on college waiting lists has climbed in recent years, leaving students hoping for the best--even when they might not have any reason to hope at all.</p> <p>“Many students ... think they’re very close to getting in, and that there’s considerable hope for them to be admitted to the college,” says Cristiana Quinn, a private college admissions counselor in Rhode Island.</p> <p>That’s not the case. In the spring of 2017, <a href= "https://home.dartmouth.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Dartmouth College</a>, a small Ivy League school in New Hampshire, offered 2,021 waitlist spots to applicants. Of the 1,345 who chose to stay on the waitlist, not a single person got in. The <a href="https://www.umich.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Michigan</a> offered 11,127 potential freshmen a place on their waitlist that spring--4,124 students accepted spots on the list, and 470 eventually got in.</p> <p>The odds aren’t as slim elsewhere: At the <a href= "https://www.uwec.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire</a>, 100 of the 450 students on the waitlist were accepted in 2017. And some schools, like <a href= "http://www.ncat.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">North Carolina A&T State University</a> and the <a href= "https://www.ua.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Alabama</a>, don’t use a waitlist at all. According to 2017 numbers from the National Association of College Admission Counseling, about 40 percent of colleges use waitlists. (quoted from the NPR piece) </p> </blockquote> <p>Well, those numbers are arresting.  According to these statistics, top-tier colleges with long wait lists admit very few of those candidates--maybe 10 percent, at best.  Less-selective colleges might offer better odds, but my guess is that kids are not holding out hope for those spots the same way they are holding out hope for spots at great colleges or near-great colleges.  You don’t want to advise kids not to stay on the wait list if they really have their hearts set on someplace, but I think you also have to help kids understand just how uphill that climb is going to be.</p> <p>And lest we forget, there’s this:  Colleges are not really ever doing anything to help the applicants; whatever they are doing with wait lists, they are doing for themselves.  It’s like Early Decision and Early Action and various phases of both.  While some of those plans help applicants, there is no doubt that colleges are getting a lot out of them, too.  Otherwise, colleges wouldn’t be offering them. </p> <p>The NPR piece notes this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The schools that do make applicants wait for a final decision do so to keep their options open, says Quinn, who works with students and families during the college application process.</p> <p>“They want to have a very large pool to choose from--so that, for instance, if they don’t have a student from South Dakota, they can pull one from South Dakota. If they don’t have a student who plays the oboe, they can pick an oboe player, and on and on,” she says. When schools keep their admission rates low, it impacts school rankings and reputation--plus, intentional or not, the more students who <em>almost</em> get in are now thinking, talking and tweeting about them. (quoted from the NPR piece)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that’s particularly annoying, I think.  Putting kids on the wait list as a way to get free PR?  Really?  I so hope that is not true, but I fear it might be.  Back to the NPR piece: </p> <blockquote> <p>Quinn recently penned an open letter to college admissions officers on a private email list of admissions professionals.</p> <p>“I beg you to stop the insanity,” she wrote. “Stop what you are doing to kids and parents and move to a modicum of reality next year when you create your waiting lists.” She says all of her students awaiting spring decisions were wait-listed at at least one school--and many of them were wait-listed at many. That hasn’t happened in the past.</p> <p>“[Students] are not fully exploring the colleges where they have been accepted,” she says. Instead, they hold out hope for the colleges where they’ve been wait-listed. For low-income students, who depend on aid for tuition assistance, holding out for an offer becomes unrealistic because colleges often have little if any financial aid left over by the time they turn to the waiting list. (quoted from the NPR piece)</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s hard to disagree with that advice to colleges.  Maybe colleges could just adopt some rule of thumb, like we will put three times as many kids on the wait list as we took in from the wait list in the previous year.  Then, kids on the wait list would have an idea of how good their chances were, and many kids would not be put on the wait list to begin with and could go on and make the best choice from their actual acceptances.  I won’t hold my breath that colleges are going to do this, but I honestly don’t see how it would hurt them--at least the top tier colleges, which are going to fill their freshman classes with qualified kids, no matter what.</p> <h2>2. What To Do If You Are on One </h2> <p>First of all, I think it should be clear that an applicant should not stay on the wait list of a college that the applicant is not truly interested in.  Why?  Obviously, it makes it harder for the kids who really do want to be on that list, and it distracts the student from paying attention to the options that he or she is more interested in pursuing. </p> <p>Not surprisingly, many counselors advise students on wait lists to write letters to the admissions officer at the college to declare their ongoing interest in the college.  I don’t see how that can hurt, but clearly it doesn’t often help too much either, especially at top-tier colleges.  Such a letter would probably sound a lot like one we described back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-148-college-deferment-and-a-letter-of-appeal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 148</a>, when we discussed an appeal letter following a deferred decision in an Early Decision or Early Action situation.  Let’s recap what might go into such a letter (while this advice is likely too late for anyone still on a wait list right now, it might help all of you parents of juniors as you get ready for this time next year).  Here are some reasonable points to make in a one-page typed letter, which can be sent by email, but should also be sent in print by regular mail.</p> <p>First, the applicant has to say that the college is his or her first choice and that he or she will attend, if admitted.  Ideally, of course, that would be true.  I am sure that many students say this, even when it is not true.  You will have to make your own moral judgment here.</p> <p>Second, the applicant should show a solid understanding of the academics of the college and of how he or she will fit into the academic world there.  Naming a specific department, specific major, specific courses, and/or specific research opportunities are a good idea.  Make sure your kid knows exactly what the name of the department and major are inasmuch as they are different at every college, for some reason. Emphasize the notion of “fit” between the student and the college.</p> <p>Third, the applicant should <em>restate</em> (since this information is likely in the original application or application essay) how he or she might fit in with <em>specific</em> extracurricular activities, including volunteer or service opportunities, performing music and drama groups, and sports at the college.  This part of the letter should be focused--just in case the college needs an oboe player. </p> <p>Fourth, the applicant should mention any major accomplishments since the original application was submitted, especially new SAT or AP test scores or academic honors.</p> <p>Fifth, the applicant should mention any close family connection to the college--including parents or grandparents who went there and/or siblings who went there or are there right now.  This mention should ideally explain what the student has learned from those personal connections and why that makes the college so much more attractive to him or her.  I believe that including this information in an understated way helps the college believe that this student is really more likely to enroll, if admitted.</p> <h2>3. What Else To Do If You Are on One</h2> <p>But the main thing to do if your kid ends up on one or more wait lists is to think hard about any acceptances he or she did get. </p> <p>Visit those colleges, if you haven’t done so yet, perhaps at an accepted students day.  A great college visit at one of those colleges could make up for a lot of wait listed options.  If your kid falls in love with a college he or she has already been admitted to, game over--in a good way.</p> <p>If you and your kid can’t visit, investigate your options as best you can.  For example, ask your high school counselor if any alums have gone to those colleges so that your kid can talk to someone who has experience there.  Do what you need to do to make those colleges come alive for your kid.  Because waiting around for wait listed options isn’t likely to work.</p> <p>And, finally, here is my very best suggestion if your kid is not happy with his or her acceptances and is not likely to get in from a wait list, consider <a href="https://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Richmond, The American International University in London</a>.  Loyal listeners will know that one of my sons did his undergraduate work there and that my daughter did her master’s degree work there.  It is a fantastic university.  Really.  The good news for you now is that Richmond accepts applications until July 1 for a fall start.  Both my kids loved Richmond, and all of my experiences there--from sitting in on classes to meeting with professors to talking with administrators to chatting with students--have been excellent.  And, believe me, I am not easy to impress.  So, if your child is unhappy and you think London might be the answer, consider Richmond.  Costwise, it is far more affordable than many private universities in the U.S.  And, did I say it was in London?  Seriously, if you take a look at Richmond, you will not regret it.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode161" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode161" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode161</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 160: The Best Advice About Choosing a College
<p>Well, most of you have made a decision about what college your kid is going to by now.  You all have sifted through the acceptances (hopefully, there was more than one), weighing all manner of things while making the decision.  However, I know there are still a few of you out there who have not quite decided yet.  I know because I talked to a mother just a few days ago who was in the throes of helping her daughter make her decision.  Our meeting was quite accidental; she was the physician’s assistant in the surgeon’s office where my daughter and I were contemplating my daughter’s emergency knee surgery.  As soon as the physician’s assistant found out what I did, after I had volunteered some unsolicited advice, she engaged me in a longer discussion of her daughter’s options.  I was happy for the distraction.    </p> <h2>1. Here We Go Again </h2> <p>Her daughter had an array of options:  several okay acceptances, but not from truly selective colleges; an acceptance from <a href="https://www.fordham.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Fordham University</a>; and wait list spots at <a href= "https://www.wfu.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wake Forest University</a> and <a href="http://www.colgate.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Colgate University</a>.  The mother, I’ll call her Leeann, had planned to keep one of the okay colleges on the list, as her daughter pursued the wait list possibilities.  Leeann said that she and her daughter had not visited Fordham (although they live right here) because her daughter had hoped to go away to college and try something different from New York City.  Guess what I said? </p> <p>It’s the advice we always give (and this is the third episode this month that we have given it in, so maybe we think it is really important):  Send your kid to the best college he or she got admitted to.  Period.  Wherever that college is and whatever it costs (to the degree that it is humanly possible).  That’s the college to choose. </p> <p>The okay college that Leeann was keeping on her daughter’s list is not nearly as good as Fordham.  Yes, it is a college that, for some reason I cannot quite explain, has become popular here in the East, though it is in the South.  It is out of town, which was her daughter’s preference, and Leeann was worried that her daughter would come home every weekend if she stayed in New York City for college.  My daughter, who, as you loyal listeners know, went to Fordham for the joint dance program with The Ailey School of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, assured Leeann that her daughter would not be coming home every weekend because there was plenty of fun and engaging stuff to do on campus.  My daughter assured Leeann that she had had plenty of friends in Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business (where Leeann’s daughter would be heading) and that they had not gone home on the weekends.</p> <p>We continued to chat about the two wait list options--both very good options and both very unlike Fordham in location and size.  And both head and shoulders above that other only-okay option that Leeann had been keeping on the table.  When we left the surgeon’s office, Leeann had taken the only-okay college off the list and was headed home to talk to her daughter about taking a look at Fordham’s campus (which is quite lovely and self-contained, by the way, even if it is in the middle of the Bronx).  I can’t wait to hear the results. </p> <p>It continues to puzzle me that so many parents do not seem to put the academic caliber of the college as the number one criterion for choosing among several colleges in the final analysis.  Perhaps it is because parents do not know how to judge the academic caliber of a college or how to compare colleges on that all-important criterion.   So, parents, do whatever it takes to figure out which of the colleges your kid got into is the “best” college.  And, by “best,” I mean best academically, according to its national reputation or, as a second choice, its regional reputation. </p> <h2>2. Some Support for Our Position</h2> <p>While I don’t feel any real need for support for our position (other than the decades of life experience in the world of higher education we already have), I am always glad to get some.  The support I want to share with you now is from a study by Noli Brazil and Matthew Andersson, published <a href= "http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0044118X18764526" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in March in the <em>Youth & Society</em> journal</a>.  The study was <a href= "http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2018/04/Undermatching_peer_effects_college_transition.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news3&M=58436366&U=1580754" target="_blank" rel="noopener">then reported on by Sarah Sparks in the <em>Education Week</em> blog Inside School Research</a>.  This is absolutely not what I expected and, therefore, it is particularly interesting.  Here are Ms. Sparks’s opening paragraphs in her article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Even a high school valedictorian can feel anxious becoming just one out of hundreds of top performers at an academically competitive university. But a new study suggests that students who have lower-achieving classmates in college than they had in high school show more symptoms of depression.</p> <p>The study, published in the journal <em>Youth and Society</em>, finds [that,] . . . contrary to common wisdom, students with lower-achieving classmates in college had a rough freshman year.</p> <p>“When you think of it, a college transition is made of three parts: where you’re coming from, where you end up, and the difference between those things,” said study co-author Matthew Andersson, an assistant sociology professor at Baylor University, in a statement. He suggested increased depression may come because “the downward transition might trigger a sense of being a misfit. That might trigger having fewer friends or less of a sense of attachment to the college or university that one is attending.”</p> <p>Researchers from Baylor University and the University of California, Davis, tracked data from more than 1,400 high school students who later attended four-year colleges in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which provides information about students’ mental health as well as their school-level achievement data. They controlled for students’ demographic, academic, and mental health backgrounds, but also school factors, such as whether students attended public or private schools, the concentration of students in poverty, and parent education levels in the schools. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, here are the statistics, in the words of the researchers themselves:</p> <blockquote> <p>We find that depressive symptoms increase by 27% for students experiencing lowered peer ability across their college transition, relative to no substantial change in peer ability. Meanwhile, heightened peer ability in college links to neither diminished nor enhanced student well-being across the transition. (quoted from the researchers’ Abstract)</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, sending a bright kid who is accustomed to bright classmates in high school to a college that is filled with kids who are not as bright increases the odds that the bright kid will end up showing some signs of depression, for whatever reason.  Now, will it make that bright kid seriously and chronically depressed?  Not necessarily, but it can increase the chances that the bright kid will show some symptoms of depression.  Is that a chance you want to take, parents?</p> <p>This question is directed to the parents we talk to who are considering sending their son or daughter to an easier college in order to get good undergraduate grades in preparation for medical school or law school or some other graduate degree.  According to these researchers, that strategy--which we don’t agree with in the first place--could be especially harmful if that son or daughter is coming from an excellent high school with lots of smart kids or if that son or daughter is literally part of a group of smart kids in whatever high school he or she attends.  And it always seems that the parents who suggest this strategy are the ones who have been pushing their kids the hardest in high school to excel--which puts their kids in the worst spot for experiencing the kind of depression that the researchers are talking about.</p> <p>And here’s one more wrinkle, as Ms. Sparks reports:</p> <blockquote> <p>“[U]ndermatching,” in which high-achieving high school graduates choose a college less rigorous than their academic qualifications would predict, is often a particular problem for students from low-income or traditionally underrepresented groups or first-generation college-goers. Prior studies have found that students who are undermatched in college are significantly less likely to complete a degree. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, here’s one more reason that low-income, traditionally underrepresented, first-generation-to-college kids are having a tough time making the leap into the collegiate education that they deserve.  It’s bad enough that they might exhibit signs of depression more often than they otherwise would have; but, you have to wonder whether that alone could make it less likely for them to complete a degree.</p> <p>This study, like all studies, had some limitations.  For example, all of the students included in the study attended four-year colleges, so these findings do not necessarily apply to students attending two-year colleges.  That could be an interesting future inquiry since I believe that lots of good students attending two-year colleges are undermatched in an effort by families to save money during those first two years of college.  This new study should make you think about that.</p> <p>Ms. Sparks ends on a note to high schools, commenting that “. . . the study suggests schools could help their students think more optimistically about how well they would fit at academically competitive schools” (quoted from the article).  That advice could be to counselors and teachers as students make up the list of colleges they plan to apply to or that advice could be to counselors and teachers who might be in a position to influence a student’s choice of a college after the acceptances come in.  Certainly, in the second case, we would hope that counselors and teachers do exactly what we do here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>--which is to encourage kids to see themselves at the best college they got into, to surround themselves with students who are as smart as possible, and to adopt the study habits and work ethic of successful college students.</p> <p>By the way, parents, this does not mean that only the best 40 or 50 colleges in the U.S. are suitable for providing high-achieving peers for your son or daughter.  There are plenty of great public flagship universities, small liberal arts colleges, and private universities in addition to the highest-ranked institutions.  There are plenty of great colleges where the other students will have a positive effect on your son and daughter.  That is what academically rigorous colleges are like.  That is what the “best” colleges are like.</p> <p>So, I promise that this is our last episode on this topic for this year--as long as you agree to send your kid to the best college he or she got into.  That’s why you all have worked so hard for so long.  If you are trying to make a decision right now and need some advice, give me a call.  As we always say, it’s free, so you don’t have to take it.  Let’s chat.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode160" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode160" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode160</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 159: Going to College in California?
<p>This is the third episode in our series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-15-decision-time-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Decision Time Again</em></a>, because, of course, it is actually decision time for lots of parents and kids out there. </p> <p>Although <em>USACollegeChat</em> is headquartered on the East Coast, we have some loyal listeners in California, and California colleges, including its public universities, are increasingly popular among students back here in the East.  So, with that in mind, we have today’s episode.  It is designed to make some of you feel better if your senior applied to a California college or two and did not get in.  It is also designed to help those of you just starting on the application process with your juniors in case you want to consider California public universities--or not.</p> <h2>1. The California System</h2> <p>Although we have described California’s elaborate system of public higher education in many previous episodes and in our books, let me do it quickly one more time now.  California’s public higher education system has three tiers:  the <a href= "https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of California</a> (abbreviated as UC), the <a href="https://www2.calstate.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">California State University</a> (abbreviated as CSU), and the <a href="http://www.cccco.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">California Community Colleges</a>. </p> <p>The most prestigious tier is the UC system, which has nine campuses (plus <a href="https://www.ucsf.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">UC San Francisco</a>, which offers only graduate and professional programs):  <a href="https://www.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Berkeley</a>, <a href= "https://www.ucdavis.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Davis</a>, <a href="https://uci.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">UC Irvine</a>, <a href="http://www.ucla.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">UCLA</a>, <a href= "https://www.ucmerced.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Merced</a>, <a href="http://www.ucr.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">UC Riverside</a>, <a href="https://ucsd.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">UC San Diego</a>, <a href= "https://www.ucsb.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Santa Barbara</a>, and <a href="https://www.ucsc.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Santa Cruz</a>.  We have spoken many times about UC Berkeley, clearly one of our nation’s finest colleges, public or private, with its long history of excellence.  We have also spoken many times about UCLA, which has risen in prestige in the past 50 years, is increasingly popular nationwide, and, some say, is now as difficult to get into as UC Berkeley.  The other seven campuses are less famous outside of California, but that does not mean that they aren’t excellent schools in their own right. </p> <p>The middle tier is the CSU system, which has 23 campuses, spread from Humboldt in the north to San Diego in the south.  Many of these colleges are not well known to those of us who are not from California, but that does not mean that they aren’t good schools. </p> <p>The third tier is the California Community Colleges system, which comprises 114 colleges, with over 2 million students.  Understandably, these two-year institutions are attended mostly by California residents who live near the campus they are attending.</p> <p>Now, a note to California:  It is especially confusing to those of us who do not live in your state to wrap our heads around the fact that, for example, there is a UC San Diego; a CSU at San Diego, known as <a href="https://www.sdsu.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">San Diego State University</a>; and a <a href= "http://www.sandiego.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of San Diego</a>, which is a private Catholic university.  So, those of you non-Californians interested in a California university, pay attention to what you are looking at.</p> <h2>2. College Acceptances in California</h2> <p>That was a long introduction to the point of this episode, which is the runaway application numbers and crazy difficulty of getting into schools in the UC system, the top-tier system and the one that most out-of-staters are most interested in.  I came across an article recently in <em>Inside Higher Ed</em>, written by Scott Jaschik, with this sad headline:  “<a href= "https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/03/26/reports-circulate-even-more-difficult-year-be-admitted-leading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wait-Listed, Rejected and Frustrated in California</a>.”  Here is the opening to Mr. Jaschik’s article, which, though anecdotal, is quite revealing, even for those of us who are not Californians:</p> <blockquote> <p>[A] counselor said that he is seeing students either wait-listed or rejected from UC Davis or UC Santa Barbara--students with “straight A’s and maybe one or two B’s” and SAT scores above 1400 or near-perfect ACT scores. He has seen even stronger students--among the top of his school’s graduating class--getting rejected from UC San Diego.</p> <p>“Our San Diego decisions look like Berkeley and UCLA decisions from years past,” he said. “Students we told that ‘this was a likely school’ aren’t getting in.”</p> <p>Parents--many of whom rely on out-of-date senses of colleges’ competitiveness--are particularly shocked. “We are constantly working with parents who assume a B-plus student can go to Davis or Santa Barbara, and they can’t,” said the counselor.</p> <p>UCLA and Berkeley have for years been long shots for all applicants. They reject many students with perfect SAT scores and grade point averages. So while many applicants are crushed by rejections at those two campuses, their counselors aren’t surprised. The difference this year, counselors say, is that other UC campuses and some California State campuses have gone up significantly in competitiveness. . . .  </p> <p>A school counselor in Northern California said it is the “middle group” within the University of California where he is seeing change. He has a senior with straight A’s who was wait-listed at Santa Barbara. At Davis and San Diego, “students we assumed would be strong candidates are being wait-listed.”</p> <p>He said that, next year, he will be discouraging students from using any UC as a safety.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there is a lot to unpack there.  First, there is the notion that kids in California are increasingly unable to use their own public higher education system as their fallback position, or safety schools.  We have often said, here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, that the state public university campuses are great safety school choices for bright kids with good grades and good admission test scores.  And while we were always sure that no one could use UC Berkeley or UCLA as a safety, we would have thought that some of the UC campuses in that “middle group” would have been fine to use.  I guess we are going to need to rethink this strategy--at least for kids in California, which gives those kids just one more source of anxiety in the college search process.</p> <p>Second, there is the very real concern of high school counselors, who have somehow led a lot of kids astray while following norms they had trusted.  They will all have to recalibrate before next season’s application process so that there will be fewer unpleasant surprises.</p> <p>Third, there is the very real misconception of parents, “many of whom rely on out-of-date senses of colleges’ competitiveness.”  I just want to say to parents that I totally get this, because it happens to me all the time.  And, as we are fond of saying here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, we do this for a living.  I am constantly amazed at admissions stories from colleges that I know were really nothing to write home about 40 years ago, colleges that were politely referred to as “party schools,” colleges that now no one can seem to get into.  I don’t want to name a bunch of those colleges here, but I can tell you that there are quite a few on my list.  This all just speaks to the growing competitiveness of college admissions.  Sometimes my college friends from <a href= "https://www.cornell.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Cornell</a> and I sit around and wonder whether any of us could have gotten in to Cornell today.  So, parents and grandparents, this is not your college world any longer; it is a new college world, with higher expectations across the board.</p> <p>And fourth, I would like to say to all my young friends here in New York, who have just told me recently that they wanted to go to UC Berkeley, think again--because your chances are not good, no matter how smart you are.  Berkeley just turned down hundreds--really thousands--like you.  Does that mean you shouldn’t apply?  No, because you might get lucky.  But it does mean you shouldn’t expect to get in, you should have plenty of other college choices that you like a lot, and you should be happily surprised if it all works out in your favor.</p> <p>And how might California’s situation affect those of you who have kids recently wait listed at top colleges elsewhere?  Here is what Mr. Jaschik explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [Y]ields could be hard to predict for out-of-state colleges that recruit top students in California. Many Californians have in the past turned down top out-of-state institutions for UC campuses that charge a fraction of the cost of private institutions. Such students may not have the option going ahead.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, California kids who might have turned down Cornell for Berkeley might need to pick up that acceptance to Cornell now, with Berkeley out of the running.  That means it is less likely that other kids on the wait list at top colleges will actually get in.  It might also mean that some of those colleges will find themselves overenrolled because most of the California kids they accepted might actually end up coming.</p> <h2>3. College Applications in California</h2> <p>But, let’s back up the clock a minute to look at applications to these California universities, not just acceptances.  This is a story we have mentioned before, but never with quite this much data to support it.  Here are the facts, according to Mr. Jaschik’s article:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [The] numbers are available for total applications for the coming fall. And while UC campuses are edging up in total size, the application increases are much larger. Total (unduplicated) applications for undergraduate admission to the University of California were up 5.7 percent, but the largest increases were not at Berkeley, which was up only 4.6 percent. UC Riverside saw the largest percentage increase--12.2 percent. </p> <p>Five UC campuses--Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara--received more than 100,000 applications each. San Diego’s total is up 9.7 percent. Davis is not far behind at 95,000 applications, up 8.6 percent. (By way of comparison, Harvard University received just under 40,000 applications last year.)</p> <p>Application totals like those guarantee shrinking admit rates of the sort many applicants are experiencing this year.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow.  That’s a lot of applications, and I doubt they are going to start dropping off any time soon.  What does it all mean?  Well, for families in California, it means that you need to get out of your geographic comfort zone (and perhaps your financial comfort zone as well).  This is the advice we give most often to everyone looking at colleges, and it might be one reason that counselors in California are finding that kids are getting into prestigious schools in the East--more prestigious than some of the public universities they did not get into in California--precisely because they broadened their geographic scope and found some colleges that were anxious to diversify their own freshman classes with exotic creatures from California.  Can it get any worse?  Stay tuned for what will happen next year at this time.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode159" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode159" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode159</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 158: Does the College Matter?
<p>This is the second episode in our new series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-15-decision-time-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Decision Time Again</em></a>.  It’s “again” for us because, as we said last week, we always do some episodes about college decision making in April, for obvious reasons.    </p> <h2>1. Isn’t This Counterintuitive?</h2> <p>Every year at this time, pundits and educators write articles and op-ed pieces about how it doesn’t matter if your kid didn’t get into an Ivy League school, how admissions at top schools is an insane process that turns down thousands of perfectly qualified students, and how, in the end, he or she will still turn out fine.  Of course, that is basically true, and everyone knows it.  For a great take on this issue, go back and listen to <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/usacc-121-no-harvard-for-you/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 121</a> from last year, which quotes extensively from an article by writer Michael Winerip, entitled “Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard,” published in <em>The New York Times</em> on April 29, 2007!  It could have been written yesterday and is probably more true today than it was when it was written 11 years ago.</p> <p>But does the choice of which college to send your kid to really matter as little as some people say?  Because although your kid might not have a choice of one of the top 20 colleges in the U.S., that leaves a lot of other ones--thousands, to be exact.  Are they virtually interchangeable?  Is one just as good as another so why spend more?</p> <p>The advice we always give--and the advice we gave again to one parent last week in Episode 157—is simply this:  Send your kid to the best college he or she got admitted to, even if it costs a little more or is farther away than you had wanted or is not what you had imagined for your kid.  But that advice is clearly not everyone’s view, so let’s look at the other side.</p> <h2>2. It Doesn’t Matter Where They Go to College?</h2> <p>“TIME Ideas hosts the world’s leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture,” according to its own website.  Well, one of those leading voices is evidently <em>William Stixrud, co-author of </em><em>The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives</em><em>, with Ned Johnson.</em>  The title of his piece in TIME Ideas is “<a href= "http://time.com/5210848/prestigious-college-doesnt-matter/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">It’s Time To Tell Your Kids It Doesn’t Matter Where They Go To College</a>.”  Well, that is a bold statement--bolder than most.  Let’s take a look at what he wrote early in that article:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [W]hy don’t we tell our kids the truth about success? We could start with the fact that only a third of adults hold degrees from four-year colleges. Or that you’ll do equally well in terms of income, job satisfaction and life satisfaction whether you go to an elite private college or a less-selective state university. Or that there are many occupations through which Americans make a living, many of which do not require a college degree.</p> <p>I am not against being a good student, and there are clear advantages to doing well in school. But you don’t need to be a top student or go to a highly selective college to have a successful and fulfilling life. The path to success is not nearly so narrow as we think. We’ve all heard the stories of the college dropout who went on to found a wildly successful company. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, all of this is true.  Yes, there are many roads to success.  Yes, many different colleges can get you there, if you need college at all.  And yet, does that really mean most parents can or will take the position that it doesn’t matter where their kids go to college?  I don’t think so, and I don’t think they should.  Because while there are many roads to success and while many colleges or no college at all can get you there, most people also believe that a great college--or a great college <em>match</em>--for a kid can only be a plus as that kid heads into his or her future.  I don’t know many parents--if any at all—who would try to convince their own kids to turn down college and suggest that their kids try to make it on their own instead, even if Mr. Gates and Mr. Zuckerberg managed to do it.</p> <p>So, let’s see what else Mr. Stixrud has to say:</p> <blockquote> <p>I’ve asked various school administrators why they don’t just tell kids the truth about college--that where you go makes very little difference later in life.</p> <p>They’ll shrug and say, “Even if we did, no one would believe it.” One confided to me, “We would get angry calls and letters from parents who believe that, if their children understood the truth, they would not work hard in school and would have second-class lives.”</p> <p>Many adults worry that if their kids knew that grades in school aren’t highly predictive of success in life, they’d lose their motivation to apply themselves and aim high. In fact, the opposite is true. In my 32 years of working with kids as a psychologist, I’ve seen that simply telling kids the truth--giving them an accurate model of reality, including the advantages of being a good student--increases their flexibility and drive. It motivates kids with high aspirations to shift their emphasis from achieving for its own sake to educating themselves so that they can make an important contribution. An accurate model of reality also encourages less-motivated students to think more broadly about their options and energizes them to pursue education and self-development even if they aren’t top achievers.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I am all for telling kids the truth.  I do want kids to understand their options, to broaden those options, and to encourage kids to pursue those options, regardless of their levels of motivation or their GPAs.  I do want kids to have a realistic view of the world and of their place in it.  </p> <p>Nonetheless, I am struck by data on the other side of this argument.  Almost two years ago, way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-67-a-candid-interview-with-harold-levy-on-college-access-admissions-counseling-and-scholarships/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 67</a>, we interviewed our colleague (and my fellow Cornell alum) Harold Levy, the smart and savvy executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.  At that time, the Foundation had co-authored, with The Century Foundation, an insightful report entitled <a href= "http://www.jkcf.org/assets/1/7/JKCF_True_Merit_Report.pdf" target= "_blank" rel="noopener"><em>True Merit:  Ensuring Our Brightest Students Have Access to Our Best Colleges and Universities</em></a>.  We had talked about the report even earlier, back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-59-whats-happening-to-low-income-smart-kids/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 59</a>, and I still remember some of the statistics that the report presented.  For example:</p> <ul> <li>Only 23 percent of high-achieving, low-income students apply to a selective school, but 48 percent of high-achieving, high-income students do so.</li> <li>High-achieving students from the wealthiest families were three times as likely to enroll in a highly selective college as high-achieving students from the poorest families (24 percent compared to 8 percent).  </li> <li>49 percent of corporate industry leaders and 50 percent of government leaders graduated from the same 12 selective colleges and universities. </li> </ul> <p>So, it does seem to matter to wealthy families that their high-achieving kids go to selective colleges, and I wish that high-achieving kids from low-income families had the same support to help them get to those same selective colleges.  And I wish that those selective colleges would try harder to provide that support and outreach.  Because as most of us realize in this real world, it does matter where you go to college.  Just ask the 49 percent of corporate industry leaders and 50 percent of government leaders who went to the same 12 selective colleges. </p> <p>Of course, we are not advocating that parents or high school staff  put an unreasonable or dangerous amount of pressure on kids.  No one wants to make kids overanxious, fearful, and downright sad in their last years of high school. </p> <p>Maybe our message today is really more for parents than for kids, and it is the exact same message we gave in our last episode:  Send your kid to the best college he or she got into—whether that’s an Ivy League university, a public flagship university, a small liberal arts college, or a private university.  It’s a good short-term decision and, very likely, the best long-term decision.  If you don’t agree, give me a call and let’s chat. </p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode158" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode158" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode158</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 157: Thinking Through College Acceptances
<p>This is the first episode in our new series, fondly entitled <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-15-decision-time-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Decision Time Again</em></a>.  It’s “again” for us because we always do some episodes about college decision making at this time of year, and it seems that the decisions just keep get harder and harder each year for all of you parents and your kids.  Of course, we know that it might be your <em>first</em> decision time, and we are wishing you the best of luck! </p> <h2>1. A Case from the Real World </h2> <p>So, here is something that happened last week:  It is a case from the real world.  I had a great conversation on the phone with a loyal listener to our podcast and reader of our books, who wanted some advice about her son’s big decision.  Let’s call her Betty (the names have been changed to protect the innocent, though I would really love to give her credit for how well she is thinking through this decision).  First of all, I want to thank her for being so complimentary of our work.  She explained that she did not go to university in the U.S., so she found our explanation of higher education here to be especially helpful.  I also want to note that Betty lives in California, which justifies the name of our podcast, <strong><em>USA</em></strong><em>CollegeChat</em>.  We have tried hard to reach parents from coast to coast, and we are truly happy that it seems to be working.</p> <p>Let me start by saying that Betty has done everything right.  As she wrote about her son in an email to me, “He had a lower GPA, but a good SAT score, and has been very fortunate to get into almost all of the schools he applied to, partly thanks to your advice about putting together a realistic list of schools, including a few stretches and some safety schools.”  And as a result, her son now has a choice of a variety of colleges that he has been admitted to:  public and private, large and small, North and South and East and Midwest, selective and less selective, liberal arts colleges and true universities.  Here are his choices:  the <a href="https://www.unh.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of New Hampshire</a>, the <a href= "http://www.pitt.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Pittsburgh</a>, <a href="https://www.miamioh.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Miami University</a> (of Ohio), <a href= "https://www.indiana.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Indiana University</a>, <a href="https://wp.stolaf.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">St. Olaf College</a>, <a href= "https://www.elon.edu/home/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Elon University</a>, <a href="https://www2.gmu.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">George Mason University</a>, and <a href= "https://www.american.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">American University</a>. </p> <p>Betty’s question was, quite simply, where should he go.  Betty told me that her son is interested in international relations, with a focus on Europe (where Betty is from originally) and would like to spend some time studying abroad and some time in Washington, D.C.  This week, they are going on a second round of college visits to see the colleges he has been accepted by that he hasn’t seen yet (as we recommend, whenever possible, visit <em>after</em> the acceptances so you can save a bit of money by not visiting colleges your child does not get admitted to). </p> <p>I proceeded to talk through the list of acceptances with her and came down in favor of American University, which was the last college her son had heard from.  I told Betty that, if he had not been admitted to American, I would have advised him to choose Indiana University--because, as she knew from listening to our episodes, we love public flagship universities; because it has a fine reputation; because it has many study abroad opportunities; and because it has a School of Global and International Studies, where her son was accepted into its version of an honors program.  However, given her son’s interest in studying in D.C., American seemed like the better choice.  Its reputation is excellent, it has nationwide visibility, and its location in D.C.--with all of the opportunities there might be for international-related activities, internships, and part-time jobs--seemed to me to outweigh the pluses of a flagship university campus in exurban Bloomington, Indiana. </p> <p>Betty then asked me a string of questions, which were important and relevant to her son’s decision.  It was a little bit like a “greatest hits” of issues we have dealt with in past episodes, and she did a good job of recounting them and questioning me about them.  For example, she noted that American does not guarantee housing after freshman year, and she worried about what housing might be like in D.C. if her son had to get his own.  I agreed that the lack of a housing guarantee in D.C. especially might not be ideal, but that it would not keep me from sending a child to American, given its other advantages.  I assured her that kids move off campus all the time and that he might be able to stay on campus anyway.  </p> <p>Next, Betty noted that American’s graduation rate was not as high as other colleges on his list.  A good point, I said, but I would be okay with that if I were relatively sure my son would stay on track and graduate on time.  Besides, I said, American is a great school, regardless of its graduation rate.  Betty commented that her son had always done better when challenged, and I agreed that is often the case and that her son would definitely be challenged at American both by the university and by his classmates to do his best.  I did add that I would give him a firm lecture about that before he left!</p> <p>Next, Betty asked my opinion about a gap year, which her son had brought up, but not recently.  She remembered our episode about it and, coming from Europe where gap years are more common, was not totally against it.  I repeated that all the research said gap years were great choices, and yet I would still tell Betty to send her son directly to college.  He already seems to know what he wants to do, and he does not seem to need to spend a year figuring that out.  I suggested that he might take his “gap year” <em>after</em> his undergraduate education and before his intended graduate work, when he might really be able to do something significant abroad. </p> <p>Finally, Betty wondered if her son would be better off in a slightly less challenging college, where he could potentially get better grades in preparation for getting into a top-tier graduate school, where he hoped to pursue international affairs or business.  This was my favorite question of those she asked.  And I gave the answer we have always given here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>:  Send him to the best school he got into.  In my opinion, that is American.  I commented that plans change, things happen, and graduate school might not be his choice four years from now.  Why suboptimize his undergraduate education because you are hoping for the best possible graduate education?  What if that graduate education never comes, and you just wasted a great undergraduate opportunity--for nothing? </p> <p>I feel so strongly about his advice, and I seem to give it a lot.  (I am not talking about Betty now, by the way.  Betty and her son are going to be fine.)  But I do see parents thinking that a mediocre public education is fine at the undergraduate level because it is a way to save money for a top-quality private graduate school or medical school or law school.  Well, as many people have said and claimed credit for, tomorrow is promised to no one.  Please, parents, let your kid to take the opportunity to get an outstanding undergraduate education if it’s offered, even if it costs a little more.  No one can predict where your kid will be in four years, what he or she will want to do then, and whether he or she will have the grades and test scores to get into a phenomenal graduate school.  As the Romans said, <em>carpe diem</em>--seize the day.</p> <h2>2. What You Should Do Right Now</h2> <p>So, in this episode, I wanted to give you a firsthand look at how we think through things once those acceptances come in.  If you have a question like Betty’s about your kid, please drop me an email.  All the advice is free, and you don’t have to take it.  But let’s chat.  Why do you think we call it <em>USACollegeChat</em>?</p> <p>By the way, if you want more general advice, feel free to go back and listen to the advice we gave last year and the year before.  It’s still quite relevant.  Try <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-114-its-college-decision-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 114</a> from last year and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 69</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-70-college-decision-time-for-above-average-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 70</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-71-college-decision-time-for-below-average-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 71</a> from the year before.  They never get old!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode157" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode157" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode157</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 156: They Teach Happiness at Yale
<p>This is the fourth episode in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-14-things-we-dont-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">our new series of things we didn’t know about certain colleges--or about higher education generally</a>. Today, we are taking a look inside the ivy-covered walls of <a href="https://www.yale.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Yale University</a>, but I think you will be very surprised about why we are taking that look. I know that many of you parents listening today have kids who have their hearts set on attending Yale or one of the other Ivy League universities or one of the other highly selective universities next fall. And I know that many of them won’t get to do that--not because they weren’t qualified to do it, but because too many other equally qualified kids also wanted to do it. But the perceived greatness of Yale’s academic program is not what we are going to look at today. Instead, we are going to look at just one Yale course, which happens to be Yale’s single most popular course ever offered—that is, the most popular course in Yale’s 316 years, and it’s being offered right now.</p> <h2>1. Happiness Is a Course?</h2> <p><a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/nyregion/at-yale-class-on-happiness-draws-huge-crowd-laurie-santos.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In a provocative <em>New York Times</em> article in late January</a>, David Schimer tells the story of PSYC 157 Psychology and the Good Life, a course that currently enrolls about 1,200 students, or almost one-quarter of Yale undergraduates. And this is not a <em>required</em> freshman seminar, as so many colleges have. Here is what Mr. Schimer says:</p> <blockquote> <p>The course, taught by Prof. Laurie Santos, 42, a psychology professor and the head of one of Yale’s residential colleges, tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures. </p> <p>“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said in an interview.</p> <p>“With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>What? A kinder, gentler Yale? A course about how to be happy? It sounds crazy, at first, but maybe she is onto something. The article continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>Dr. Santos speculated that Yale students are interested in the class because, in high school, they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school, adopting harmful life habits that have led to what she called “the mental health crises we’re seeing at places like Yale.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time at the school. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow. That is concerning to all of us, but especially to parents of Yale hopefuls or parents of kids who want to go to another 25 universities that are just as selective and just as challenging. And with the news we hear every day on our televisions, the mental health of students of all ages is increasingly a worry for all of us.</p> <p>So, what is in this course (for which parents are paying a hefty Yale tuition price tag)? What is in this course that some students see as “a relaxed lecture with few requirements” (quoted from the article)? Here is what Mr. Schimer reports:</p> <blockquote> <p>The course focuses both on positive psychology--the characteristics that allow humans to flourish, according to Dr. Santos--and behavioral change, or how to live by those lessons in real life. Students must take quizzes, complete a midterm exam, and, as their final assessment, conduct what Dr. Santos calls a “Hack Yo’Self Project,” a personal self-improvement project….</p> <p>But while others might see easy credits, Dr. Santos refers to her course as the “hardest class at Yale”: To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day, she said.</p> <p>She hopes that the social pressures associated with taking a lecture with friends will push students to work hard without provoking anxiety about grades. Dr. Santos has encouraged all students to enroll in the course on a pass-fail basis, tying into her argument that the things Yale undergraduates often connect with life satisfaction--a high grade, a prestigious internship, a good-paying job--don’t increase happiness at all.</p> <p>“Scientists didn’t realize this in the same way 10 or so years ago, that our intuitions about what will make us happy, like winning the lottery and getting a good grade--are totally wrong,” Dr. Santos said….</p> <p>“We have this moment where we can make a difference in Yale’s culture, where students feel like they are part of a movement and fighting the good fight,” she said. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that is an interesting take on happiness, and I have to wonder what the parents of those students are thinking. While no one wants to see kids overstressed to the point of mental health crises and while I know for a fact that many of those kids had way-too-intense high school years as they tried to get themselves prepared for Ivy League college applications, I am wondering why high grades and great internships and well-paying jobs can’t actually increase happiness. Certainly, not by themselves; but not at all?</p> <p>Of course, taking off some of the pressure for high grades at Yale (or any other college) is fine by me. You will recall that we have talked about alternative grading practices at colleges as recently as five episodes ago in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-151-what-about-a-colleges-grading-practices/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 151</a>. All of those alternative grading practices--some of which are used by very selective colleges--seem like a reasonable accommodation to kids who have worked too hard for too long and perhaps have lost sight of the value of learning apart from the value of getting a high grade. For some kids, the constant anxiety about getting high grades can thankfully end in college; but, for those who plan on graduate school or medical school or law school, I am afraid that they will be under the gun for another four years. Can Dr. Santos’s course help them with that? I would hope so.</p> <h2>2. Yale’s Response</h2> <p>While admitting how incredibly popular PSYC 157 has turned out to be, the Yale administration has had an interesting reaction. Here is what will happen next year at Yale, as Mr. Schimer writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Offering such a large class has come with challenges, from assembling lecture halls to hiring the 24 teaching fellows required. Because the psychology department lacked the resources to staff it fully, the fellows had to be drawn from places like Yale’s School of Public Health and law school. And with so many undergraduates enrolled in a single lecture, Yale’s hundreds of other classes--particularly those that conflict with Dr. Santos’s--may have seen decreased enrollment….</p> <p>Dr. Santos said she does not plan to offer the course again. Dr. [Woo-Kyoung] Ahn [director of undergraduate studies in psychology]…said, “Large courses can be amazing every once in a while, but it wouldn’t be fair to other courses and departments to take all of their students away.”</p> <p>She added, “It causes conflict, and we can’t afford to offer this every year in terms of teaching fellows and resources.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, it was great while it lasted--or at least while other professors didn’t get too annoyed about the decrease in enrollment in their less-popular courses or administrators didn’t have to figure out the logistics of offering it. So, just how important is the mental health of the students or didn’t the professors and administrators think that the course was meeting that goal? I am sure that we will never know the answer to that question.</p> <h2>3. Your Response</h2> <p>In case you want to take a closer look at Dr. Santos’s idea or in case you want your kid to do so, “a multipart seminar-style series on the course material--filmed last year in her home and titled “The Science of Well-Being”--will soon be available for free on Coursera, an online education platform” (quoted from the article).</p> <p>But, more to the point, please do keep in mind the mental health of your kid--both now in that last critical year or two of high school and then when he or she heads off for college, as so many of your kids will do this fall. Take a glance back at Episode 137, which focused on the importance of college support services for kids (like more than half of undergraduates at Yale) who need and seek mental health counseling while in college.</p> <p>As we said in our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>, information about support services on a college campus is one thing prospective applicants and their parents might want to consider--especially if your kid identifies with students of color, first-generation-to-college students, LGBTQ students, or students with learning disabilities. And now, I would add, especially if your kid is going to a highly selective university, filled with bright, hardworking, overstressed, and likely anxious students.</p> <p>As Randy Newman’s theme song for the great television show <em>Monk</em> says, “It’s a jungle out there.” </p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode156" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode156" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode156</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 155: Foreign Languages and College Admissions
<p>This is the third episode in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-14-things-we-dont-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">our new series of things we didn’t know about certain colleges--or about higher education generally</a>. But today, we are actually going to talk about some new data out about high schools because those data have implications for college-going, I believe. To be fair, I already knew a lot about today’s topic, but I did not know the data we are going to share with you now--and I think the situation is really very troubling.</p> <h2>1. A Look Back at Foreign Languages</h2> <p><a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-133-what-high-school-courses-will-get-you-into-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Last August, we took a look at this topic</a>, but I would like to reprise it today. The topic is the study of foreign languages in U.S. high schools. Those of you who are regular listeners know how important I think this topic is, probably stemming from my work a couple of decades ago with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages on a nationwide study of foreign language teaching in elementary and secondary schools and on the writing of a book of exemplary foreign language programs.  </p> <p>Let me repeat here a few alarming statistics from an <a href= "http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/21/just-20-percent-of-k-12-students-are.html?cmp=eml-enl-cm-news2" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Education Week</em> article last June by Corey Mitchell</a>:</p> <ul> <li>The American Councils for International Education estimates that 10.6 million K-12 U.S. students study a world language or American Sign Language. That sounds like a lot of students, but it is actually just 20 percent of American students.</li> <li>Fewer than 10 percent of students in at least two states study a language other than English.</li> <li>Arabic is the fastest-growing second language among U.S. residents, but only 0.25 percent of American students who study a foreign language study Arabic in school.</li> <li>Less than 1 percent of American students who study a foreign language are studying either Russian or Japanese, two languages that seem relatively important these days politically and/or economically.</li> <li>Only 11 states require credits in foreign languages in order to graduate from high school.</li> </ul> <p>Some of those numbers actually make me want to weep.</p> <h2>2. The Story in Oklahoma</h2> <p>So, imagine my dismay when I read <a href= "http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2018/01/report_oklahoma_foreign_language_offerings_plummet.html?cmp=eml-enl-cm-news2&M=58334204&U=1580754" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent article in the <em>Education Week</em> Curriculum Matters blog by Stephen Sawchuk</a>, who opened with this sad news:</p> <blockquote> <p>In just a decade, a fourth of Oklahoma’s high schools eliminated their world language courses, the investigative reporting site Oklahoma Watch reports in a fascinating new story. Overall, a third of [Oklahoma] high schools lack a course in even one foreign language.</p> <p>It’s a compelling piece of education data made bleaker by the fact that the decline in foreign language in Oklahoma probably has parallels in other states….</p> <p>What’s more, reporter Jennifer Palmer found, the declines are both in the “level II” instruction (usually given in sophomore year), and even more catastrophically in year III or advanced classes, such as AP courses. Having such a class can be a deciding factor in application decisions at elite colleges.</p> <p>Not all schools are equally affected, she notes: Rural schools bore the brunt of the cuts, likely because they weren’t able to get teachers to fill the spots. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there is a lot to talk about there, thanks to Mr. Sawchuk. First, let’s consider the fact that, in the past 10 years, one-quarter of all Oklahoma high schools stopped offering foreign languages, and now one-third of all Oklahoma high schools do not offer any. Frankly, I cannot imagine a high school that offers no foreign language courses--not just because foreign languages can be important for college admissions, but because they are even more important for living in a global society, for understanding cultures other than our own, and perhaps eventually for working in another country or for working with people in another country doing business with American businesses. Kids who are going to college will have another chance to study a language; kids who don’t go to college won’t. High school is their last chance.</p> <p>Second, the decline worsens as the courses get more advanced. No surprise there, and that’s undoubtedly always been true. Clearly, fewer and fewer kids take foreign languages as the courses get more advanced, and that goes for all languages and all states and all school districts. Many schools no longer offer a fourth year of a language, and too many also don’t offer the third year of a language. And yes, elite colleges do still look at the depth of a student’s foreign language study, hoping for at least three years of study in one language.</p> <p>But again, three or four years of language study is not important just for college admissions. They are important because two years of language study is not nearly enough to make students even marginally proficient in a language, as I learned when working with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The truth is that kids struggle mightily after even three and four years of high school study, but two years just is not enough. Even knowing that, colleges will sometimes look kindly enough on two years of each of two different languages instead of three years of one (especially if your high school does not offer three years of one). But offering <em>two</em> languages must seem like an idea from outer space to high schools in Oklahoma and elsewhere that can’t offer even one year of one language.</p> <p>And third, of course, rural schools in Oklahoma were most often affected--not only because of the difficulty of recruiting foreign language teachers, but also because of the difficulty of filling courses often considered as elective courses in high schools with small enrollments. I don’t have some snappy solution for that. Online instruction is the solution that is probably used most often. I have seen it, and I am not overly impressed. Is it better than no foreign language instruction? Yes, it is--at least for meeting state high school graduation requirements and college admission requirements. </p> <h2>3. What You Must Do</h2> <p>I am working with a rural school district right now, and we are getting ready to look at the high school curriculum offerings. I am anxious to see how we will solve the problem of offering good foreign language instruction, but I believe that it is a problem worth solving. And I believe that, if parents allow their voices to be heard in that school district, we will have to try harder to solve it. Fortunately, I will be there to speak on behalf of those parents, but I can’t be everywhere.</p> <p>So, parents, you are going to have to speak up for yourselves and your own kids. That is especially true if your kid attends a rural school--though, by the way, not all urban and suburban schools do a good job of offering foreign languages, either.</p> <p>And I am not just picking on Oklahoma. I love Oklahoma and have actually done a lot of work in Oklahoma. In fact, it is home to one of my favorite museums and museum gift shops in the U.S. Here is a plug for that truly beautiful facility, quoted from its own website: </p> <p>The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, commonly known as Gilcrease Museum, located in Tulsa, Okla., is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and material.</p> <p>As the early statistics we quoted said, 39 states do <em>not</em> require foreign language study for high school graduation and (probably as a sad consequence) only 20 percent of U.S. students study a foreign language or American Sign Language. This is not an Oklahoma problem. </p> <p>But this is not just a state problem, either. In many schools that do offer foreign languages, kids are not taking them. And they certainly aren’t taking three or four years of one language. So, parents, that is where you come in, and I am hoping it will be easier for you to influence your own kid than to try to influence an entire school district.</p> <p>Convince your kid to take four years of a foreign language in high school (assuming that your high school makes four years available and, if not, encourage your kid to take three years or, as a last resort, to take two years of one language and two years of another language). We have said in many other episodes how important it is to show a college that a student has taken a rigorous set of high school courses--indeed, the most rigorous set of courses that the high school makes available. Usually, that is translated into taking four years of math and four years of science, especially when those four years can include calculus and physics. But, for some students--and your kid might be one of them--four years of a foreign language might be a lot more attainable than calculus.</p> <p>I understand that the recent push for STEM instruction nationwide is one more thing that might drive out foreign language instruction in high schools. As a matter of fact, the STEM high school that we co-founded almost 10 years ago faced that problem of how to offer foreign language courses and how to get them into the students’ already jam-packed Early College schedule that focused on engineering and architecture. But at least we had a New York State requirement for foreign language study for high school graduation, so we had to solve the problem.</p> <p>In the final analysis, parents, <em>not</em> convincing your kid to take three or four years of a foreign language is what causes schools to stop offering them and teachers to stop training to teach them. It is a vicious cycle. So, keep your kid in foreign language courses not just to get your kid into college; do it for a lot of other great reasons, too. As I said in our episode last August, I—with my four years of high school Latin and my three years of high school French--will now get off my soapbox. (And, yes, I took both languages in college, too.)</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode155" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode155" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode155</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episoe 154: Instant College Admission Decisions
<p>This is the second <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-14-things-we-dont-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in our new series of things we didn’t know about certain colleges--or about higher education generally</a>.  I think this is a case of the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.  Even though we have worked with colleges for a living for decades, we have learned a lot doing our 150-plus episodes, and we hope you have, too.</p> <p>Today’s episode focuses on something that I did not know existed:  instant college admission decisions, which sound like a great stress-reliever to me.  Because who wants to apply to a college on January 1 and wait three months to get an answer!  So, while many students solve that waiting problem by applying under Early Action or Early Decision plans, thus shortening their wait time to perhaps six weeks or so in November and December, other students are taking advantage of <em>instant</em> decisions.  Here’s the story, <a href= "https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-12-04/everything-you-need-to-know-about-college-instant-decision-days" target="_blank" rel="noopener">thanks to Kelly Mae Ross and her article last December for <em>U.S. News & World Report</em></a>. </p> <h2>1.  What Are These Things?</h2> <p>So, what are instant decision days?  They are exactly what they sound like.  They are events held at high schools or colleges for prospective freshmen, staffed by a college’s admission officer, who interviews prospective students for a short period of time (as little as 15 minutes) and provides an admission decision <em>on the spot</em>. </p> <blockquote> <p>The interview allows a prospective student to explain little glitches in his or her academic record as well as to elaborate on personal and academic accomplishments.  It also gives a prospective student a chance to ask questions about the college.  Because the interview is so short, students need not be too nervous.  And because the interview is quick and somewhat informal, students need not go overboard dressing up.  According to Ms. Ross’s article, Kasey Urquidez, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs advancement and dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of Arizona, commented, “I can say for our team, [student dress is] not something we’re looking at whatsoever.  So dress as a student--it’s what we expect.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>(Of course, I am going to add here that students should not dress like slobs, either.  I can live with “business casual” attire--just short of a tie and jacket for young men, for example.  Furthermore, students should remember that a speedy, seemingly informal event still requires that standard formal slang-free English be spoken.) </p> <p>While financial aid packages might not be provided on the spot at the time of the instant decision, a newly accepted student can at least get advice on what to do next to secure financial assistance. </p> <p>And here’s a plus:  Some colleges will waive the application fee for instant decision applicants.  So, that could save you a few bucks, which never hurts.</p> <p>And here’s another plus:  When these instant decision events are held on the college campus rather than at your kid’s high school, some colleges offer students a campus tour and the chance to meet current students--all accomplished in one jam-packed day.</p> <p>And here’s perhaps the biggest plus:  Instant admission decisions are <em>not</em> binding.  That means, of course, that a student can continue to apply to other colleges or continue to wait to hear from other colleges before making an enrollment decision. </p> <p>Not surprisingly, some colleges require that a prospective student complete the application in advance (which seems reasonable).  Some colleges have minimum academic standards that prospective students must meet in order to participate in an instant decision event (which seems reasonable, too).  And some colleges permit instant decisions for just some, but not all, of their degree programs (which also seems okay to me). </p> <p>But the bottom line is this:  There is just no downside to taking part in one of these instant decision days if a college your kid is interested in makes one available. </p> <h2>2.  What Colleges Have Them?</h2> <p>So, what colleges have them?  It’s not surprising that highly selective colleges do not offer instant decision events.  But Ms. Ross’s article spotlights one that does:  <a href="http://www.millersville.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Millersville University</a> of Pennsylvania.  With 7,000 undergraduate students, Millersville is a public university located in rural Lancaster County, in the heart of Amish country, though not too far a drive from Philadelphia.  Founded as a teacher’s college in 1855, Millersville now offers more than 100 undergraduate programs of study.  <em>Out-of-state</em> tuition is about $22,000 per year—rather reasonable, when compared to private colleges. Admissions standards are also quite reasonable, given its public mission as part of the 14-campus system of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (which is a separate state system from the more selective Pennsylvania State University (of football fame) system).  The Millersville freshman class profile shows an average SAT of 1050, an average ACT composite of 22, and a high school GPA average of 3.4. And, according to its own Fast Facts on its website, 95 percent of graduates are employed within six months.</p> <p>While the freshman class profile statistics indicate that Millersville is not a highly selective institution, having a positive instant admission decision in a student’s pocket from a solid public university is not a bad way to relieve the stress of the college application process. And, in her article, Ms. Ross quotes Brian Hazlett, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Millersville, as saying that students who do not get an acceptance on instant decision day can get advice on how to make their application better.  It’s like personal counseling for free! </p> <p>Ms. Ross’s article continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>“It’s a very, very personal way of going through the admissions process,” says John Iacovelli, dean of enrollment management at Stockton University in New Jersey, which holds about three dozen instant decision events at high schools each year.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="https://www.stockton.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Stockton University</a>, by the way, is a public university in southern New Jersey, opened in 1971, which enrolls over 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students, about 1,500 of whom are first-time freshmen.  After six months, 88 percent of its graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school.  Both this 88 percent and Millersville’s 95 percent strike me as very good statistics for any university, but perhaps especially so for a public university.</p> <h2>3.  What About Transfer Students?</h2> <p>In case you have a kid already in college and looking to transfer, it might be worth noting that some colleges have these instant decision days for transfer students, too.  Ms. Ross offers this information in her article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Some university admissions officers travel to community colleges to offer this opportunity to prospective transfer students.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.arizona.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Arizona</a> offers about a dozen such events each year, says Kasey Urquidez, vice president enrollment management and student affairs advancement, and dean of undergraduate admissions at the university.</p> <p><a href="https://vt.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Virginia Tech</a>…hosts instant decision days at four nearby community colleges, says Jane Todd, the school’s associate director for transfer initiatives….</p> <p>Prospective transfer students should register in advance, submit their application and obtain a copy of their transcript before meeting with the admissions officer, both Todd and Urquidez say. Students who have attended multiple colleges will need a transcript from each, says Urquidez, and collecting all of these documents can take time.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, the University of Arizona and Virginia Tech!  These are gigantic public universities that are well respected in their states (and nationally, too) and very likely by the nearby community college students who could take advantage of these instant decision days.  Given our nation’s scandalously low rates of community college students transferring to four-year institutions to continue their educations, these instant decision days have to be a step--or a giant leap--in the right direction.</p> <h2>4.  So What?</h2> <p>So, what should you do with this information?  Well, if I were you, I would start looking for colleges that offer the instant decision events, either on their campus or at your kid’s high school.  Ask the guidance counselor about any such events at the high school.  If there aren’t any scheduled, suggest that the guidance counselor look into this option, perhaps especially from nearby public two-year and four-year colleges. </p> <p>In my search for information, I ran across a posting on the website for Saratoga Springs High School, located in the beautiful upstate town of Saratoga Springs, New York.  The notice explained that eight colleges would be conducting “instant decision” and “instant admit” sessions at the high school between October 30 and December 15.  The colleges were both public and private, both two-year and four-year, and both large and small, including one major campus of the <a href="https://www.suny.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State University of New York</a> system.  That’s not a bad deal for those seniors, especially those who did not have their hearts set on highly selective colleges or those who needed or wanted to attend a nearby public institution.</p> <p>What’s the bottom line?  It is that it never hurts to have a little stress relieved by these instant decision days.  There are few things in education that have no downside, as we have said in the past.  One of those things we have talked about often is student internships during high school.  Another of those things is Early College high schools and other college-credit-in-high-school programs.  Another of those things is Early Action admission plans.  There is just no downside to any one of these things. And now we will add instant decision days.  Just no downside.  So, do a little research in your own community and happy hunting!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode154" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode154" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode154</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 153: Outstanding New Documentary on HBCUs
<p>It is officially March, and I feel that we have done all we can for the Class of 2022.  Before we head into advice for the Class of 2023, we are going to do a few episodes on things we didn’t know about certain colleges--or about higher education generally.  As we have always said, we learn something every time we do an episode, even though this is our business and we have been doing it a very long time.</p> <p>Today’s episode focuses on a favorite topic of ours here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>--that is, our nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).  We have spotlighted HBCUs in several of our episodes over the years (Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-32-colleges-in-the-southeast-region-part-iv/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">32</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-90-assignment-10-its-never-too-late-to-add-one-more-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">90</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-100-historically-black-college-and-university-freshman-enrollment-on-the-rise/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">100</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-117-the-best-case-for-historically-black-colleges-and-universities/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">117</a>), and we mentioned them on many of our episodes that took you on our virtual nationwide tour of colleges quite some time ago.  And while we will give you some background and some statistics in this episode, for those of you who are not familiar with HBCUs, the real purpose of the episode today is to praise the new documentary on HBCUs that recently aired on PBS’s <em>Independent Lens</em> series.  The documentary, entitled <a href= "http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/tell-them-we-are-rising/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Tell Them We Are Rising</em></a>, is the work of filmmakers Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams.  And it is fantastic!</p> <p>As our regular listeners know, there are just over 100 HBCUs in the U.S.  About half are public, and half are private.  HBCUs are large and small (many are very small), faith-based and not, two-year and four-year colleges and universities; some also have graduate and professional schools, including the well-known <a href="https://www2.howard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Howard University</a> School of Law, which is the focus of one segment of the new documentary. </p> <p>HBCUs were originally founded to serve black students who had been excluded from other higher education institutions because of their race.  The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War.  Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first colleges to provide higher education to the family members of freed slaves.  Over the years, HBCUs have produced extraordinary leaders in every field of endeavor and thousands and thousands of well-educated American citizens.  A list of their famous graduates would be too long to read to you.</p> <h2>1.  Why Watch? </h2> <p>So, why should your kids (and you) watch this documentary?  (If you can’t still find it on the air on PBS or streaming on the PBS website, buy it or tell your high school to buy it and show it to all of the students.)  There are a lot of reasons to watch.  First, it is a great piece of documentary filmmaking.  It includes take-your-breath-away and heartbreaking archival photographs and film of black American life during segregation and during the end of segregation.  It includes archival photographs and film of HBCU students on campus going back a hundred years, including the horrifying 1972 shooting of two students in an otherwise peaceful protest on the campus of <a href="http://www.subr.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Southern University</a> (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana); more about that later.  It includes insightful interviews with former HBCU students now in their 70s and 80s, with HBCU presidents, with historians, and more.  It includes evocative and relevant music. </p> <p>Second, the film gives an impressively organized overview of 150 years of African-American history, focusing on higher education in the form of HBCUs, but including everything from the beginning of elementary education for black children to the debate about the education philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois to the role of the remarkable Thurgood Marshall (who graduated from both <a href="http://www.lincoln.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Lincoln University</a> and Howard University School of Law, two HBCUs) in ending school segregation to the lunch counter sit-in protests staged by HBCU college students during the struggle for civil rights.  If your kid does not know this history (and many don’t), here is a powerful way to help him or her learn it.</p> <p>Third, if your kid does not know what an HBCU is, it is time your kid learned.  That is especially true if your family is African American--or Hispanic, because Hispanic enrollment at HBCUs has been increasing (as we have said in earlier episodes).  And while white students can and do also enroll at HBCUs, white students should also have an understanding of these historic institutions and their continuing important role in our nation’s social and cultural fabric.  We have heard too many anecdotes (including in this documentary) of black high school students who want to go to an HBCU only to have their friends ask them why in the world they would want to do that.  Early in the film, HBCUs are described as an “unapologetic black space.”  Late in the film, they are described as the place where “you’ll find something you won’t find anywhere else.”  That’s why.  No one could have said it better.</p> <h2>2.  Some Background</h2> <p>If you all thought that you were going to get away without hearing one more time about my favorite HBCU, <a href= "https://www.fisk.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Fisk University</a>, you were wrong.  Oddly enough, in a PBS interview by Craig Phillips with the filmmakers, Mr. Williams said that they had written a segment, which they did not end up using, about the Fisk University Jubilee Singers.  The Jubilee Singers, organized in 1871, saved the University from closing in its early days by raising money on their concert tours, and they continue to tour today.  I love their story.  And, of course, there is Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the intellectual architect of the Harlem Renaissance, who served as Fisk’s first black president, and the Harlem Renaissance writers and artists, like Arna Bontemps, James Weldon Johnson, and Aaron Douglas, whom he brought to Fisk to work with him.  Well, Mr. Williams, I would love to have seen your segment on the Jubilee Singers, though I was interested in the segment you do have on Fisk.  And you all should be, too.</p> <p>As we just said, today HBCUs enroll students who are not black--just as historically white colleges and universities (referred to as predominantly white institutions, or PWIs) now enroll students who are not white.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015, students who were not black made up 22 percent of the enrollment at HBCUs.  That was up from 15 percent back in 1976.  And while the number of students enrolled at HBCUs rose by 32 percent in those years—which was good for them—total college enrollment rose by 81 percent in those same years. </p> <p>Some observers say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students now that they have been welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S.  That is undoubedly true to some degree.</p> <p>Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition on HBCU campuses.  You can see that in the new documentary, for sure.  And there have been very recent and impressive spikes in HBCU applications, as we said back in Episode 100.  For some African-American students, the sense of community at HBCUs could be a good fit for what they are looking for in a college, and a shared culture could go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable on a college campus, especially if it is far from home.  Some observers say that Hispanic students often feel more comfortable in the family-like environment of many HBCUs, which could account, in part, for the increase in Hispanic enrollment.</p> <p>And, parents, in case you are interested, lower-than-average tuition rates at both public and private HBCUs (sometimes literally half of the going rate at PWIs) are one more attractive feature.  Just go check out a few.  I think you will be surprised.</p> <p>So, if you and your kid are tempted to investigate further after watching <em>Tell Them We Are Rising</em>, here are some HBCUs to consider (some you will probably know, and some you might not know):</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.fisk.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Fisk University</a> (Nashville, Tennessee)</li> <li><a href="https://www2.howard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Howard University</a> (Washington, D.C.)</li> <li><a href="https://www.spelman.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Spelman College</a> (Atlanta, Georgia)</li> <li><a href="http://www.morehouse.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Morehouse College</a> (Atlanta, Georgia)</li> <li><a href="https://www.tuskegee.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Tuskegee University</a> (Tuskegee, Alabama)</li> <li><a href="http://www.hamptonu.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Hampton University</a> (Hampton, Virginia)</li> <li><a href="http://www.lincoln.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Lincoln University</a> (Lincoln University, Pennsylvania)</li> <li><a href="http://www.famu.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Florida A&M University</a> (Tallahassee, Florida)</li> <li><a href="http://www.xula.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Xavier University of Louisiana</a> (New Orleans, Louisiana)</li> <li><a href="http://www.ncat.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">North Carolina A&T State University</a> (Greensboro, North Carolina)</li> <li><a href="https://www.claflin.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Claflin University</a> (Orangeburg, South Carolina)</li> <li><a href="https://www.desu.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Delaware State University</a> (Dover, Delaware)</li> <li><a href="http://www.morgan.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Morgan State University</a> (Baltimore, Maryland)</li> </ul> <p>And there are plenty more.</p> <h2>3.  What We Didn’t Know</h2> <p>So, let me return for a moment to the shooting at Southern University, which I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing about.  I would like to think that is because I myself was just a college student in those days, but that is really no excuse.  <a href= "http://www.nola.com/tv/index.ssf/2018/02/1972_southern_shooting_highlig.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Here is an excellent synopsis of what happened</a>, as told last month by reporter Mike Scott, of <em>The Times-Picayune</em> in New Orleans, on the occasion of the documentary’s airing on PBS:</p> <blockquote> <p>Forty-five years after two Southern University students were shot dead by police who had been sent in [to] quash weeks of demonstrations on the school’s Baton Rouge campus--which included occupation of the university president’s office--the 1972 incident is once more getting attention.</p> <p>The documentary <em>Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities</em> will make its broadcast premiere Monday night (Feb. 19) on PBS--and online a day later….  In addition to starting with a drum cadence by the Southern University drum corps, the 85-minute film features a 10-minute segment on the Southern [University] shootings, which are brought to life through interviews, photos and video--and which vividly, and poignantly, illustrate the on-campus tumult at HBCUs in the late 1960s and early ’70s.</p> <p>“They were exercising their constitutional rights. And they get killed for it. They die,” former student Michael Cato says in the film of the slain students. “Nobody sent their child to school to die. It shouldn’t have happened.”</p> <p>The Southern shootings took place Nov. 16, 1972, after weeks of demonstrations by students protesting inadequate services. When the students marched on University President Leon Netterville’s office, Gov. Edwin Edwards sent 300 police officers in to break up the demonstrations.</p> <p>It was during the subsequent confrontation that a still-unidentified officer fired a shotgun at students in violation of orders. When the smoke cleared, two 20-year-old students--Leonard Brown and Denver Smith--were dead.</p> <p>No one was ever charged in their deaths. Edwards, who is interviewed in <em>Tell Them We Are Rising</em>, blamed the students, saying their actions were a “trigger” for the police response.</p> <p>In 2017, the Southern University System board’s academic affairs committee voted to award Brown and Smith posthumous degrees.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>The documentary shows the actual shots being fired and the bodies of the two students being taken away.  It includes a touching interview with the sister of one of those students.  It tells a story that all of us should know. </p> <h2>4.  Final Thoughts</h2> <p>In <a href= "http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/filmmakers-tell-the-story-of-historic-black-colleges-and-universities/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an interview for PBS with the filmmakers</a>, writer Craig Phillips asked why they had wanted to make a film about HBCUs.  Here are their answers:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Stanley Nelson</strong>: In fundamental ways, historically Black colleges and universities form the core of the African American community. They are the engine that has driven the ascent from enslavement to the highest positions in business, government, education, science, technology and entertainment. The sacrifices made to create these institutions are significant, and are what compelled me to capture this essential chapter of American History. </p> <p><strong>Marco Williams</strong>: HBCUs are the engines of American democracy. These institutions, in the education of African Americans activate what it means to be American. I was invested in telling this story because I am committed to highlighting the fact that African American history is American history.</p> <p>People often ask about is there a need for HBCUs? I always answer: why don’t we ask is there a need for PWIs (predominantly white institutions)? This answer, coupled with the viewing of the film, provides the most salient understanding of the significance and the value of these essential institutions to the creation of America.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Mr. Nelson goes on to say this:</p> <blockquote> <p>My goal is to highlight the indisputable importance of these institutions within Black communities and invite Americans to consider how different our country might look without the existence of these institutions. I also hope this film prompts viewers to not only celebrate the legacy of HBCUs, but also reinvest in them.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I think that the film will absolutely do that.  I think it is hard to watch it and <em>not</em> want to go to an HBCU.  Remember, parents, that HBCUs come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are well known, and others are not.  But their history as a group and as individual institutions is remarkable, as <em>Tell Them We Are Rising</em> teaches all of us.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode153" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode153" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode153</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 152: Choosing a College Because of a Major
<p>I come to our topic today with mixed feelings.  We have talked about it on numerous occasions and written about it in our books.  It’s a topic that lends itself to some data-based analysis, but I have to say that it also causes me to think about my own philosophy about academics and what is important and what isn’t.  So, this is a big topic, and it is college majors.</p> <p>As I have been working with students during this round of college applications, I listen to them talk about choosing colleges to apply to because those colleges have good departments in this or that--whatever they think they want to major in, at this point in their young lives.  Often these kids want to become doctors--doesn’t everyone?--and I listen to them talk about the biology departments and the research opportunities that the colleges on their lists have.  And I wonder how many of them will still be pre-med by the time they are sophomores.  At the other extreme are the kids who believe they have a wide variety of academic interests and want to find colleges where they can pursue all of them.  One recent experience I had was with a student who talked with equal enthusiasm about chemistry, music, business, and one or two others I can’t even remember.  One of my most interesting students this year talked about majoring in Czech as a tribute to her grandfather’s heritage (by the way, she was already taking Czech courses outside of school at the local consulate); that is one of my favorite stories ever. </p> <p>Rarely do I think their college major choices will stick (though I am secretly pulling for the Czech major).  </p> <p>Two articles I have read recently caused me to think about this topic from a couple of other perspectives, so let’s explore them. </p> <h2>1. Where Students Get Their Advice </h2> <p>Let me open with a premise from an article I read way back last September, an article which I have been saving for the perfect episode.  <a href= "https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-09-25/students-rely-on-least-reliable-source-for-advice-on-college-majors-friends-and-family" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Writing in <em>U.S. News & World Report</em></a>, education reporter Lauren Camera opened with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>When it comes to choosing college majors – a crucial decision that lays the groundwork for future employment and earnings – students often rely on the least reliable sources for advice: family and friends.</p> <p>Work colleagues and employers are among the best sources of information for students seeking advice about choosing a major. But according to a new survey by Gallup and Strada Education Network, . . . they are the least utilized.</p> <p>“This causes us to rethink the entire college advice mechanism,” Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup, says. “There is a lot of pretty bad advice out there.”</p> <p>When choosing a major field of study, the survey shows, students most commonly sought advice from “informal social networks.” In fact, more than half of adults, or 55 percent, with an associate degree, some college or a bachelor’s degree depended on their social network for advice about choosing a major, most frequently from friends and family.</p> <p>The next most commonly consulted source of advice, which 44 percent of people reported considering, was college and high school counselors, as well as media-based information. The least consulted group, which 20 percent reported consulting, were work-based networks, including former employers and work colleagues. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>None of this is surprising.  I think the data would be about the same if you asked people how they chose the colleges they applied to; most would say they relied on family and friends for advice--who, by the way, are equally unreliable as a source of appropriate colleges. </p> <p>And, of course, how can high school seniors really consult with employers and work colleagues about the choice of a major when lots of them are not working at all and the rest are working part time, mostly in places they hope to get out of by going to college.  So, what does the report recommend?  Ms. Camera’s article says this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The report recommends relying less on high school and college counselors, who are overworked and often responsible for an unrealistic number of students, and more on potential employers and faculty members.</p> <p>“Taken together, the challenges facing the formal channels of student guidance suggest that retooling the traditional model of advising to fit the changing needs of students could bolster its effectiveness,” the report reads. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>All of that is interesting, but I think it is more likely to work for students already in college than for high schoolers thinking about a future college major choice.  And, of course, the liberal arts enthusiast in me, which our regular listeners know from previous episodes, still wonders whether college does have to be all about getting a future career--though I have to admit that even I said to my student, “What would you ever do with that Czech major?” </p> <p>Carol D’Amico, executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy at Strada Education Network, was quoted in the article as saying this:</p> <blockquote> <p> “We know your choice of major is not necessarily the choice of career, but it puts you on a pathway and commits you to a pathway. . . .  Most everyone who goes to higher education these days say they are going to launch a career. That’s a fact. So how do we become much more intentional about getting them to their desired career?” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I wish it weren’t so, but perhaps it.  I am certainly willing to put students on a pathway, but I am far less willing to <em>commit</em> students to a pathway.  I believe that most liberal arts majors give students a choice of many different pathways and that the student’s choice can change over time precisely because of that liberal arts background.  But that’s a different episode. </p> <h2>2. Changing College Majors</h2> <p>So, let’s move on to something that everyone always says to kids, but that I never saw any actual data about until recently—that is, how many kids change their majors once they are in college.  Last December, Doug Lederman <a href= "http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/12/08/nearly-third-students-change-major-within-three-years-math-majors-most" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote an article for <em>Inside Higher Ed</em></a>, which asked and answered the question posed in his headline:  “Who Changes Majors? (Not Who You Think).”  Here is the whole answer:</p> <blockquote> <p>[A] brief report from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, drawn from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, finds that 33 percent of bachelor’s degree pursuers who entered college in 2011-12 and 28 percent of students in associate degree programs had changed their major at least once by 2014. </p> <p>About one in 10 had changed majors twice. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there you have it:  About one-third of college students change their majors, and that’s enough so that your kid shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about doing the same thing in the next year or two.  I am all for that, speaking as someone who changed her major in the first month of college (that shows you how well prepared I was, and I am quite sure that I never got any advice from anyone when choosing either my original major or my final major, perhaps more’s the pity). </p> <p>For all the kids who think they want to be science majors, here are a few more statistics from Mr. Lederman’s article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs were likelier than those in non-STEM fields (35 versus 29 percent) to change majors.</p> <p>And students who started out studying math were likeliest of all: 52 percent of those who initially declared as math majors ended up majoring in something else, followed by 40 percent of those in the natural sciences, 37 percent in education, 36 percent in humanities disciplines and 32 percent in engineering and general studies. . . .  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Truly, I am not sure that there is much practical significant difference  between 35 percent in STEM fields and 29 percent in non-STEM fields changing majors--or among 40 percent in natural sciences, 37 percent in education, 36 percent in humanities disciplines, and even 32 percent in engineering and general studies.  However, apart from relative comparisons of one major to another, it does seem like changes in majors by 52 percent of mathematics majors and 40 percent of natural science majors might be worth noting.  Mr. Lederman’s article gives a number of plausible explanations for the abandonment of mathematics, which you are welcome to go read. </p> <h2>3. Choosing a College Because of a Major</h2> <p>So, what’s the point?  It is simply that I want your kid to be very careful this spring when choosing a college to attend.  Where did your kid get his or her idea about what to major in?  Was it a well-informed choice?  Does the major have a future, either in a specific career field or in something that can serve as the underpinning for many career fields? Given the statistics, basing the choice of a college on a potential major (assuming your kid is lucky enough to have some good options available once the acceptances come in) might not be the best thinking.  In other words, choosing to attend one college over another largely <em>because of</em> a great biology department, when you <em>think</em> you are going to be pre-med, might not be the best decision.</p> <p>I know we all have struggled with the college application questions that ask for a kid’s major--and sometimes even for a back-up major!  I know we have struggled with the college application essays about why that major is particularly interesting to the kid.  I have certainly helped lots of kids write lots of those essays.  Here is what I always said to them:  This essay is an exercise in presenting yourself in an appealing and persuasive way to this college.  You should not think of it as an irrevocable promise that you are going to pursue this major that you are writing about. </p> <p>And so, help your kid understand that he or she might want to change that major, perhaps more than once, and that making such a change is okay with you and even okay with the college.</p> <p>What are the exceptions, and there are always some?  Obviously, there are kids who have applied to a specialized school, like a music school in a larger university, or kids who have auditioned for and applied to a specific arts-related school or program, like dance or studio art.  These are kids who have devoted a lot of their young lives to their talent and, if they are accepted, are very likely going to choose a college <em>because of</em> that particular program.  That is perfectly reasonable.  But, as it turns out, even those kids can change their minds; and, if they do, being in a specialized school <em>within a larger university</em> might be useful if it comes time to reconsider their choices.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode152" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode152" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode152</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 151: What About a College’s Grading Practices?
<p>Today we are going to talk about a topic that I bet you and your high school senior have not given any thought to.  And yet, it’s a topic that you and your high school senior have done nothing but think about for the past year or so, just from a different perspective.  That topic is grades.  Or more precisely, today’s topic is grading <em>practices</em>, which is not exactly the same as your kid’s grades. </p> <p>Probably the most you have thought about your kid’s high school’s grading <em>practices</em> is whether the school uses a weighted system for figuring a grade point average (GPA)--that all-important GPA that might get your kid into a great college or keep him or her out of one.  There has been a lot of debate about that in the past few years, with no real resolution pro or con.  And, certainly, there has been talk among your kid’s friends (and perhaps your friends, too) about which teachers are easy graders and which teachers are hard graders and whether your kid should select high school electives accordingly. </p> <p>Well, high school is essentially over, and your kid is going off to college.  How much thought have you both given to the grading practices at the colleges on his or her list?  Yes, those colleges your kid just applied to.  It’s not too late to start thinking now—<em>before</em> your kid makes a final choice in the spring.</p> <h2>1. Some Background</h2> <p>When Marie and I wrote our fantastic book <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a> (available at Amazon and a perfect gift for any younger kids you still have at home), we said that kids and their parents need a lot of information about colleges before deciding whether to put a specific college on the kid’s list of college options.  We also said that most of you never get most of the information you need--which is a shame, because it’s hard to make a life-changing decision without having all of the information that is available to you.  The book explains the 52 questions that your kid really should get answers to before deciding whether to apply to a college--much less actually enroll there.  Those questions cover a wide range of categories of information about the college:</p> <ul> <li>History and Mission</li> <li>Location</li> <li>Enrollment</li> <li>Class Size</li> <li>Academics</li> <li>Schedule</li> <li>Housing</li> <li>Security Measures</li> <li>Activities and Sports</li> <li>Admission Practices</li> <li>Cost</li> </ul> <p>In the section on Academics, we ask this, among other questions: </p> <blockquote> <p>Does the college have a traditional numerical or letter grading system for assignments, exams, and final course grades?  If no, jot down the way that students are graded (e.g., with written narrative evaluations where professors comment on strengths and weaknesses).</p> </blockquote> <p>Here is what we said in the book to explain this question:</p> <blockquote> <p>We bet that grading practices are not something most students consider before choosing a college—perhaps because they assume that colleges are quite traditional when it comes to awarding final course grades.  Most colleges do, in fact, use some kind of numerical scale (typically, with a 4.0 as an A) or letter scale (typically, from A through F).  These traditional grading practices might seem just fine to you. </p> <p>However, there are some colleges that are anything but traditional when it comes to evaluating student progress.  For example, take <a href="https://www.hampshire.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hampshire College</a> (an excellent and innovative private college in Amherst, Massachusetts), where students receive written narrative evaluations from professors on their assignments and as their final course grades.  No numbers and no letters!  Or, take <a href="http://www.bennington.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bennington College</a> (a great private college in Bennington, Vermont), where students receive narrative evaluations at the end of each course, but may request letter grades; students interested in graduate school are encouraged to request letter grades for at least two years so that a GPA can be calculated for their graduate school applications. </p> <p>Colleges that use narrative evaluations instead of traditional grades praise their value in teaching their students more about their own strengths and weaknesses, in getting their students to focus on their learning instead of on their grades, and in building better and more stimulating relationships between their students and their professors.  That’s probably something you never thought about before.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, Marie, if we had written the book today, we could have added some additional innovative grading practices that a relatively small number of colleges are using, ones that might seem quite attractive to 2017-2018 current crop of applicants. </p> <p>The question here is not necessarily whether your kid would have applied or would not have applied to a college <em>because of</em> its innovative grading practices, but rather whether he or she (and you) should weigh those grading practices in the scale when you all are ready to make a final choice of a college this spring.  Grades will continue to be a big part of college life for your kid--just as they were in high school.  This is especially true, as Bennington College knows, if your kid intends to go on to graduate school, medical school, or law school.  And, by the way, that’s true whether graduate school comes right after the undergraduate years or, in fact, many years later.  Those undergraduate grades will matter.  So, let’s look at a couple of new grading practices, and you think about what they might mean for your kid.</p> <h2>2. No More F’s</h2> <p>Let’s start at the <a href="http://www.umpi.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">University of Maine at Presque Isle</a> (UMPI).  Given that UMPI is in northern Maine near the Canadian border and that it enrolls only about 1,200 students, my guess is that your kid has not applied there and that many of you have never heard of it, though it was founded over 100 years ago and is one of the seven campuses in the public University of Maine System.  UMPI was in a situation not unlike a number of other public universities:  a remarkably low 11 percent graduation rate in the traditional four years and only a 30 percent graduation rate in six years and a location in a county that was losing population just when its region needed more college graduates to fill jobs that required a college degree.</p> <p>An article in <em>The Hechinger Report</em>, written in January by Robbie Feinberg, education reporter for Maine Public Radio, has a catchy headline:  “<a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/in-rural-maine-a-university-eliminates-most-fs-in-an-effort-to-increase-graduation-rates/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In rural Maine, a university eliminates most Fs in an effort to increase graduation rates</a>.”  Mr. Feinberg writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>One of the biggest changes has been the near-elimination of the failing grade. In most classes, if students fail a test or project, they can redo it until they’ve proven they know the material.</p> <p>If students are still failing at the end of the semester, many won’t receive an F, but instead a grade of “not proficient” or NP. Under the system, students then sign a contract with their professor outlining the work they need to do over the next 45 days to boost that grade to a passing mark. University officials said the system doesn’t work for everyone; some students still end up with F’s. But they hope the added flexibility will help students pass classes the first time so they don’t have to spend extra time and money to retake them. . . .  [UMPI] President Raymond Rice said he’s most encouraged that about 60 percent of students who received a “not proficient” grade eventually converted it to a passing mark. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Not having to spend time and money to retake courses has to be a game-changer for a lot of students--certainly for that 60 percent.  And, clearly, keeping F’s out of figuring into a cumulative GPA for one’s undergraduate years has got to be a game-changer for any student who cares about his or her GPA (especially anyone interested in graduate school).  We actually did something similar at the high school that Marie and I co-founded in Brooklyn, where we gave a grade of NC (no credit) to kids who would otherwise have failed; so, they didn’t get credit for the course, but they didn’t have the deadly weight of an F pulling down their GPA forever, either.  I think it “saved a lot of lives,” and I imagine it could be having a similar effect at UMPI. </p> <p>While the implementation of the new system is not going perfectly at UMPI (you can read Mr. Feinberg’s full article for the details), the policy about giving F’s only as a last resort is one that I find very persuasive.  And, if I had a child getting ready to go to college (not that I would expect that child to get an F--ever), this is a policy that would still make me happy, as a parent. </p> <h2>3. How To Earn an A</h2> <p>Appearing in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> in January (as well as in <em>U</em>.<em>S. News & World Report</em>) <a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/counting-your-way-to-a-college-a/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was a column by Jill Barshay about a new grading practice</a> at the <a href="https://www.umich.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Michigan</a>, that state’s truly excellent public flagship university.  Ms. Barshay writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>At the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, about 8,000 students have earned their ordinary course grades in an unusual way. They start out the semester with a zero, but each has the opportunity to earn an A by racking up points. The professor determines how many points each assignment or test is worth, and there are various ways to get to an A. If students botch an assignment, they can try something else. Each student can track his or her point tally online and see options for earning more points.</p> <p>Since developing this system, named “GradeCraft,” five years ago with two colleagues, education professor Barry Fishman gleefully admits he’s awarding many more A’s. He estimates that he’s doling out A’s to 80 percent of his students now, compared with 50 percent or 60 percent beforehand. But, he claims, his students are working a lot harder.</p> <p>“Colleagues say I’m not rigorous enough,” said Fishman. “I think rigor should be about how challenging the material is, not how hard it is to achieve a certain outcome.”</p> <p>In surveys conducted by GradeCraft’s inventors, students reported that they worked harder and felt more in control of their class performance.</p> <p>. . . Fishman argues that conventional grading systems can undermine learning. That’s because if you fail the midterm, and it’s worth 30 percent of the final grade, you might realize that you’ll never be able to claw your way back up to an A, and stop trying. “You moderate your behavior and try less hard to maintain a B average. You see it all the time,” said Fishman.</p> <p>The opportunity to earn an A, even late in the semester, keeps students engaged, Fishman argues. And it encourages students to take risks, knowing that they can repair the damage later if they fail at first.</p> <p>In one undergraduate class, Fishman offers a menu of 1.4 million points. Students need to reach 900,000 to get an A. “You could never earn a good grade just by doing dumb stuff,” he said.</p> <p>In another graduate seminar, Fishman assigns only one paper. But students can revise and resubmit it over and over again to earn an A. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>For the gaming-like history of GradeCraft’s development and for some perspectives by professors who don’t like it, read Ms. Barshay’s full column.  Nonetheless, I have to say that this grading practice seems pretty appealing to me:  the harder you work, the better grade you are going to get.  Perseverance is rewarded.  Clearly, learning takes place.  Is this system appealing to your kid?  If your kid applied to the University of Michigan, he or she should know that about 100 professors in 28 programs and departments there have tried GradeCraft and have used it more than once.  Would that make the University of Michigan a more attractive option than another great public flagship university?  It might.</p> <h2>4. The Moral of the Story</h2> <p>The moral of the story today is that grading practices can be very different--way more different than you and your high school senior probably thought.  And it’s not too late to find out whether the colleges your kid applied to have done anything innovative on this topic--before you all make a final decision later this spring about where to enroll.  What have you got to lose?</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode151" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode151" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode151</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 150: College Acceptance for the Spring Semester?
<p>Today’s topic is something I have never thought much about at all.  And that’s true even though my oldest child was in this situation, and no one seemed to think much about it when he was accepted to <a href="https://www.berklee.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Berklee College of Music</a> a dozen years ago.  When Jimmy applied to Berklee (the college we like to say that offers the best contemporary music education in the world), he was admitted for the following spring semester rather than for the fall.  I looked at that as a great opportunity for him to study abroad for a semester.  I found a great fall semester program sponsored by the <a href="https://www.aifs.com/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">American Institute for Foreign Study</a> (everybody should check out AIFS’s huge variety of excellent programs).  I knew he would still graduate on time since he had college credits from courses he had taken while in high school, and I figured that he would have even more from studying abroad.  It sounded great to me! </p> <p>Of course, I now realize that is not how many students--who just applied to college under Early Action or Early Decision plans and were admitted for next spring instead of next fall--likely feel.  Some of them--perhaps many of them--and their parents are clearly disappointed with their recent news. </p> <p>So, let’s take a look at spring admissions and how families should feel about that decision, regardless of how you feel about it now.</p> <h2>1. Tulane University’s Spring Scholars</h2> <p>A couple of weeks ago, we quoted from a blog written by Jeff Schiffman, the Director of Admission at <a href= "http://tulane.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Tulane University</a>, a great school in the even greater city of New Orleans.  At the time, he was giving some advice to students who had applied early and been deferred till the regular decision round.  When I was reading Mr. Schiffman’s blog, I noticed <a href= "http://tuadmissionjeff.blogspot.com/2017/12/spring-scholars.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another post from December 18</a>, and I’d like to read some excerpts from it now.  This is about spring admissions at Tulane to a program Tulane calls Spring Scholars (feel free to go to his blog and read the whole piece):</p> <blockquote> <p>The most common question I get from Spring Scholars is, “Why was I admitted for the spring?” The answer has to do with how we review applications and the increase in popularity Tulane has seen over the past few years. Our admission office is very big on the holistic review process. That means we spend a great deal of time creating a class of students based on everything you present to us in your application. Spring Scholars have excellent applications in nearly all regards. There are amazing alumni interviews, great “Why Tulane?” statements, and outstanding letters of recommendation in every application. When reading your application, we knew immediately that you want to come to Tulane and that you would be a great fit here. That said, Tulane has become an increasingly popular university and that has made it more and more competitive to gain admission here. </p> <p>I suspect that our overall admit rate this year will be lower than last year's which was around 21%. Unfortunately, that means that over 80% of the students who apply to Tulane this year will not be admitted for either the fall or spring. By the numbers, we also saw our strongest Early Action pool in history, with a middle 50% range on the ACT between 31-34 and SAT between 1440-1540. These are by no means cutoffs, but it does give you a sense of just how competitive Tulane is this year. We can’t take every academically qualified student who applies, but for a small group who we believe will be fantastic fits, we admit them as a part of our Spring Scholars program. </p> <p>With those facts in mind, I have some suggestions for next steps to take if you have been admitted as a Spring Scholar. <strong>First, take some time to think about it</strong>. I know your preference would be to start class in the fall, but the Spring Scholars option is a final decision—it’s non-binding and you have until May 1st to decide. <strong>There will be no Spring Scholars switched to the fall semester at any point</strong>. Before you reach out with questions, take some time to read the FAQx for the program; there’s some great info in there about housing (we guarantee it!) and Greek life (you can still go through the recruitment process!) (quoted from the blog)</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, so let’s look at the numbers.  These are some pretty impressive numbers for Tulane (and they help explain why some students I know did not get in under Early Action, even though they were great students with all the necessary qualifications).  And, these numbers underline again what we said two weeks ago:  Expect a bumpy road for the next couple of months if you are waiting for admission decisions from very good and great colleges.  The numbers are not very student friendly. </p> <p>And then, Mr. Schiffman makes some good points to the Spring Scholars:  You have absolutely been admitted, you will absolutely have campus housing even though you will be arriving in the middle of the year, and you will absolutely be able to go through fraternity and sorority rush (which you actually cannot at some colleges with this spring admissions plan, and it is very important to some students and is more important at some colleges than others). </p> <p>What Mr. Schiffman does next in his blog is downright fascinating:  He prints a full-color photo of <a href= "https://www.aup.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The American University of Paris</a>, with a caption that reads, “Your other fall campus option!”  What?  Here’s my view:  One of the only cities in the world that is lovelier than New Orleans is Paris!  How clever is that!  Here is what Mr. Schiffman wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Next, consider your options for the fall.</strong> We’re <em>so </em>excited about the fall abroad programming we offer Spring Scholars in both Rome and Paris. You’ll have the option to spend your fall term with a cohort of Tulane students at one of two incredible universities abroad: The John Cabot University in Rome or The American University of Paris (AUP). Schools like Northeastern, Cornell, Miami, Delaware, and the University of Southern California also have freshmen at these campuses during the fall. . . .  If you’d prefer to stay stateside, you can take classes as a non-degree-seeking student at a school of your choice, participate in a gap semester program, take a semester to work, or maybe participate in service. It’s really up to you! (quoted from the blog)</p> </blockquote> <p>Here is what Mr. Schiffman wrote next:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Next, plan a visit to campus during one of our two dedicated Spring Scholar Destination Tulane dates. </strong>The dates you should plan on coming are either February 17th or April 21st. This event is tailor-made for Spring Scholars. You’ll be able to meet other students admitted into the Spring Scholars program this year, hear from current Spring Scholars, and attend presentations from both John Cabot and AUP. . . .</p> <p>If Tulane truly is where you see yourself, we’d love to have you join us in January 2019. Currently, we have 75 Spring Scholars excited to start at Tulane in just a few weeks!</p> <p>Oh, and expect a visit from me in Paris or Rome in the fall. I’m not joking! (quoted from the blog)</p> </blockquote> <p>It sounds to me like Mr. Schiffman has made the best possible overture to the new Spring Scholars and has offered them a super-attractive plan for what to do next fall, which might sound even better to some students than starting at Tulane in the fall.  Smart move!</p> <h2>2. Where Else?</h2> <p>Well, of course, it’s not just Tulane.  As it happens, my own alma mater, <a href="https://www.cornell.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cornell University</a>, posted <a href= "https://admissions.cornell.edu/first-year-spring-admission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this on its website about its First-Year Spring Admission program</a> for its College of Arts and Sciences and its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:</p> <blockquote> <p>Over the past decade, Cornell University has experienced a more than 100% increase in first-year admissions applications. For this year’s class, Cornell reviewed close to 47,000 applications for a class of 3,275 new first-year students. In order to allow more students to benefit from a Cornell education, the university has developed an exciting option. In January 2018, Cornell University will welcome approximately 60 freshmen to begin their Cornell experience starting in the spring semester. . . . </p> <p>Students selected for spring semester enrollment are exceptional candidates whom we are unable to admit for fall because of on-campus space constraints. Students with a record of academic achievement and who exhibit the important qualities of leadership and initiative have been selected for this special program. . . .</p> <p>Students offered the opportunity to enroll in January will be asked to submit an enrollment deposit to confirm their place. During the summer, we will contact you to confirm your plans for the fall semester (e.g. taking classes, traveling abroad, participating in public service, working, etc.). Cornell will then contact you in September to confirm that you are indeed planning to enroll in January. Once confirmed, we will work with you to pre-register for courses for the spring semester and have you start other processes (such as applying for housing and dining options). You will participate in an orientation program when you arrive in January (a few days before classes begin) to ensure that you are ready for success. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, Big Red, I have to say that doesn’t sound quite as exciting as Tulane’s Spring Scholars, and it certainly doesn’t have Mr. Schiffman’s hype (which I don’t say pejoratively).  Plus--and this is also true of the Tulane program--just how big a deal is this program when it is admitting 60 kids when the freshman class was over 3,000.  I have to say that I have not quite figured that out yet.  It should, on the other hand, make the spring students feel genuinely good about themselves and their qualifications because they are really part of a relatively tiny select group.  Would I advise a student to wait to attend Cornell until the spring if that’s the best admissions deal the student could get?  Frankly, I would . . . in a heartbeat.</p> <p>And then there’s <a href="http://www.middlebury.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Middlebury College</a>, an excellent liberal arts college in Vermont, perhaps best known for its outstanding language programs.  For about 30 years, Middlebury has been enrolling about 100 students for its spring semester, which begins in February.  Clearly, 100 students is a bigger proportion of the total of about 700 freshmen admitted at Middlebury at about 15 percent (compared to not quite 2 percent at Cornell and perhaps about double that percentage at Tulane).  Here is <a href= "http://www.middlebury.edu/admissions/apply/february/faq" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">some background on Middlebury’s idea</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>February admission is a program developed by former Dean of Admissions Fred Neuberger in a creative effort to fill dorm space that was empty during spring semester because so many Middlebury students study abroad. Rather than admit a large class of transfer students, the College decided to admit another class of first-year students, or “Febs.” (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, so that’s interesting.  February admission solved a problem for the college rather than a problem for the students.  Of course, that really isn’t suprising, but it doesn’t make it a bad idea.  The website continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>February students are chosen from the same applicant pool as September students and all students are notified of their admission at the same time in late March or early April. Students may indicate on the application their preference for a starting date (September only, February only, or either), but this is ultimately an Admissions Office decision. Some students who indicate an interest in September may be offered a place in our February class. Many applicants now tell us they’d prefer to be “Febs,” and some even outline their plans for the fall in their applications. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that’s not surprising, either, given the increasing interest by high school students in taking a gap year (feel free to go back and listen to our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-115-what-about-a-gap-year-before-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 115</a> from last spring).  I guess if a program is well established at a college, the way Middlebury’s appears to be, that gives students one more reasonable option to consider during the whole application process.  The website continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>Being admitted as a Feb is a full admission to the College community. We choose our Febs because we see in them students who will use wisely the time between high school graduation and their studies at Middlebury. “Febs” tend to be highly energetic leaders in their school communities, or students who have already sought unconventional and creative opportunities in their high school careers. Febs typically come to Middlebury ready to “hit the ground running.”</p> <p>Before arriving on campus, Febs have several months that are entirely their own. The College does not seek to direct or recommend certain pursuits. . . . Some Febs work to save money and then travel. Other Febs pursue service opportunities or internships.</p> <p>As February first-years, students enter in February and leave four years later in February--in their caps and gowns, but also on skis, snowshoes, or sleds at Middlebury’s own ski area, the Snow Bowl! The February celebration has become a hallmark of a Middlebury winter. February seniors and their families enjoy a full weekend of festivities on campus and at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. February admission does not imply that students will graduate in three and a half years. Any student (September or Feb) may choose to use AP credits, or other transferable credit, to accelerate his course of study, but that’s not the intention of the Feb admission program.  (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Middlebury has clearly made “Febs” an integral part of the College. </p> <h2>3. The Trends</h2> <p>So, what are the trends in spring admissions programs?  Here are a few.  Colleges are not trying to push spring starters out in three and a half years; spring starters are expected to be there for four full years, but are certainly welcome to get out in three and a half by taking some courses elsewhere or using college credits earned during high school.  Spring starters are going to live on campus, often with students of their own age.  Spring starters will participate fully in all of the extracurricular activities that colleges offer (including fraternity and sorority life, but perhaps on a slightly delayed schedule for that).  Spring starters who play on varsity sports teams will have four full seasons of athletic eligibility available to them.  And spring starters will probably get some kind of special orientation designed for them so that they can immediately feel at home in the college community.</p> <p>So, what’s the downside of spring admissions?  Maybe not much at all—especially if it gets a student into a great school that he or she has at the top of the list.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode150" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode150" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode150</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 149: Colleges with Late Application Deadlines!
<p>Last year about this time, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-105-colleges-still-accepting-applications/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">we did an episode on colleges with late application deadlines</a>.  We would like to do that again today, realizing that some colleges have changed their deadlines, of course, since our episode last January.  It is amazing to me--still--that so many colleges have deadlines well past early January, even as we seem to focus our high school seniors every year on meeting a January 1 deadline for their college applications.  Apart from those colleges that have mid-January or late January deadlines, there are many colleges still accepting applications for next fall’s freshman class.  So, let’s take a look. </p> <h2>1. Watch Out!</h2> <p>As I recently watched kids getting rejections or deferments from Early Decision and Early Action applications gone awry, I wondered whether they might want to take a second look at their college list and see how happy they were with it now, given their new information.  For kids who had pinned their hopes to an Early Decision choice or to a couple of Early Action choices, even if those Early Action choices were just safety schools, a chance to take one last look at the college landscape might be just what they need.  It doesn’t mean that they will choose to apply to another college or two or three, but it might be that this last look serves as a pressure-release valve while they begin the long wait till March or April.  </p> <p>Let us say that there are still a lot of good colleges accepting applications.  Many of those deadlines are this month in February, but some are in March, April, May, and even beyond that.  I used The College Board’s website, Big Future, <a href="https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/applying-101/late-applications" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to look at a full list</a>.  However, I found mistakes or, at least, miscommunications.  So, please double check the deadlines of any colleges that appear on any such list--The College Board’s list or any other compiled list--by going to the college’s own website, as The College Board itself advises.</p> <p>Here are a few things worth noting, though I’m afraid that these points are going to be much more useful for parents with younger high school students still at home.  Let me start with the opposite of today’s topic of colleges with <em>late</em> application deadlines, and that is colleges with <em>super-early</em> application deadlines.  As I was doing the research for today’s episode, I stumbled across a number of good colleges with <em>regular decision</em> application deadlines well before January 1, such as December 1 for the <a href= "https://www.mines.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Colorado School of Mines</a> (see our virtual nationwide tour some episodes back for information about this excellent school known for its engineering and sciences).  So, pay attention, parents of younger high school students, <em>before</em> the fall of your kid’s senior year.</p> <p>And, speaking of super-early application deadlines, sometimes the date given for the application deadline is actually <em>a whole year before</em> the year you want to enroll.  The Big Future website, under “Colleges with Later Application Deadlines,” lists the application deadline for <a href="https://www.iastate.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Iowa State University</a>, an excellent public university, as July 1.  But here is what Iowa State actually says this on its website (emphasis added):</p> <blockquote> <p>Iowa State University operates on a rolling admissions basis. Admission of applicants for fall semester begins <strong><em>in July of the preceding year</em></strong>. Admission for other terms begins approximately 12 months prior to the beginning of the term. Admission offers are issued for a specific term and are valid only for the term specified. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Here is something else to pay attention to when looking at compiled lists of colleges with later application dates:  Sometimes the date given for the application deadline is actually <em>for transfer students.</em>  Or for <em>graduate students</em>.  For example, The Big Future website, under “Colleges with Later Application Deadlines,” lists the application deadline for <a href="https://www.alfred.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Alfred University</a> (a good private university in upstate New York, with publicly sponsored engineering and art and design programs) as August 1.  Actually, Alfred’s regular decision deadline is February 1 for new freshmen, July 1 for transfer students, and August 1 for <em>graduate</em> students.</p> <p>And here is something even more distressing.  What comes up first on a Google search for <a href="http://www.rollins.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rollins College</a> application deadlines is this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Deadlines. Fall Semester Admission The application deadline for fall semester applicants is <strong>March 1</strong> for Priority Consideration and <strong>April 15</strong> for Regular Decision.</p> <h3>Application Instructions | Full-Time Undergraduate ... - Rollins College</h3> <p>www.rollins.edu/admission/requirements-deadlines/index.html</p> </blockquote> <p>But, that information is taken from the transfer student portion of the admissions information—not that a reader can tell that.  The deadline for first-year applicants was February 1, so you would have missed it!  And sometimes that information that comes up first is from <em>U.S. News &World Report</em>, and it is sometimes wrong as well.</p> <p>Here is another thing to remember:  Sometimes different programs or schools within a university can have <em>different application deadlines</em>.  Or one school or program can have <em>two application deadlines</em>, such as a performing arts school within a university that has one deadline for the regular application and a second deadline for the audition.</p> <p>And one last note of caution:  Sometimes the deadline for scholarship consideration is <em>earlier than</em> the actual application deadline. For example, at <a href= "https://www.kent.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kent State University</a>, January 15 is the deadline to be considered for freshman scholarships, though March 1 is the deadline to submit applications for the following fall.  So, if financing is an issue for you--as it very often is--then apply as early as you can (this is especially important information for those of you with younger high school students at home). </p> <p>Just to underline that, here is some important information from the website for the <a href="https://www.uark.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Arkansas</a> (emphasis added): </p> <blockquote> <p>Students interested in applying to the University of Arkansas for the fall semester are urged to apply <strong><em>before the early admission deadline</em></strong> of November 1.  By applying early, students can take advantage of priority scholarship, housing, and orientation privileges. However, applications for the fall semester will be accepted until August 1. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, the moral of the story is, pay attention and trust no list or outside organization.  Go to the college’s own website only, and read the information on that website carefully.  Let me add, that--oddly enough and for whatever reason--it is not always a snap to find the application deadline information on a college website, though I can’t imagine why. Finally, we are going to say again, apply as early as you can--regardless of where you are applying--especially because of the number of colleges that say they have rolling admissions.</p> <h2>2. Colleges with Late Deadlines</h2> <p>We want to say again this year that there is no perfect way to generalize about the colleges with later deadlines, though I have noticed--again--that quite a few of them are the branch campuses of large public universities (e.g., <a href="https://www.uml.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Massachusetts Lowell</a>, <a href="https://www.unca.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of North Carolina at Asheville</a>, <a href= "https://www.utep.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Texas at El Paso</a>, <a href="https://www.uncg.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">University of North Carolina at Greensboro</a>, <a href="https://www.iupui.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis</a>, <a href="https://www.utc.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Tennessee: Chattanooga</a>, <a href= "http://www.uww.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Wisconsin-Whitewater</a>, <a href="https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Alaska Anchorage</a>, <a href="https://www.umb.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Massachusetts Boston</a>).</p> <p>Other than those, you can find great public flagship universities, small liberal arts colleges, larger liberal arts universities, faith-based colleges, HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), single-sex colleges, specialized colleges (e.g., fine arts, maritime) --really, just about anything.  They are large and small.  They are urban, suburban, small town, and rural.  They include some selective colleges and, perhaps not surprisingly, many not-so-selective colleges.  They include colleges in the North, South, East, and West (including in our 49th and 50th states).  The truth is that your kid could find a reasonable college choice from this list of late-deadline colleges if you all started the college search today.</p> <p>As we did last year, let me read you a tiny sample of colleges with late application deadlines to peak your interest.  Here are just some of the colleges your kid could apply to by February 15 (and really that should be plenty of time to pull off some of these applications, if you all are interested):</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.cofc.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">College of Charleston</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.wooster.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">College of Wooster</a></li> <li><a href="http://earlham.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Earlham College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www2.howard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Howard University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.pace.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Pace University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.uky.edu/UKHome/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Kentucky</a></li> </ul> <p>And what about March 1?  You really have no excuse not to apply to one of these, if you are interested: </p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.hsc.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Hampden-Sydney College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.hamptonu.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Hampton University</a></li> <li><a href="http://mainemaritime.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Maine Maritime Academy</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.mville.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Manhattanville College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.rmc.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Randolph-Macon College</a></li> <li><a href="https://udallas.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Dallas</a></li> <li><a href="http://manoa.hawaii.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa</a></li> </ul> <p>And I really can’t resist telling you a few of the colleges with an April 1 deadline (which seems truly far away): </p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.saic.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">School of the Art Institute of Chicago</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.newpaltz.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">SUNY College at New Paltz</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.uh.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Houston</a></li> <li><a href="https://uiowa.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Iowa</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.ku.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Kansas</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.ou.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Oklahoma</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.utah.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Utah</a></li> </ul> <p>And even May 1 deadlines (yes, really):</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.clemson.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Clemson University</a> (technically, but if all the class spaces have been filled by kids who applied <em>before December 1</em>, then you won’t be going to Clemson)</li> <li><a href="https://www.tuskegee.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Tuskegee University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.arizona.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Arizona</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.ucf.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Central Florida</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.unm.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of New Mexico</a> (though it was February 1 to be considered for out-of-state scholarships)</li> </ul> <p>Okay, you get the point.  And some colleges have even later application deadlines than that.  In fact, one of our favorite colleges here at <em>USACollegeChat</em> has a July 1 deadline:  <a href="http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Richmond, The American International University in London</a>.  If your kid is not captivated with what’s ended up on his or her list or where he or she finally gets in, think again and consider how much happier he or she might be in London at a truly one-of-a-kind university!</p> <p>So, parents of high school seniors, if either you or your high school senior is truly questioning the choices you all have now, it’s not too late.  Again, the options that we have just read are a small sample of colleges still accepting applications (though I think I have probably read you a lot of the academically better options). If you and your high school senior are intrigued, take an hour or two now and have a last look at your kid’s list.  It might not make any difference in the final analysis, but you will both know that you left no stone unturned. </p> <p>As always, call us, if you could use some free advice!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode149" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode149" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode149</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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USACC 148: College Deferment and a Letter of Appeal
<p>Hello, again!  When we signed off in mid-December to take an end-of-year break, we thought that we would be back with you the first week of January.  But, you know what they say about the best-laid plans….  So what happened?  The flu, the snow, and the unexpected week-long extension of a business trip I was on in Alaska on the shores of the Arctic Ocean!  I am taking full responsibility for our absence, and let me say that these few weeks are the longest we have been off the air since we started our podcast over three years ago. </p> <p>So, now that we’re back, what’s going on with current high school seniors, who have submitted their college applications, for the most part, and are biting their nails?  Well, here’s one thing that’s going on, including with the kids I have been working with myself:  the deferment and the consequent letter of appeal.  Now, I am not referring to an appeal for better financial aid from colleges that students have been accepted to, though that letter of appeal certainly exists--and may be down the road a bit for some of you.  Rather, in this episode, we are going to talk about a letter of appeal for students who had applied under an Early Decision or Early Action plan last fall and who were deferred into the regular decision applicant pool, with a decision still ahead this spring. </p> <h2>1. What Happened with Early Decision and Early Action in 2018?</h2> <p>You will recall that we have spoken with you about Early Decision and Early Action admission cycles a lot of times, including in 2017.  We looked at statistics of how many students applied under these early admission plans and how many got accepted.  We said that early admission applications were on the rise and that a surprising number of colleges filled up a surprising number of their freshman seats with these early applicants, including as many as 50 percent of them!  We urged you to have your kids apply under the Early Action banner wherever possible, because it was nonbinding on the student and there was simply no downside.  We urged you to have your kids find a safety school or two to apply to Early Action so that everyone in your household could relax.  We urged you to have your kids apply under the far-more-restrictive Early Decision banner if your kids had really made up their minds and you agreed with them and could afford to worry only a little bit rather than a lot about financing the college years.</p> <p>Well, here’s where we are now.  Here is a glimpse of the situation, as written up by Josh Girsky on December 20 in the best college newspaper in the U.S.--that is, of course, <em>The Cornell Daily Sun</em>, which used to be Ithaca’s only morning newspaper and which I covered sports for, back in the day.  The headline reads, “<a href= "http://cornellsun.com/2017/12/20/cornell-early-decision-admissions-rate-drops-for-3rd-year-in-a-row/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cornell Early Decision Admission Rate Drops for 3rd Year in a Row</a>.”  Josh writes (with my emphasis added):</p> <blockquote> <p>For the third year in a row, Cornell received <strong>a record number of early decision applicants</strong> for the Class of 2022. </p> <p>Out of 6,319 applicants, 1,533 were admitted, for an early admissions rate of 24.3 percent, down from an early admissions rate of 25.8 percent for the Class of 2021 and [down from] 27.4 percent for the Class of 2020, according to a press release from the University released on Wednesday.</p> <p>Cornell’s <strong>early decision applicant pool has increased by 83 percent in the last decade</strong>, the release noted. </p> <p><strong>Other Ivy League schools also saw lower early decision admissions rates.</strong></p> <p>The University of Pennsylvania’s early admissions rate dropped to 18.5 percent, while Harvard and Yale had early admissions rates of 14.5 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively. Brown’s early admissions rate was 21 percent while Dartmouth’s was 24.9 percent.  (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Suffice it to say that, as long as great colleges offer early admissions options, average, good, and great students are going to apply early.  And, evidently, more students are going to do it every year, as more and more families see the trends in these early applications and acceptances and the percentage of seats already filled before ever getting to the regular decision date.  And, therefore, early admission rates are going to keep falling, for obvious reasons, as colleges have more and more and better and better students to choose from in November and don’t have to wait till January.  Why should they?</p> <p>There are plenty of anecdotes about all this, and more statistics will undoubtedly be published in the next month or two.  <a href="https://www.princeton.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Princeton University</a> had the largest single-choice Early Action applicant group in the last seven years (an 8 percent increase over last year).  <a href= "https://www.georgetown.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Georgetown University</a>’s Early Action applicant group was the largest ever for the University, resulting in an early acceptance rate of just 12 percent. </p> <p>Yes, these are all great universities, but there has also been spillover to colleges with somewhat less prestige.  Where will it all end?</p> <p>Well, it will end with outstanding students who do not get into the top choices on their lists when they apply Early Action or Early Decision. </p> <h2>2. What About Being Deferred?</h2> <p>For students who applied Early Action or Early Decision and got deferred (that is, had their application moved into the regular decision round rather than being outright rejected), let us pass along some advice from Jeff Schiffman, the Director of Admission at <a href="https://tulane.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Tulane University</a>.  You might recall from our virtual nationwide college tour many, many, many months ago, that Tulane is a very good, highly competitive university in the great city of New Orleans.  Frankly, I am not sure whether Mr. Schiffman’s advice will make you feel better or worse.  My guess is, some of both.  Here is <a href= "http://tuadmissionjeff.blogspot.com/2011/12/ive-been-deferred-now-what.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mr. Schiffman’s explanation of deferment and what it all means from his insightful official admission blog</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [W]hat does being deferred mean? In essence, being deferred means that we need a bit more time before making a final decision on whether or not to admit you. There are two major factors that will come into play from here on out; one is in your control and the other is not. Your application will come back to the admission committee in the spring and will go through the same review it went through in Early Action, this time however you will be up against the Regular Decision pool of applicants.</p> <p>The first factor, the one outside of your control, is the way the rest of the applicant pool shapes up. We will do a full re-review of your application with the regular decision pool. Depending on the competitiveness of that regular decision pool, we will make a new decision on your application before April 1st. If the regular pool is much larger and stronger than we expect, then it will be more of a challenge for deferred students to be admitted. However, if it is closer to what we saw with Early Action, we will be able to offer admission to a number of deferred students. We won’t know more about this until after the January 15th Regular Decision deadline.</p> <p>I think it is also worth mentioning that Tulane saw a pretty substantial increase in applications this year. Bottom line, we could fill up multiple freshman classes with students who are academically qualified to attend Tulane. We could fill up multiple freshman classes just with students who would be great fits here and genuinely want to be at Tulane. The problem is we can’t admit all of them, even if we wanted to.</p> <p>That brings me to the second factor that comes into play now that you have been deferred, and this is the one that is within your power. This has to do with what you can do from here on out now. There are a number of things that you can do to strengthen your application to Tulane, and a few things you shouldn’t do. (quoted from the blog)</p> </blockquote> <p>I actually think that is a pretty straight explanation of the situation, and I am sure it is similar at many other good colleges across the U.S. this month.  So, what now?  Here are some of Mr. Schiffman’s dos and don’ts, also quoted from his blog (I have added some emphasis, indicated in bold, to point out things that I found especially noteworthy):</p> <blockquote> <p><em>DO</em>: <strong>Consider switching your application to ED II.</strong> This is for deferred EA applicants only (and for first-time applicants.) . . .  The deadline is January 5th.</p> <p><em>DO</em>: Be in touch. Contact your admission counselor and let him or her know you are interested in Tulane. . . .  You’ll want to shoot them an email in the coming weeks (not necessarily <em>today</em> . . . let the dust settle and your emotions subside) letting them know that you have been deferred and that you remain strongly interested in Tulane. . . .  It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not, in some form, reach out to us. <strong>We’d like to only take those students we know want to enroll here.</strong></p> <p><em>DON’T</em>: Over-contact your admission counselor. One email to your counselor over the course of the spring semester will help, especially if you have some bigger news for us (you retook the SATs, a major <em>(major)</em> advancement in your extracurricular activity, etc.), but do not send us a weekly email update. It will not help your cause. Major profile in your local paper’s community section? Send it in. Promoted to secretary of the National Honor Society? No need to send; we already have a nice list of your extracurricular activities you sent us when you applied. <strong>Also, be honest. If you’ll enroll at Tulane if you are admitted, tell us, but only if that is the truth.</strong></p> <p><em>DO</em>: Send us an essay about why you are interested in enrolling at Tulane, if you have not already done so. See the Why Tulane? prompt on the application for admission. Tell us why you would be a great fit here, and why Tulane is a great fit for you. Do some research. <strong>Many times, we defer students who are academically qualified to be admitted, but we are unsure of their interest level.</strong> So reach out and let us know.</p> <p><em>DON’T</em>: Feel pressured to come down and visit. We know money is tight these days, and New Orleans is a big trip for many of our applicants. If you feel the need to come down to express your interest in Tulane in person, you are definitely welcome to do so, however if this is not possible (for financial or any other reasons) do not fret. . . . .</p> <p><em>DON’T:</em> Compare yourself to others. Calling the admission office or emailing your counselor to inquire why “Diane and Jack who have lower scores and lower grades and fewer extracurricular activities were admitted but I was not” will never, ever help your cause to be admitted at Tulane. . . .  You may not be aware of what is in other students’ recommendations, essays, etc., or what we are specifically looking for. . . . </p> <p><em>DO</em><em>:</em> Send us some additional materials. You are welcome to send us a new résumé, essay, your first semester grades, an art or music portfolio, a new SAT or ACT score, etc. While some of the smaller things may not make a big difference, an increase on your SATs, or a well-written essay about your Tulane visit can go a long way. Mid-year reports are recommended for deferred students. Again, keep in mind, unless it’s a major change in extracurricular activities, it won’t change too much (same goes for additional teacher recommendations). <strong>The biggest changemaker will be new test scores</strong>. . . . (quoted from the blog)</p> </blockquote> <h2>3. What About a Letter of Appeal?</h2> <p>So, here is what we want to say about the notion of letting the college admissions counselor at the deferring college know that you are still really, really, really interested.  We will call this a letter of appeal.  It should be one typed page.  It can be sent by email, but should be followed up in print by mail.  What goes into the letter? </p> <p>First, just as Mr. Schiffman alluded to, I think a student has to say that the college is his or her first choice and that he or she will attend, if admitted.  Mr. Schiffman would like that to be the truth; we would, too.  However, my guess is that a lot of kids are saying something like that in letters being written all across the country right now, even if it is not exactly the truth.  Your family will have to make your own moral judgment here.  I did just recently encourage a student <em>not</em> to send a letter to a college that she was deferred from when I thought she was not likely to go to that college anyway.  At the same time, I did encourage her to tell another college she was deferred from to say that the college was her first choice when it was, more likely, simply one of her top two or three choices.  That’s as close as I am going to get to a moral judgment. </p> <p>Second, a student should show a solid understanding of the academics of the college and of how he or she will fit into the academic world there.  Naming a specific department, specific major, specific courses, and specific research opportunities are a good idea.  Make sure your kid knows exactly what the name of the department and major are inasmuch as they are different at every college, for some reason.  Talking about his or her readiness (that is, high school background, including AP courses and Early College or dual-credit courses) for study in that specific field is an intelligent move.  Emphasize the notion of “fit” between the student and the college.</p> <p>Third, a student should <em>restate</em> (since this information is likely in the original application or application essay) how he or she might fit in with specific extracurricular activities, including volunteer or service opportunities, performing music and drama groups, and sports at the college--again, drawing on experiences in high school that make these interests seem genuine.  This part of the letter should be sharp and focused, not a general recounting of a whole bunch of random high school activities.  Again, emphasize the notion of “fit” between the student and the college.</p> <p>Fourth, as Mr. Schiffman advised, a student should mention any major accomplishments since the original application was submitted, especially new SAT or AP test scores or academic honors (for example, a student of mine was selected to exhibit her artwork in a highly competitive senior art show).  (Don’t forget that SAT scores have to be submitted officially from The College Board and that mid-year senior grades should be submitted by the high school.)</p> <p>Fifth, a student should mention any close family connection to the college--including parents or grandparents who went there and/or siblings who went there or are there right now.  This mention should ideally explain what the student has learned from those personal connections and why that makes the college so much more attractive to him or her.  I believe that including this information in an understated way helps the college believe that this student is really more likely to enroll, if admitted. </p> <p>Finally, I think that the tone of this letter might be hard to get right.  It can’t be sad or disappointed; it can’t be cocky or overconfident; it can’t be annoyed or frustrated.  I rather liked the final paragraph of a letter I just worked on with one of my students.  It went like this:  “I hope this letter reinforces why I believe that I belong at The University of ___________. Thank you for reviewing my application not once, but twice. Your time and consideration mean the world to me.”</p> <p>Here’s hoping that she gets in.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode148" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode148" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode148</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 147: It’s a New College World, Or Is It?
<p>It’s the middle of December, and those of you with teenagers who are facing application deadlines in the first week of January either see that the end is in sight or are pulling out your hair.  Whichever it is, I am not sure how much more we can do for you.  I will make our standard offer, nonetheless:  If you are wrestling with a question about a college application or trying to figure out another college or two to add to your list--yes, it’s not too late--then, give us a call.  Quick, free advice is available for the next two weeks.  I am guessing that those of you who are our regular listeners might have had enough advice from us already about making your teenager’s long and short lists of colleges and researching those college options.  But, we are here if you need us.</p> <p>But, before we take an end-of-year break, I thought you might like to look into the future of U.S. higher education.  Admittedly, this future might come too late for your current senior, but you might have another kid or two at home.  If so, this episode could be for you. </p> <h2>1. Who Is Clayton Christensen?</h2> <p>The prolific author and thinker who is giving us this picture of the future of higher education is none other than Clayton M. Christensen, a well-known Harvard Business School professor.  He is famous in the business community for his 1997 book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Dilemma-Revolutionary-Change-Business/dp/0062060244" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business</em></a>, in which he espoused his theory of disruptive innovation.  The back cover of the book explains it this way: </p> <blockquote> <p>In this revolutionary bestseller, innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen says outstanding companies can do everything right and still lose their market leadership—or worse, disappear altogether. And not only does he prove what he says, but he tells others how to avoid a similar fate. </p> <p>Focusing on “disruptive technology,” Christensen shows why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. Whether in electronics or retailing, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know when to abandon traditional business practices. Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, <em>The Innovator’s Dilemma</em> presents a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation. (quoted from the book cover)</p> </blockquote> <p>Then, a decade later in 2008, Christensen became the guy that educators loved to quote when he wrote <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/Disrupting-Class-Disruptive-Innovation-Change/dp/0071592067" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns</em></a>, with co-authors Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson.  Well-respected psychologist, Harvard professor, and author Howard Gardner wrote this in praise of <em>Disrupting Class</em> on its back cover:  “After a barrage of business books that purport to ‘fix’ American education, at last a book that speaks thoughtfully and imaginatively about what genuinely individualized education can be like and how to bring it about.”  How to bring it about was, of course, through innovative uses of technology, including really good online instruction. </p> <h2>2. Christensen’s Latest Vision</h2> <p>That brings us to November 15 of this year and an article on CNBC’s website entitled “<a href= "https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/hbs-professor-half-of-us-colleges-will-be-bankrupt-in-10-to-15-years.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years</a>.”  But, here’s some background.  In her article, Abigail Hess writes this about Christensen’s 2011 book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/Innovative-University-Changing-Higher-Education/dp/1118063481" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>. . . Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>In the Q and A with the authors on the Amazon website, they say this about their book:</p> <blockquote> <p>We wanted to show how new strategies, many of them driven by online technology, make it possible to serve more students at lower cost while also increasing quality and improving the learning experience--something we saw in practice within our own university homes. Since then, the world has moved into a major economic downturn. Slow economic growth, high government and household debt, rising college tuition, declining graduation rates, and growing competition from the rapidly growing for-profit higher education sector combined to create a renewed sense of urgency for our message. We could see how the same online learning technologies that can benefit traditional institutions can also disrupt them. So, our message became cautiously optimistic. Online learning, we believe, will either disrupt traditional universities and colleges or create opportunities for them to serve more students and lead the country to greater prosperity. It depends on whether they cling to a model that has changed little in the past 150 years or embrace learning innovations made possible by new technology. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>The authors continue:</p> <blockquote> <p>We assert that colleges and universities must break with tradition and find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions, allowing them to once again become responsive to the needs of learners. . . .</p> <p>Online technology makes a college or university vastly more attractive to a wide subset of students. It gives many people a second chance at learning--i.e. those who cannot afford a traditional college education, those who do not have the flexibility to take part in a full plate of coursework, and late bloomers or dropouts who have fallen behind and now have the chance to catch up.</p> <p>But online learning doesn’t just offer cheaper education for the masses. It improves the student learning experience across the spectrum by allowing remedial to elite students to learn at their own pace and on their own timetable. Students can receive a fully customized education adapted to their own individual learning style, something that even the world’s best one-on-one tutor would have trouble systematically emulating. Students also benefit from a full array of choices about where, when, what and how they learn. And they can access the best teachers and information faster, connect with more global networks, and all in all consume a much more attractive [product]. In addition, online learning is a cost-saver to the university, which saves on the expense of building and managing a brick-and-mortar facility. </p> <p>Combine the lower cost of delivery with the lower cost of attendance, and it’s clear that online learning is a major cost advantage. Therefore, we urge traditional colleges and universities to adopt these technologies. (quoted from the website) </p> </blockquote> <p>I think it is critical to note here that Christensen believes that online higher education is not just a way to make college cheaper or more accessible for more students, but also a way to “[improve] the student learning experience across the spectrum.”  That might be the key here--because I think most of us would agree that online education can make college cheaper and more accessible to students who would otherwise be unable to attend.  But how many of us agree that online education can actually “improve the learning experience”?  I have to say that I don’t agree with that yet, but perhaps the time will come. </p> <p>Ms. Hess continues in her article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Christensen is not alone in thinking that online educational resources will cause traditional colleges and universities to close. The U.S. Department of Education and Moody’s Investors Service project that in the coming years, closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple, and mergers will double. (quoted from the article) </p> </blockquote> <p>So, will online higher education cause small struggling colleges that can’t make ends meet <em>to close</em>; or, rather, will it allow some <em>to stay open</em> by helping them offer cheaper courses and fewer expensive facilities and, therefore, attract more students; or, more generally, will it simply improve the landscape of higher education options available to college students?  Maybe it will do some of all of these.</p> <p>In recent years, as Marie and I have advised graduating high school seniors going off to college (or staying home for college nearby), we have shied away from advising them to take online courses.  We have worried that it might be hard for kids new to the college scene to stay disciplined enough to keep up with online coursework when there is no required attendance at classes or, at least, expectation of attendance at classes.  And yet, maybe this is the way of the future--a disrupted future--even for first-time, more traditional college students.</p> <p>No one might know this better than Marie, who has developed online college courses and taught online college courses and taken online graduate-level college courses.  So, is it time to change our advice?  I actually have a longtime colleague who is establishing an online college, complete with full degree programs, as we speak.  Maybe Ben is exactly right.  Stay tuned.</p> <h2>3. Happy Holidays!</h2> <p>We hope that you enjoy your December holidays and that you have a fantastic New Year’s--free from too much college application hysteria.  We are going to take two weeks off, as I fly out to Alaska on business and then Phoenix for a family holiday gathering, two places about as different as you can get.  We will return on January 4 with a new episode.  It is going to be our best one yet.  Happy holidays and welcome to 2018!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode147" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode147" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode147</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 146: The Biggest College Application Mistake You Are About To Make
<p>As you head into December and draw near to the looming college application deadlines that follow in the first two weeks of January, we are sure you have a lot on your minds, parents.  Almost all of you are worried about how you are going to pay for whatever college your teenager eventually enrolls in. Most of you are worried about whether your teenager is going to get into his or her first choice.  Many of you are worried about whether your teenager will get into any of his or her top several choices.  Some of you are worried about whether your teenager will get into any of the colleges that are your top choices for him or her.  And a few of you, undoubtedly, are worried about whether your teenager will get into any college at all.</p> <p>But, here is something you already know:  Parents, you have no control over what colleges choose to admit your teenager, so you might as well stop worrying about that.  On the other hand, here is something else you already know, but rarely think as hard about as that first thing:  Parents, you have plenty of control over the number of applications your teenager submits.  And that is the subject of this episode on the biggest college application mistake you are about to make.</p> <h2>1. What Is the Mistake?</h2> <p>This mistake that you and your teenager are about to make could be the biggest mistake of the whole college application process that has been going on in your family perhaps for the past six months--or longer.  And the mistake couldn’t be simpler to recognize or easier to correct. </p> <p>Quite simply, make sure that your teenager applies to enough colleges.  If there are a few colleges that you aren’t quite sure about even at this point in December, our advice would be to go ahead and have your teenager apply to them.  One might be a reach school that your teenager hasn’t quite gotten out of his or her system.  Another might be a target school that you thought your teenager didn’t need because he or she had enough of those on the list.  Another might be a safety school that was an interesting idea, but a bit outside your comfort zone.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter what those additional colleges might be.  Just go ahead and have your teenager apply.  Why?  Because having colleges to choose from next April is priceless, as they say. </p> <h2>2. Looking at the Numbers</h2> <p>When we took up this topic about 18 months ago (way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-77-how-many-colleges-are-kids-applying-to/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 77</a>), we quoted from <a href= "http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/us/common-application-saturates-the-college-admissions-market-critics-say.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an article by Mike McPhate in <em>The New York Times</em> on April 11, 2016</a>, which explained that students were applying to more colleges than they used to:</p> <blockquote> <p>In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more schools, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  By 2013, that group had grown to 32 percent. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And, if I had to guess, based on all the articles we read and chatter we hear, I would say that the 32 percent is likely still higher now in the 2017-2018 round of applications.</p> <p>You already know all of the reasons for that rise in the number of applications--from the fact that <a href= "http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Common Application</a> now makes it so easy to apply to additional colleges with just the click of a button--at least when those additional colleges don’t have supplementary application questions and essays to complete--to lots of talk about how certain colleges are receiving record numbers of applications and, therefore, lowering their acceptance rates.  According to <a href= "https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2017-09-14/10-colleges-with-the-most-applications" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a <em>U.S. News & World Report</em> article by Delece Smith-Barrow last September</a>, California placed eight public institutions on the list of the 10 U.S. colleges that received the most applications for fall, 2016.  Great for public California higher education institutions, maybe not so great for California kids!  As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, <a href="http://www.ucla.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UCLA</a> had over 102,000 freshman applicants for this past fall, up another approximately 5,000 applications from the 2016 number in this news article.  Joining UCLA on the list are five other University of California campuses (including the flagship <a href="http://www.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UC Berkeley</a> campus, with about 82,000 applications), two California State University campuses, and two private universities whose names make them sound public:  <a href="https://www.nyu.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York University</a> and <a href="http://www.bu.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Boston University</a>.  Each of these institutions received more than 57,000 applications almost two years ago now.</p> <p>Of course, as more students apply to more colleges for fear they won’t get into any, more applications are received by each college, and the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle.  You might recall that we have talked recently about the fact that high school graduates are shrinking in number and, consequently, that college enrollment is also shrinking.  Experts say that the worst of the admissions crunch might be over for high school seniors and their parents.  Nonetheless, we have also noted that the great colleges and the most selective colleges (which might or might not always be the same thing) are not really hurting for applicants.  And, I don’t think ever will be in my lifetime.  So, getting into top colleges and getting into popular colleges (again, which might or might not be the same thing) will still be a concern for lots of you out there, for sure.</p> <p>By the way, <a href= "http://www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/application-updates/more-million-applications-submitted-common-app-through-november-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to The Common Application website</a>, the “total number of applications submitted through November 1[of this year] was 1,518,131 (+20% over 2016) from 510,912 unique applicants (+13.3% over 2016).”  By November 15, that number was up to almost 2 million applications and another 100,000 unique applicants.  So, it’s not just that more applications are being made; it’s that more are being made under Early Decision and Early Action plans.  And we have said that before, too.</p> <p>According to <a href= "http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/us/greater-competition-for-college-places-means-higher-anxiety-too.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Common Application spokeswoman about 18 months ago</a>, about 4 or 5 applications is what the typical student submitted for admission in fall, 2017.  Of course, in addition, this typical student could have submitted applications to colleges that do not use The Common App, but my guess is that would perhaps just add one or two colleges to the list.</p> <h2>3. What Is the Magic Number? </h2> <p>So, what is the magic number of applications to submit?  The first thing to say is that, according to The College Board’s website, there is no magic number.  I am sorry to hear that because I was hoping there was a magic number that we could just tell all of you and you could quit worrying about it!  But <a href= "https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/how-many" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The College Board’s website goes on to say</a> that 5 to 8 applications are usually sufficient to get a good match for a student.</p> <p>In a <a href= "https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-07-27/how-many-colleges-should-i-apply-to" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more recent July article also by Delece Smith-Barrow at <em>U.S. News & World Report</em></a>, Ms. Smith-Barrow quotes Matthew Proto, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Colby College, a lovely liberal arts college in Waterville, Maine, as saying, “I don’t know if there is an actual best number.” But she goes on to note:</p> <blockquote> <p>While there may not be a specific number applicants should aim for, experts say, there is a specific range. Prospective students should have between four and eight schools on their list, experts say. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Interesting, because I don’t think that we actually agree with this advice, generally speaking.  The article also says this: </p> <blockquote> <p>Applicants should carefully weigh the number of schools where they’ll submit applications to maximize their chances of being a strong candidate, and to avoid the drawbacks that can come with applying to too many or too few schools, admissions experts say.</p> <p>Applying takes work, experts say, and submitting applications to a large number of schools may ruin the quality of the prospective student’s applications. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Really?  A drawback to applying to too many colleges is that you will have to work hard on each application so that each one is of high quality?  I would say this to students: “Get over it.  If you can’t work hard enough to do a bunch of applications over perhaps four months (when most of them are maybe 80 percent the same), then I am worried about your chances of succeeding in any college.  Really.”</p> <p>While we have talked in plenty of other episodes about the variety of colleges we think your teenager should have on the list of colleges he or she will actually apply to (different sizes, different locations, both public and private institutions), we are not going to go into that here.  Today is just a numbers game.</p> <p>So, what is the right number?  Every expert (you just heard from a couple of them) and every college counselor has a number.  Some of these numbers--like the 4 to 8 or the 5 to 8 we just heard--seem low to me, but maybe that’s because I like teenagers to have plenty of good options available to them next April. </p> <p>In our first book (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>, still available through Amazon), Marie and I offered a recommendation of applying to 8 to 12 colleges.  We do know that most--though not all--applications cost money.  We also know that, if you are eligible, you can get fee waivers for many of them.  And, since those of you who listen often already know that I am not very cost sensitive about a decision this important to your teenager’s future, I am going to suggest that several hundred dollars (to even $1,000) spent now on application fees might save your family a lot of heartache next spring. </p> <p>Now, I am going to say, like the late great Jerry Orbach said in <em>Dirty Dancing</em>, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”  When Marie and I did our most recent book <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a> (also available at Amazon), we said that 15 college applications is probably a sensible average, plus or minus 5.  So, that’s a bit more than our earlier advice.  We are pretty sure that we are right this time, and we trust that you can keep your teenager working through this month to produce high-quality applications until the very last one is submitted.  Good luck!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode146" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode146" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode146</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 145: Supplemental College Application Essays—The Sequel
<p>First, Happy Thanksgiving to all our listeners!  We hope you will have a lovely day, filled with family and food, and that you will have a relaxing long weekend.  Oh, except for the fact that some of your teenagers will be finishing up college application supplemental essays--or worse still, just starting them--so your weekend is not likely to be all that relaxing. </p> <p>Those of you who listened <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-144-supplemental-college-application-essays-oh-my/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last week heard our discussion of the number of supplemental essays</a> that various colleges require, the range of topics those essays can cover, the applicant’s choice of prompts for those essays, and the word limits that are typical for those essays.</p> <p>This week we have some more advice, and we hope it will be helpful in the coming days.</p> <h2>1.  Supplemental Essays:  The Tone</h2> <p>So, let’s talk about tone.  I am going to use “tone” to mean the attitude the writer has toward the audience (and by “audience,” we mean, of course, the college admissions staff). </p> <p>Let me say that this is one of the worst problems I find with supplemental essays, perhaps because they are too often tributes to an individual college, written by carried-away teenagers.  The problem with the tone of many supplemental essays is that teenagers gush over how wonderful the college is or what smart students go there or how much praise the college receives in national publications or what great extracurricular activities are available or how brilliant its professors are.  Really, parents and teenagers.  Colleges know how great they are (or like to think they are); they don’t need a high school teenager to tell them. </p> <p>It is fine to be admiring, of course; but, gushing just sounds naïve and unsophisticated.  Have your teenager try, instead, to point out specific factual things they admire about the college (that is, things that are worth admiring)--like its biology department is ranked in the top 10 in the country, because that is factual, not gushing.</p> <p>In talking with students, I have realized that it is very hard for them to see this problem in their own writing.  You might try reading aloud what your teenager has written to see if it is easier to recognize that way.  Here is one example, which was written by one of my advisees as the conclusion to a prompt about why she was interested in attending the university in question:  </p> <blockquote> <p>The programs offered, opportunities provided, and the praise the school has received for being one of the top colleges in the nation are some of the many reasons why I believe University X would be a good fit for me.</p> </blockquote> <p>As I explained to her when I read this, “the praise the school has received for being one of the top colleges in the nation” is neither specific nor concrete.  Who gave the university that praise?  Where was it published?  Isn’t this just heaping it on?  And, by the way, I explained that this University is not actually one of the top colleges in the nation.  I said that, if you named the top 50 colleges in the nation, this University would not be on the list, and it might not even be on the list of the top 100 colleges in the nation--although it is a nice private university in the South and one that is very popular with teenagers in our part of the country.  So, her statement in the essay was just too extreme, too flattering, too effusive, too gushing.  As a matter of fact, I doubt that even the University itself believes that it is one of the top colleges in the nation.</p> <p>Here are two more examples from essays written for that same prompt: </p> <blockquote> <p>I know that the city University X is located in is a prime destination for those who want to immerse themselves in the glorious visual and performing arts available at the school and within the city. </p> <p> </p> <p>As an undergraduate at University X, knowing the variety of career opportunities available for me would not only make me feel more confident and self-assured when it comes time for me to look for work, it would also make me feel more excited knowing that I would have nearly endless possibilities provided for me.</p> </blockquote> <p>I, too, believe the arts are “glorious” and wish that career possibilities would be “nearly endless,” but both words are too exaggerated and too over-the-top to be taken seriously by an admissions officer.  This is the kind of writing you need to watch out for, parents.  By the way, the teenagers who wrote these are smart, and they go to great high schools.  They have had a lot of extracurricular experiences in the U.S. and travel abroad.  They are not naïve.  And yet, their writing hasn’t quite caught up to them, yet.</p> <h2>2.  Supplemental Essays:  The Likely Topics</h2> <p>There are several often-used and often not-optional topics that your teenager should have a longer (about 350 words) answer and shorter (about 150 words) answer for:</p> <ul> <li>“Why our college” or “Why is our college a good fit for you” or “How will our college contribute to your goals and interests” or some version of that--The unsuccessful examples we just shared with you were for this topic.  This topic requires your teenager to read up on the college; to refer, in the essay, to what he or she has learned from that research; and to match what he or she has learned about the college with his or her own interests and pursuits.  For example, an applicant could reference the college’s diversity or award-winning academic departments or core curriculum or research opportunities for students or community outreach efforts or faith-based mission or something else--along with what the applicant thinks about them or admires about them.  If this is one of the longer-length essays, then the applicant will need to reference at least four or five things about the college.  Whatever the applicant references should be as specific as possible.  Here is a good example:</li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>University X’s community service requirement also makes the University stand out in comparison to other universities. I find it intriguing that the requirement is actually built into the curriculum and that there is such a wide variety of community service activities offered, including internships, public research projects, and faculty-supported projects. One program that stood out to me was volunteering with an organization that trains dogs to help people with disabilities. I used to volunteer at a local animal shelter to walk and feed the new dogs. So, this opportunity would be something that I would welcome.</p> </blockquote> <p>Do you see how specific that is--and memorable?  But remember:  This is an essay that is not easily used from college to college because of the specifics about the college, so tell your teenager to be careful about trying to get double duty out of it. By the way, if this is the only supplemental essay required by a college, then your teenager can write about his or her interest in a major or a field of study that the college offers as one important thing to mention.</p> <ul> <li>“How can you contribute to our college” or “What can you bring to our college” or “Our students live in suites, so what would you bring to your suitemates” or some version of that--This is the reverse of the previous topic, like “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  This essay has to be about what traits and skills and talents your teenager has--like commitment to community service or love of research or musical talent or athletic prowess--and how those will be a plus for the college if he or she is admitted.  Again, if this is one of the longer-length essays, then your teenager will likely need to write about several of his or her traits or skills or talents in order to make his or her best case. </li> </ul> <p>It’s hard to write this essay without sounding boastful, so watch the tone.  Again, if this is the only supplemental essay, then your teenager can write about his or her interest in a field of study that the college offers and how he or she might contribute to classes or activities or research in that field.</p> <ul> <li> “Why are you interested in the field of study you are proposing to major in” or some version of that--We frequently see applicants write a version of this essay for the main Common App essay.  That is a serious mistake.  Tell your teenager to save any talk about his or her field of academic interest for this supplemental essay if this is one that a college requires.  For example, whatever led to his or her interest in art or French or electrical engineering or something else--all of that goes into this essay. </li> </ul> <p>This is also the place to look carefully on the college’s website at the academic degrees and majors listed (and concentrations, if available, within those majors) and to cite the exact name of the degree, major, and concentration, if available, that the college uses.  For example, there are many variations of “biology” within some colleges and indeed from college to college; it is important to write each college’s essay on this topic as specifically as possible, using the words that each college uses to describe its own majors, concentrations, and so on.  Know, for example, that some colleges offer both a B.A. and a B.S. in Biology.  So, what is the difference and which one is your teenager headed for? </p> <p>If your teenager has no idea what he or she wants to major in, we totally understand that, but it will probably make for a less appealing essay.  Tell him or her to keep in mind that the major written about here is not cast in stone, so it is likely better to write about something specific with as much enthusiasm as possible. </p> <ul> <li>“Describe an activity that is important to you” or “Elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities” or, more specifically, “Talk about the role of sports in your life” or some version of that--We often see applicants write a version of this topic for the main Common App essay or personal statement.  Again, that is a serious mistake.  Tell your teenager to save any talk about an activity or sport that is especially meaningful or significant to him or her for this supplemental essay topic.  Remember:  “Activity” can mean something a teenager does for the family.</li> </ul> <p>Here is a recent example of an out-of-school activity essay that I think worked particularly well, with a limit of 250 words:</p> <blockquote> <p>Last year, I began taking Czech lessons at the Czech Consulate in New York City. I had been studying French in school, but could not fit both AP French and AP Biology into my schedule. I chose AP Biology, but I was not ready to give up studying a language altogether. To understand why I chose Czech, I should tell you about my grandfather.</p> <p>My grandfather grew up in a rural town in North Dakota. The child of Czech immigrants, he spoke primarily Czech as a young boy, hardly using English until he started school. Because his English was limited, his classmates called him “stupid.” He grew to hate his Czech roots. Although he learned English quickly in school, he carried with him a resentment of his Czech heritage, including his native tongue.</p> <p>As soon as he was old enough, my grandfather joined the U.S. Army and left home. Eventually, he proved his childhood classmates wrong. He became a scientist and traveled the world while working for the United Nations. In time, he had a change of heart about his roots.</p> <p>My grandfather taught me to honor my Czech heritage as he had to teach himself to do. Our trip together to the Czech Republic to visit distant relatives was evidence of that. When I could no longer study French at school, I knew immediately that I wanted to find a Czech class to take. It is my way of paying tribute to where he and I have come from.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, not everyone has a Czech grandfather.  Here’s another essay that could be a bit more common, but it is also effective--again with a limit of 250 words:</p> <blockquote> <p>The time I’ve spent working and creating art at the Art Workshop Experience (AWE) will always be memorable. The first time I attended AWE’s summer session, I was just 10. I have been going back ever since, the last several summers as an intern. The staff and the kids who come back year after year are like family. The summer session, staffed by five counselors and three interns, enrolls about 50 kids—all painting and drawing and sculpting and working in close quarters in a large one-room studio. It is an amazing way to spend the summer. </p> <p>At AWE, there are no set lessons or prescribed techniques. Kids are allowed to work on any art project of their choosing; the counselors and interns are there simply for guidance. As kids work on their pieces, they develop their skills and their understanding of techniques, with few limits that would restrict their creative choices. Opportunities are nearly endless for those who are willing to indulge their imaginations.</p> <p>Five years ago, I painted my cat at the summer session. Someone saw it at AWE’s annual gallery show that August and actually wanted to buy it. I couldn’t have been more surprised—or delighted. Without the encouragement of the staff, I never could have sold a painting at the age of 12. Although I may never sell another painting, I am proud to have spent the past seven summers with an organization that can make something like that happen for a kid.</p> </blockquote> <p>One thing that the Czech grandfather and AWE essays share is a great sentimental ending.  A couple of episodes back, we talked about the need for a great last sentence--the one that leaves the lasting impression about the applicant in the mind of the college admissions official.  Well, here are two good examples.</p> <ul> <li>“Describe a community that you are part of” or some version of that--This essay allows for a bit of creativity in defining the “community” that the applicant chooses to discuss.  It also, happily, allows for the applicant to take one of the basic essays he or she has written and to bend it cleverly to fit this topic.  For example, it could be a school community or church community or community of athletes or community of volunteers or theatrical community or musical community or you name it. </li> <li>“Write about a time when you had to work with someone whose background (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, politics, income, gender identity, or sexual orientation) was different from yours” or some version of that--Many colleges are committed to promoting student diversity on their campuses and are, understandably, interested in how new students will react to that diversity.  Specific examples drawn from an applicant’s school or community would probably work best to show whether and how that applicant values diversity.  For students who go to school or live in a community that is not racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, or otherwise diverse, this topic might be harder to write about, but could turn out to be very insightful—if, in fact, diversity is one of the main reasons the applicant chose to apply to that college.</li> </ul> <p>You and your teenager must look at the totality of the supplemental essays each college asks for and mix and match the ones you have with the ones that are needed. One college’s “activity that is significant to you” is another college’s “community that you are part of.”  You see how that works?  Be creative in using what you have, especially if you have a great essay that just needs a little tweaking to match a different prompt.</p> <h2>3.  Our Thanksgiving Break</h2> <p>Since we were anxious to get you this advice to use on your Thanksgiving break, we did not take this week off.  But, fair is fair.  We are going to take our break next week.  So, just keep writing those essays until we are back together on Thursday, December 7.  The college application deadline clock will really be ticking by then!  Happy Thanksgiving!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode145" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode145" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode145</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 144: Supplemental College Application Essays—Oh, My!
<p>I really was not going to do this episode.  I resisted doing our last two--one episode about The <a href= "http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Common Application</a> main essay (that 650-word statement that all seniors’ parents and teachers have come to loathe at this time of year) and one episode about the sad fact that our high school seniors in the U.S. cannot write.  I was glad when last week was over, and I thought that I could move on to other topics of importance in the college applications season.  And yet, I am drawn back into the quagmire of college application essays.  </p> <p>It gets worse.  When I started putting this episode together--this episode that I did not want to do--I figured that I could keep it short and sweet.  When I hit nine pages of text, I realized that it was not short (nor was it sweet, actually).  And so, I have done something else that I didn’t want to do.  I have planned for two episodes on this topic of supplemental essays.                                        </p> <p>Of course, I thought you might go back and re-listen to <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-106-the-nightmare-of-the-supplemental-college-application-essays/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 106</a>, where we talk about supplemental essays.  But I fear you won’t, and so I am going to reprise it here and add some new, updated thoughts.  Why?  Because I have just spent a fair number of days working on college application supplemental essays for a few teenagers I work with individually--and they have confirmed my worst nightmare.  Our high school seniors cannot write these supplemental essays any better than they can write anything else.  I base this bold statement not just on the teenagers I am working with now (who are, by the way, bright students with excellent grades and admission test scores), but also on the teenagers I have worked with over the past several years.  I have read--and edited--hundreds of these supplemental essays.  And I still have more to read and edit ahead of me this season.  If I keep working with more and more teenagers every year, soon I will have 10 episodes on this topic.</p> <p>Anyway, the last time we chatted about this topic was last January.  Let’s see what, if anything, you remember--in case you were listening then. </p> <h2>1. How Many and the Choice, If You Have One </h2> <p>As you probably know, supplemental essays are required by lots of colleges, especially by the highly selective ones.  Some colleges require one, some require two, and some require as many as four. If you include short-answer open-ended questions that require just a sentence or two or a list of things--for example, cultural events you have attended recently--that number of supplemental “essays” for some colleges could go up to seven.  Yikes! </p> <p>Let’s look at the <a href= "https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of California</a> system--a public university system with a zillion applicants (okay, zillion might be a slight exaggeration).  But not much of one.  <a href= "http://www.ucla.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UCLA</a>, one of nine University of California campuses, had over 102,000 freshman applicants for this past fall.  So, how UCLA, for example, can process four essays from each applicant is, frankly, beyond me.  But the University of California has some great universities--including the <a href="http://www.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of California, Berkeley</a>, and UCLA--and some very smart people.  Here are the directions for University of California applicants for what are called the “personal insight questions” (quoted from the University of California website):</p> <blockquote> <h3>Directions</h3> <ul> <li>You will have 8 questions to choose from. You must respond to only 4 of the 8 questions.</li> <li>Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.</li> <li>Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you: But you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.</li> </ul> <h4>Keep in mind</h4> <ul> <li>All questions are equal: All are given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.</li> <li>There is no right or wrong way to answer these questions: It’s about getting to know your personality, background, interests and achievements in your own unique voice.  </li> </ul> <h3>Questions & guidance</h3> <p>Remember, the personal questions are just that--personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who you are, what matters to you and what you want to share with UC.  </p> <ol> <li>Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.  </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or taking the lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about what you accomplished and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities? </p> <p>Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church, in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family?</p> <ol start="2"> <li>Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.</li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem?</p> <p>How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career? </p> <ol start="3"> <li>What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> If there’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about it, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you?</p> <p>Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule?</p> <ol start="4"> <li>Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that’s geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you--just to name a few. </p> <p>If you choose to write about educational barriers you’ve faced, how did you overcome or strive to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today?</p> <ol start="5"> <li>Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone?</p> <p>If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends or with my family?” </p> <ol start="6"> <li>Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> Many students have a passion for one specific academic subject area, something that they just can’t get enough of. If that applies to you, what have you done to further that interest? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom--such as volunteer work, internships, employment, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or clubs--and what you have gained from your involvement.</p> <p>Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or future career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? Are you inspired to pursue this subject further at UC, and how might you do that? </p> <ol start="7"> <li>What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  </li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place--like your high school, hometown or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community?</p> <p>Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community?</p> <ol start="8"> <li>Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?</li> </ol> <p><em>Things to consider:</em> If there’s anything you want us to know about you, but didn’t find a question or place in the application to tell us, now’s your chance. What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge or opportunity that you think will help us know you better?</p> <p>From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? Don’t be afraid to brag a little.</p> </blockquote> <p>I think that these eight topics are sensible and fair, if not especially creative.  On balance, I think that is a good thing.  I believe that teenagers can actually write answers to these, and sometimes that is the biggest hurdle.  (To tell you the truth, I have read some quirky or overly philosophical prompts that I could not respond to at all.)  And yet, four essay questions of 350 words each is a lot of writing--especially if an applicant might have used up the answer to one of the prompts in the main Common App essay, which seems quite possible to me.</p> <p>Sometimes, the topics for the supplemental essays, especially short ones, can be a bit odd, chosen perhaps to allow an applicant to show a creative or funny or witty side.  If given a choice among essay topics, I rarely recommend that a teenager choose one of the odder ones--unless that teenager is particularly creative or perhaps naturally funny or witty. </p> <p>For some examples of essay topics that can be a bit odd, let’s look at the <a href="https://www.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">University of Chicago</a>.  If you don’t know the University of Chicago (one of those private universities whose name makes it sound like a public university), it is an outstanding, highly selective private university in, obviously, Chicago.  Here are the directions for University of Chicago applicants (quoted from the University of Chicago website):</p> <blockquote> <p>The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.</p> <p>Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky. </p> <p>As you can see from the attributions, the questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni. . . .</p> <p><strong>Required Question:</strong></p> <p>How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.</p> <p><strong>Extended Essay Questions:</strong></p> <p><em>(Required; Choose one)</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 1.</strong></p> <p>“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert</p> <p>Sometimes, people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?</p> <p>-<em>Anonymous Suggestion</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 2.</strong></p> <p>Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is <a href= "https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available here</a>.</p> <p><em>-Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 3.</strong></p> <p>Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart! Captain Planet supposes that the world is made up of these five elements. We’re familiar with the previously-noted set and with actual elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, but select and explain another small group of things (say, under five) that you believe compose our world.</p> <p><em>-Inspired by Dani Plung, Class of 2017</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 4.</strong></p> <p>The late <em>New York Times</em> photographer Bill Cunningham once said "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization." Tell us about your “armor.”</p> <p><em>-Inspired by Adam Berger, Class of 2020</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 5.</strong></p> <p>Fans of the movie <em>Sharknado</em> say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Certain automobile owners prefer classic cars because they “have more character.” And recently, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because it is perceived that they have a warmer, fuller sound. Discuss something that you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.</p> <p><em>-Inspired by Alex Serbanescu, Class of 2021</em></p> <p><strong>Essay Option 6.</strong></p> <p>In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our <a href= "https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/apply/essay/past-essay-questions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">past prompts</a>. Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.</p> </blockquote> <p>And, by the way, some of the past prompts are truly wacky.  Choosing the right prompt in this kind of situation can make all the difference.  When I work with teenagers on this, we <em>always</em> talk through several options before settling on the one that seems the most appropriate and the most likely to yield a convincing, insightful essay.  And, yes, sometimes we get one written and realize that it just doesn’t work, and we have to switch prompts and start again! </p> <p>So, the University of California and the University of Chicago are at the extremes, in terms of number of essays required and provocativeness of essay topics, respectively.  Parents, you might be thankful now if the colleges on your teenager’s list have just one or two slightly boring supplemental essays to complete!</p> <h2>2. The Word Count</h2> <p>Typically, supplemental essays are not as long as the main personal statement, fortunately (though I just saw one from Tulane University, where the upper limit was 800 words!).  We all know that higher word counts allow us to be a bit sloppy and that it is sometimes easier to write more rambling words than to write fewer better-chosen words.  Many supplemental essays seem to call for about 350 to 400 words, or about four meaty paragraphs, which is not really too long when you think about it.  Many of them seem to run quite a bit shorter, at about 150 to 250 words, which can be downright restricting <em>if</em> you actually have something to say.  Some of them--which are not really essays at all, but more like short-answer questions--ask for just 200 characters (or about 35 words), as one Ivy League school put it. </p> <p>Here is the point:  Lower word limits imply a different style of writing.  While an applicant might relax into a narrative personal story in The Common App main 650-word essay, using lots of descriptive detail and many examples to elaborate the main idea, the shorter essays do not really permit that.  They need a much more focused, straightforward, get-to-the-point style if the question is to be answered effectively in far fewer words. </p> <p>Now, I am sure that there are some creative writers among our current crop of college applicants who could write a brilliant poetic response to one of these shorter essay prompts.  But, I am going to state, for the record, that I have not found too many of them.</p> <p>So, if you are a parent who is reading supplemental essays in the next few weeks, look for essays that make sense and that are clearly written.  They need to make a point (or two or maybe three), both effectively and efficiently.  Help your teenager edit out the extra sentences and superfluous words--including all of those that don’t contribute to the point. </p> <p>One final note on word limits:  As you might already have guessed, one college’s 350-word essay topic is another college’s 150-word essay topic.  As we will talk about in our next episode, there are some topics that come up over and over again across many, many colleges.  You will quickly learn that it is truly helpful for your teenager to have a drafted long response to these topics and--just as important--a drafted short response for the same topics.  That takes some thoughtful and careful editing. Having a long version and a short version of popular essay topics--like an extracurricular activity that is particularly meaningful to you--can save a lot of time. </p> <h2>3.  No Thanksgiving Break:  New Episode Next Week</h2> <p>Next week is Thanksgiving, and we were going to take a holiday break.  However, we realized that the long Thanksgiving weekend might be just the time that some of you will use to work on supplemental essays for applications that will be due just weeks later.  So, we will have a new episode next week, which will cover the rest of the advice we have on supplemental essays.   We will bring it out on Tuesday, instead of our usual Thursday--just in time for the Thanksgiving celebration!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode144" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode144" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode144</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 143: High School Students Can’t Write
<p>Last week when we talked about college application essays for what seems to be the millionth time in our three years together, we suggested that you go back and listen to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-98-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-i/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">98</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-99-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-ii/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">99</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-106-the-nightmare-of-the-supplemental-college-application-essays/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">106</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-110-the-new-common-app-college-application-essay-prompts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">110</a> if you have a senior at home with college application essays due now and over the next few weeks.  As I said last week, I have been spending some time in one of New York City’s most exclusive high schools to help two classes of seniors with their essays.  As a result, I have been thinking hard about the sorry state of the writing skills displayed by some of our best public school students--and, of course, what to do about it. </p> <h2>1.  One of My Favorite Stories</h2> <p>As we mentioned back in Episode 99, no one--not me, not you, not the best English teacher you ever knew, not the most expensive college consultant you can find--can truly fix a kid’s writing in the middle of trying to get his or her college application essays created, edited, and submitted on time.  The situation is too pressured, everyone is too anxious, and there is too little time.  So, let me tell you my favorite story about how to solve the problem. </p> <p>As we said back in Episode 99, in the more than 100 Common Application main essays I read and edited last year (and that number does not include all of the supplemental essays that I also read and edited), I found <em>one</em> essay that was surprisingly well written, including from a grammar and mechanics point of view.  (By the way, this year, I have also read one, maybe two, really good essays from students in that highly respected school.)  Last year, I called the best writer aside and said to him, “How did you learn to write like this when none of your classmates appears to be able to do it?”  His answer was immediate and seemed exactly right to me.</p> <p>He said that he had worked regularly with a writing tutor since he had been in ninth grade.  His tutor went over his written work and showed him how to improve it.  He said that she had worked shoulder to shoulder with him in many, many sessions.  I got the feeling that she was relentless and demanding.  He said that he did not enjoy the tutoring and did not enjoy writing now.  But he sure could do it, and he knew that he could do it.</p> <p>In my experience with high school students and with younger professionals who have worked for me and with my own three children, this is what it takes to improve someone’s writing.  It is not lessons taught from the front of a classroom--although some grammar and mechanics lessons undoubtedly should be taught from the front of the classroom for openers.  Rather, it is painstaking discussion and editing of the student’s own work, while the student watches and learns and absorbs and understands the reason for <em>every</em> change that is being made.  This shoulder-to-shoulder editing process has to be repeated and repeated and repeated--until the student becomes almost as good at it as the teacher is.  It sounds slow and laborious, and it is.  But it works, and I am not sure that anything else does.  This is writing tutoring, not writing group instruction.</p> <p>Here is the rest of the problem, which is already clear to every teacher in the U.S. and, I hope, will now be equally clear to all of you parents who are listening (if it is not already).  Today’s middle school and high school English teachers cannot serve as writing tutors for each of your kids--and that is precisely why so many of our high school students will not learn to write well enough for college.  Imagine trying to correct the written work of 150 students on a line-by-line basis--or even of 100 students or even of 50 students--day after day and week after week, while talking through those corrections with each student one by one.  And, of course, that’s not all English teachers have to do.  I am not defending overworked English teachers here; I am merely stating the obvious--something so obvious that I can’t believe more schools haven’t tried to solve it rather than just looking away and pretending the problem doesn’t exist.</p> <p>I recently said something pretty objectionable to two classes of quite smart high school seniors--at least, they thought it was objectionable.  I was talking about their draft essays that I had just read and tried to edit.  Some were so poorly conceived and written that I really couldn’t even edit them.  Here is what I said: </p> <p>“This writing will not get you through college.  You might think that it will, but it won’t.  You might think that it will because you are going to major in mathematics or chemistry or engineering.  But it still won’t.  That’s because each of you will likely have to take at least a couple of humanities courses that will involve writing essays or papers or research papers in order to graduate.  And when you do, this writing won’t get you through them.”  </p> <h2>2.  Talking to a National Audience</h2> <p>Last February, I had the occasion to speak at a national conference of teachers and administrators from Early College high schools.  I called my presentation, “Your Seniors Can’t Write.”  Parents, listen to what I said to see what you might do in your own kid’s high school to help us solve the problem.  It’s going to take all of us, and I believe that nobody’s voices should be heard any louder than yours. </p> <p>I started by asking the audience, “What’s in your junior year and senior year English curriculum?”  I am guessing, I told them, that it is literature heavy:  American, British, or world literature, especially if you have standard grade-level courses that all students take (even if you have some honors and AP levels of those courses).  If you have a variety of semester electives as your curriculum, I continued, you might offer a writing-focused course or two, most likely journalism. </p> <p>Then I asked this, “Is a curriculum focused on teaching literary works--novels and short stories and plays and poems and speeches and literary essays--as well as great nonfiction works the best way to improve students’ writing?”  I told them that, usually when I make a presentation at a national conference, I believe that I have “the answer” to a problem that people in the audience are trying to solve.  But this time, I said, “Today, I do <em>not</em> have the answer, and I am hoping that you do.  Today, I have just the problem.”  I warned the audience members that I intended to put them into small groups toward the end of the presentation so that they could work out some ways to solve the problem. </p> <p>Nonetheless, I said, I was willing to go first and offer an idea to get the conversation started.  I opened with an anecdote.  Last fall, I said, I asked two classes of juniors in an elite New York City high school what they would like to study in the upcoming spring semester.  The students were all in a standard year-long American literature course at the time.  In the interest of full disclosure, I had just had a long discussion with them about the quality of the writing of the seniors I had been working with and I had also analyzed the writing of a few of their own junior classmates impromptu--kids who thought they wrote quite well (but who soon realized and then stated bravely in front of their classmates that they didn’t). </p> <p>I said, “Would you prefer to keep doing American literature or would you prefer to focus on writing?”  Virtually every one of these college-bound students voted to switch the curriculum to writing.  Unfortunately, no school administrators were listening. </p> <h2>3.  An Idea for Solving the Problem</h2> <p>So, here was my idea for improving high school English curricula. (By the way, for more than three decades, I have written high school English curricula that are used in states all over the U.S., and I never did what I am about to suggest.  Why?  Because, sadly, I had not seen the problem up close the way I have in recent years.) </p> <p>I suggested that all high school students take an intensive writing course in the spring semester of their junior year.  It would be best, of course, if all high schools in the U.S. would do this so that no student’s college admissions chances would be hurt by a course that colleges thought was odd, or not rigorous enough, or out of the mainstream.  If I could, I would wave my magic wand right now and make that happen in all U.S. high schools. </p> <p>My course would focus on expository writing, on academic writing.  It would not include any creative writing, like poetry or short stories or plays, which many high schools like to do and perhaps do very well.  It would not include any literary analysis, because most of us do not write like that once we get out of college. </p> <p>One thing it would include is the college application essay.  Students would write <em>more than one</em> main essay for <em>more than one</em> of The <a href= "http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Common Application</a> prompts (whatever the prompts are at the time). </p> <p>I had a high school English teacher many years ago who explained to us that the word “essay” comes from the Old French “essai”--meaning a trial, attempt, or effort.  So, it is perfectly reasonable to write several essays--that is, to make several attempts--before finding the one that actually works best.  I know that’s going to sound like more work to kids--and, in a way, it is--but all writers know that, all too often, many attempts have to be started and abandoned before a piece of good writing takes shape. </p> <p>In my course, students would also write several essays targeted to the most commonly used topics for supplemental essays in college applications--in fact, both a long and a short version, so the word count would always be appropriate, depending on the word limit of a particular college.  That is not a hard thing to do, and students will find that three or four essays well done can be used over and over again, with minor editing, in various college applications. </p> <p>But wait just a minute.  In my course, there won’t be writing of only 650 words or fewer.  (Parents, you should know by now that 650 words is the limit for The Common App main essay.)  No.  There will also be a research paper of many pages--maybe more than one.  Here’s why.  </p> <p>Marc Tucker is president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and, more importantly, he’s a really smart guy.  Marc wrote an article last January in the Top Performers <em>Education Week</em> blog entitled “<a href= "http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/01/our_students_cant_write_very_wellits_no_mystery_why.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Our Students Can’t Write Very Well--It’s No Mystery Why</a>.” Let me read you the sobering opening paragraphs of Marc’s article: </p> <blockquote> <p>My organization decided a few weeks back that we needed to hire a new professional staff person.  We had close to 500 applicants.  Inasmuch as the task was to help us communicate information related to the work we do, we gave each of the candidates one of the reports we published last year and asked [each of them] to produce a one-page summary.  All were college graduates.  Only one could produce a satisfactory summary.  That person got the job.</p> <p>We were lucky this time.  We are more often than not disappointed at the subpar writing ability of the applicants for openings at our organization.  Many applicants are from very good colleges.  Many have graduate degrees.  Many are very poor writers.</p> <p>Their lack of writing ability does not auger well.  When we look at what they have written, the logic of the narrative is often very hard to find. It would appear that their lack of writing ability stands as mute testimony to their lack of thinking ability.</p> <p>How, we ask, could this have happened? . . . [H]igh school students are hardly ever asked to write anything of significant length.  Why not?  Because in this age of accountability, they are not tested on their writing ability.  By which I mean that they are not asked to submit to the testing authorities 10- or 15- or 20-page papers . . . . </p> <p>This point is critically important.  There is only one way that we can find out whether [students] can write a substantial research paper--by asking them to write a substantial research paper and looking carefully at the result.  If we do not ask them to produce this product--over and over again, as they get better and better at it--then they will not be able to do it well.  If they have not done the work, then neither their teacher nor the engines of the accountability system can assess it.  If this sort of serious writing is not done and--in our accountability-oriented environment--is not assessed, then it will not be learned.  End of argument.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, in my new high school English course, I don’t need to have my course’s research papers submitted to and assessed by outside evaluators--although that is actually both an intriguing and a feasible idea--but I would like them to be assessed by the teacher.  Not really assessed, so much, as edited line by line, with the student sitting there and hanging on every word. </p> <p>By the way, I care almost nothing about grades in my course.  I don’t want the teacher to spend time “grading” things.  I have friends who are English teachers who constantly worry about having to grade things--a lot of things and quickly--so that they can substantiate a report card grade eventually.  In my course, I want the teacher to spend time working with each student individually on every sentence that student writes.  I could easily support every teacher’s giving every student an A in the course--as long as every student kept writing and working hard at it and improving.</p> <p>I might just have one of those research papers that Marc is calling for be about individual colleges or, perhaps more generally, about issues in higher education.  I told the audience at the conference that Marie and I had just written a new workbook for high school students entitled <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options</em></a>.  I explained that the workbook was literally an explanation of an 11-page questionnaire that, we thought, every high school student should fill out about any college he or she might be interested in attending.  In my course, after each student does the research to get the answers to 52 key questions about a college, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the student write up the findings so that other students might benefit from them.  Students in a class could create their own guidebook of college profiles for a variety of colleges--and learn to research and write at the same time. </p> <p>But, let me not get ahead of myself.  I told the audience that my course would be called College Research and Expository Writing.  Of course, there would be an honors version, and I plan to put every student in it.  </p> <h2>4.  It’s Up to You, Parents</h2> <p>Parents, if you have a younger high school student at home, consider talking to your high school principal about the English curriculum now.  See whether you can get a writing course offered--or even required--so that your kid has a better chance at writing not only great college application essays, but also great term papers and research reports and whatever else they are going to have to write once they go to college.  I had a great high school history teacher who made us write five-page papers every week because he knew we were going to have to do that all the time in college.  I never thanked him enough for that great preparation.  Parents, fixing our national crisis in high school students’ writing is way more important than my telling you how to help your kid write a winning college application essay.  And I can’t fix it without you. </p> <p>By the way, not one Early College high school educator in the audience challenged the title of my presentation, “Your Seniors Can’t Write.”  So, what does that tell you?</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode143" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode143" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode143</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 142: What’s Wrong with Your Kid’s College Application Essay?
<p>Well, it’s officially November.  Some Early Decision and Early Action deadlines have just passed, and many others are fast approaching on November 15.  There is very little time left for those of you interested in submitting early applications.  As we said at length in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-138-its-early-decisionearly-action-time-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 138</a> and as we have repeated in the past few episodes, we think that <em>all</em> of you should be applying Early Action to <em>all</em> of the schools on your list that have an Early Action option and that <em>some</em> of you should be applying to your first choice under the Early Decision option.  So, think about that one more time while there is still time!</p> <p>I thought a long time about whether to do today’s episode on college application essays.  It seems like such a tired topic--one that everyone gives advice about--and we have done a number of episodes on this topic already, though not since last February (go back and listen to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-98-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-i/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">98</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-99-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-ii/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">99</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-106-the-nightmare-of-the-supplemental-college-application-essays/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">106</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-110-the-new-common-app-college-application-essay-prompts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">110</a>).  And yet, I continue to be surprised at how little many parents and teachers know about the common and supplementary essay requirements in college applications.  I am in the throes of reading and editing <a href="http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">The Common Application</a> main essay for about 60 high school seniors right now--that is, the main essay that is written to one of seven prompts supplied by The Common App people and that will be transmitted to any of its more than 700 colleges and universities if your kid applies to any of them (which he or she almost undoubtedly will).  Please re-listen right now to Episode 110 if you aren’t familiar with The Common App essay requirement.    </p> <p>As I have done for the past couple of years, I have spent almost a week in the classrooms of one of New York City’s best high schools (indeed, one of the nation’s top 75 high schools, according to <em>U.S. News & World Report</em>).  As a result, I have a few things I would like to say--again--though I am not sure we can say it any better now than we did in those previous four episodes. </p> <h2>1.  The Sad Truth</h2> <p>I am going to talk to you today--as I have done before and hope I never have to do again--about the sad truth that many, many, too many high school seniors cannot write.  I will not talk to you about the many, many, too many grammatical and punctuation and word choice mistakes that I see in 9 out of 10 essays I read.  For an elaborate discussion of those mistakes, go back to Episode 99.  But, trust me, the mistakes are there, and they are inexcusable for high school seniors as well as extremely distracting to any college admissions officer trying to get through hundreds or even thousands of similar essays.  I can’t imagine that some essays, written as they are, even get read all the way through.</p> <p>Just to recap, I am <em>not</em> going to remind you <em>again</em> to tell your teenager . . .</p> <ul> <li>To pay attention to grammar--To watch out for split infinitives, the correct placement of “only” in a sentence, the difference between “everyday” as an adjective and “every day” as an adverb, poorly placed participial phrases modifying the wrong word, incorrect and inconsistent verb tenses, and the lack of agreement between nouns and pronouns</li> <li>To check punctuation--To watch out for random commas inserted for no reason, commas that are left out before the “and” or “but” in a compound sentence, periods and commas inside quotation marks always, and the random use of semicolons</li> <li>To be careful about word choice--To watch out for sophisticated or “big” words that he or she would never use in everyday “formal” speech (as when talking in class or to a teacher) and that, therefore, he or she is highly likely to use slightly incorrectly</li> <li>To avoid wordiness and repetition--To watch out for sentences that have too many irrelevant and/or unnecessary words and to watch out for sentences that say the same thing as previous sentences (often in just as vague or unconvincing a way)</li> </ul> <p>I will also not talk to you about the finer points of writing most essays--this college application essay or any other.  For an elaborate discussion of those finer points, go back to Episode 98.  Just to recap, I am <em>not</em> going to remind you <em>again</em> to tell your teenager . . .</p> <ul> <li>To make a memorable first impression--To write a great first sentence, which makes the college admissions officer want to continue reading the essay, when he or she has way too many more to read (Back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-80-is-it-time-for-the-college-essay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 80</a>, we told you the most common and boring ways that students in the U.K. started their college application essays.  U.S. kids do that, too!) </li> <li>To make a memorable last impression--To write an extraordinary final sentence, which is his or her last chance to make an impression on the college admissions officer (I learned again in this year’s batch of essays I am reading that almost no kid can write a great last sentence or really a great ending at all.  Many kids ended their essays on a ridiculously grand scale in an overly dramatic way that does not fit almost any teenager’s life story.)</li> <li>To remember what the point is--To include what he or she has learned from the story or experience or reflection that the essay is about or how that story or experience or reflection impacted his or her life (I learned again in this year’s batch of essays I am reading that many kids get bogged down in the details of a story they are trying to tell in the essay and forget what the point of that story is.)</li> </ul> <p> </p> <h2>2.  Another Sad Truth </h2> <p>And let me talk to you about another sad truth--the fact that some kids don’t seem to have anything to write about.  Parents, let me make this very clear:  No amount of editing--including by your teenager’s English teacher or by the most expensive college admissions consultant you can find to work with your teenager--can save an essay that is not really about anything.</p> <p>To be fair, some kids have a great idea for an essay right away; in fact, some kids, have more than one great idea, though not as many kids as you might think.  I have also found that some kids can come up with a decent topic after a long talk with me about their young lives--about their families, their hobbies, their school activities, their jobs, their career hopes, their volunteer work, their academic failures, and their personal successes. </p> <p>However, some kids actually can’t come up with anything to write about.  They can’t think of anything that makes them special or interesting or appealing as a candidate for college admission.  But that’s what this essay is:  a way to look desirable to a college, whether your appeal is your brains, your kindness, your insights, your perseverance, your thoughtfulness, your compassion, your generosity, your inventiveness, your quirky outlook on life, your triumph over adversity, or something else.  The college wants a glimpse of you, to be sure, but it had better be an appealing one. </p> <p>I was chatting recently about this last group of kids--the ones with no ideas for the essay--with one of their teachers.  I was asking why she thought these kids didn’t have anything to write about.  She said simply, “They don’t do anything.”  Of course, they come to school and do their schoolwork--most of them quite well.  Many also take part in the standard bunch of school activities, play on a sports team, and take music lessons.  But how many essays can a college admissions officer read about a kid who loves the piano and did really well in a statewide music competition?  Or learned about perseverance and hard work by playing on the football team?  And here’s my favorite:  learned how to be a more effective person from playing video games (I have read more of those than you might think).  So, what do these kids do outside the box?  What do they do or think or care about that makes them just a bit different and more memorable than a thousand other kids?  What makes them the kind of student a college would want?</p> <p>Parents of younger high school kids, it is time to start thinking about what it will be like at your house when essay time comes--while there is still time to encourage your kid to engage in activities and causes and scholarly pursuits and cultural events and family life and community life worth writing about in a college application essay.  Here’s why this is so important:  I bet that many colleges would rather accept a kid whose essay is inspiring or enthusiastic or compelling or intriguing--even with a small grammar or punctuation mistake or two--than a kid whose essay is superficially picture perfect, but has no substance.  </p> <p>Parents of younger high school kids, I can make your kid’s essay superficially picture perfect, but I cannot really give your kid an experience that he or she can write an essay about.  Only you can do that for your kid and with your kid, based on the experiences of your lives.  So, start thinking.</p> <p>And let me remind you again, parents of younger high school students and parents of seniors, don’t forget to check out the seven prompts for The Common Application main essay (see Episode 110).  You will see that they are reasonable options for kids to write about and, hopefully, you might get an idea of how to help your kid--now or next year or the year after that.  By the way, this year’s prompts are very similar to last year’s (with a couple of additions), so there is no reason to believe that they will change totally for next year, either.</p> <h2>3.  Coming Soon in Our Next Episode</h2> <p>So, I feel as though this episode was more of a rant than anything else.  I apologize for that, but this is the third year I have had this college application essay experience.  I don’t want to have to talk to you about this again next year, parents of younger high school students! </p> <p>Last year, I told the kids I met with at the well-known New York City high school that I mentioned earlier, “You write like third graders.”  This year, I said something even scarier and more objectionable to them.  Join us next week to find out what I said to them and to consider with me how to fix the problem that our high school students can’t write--and that’s a problem much bigger and much more important than whether a kid gets into one college or another.  Unfortunately.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode142" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode142" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode142</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 141: The Role of Parents in College Applications
<p>We are in the last days of October, and Early Decision and Early Action deadlines are just a handful of days or a couple of weeks away. There is still time, but not much for those of you interested in early applications (and we think that should be almost all of you, for Early Action at least). So, what is the role of parents at this critical time? Today’s episode is short and sweet, and it will hopefully affirm what you are already doing, parents, if you have been listening to <em>USACollegeChat</em>. </p> <h2>1. A New Survey</h2> <p>In this episode, we want to talk about a new survey by Kaplan Test Prep. According to its LinkedIn profile, “Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Our job is not just teaching test material, but also giving students confidence in themselves. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry, offering preparation for more than 100 standardized tests. . .” (quoted from LinkedIn). By the way, this episode is <em>not</em> an endorsement of Kaplan Test Prep, or any other test prep company, because we have not done a careful study of their services or products and their results.</p> <p>Anyway, earlier this year, <a href= "https://www.kaptest.com/study/college-parents/how-involved-should-i-be-in-my-childs-college-admission-process/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kaplan Test Prep conducted a telephone survey of 354 admissions officers in high-ranked colleges</a>. It seems to have focused on the admissions officers’ answer to a question something like this (I have not seen the actual survey questions, just the answers): “How involved should parents be in the college applications process?” These were the answers of the college admissions officers:</p> <ul> <li>Not involved at all--less than 1 percent of college admissions officers</li> <li>Not very involved--6 percent of college admissions officers</li> <li>Somewhat involved--75 percent of college admissions officers</li> <li>Very involved--18 percent of college admissions officers</li> <li>Extremely involved--1 percent of college admissions officers</li> </ul> <p>My personal view here is that parents need to be more than “somewhat involved”--the overwhelmingly favorite answer of those surveyed. Now, it is probably true that there were not definitions of these terms in the survey (at least, they weren’t reported if there were). So, perhaps my understanding of “somewhat involved” is not the same as the understanding of college admissions officers about that same term. Nonetheless, I would say that being in the middle point of any scale on how involved you should be about anything related to the next two or four or six years of your child’s life--and of something that could, in fact, affect your child’s entire future--is not my view. I get it: My view is quite different from the opinions of about 80 percent of college admissions officers, and I am not apologizing for it. It’s probably why we started <em>USACollegeChat</em> to begin with—that is, to help parents know what they need to know to be involved appropriately and effectively and to encourage parents to get involved in this life-changing decision for their kids.</p> <p>To be fair, the Kaplan Test Prep website quotes some crazy things that college admissions officers say that parents have done--perhaps, what a few of the “extremely involved” parents have done. All of these things are obviously terrible, and I want to make sure that you never do them, <em>USACollegeChat</em> listeners. So, here they are quoted, from the Kaplan Test Prep website:</p> <ul> <li> <blockquote>“I once had a parent call pretending to be the student, but I had met the student before so I knew how [her] voice sounds. I called the student’s cell phone after to suggest that her mom not pretend to be her and call other schools, because that’s fraud.”</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“We have plenty of ‘helicopter parents’ who are overly involved. We’ve had parents who wouldn’t let the student speak in meetings even when we tried to engage the student specifically.”</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“There have been parents who’ve called requesting to change their child’s major because they don’t want their child in that major.”</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“In some cases we’d get duplicate records due to parents and students both trying to complete parts of the application without talking to each other.” (quoted from the website)</blockquote> </li> </ul> <p>Clearly, I am not defending any of those parents or those actions. But I do believe that those parents are a long way from what reasonable and effective--but more than “somewhat”--involvement looks like. </p> <p>To be fair, again, the Kaplan Test Prep website also listed some things that college admissions officers believe parents <em>should</em> do during the college admissions process. Here they are:</p> <ul> <li> <blockquote>“Parents should be very involved in coaching and advising in the actual decision-making, but it’s also important for students to be the ones most engaged in the process and in contact with the admissions officers.”</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“Parents should be there for support, but the child should be driving. Like learning to drive, you can be a back seat driver, but let kids steer.”</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“Parents should guide the student in thinking about certain aspects of the application and provide a sounding board for the students as they are considering their choices.” (quoted from the website)</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>“Parents need to be most involved . . . when it comes to the financial aid process. Students are not knowledgeable in this area and need the most guidance with this.”</blockquote> </li> </ul> <p>Of course, I am good with all of those. But they are a bit vague, except for the absolutely necessary advice that kids cannot navigate financial aid by themselves. Parents can barely navigate financial aid, I believe. So, parents, don’t be afraid to get outside help, if at all possible.</p> <p>According to the website, Kaplan Test Prep believes that parents could reasonably be “accompanying [their children] on campus visits, making sure they meet application deadlines, or helping them fill out financial aid paperwork” (quoted from the website). I think we all would agree with that. But what else?</p> <p>Let’s talk about deciding where to apply. While Kaplan Test Prep would like kids to take the lead on that, we want to make sure that you do your part, parents. We would like kids to do the all-important research on the colleges on their LLCO (long list of college options) before narrowing that list down to their final “short list” of colleges. We talked about that a couple of weeks ago in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-139-narrowing-your-teenagers-list-of-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 139</a>.</p> <p>And, of course, we hope that they will use our new workbook <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a> to do that. But--however they do it--parents have to make sure that kids get the answers to lots of crucial questions about the colleges they are considering. It’s a lot of work to find out what you need to know about a college before deciding whether to apply. We can’t stress this enough. In fact, as we have said many times, lots of kids and parents don’t know nearly enough when those application decisions are being made. My guess is that kids will need some <em>strong encouragement</em> from parents in order to do the work required to get all of the information you both are going to need. Remember, we believe that you are going to need answers to 52 questions covering these important aspects of a college (see the questionnaire in our new workbook for details):</p> <ul> <li>History and Mission</li> <li>Location</li> <li>Enrollment</li> <li>Class Size</li> <li>Academics</li> <li>Schedule</li> <li>Housing</li> <li>Security Measures</li> <li>Activities and Sports</li> <li>Admission Practices</li> <li>Cost</li> </ul> <p>Talking through the answers to questions on all of these topics and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of as many as 15 or so colleges on your list is something that your kid is going to need your help with. Teachers and counselors at school just do not have the time it takes to do that for every student, for obvious reasons. Even if they did, this is your own kid we are talking about, and you both need to be happy with the decision about where to apply and, eventually, about where to enroll. That is going to take more than being “somewhat” involved. </p> <p>And let’s talk about college application essays. We have talked so often about these in past episodes (<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-98-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-i/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 98</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-99-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-ii/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 99</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-106-the-nightmare-of-the-supplemental-college-application-essays/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 106</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-110-the-new-common-app-college-application-essay-prompts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 110</a>) that I hate to do it again (though I probably will before the season is over). But I will say this now: You must read your kid’s college essays--all of them. Not just the main <a href="http://www.commonapp.org/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Common Application</a> essay, but also all the supplemental ones. If you don’t feel confident in your own ability to read and suggest and edit and advise, then find an adult who can. Again, teachers and counselors at school just do not have the time it takes to do that for every student. Period. So, maybe it’s an older sibling or another relative or an internship mentor or someone at your house of worship or someone in a community program. But, whoever it is, kids need an adult to help with these essays. They just do. I am going to vote for “extremely” involved on this one. </p> <p>I guess I could go on, but I hope that I have made my point. Those of you who know me know that I am speaking as a parent who has sent three kids to college (first as undergraduates and then as graduate students). But I am also speaking as someone who believes that parents want the best for each and every one of their kids and that they want to do their best to help see that their kids get it. So, don’t be afraid to be more than “somewhat” involved, whatever college admissions officers think.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode141" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode141" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode141</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 140: The Scandal of Transferring College Credits
<p>In <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-139-narrowing-your-teenagers-list-of-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">our last episode</a>, we talked about narrowing down your teenager’s long list of college options (or LLCO, as we call it in our new book <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>), and we discussed several questions to ask yourselves about those colleges as you narrowed down the list. We recommended ending up with perhaps 15 colleges (give or take 5) on your teenager’s “short list.” </p> <p>One thing we did not talk about was whether you should put a public two-year community college on the list. We have talked about community colleges--the good and the bad about them--back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-113-the-community-college-challenge/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 113</a> and more recently in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-135-another-look-at-community-colleges/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 135</a>. Although we remain concerned about the seriously low graduation rate and the seriously low transfer rate at most community colleges, it is still possible that a community college is your teenager’s best or only choice or best safety school choice.</p> <p>If you can be sure that your teenager will be admitted to a public four-year college in your state or in another state, personally I would go with that option instead of a public two-year community college option. However, if you <em>cannot</em> be sure that your teenager will be admitted to a public four-year college or if your family circumstances would be too strained (either financially or otherwise) by sending your teenager to a public four-year college, then put the local community college on the short list. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that has more than one conveniently located community college option, then choosing among those options can be as important as choosing among four-year college options. All community colleges are not created equal--anymore than all four-year public or private colleges are. So do your homework or give us a call.</p> <p>But today, we want to talk about another topic that relates to community colleges, but not only to community colleges. It is a very important topic if you believe that it might be a good idea to save some money on the first two years of college by sending your teenager to a community college or to a public four-year college before allowing him or her to transfer to a more prestigious or more academically selective public or private college. We have heard this sentiment from parents many times: “Let Susie start out at the local community college and save our money for a big finish at the great private university she always wanted to go to.”</p> <p>Well, there is a new study out that might make you think twice about that strategy.</p> <h2>1. Losing Credits When Transferring</h2> <p>The study was brought to our attention by <a href= "https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/09/13/colleges-need-to-do-more-to-help-students-transfer-credits-gao-says/?utm_term=.09e6f3b5aea8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reporter Danielle Douglas-Gabriel in a wide-ranging article in <em>The Washington Post</em> in mid-September</a>. Ms. Douglas-Gabriel referenced a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (the GAO), entitled <a href="http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-574" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Students Need More Information to Help Reduce Challenges in Transferring College Credits</em></a>. Here is the opening of the highlights from that government report:</p> <blockquote> <p>Based on GAO’s analysis of the Department of Education’s (Education) most recently available data, an estimated 35 percent of college students transferred to a new school at least once from 2004 to 2009, and GAO found that students may face challenges getting information or advice about transferring course credits. An estimated 62 percent of these transfers were between public schools. According to stakeholders GAO spoke with, students can face challenges transferring credits between schools that do not have statewide polices or articulation agreements, which are transfer agreements or partnerships between schools designating how credits earned at one school will transfer to another. Stakeholders also said that advising and information may not be adequate to help students navigate the transfer process. (quoted from the report)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let’s start there. First of all, about one-third of college students transfer (personally, I think that is a lot and I am a bit surprised the number is that high), and over half of those are between public colleges. I am going to guess that a significant number of those are from two-year public community colleges to four-year public universities. The report then decries the lack of clear <em>articulation agreements</em>--that is, spelled-out plans between pairs of colleges that show how the credits a student earns at one college will be counted or will be deemed acceptable by the other college. Never having studied the subject, I am guessing that articulation agreements are probably most plentiful between community colleges and four-year public or private colleges relatively nearby or between various colleges within a citywide or statewide public system of colleges. </p> <p>So, a little background: Articulation agreements protect students. Obviously, students do not want to lose credits they have earned at a college when they transfer to a new college. This is especially true of students who start out at a community college to save money and then transfer to a four-year college to get a bachelor’s degree. If credits are lost in that transfer and have to be made up at the new college, the whole idea of having started at the cheaper community college just goes out the window!</p> <p>On the other hand, articulation agreements can also be good for colleges. This is especially true when four-year colleges can market themselves easily and cheaply to graduates from a particular community college as the next step in their college careers. Imagine how cost-effective it is for a four-year college to advertise and recruit students who are sitting in classes on one community college campus. Of course, community colleges also benefit because they can advertise a clear path for their graduates right into a four-year college; that fact might indeed help recruit students to the community college in the first place.</p> <p>So, here’s the problem, according to the GAO report:</p> <blockquote> <p>The possible financial implications of transferring depend in part on the extent of credits lost in the transfer. Using [the Department of] Education’s transfer data, GAO estimated that students who transferred from 2004 to 2009 lost, on average, an estimated 43 percent of their credits, and credit loss varied depending on the transfer path. For example, students who transferred between public schools--the majority of transfer students--lost an estimated 37 percent of their credits. . . . Transferring can have different effects on college affordability. Students seeking to obtain a bachelor’s degree at a more expensive school may save on tuition costs by transferring from a less expensive school. On the other hand, transfer students may incur additional costs to repeat credits that do not transfer or count toward their degree. Transfer students can receive federal financial aid. GAO’s analysis showed that almost half of the students who transferred from 2004 to 2009 received Pell Grants and close to two-thirds received Federal Direct Loans. Students who lose credits may use more financial aid to pay for repeated courses at additional cost to the federal government, or they may exhaust their financial aid eligibility, which can result in additional out-of-pocket costs. (quoted from the report)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, losing perhaps one-third of the credits you earned when you try to transfer them is frightening. Having to pay again to take courses for credits you thought you already earned or having your financial aid run out before you can retake those credits (either because you have been enrolled for too many years or too many semesters) is equally frightening. All this should make you, parents, want some kind of ironclad agreement signed in blood before your teenager starts down the transfer route. But, alas, I believe you aren’t going to get one. </p> <h2>2. The GAO on Information Availability</h2> <p>Here is what the GAO report said about getting a hold of important information: </p> <blockquote> <p>While GAO estimated that the websites for almost all schools nationwide provided credit transfer policies, as required by [the Department of] Education, about 29 percent did not include a list of other schools with which the school had articulation agreements. Among those schools, GAO found that some did not have any articulation agreements, while others did but did not list partner schools on their websites. Schools must provide such listings, but they are not required to do so specifically on their website. As a result, students may not have ready access to this information to fully understand their transfer options. (quoted from the report) </p> </blockquote> <p>Interestingly, the GAO report recommended that the Department of Education require that colleges provide information about specific articulation agreements with other colleges on their websites. The Department of Education did not agree with that and agreed only that general transfer information should be provided to students (well, obviously). What all that means is that you as parents and your teenagers as prospective freshmen and as enrolled students must do your homework relentlessly to figure out exactly what will happen in a transfer scenario. And, we have to caution, don’t expect that homework to be easy!</p> <h2>3. Bright Spots</h2> <p>Ms. Douglas-Gabriel did point to a few bright spots in her article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Several state higher education systems, including those in Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas, are using innovative strategies to streamline the transfer process. The University of California system, for instance, has “guided pathways” that chart the sequence of courses needed to transfer. Some schools, such as George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College, offer dual enrollment for some majors. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And, of course, these are not the only collaborative arrangements out there. So, if your teenager is moving toward a community college with the idea of transferring to a four-year college later or if your teenager is moving toward a public four-year university with the idea of transferring to a different four-year university later, then <em>hope</em> for one of these streamlined processes. Better yet, <em>look for</em> one of these streamlined processes--because some careful planning now can save a lot of heartbreak later.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode140" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode140" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode140</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 139: Narrowing Your Teenager’s List of College Options
<p>Last year, we spent the month of September suggesting some steps to take in order to narrow down your teenager’s long list of college options (or LLCO, as we call it in our new book <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>). We talked about a number of filters you might use to narrow down that list, which we hope was really quite long at the beginning. Why do we hope that? Because a long list shows that you and your teenager thought about a wide variety of colleges that might be appealing, perhaps for various reasons. As we have said too many times, there are thousands of colleges out there (most of which you never heard of and don’t know nearly enough about), so don’t be too quick to come up with what we will call “the short list.”</p> <p>You can go back and listen to <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-8-the-search-continues/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episodes 92 through 96</a> for a recap of reasonable filters you might apply now to narrow down your teenager’s LLCO. Or you and your teenager can force yourselves to think a bit harder and look at the 52-item questionnaire in our new book. That questionnaire is carefully designed to help you and your teenager judge <em>all</em> of the relevant pieces of information about a college before your teenager, with your help, decides whether to apply. To review, the 52 questions cover these important aspects of a college:</p> <ul> <li>History and Mission</li> <li>Location</li> <li>Enrollment</li> <li>Class Size</li> <li>Academics</li> <li>Schedule</li> <li>Housing</li> <li>Security Measures</li> <li>Activities and Sports</li> <li>Admission Practices</li> <li>Cost</li> </ul> <p>Our opinion is that you really shouldn’t have put colleges <em>on</em> the LLCO anymore than you should take them <em>off</em> now without knowing these basic facts and figures about them. Fortunately, it’s not too late to find out, but it will be soon! Even for those of you who are facing Early Decision and Early Action deadlines of November 1 or November 15 (or thereabouts), you still have enough time to find out what you need to know and to decide wisely. As we have said in many <em>USACollegeChat</em> episodes, deciding where to apply is the first domino in this long process and, for obvious reasons, it is at least as important as deciding where to enroll. These application decisions will limit your teenager’s future universe, so be careful.</p> <p>And, let us remind you of something we hope you already know: Don’t forget to fill out and file the <a href= "https://fafsa.ed.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA</a>, as soon as possible. There is absolutely no reason not to!</p> <h2>1. The Short List</h2> <p>So, let us be the first to say that we are okay if your teenager’s short list of colleges is still relatively long. Interestingly, the <a href="http://www.commonapp.org/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Common Application</a> online system will allow a student to keep up to 20 colleges on the student’s list. Of course, you have a bit of leeway because some colleges do not take the Common Application, so those colleges wouldn’t need to be counted as part of the 20. We know that many “experts” will complain about a long list, including high school guidance counselors or college counselors, who understandably see long lists from seniors as a lot of extra work. But we don’t want your teenager to lose out on a good option next spring because of some extra work for the professionals--or for you and your teenager--this fall.</p> <p>When push comes to shove, doing 20 applications will be a lot of work, mostly because of the supplementary essays that many colleges, especially selective colleges, require. But it’s doable. I just spent some time with a smart senior going through her LLCO, which had about 25 colleges on it when we started. I think we are down to a more reasonable 15, and I don’t see a reason to try to make her list any shorter. So, what’s the right number for the short list? There’s no right answer, but 15 is probably a sensible average, plus or minus 5. I believe that number is slightly up from the 8 to 12 we recommended in our first book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>. Well, live and learn!</p> <p>It probably makes sense to look at your teenager’s short list now as a group of college options, rather than just as individual colleges. In other words, we believe that your teenager should have a number of bases covered. We looked at several bases to cover last year, but we would like to narrow that down to just three, in order of least important to most important.</p> <p>First, we would like to see some variety in the size of the colleges on the short list--that is, size in terms of undergraduate student enrollment. As we said last year, we did not believe then and do not believe now that high school seniors are well equipped to know whether they would prefer a small or large college--or even whether size makes any difference at all to them. We can show you lots of seniors’ short lists that have huge public universities and small private colleges on them, and we are not sure that some of them even realize it. We would like kids to have some size options to consider next spring--<em>after</em> acceptances come in--when they can think more calmly about whether size really makes a difference to them. </p> <p>Second, it is no surprise to our regular <em>USACollegeChat</em> listeners that I think there should be variety of college locations on the list. Obviously, that means some out-of-state options and some in-state options. But it also means some options in your region of the U.S. and some options outside your region. And, it even means at least one option outside the U.S.</p> <p>We have talked about studying full time outside the U.S. many times here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, so go back and listen to a few of our episodes on that very intriguing topic (see, for example, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-123-a-new-look-at-colleges-north-of-the-border/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 123</a> about colleges in Canada or <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-122-a-truly-american-international-university/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 122</a> about Richmond, the American International University in London). Because colleges outside the U.S. offer an exciting alternative to studying in our own country, you might not be surprised to learn that these colleges are often popular choices among students at private schools and students from wealthy homes. You should know, however, that studying outside the U.S. does <em>not</em> have to be any more expensive than studying in the U.S., so don’t rule it out without doing your homework.</p> <p>Third and most obviously (this is the one we won’t have to convince you about), there should be some variety in the selectivity of the colleges on your teenager’s short list. Every so-called expert has some formula for how to make up the list: how many “reach” schools, how many “target” schools, and how many “safety” schools--or whatever your favorite vocabulary is for these three types of college options. We think that this is a matter of common sense and that you don’t have to be an expert to figure it out. Your teenager’s short list should have perhaps two or three selective colleges that might be a reach (they might be highly selective or somewhat-less-selective, depending on how good a candidate your kid is); perhaps two or three not-so-selective colleges that could serve as safety schools (including, ideally, a reasonable and as good as possible public four-year school in your home state or maybe in another state), and maybe 10 or so colleges that seem just about right academically.</p> <h2>2. A Closer Look at Safety Schools</h2> <p>Let’s take a moment to look more closely at the notion of safety schools because we think that they are often chosen poorly.</p> <p>When I work with a kid to put together his or her short list, I get these two types of colleges on the list as safeties: (1) a public university where I am sure the kid will be accepted; and (2) a private college where I am sure the kid will be accepted.</p> <p>Now, true, some of this is a matter of experience. But, looking at the data on admitted or enrolled students that you can find on a college’s website or on the <a href= "https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">College Navigator</a> website will give you one indication of the likelihood of a kid’s acceptance. (By the way, see Step 13 in our new workbook for further detail on this.) And, of course, some of this is a matter of how good a candidate your kid is. A college that serves as a safety school for some kids is a reach school for other kids, obviously.</p> <p>But, the biggest mistake I see in kids’ short lists is the inclusion of a bunch of expensive less-selective private schools as safety schools when the kid really doesn’t want to go to them. Once you have one decent public university option and one decent less-selective private option on the short list, every other college on the list should be weighed against them.</p> <p>For example, a young woman I was working with recently here in New York City is blessed with great high school grades and very good SAT and ACT scores. Her safety schools are a good public university in the West and a good private university abroad. I am confident that, given her high school record, she will be admitted to both. Other adults have suggested a variety of additional private colleges that might serve as safety schools for her. For each one, I simply asked her, “Would you rather go to this one than the two you already have, which you are going to be admitted to?” In every case, she said, “No.” Then why have them on the list and why spend time and money applying to them?</p> <p>You don’t need <em>a lot</em> of safety schools. You need only one or two or maybe three that your kid is happy about and would look forward to going to. A young woman I worked with last year ended up at one of her two safety schools this fall. We chose them carefully to make sure she liked them, and she was, in fact, accepted to both. She ended up at the private one, and she loves it. I knew she would, and that’s why we chose it. </p> <h2>3. Other Colleges on the Short List</h2> <p>By the way, a similar question should be asked of all of the colleges on the short list. Once you can establish that a college (whether it is selective or not selective) is <em>not</em> a place your kid would <em>rather</em> go than the safety school you are sure he or she will be admitted to, take that college off the list.</p> <p>To be clear, as your teenager and you look over the short list, ask him or her one final question about each college: “Would you really want to go to this college if you got in?” If you and your teenager were diligent in putting together a LLCO this summer and then in narrowing it down, we know that you two know quite a bit about each college still on the short list. We would say that it is likely that you know more about each college still on the list than the majority of students applying to it. But knowing all about a college doesn’t make your teenager want to go there. </p> <p>I can usually hear it in the kid’s voice when I ask, “Why College X?” The kid is silent for a minute or says something vague. Can your teenager tell you several pros for each college on the short list--that is, several reasons why <em>he or she</em> <em>personally</em> would be happy going there? If not, it might be time to take it off the short list. “My mother suggested it” or “I’ve heard some good things about it” is not a reason to keep a college on the short list.</p> <p>Now, of course, there are some colleges on the list that your teenager prefers. Maybe there is a first choice; maybe there are several top choices. But no college left on the list should make your teenager feel apathetic or disappointed. Take those colleges off and, if you need more colleges on the short list, then look at some new ones to add. There are plenty out there. </p> <p>Next week, we are going to talk about a serious problem with transferring colleges in case you are thinking about that as a long-term strategy for your kid as you two are making up the short list. Let me just say, “Buyer beware!”</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode139" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode139" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode139</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 138: It’s Early Decision/Early Action Time Again
<p>Let’s open today with an acknowledgment of a reasonably impressive milestone. We have just passed the third anniversary of our podcast. That’s three whole years of trying to put the college applications and college admissions process into perspective and within the grasp of the all-too-many parents and teenagers who have been left out of the conversation. When we started the podcast, we thought that it would be most helpful to parents who had not been to college themselves and to their first-generation-to-college kids. But we have found that parents of all educational backgrounds have learned from the episodes, and we are, of course, happy about that. As Marie and I say almost every week, “Here’s something we didn’t know ourselves, and we do this for a living.” As with all things, there is always more to learn.</p> <p>Speaking of learning, as we come to this episode in our series <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Researching College Options</em></a>, I must admit that I would like to re-edit our new book <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>. Marie hates it when I say this; but, like all authors or maybe just all English majors, I know that I could make that book better (even though I have to admit that it is already pretty useful).</p> <p>Today’s episode is about something we left out of the book, but should have put in. So, if you have the book (and, if you don’t have it, go get it right now at amazon.com!), you all should add one more question at the end of our 52-item questionnaire about things your teenager needs to find out about a college before applying.</p> <p>Here is the question we missed and the topic of today’s episode: “Does the college offer an Early Decision and/or Early Action application round--or, perhaps, even more than one such round?” And we should have added: “Jot down all of the particulars of these early admissions plans, including how restrictive they are when it comes to whether you are allowed to apply to other colleges at the same time.” I am constantly surprised about how little parents know about Early Decision and Early Action plans, and they could make all the difference for a kid.</p> <h2>1. Why We Are Infuriated</h2> <p>So, for those of you who were listening to <em>USACollegeChat</em> about seven months ago, you will recall that we tackled this Early Decision/Early Action issue then. However, it is even more timely now here at the beginning of October, and we think that it is worth recapping for all of you who have kids just starting their senior year. As many of you know, November 1 or November 15 (or thereabouts) is the Early Decision and/or Early Action deadline for most colleges, if a college has either of those early admissions plans in place. So, that is just a few short weeks away, and decisions about whether to make those early applications need to be made ASAP.</p> <p>As we said back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-108-early-decision-and-early-action-anxiety-in-college-admissions-part-i/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 108</a> and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-109-early-decision-and-early-action-anxiety-in-college-admissions-part-ii/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 109</a>, I find this Early Decision/Early Action game infuriating. I continue to be infuriated on behalf of teenagers and their families who are in the midst of figuring out how to research and apply to a whole bunch of colleges, which is hard enough without having to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of Early Decision and Early Action options at some of those or all of those colleges and how those options interact, often poorly, with each other. I believe that lots of parents find this to be a daunting task. So, let us help.</p> <h2>2. Early Decision Cons</h2> <p>Let’s look first at Early Decision, the older of the two options and the one that started us all down this now-confusing and controversial path. Many years ago, it used to be that a student could apply to one college under an Early Decision plan (the <em>only</em> type of early application available)--meaning that the student would apply early, get an answer early, and agree to attend that college if accepted. For students, Early Decision was—and, in fact, still is--a binding decision. In other words, if you get in, you go.</p> <p>Perhaps the most important reason that some educators and many parents grew to dislike the Early Decision option was--and likely still is--that a student accepted under this plan had to agree to attend the college <em>before</em> he or she had any other acceptances and <em>before</em> he or she had any idea what scholarships and other financial aid might be offered by any other colleges. For students who depended on financial aid to pay for college--and that’s more and more students these days--having to choose a college without being able to compare financial aid packages put those students and their families under unnecessary and, some would say, unfair financial pressure.</p> <p>When we talked about this issue months ago, we quoted from Frank Bruni’s excellent <em>New York Times</em> column entitled <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/the-plague-of-early-decision.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“The Plague of ‘Early Decision.’”</a> You should go back and read his piece again. Mr. Bruni wrote this about his view of the biggest problem with Early Decision at selective colleges:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Early decision] significantly disadvantages students from low-income and middle-income families, who are already underrepresented at such schools. There’s plenty of evidence that applying early improves odds of admission and that the students who do so--largely to gain a competitive edge--come disproportionately from privileged backgrounds with parents and counselors who know how to game the system and can assemble the necessary test scores and references by the November deadline.</p> <p>These students also aren’t concerned about weighing disparate financial-aid offers from different schools and can commit themselves to one through early decision. Less privileged students need to shop around, so early decision doesn’t really work for them. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Did we really need one more thing about college admissions that disadvantages low-income kids or kids from racial and ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in colleges? Clearly, as a nation, we did not. Regular listeners will recall that, recently in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-132-high-school-grade-inflation-and-college-admissions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 132</a>, we spoke about a study of grade inflation in high schools that shows that the grade inflation trend disproportionately favors students from whiter, wealthier high schools. Is Early Decision just one more strike against kids who need a fairer shake?</p> <p>Mr. Bruni also gave us one memorable statistic from a well-to-do Boston suburban high school, noting that “while 60 percent of the seniors there submitted early applications seven years ago, it’s above 86 percent now.” (quoted from the article) And that was last year, so who knows how much higher that number can go this year? The point is that lots of kids are applying to college early, and that is going to make it just that much harder for your kid this year.</p> <p>Although we have talked recently about a steady decline in college enrollment in the U.S. in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-128-college-enrollment-in-decline/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 128</a> and a steady decline especially in male college enrollment in the U.S. in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-136-too-few-male-students-at-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 136</a>, the nation’s very good and great colleges are still doing fine. They continue to have many, many more applicants than they need--both the private ones and the public ones. So, if any of our very selective private or public colleges are on your kid’s long list of college options (or shorter, refined list of college options), your kid is in for some stiff competition from a lot of kids who are ready to commit in November. Any kids who have to overcome any kind of barrier when making their college applications--whether that is financial constraints or English as a second language or lack of college counseling or parents who cannot help—are, sadly, going to be just that much further behind.</p> <h2>3. Early Decision Pros</h2> <p>On the other hand, if your kid is one of the lucky ones or if you can get whatever help you need to get your kid past whatever barriers exist for your family, it seems to us that Early Decision is a great option for you. The larger problem is, of course, that Early Decision could be a great option for your own kid, even if there are too many kids who cannot take advantage of it for one reason or another. With my nonprofit president’s hat on, I have to say that Early Decision worries me increasingly; but with my advocate-for-your-one-kid’s hat on, I am very likely to recommend it to you.</p> <p>If your own teenager is absolutely clear about what his or her first-choice college is, then Early Decision is the way to go if that college has an Early Decision option. (We are going to talk about Early Action in a minute. Making one Early Decision application does not <em>necessarily</em> preclude also making one or more Early Action applications.)</p> <p>Why might Early Decision be a good move for your kid? First, your family could get the entire college admissions process over with as efficiently as possible by December. As we have already mentioned, the application is usually due November 1 or November 15, with a decision usually coming in December. If your kid is accepted, you are done. No more worries about not getting into a college your kid loves and no more stress of completing numerous applications! Even though the Common Application cuts down on some of that stress, it means that no more supplemental essays would have to be written and no more application fees would have to be paid.</p> <p>Second--and this is why we feel almost obligated to recommend Early Decision for kids who are ready to make a serious choice--your kid might actually have a much better chance of being accepted if he or she applies Early Decision. There continues to be a lot of press about this fact. Back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-108-early-decision-and-early-action-anxiety-in-college-admissions-part-i/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 108</a>, we quoted shocking statistics from <a href= "https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/03/31/a-college-admissions-edge-for-the-wealthy-early-decision/?utm_term=.5f138a2686b9" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an excellent article by Nick Anderson in <em>The Washington Post</em></a>, which offered acceptance statistics from 2015 from 64 “prominent colleges and universities.” His article was aptly entitled “A college-admissions edge for the wealthy: Early decision.” Go back and take a look at those many, many numbers. And here are a few more: same story, different verse.</p> <p>These are some facts and figures <a href= "http://time.com/money/4535515/college-official-acceptance-rate-misleading/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from an article by Kaitlin Mulhere in <em>Money</em> magazine</a>. Her article makes this important point:</p> <blockquote> <p>Most selective colleges--specifically, the 100 or so four-year schools that admit a third or less of their applicants--publicize one overall acceptance rate. On its face, that makes sense, and it’s simple for families to grasp. The problem is that many students pin their hopes on that rate, even though it may conceal dramatic differences in the odds for different applicant pools.</p> <p>Take, for example, <a href="https://www.vanderbilt.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Vanderbilt University</a>, where the overall rate was 12% for the fall 2015 freshman class. Yet students either apply in an early pool or the regular pool, which have 24% and 8% acceptance rates, respectively. Nobody has a 12% chance, says Steve Frappier, director of college counseling at the Westminster Schools, a prep school in Atlanta. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>There are two critical things to notice here. First, there is the simple fact that one averaged acceptance rate--the one that is published widely--actually might mean nothing. Second, there is the simple fact that your chances of getting into a college could be three times as good--or more--if you apply under an early application plan. While this is not true for every college in the U.S., it is true for many selective colleges in the U.S. Here are two more examples of great small private liberal arts colleges from the <em>Money</em> magazine article:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.swarthmore.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Swarthmore College</a>: 35% early decision acceptance rate <em>vs</em>. 10.7% regular decision acceptance rate</li> <li><a href="https://www.coloradocollege.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Colorado College</a>: 31% and 17% in two early rounds <em>vs</em>. 6% in the regular round</li> </ul> <p>The article makes the point that savvy consumers pay attention to the differences among the figures that colleges post on their websites: early acceptance rates, regular decision acceptance rates, and overall acceptance rates. The relationships among these figures change from college to college, so buyer beware!</p> <p>Those figures have got to make you think twice before you as a family dismiss the notion of applying early. Here is another perhaps surprising statistic from <em>The Washington Post</em> article for a sample of great colleges--the estimated percentage of the freshman class that is made up of Early Decision acceptances:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.upenn.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Pennsylvania</a>: 54%</li> <li><a href="http://www.middlebury.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Middlebury College</a>: 53%</li> <li><a href="http://www.emory.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Emory University</a>: 53%</li> <li><a href="http://www.kenyon.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Kenyon College</a>: 51%</li> <li><a href="https://barnard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Barnard College</a>: 51%</li> <li><a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Northwestern University</a>: 50%</li> <li><a href="https://www.hamilton.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Hamilton College</a>: 50%</li> <li><a href="http://www.bowdoin.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Bowdoin College</a>: 49%</li> </ul> <p>To sum it up, about half of the seats in the freshman classes of these selective, academically first-rate colleges are filled before the applications of high school seniors applying on the regular schedule are even looked at. You really have to stop and think about these statistics. No kidding. What are your kid’s odds of getting into a place when one-half of the seats are already taken?</p> <p>Some colleges are publicizing now that students who are accepted on an Early Decision schedule are getting nearly as much financial aid as those accepted on a regular decision schedule, so that’s a good thing for low-income kids who want to better their acceptance chances at a favorite college. And there is usually a disclaimer in college website information that a student may be released from a binding Early Decision acceptance if the financial aid package offered does not make it possible for that student to attend the college--though I have never personally tried to test that.</p> <p>By the way, is it obvious why a college would want so many Early Decision students? It should be. A college wants good students who really want to be at that college. It doesn’t want to play the admissions game any more than the applicants do.</p> <p>To sum it up, <a href= "https://www.bu.edu/admissions/apply/early-decision/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">here is a brief quotation from the website of Boston University</a>, a very good private university, about the reasons that students should consider Early Decision:</p> <ul> <li> <blockquote><strong>Competition is keen. </strong>Think about this--would you rather be considered for admission as 1 of more than 60,000 applicants or 1 of just over 4,000 applicants?</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote><strong>Applying Early Decision is the ultimate way to demonstrate your interest in BU</strong>, which is an opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd.</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote><strong>Early Decision applicants receive the same consideration for financial aid as regular decision applicants.</strong>Last year, BU awarded $55 million in aid to incoming freshmen.</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote><strong>If you’re offered admission, your search process will be completed early</strong>. You could be one of the first among your classmates to wear your BU sweatshirt and show your Terrier Pride!</blockquote> </li> </ul> <h2>4. Early Action</h2> <p>Now, let’s look at the Early Action option, under which high school seniors still apply early--around November 1 or November 15--but they are <em>not</em> ethically committed to enroll at the college if accepted. That is, the decision to apply Early Action is <em>not</em> a binding decision by a high school senior to attend that college. Early Action enables kids to apply to more than one college that offers an Early Action option and to hold onto any acceptances until April--before having to make a <em>final decision</em> among <em>all</em> of the acceptances that come in on both the early <em>and</em> the regular schedules. This plan, understandably, came into being as a result of concerns that the Early Decision option put too much pressure on kids to make final decisions too soon.</p> <p>In counseling kids myself, I encourage them to apply under the Early Action option to as many of the colleges on their final short list as they can. I just don’t see a downside. Furthermore, I believe kids should apply Early Action to every one of their safety schools if those schools have an Early Action option. It can certainly take the pressure off a student to know in December that he or she has a guaranteed acceptance from a college or two or three well before April comes.</p> <p>Here is one thing you have to keep in mind, however, for both Early Action and Early Decision. Students have to take the SAT and/or ACT no later than an October testing date to have the scores by early November, and a student has to believe that the scores he or she has by then are about as good as they are ever going to be.</p> <p>Or here is an option: Apply Early Action to one or more of your safety schools, using your available test scores--that is, schools you can probably get into without improving your scores. If there are more selective colleges that you are holding out hope for, but for which you need better scores, re-take the SAT or ACT in November or December and don’t apply to those colleges until the regular deadline of January 1 or later.</p> <h2>5. Single-Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action</h2> <p>Let’s look at a mixed approach that has now been taken by some colleges, including some prestigious ones, and that is an option called Single-Choice Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action. This option means that applicants <em>cannot</em> apply to any other college under an Early Action or Early Decision option, but may apply <em>later</em> on a regular decision timeline. If an applicant is admitted under this single-choice or restrictive option, that student may have until about May 1 to make a decision.</p> <p>So, Single-Choice Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action, is like Early Decision in that the student is permitted to apply to only one college early, but it’s like Early Action in that the student is permitted to wait until regular decision acceptances come in before making a final decision about enrolling. You can see how that is pretty good for the student and pretty good for the college, though not ideal for either one. This option, we believe, is not nearly as widespread among colleges as either Early Decision or regular Early Action.</p> <h2>6. Other College Admissions Options</h2> <p>Parents: Don’t feel bad when you have to read a college’s website information more than once to figure out what all the application options mean. I have to do that, too. I cannot imagine how a high school kid by himself or herself ever completes and submits a college application anymore, especially if that kid has parents who do not speak English or cannot help for whatever reason.</p> <p>And here’s another option you might run into: two rounds of Early Decision, or Early Decision I and Early Decision II; and two rounds of Early Action, or Early Action I and II.</p> <p>So, why Early Decision I and II, with Early Decision II having a later deadline? One reason is that some kids want the college to have access to later college admission test scores or to first semester senior grades, in case either of those is better than earlier scores or grades. Another reason is that a student who gets rejected from his or her first-choice Early Decision college in December can then apply to his or her second-choice college in a second round of Early Decision. Both of these options are possibly great for the student, though complicated, to be sure.</p> <p>Another reason for having two rounds of Early Decision is that it’s a way for a college to improve its own statistics--in this case, the “yield rate,” or the percentage of students who are admitted and then attend. This statistic might affect a college’s ranking on some list or other. So, that might be reason enough for how we got to this place.</p> <p>Go back and listen to Episode 109 if you want to hear even more complicated plans, which mix every conceivable Early Action and Early Decision variation. But those are only examples. The only plans that matter are the ones your kid faces at the colleges on his or her list. And they might be crazy enough!</p> <h2>7. The Bottom Line</h2> <p>One last word, parents: Remember that your kid can be <em>deferred</em> when applying early, in which case the application will go into the pile to be considered with the applications submitted on the regular decision timeline. Or, your kid can be <em>rejected</em>, in which case he or she <em>cannot</em> re-apply, in some cases, on the regular decision timeline. So that’s one more piece of the puzzle that you will need to consider.</p> <p>I know that’s a lot to take in. What’s the bottom line? Apply Early Decision if your kid has a clear first-choice college <em>that you can live with</em>. Simultaneously, apply Early Action to all of the colleges on his or her list (including all of the safety schools) that have Early Action plans. There’s just no downside.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode138" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode138" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode138</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 137: College Support Services: More Important Than You Think
<p>This is an unusual episode in our series <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Researching College Options</em></a> and for <em>USACollegeChat</em> as well. It looks at a critical issue today--one that can have terribly serious consequences for students and their families. The issue was raised in an insightful late August article by Alina Tugend in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> (the article also appeared in <em>U.S. News & World Report</em>). The issue is mental health support services on college campuses and the students--especially nonwhite students--who evidently all too often do not use them when they need to. This is going to be a relatively short episode for us, but I think you will see that it packs a big punch.</p> <h2>1. The Problem</h2> <p>Here are some facts you might not know, <a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/nonwhite-students-slow-seek-mental-health-counseling-theyre-need/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as reported in the article</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Nonwhite [college] students are often more stressed than their white classmates, but less likely to seek psychological help.</p> <p>This further complicates efforts to increase the proportion of black and Hispanic students who succeed in earning college and university degrees, and who graduate at rates lower than whites.</p> <p>As much as nonwhite students resist taking advantage of mental health services, there’s evidence they’re more in need of them. More than half of black students report feeling overwhelmed most or all of the time, compared with 40 percent of whites, a survey conducted by the Harris Poll, [The Jed] Foundation and other groups found. About half of black and Hispanic students, compared with 41 percent of whites, say it seems everyone has college figured out but them. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>That’s a lot of college students who could use some support when feeling overwhelmed--not only the half or more of black and Hispanic students, according to these studies, but also the 40 percent of white students. I have to say that I had no idea about the size of this problem.</p> <p>Let’s look a bit further into the particular stresses faced by black and Hispanic students, according to experts quoted in the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . “[I]n addition to the stressors most students face at college--being away from home, time management--there are race-related stressors or minority-status stressors,” said Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas, Austin.</p> <p>These stressors include assumptions by some white students and faculty that a minority student wouldn’t be in the classroom but for affirmative action, said David Rivera, an associate professor of counselor education at Queens College of the City University of New York. That perception can make itself felt in seemingly innocuous comments such as, “ ‘I’m surprised you did well on that paper,’ ” Rivera said. “If you confront it, you’re dismissed but if you ignore it, you’re left holding on to that experience,” he added. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And this is not an issue only for black and Hispanic students. Asian college students face their own stresses, according to the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Asian students often feel burdened by a stereotype that casts them as the “model minority,” always quietly diligent and academically successful, said Doris Chang, director of clinical training and associate professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research. But she said Asian students often fear that speaking to outsiders about the burden of this stereotype will bring shame on them and their families. “By the time they come in [for counseling], they are so impaired, they are already asking for a medical leave of absence.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow. Stress on college students clearly knows no racial or ethnic boundaries, and students of all backgrounds should know what to do when that stress becomes just too much for them to handle. But here is what happens too often, according to the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Seeking psychological help is “culturally unacceptable in the African-American and Latino communities,” said Terri Wright, executive director of [The] Steve Fund, a nonprofit established by the family of a black graduate student named [Steve] Rose who committed suicide. The organization advocates for mental and emotional well-being for black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian college students.</p> <p>Within these groups, “the words ‘therapist’ or ‘counselor’ are loaded,” Wright said. “If you have problems, you don’t go outside your family, or maybe you talk to your faith leader.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I think there is no better way to demonstrate the enormous price that students and their families pay when support isn’t found in time than to read to you most of <a href= "http://www.stevefund.org/a-letter-from-steves-family/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">a remarkable letter from Steve’s family</a> (that is, his parents and two brothers), which appears on the website of The Steve Fund:</p> <blockquote> <p>In 2014, we began a journey, one which no family should ever have to take. It began with the loss of Steve, our beloved son, family member and friend. After graduating from Harvard College and completing a Masters degree at City University, mental illness took Steve from us. We have established the Steve Fund with the aim of preventing other families having to take a journey like ours.</p> <p>Our nation is not meeting the mental health needs of young people of color. While research shows that the differences in ethnic backgrounds of students necessitate culturally sensitive approaches to supporting their mental health, their needs are still significantly understudied, and insufficiently understood. With minorities forming the majority of Americans by 2044, and the majority of children by 2020, the future success of our nation will depend on the mental health and emotional well-being of these young people.</p> <p>It is our firm belief that colleges and universities should play a vital role in meeting these needs by providing the best support possible for an increasingly diverse student population. Since we established the Fund, we have focused on developing knowledge and thought leadership, launched effective programs, such as the buildout of a text-based crisis hotline with our partner Crisis Text Line, and have built partnerships with renowned organizations in the field to leverage resources and to direct more effort towards our cause.</p> <p>The Steve Fund is mobilized to learn about, implement with excellence, and measure the kind of best practices that will protect the mental health and emotional well-being of our nation’s college age students of color. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Kudos, of course, to Steve’s family and the work that the Fund is doing.</p> <p>The article goes on to do a good job of explaining the difficulties that students of color have when faced with college support personnel who are white. According to a survey by the <a href="https://www.aucccd.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors</a>, only 10 percent of college psychologists and therapists are black, only 8 percent are Asian, and only 7 percent are Hispanic. While some colleges are working to change staff make-up, most probably have a long way to go in order to serve the mental health needs of students of color on their campuses. And perhaps that is something to keep in mind, parents of students of color, when you are looking at colleges for your kids.</p> <h2>2. Get the Information</h2> <p>As we said in our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>, information about support services on a college campus is one thing prospective applicants and their parents might want to consider. And now that we understand the scope of the mental health problem, I am glad that we included a question about support services on the College Profile Worksheet. We give the Worksheet to students to complete for colleges they are interested in applying to (it is found at the end of our book). Here is some of what we wrote in the new book:</p> <p>While support services--like academic advising, personal counseling, and employment assistance--can be useful to any undergraduate student, these support services are often particularly important to groups of students who might find it more difficult to adjust to college life, either socially or academically, especially when they find themselves in the minority of students on a college campus.</p> <p>If you identify with students of color, first-generation-to-college students, LGBTQ students, students with learning disabilities, or another group, you should take a look at whether each college on your long list of college options has support services targeted for you. For example, <a href= "http://www.gsu.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Georgia State University</a> has an impressive Office of Black Student Achievement, which provides a wide variety of academic, support, leadership, and outreach activities, programs, and services. That says something about its commitment to serving its black student population.</p> <p>When you are looking for support services like that on a college’s website, see whether you can find any evidence that the services provided are actually successful. Why? Because successful support services can make all the difference between dropping out and graduating.</p> <p>And now that I have read <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article, I would add, “Because successful support services can make all the difference between life and death--literally.” And remember, you might want to look at the racial and ethnic make-up of the counseling staff that will be available to your kid, if it turns out he or she needs that help. Because, really, what could be more important than that.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode137" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode137" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode137</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 136: Too Few Male Students at College?
<p>Today’s episode in our series <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Researching College Options</em></a> focuses on a trend in college enrollment that you might have missed entirely. But if you have a son at home, it might be of particular interest to you--especially if your son is in the early days of high school (or even younger!). </p> <h2>1. A Quick Historical Look at Men in College</h2> <p>Let’s look back for a moment at the history of male students in U.S. colleges. We wrote about this back in our first book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>, when we discussed the very real college option for your teenager of attending a single-sex institution <em>vs</em>. a coeducational institution. Here is what we said then: </p> <blockquote> <p>Colleges and universities that were started in America’s earliest days were all institutions for men. They were all single-sex institutions then.</p> <p>Seven of the eight well-known Ivy League institutions served only male students when they were founded in the 1600s and 1700s: the <a href="http://www.upenn.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Pennsylvania</a>, <a href= "http://www.columbia.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Columbia</a>, <a href="http://dartmouth.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Dartmouth</a>, <a href= "https://www.brown.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brown</a>, <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Princeton</a>, <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Harvard</a>, and <a href= "http://www.yale.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Yale</a>. Among the Ivies, only <a href="https://www.cornell.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Cornell</a>, the youngest of the Ivies, was founded as a co-educational university, which took as its mission from its first day to enroll both men and women. </p> <p>As time went on, many Ivies created a “sister” school for women: the University of Pennsylvania had its College for Women, Columbia had Barnard, Brown had Pembroke, and Harvard had Radcliffe. Of these, only <a href="http://barnard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Barnard</a> remains.</p> <p>The tradition of single-sex colleges is particularly strong in the Northeast, perhaps because that is where so many of our country’s oldest higher education institutions are located. In addition to <a href="http://barnard.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Barnard</a>, women’s colleges in the Northeast include <a href="https://www.brynmawr.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Bryn Mawr College</a>, <a href= "https://www.mtholyoke.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mount Holyoke College</a>, <a href="http://www.simmons.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Simmons College</a>, <a href= "http://www.smith.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Smith College</a>, and <a href="http://www.wellesley.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Wellesley College</a>. But there are well-known women’s colleges located in other regions of the U.S. as well—like <a href="http://www.mills.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Mills College</a> and <a href= "http://www.scrippscollege.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Scripps College</a> in California, <a href= "https://www.stephens.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stephens College</a> in Missouri, <a href="http://www.hollins.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Hollins University</a> and <a href= "http://www.mbc.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mary Baldwin College</a> in Virginia, <a href="https://www.saintmarys.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Saint Mary’s College</a> (the sister school of the <a href="https://www.nd.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Notre Dame</a>) in Indiana, and <a href= "http://www.agnesscott.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Agnes Scott College</a> and <a href="http://www.spelman.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Spelman College</a> in Georgia. Spelman has the distinction of also being an excellent HBCU. Interestingly and for whatever reason (probably rooted in financial issues), some of these women’s colleges now allow men to enroll in their graduate programs only, thus maintaining the traditional women’s college atmosphere for their undergraduate residential students. Today, there are just over 40 women’s colleges in the U.S.</p> <p>Oddly, only a handful of men’s colleges remain, perhaps partly because now there are actually more women than men going to college. The men’s college you have most likely heard of is <a href="http://www.morehouse.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Morehouse College</a>, which is an academically rigorous HBCU located in Georgia and which is the men’s counterpart to Spelman. Morehouse has a roster of famous alumni, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee. Here are two more appealing men’s colleges: <a href= "http://www.hsc.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hampden-Sydney College</a>, which was founded in 1775 in Virginia and has a long and fascinating history (Patrick Henry and James Madison were among its first Trustees); and <a href="http://www.wabash.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Wabash College</a>, which is located in Indiana and was cited in the book <em>Colleges That Change Lives</em> as an institution that is successful in creating engaged students, who become leaders in their chosen fields.</p> <p>While most single-sex institutions have opened their doors to the opposite sex over the years and especially in the past 50 years, those that remain carry on a tradition that their graduates wholeheartedly support. Some of their graduates--and indeed their families--believe that students can focus better on their studies when they are not being distracted by social interactions with the opposite sex in the classroom. Some of their graduates believe that students will develop a stronger sense of community and camaraderie with their classmates in single-sex institutions. Some of their graduates appreciate the histories and philosophies of these institutions--especially perhaps graduates of women’s colleges who feel that they are better supported as young women and are encouraged to set and pursue whatever education and career goals they can imagine for themselves.</p> </blockquote> <p>Clearly, there are great reasons for your teenager to choose to apply to and attend a single-sex institution, as we have said before, but there are also great reasons for your teenager to choose a coeducational institution. What is happening now, however, is that some coeducational institutions--institutions that some students chose to attend precisely because they were coeducational--are losing their balance between male and female students in a way that no one would have predicted 40 years ago. Let’s look at why.</p> <h2>2. Male College Enrollment Today </h2> <p>In a <a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/new-minority-campus-men/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">very interesting August article</a>, which you should read in its entirety in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> (which also appeared in <em>The Atlantic</em>), reporter Jon Marcus gave us these facts and figures:</p> <blockquote> <p>Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women--58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s--the ratio has now almost exactly reversed.</p> <p>This fall, women will comprise more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. And the trend shows no sign of abating. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women. . . .</p> <p>Reeling from a years-long decline in overall enrollment, colleges and universities nationwide are vying for all the students they can get, and suddenly paying new attention to bolstering the number of men who apply. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>At this point, I think we might say either “You’ve come a long way, baby” to any young women in the audience or “Where will it end?” Of course, for many years, we lived in a world where more males than females went to college, so is it a problem if those figures are now reversed? Maybe not, unless you have a son at home, and you are wondering if this trend will affect him--either positively or negatively--as he looks toward college and his future.</p> <h2>3. Is College Too Late To Fix This?</h2> <p><em>The Hechinger Report</em> article goes on to explain some likely causes for the state of male college enrollment. Marcus reports:</p> <blockquote> <p>Though advocates complain that few in higher education are doing enough to keep those men who do get there from leaving, there’s consensus that men’s reluctance to enroll in the first place isn’t necessarily the colleges’ fault. The problem has its origins as early as primary school, only to be fueled later on by economic forces that discourage men from believing a degree is worth the time and money.</p> <p>“It’s funny that it’s the colleges that are finally seeing this issue and trying to resolve it,” said Patrick Maloney, president of the Nativity School, a Jesuit Catholic middle school in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester that tries to aim low-income boys toward college. That’s because, by the time students reach college age, Maloney said, “It’s way too late. You’ve already lost them. Maybe [admissions officers] should be going into middle schools and [should] start talking to fifth-graders about the benefits of college education.”</p> <p>Or even earlier than that. The “anti-school, anti-education sentiment” in boys has roots in kindergarten, when they’re slower to learn to read than girls, said Jim Shelley, manager of the Men’s Resource Center at <a href="http://www.lakelandcc.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Lakeland Community College</a> in Ohio. Girls at the primary and secondary level worldwide far outperform boys in reading, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.</p> <p>That disparity continues until, “by eighth or ninth grade, boys have lost interest,” Shelley said. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>All this is likely true, but none of it accounts for the <em>decline</em> in male college enrollment. Why? Because I believe all of this was true 40 years ago when there were more male than female students in colleges. With that said, we will, nonetheless, underline the importance of not waiting till high school to engage actively about college-going with any younger children you have at home. For many students in high schools my nonprofit organization has evaluated, it is clear that they gave up on the goal of pursuing a college education much earlier, just as the article says. I believe that this is especially--and unfortunately--true for low-income students in urban school districts.</p> <p>And here are some additional issues that are concerning if you have a son at home, according to this article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Men who do enroll in college, at whatever age, are more likely than women to drop out, and they graduate at lower rates, the Education Department reports. That’s one thing universities and colleges can address directly, but generally don’t, Shelley, [manager of the Men’s Resource Center at Lakeland Community College], said.</p> <p>Through 21 years running one of the few campus support centers exclusively for men, he said, “I’ve thought it can only get better. But it just has gone nowhere. Not only are there not programs like ours that are supportive of male students, but at most college campuses the attitude is that men are the problem versus men have problems, too. . . .”</p> <p>Meanwhile, boys in many American communities don’t see male role models who have been to college and succeeded, said Keith Bullock at Kentucky’s <a href="https://www.berea.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Berea College</a> (56 percent female). Bullock is coordinator of programs to support male students, many of them from Appalachia. “They don’t have those examples of doctors and lawyers and professionals.”</p> <p>. . . The male students under his care are black, white and Hispanic, Bullock said, and they all face similar pressures. He escorts them to the counseling and advising offices and texts them every day to make sure they get to class on time and know when tests are scheduled. “My guys,” he calls them. He also works with them on study habits and time management. “It’s very challenging. It’s very emotional. Sometimes I’m hugging them up and there’s times when I feel I have to curse them out.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <h2>4. What Does This Mean for You? </h2> <p>So, if you have a son at home, perhaps <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article has given you some new perspectives and some new facts to think with. But there is also some information here for those of you with a daughter at home. As we said in our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>, the gender breakdown on a college campus is one thing prospective applicants might want to consider. And now that we know that male students are sometimes in shorter supply than you might have expected, I am glad that we included a question about gender breakdown on the College Profile Worksheet. We give the Worksheet to students to complete for colleges they are interested in applying to (it is found at the end of our book). Here is some of what we wrote in the new book:</p> <blockquote> <p>If you look at the enrollment statistics for many colleges, you will notice that some are split pretty evenly between male and female students (say, 46 percent <em>vs</em>. 54 percent), while others are way out of balance (say, 30 percent <em>vs</em>. 70 percent). Sometimes colleges that are out of balance can be explained by their history (for example, they were once women’s colleges) or by the types of majors they are best known for (given that some majors, unfortunately, continue to attract more students of one gender). If you want a college to reflect the general undergraduate college student population, it is interesting to note that enrollment figures overall in the fall of 2014 showed that 56 percent of undergraduate students were female. So, if a college is better balanced than that (in other words, closer to 50–50), it might well be working hard to achieve that balance.  </p> <p>Let’s look at a few examples. <a href= "https://www.carleton.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Carleton College</a> (a great private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota) is 53 percent female and 47 percent male. Carleton is working at it, we would say. Oddly enough, the gigantic <a href= "https://twin-cities.umn.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">University of Minnesota</a> (the excellent public flagship university in the Twin Cities) gets even closer--at 51 percent female and 49 percent male. Not too far away, the <a href= "http://www.msoe.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Milwaukee School of Engineering</a> (a Wisconsin college that specializes in engineering and technical subjects, though not exclusively) posts a 24 percent female and 76 percent male enrollment--for perhaps obvious reasons.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, if gender balance at a college is important to your teenager, you all should check it out for each college on your teenager’s list. If you have never thought about it, you should think about it now. By the way, as we said in our new book, “we have not yet seen data reported and presented across colleges on enrollment of students with gender identities other than male and female. However, if you are looking for a college that is particularly accepting of more diverse gender identities, that is a topic that can and should be pursued by looking further on the college’s website and by calling the Admission Office and asking about relevant data and policies.”</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode136" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode136" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode136</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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USACC 135: Another Look at Community Colleges
<p>Today’s episode in our series <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Researching College Options</em></a> looks at a big option--an option that we have talked about in quite a few <em>USACollegeChat</em> episodes and in our first book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>. Most recently, we took a careful look at this option about five months ago in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-113-the-community-college-challenge/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 113</a>. However, I have to admit that I am considering it again, based on a new opinion piece by <a href="https://www.laguardia.edu/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">LaGuardia Community College</a> President Gail O. Mellow in late August in <em>The New York Times</em>. The option is community college. As we said in Episode 113, the community college is a marvelous institution in theory, but a somewhat more disappointing institution in reality--or, at least, that has usually been our position.</p> <p>If you are the parent of a high school senior, we know that some of you--perhaps many of you--are thinking about sending your kid to a community college next fall. Maybe that’s for financial reasons, maybe for academic reasons, maybe for maturity reasons, maybe for location reasons, maybe for some other reasons. Whatever your reasons, President Mellow has made us think again; so, let’s take another look.</p> <h2>1. The Pros of Community Colleges: A Review</h2> <p>Let’s quickly review some of the pros and cons about community colleges, also referred to as two-year colleges. Here’s an abbreviated list of pros we offered back in Episode 113 (these reasons are conveniently taken from our first book,<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>):</p> <ul> <li>Two-year colleges offer associate’s degrees, which can be enough for some careers, including high-paying technical careers. Later, if the student wants to do so, the credits earned for an associate’s degree can be transferred to four-year colleges and applied toward credits needed for a four-year bachelor’s degree.   (In fact, some two-year colleges in some states are now authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees over four years, especially in technical fields where workers in the labor force are in short supply.)</li> <li>Two-year colleges offer students who have struggled in high school a chance to improve their academic record and gain the fundamental skills and study habits they will need to succeed in more advanced college study. After doing well at a two-year college, these students can likely get into a better four-year college than they could have gotten into right out of high school.</li> <li>Two-year colleges offer their students core liberal arts courses (which can often be transferred to four-year colleges later) and/or technical training in many different fields at a very low price. That’s critically important if paying for college is a major concern for your family.</li> </ul> <p>That last point about very low cost is perhaps the main reason that kids head to a community college right out of high school. The fact that community college is so much cheaper than any four-year option--and the fact that kids can live at home and save even more money--is sometimes irresistible. We know that students can get financial aid of all kinds from four-year colleges, which could make their time there essentially free, but none of those deals is a sure thing. Paying the very low tuition at a community college, especially with whatever financial aid is available, is a sure thing.</p> <h2>2. The Cons of Community Colleges: A Review </h2> <p>So, what’s the downside of going to a community college? As we have said before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, the choice of a community college for students coming right out of high school is quite different from that same choice when it is being made by adults returning to college or starting college for the first time. My own nonprofit organization has done market studies for quite a few community colleges interested in increasing their adult enrollment (that is, students over the age of 25) and in serving those adult students better. And, to be fair, community colleges are a great institution for getting adults into college study or back into college study. But, we are focused today on your kid, who is going to college right out of high school, and some of the statistics about community college completion rates and transfer-to-four-year-college rates are just plain scary.</p> <p>You have to deal with this statistic: Not even half of community college students complete <em>any</em> college degree in six years--not even a two-year associate’s degree. Admittedly, that statistic includes all kinds of students who attend community colleges--from bright kids right out of high school who just needed to save money to returning adults who have been out of school for a decade to kids who struggled in high school and couldn’t get into a more selective college. Nonetheless, we have quoted evidence in previous <em>USACollegeChat</em> episodes that shows that students are more likely to graduate if they go to a more selective college, for many reasons. That is clearly a reason against having your kid choose a community college for next year.</p> <p>In addition to a seriously low completion rate, the transfer rate of students from community colleges to four-year colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees is also shockingly low, as we reported way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-64-volunteers-to-help-in-college-applications-process/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 64</a>, based on <a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/volunteer-pushy-moms-help-community-college-students-transfer-to-four-year-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an article in <em>The Hechinger Report</em></a>. Here is a statistic, which was taken from a report from Teachers College, <a href="http://www.columbia.edu/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">Columbia University</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . 80 percent of entering community college students say they intend to earn a bachelor’s degree, but only about a quarter actually make the transfer and 17 percent eventually get the degree. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Parents, we said in Episode 113 that we thought you should think hard about whether your kid is different from the typical community college student--smarter, harder working, more motivated, more goal oriented. Just being younger might not help enough. The statistics are telling you that he or she is likely not to graduate with even an associate’s degree and is likely not to transfer to that great four-year college you say you are saving up your money for.</p> <h2>3. President Mellow’s Point of View</h2> <p>And now we come to President Mellow’s point of view. I have to admit that some of my attitude toward community colleges comes from my belief that kids who can get into a satisfactory four-year college and who can figure out how to pay for it (including through loans and other unpleasant devices) should go directly to that four-year college. I worry that kids who could go to a four-year college, but don’t, will get sidetracked into community college and never get out. But perhaps I have not given sufficient thought to kids who cannot go to a four-year college, especially for financial reasons.</p> <p>Let’s look at <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/community-college-misconception.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">some excerpts from President Mellow’s recent opinion piece</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>You might think the typical college student lives in a state of bliss, spending each day moving among classes, parties and extracurricular activities. But the reality is that an increasingly small population of undergraduates enjoys that kind of life.</p> <p>Of the country’s nearly 18 million undergraduates, more than 40 percent go to community college, and of those, only 62 percent can afford to go to college full time. By contrast, a mere 0.4 percent of students in the United States attend one of the Ivies.</p> <p>The typical student is not the one burnishing a fancy résumé with numerous unpaid internships. It’s just the opposite: Over half of all undergraduates live at home to make their degrees more affordable, and a shocking 40 percent of students work at least 30 hours a week. About 25 percent work full time and go to school full time. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, some of these students who work full time and go to school full time are adult students over the age of 25--but, not all of them. For example, a lot of students who graduate from urban high schools, like the one we co-founded in Brooklyn, head off to college with both the intention and the necessity of working while they are enrolled. Marie and I worried that our students wouldn’t be able to do both successfully. We worried that they were going to have a hard enough time in college without spending 10 or 15 or 20 hours a week--or more--at a job. But, given their family circumstances, many of them had no choice, just as President Mellow writes.</p> <p>She continues: </p> <blockquote> <p>As open-access institutions, community colleges educate the majority of our country’s low-income, first-generation students. But public funding for community colleges is significantly less than for four-year colleges, sometimes because of explicit state policies. This means the amount that community colleges can spend on each student--to pay for faculty, support services, tutoring and facilities--is far less as well.</p> <p>Tuition for low-income students can be covered by federal financial aid programs, but these students often have significant other costs--including housing, transportation, food and child care--that regularly pose obstacles to their education.</p> <p>A recent Urban Institute study found that from 2011 to 2015, one in five students attending a two-year college lived in a food-insecure household. A study from the Wisconsin Hope Lab found that in 2016, 14 percent of community college students had been homeless at some point. At LaGuardia Community College in New York, where I am president, 77 percent of students live in households making less than $25,000 per year.</p> <p>With financial pressures like these, studying full time is not an option. It is not uncommon for a student to take between three and six years to graduate from a two-year associate degree program. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And we can see why. Those statistics are sobering, and they do put community colleges’ lousy completion rates into perspective. Of course, you would still want <em>your</em> kid to come out of a community college on time so that he or she could move forward and transfer to a four-year college or enter the workforce and get a decent job. This is especially true if you, as a parent, can manage to pay the cost of attending a community college and keep distractions for your kid--like working a significant number of hours a week--down to a minimum.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, President Mellow argues for a better financial deal for community colleges and their students, both in government funding and, interestingly, in philanthropy. She writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Community colleges need increased funding, and students need access to more flexible federal and state financial aid, enhanced paid internships and college work-study programs. Improved access to public supports, like food stamps and reduced public transportation fares, would also make a world of difference.</p> <p>It’s not just that policy must change. Last year, more than $41 billion was given in charity to higher education, but about a quarter of that went to just 20 institutions. Community colleges, with almost half of all undergraduate students, received just a small fraction of this philanthropy. It is imperative that individuals, corporations and foundations spread their wealth and diversify where they donate their dollars. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I have to tell you that I was so embarrassed that my two alma maters might be on that list of 20 institutions that I didn’t even look at it--because obviously that is just the very definition of unfair advantage and privilege.</p> <h2>4. What’s Herb Alpert Got To Do with It?</h2> <p>Some months ago, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/its-all-about-the-music/" target= "_blank" rel="noopener">I wrote a piece for my own blog, <em>ParentChat with Regina</em>, about the importance of music in a child’s education</a>. But the really arresting part of the piece was about Herb Alpert, trumpeter extraordinaire and co-founder of A&M Records. (If you are too young to remember Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, go listen to Alpert’s signature style on YouTube. Start with “Tijuana Taxi” and “This Guy’s In Love With You”--and stay for all the rest.) </p> <p>As it turns out, Alpert has done what President Mellow wishes more people would do. His foundation--co-founded with his wife, singer Lani Hall--has made a $10.1 million gift to <a href= "https://www.lacitycollege.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Los Angeles City College</a> (LACC), a two-year public community college. The money will create an endowment, which will be used to raise the number of music majors enrolled from 175 to 250 and to provide ALL of them with FREE tuition.</p> <p>As <a href= "http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-herb-alpert-lacc-music-20160825-snap-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Carolina A. Miranda in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>, Alpert said this about his gift: </p> <blockquote> <p>LACC is a gem of an institution. . . . [My] biggest motivation was helping kids who don’t have the financial energy to go to a major college. At LACC, they’ve nurtured thousands of dedicated students every year. My brother went there. My ex-partner [record producer] Lou Adler went there. I’ve visited the school. It’s alive. It’s kickin’. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Alpert noted that he was especially interested in supporting a public institution where students of all socioeconomic backgrounds could get a college education. It’s as if he were simply channeling President Mellow.</p> <h2>5. So, What About Community Colleges?</h2> <p>So, where does all that leave us--or rather, you? Well, we are probably going to continue to worry when seniors choose a community college as their first step into higher education. We are going to continue to worry that some of them are going to have difficulty graduating from a community college in anything close to two years and/or transferring to a four-year college ever. </p> <p>But we are also going to admit that financial constraints can cause families to choose a path that might not be as perfect as we would like for their own kids. If that is your situation, talk with your kid and think hard about the community college option. Think about how to keep working hours to a minimum so that study hours can be at a maximum. Talk about how important it is to stay on track and make progress toward graduation every semester. Help make the statistics better.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode135" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode135" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode135</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 134: The College/Career Value of Internships
<p>Welcome back from the Labor Day holiday and welcome back to school for those of you living in the Northeast, where the very last kids to start back reside. And welcome back to our series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Researching College Options</em></a>, where we have spent the last three episodes talking about the academic hurdles that kids will meet in trying to get into a college. Those hurdles are, first, SAT and ACT scores of competing applicants; second, average high school grade point average (GPA) of competing applicants; and third, courses that all applicants are expected to have taken in high school, usually listed in terms of credits (or Carnegie units) in each subject area, but also sometimes including specific courses, especially in math and science. To repeat from our previous episodes, all three of these academic standards matter at most of the nation’s most selective four-year colleges, and high school GPAs and high school courses taken actually matter at virtually all of our nation’s four-year colleges.</p> <p>When we talked about high school courses taken (in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-133-what-high-school-courses-will-get-you-into-college/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Episode 133</a>), we said that this is something you could probably still fix if your kid is just starting back to school now for his or her senior year. Yes, your kid’s fall semester courses were likely chosen some time ago, but changes can be made in most high schools as classes start if there is an important enough reason--and, clearly, meeting college entrance requirements is an important enough reason. Parents of younger students, we told you that you still have time to have a major effect on the high school courses your kid will take in the next couple of years, and you should absolutely start looking at entrance requirements now--before it is too late. Go back and listen to Episode 133 to find out why and how.</p> <p>In today’s episode, we want to talk to all of you parents about something else that you can still influence--something else that will improve your kid’s college application, to be sure, but that will also just simply improve your kid. It’s not a new topic for us, and we hope it will sound familiar to you, too.</p> <p>As we turn to today’s topic, let us remind you, one more time, to give your kid our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>, designed to help students get the information that they need to make good choices about where to apply. We will talk more about the book in a few weeks--when you all are getting really nervous about those unfinished college applications.</p> <h2>1. What About Internships?</h2> <p>But now, we want to take you all the way back to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-16-internships-volunteer-service-and-part-time-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">16</a> and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-17-an-interview-with-tanya-navas-new-york-state-director-national-academy-foundation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">17</a>, when we first talked to our audience about the topic of internships. I imagine that many of you listeners were not with us then since we had only just begun our podcast. Or, perhaps you had kids who were younger then and not yet in the throes of college applications. So, I think this bears repeating. Let us start with some internship basics and then talk about a new research study that offers some very interesting new evidence about the value of internships--especially for certain students. So, stay tuned.</p> <p>Let us say first and foremost that students who have had internships in high school almost universally say that their internship was one of the most valuable learning experiences they ever had. And, from another perspective, their adult supervisors at the workplace almost universally say that having the student intern was a great experience for the organization as well. Undoubtedly, some students might be unprepared academically or socially for an internship, and some organizations might be unprepared to use an intern effectively. But, when a student is prepared and the organization is welcoming, an internship is a well-documented way of helping a student acquire some of the skills that he or she will need in real life, both in college and in a career.</p> <p>Unlike many innovative programs brought into schools in the past century, there is simply no downside to student internships. About 40 years ago, my nonprofit organization started evaluating internship programs that were funded by government grants and operated by individual school districts, colleges, and nonprofit organizations. Every single program we studied offered great results for students and received high marks from the adults involved--both in the workplace and in the schools. We never evaluated any kind of innovative program that was more effective or more universally liked.</p> <p>One of the best ones I ever saw was then called the Executive High School Internship Program, and it was used in many school districts. It placed students in <em>executive</em> internships--that is, students worked with executives in various professional fields. Back in the late 1970s, we did an evaluation of the Executive High School Internship Program in the Montgomery County Public Schools in suburban Maryland. At that time, the program placed students in, specifically, public administration internships--for example, working with County government officials. It was a really interesting idea, I always thought.</p> <p>I searched for Executive High School Internships while I was preparing this episode and found a version of the program still offered in Montgomery County at the Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. Since almost nothing innovative lasts in education for 40 years, I am thinking that those administrators and parents and students in Montgomery County agreed with our highly favorable evaluation all those years ago. Here is an excerpt from the Walter Johnson High School website today:</p> <blockquote> <p>The Executive Internship Program is a rigorous, high-quality profession-focused academic program. This program allows students to explore and clarify career options in a chosen area of academic interest. Students are required to use verbal, analytical, questioning, and writing skills while participating in their internship. The general expectations of the workplace will be followed throughout the experience. All students enrolled in this program should gain personal and professional experience that will assist them in meeting their lifetime goals. An internship enables students to identify a field of interest, observe and participate in related professional activities, and understand a chosen profession’s requirements and culture. This will help a student determine if a profession is compatible with his interests, values, skills, and aptitudes. Students will integrate academic knowledge [into] a professional setting and apply that acquired knowledge to a variety of experiences. Students will develop interpersonal communication skills, advance their social skills, and mature in their personal habits as a function of working in a professional environment.</p> <p>The internship is a semester-long elective course completed during the school day or after school. The student receives honors elective credit . . . . (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, kudos to the Executive High School Internship Program and its legacy.</p> <p>Marie and I can tell you countless stories of high school students’ internship experiences and how effective they are--from working in a prestigious architecture firm in Manhattan to working in a small, full-service advertising agency to working in technology support at a City University of New York college campus to working in a neighborhood children’s clothing store to working in a large engineering company, where one of our students actually solved a problem that the engineers were having trouble with. These are all stories from the internships our students had at the high school we co-founded in Brooklyn. Our Early College engineering- and architecture-focused high school was started in conjunction with NAF (formerly known as the National Academy Foundation and now going just by its acronym), a nonprofit organization that supports the programming of 675 career academies in high schools in 36 states, serving over 96,000 students. A formal internship is a key part of the NAF academy model.</p> <p>So, if your high school has a formal internship program, get your kid into it. It looks great on those college applications because it is evidence that your kid has shown commitment over time, dependability, responsibility, initiative, and appropriate social skills in a real workplace environment. While these skills are all great for some future career, they are also equally important for success in college. Just think about it. And don’t forget, an internship might be an excellent source of college application essay material and an excellent source of additional college recommendation letters, if needed.</p> <p>If your high school does not have a formal internship program, you can help your kid seek out an internship on his or her own--after school or on weekends (by the way, parents of younger kids, you still have summer options available to you). Ideally, you would have your kid look for an internship in a career field of interest and/or in a prospective college major field of interest in an organization where a responsible adult would agree to supervise and mentor your kid. (By the way, college applications often have an essay about why the student is interested in the major he or she has declared. An internship in the field is a great thing to write about in those essays.)</p> <p>We are not saying that getting an internship on your own is particularly easy to do or that your kid won’t have to compete with college students, who are also looking for internships and who might be more qualified and/or at least more mature. However, we are saying that an internship experience with personal adult mentoring is priceless and worth the headache of trying to find one. Using whatever personal connections you might have at work, through friends, at your place of worship, or elsewhere might be your best chance of helping your kid find an internship.</p> <p>Just a note: Some internships are paid, and some are unpaid. For example, NAF strongly believes that internships should be paid. To be sure, paid internships are a better simulation of the actual world of work and increase the likelihood that the student will be taken seriously by the adults on the job. Nonetheless, internships are such a good experience for students that we would argue that an unpaid internship experience is still worth it, and being able to accept an unpaid internship will definitely make it easier to find one.</p> <h2>2. The New Case for Internships</h2> <p>Now, I didn’t need any more evidence to tell me how valuable internships are. But, I was happy to find some while reading an <a href= "http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2017/08/urban_alliance_internship_boos.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news3&M=58172971&U=1580754" target="_blank" rel="noopener">August 29 article by Sarah Sparks at the Inside School Research blog at <em>Education Week</em></a>. She refers to a research report by the Urban Institute, which evaluated a high school program that provided mentorships, six-week professional career skills training, and a senior-year internship. The report looked, about two years <em>after</em> high school, at just over 1,000 students who had applied to the program in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Some of the applicants were put into the program (through random assignment), and some made up the control group. They were about average students (with an average high school junior year cumulative GPA of 2.7), and about 89 percent were African American and typically lived in “economically distressed” neighborhoods. </p> <p>The report is entitled <a href= "http://www.urban.org/research/publication/pathways-after-high-school-evaluation-urban-alliance-high-school-internship-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Pathways After High School: Evaluation of the Urban Alliance High School Internship Program</em></a>, and it is authored by Brett Theodos, Mike Pergamit, Devlin Hanson, Sara Edelstein, Rebecca Daniels, and Tanaya Srini. Here are some findings:</p> <ul> <li>Students in the program self-reported that they were more comfortable filling out the FAFSA and applying for other scholarships than students in the control group.</li> <li>Male students in the program were more likely to graduate from high school than male students in the control group.</li> <li>Male students in the program were more likely to apply to college than male students in the control group.</li> <li>Male students who completed the program were 23 percentage points more likely to attend college than male students in the control group.</li> <li>Male students who completed the program were 21 percentage points more likely to earn a two-year degree or be in college in their third year after high school graduation than male students in the control group.</li> <li>Male students in the program were significantly more comfortable with their own “soft skills” (e.g., “speaking with adult coworkers, writing professional e-mails, making presentations, dressing professionally, completing work assignments on time and getting to work on time”) after one year out of high school and even more comfortable after two years out of high school.</li> <li>The program shifted students with middling high school GPAs from attending two-year colleges to attending four-year colleges.</li> </ul> <p>So, if you are the parent of an African-American male high school student, the data say that you should get him into an internship program, especially if he is just an average student. Of course, we believe that the rest of you should also get your kids into internship programs, because, as we said earlier, there is just no downside. You will be glad you did when it comes time for your kid to fill out those college applications, but you will also be glad you did when it comes time for your kid to function at college during the academic year and in the workplace during the summers.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode134" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode134" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">http://usacollegechat.org/episode134</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href="https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank" rel= "noopener">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 133: What High School Courses Will Get You into College?
<p>We are in the fifth week of our new series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank">Researching College Options</a>, and we have spent the last two episodes talking about the two most likely academic hurdles that kids will meet in trying to get into a college: that is, first, the SAT and ACT scores of newly admitted and/or enrolled freshmen at the college and, second, the average high school grade point average (GPA) of those students. I think we made it clear that both of these matter at most of the nation’s most selective four-year colleges and that high school GPAs matter, in fact, at virtually all of our nation’s four-year colleges.</p> <p>So, let’s look one more time this week at what we call Step 13 in our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>--that is, Step 13 of getting the information that your kid needs to make good choices about where to apply. Step 13 is about researching the college’s admission practices; we’ve talked about some of this information, and more is in the book. Finding out all of the information we call for in Step 13 will give you an idea about how likely it is that your kid will be accepted by a college if he or she decides to apply. As we said in the last episode, no one can say for sure whether your kid’s grades or admission test scores or extracurricular and community service activities or letters of recommendation will be appealing enough to get him or her admitted to a particular college. But today’s episode is about one more academic hurdle that might stand between your kid and one or more colleges on his or her Long List of College Options (LLCO): that is, high school courses that your kid did or did not take.</p> <h2>1. What High School Courses Should Your Kid Have Taken?</h2> <p>We want to talk to you about this topic because it is something you still might be able to fix as your kid starts into his or her senior year in the next few weeks. Yes, your kid’s fall semester courses were probably chosen some time ago, but changes can be made in most high schools as classes start if it is important enough. So, let’s find out if it is important enough. Parents of younger students, you still have time to have a major effect on high school courses taken in the next couple of years, and you should absolutely weigh in. Here is what we wrote in our new book for kids like yours:</p> <blockquote> <p>Let’s look at [another] admission standard--one that is less often considered and more often taken for granted--and that is the courses that applicants are expected to have taken in high school, usually listed in terms of credits (or Carnegie units) in each subject area, but also sometimes including specific courses, especially in math and science.</p> <p>Part <em>C5</em> of the common data set [by the way, you can search for the “common data set” on each college’s website, and you will often find it] displays both REQUIRED and RECOMMENDED high school units, by subject area, but you should check out each college’s website for more detailed information. <a href= "https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a> [the online resource provided by the National Center for Education Statistics] does not have any specific information on this topic.</p> <p>On a college’s website, this information [on required and recommended high school courses] can virtually always be found by starting with the <em>Admission</em> home page. You will find that the high school course or credit expectations of colleges do, in fact, differ, usually according to how selective the college is. But there are always a few surprises (like colleges that require students to have earned career and technical education credits in high school, for example).</p> <p>After you write down the required and the recommended courses or credits, you can compare them from college to college, and you can see how well they match up with what you have taken so far and with what you will be taking as you finish up high school. Particularly if you are just a freshman or sophomore, this information can be invaluable as you plan your remaining semesters in high school. For example, what if a college on your LLCO requires--or, more likely, recommends--four credits of foreign language? Foreign language is something that lots of high school students drop out of before taking a fourth year. Perhaps that’s because they don’t know how many selective colleges recommend it.</p> <p>The courses that you take in high school matter, including the courses that you take in your senior year. Colleges will tell you that slacking off in the senior year is never a good move. So, for example, a fourth year of math and a fourth year of science would be the best scenario for most applicants--and might be a mandatory scenario for entrance to top colleges and to some college programs, like engineering. If you don’t have a rigorous senior year planned, think again.</p> </blockquote> <p>In the long, but crucial, <em>College Profile Worksheet</em> that we ask your kid to fill out for every college on his or her LLCO, we ask for the <em>number</em> of credits or courses <em>required</em> for admission to the college or to the college/school that he or she is interested in within the university as well as any <em>specific</em> courses required (like Biology or Algebra II). We ask for the information by subject field--meaning in English, math, science, social studies, foreign languages, arts, and other fields (which could include career and technical education or physical education or health or something else). And then we ask for the same information for <em>recommended</em> courses, including recommended courses like Calculus, for example.</p> <p>Interestingly, many public state flagship universities have quite detailed lists of required and recommended courses that applicants should have taken, and my guess is that these lists are well known to high schools in those states so that high school counselors can make sure that students take them. At least, I hope they are. For those students applying to flagship universities in states <em>other than</em> their own state--as we have recommended that many students do--those students should be particularly careful about finding out what those requirements are and then meeting them. Why? Because the kids in those states are more than likely meeting all of them because their high schools know about those requirements and are well positioned to provide the courses that are needed.</p> <p>Let’s look at one example. I took the <a href= "http://www.uga.edu/" target="_blank">University of Georgia</a>, a very good flagship university--not the most selective in the nation, but a very competitive one. Here is what the website says about the College Preparatory Curriculum the university expects its applicants to have taken (remember that one unit is equal to one year of study):</p> <blockquote> <p>At a minimum, by policy of the University System of Georgia, all first-year applicants must complete the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC), which consists of 17 academic units in English (4), Mathematics (4), Science (4), Social Studies (3), and Foreign Language (2). The Georgia Board of Regents has a detailed high school curriculum guide to assist students in understanding what courses need to be completed for college. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Here are a few more details for University of Georgia applicants:</p> <ul> <li>4 units of math must include Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and one math course beyond Algebra II</li> <li>4 units of science must include 1 unit of biological sciences; 1 unit of physical sciences or Physics; 1 unit of Chemistry, Environmental Science, or Earth Science; and a 4th unit of science, which could include AP Computer Science (with two of the four units being lab sciences)</li> <li>2 units of foreign languages, with the two units being sequential units in one language</li> </ul> <p>Those are serious requirements. I bet there are a lot of Georgia high school students and a lot of high school students in most states that cannot meet those standards even if the necessary courses were offered in their high schools. Parents, is your kid one of them?</p> <p>The Georgia example is the reason we are telling you about this now. There is still time to add a fourth year of math or science to your kid’s senior year schedule--even if it is not the hardest math or science that you can imagine. I would a lot rather have four units of math and four units of science on my kid’s transcript and let the college figure out how hard those fourth-year courses actually were than not have the fourth-year courses there at all. In other words, the fourth-year courses do not have to be Calculus and Physics in order to count.</p> <p>But every college is different. Really. That is exactly why we put these questions on the <em>College Profile Worksheet</em>. You have to know what each college expects or your kid cannot possibly jump that hurdle.</p> <h2>2. A Quick Look at Foreign Languages</h2> <p>Let’s look at my favorite part of this topic, and that is the importance of studying a foreign language in high school (and in college, by the way). It is one of those things that anyone who knows me might guess I am going to bring up--along with the importance of studying outside the U.S., the importance of the liberal arts, and the importance of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), to name a few of my favorite soapboxes.</p> <p>Here are a few startling statistics from <a href= "http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/21/just-20-percent-of-k-12-students-are.html?cmp=eml-enl-cm-news2" target="_blank">an <em>Education Week</em> article in June by Corey Mitchell</a>:</p> <ul> <li>The American Councils for International Education estimates that 10.6 million K-12 U.S. students study a world language or American Sign Language. That sounds like a lot of students, but it is actually just 20 percent of American students.</li> <li>Fewer than 10 percent of students in at least two states study a language other than English.</li> <li>Arabic is the fastest-growing second language among U.S. residents, but only 0.25 percent of American students who study a foreign language study Arabic in school. Eight times as many study Latin. I am all for more Arabic, but all my friends know that I would hate to give up Latin.</li> <li>Less than 1 percent of American students who study a foreign language are studying either Russian or Japanese, though both of these languages were popular some decades ago for obvious political or economic reasons.</li> <li>The study of Mandarin, the most commonly spoken language in the world, is increasing among American students. That’s probably an important trend.</li> <li>Eleven states require credits in foreign languages in order to graduate from high school. Does 11 sound like a lot or a little to you? Because it sounds like way too little to me.</li> <li>The District of Columbia and 44 states are in the market for certified foreign language teachers. We are certainly going to need more teachers if we are going to convince more kids to study more foreign languages or foreign languages for more years.</li> </ul> <p>And here is a quotation from Marty Abbott, the executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, also from the <em>Education Week</em> article:</p> <blockquote> <p>“We’re such a long way in this country from having it be normal to grow up learning other languages. . . . Our future depends on our ability to engage with the rest of the world, and right now Americans have a very tough time doing that.”</p> </blockquote> <p>We do indeed. So, parents, help your kid stand out when it comes to the college admissions game. Convince your kid to take four years of a foreign language in high school (assuming that your high school makes four years available and, if not, encourage your kid to take two years of one language and two years of another language). Do this not just to get your kid into college; do it for a lot of other great reasons, too. And now I—with my four years of high school Latin and my three years of high school French--will get off my soapbox.</p> <h2>3. It’s Labor Day!</h2> <p>So, we hear that it’s almost Labor Day. We will be taking next week off to catch our breaths and celebrate. You should do the same, because September will require you to hit the ground running. Parents of seniors, the time is here. We will be back with a new episode on September 7. We can’t wait!</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode133" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode133" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode133</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 132: High School Grade Inflation and College Admissions
<p>We are in the fourth week of our new series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank">Researching College Options</a>, and we spent time in our last episode talking about the SAT and ACT and their almost-unavoidable continuing role in college applications and admissions. Yes, we said that there are plenty of test-optional and test-flexible colleges, but the SAT and ACT are not dead and buried yet and won’t be any time soon, if ever. That topic was just about as inevitable as college applications season gets into full swing as this week’s topic, which is the super-important high school grade point average (GPA).</p> <p>Unfortunately, if your kid is about to be a senior, that high school GPA is pretty well locked in place at this point. A great fall semester might help a bit, but it won’t do much to change a GPA that is already based on six semesters of high school work and it won’t help at all if your kid is applying to a college under an Early Decision option and/or if your kid is applying to one or more colleges under an Early Action option by around November 1. Your kid’s current cumulative GPA is what it is, and now we have to help you and your kid think about how to deal with it.</p> <p>So, here are a few paragraphs of background from our first book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Unfortunately, there are no “high school grades optional” colleges that we know about. Certainly, most colleges will claim to look at the whole picture--a complete profile--of a student during the admissions process; nonetheless, that whole picture always includes high school grades. While there can be reasons that high school grades are lower than the student is capable of earning--such as difficult family situations or personal problems or trauma--those reasons would have to be explained compellingly in an essay or an additional letter of some sort to the college. In short, it is really very difficult to explain away mediocre or low high school grades.</p> <p>When a student has mediocre or low high school grades, it is ideal if that student happens to have high SAT or ACT scores. Then, the college can imagine that the student is bright, but perhaps had some reason for not performing as expected in high school classes. None of those reasons would be a great excuse, but some colleges will make an exception for such a student.</p> <p>However, most students who have mediocre or low high school grades do not have high SAT or ACT scores. For those students who have both mediocre or low high school grades and mediocre or low college admission test scores, the college choice with the highest cost-benefit ratio is probably a public two-year college--or maybe a public four-year college. By the way, great public four-year colleges can be just as difficult to get into as good private four-year colleges, so many of them are probably out of the running, too. If you look at the <em>average</em> high school GPAs of entering freshmen at many public state flagship universities, they are extraordinarily high--a 3.7 or 3.8 is not unheard of. Why again? Because many, many of the brightest students in a state want to attend--and do attend--the public state flagship university, for all the reasons we [have discussed before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>].</p> </blockquote> <p>Understanding how important high school grades are in the college admission game is the first step, but it is one you should have taken with your senior several years ago. Parents of younger high school students, heed this early warning: Help your kid understand that there is really no way to make up for crummy--or even lackluster--high school grades when it comes time to apply to colleges. There just isn’t.</p> <p>So, let’s look again this week at what we call Step 13 in our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>--that is, Step 13 of getting the information that your kid needs to make good choices about where to apply. Finding out all of the information we call for in Step 13 will give you an idea about how likely it is that your kid will be accepted by a college if he or she decides to apply. Of course, no one can say for sure whether your kid’s grades or admission test scores or extracurricular and community service activities or letters of recommendation will be appealing enough to get him or her admitted to a particular college. But several academic hurdles stand between your kid and one or more colleges on his or her Long List of College Options (LLCO), and high school GPA is one of those hurdles.</p> <h2>1. High School GPAs of College Candidates</h2> <p>So, we believe that your kid should find out the average high school GPA of admitted or enrolled freshmen in order to get a somewhat better grasp on whether he or she is likely to be admitted to that college. Here is what we wrote in our new book for kids like yours:</p> <blockquote> <p>For many, but not all, colleges, you will be able to find the full distribution of high school GPAs and the average high school GPA of the students enrolled in the freshman class by looking under <em>C11</em> and <em>C12</em> of the common data set on the college’s website. [You will probably need to search for “common data set” on the college’s website, and you might find that the data sets are available for several years.] You also might find [high school grades] on a <em>Class Profile</em> sheet on the website, but you will not find this information on <a href= "https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a> [the online resource provided by the National Center for Education Statistics].</p> <p>[The] average high school GPA will be on a 4-point scale. For example, a great college might show an average high school GPA of 3.8, meaning that its enrolled freshmen did extremely well in their high school courses.</p> <p>As Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses have become increasingly popular and as more high schools have started to “weight” students’ grades in those courses (and sometimes in their own honors courses as well), there has been a rise in high school GPAs. In other words, when a student in a high school with weighted grades gets an A in a regular course, that A is worth a 4.0, or 4 points. But if a student in a high school with weighted grades gets an A in an Advanced Placement course, that A is worth a 5.0, or 5 points—that is, the grade has more “weight.”</p> <p>Whether your high school does or does not weight course grades is something that should be part of the high school narrative profile that your school’s counselor will send off to colleges with your high school transcript. That profile is helpful to colleges in judging your GPA.</p> <p>Nonetheless, one effect of all of this weighting of high school course grades appears to be that average high school GPAs of incoming freshmen are on the rise. We can tell this anecdotally by the fact that many colleges we profiled in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">our virtual college tour [back in Episodes 27 through 53 of</a> <em>USACollegeChat</em>], including some not super-selective ones, post surprisingly high average GPAs well over a 3.5 for the incoming freshman class.</p> <p>So, look carefully at the average high school GPAs that colleges are putting out there and see how yours compares. And, remember, some colleges will not provide one.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that is a rather straightforward explanation of the high school GPA as one determinant in college admissions. As parents, it shouldn’t surprise you at all. But now let’s look at a newer explanation of that high school grade inflation, which we referred to, and its consequences.</p> <h2>2. The New Research on High School Grade Inflation</h2> <p>This explanation comes to you from a July article in <em>Inside Higher Ed</em>, which is, in its own words, “the leading digital media company serving the higher education space. Born digital in the 21st Century at the height of the Internet revolution, our publication has become <em>the</em> trusted, go-to source of online news, thought leadership, and opinion over the last decade.” This article, by Scott Jaschik, is appropriately titled “<a href= "https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2017/07/17/study-finds-notable-increase-grades-high-schools-nationally" target="_blank">High School Grades: Higher and Higher</a>." Here is what Jaschik said about a new study, which was just released:</p> <blockquote> <p>The study . . . will be a chapter in <em>Measuring Success: Testing, Grades and the Future of College Admissions</em>, to be published next year by Johns Hopkins University Press. The two authors of the study are Michael Hurwitz, senior director at the College Board, and Jason Lee, a doctoral student at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. . . .</p> <p>The research is on students who take the SAT, and the study argues that these are representative of high school students who enroll in four-year colleges. The data come both from the Education Department and from surveys the College Board conducts of students who take the SAT.</p> <p>A key finding is that, looking at cohorts of high school graduates who finished from 1998 to 2016, the average high school GPA went up from 3.27 to 3.38.</p> <p><strong>Notably, the gains were unequal among high schools, and the differences appear to favor students from wealthier (and whiter) high schools than average.</strong></p> <p>The study groups high schools by the magnitude of grade inflation. In the top decile of growth in average GPAs [meaning that the GPAs rose the most], black and Latino students made up only 22 percent of students on average, and only 32 percent of students were eligible for free lunch. But in the bottom decile of GPA growth [meaning that the GPAs rose the least], black and Latino enrollments were an average of 61 percent, and more than half of students were eligible for free lunch. <strong>The study finds that the average GPA at the high schools with the most grade inflation (top decile) has hit 3.56, while the average at places that haven’t seen much grade inflation (bottom decile, largely minority) is 3.14</strong>.</p> <p>. . . [T]he study finds similar grade inflation in . . . weighted and unweighted grades. . . . (quoted from the article, emphasis added)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that is quite a lot to process. It’s bad enough that grade inflation is taking place and skewing the way that everyone has to think about high school achievement. But it’s much worse to know that whiter and richer kids are disproportionately benefiting from what is already a lousy trend. You can draw your own conclusions about why that is happening. And here is one further surprising finding from the study:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [T]he authors find that the proportion of students with A averages (including A-minus and A-plus) increased from 38.9 percent of the graduating class of 1998 to 47 percent of the graduating class of 2016. . . . (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>What? I was surprised--more like flabbergasted--to learn that almost 40 percent of students in the graduating class of 1998 had A averages (even considering that this was perhaps a somewhat select sample of that graduating class, like kids who took the SAT). Nonetheless, almost 40 percent seems high to me--or, more precisely, inflated already. The fact that the figure is now 47 percent is more arresting still. Do we really believe that almost half of the 2016 high school graduates--even half of the graduates who took the SAT--deserved A averages? That seems like a lot of kids to me.</p> <p>But hold on a minute. Here is something that you might be thinking, something that would make these fantastic grades happy news, according to the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [T]he authors acknowledge in their study [that] there could be a reason for the grade inflation that would make educators celebrate. What if students are smarter or are being better educated, and so are earning their better grades? The authors reject these possibilities, and cite SAT scores to do so. If students were learning more, their SATs should be going up, or at the very least remaining stable. But during the period studied, SAT averages (math and verbal, 1,600-point scale) fell from 1,026 to 1,002. . . . (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh, so it’s just grade inflation after all. Here is the wrap-up and bottom line from the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>While the authors said they didn’t think many educators would be surprised that grade inflation is present in high schools, they said it was important to look at the variation among high schools, a circumstance that has received less attention.</p> <p>High schools “most prone to grade inflation are the resourced schools,” Lee said, “the ones with the highest level of affluence.” For those at high schools without resources, generally with lower GPAs, grade inflation elsewhere “puts them at a disadvantage in the college admissions process.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, this is one more instance of students from poorer communities--who are, as a matter of fact, disproportionately students of color--facing a tougher path to college. And this is one more instance of students from wealthier communities--who are, as a matter of fact, disproportionately white students--getting an undeserved break.</p> <h2>3. What Does It Mean for You</h2> <p>What does all this mean for your kid, regardless of how well-to-do or not-well-to-do your high school community is? It means that the race for good grades has gotten harder to win. Average high school GPAs of admitted freshmen are impressive--sometimes literally unbelievably impressive--even at colleges that are not in the top tier. If you have a senior at home and it is too late to improve his or her GPA, then you need to be sensible in looking at how your kid stacks up against the students who are being admitted to colleges on your kid’s Long List of College Options. If you have a younger kid at home, remind him or her every day just how important high school grades are--no matter what four-year college he or she is aiming for.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode132" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode132" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode132</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 131: College Admission Testing, One More Time
<p>We are in the third week of our new series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank">Researching College Options</a>, and we are going to talk today about a topic that is unavoidable. It is a topic that we have talked about on several episodes of <em>USACollegeChat</em> and one that we have written about in both of our books for high school students and their parents. The topic is college admission testing--that is, the SAT and the ACT.</p> <p>Parents, if you have a smart kid who is applying to top-tier colleges, then this episode is especially important for you. But, as it turns out, this episode is also important if you have a great kid with just average high school grades or even not-quite-average high school grades, who might end up in a college that requires some sort of remedial English or math courses for students with borderline or sub-par academic records. Why? Because satisfactory college admission test scores can be the way around those remedial courses, which have a generally bad reputation in higher education. And the statistics show that skipping past those remedial courses could ultimately mean the difference between a student’s graduating and not graduating ever.</p> <p>In this episode, we are going to read you some excerpts from what we call Step 13 in our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. Step 13 of what again? Well, it’s Step 13 of getting the information that your kid needs in order to make good choices about where to apply to college. If your kid needs more help, go get the book at amazon.com.</p> <h2>1. Is It Time To Register?</h2> <p>So, why are we skipping all the way to Step 13 when we are just beginning this new series? That’s quite simple. It’s because Step 13 is about a college’s admission practices. And it’s because registration deadlines for the SAT and ACT are looming on the horizon, and we didn’t want you all to run out of time. According to our information, the registration deadline for the October 7 SAT test administration is September 8 (with late registration until September 27), and the deadline for the September 9 ACT test administration is already past, but late registration goes until August 18 (so you might need to hurry).</p> <p>The chances are good that many of you have brand new high school seniors who have already taken the SAT or ACT at least once, probably last spring. Should your kid take one or both tests again? We would say “yes,” if your kid has done anything at all since the last test that might improve his or her scores--like take practice tests, take a test preparation course, pay more attention in classes in school, or something else. It is unlikely that your kid will do significantly better on the tests if he or she has not done anything to get better prepared since the last testing time.</p> <p>If your kid has not taken either test yet, it is a good idea to take the SAT on October 7 and/or the ACT on September 9. Why? Because that still gives your kid a chance to take either or both tests a second time this fall, before regular decision applications are due around the first week of January of 2018. The SAT will be administered again on November 4 and the ACT on October 28. To repeat, however, if your kid does nothing to prepare in the intervening weeks between the two SAT or ACT testings this fall, then it is not likely that his or her scores will be much better the second time around.</p> <p>Another reason that it is a good idea to have your kid take the SAT on October 7 or the ACT on September 9 is to get those scores back in time to submit Early Decision and/or Early Action applications around November 1. Early Decision and Early Action were the focus of Episode <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-108-early-decision-and-early-action-anxiety-in-college-admissions-part-i/" target="_blank">108</a> and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-109-early-decision-and-early-action-anxiety-in-college-admissions-part-ii/" target="_blank">109</a>, and we would strongly encourage you to go back and listen or re-listen to them now. Understanding these two college admission programs--as annoying and as complicated as they are--could truly make the difference between acceptance and rejection for your kid and between enormous anxiety and mild anxiety from January through March. We can’t stress that enough. While there is some serious calculation that goes into an Early Decision application, as we discuss, there is no downside at all to submitting as many Early Action applications as possible. Really, none.</p> <p>So, it is time for you to have a serious discussion with your kid about whether he or she should be taking or retaking the SAT and/or ACT on that first fall testing date: again, October 7 for the SAT and September 9 for the ACT. Every kid’s situation is different—how good any earlier scores are, how selective the colleges being considered are, how diligently test preparations are being undertaken, how confident and/or willing your kid is to sit through the test. For kids who are not confident and/or not willing and who have not yet taken either test, there is still November 4 for the SAT and October 28 for the ACT.</p> <h2>2. But Who Needs Test Scores These Days?</h2> <p>You might be thinking about now, “Who needs test scores these days? I thought they were becoming less and less necessary as more and more colleges stopped asking for them.” Well, we address this topic in both of our books and in other episodes of <em>USACollegeChat</em>, but the bottom line is this: Having good test scores to submit is always preferable to not having them. That’s just common sense, and you didn’t need us to tell you that.</p> <p>Now with that said, are there very-selective and not-very-selective colleges that do not require the submission of SAT or ACT scores? Yes, absolutely, but we hesitate to publish a list because those colleges change every year. Here is what we wrote about that in our new workbook for high school seniors:</p> <blockquote> <p>The college website is usually quite clear about whether a college is a test-optional college (meaning that students do not have to submit college admission test scores) or a test-flexible college (meaning that students are given a choice of various types of test scores to submit).</p> <p>However, we have noticed that many colleges that do not require the submission of SAT or ACT scores receive them, nonetheless, from many applicants. Because those scores are usually quite good, it is evident that students with good scores do, in fact, supply them to test-optional colleges. How those scores figure into admissions decisions is anybody’s guess. Here is our advice: If you have good SAT or ACT scores, you should probably submit them to test-optional colleges, even though they are not required.</p> <p>There are perhaps only a handful of colleges that say that they absolutely do NOT want any test scores sent to them and that they will NOT use them at all for any reason, including well-regarded Hampshire College, which makes a crystal clear statement on its website about this subject.</p> </blockquote> <p>And, yes, it is true that many colleges, according to their websites, downplay the role of test scores in the admission process, even when those scores are required. You can believe those disclaimers if you wish. However, I will tell you that we continue to see very good candidates with great grades and great activities and great service to others and only-okay test scores get rejected from colleges that made those claims. So, be sure to have your kid prepare for the tests and get the best SAT and/or ACT scores he or she can.</p> <h2>3. How Good Do the Scores Need To Be?</h2> <p>Once you and your kid have chosen colleges to apply to, you need to get information about the test scores of students who have been admitted to those colleges or who actually have enrolled there. Here is how to get that information for each college on your list, as we explained to students in our new workbook:</p> <blockquote> <p>To get started, you need to figure out whether the data you are examining are for “admitted” students or for “enrolled freshmen.” These two groups are obviously not the same because many students who are admitted to a college do not actually enroll. Since you are trying to figure out whether you will be admitted, using “admitted” student data, when available, is probably the better choice; however, either set of data will give you an idea of the caliber of the applicants a college accepts.</p> <p>Start by looking up the colleges on your LLCO [Long List of College Options] on <a href="https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a> [the online service provided by the National Center for Education Statistics] and going to the <em>Admissions</em> section of the college profile. These data will be for “enrolled first-time students.” Helpful data are presented clearly in this section.</p> <p>Then check each college’s website. Some colleges do a great job of presenting data on admitted students or enrolled freshmen, and others simply do not. Some colleges make it easy by providing a page of facts and figures about the new freshman class--sometimes called a <em>Class Profile</em> (of students who enrolled) or an <em>Admitted Student Profile</em> (of students who were admitted, but did not necessarily enroll). However, it is not always easy to locate this page (though it is often in the <em>Admission</em> section of the website). If you can find the common data set on the website, you will want to look under the third part: <em>C. First-Time, First-Year (Freshman) Admission</em>.</p> </blockquote> <p>We have talked about and written about the common data set before. And, to repeat, it is not always easy to find on a college website; in fact, there are some colleges that I could never find it for. Nonetheless, it is an excellent source of all kinds of useful (and not-so-useful) data about any college you can name. Here are some specifics on this topic of test scores:</p> <p>In part <em>C9</em>, the common data set does a good job of providing the following testing data:</p> <ul> <li>The percent of students who submitted SAT and ACT scores</li> <li>The SAT and ACT scores, by subtest, at the 25th percentile of students and at the 75th percentile of students (in other words, 25 percent of students scored at or below the score at the 25th percentile, and 25 percent of students scored at or above the score at the 75th percentile)  </li> <li>The full distribution of SAT and ACT scores, by subtest</li> </ul> <p>College Navigator also provides most of this information, if that is easier for you to get to than the common data set.   Some college websites also provide the actual average, or “mean,” admission test score, and that can be handy, too.</p> <p>If your scores fall above the 75th percentile of scores for a college’s students, that is good. If your scores fall right in the middle between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile, that would be just about average for a college’s students. But if your scores fall close to or below the 25th percentile, that would not be nearly so promising in terms of your chances of being admitted.</p> <p>Remember, even if the college you are researching has declared itself to be a test-optional college, it might provide SAT and ACT information for those students who chose to submit test scores, and that information will be helpful to you.</p> <h2>4. And What About Those SAT Subject Tests?</h2> <p>Just when you thought the testing discussion was done, we have one more topic: the SAT Subject Tests (these are the tests that are in specific high school subjects and are generally thought to be harder than the SAT or ACT). To be clear, many colleges do not require any Subject Tests, but many highly selective colleges still do. So, don’t be surprised! You will need to go to a college’s website to find out how many Subject Tests are required and/or what <em>specific</em> Subject Tests (if any) are required for each college your kid is applying to.</p> <p>If you are the parent of a high school senior right now, the Subject Test issue is particularly troublesome. Why? Because your kid might need to submit scores from--let’s say--two Subject Tests, your kid was great at biology when she took it two years ago, and now it seems like a long shot for her to go back and take a Subject Test in biology without a lot of studying and review of information learned quite a while ago. The opposite situation is not great, either--that is, your kid took biology as a freshman and took the Subject Test then, when she was in competition with older, more mature, more experienced kids taking the test. Of course, your kid might have taken an AP Biology or Advanced Biology course more recently and, if so, that would be helpful indeed. But let’s remember that every high school kid doesn’t have access to these upper-level courses taken in their later high school years and, for those kids, Subject Tests might prove to be a more difficult problem to solve.</p> <p>Our point is this: Parents of all high school students, you need to do some advance thinking about Subject Tests during the high school years in order to give your kid the best chance at having a couple of good scores on his or her record. Taking Subject Tests in the spring of the junior year or in the fall of the senior year might be optimal in terms of a student’s maturity and school experience, but that might be too late for some subjects that were right up your kid’s alley. Whatever the case, thinking about Subject Tests for the first time in September of your kid’s senior year is too late.</p> <h2>5. Testing Nationwide</h2> <p>Now, let’s get a bit of a national perspective, because SAT and ACT testing is a much bigger issue than your kid’s personal testing choices. It might be useful, as a concerned resident of the U.S., to understand that issue these days. In <em>The</em> <em>New York Times</em> in July, University of Michigan professor Susan Dynarski <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/upshot/how-universal-college-admission-tests-help-low-income-students.html" target="_blank">wrote this in a thought-provoking and comprehensive article</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>In Connecticut, Illinois and more than 20 other states, the ACT or SAT is given, without charge, during school hours. As of 2017, 25 states require that students take the ACT or SAT. In some districts, including New York City, the test is given free during school hours but is not required.</p> <p>Michigan began requiring public school juniors to take the ACT in 2007, and the share of high school graduates taking a college entrance exam rose immediately to nearly 99 percent from 54 percent. That growth was even sharper among low-income students; only 35 percent had been taking the test.</p> <p>Joshua M. Hyman, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, studied the effects of this initiative while he was my student at the University of Michigan. Professor Hyman analyzed the test scores and college attendance of all public high school students in Michigan, before and after the ACT requirement.</p> <p>The results were surprising. It was not just low-achieving students who had been skipping the ACT (or the SAT, which Professor Hyman also tracked). For every 1,000 students who took a college exam when it was optional, and scored high enough to attend a selective college, another 230 high scorers appeared once the test was mandatory. For low-income students, the effect was larger: For every 1,000 students who scored well on the optional test, an additional 480 did so on the mandatory test. . . .</p> <p>Universal exams cannot, by themselves, close gaps between poor and rich students in college attendance. But in Michigan, it has produced small increases, especially at four-year colleges and particularly among disadvantaged students. The story is similar in Maine, Illinois and Connecticut.</p> <p>Professor Hyman calculates that at a cost of less than $50 per student, a universal testing program is one of the least expensive ways to increase college attendance. Further, if the SAT or ACT replaces the standardized test that states require in public schools, it need not take up any additional instructional time, a key concern of testing opponents.</p> <p>Many people worry that college admissions tests are biased against low-income and nonwhite students. But disadvantaged students who do not take the tests are out of the running for selective colleges. While we may wish for a better approach, these tests are a gateway to selective schools. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, whether your kid is socioeconomically advantaged in every possible way or the first generation in your family to go to college, the SAT or ACT should be in your kid’s future--just as it should be for so many kids in the U.S. Let’s all admit it and figure out the best ways to help all kids get access to the tests and to that pathway into college.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode131" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode131" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode131</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 130: Opening Your Eyes About College Options
<p>We are in the second week of our new series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-12-researching-college-options/" target="_blank"><em>Researching College Options</em></a>. Now that it’s August and high school students in some parts of the country will actually be returning to school this month for their senior year, it’s time to get to work. So, for this new series, we are going to be talking directly to you, parents of high school seniors. Hang on because it can be a bumpy ride.</p> <p>In this episode, we are going to read you some excerpts from what we call Step 1 in our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>. Step 1 of what you might ask? Well, it’s Step 1 of making a good decision about where to apply to college. Like all first steps, it is important--maybe the most important--and a little scary. But like all first steps, if your senior skips it, things are not likely to go as smoothly as you and he or she might have hoped. If you need more help, more examples, or more fun stories, go get the book at amazon.com.</p> <h2>1. Just Expand the College List</h2> <p>So, the second chapter of our book opens in a very unpleasant way. Here is what we wrote to your senior:</p> <blockquote> <p>This chapter focuses on something that you are just about to do totally wrong. Really, totally wrong. In fact, our advice in this chapter is probably the opposite of what many school counselors and college consultants are telling you as you start a serious consideration of where to apply . . . . We bet they are telling you to start by narrowing your list of colleges, but we would like you to <strong>start by expanding your list of colleges.</strong></p> <p>There is plenty of time later to narrow down your options--once you get to . . . October or November . . . . While expanding your list might seem unnecessary, time consuming, or even wasteful, we believe that expanding your options now could mean the difference between an okay college choice and a great college choice for you later.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, taking off from what we talked about last week, having your senior expand his or her options <em>now</em> could mean the difference eventually between just an okay college “fit” and a great college “fit.” And that could be the difference between graduating on time and not graduating on time--or even graduating at all. (Regular listeners: You know what we think about graduating from college on time--that is, in the traditional four years. It’s one of the best ways around to save money, and it might just let your kid go to his or her first choice, even if the annual sticker price on that choice is a bit higher than you all had hoped.)</p> <h2>2. That Dreaded Geographic Comfort Zone</h2> <p>So, what stands between your senior and that great college fit? It might well be the dreaded geographic comfort zone. As we said to your senior in our book, there is nothing we dislike more than your “geographic comfort zone.” Here is what we wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p>The great majority of high school graduates who go to college choose a college in their home state—perhaps as many as 70 percent of them. Undoubtedly, you have one or more colleges in your home state on your list of college options right now. That’s okay with us. However, what’s NOT okay is to have nothing BUT colleges in your home state on your list.</p> <p>Here’s why: It’s a big world out there. There are so many intriguing colleges in it that we hate for you to limit yourself to those nearby. We hate for you to limit yourself to those that are likely to have a majority of students a lot like you from the same part of the country as you. Your first step in making a list of college options should NOT be to narrow down the choices and to close off opportunities. You should NOT be settling either for colleges that are nearby or for colleges that you and your parents and your school counselor already know a lot about.</p> <p>We know that there are some good reasons for kids to stay close to home for college. We understand that some families want to keep their kids close to home for cultural reasons, perhaps in order to participate in family events or religious activities. We understand that some families need to have their kids stay at home in order to help with family responsibilities. Those reasons are hard to argue against.</p> <p>We know that staying close to home might make going to college more affordable for some families, especially if living at home saves on housing expenses. But we also know that it is hard to know in advance how generous a financial aid package might be from an out-of-state college. [Just look back at Episode 127 if you don’t believe us on that one!] Did you know that some states offer an attractive discount at their public colleges to students who come from nearby states? We bet you didn’t. Check out, for example, the <a href="http://msep.mhec.org/" target="_blank">Midwest Student Exchange Program</a> or the <a href="http://www.wiche.edu/wue" target="_blank">Western Undergraduate Exchange</a> or the <a href= "http://www.nebhe.org/programs-overview/rsp-tuition-break/overview/" target="_blank">New England Regional Student Program</a>, if you live in those regions of the country, [or the <a href= "https://go.umaine.edu/apply/scholarships/nebhe-awards/" target= "_blank">University of Maine’s new tuition program for nonresidents</a>].</p> <p>We also know that you can sometimes get into a better college when it is far from home. Why? Because almost every college likes the idea of geographic diversity in its student body. Colleges like to claim that they draw students “from all 50 states and from 100 foreign countries.” You will see this kind of statement on many college websites. Pay attention, because you might be far more attractive to a college halfway across the country than to one in your own back yard. That’s because you will give that faraway college bragging rights. This is especially true for private colleges that do not have the same mission to serve students in their own state as public colleges do.</p> <p>We also know that some parents just can’t imagine sending their kids away from home for the first time. In fact, you might not be able to imagine leaving home for the first time. But, we encourage you and your parents to think hard about that. Isn’t college the perfect time to make that break--a time when you can live somewhere else under the supervision of college staff in relatively secure surroundings, a time when you can learn to function as an adult in a safe environment (that is, learn to manage your money, do your work, plan your time, and make new friends)?</p> <p>We urge you (and your parents) to get outside your family’s geographic comfort zone. You have nothing to lose at this stage in the process. Researching colleges outside your hometown, outside your state, and outside your region doesn’t mean you have to attend one of them--or even apply to one of them. But it does mean that you will have the information that you need to make a better decision when the time comes.</p> </blockquote> <p>I really can’t make any better case for getting outside your geographic comfort zone than that. Here is what we wrote to your senior about how to do it:</p> <blockquote> <p>Conveniently, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has divided the U.S. into eight regions:</p> <ul> <li>Far West--California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaiʻi, Alaska</li> <li>Rocky Mountains--Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah</li> <li>Southwest--Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas</li> <li>Plains--Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota</li> <li>Southeast--Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia</li> <li>Great Lakes--Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio</li> <li>Mideast--Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia</li> <li>New England--Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine</li> </ul> <p>However, we thought that the Bureau stuffed too many states into the Southeast; so, we divided the Southeast into two regions (southern and northern), and you should, too. That will give you nine regions to investigate.</p> <p>We used these nine regions when we did our virtual college tour [at <em>USACollegeChat</em>]. You should listen to the <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">tour in Episodes 27 through 53 of our podcast</a> or simply read the show notes at usacollegechat.org. . . .</p> <p>We thought hard about how you should create what we will call your Long List of College Options—your LLCO, for short. We decided to start with this advice:</p> <p><strong>Make sure that you have at least two four-year colleges in each of the nine geographic regions of the U.S. on your LLCO.</strong></p> <p>So, that would give you at least 18 four-year colleges. But, our guess is that your list already had some regions covered with more than two colleges--especially the region you live in. That’s fine. Have as many colleges on your LLCO as you like from each region. But don’t ignore any region! That’s what it means to get outside your geographic comfort zone.</p> </blockquote> <h2>3. How To Find College Options</h2> <p>We hope that we have convinced you. If we have, we don’t ever have to bring it up again. Here is what we wrote to your senior about what to do next:</p> <blockquote> <p>How should you choose the colleges for your LLCO? Well, you probably know about some colleges already--from family, friends, school counselors, and teachers. You should discover some more from our virtual college tour, in which we talk about several hundred four-year colleges. You might find some more through a variety of online searches and quick looks at those college websites. Remember, you don’t need too much information about each one just to put it on your LLCO.</p> <p>You will soon see that you can learn a lot from reading a college website. Furthermore, you can learn not only about that one college, but also about colleges in general and about what to look for on the next website you go to. It’s an education in itself. You really need an education ABOUT higher education.</p> <p>By the way, don’t start looking at two-year colleges, or community colleges, yet. Two-year colleges can easily be added to your LLCO closer to application time, partly because their applications are typically less demanding to complete. We are also assuming that you are most likely to attend a two-year college in or near your hometown and, therefore, you will not need to do much investigating before applying.</p> <p>We do have some reservations about two-year colleges, especially for students who have just graduated from high school and are moving directly into college full time. We know that two-year colleges are a great choice for saving money and for helping kids who need a bit more maturity or a bit more academic preparation before heading into college. . . . However, we worry because student graduation rates and student transfer rates from two-year colleges to four-year colleges are scandalously low, and we worry about what opportunities end up being closed off for too many kids.</p> <p>But back to your LLCO. Those of you who have listened to our podcast or read the show notes know that this suggestion is coming:</p> <p><strong>Make sure that you have at least one college that is not in the U.S. on your LLCO.</strong></p> <p>This is a favorite topic of ours, and we can’t say enough about it. There are truly great options outside the U.S. We hope that every one of you will take advantage of studying abroad for at least a semester, no matter where you end up in college. Studying abroad is for everyone these days--not just for rich kids, not just for kids studying foreign languages, not just for kids at private liberal arts colleges. But you can actually study outside the U.S. for more than a semester or even for more than one year; you can simply go to a college outside the U.S. full time for four years.</p> <p>So, you must be up to at least 19 colleges on your LLCO--likely more. But we can’t resist one last piece of advice:</p> <p><strong>Make sure that you have at least two</strong> <strong>public flagship universities</strong> <strong>on your LLCO--probably one from your home state plus one more.</strong></p> <p>We say this to ensure that you have some great public options to consider. Maybe you already had them when your chose two colleges from every region, but add them if you didn’t. To be clear, we mean public “flagships,” not just any public universities--though you are also free to put other public universities on your LLCO. If you are an excellent student, the public flagship in your home state is likely to be your very best choice for a “safety school” (with some exceptions, like California, which can’t accommodate all of the excellent students in their own state). If you can’t identify the public flagship in your own state or in most other states, you aren’t ready to be choosing colleges yet. Go <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">learn about all 50 of them on our virtual college tour</a>.</p> </blockquote> <p>As we have said numerous times in our podcast episodes, public flagship universities might be the hidden jewels in the college landscape. They are often the very best place high school kids in those states can imagine going. Why? Because they are relatively inexpensive for state residents (because they are public), academically respectable (even outstanding), well regarded across the state and across the country, competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for lots of their high school classmates. They are often truly the place to be, if you live in that state.</p> <p>As with everything, some states have better public flagship universities than others, and some public flagship universities are better funded by their states than others. Nonetheless, we are convinced that you can find at least two that you think might be great for you.</p> <p>Well, that is a lot of colleges: colleges from nine geographic regions, one or more colleges from outside the U.S., and a couple of public flagships from your state and/or someone else’s. Of course, don’t forget to ask your parents and other important family members and teachers and school counselors for input about colleges to put on your LLCO. For right now, the more, the better--at least within reason. But our “within reason” is probably a lot bigger than your “within reason.” Remember that your senior is not necessarily <em>applying</em> to all of the colleges on his or her LLCO. Your senior is just going to start <em>gathering the information</em> he or she and you would need in order to decide <em>whether</em> it is worth applying. We will start talking about that information gathering next week--that is, what information to gather and how to gather it. So, stay tuned.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode130" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode130" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode130</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 129: What You Don’t Know About Colleges
<p>It’s getting serious now. It’s almost August, and kids who are headed off to their senior year in high school are realizing that it is time to get moving on investigating college options more thoroughly. There are a hundred things we would like to tell you and your senior about that and just as many pieces of advice we would like to give you two. In fact, we will do a lot of that in this new series that we are starting today and that we like to call <em>Researching College Options</em>. But in this episode we are going to focus on one really simple fact that is true for almost all high school seniors and their parents--just one fact. (Wait for it.)</p> <p>We have been reminding you this summer to go to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. We think that it is an easy-to-use workbook for a high school senior to fill out as he or she starts--and finishes--the great college search. However, I have given up on telling you to go get the workbook and will, instead, try to hit at least some of its high points over the next weeks. If you find you need more help, then get the workbook. It’s the best under-$10 purchase you will make this month. We promise.</p> <h2>1. College Fit Revisited</h2> <p>A couple of weeks ago, we talked about an <em>Education Week</em> article by Liana Loewus entitled “<a href= "http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/05/10/oregon-gear-up-links-rural-students-to.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2" target="_blank">Pitching Rural, Low-Income Students on Private Colleges</a>.” If you missed <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-127-private-colleges-for-low-income-students/" target="_blank">Episode 127</a>, go back and listen because it might offer a new perspective on private colleges that would be useful to your family. One thing that the article did (though this was not the article’s main point) was to highlight the notion of “fit”--that is, how good a fit is a college for your senior. We quoted the following passage from the <em>Education Week</em> article about the importance of the academic and social and cultural fit of a college for a student:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the 2016 book <em>Matching Students to Opportunity: Expanding College Choice, Access, and Quality</em>, Jessica Howell and her co-authors explain that college fit, and in particular going to a school that matches a student’s academic credentials, is positively associated with earning a degree.</p> <p>“By and large, we know that when students enroll in a college that isn’t a good fit for them, that’s usually because they didn’t consider colleges that would have been a better fit,” Howell said in an interview. “We need to open up students’ eyes early in the process so they know their options.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>We might argue for a long time about all of the aspects of a college that help determine its fit for a particular student, and we might never agree on which are the most important ones. We would undoubtedly start with the degree of academic rigor (and some people might stop right there), and we might continue with things like the size of the institution, the demographic make-up of the student body, cost, and maybe even the type of setting and the geographic location. We will talk about all of that some time--perhaps even in the next few weeks (and, by the way, all of those aspects of college fit are discussed at length in both of our books).</p> <p>But today, we want to focus on the last part of that <em>Education Week</em> quotation from Howell, not the first part: the fact that students can end up in the wrong college for them simply because they did not consider the right colleges. In other words, they are in a college that is a bad fit as a result of not investigating and applying to colleges that would have been a better fit. As Howell said, “We need to open up students’ eyes early in the process so they know their options.”</p> <p>We could not agree more. In the upcoming summer weeks, we would like to help you help your senior open his or her eyes--early enough so that there is still plenty of time to act on what he or she finds out. And just as important, parents, we would like to help you open your eyes as well, and that might mean opening your eyes to consider colleges you have never even heard of. As we are fond of saying, there are thousands of colleges in the U.S. (and even more when you add in all of the colleges in other countries, which we love to talk about here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>), and the chances that you know all of the right ones for your senior are slim to none.</p> <p>Now, I am not trying to be mean about this. Marie and I are the first to say that, even though this is our business and has been our area of expertise for quite some time, we learn something new from almost every episode we do. We learn about new academic programs, new recruiting strategies, new admissions requirements, new funding sources, new grading policies, new housing configurations, and on and on and on. And, by the way, we also learn about new colleges--well, not <em>new</em> colleges, but rather good colleges that we just didn’t know anything about. That’s what happens when there are thousands of colleges out there. No one can know about all of the good ones. Not you and not us. So, don’t take it personally.</p> <p>Just agree to come along for the ride and make every effort to get your senior to come along for the ride, too. Try to give up your preconceived notions of the right college fit for him or her and make every effort to get your senior to give up his or her preconceived notions, too. As Howell said, it’s all about opening your eyes and seeing your options.</p> <h2>2. How To Open Your Senior’s Eyes--and Yours</h2> <p>In the opening chapter of our book, which was written as a user-friendly workbook for teenagers, we talked about how to open your senior’s eyes. In the book, we write this for any teenagers who will listen about how to solve their lack-of-information-about-almost-all-colleges problem:</p> <blockquote> <p>The simple answer is just to ask a guidance counselor at your high school. You would think that guidance counselors would know quite a bit about lots of colleges and that they could pass that information on to you. Here’s why that usually doesn’t work.</p> <p>Let’s start with public high schools. As you probably already know, most public high schools don’t have guidance counselors who are dedicated to working only on college counseling. That means that your guidance counselors, with caseloads in the hundreds, have to help students with college applications while dealing simultaneously with students who might be in serious personal or academic trouble. That’s an overwhelming job, and that is exactly why <strong>most high school guidance counselors cannot help you enough</strong> when it comes to exploring many college options, narrowing them down, and finally choosing the perfect colleges to put on your list.</p> <p>Some public high schools--and even more private schools--have designated one of the school’s guidance counselors as a college counselor, specializing in college placement and perhaps financial aid and devoting all of his or her time to helping students undertake and complete their college searches. If your school has a college counselor like that, you are lucky indeed. Of course, searching through hundreds of colleges to find the right ones for you and then working through those college applications (including all of the essays) is the work of a lot of hours--at least 20 hours and really closer to 40 hours, we would say. Does your counselor have that much time to spend with you? Unfortunately, probably not, even if you attend a private school.</p> <p><strong>What if you are homeschooled?</strong> Without the help of a school guidance counselor or college counselor--even for a very limited amount of time--you might feel more at a loss than your friends who attend public or private schools. Should you expect your parents to know everything you need to know about a wide array of college choices? No, you shouldn’t. Respecting your parents’ opinions about colleges is certainly important, even crucial. But it is not likely that they are experts on the many, many colleges here in the U.S. (and abroad).</p> <p>All high school students need to get help from somewhere or someone. We believe that this workbook is a good way to get some. That’s why we are talking to you now. We want you to have a way to find out the information you need about many colleges so that you will be in the best possible position to compare those colleges and then to make the right decision about where to apply and, eventually, about where to attend. While you will undoubtedly want and need some adult advice in thinking through the many options, <strong>what you need first is information--and a lot of it.</strong></p> <p>If you already have a list of colleges you are interested in, you will need information about each one of those. But, just as important, you will need information about colleges that are not yet on your list--including colleges that you have never considered because you didn’t know they existed. That’s not your fault now, but it will be if you don’t take steps to correct it. So, let’s get started. (quoted from the book)</p> </blockquote> <p>Whether you use our workbook as a way to learn how to get the information you need about a broad enough selection of colleges is not the issue here. Believing that you need way more information than you have right now is the issue. We talk to so many parents and kids who come to us with their minds made up and hearts set on a college or a type of college or a location of a college. We think that they are rarely right.</p> <p>By the way, that goes for parents who have never been to college themselves either in the U.S. or in their home countries; parents who started, but didn’t finish college; parents who have an associate’s degree; parents who have a bachelor’s degree; parents who have a master’s degree; and parents who have even more graduate and professional education than that. In other words, thinking you know the right college for your kids--and not really knowing it--knows no education, socioeconomic, or demographic boundaries.</p> <p>And that goes for high school students, too. Marie and I have told story after story here at <em>USACollegeChat</em> about the students in the Early College high school we co-founded in New York City. We would like to think that these were kids who should have known more--after all, they were already taking real college courses on a real college campus with real college professors across the street from our high school. And yet, they didn’t. We would like to think that some of the workshops we ran for them and for their parents would have done the trick. And yet, they didn’t. What it took was individual counseling sessions with each student and often with the parents. Some of these stretched out over days and weeks and months.</p> <p>One of our favorite stories, which gave rise to a rule that we like to follow, is of a young man we’ll call Ryan. Ryan sat down with Marie and me in our office at our high school and told us that he would like to apply to one of the State University of New York campuses in upstate New York. And let me say that it was in the middle-of-nowhere part of New York. Now, that was okay with us, but we suspected Ryan had no idea where that college was or what that rural setting was like. So we asked him to tell us where he thought the college was located. He admitted that he had no idea, and that didn’t seem to be a problem to him.</p> <p>Those of you who listen regularly to <em>USACollegeChat</em> know that Marie and I love kids and parents who can get outside their geographic comfort zone. We will talk more about that next week. But we do believe that a kid should know where a college is if he or she intends to apply. And so the Ryan Rule was born: You can’t apply to a college if you can’t find it on a map. Parents: That turns out to be harder for a lot of your kids than you might think.</p> <h2>3. What’s the Point?</h2> <p>So what’s the point of today’s episode? It’s this simple fact that I told you this episode would focus on: Parents and seniors, you don’t know anything about most colleges. Simply put, both of you need more information about a lot of colleges. As Howell said, “We need to open up students’ eyes early in the process so they know their options.” She should have said, “We need to open up students’ <em>and parents’</em> eyes early in the process so they know their options.”</p> <p>If I have made you a believer, we will start the eye-opening next week. If you think you already have enough information about colleges, give me a call and let me prove to you how wrong you are.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode128" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode129" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode129</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 128: College Enrollment in Decline?
<p>Today’s episode is going to be the final one of our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank"><em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em> series</a> because next week we are really getting down to the serious work of getting our rising high school seniors ready to apply to colleges. So, as we leave <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em>, we want to take a look at a news story that might just be bringing good news to some of you. The story, which ran in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> and in <em>The Washington Post</em> at the end of June, was entitled “<a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/universities-colleges-struggle-stem-big-drops-enrollment/" target="_blank">Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment</a>.” Really, I said to myself. That could be great news for kids applying to colleges this fall.</p> <p>Today’s episode will look at the national facts and figures of this new trend. Plus we will look at <a href="https://www.owu.edu/" target="_blank">Ohio Wesleyan University</a>--in today’s spotlight--a good small liberal arts college in Delaware, Ohio. Ohio Wesleyan enrolls about 1,700 undergraduate students and boasts an attractive 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. In the interest of full disclosure, my sister-in-law graduated from Ohio Wesleyan “some years ago” (that means more than 40 years ago) and, by all accounts, thoroughly enjoyed her time there.</p> <p>And one final reminder: Don’t forget to get a copy of our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>--available at amazon.com. Quick and cheap! Your teenager is going to need it this summer when he or she might have some time to kill. We will tell you more when we get serious next week, so stay tuned.</p> <h2>1. The Facts and Figures on Enrollment Decline</h2> <p>Here are some of the facts and figures presented by Jon Marcus in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article:</p> <ul> <li>According to the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment has declined for five years in a row.</li> <li>This year, there are 81,000 fewer U.S. high school graduates going off to college, which is a direct result of a decline in birth rate (particularly in the Northeast and Midwest).</li> <li>Just over 18 million students were enrolled in colleges nationwide last spring--2.4 million <em>fewer</em> students than were enrolled in the fall of 2011, which was the most recent high point for college enrollment. I am going to say that over 2 million students is a lot of students to lose.</li> <li>According to a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, 58 percent of chief business officers said their institutions had seen a drop in undergraduate enrollment since 2013. (Although 58 percent is certainly the majority of colleges, it doesn’t mean that the statement is true for the most selective colleges--where it is likely not true, just to keep things in perspective.)</li> <li>According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, over 400 colleges still had fall semester spots for freshmen and transfer students as of May 1. (Again, that doesn’t mean those 400 included the most selective colleges, but 400 is still a lot of colleges and every U.S. high school graduate does not, of course, attend a most selective college.)</li> </ul> <p>What does the future hold? When will it all change? Not until 2023, according to the <a href="http://www.wiche.edu/" target= "_blank">Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education</a> (WICHE). Here is what <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article says about what will then be a “slow recovery”:</p> <blockquote> <p>When it comes, [the recovery] will be [composed] largely of low-income, first-generation-in-college racial and ethnic minorities. These are the kinds of students institutions have generally proven poor at enrolling, and who will arrive with a far greater need for financial aid and expensive support. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, colleges might not have an easy time of it as they work to stem the decline and turn enrollment around--not that many high school seniors and their families are going to be overly sympathetic about that.</p> <p>Can this information work in favor of kids applying to colleges in the next few years? Before we consider what it all means, let’s look at the Ohio Wesleyan case study, presented in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article.</p> <h2>2. The Story of Ohio Wesleyan</h2> <p>Hit with a decline in Ohio high school graduates, a prime recruiting ground for Ohio Wesleyan, the University took and is taking a number of steps to boost its enrollment, based on data that it looked at both from admitted students who decided to enroll and admitted students who decided <em>not</em> to enroll. Here are some of those steps:</p> <ul> <li>Because the drop in male students was greater than the drop in female students, Ohio Wesleyan is adding two sports (and a marching band) to try to attract more male students.</li> <li>Because students said they wanted more internship and more study abroad opportunities, both internships and short-term study abroad programs are being expanded.</li> <li>Because new sources of students needed to be found, Ohio Wesleyan admissions staff members have been recruiting locally (in Cleveland), regionally (in Chicago), and much farther afield (in China, India, and Pakistan). In addition, the transfer process has been simplified so that students wanting to transfer into Ohio Wesleyan can do so more easily.</li> <li>Because some undergraduates are concerned about where they will be going next for graduate study (Ohio Wesleyan enrolls undergrads only), articulation agreements with Carnegie-Mellon University and with a medical school have just been drawn up to make the transition from undergraduate to graduate study more straightforward--in at least those cases.</li> <li>Because money is always an issue for students and their families, Ohio Wesleyan has budgeted more money for financial aid. In addition, “the University is considering freezing, lowering or slowing the rate of increase of its tuition and fees, which are now $44,690” (quoted from the article).</li> <li>Because students are concerned about their futures, Ohio Wesleyan has been studying labor data and creating new majors in fields of high demand, including majors in data analytics and computational neuroscience. Ohio Wesleyan president Rock Jones was quoted in <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article as saying this: “We live in a really consumer-driven society, and to be honest a college is an investment. Families are much more discerning, and they approach it as consumers. That’s a cultural shift to which the campus has to respond.”</li> </ul> <p>One of my favorite anecdotes from <em>The Hechinger Report</em> article is this one (and I think this will be particularly enjoyable for anyone who has friends who teach in colleges and who hear about the politics of higher education from those friends):</p> <blockquote> <p>One of the greatest challenges, as at other places, has been to get buy-in from the faculty, who have to approve new academic offerings. Ohio Wesleyan invited faculty on the curriculum committee to meet with the financial-aid committee, giving them a sense of how serious the problems were and asking them for help in coming up with majors that might attract more students.</p> <p>This doesn’t always work. One faculty member suggested a new major in sacred music, for example. “Some faculty have a very clear understanding of the issues,” [President] Jones said wryly. “Others, less so.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <h2>3. More About Money</h2> <p>For those of you particularly concerned about financing a college education for your teenager (and who isn’t), consider this new statistic:</p> <blockquote> <p>Small private, nonprofit colleges and universities this year gave back, in the form of financial aid, an average of 51 cents of every dollar they collected from tuition. That’s up from an average of 38 cents a decade ago. . . . (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess that is good news for students and their families, but perhaps bad news for colleges that continue to try to make ends meet. Of course, there also has to be a point here when most colleges cannot give back almost everything they take in and still remain viable.</p> <p>And while we could tell you stories of small private colleges cutting their tuition and, as a result, gaining additional students, here is one public flagship university story that could also prove valuable to some of you:</p> <blockquote> <p>The <a href="https://umaine.edu/" target="_blank">University of Maine</a>, in a state whose number of high school grads has fallen 9 percent since 2011, offered admission to students from elsewhere at the same in-state price they would have paid to attend their home flagships; that has attracted more than 1,000 new students for the semester that begins this fall, from all of the other New England states plus California, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>We have talked about these kinds of arrangements with public universities in previous <em>USACollegeChat</em> episodes and in our most recent book, where we mention that some public universities provide generous discounts to students from contiguous states or to students in the region. The University of Maine seems to have found a way to expand that idea nationwide and win more students as a result.</p> <h2>4. What’s It All Mean for You?</h2> <p>So, what does all this mean for you and your own teenager? Well, let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that your kid’s chances of getting into an Ivy League school or any other top-tier college are any better now than they were before you listened to this episode. Whatever happens to the number of high school students in the U.S. and no matter what the decline is in the number of high school graduates statewide in your state or nationwide, our nation’s most selective colleges are not going to feel the pinch. That is just our opinion, but it is probably right.</p> <p>It is also likely true that the top public flagship universities are not going to feel the pinch, either--like the <a href= "http://www.virginia.edu/" target="_blank">University of Virginia</a>, the <a href="https://www.umich.edu/" target= "_blank">University of Michigan</a>, the <a href= "http://www.unc.edu/" target="_blank">University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill</a>, the <a href="http://www.berkeley.edu/" target= "_blank">University of California, Berkeley</a>, and another five or 10 more. Why? Because those top flagships attract students from across the nation, and there will always be enough students with good enough grades to fill the best public universities.</p> <p>But here is the good news. Your teenager might have a better chance now of getting into a good small private college--and there are plenty of those. If you have a super-smart kid, such a college could serve as a great safety school. If you have a kid with good, but not outstanding, grades and test scores, such a college could become a likely match rather than a reach school.</p> <p>We have said for some time at <em>USACollegeChat</em> that our public flagship universities are the hidden jewels of our higher education system. And we are not taking that back. But now maybe we should add that good small private colleges might be the hidden jewels of our higher education system precisely because they will give you a better bang for your buck than you originally thought. Let’s keep that in mind next week as we move to the serious search for colleges for your teenager.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode128" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode128" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode128</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 127: Private Colleges for Low-Income Students?
<p>Welcome back from the Fourth of July break! This episode is going to be the next-to-last one in our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank"><em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em></a> series because very soon we have to get down to the serious work of where our new crop of high school seniors should be applying to college. So, today we want to take a look at a population that we don’t focus on as much as we might--that is, low-income students who live in rural areas. Although we are based in New York City, we do try hard to look at colleges and students across the U.S. But I am guessing that students in rural areas do not get as much attention from us as they perhaps should. And, in today’s case study of a great program, we are going to talk about low-income rural students in the state of Oregon.</p> <p>While you are waiting for the real work to begin in a couple of weeks, don’t forget to head on over to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>. Your teenager should be poring over it summer. You should go back and listen to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-119-explore-college-options-with-a-new-workbook/" target="_blank">119</a> and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-120-lots-of-college-options-in-our-new-workbook/" target="_blank">120</a> to find out why. By the way, I got an email this week from a smart and talented colleague to ask whether I might have time to help his rising senior with her personal statement for her college applications. So, friends, a new application season is indeed beginning.</p> <h2>1. What Is GEAR UP?</h2> <p>Before we get to today’s Oregon case study, let us say a word about a federally funded Department of Education initiative known as GEAR UP (that is, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). Here is what the U.S. Department of Education website says about GEAR UP:</p> <blockquote> <p>This discretionary grant program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.</p> <p>. . . State grants are competitive six-year matching grants that must include both an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students and a scholarship component. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, here is some federal money being earmarked to improve higher education opportunities for low-income students by working with these students early in their secondary school years (that is, starting no later than seventh grade) and sticking with them through high school. That long-term assistance sounds excellent to me, and I hope that the services being provided with GEAR UP funds are indeed substantial enough to make a difference.</p> <p>By the way, if you are worried about your federal tax dollars, perhaps you will be relieved to learn that the agencies receiving the federal grants are required to match them dollar-for-dollar. So, in the case of state grants, that’s half federal monies and half state monies. You can check on whether your state has any GEAR UP funds, and you can check on how those funds are being used, if you think they might be helpful to your own kids.</p> <h2>2. What Is GEAR UP in Oregon?</h2> <p><em>Education Week</em> turned the spotlight on Oregon in its May article by Liana Loewus entitled “<a href= "http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/05/10/oregon-gear-up-links-rural-students-to.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2" target="_blank">Pitching Rural, Low-Income Students on Private Colleges</a>.” The article focuses on the way that Oregon uses its GEAR UP grant funds--which is, interestingly, to expose low-income, first-generation-to-college students <em>from the rural areas</em> of Oregon to Oregon’s private liberal arts colleges so that these students can consider private colleges as real and affordable options.</p> <p>This strategy is particularly intriguing in a state that has two well-known and admired public universities--the <a href= "https://uoregon.edu/" target="_blank">University of Oregon</a> in Eugene and <a href="http://oregonstate.edu/" target="_blank">Oregon State University</a> in Corvallis, which together serve about 50,000 students. According to the <em>Education Week</em> article, Adrienne Enriquez, a program manager for <a href= "http://oregongearup.org/" target="_blank">Oregon GEAR UP</a>, noted that both students and staff in Oregon’s rural schools “didn’t necessarily have as much knowledge and information about the private colleges in the state as they might have [had] about the four-year public universities” (quoted from the article). I think that is not surprising in a state where there are high-visibility public universities, including a much-loved flagship university, along with the fact that many of the teachers and school counselors in those rural Oregon secondary schools are very likely graduates of the two public state universities.</p> <p>Oregon GEAR UP has joined forces with <a href= "http://oaicu.org/" target="_blank">The Alliance</a>, a group of 18 small private colleges in Oregon--colleges that are anxious to attract some of these low-income rural students, who probably never heard of them. The <em>Education Week</em> article quoted Brent Wilder, the vice president of The Alliance, as saying this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“There are a lot of myths out there about private education that just aren’t true. . . That it’s only for affluent individuals, that our campuses aren’t diverse. . .  We have the highest graduation rate in Oregon [for] students of color.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow. That statistic was so impressive that I looked up The Alliance and found out these additional facts about it and its members:</p> <ul> <li>There are 12 college members and six college affiliates, currently enrolling about 35,000 students. Many of the colleges, I am embarrassed to say, I knew nothing about. But the members list did include <a href="https://www.lclark.edu/" target="_blank">Lewis & Clark College</a>, <a href="http://willamette.edu/" target= "_blank">Willamette University</a>, the <a href= "https://www1.up.edu/" target="_blank">University of Portland</a>, and <a href="http://www.reed.edu/" target="_blank">Reed College</a>, which we have talked about at <em>USACollegeChat</em> on <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">our virtual nationwide tour</a> and which is one of the best private liberal arts colleges anywhere.</li> <li>Collectively, these colleges award one in five bachelor’s degrees in Oregon and one in two master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in Oregon.</li> <li>61 percent of their students graduate in four years (compared to about 50 percent at the flagship University of Oregon and about 32 percent at Oregon State University).</li> <li>93 percent of students starting as full-time students receive grants, averaging over $20,000 per year.</li> <li>28 percent of students graduate with no college debt.</li> <li>One in three of their U.S. degree-seeking students is a student of color.</li> </ul> <p>So, with these favorable statistics, it’s understandable that colleges in The Alliance feel that they have something to offer low-income, first-generation-to-college rural students in Oregon.</p> <h2>3. What Activities Does GEAR UP Offer Oregon?</h2> <p>According to the <em>Education Week</em> article, GEAR UP offers activities both for Oregon educators and for Oregon high school students. Here are some of them:</p> <blockquote> <p>Through the GEAR UP program, small groups of teachers, administrators, and counselors come together from different parts of the state to visit private college campuses over a few days. GEAR UP--which was slated for a slight funding increase under a budget agreement expected to be approved by Congress last week, but is among the education programs President Donald Trump would like to cut in a 2018 budget--pays for their travel and lodging and reimburses districts for substitute teachers. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And the information goes both ways, according to the article. Oregon GEAR UP also tries to inform the professors and college admissions officers at these private colleges about the small, rural high schools that GEAR UP students attend. Having more information about these high schools and about the challenges that some of these students face can, in fact, help admissions officers make better, fairer, more aware decisions about admitting GEAR UP students.</p> <p>Turning to students, here is a valuable service provided for high school kids:</p> <blockquote> <p>For the third straight summer, Oregon GEAR UP is also running [an all-expenses-paid] <a href="http://oregongearup.org/opcw-camp" target="_blank">Private College Week camp</a>, during which high school students visit several colleges, staying on campus at one of them, and learn about admissions processes and financial aid. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>That sounds great, but why are these visits particularly important for these rural students? Let’s look at what Ms. Enriquez said in the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>In describing the need for this kind of program, which is unique to the Oregon version of GEAR UP, Enriquez said that visits to the larger universities were scaring off some students from rural communities.</p> <p>“They’re visiting classrooms that hold more people than live in their town. They go through the lunch line and they have to go through turnstiles, and they’ve never seen those,” she said.</p> <p>A few years ago, a group of students from the tiny logging community of Powers came off a tour of the 20,000-student University of Oregon not wanting to go to college at all. In a post-visit survey, they indicated, “College is not for me. It’s too big and too scary,” Enriquez said.</p> <p>The colleges that students see during the weeklong summer camp generally have between 1,000 and 4,000 students. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>We talked about the size of the college as a deal breaker for some kids and for some parents in our first book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank">How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</a></em>. (It’s still available, by the way, at Amazon.com.) But I don’t believe that I have ever heard a more persuasive anecdote about how much size can matter to a kid and about how overwhelming a large university might actually be to a kid from a tiny rural town.</p> <h2>4. Show Me the Money</h2> <p>It would be hard to have a discussion of sending a bunch of low-income kids to private colleges without tackling the very real issue of how much that is going to cost those families. The private colleges in The Alliance do actually cost about twice as much for tuition and housing as Oregon’s public universities.</p> <p>But here are some useful facts and figures that take into consideration the generous financial aid offered by many of the private college Alliance members: “The average net price for low-income students at the Oregon state universities is about $13,000. At private schools . . . , it’s closer to $20,000. However, at Reed College, among the nation’s most academically prestigious private colleges, low-income students [tend to pay only] about $9,000” (quoted from the article).</p> <p>So, the bottom line is that private colleges should not be ruled out in favor of only public universities because of cost. Some might be somewhat more expensive than public universities, though perhaps not out-of-sight more expensive; others might actually be less expensive than public universities. You don’t know what kind of financial aid package you can get until you try.</p> <h2>5. What About College “Fit”?</h2> <p>We hear so much these days about “fit”--that is, how good a fit is a college for your kid. Here is what the <em>Education Week</em> article had to say about the importance of the academic and social and cultural fit of a college for a student:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the 2016 book <em>Matching Students to Opportunity: Expanding College Choice, Access, and Quality</em>, Jessica Howell and her co-authors explain that college fit, and in particular going to a school that matches a student’s academic credentials, is positively associated with earning a degree.</p> <p>“By and large, we know that when students enroll in a college that isn’t a good fit for them, that’s usually because they didn’t consider colleges that would have been a better fit,” Howell said in an interview. “We need to open up students’ eyes early in the process so they know their options.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that is a perfect segue to our upcoming series, which will focus exactly on that: opening up students’ eyes so that they know their options. That could have been the title of our new book (instead we called it <em>How To Explore Your College Options</em>). In the coming summer weeks, we would like to help you help your teenager open his or her eyes--early enough so that there is still plenty of time to act on what he or she finds out.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode127" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode127" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode127</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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USACC 126: Colleges That Are Successful at Delivering Needed Career Skills
<p>Today’s episode of our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank"><em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em> series</a> takes what our regular listeners will recognize as a surprising turn. You all may recall the many times we have championed the liberal arts as a great way for undergraduates to spend at least two--if not four--years. We have quoted many dignitaries from college presidents to elected Congressional leaders about the merits of liberal arts study. Let me be the first to say that I am not backing down on that. On the other hand, let me also offer a somewhat alternative view and to let you know what some colleges are doing about it.</p> <p>And, of course, remember to go to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. It’s a book for your teenager to use this summer. You can go back and listen to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-119-explore-college-options-with-a-new-workbook/" target="_blank">119</a> and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-120-lots-of-college-options-in-our-new-workbook/" target="_blank">120</a> to find out what the book is all about.</p> <h2>1. The Problem</h2> <p>We would like to thank John Hanc for <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/07/education/with-innovation-colleges-fill-the-skills-gap.html" target="_blank">his June 7 <em>New York Times</em> article</a>, which profiled a number of colleges doing interesting work on the problem of college graduates who do not have the job skills that employers need, perhaps because their colleges did not have programs that focused sufficiently on those skills. The article quotes Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, as saying, on the other hand, that some higher education institutions “have their ear to the ground, they’re listening to local employers and paying attention to what they need.” Mr. Hanc’s article puts the spotlight on seven institutions and their innovative programs for closing the “skill gap,” and you should take a look at all seven. By the way, some programs are part of four-year undergraduate programs, some are part of two-year community college programs, and some are certificate programs that are not part of a two-year or four-year degree--something for everyone. But, for now, let’s put our spotlight on a handful of those institutions and programs.</p> <h2>2. The Innovative Programs</h2> <p><strong><a href="https://case.edu/" target="_blank">Case Western Reserve University</a>.</strong> Let’s start with Case Western Reserve University, a well-respected private research university in Cleveland, Ohio. Case Western enrolls almost 12,000 students, with slightly more graduate and professional students than undergraduate students. According to the article, Case Western offers 15-credit and 18-credit minors that are “responsive to changing industries and emerging technologies” and that could be “one of the more effective strategies for preparing students to enter high-demand fields” (quoted from the article).</p> <p>One of these minors is in applied data science. For those of you who don’t know what that is, applied data science includes skills in data management, distributed computing, informatics, and statistical analytics. (I hope that helped!) But here is some more information about the applied data science minor:<strong> </strong></p> <blockquote> <p>[This] Case minor has attracted students from majors like arts and sciences, engineering, business and health care. Graduates enter the market with an important and salable credential. A 2016 poll conducted by Gallup for the Business-Higher Education Forum found that 69 percent of employers expected that, by 2021, candidates with data science skills would get preference for jobs in their organizations.</p> </blockquote> <p>While that 69 percent figure might be frightening to some of us, it wasn’t frightening to Case Western, which appears to have responded effectively in order to close that skill gap for at least some of its graduates. My guess is that other minors Case Western offers close other skill gaps with equal success. You might want to go find out if your teenager is interested in a good private university in the Midwest.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.caltech.edu/" target= "_blank">California Institute of Technology</a>.</strong> Let’s turn to a program operated by the highly respected California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in cooperation with Base 11, a nonprofit that describes itself this way on its own website: “We connect employers, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial opportunities with high-potential, low-resource students who have shown interest and talent but lack the access and resources needed to realize their greatest potential.” (quoted from the website)</p> <p>In this joint program, community college students from across California “are mentored by Caltech graduate students through on-campus summer internships and semester-long programs.” (quoted from the article) As you might guess from the fact that the program is at Caltech, the focus of the program is on STEM fields and especially on aerospace engineering, which is a major field of employment in California. The results have been good.</p> <p>Interestingly, Base 11 runs similar programs in cooperation with the University of Southern California’s School of Engineering and with the <a href="https://uci.edu/" target="_blank">University of California, Irvine</a> (loyal listeners will remember that we spoke at length about UC Irvine and its Hispanic Serving Institution designation back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-124-an-exemplary-hispanic-serving-institution-for-new-college-students/" target="_blank">Episode 124</a>). So kudos to you, Base 11, and to you again, UC Irvine.</p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.lakeareatech.edu/" target= "_blank">Lake Area Technical Institute</a>.</strong> Awarded the Aspen Institute’s 2017 Prize for Community College Excellence, Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, SD) has gotten some pretty impressive results: a graduation rate that is twice the community college national average and a 99 percent job placement rate. How did that happen?</p> <p>Michael Cartney, president of Lake Area Technical Institute, is quoted as saying this in testimony to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee: “Tightly knit student cohorts in clearly defined graduation paths with close connections to their industry-trained instructors has been a formula for success.” (quoted in the article) </p> <p>The article goes on to say that the Lake Area Technical Institute “holds its 2,400 students accountable, as if they were in a job setting” (quoted from the article). I would actually like to know more specifics about how that is done. It strikes me as a great idea, but I would be interested in the details.</p> <p>And finally, there are “close ties with local and regional industry (every major, for example, has an advisory board of industry professionals).” (quoted from the article) Having industry-based advisory boards is a proud tradition typical of many high school career and technical programs as well as community college technical programs. When it works well, it makes a lot of sense. It evidently is working well at Lake Area Technical Institute.</p> <p>If you believe that the purpose of college is to get a job--as many people do believe these days--then this college profile has to be judged as impressive.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.mdc.edu/" target="_blank">Miami Dade College</a>.</strong> Now let me say a word about Miami Dade College (MDC), which is an enormous public community college with seven campuses in and near Miami, Florida. MDC enrolls more than 92,000 credit students, who study for certificates, for associate’s degrees in more than 150 majors, and even for bachelor’s degrees in more than 20 majors. About 70 percent of its students are Hispanic.</p> <p>According to the article, MDC has an innovative new degree in data analytics, which is described this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>The program begins with a certificate in business intelligence, progresses to an associate in science in business intelligence, and culminates in a bachelor of science in data analytics.</p> <p>The Labor Department defines this “stackable” approach as a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated to build up students’ qualifications and help them move along a career path.</p> <p>“This provides flexibility for those students who might need to be in the work force while in school,” said Karen Elzey, vice president of the Business-Higher Education Forum, which was a partner in starting the program. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>In my own experience working with community colleges, this is the kind of program that community colleges do really well. It is also the kind of program that understands that the average age of MDC credit students is 25, with about one-third of MDC credit students 26 or older. Adult students might understandably “need to be in the work force while in school,” just as Ms. Elzey said.</p> <p>Nevertheless, about one-third of MDC credit students are traditional-aged college students from 18 to 20. So, students do go directly from high school. And so could your teenager, especially if you live in southern Florida.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.bfit.edu/" target="_blank">Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology</a>.</strong> Though I am a big fan of Ben Franklin, here is an institution that I had never heard of. Its beginnings are actually in Franklin’s 1790 will, in which he left Boston an endowment for the training of apprentices (that is, in those times, young men under 25). “I believe good apprentices are likely to make good citizens,” Franklin is quoted as writing in his will.</p> <p>Located in Boston’s South End, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology “offers two- and four-year degrees in high-demand fields like health information technology, computer technology and automotive technology (in the planning stages: a program in driverless-car technology).” (quoted from the article) Its graduates seem to be getting jobs. I guess Franklin would say today that college graduates who can get good jobs quickly are likely to make good citizens. Maybe this is one more good idea that Ben Franklin had more than 225 years ago.</p> <h2>3. What Does This Mean for You?</h2> <p>What does all this mean for you? It means that the degree to which a college can claim to bridge the career-related skills gap that employers are finding in college graduates is one more thing to consider when looking at colleges for your teenager. This is especially true if you are looking at community colleges and associate’s degrees as the best choice for your teenager immediately after high school.</p> <p>If you are a regular listener, you know that we have long been concerned about the low graduation rates and low transfer rates that many community colleges post. That worry doesn’t end here. But, a community college that can show you programs that lead to good careers--along with a high percentage of students who graduate and get jobs in those fields--could be worth a serious look.</p> <h2>4. Happy Fourth of July!</h2> <p>So, in honor of the Fourth of July holiday, we are going to take a break next Thursday. We hope you have a wonderful celebration over the next five or so days. And we hope that you and your high schooler at home come back ready to work because senior year is fast approaching.</p> <p> </p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode126" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode126" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode126</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 125: Colleges Serving First-Generation-to-College Students
<p>Welcome back to our <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em> series. Last week, we focused on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)--where the campus student population must be at least 25 percent Latino, with more than half financially needy--and the good work that they have been doing to smooth the way for Latino/Latina students, many of whom are the first generation in their families to attend college. Kudos again to UC Irvine for its excellent programs and services for Latino/Latina students!</p> <p> </p> <p>Today’s episode picks up from where last week’s left off. This episode will look at a couple of colleges that do a good job of providing services for first-generation-to-college students. And let us remind you to take a glance back at <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-103-can-you-find-a-college-like-georgia-state/" target="_blank">Episode 103</a>, where we describe the truly outstanding work that <a href="http://www.gsu.edu/" target= "_blank">Georgia State University</a> has been doing to serve its black students, many of whom are first-generation-to-college students. We couldn’t have been more impressed.</p> <p>Before we turn to the colleges in the spotlight today, please remember to go to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. It’s a user-friendly way to help your teenager investigate colleges of interest to him or her--perfect for current or recent high school juniors who are getting ready to apply to college next year. What a way to spend the summer: reading our book and doing the homework we assign! As we said last week, we are offering a money-back guarantee if the book doesn’t help your teenager. </p> <h2>1. The Context for First-Generation-to College Students </h2> <p>Let’s look at the context in which first-generation-to-college students go to college, thanks to <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/07/education/where-to-turn-to-when-you-are-first-in-the-family-to-go-to-college.html" target="_blank">a comprehensive article written by Eilene Zimmerman on June 7 in <em>The New York Times</em></a>:<strong> </strong></p> <blockquote> <p>First-generation students mostly come from low- to middle-income families, are disproportionally Hispanic and African-American and have little, if any, information about their higher education options. As a result, they often have misconceptions and anxiety about attending college.<strong> </strong></p> <p>College counselors can help these students deal with the complexity of the college preparation and application process. Yet few public high schools serving significant numbers of low-income and first-generation students have anywhere near enough counselors.<strong> </strong></p> <p>According to the 2015 State of College Admissions report from the <a href="https://www.nacacnet.org/" target="_blank">National Association for College Admission Counseling</a>, counselors at public high schools are, on average, each responsible for 436 students, and those counselors spend only 22 percent of their time on pre-college counseling. (quoted from the article) </p> </blockquote> <p>Well, this is a refrain that our listeners have heard many times here at <em>USACollegeChat</em> and that our readers have read in our books. Public high school counselors--even those public high schools with dedicated college counselors--cannot begin to do what they need to do for each student, especially for first-generation-to-college students who are likely to need additional help and advice. Public high school counselors absolutely do not have the time necessary to do this work, and too many of them do not have the background knowledge and up-to-date information necessary to do this work. It is no wonder that these kids come to college with the “misconceptions and anxiety” that Ms. Zimmerman refers to in her article.</p> <p>And here are some more facts, according to Ms. Zimmerman’s article:</p> <blockquote> <p>About one-third of undergraduates in colleges in the United States are first-generation students, according [to] the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and the United States Department of Education. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let us stop right there for a minute. One-third of college undergraduates are first-generation-to-college students! We think that number is actually quite extraordinary. It means that colleges are indeed bringing in new students from many backgrounds (although we know that any number of experts believe that colleges should do even more to reach out to such students). Frankly, I would have guessed that the number would have been lower. But here is the more troubling news: </p> <blockquote> <p>Only 27 percent [of first-generation students] earn a college degree in four years, compared with 42 percent of students with parents who went to college, according to a report from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.</p> <p>Without a college degree, children of low-income parents are likely to be low-income adults, and their earning potential will only get worse over time. An analysis by the Georgetown center predicted that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the United States would require postsecondary education and training. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let’s look right past the sad fact that only 42 percent of students with parents who went to college manage to earn a college degree in four years. That’s bad enough, and we have talked about unsatisfactory graduation rates several times here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>. We have even talked about the idea that actually graduating in four years is one of the best ways to cut college costs for every student at every type of college.</p> <p>The fact that only 27 percent of first-generation-to-college students manage to earn a college degree in four years is indeed concerning. And, for these kids, it likely means that some additional counseling or support of other kinds might help raise that figure to at least the lackluster 42 percent scored by other kids.</p> <h2>2. Spotlight on Services for First-Generation Students</h2> <p>You should read Ms. Zimmerman’s article to get the full anecdotes about the colleges we will mention now as well as their success statistics. The stories are worth reading in their entirety. But let’s look at a few briefly:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . Aspire [is] a program [Dennis] Di Lorenzo created two years ago [at <a href="https://www.nyu.edu/" target="_blank">New York University</a>]. It was influenced by a study of 20 public schools in New York City’s lower-income neighborhoods that found graduation rates suffering and a huge variance in college-readiness programs. Aspire aims to give students information about higher education, the application process and financial aid, and prepare them academically for the transition to college.</p> <p>The free, two-year program serves 40 high school juniors, who attend a weeklong program each summer at N.Y.U. There are also classes and workshops throughout the school year that offer leadership training, advanced math instruction, assistance with college essay preparation, and discussions about careers, scholarships and college majors. In addition, students are connected to a group of college student mentors. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Ms. Zimmerman tells the story of one senior who stayed in a room on the 22nd floor of an NYU campus dorm for the weeklong program. It was the young man’s first time in a college dorm and, more significantly, the first time sleeping away from home and the first time having a roommate from outside his family. Imagine how eye-opening that experience must have been for that young man and how much it must have helped him to see what attending a great private university--or really any university--might be like.</p> <p>Let’s move the spotlight slightly west and take a look at <a href="http://www.rutgers.edu/" target="_blank">Rutgers University</a>, New Jersey’s public flagship university. The Rutgers Future Scholars program identifies “promising” first-generation, low-income students in the seventh grade in four urban school districts--Newark, New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden. Students are selected for their academic performance as well as for their participation in their communities and schools. “We look for the ‘if only’ students, those who are on the cusp of doing remarkable things but need that additional support system in their life,” said program director Aramis Gutierrez.</p> <p>Once identified, these students “receive academic support and enrichment, and mentoring from Future Scholars participants who are now in college. They attend classes after school, on weekends and during the summer. No student is ever expelled from the program for poor grades or lagging attendance.” (quoted from the article) Rather, they are given a second chance, after appropriate intervention by faculty members. And, by the way, those Future Scholars who go on the attend Rutgers, get free tuition on top of everything else. The undocumented students in the program have their tuition paid by private donors. Special kudos to those donors!</p> <p>NYU has another interesting program that picks students up a bit later in their school careers. Let’s look finally at that program, called Access:</p> <blockquote> <p>First-generation students who graduate from high school but haven’t prepared for (or enrolled in) college can attend an N.Y.U. bridge program known as <a href= "http://www.scps.nyu.edu/admissions/undergraduate/access.html" target="_blank">Access</a>, which prepares them for college by providing academic remediation, tutoring and help with career development and job search skills. Students also earn 24 college credits that will transfer to a four-year institution.</p> <p>The Access program began in the fall of 2016 with eight students; half will be attending college this fall. Unlike Aspire, Access is not free, Mr. Di Lorenzo said, but costs $15,000 for the year. (Aid and scholarships are available.) (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>While $15,000 is indeed not free, it is, nonetheless, a bargain if a student can earn 24 college credits plus get whatever remedial help he or she needs to bridge the gap into college.</p> <h2>3. What Next?</h2> <p>While NYU and Rutgers deserve credit for these programs aimed at improving the odds of success for first-generation-to-college students, it is clear that many more such programs are needed. If you have a teenager at home who will be the first to attend college in your family, looking for a college with services for kids like yours is important.</p> <p>I am guessing that information about those services might not always be as easy to find on a college website as you might wish. So, look hard. Talk to a staff member in the admissions office of each college your teenager is considering and ask specifically about academic and personal support and other counseling services for first-generation-to-college students. Why? Because we would like your teenager to be one of the 27 percent of first-generation-to-college students to get a college degree in four years. And, by the way, we also would like that 27 percent figure to get much higher very fast.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode125" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode125" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode125</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 124: An Exemplary Hispanic Serving Institution for New College Students
<p>For the past two weeks in our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank"><em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em> series</a>, we have looked at colleges outside the U.S. and at the pluses (and almost no minuses) of attending college full time outside the U.S. In <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-122-a-truly-american-international-university/" target="_blank">Episode 122</a>, we spotlighted <a href= "http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target="_blank">Richmond, the American International University in London</a>, a unique and appealing university dually accredited in the U.S. and the U.K. In <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-123-a-new-look-at-colleges-north-of-the-border/" target="_blank">Episode 123</a>, we stayed just a little closer to home and looked at an array of outstanding universities in Canada—specifically, the <a href="https://www.utoronto.ca/" target= "_blank">University of Toronto</a>, the <a href= "https://www.ubc.ca/" target="_blank">University of British Columbia</a>, <a href="http://www.mcgill.ca/" target= "_blank">McGill University</a>, the French-speaking <a href= "http://www.umontreal.ca/en/" target="_blank">University of Montreal</a>, the <a href="https://www.ualberta.ca/" target= "_blank">University of Alberta</a>, and <a href= "http://www.mcmaster.ca/" target="_blank">McMaster University</a>.</p> <p>Well, for those of you who can’t get even that far outside your geographic comfort zone, let us bring you back to the U.S. In this episode, we are going to focus on the <a href="https://uci.edu/" target="_blank">University of California, Irvine</a> (UC Irvine), located in coastal southern California in Orange County, south of Los Angeles and north of San Diego. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer spot. However, let us be the first to say that, for many of you, UC Irvine might be a lot farther away from home than many a university in Canada is. So, maybe it’s time to re-think your own definition of geographic comfort zone!</p> <p>This episode also goes beyond UC Irvine to talk about <a href= "https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst-list-pg4.html" target="_blank">Hispanic Serving Institutions</a> (HSIs) generally--a subject that we have addressed here at <em>USACollegeChat</em> several times in the past two years. We are thinking that, for some of you, HSIs might turn out to be a more significant subject than you originally might have thought.</p> <p>And, let us remind you once again, as summer vacation arrives, that you should go to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. We promise that it will help your teenager ask and answer important questions about colleges of interest to him or her. We are offering, of course, a money-back guarantee if the book doesn’t help your teenager! </p> <h2>1. The Facts About UC Irvine</h2> <p>Let us start by telling you a bit about UC Irvine (UCI), one of the University of California public campuses in the most prestigious of the three California state systems of higher education. Here are some of the awards and rankings of note, taken from UCI’s website:<strong> </strong></p> <ul> <li>UCI is ranked ninth among the nation’s best public universities and 39th among all national public and private universities, according to the annual <em>S. News & World Report </em>ranking of undergraduate programs.</li> <li><em>The New York Times </em>ranked UCI <strong>first among U.S. universities in doing the most for low-income students</strong><strong> </strong>in <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/25/sunday-review/opinion-pell-table.html" target="_blank">2017</a> and <a href= "http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/09/17/upshot/top-colleges-doing-the-most-for-low-income-students.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2015</a> (according to its College Access Index). The ranking is based on a variety of factors, including the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants (which typically go to families earning less than $70,000 a year); the graduation rate of those students; and the net cost, after financial aid, that a college charges low- and middle-income students.</li> <li>UCI is <strong>one of just 62 U.S. and Canadian universities</strong> elected to the respected <a href= "http://www.aau.edu/" target="_blank">Association of American Universities.</a></li> <li><em>Sierra</em>, the magazine of the well-known environmentally active Sierra Club, recognized UCI for its innovative sustainable practices by ranking it third on its “Coolest Schools” list--that is, the list of “colleges working hardest to protect the planet.”</li> <li>And perhaps most important: <a href= "http://time.com/money/4089619/best-colleges-near-ocean-beaches-warm-weather/" target="_blank"><em>Money</em> magazine named UCI as the <strong>1 university for beach lovers</strong></a>. Here is what <em>Money</em> magazine wrote:</li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>Irvine sometimes gets a bad rap for lacking a “college town” feel. But if you’d rather spend your time on the sand than on Main Street, it’s a tough spot to beat. There's surfing at Huntington Beach, the boardwalk and pier at Newport Beach, peace and quiet at Corona del Mar, and the glamor of Laguna Beach. All of those locales, with iconic California beach vistas, are within 20 minutes of campus, and upperclassmen often live off campus, just a couple-minute walk to the sand. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Here are some fast facts about UCI, which was founded in 1965:</p> <ul> <li>It enrolls about 33,500 students, about 27,500 of which are undergraduates.</li> <li>It received almost 78,000 applicants for its 2016 freshman class; about 6,500 enrolled.</li> <li>Its retention rate from freshman to sophomore year is 93 percent.</li> <li>Its four-year graduation rate is 70 percent; its six-year graduation rate is 88 percent.</li> <li>California residents pay just about $15,000 a year in tuition and fees, while out-of-staters pay about $42,000 a year. So, it’s not cheap for nonresidents, but it’s not as expensive as many good private universities.</li> <li>It offers 87 undergraduate degree programs, 59 master’s degree programs, and 47 doctoral programs, plus a medical degree and a law degree.</li> <li>It boasts 28 national titles in nine sports.</li> </ul> <p>And let me say this: If your teenager takes the virtual tour online at UCI’s website, he or she will want to go there. You might want to go there as well.</p> <h2>2. UC Irvine Designated an HSI</h2> <p>But none of the facts and figures we have just presented is the reason we are looking at UCI in today’s episode. Rather, it is because of an excellent article written last week by Teresa Watanabe in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, entitled “<a href= "http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-uc-irvine-latino-20170609-story.html" target="_blank">UC Irvine’s rare distinction: It’s an elite university that’s a haven for Latinos</a>.”</p> <p>Ms. Watanabe sets the scene this way, amid a variety of personal student anecdotes that are well worth reading:</p> <blockquote> <p>UC Irvine may seem an unlikely haven for Latino students. The campus is located in what used to be a largely white Republican community . . . . But the Irvine campus is now the most popular UC choice for Latino [freshman] applicants, topping longtime leader <a href="http://www.ucla.edu/" target="_blank">UCLA</a> for the first time last fall. And last month the campus won federal recognition for serving Latinos--a still-rare distinction among elite research universities.</p> <p>In all, 492 campuses in 19 states and Puerto Rico have been designated Hispanic Serving Institutions, which allows them to apply for about $100 million annually in federal research grants. To qualify, the campus student population must be 25% Latino, with more than half financially needy.</p> <p>In California, nearly all Cal State campuses, at least half of California Community Colleges, and half of UC campuses have received the recognition. But UC Irvine and <a href= "http://www.ucsb.edu/" target="_blank">UC Santa Barbara</a> are the only HSI campuses among the 62 members of the Assn. of American Universities--an elite network of public and private research universities that includes the Ivy League [and others] . . . . (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>In our new book for high school students, <em>How To Explore Your College Options</em>, we talk about HSIs (as we did in our first book and in several <em>USACollegeChat</em> episodes). We wrote this in the chapter on researching a college’s history and mission: </p> <blockquote> <p>HSIs have been designated as such in just the past 50 years. By definition, HSIs have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. For example, <a href="http://www.unm.edu/" target="_blank">The University of New Mexico</a> in Albuquerque, a federally designated HSI, was one of the first minority-majority universities, with a student body that was approximately 45 percent Hispanic and 35 percent Anglo.</p> <p>[HSIs] are located in states across the U.S. from California to Massachusetts and from Washington to Florida. Some HSIs are large public universities, some are large public community colleges, and some are small private liberal arts colleges. Many HSIs receive federal funds to support programs and scholarships that are designed to help low-income Hispanic students succeed in college.</p> <p>Although HSIs do not have the same kind of historical traditions that HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) have--perhaps because they were not originally founded with a mission to serve Hispanic students--they do offer a supportive environment, especially for first-generation-to-college Hispanic students. (quoted from the book)</p> </blockquote> <p>It is this last point about the supportive environment that makes UCI so appealing, according to what we can learn from Ms. Watanabe’s article. </p> <h2>3. UC Irvine’s Supportive Environment</h2> <p>Here is what UCI’s leadership had to say, as quoted from the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman said the campus has pushed to diversify its campus as part of its public mission and urged other top institutions to do the same.</p> <p>“We think it’s important to show that great higher education can be there for all of the people,” he said. “The demographics of the state are changing, and great institutions that were there for generations past should also be there for generations of the future.” </p> <p>For the first time ever, more than half of UC Irvine’s graduating class this year are first-generation college students.</p> <p>UC Irvine, Gillman said, is not only admitting more Latino students but also helping them succeed. Eight of 10 freshmen who entered in 2010-11 graduated within six years, about equal to whites and blacks and just below Asians. Graduation rates for transfer students are even higher. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, all that is impressive. But here is how UCI got there, according to the article:</p> <blockquote> <p>The campus began laying the groundwork in 1983, when it created the Santa Ana Partnership with local schools, <a href= "https://www.sac.edu/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">Santa Ana College</a> and <a href="http://www.fullerton.edu/" target= "_blank">Cal State Fullerton</a> to improve college-going rates in the area. . . .</p> <p>[The <a href="http://cep.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank">Center for Educational Partnerships</a>, with its executive director Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio] serves 12,000 largely low-income students a year, three-fourths of them Latino, with programs to prepare them for college and help them succeed. It supports those interested in science, technology, engineering and math and helped develop a college-going plan for every high school student in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Affiliated faculty also conduct research and offer teacher training.</p> <p>About 85% of high school students who work with the center complete the college prep coursework required for UC and Cal State, compared with the statewide average of 43% . . . . (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, all that is impressive, too. And here’s something we haven’t heard about elsewhere: “UC Irvine’s performance reviews reward faculty who contribute to ‘inclusive excellence.’ The campus has created a database to connect faculty to opportunities to advance diversity and equity and has set a goal for at least half of them to be involved by 2020–21.” (quoted from the article) That clearly shows a university administration that is walking the walk and not just talking the talk.</p> <p>Latino/Latina students quoted by Ms. Watanabe in the article describe the support that they have found at UCI, including supportive staff (like counselors who serve as mentors), engaged faculty (who offer many research opportunities to students), 25-plus Latino student organizations, and a Cross-Cultural Center (which supports the personal, academic, social, and cultural needs of students and is the first multicultural center in the University of California system). One particular student told Ms. Watanabe about discovering her “family” at “the Student Outreach and Retention Center, where she was able to find friends, leadership opportunities and food--peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that eased hunger pains since she could not afford a campus meal plan. She was hired by the center to develop mentorship programs and trained peer advisers to help students through such hardships as homesickness, breakups and academic struggles.” (quoted from the article)</p> <p>So, our hats are off to UCI—and, of course, to other HSIs, which are working to serve previously underserved Hispanic students, who might need a bit of extra attention in order to make the leap into higher education as a first-generation-to-college student. If you have such a student in your home, there is no downside to taking a serious look at colleges that are HSIs. You might not find one to your liking, of course; but, if you do, it could be a game changer.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode124" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode124" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode124</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 123: A New Look at Colleges North of the Border
<p>Last week in our <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/"> <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em> series</a>, we took you to the U.K. to consider what it might be like to attend college full time outside the U.S. We looked specifically at <a href= "http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target="_blank">Richmond, the American International University</a> in London, a unique university dually accredited in the U.S. and the U.K. We hoped that taking a close look at Richmond--and, more generally, at the value of full-time study at universities abroad--might persuade some of you to leave your geographic comfort zone. </p> <p>But, in case a trip across the Atlantic (or the Pacific) seems too big a geographic leap for you, today’s episode lets you stay a little closer to home. We are going to look at colleges in Canada, our close ally and important trading partner to the north. Let me say that I have known about colleges in Canada for decades, first because of a childhood Canadian friend and later because <a href= "http://www.mcgill.ca/" target="_blank">McGill University</a> in Montreal has been an increasingly popular college choice for students in the Northeast for many years now. Then, six years ago, my nephew, who was raised in Seattle, decided to attend the <a href="https://www.ubc.ca/" target="_blank">University of British Columbia</a> in Vancouver and had a great four years there. So, it has been with some interest that I have read a variety of articles in the news in the past six months about the new appeal of Canadian colleges for U.S. students.</p> <p>And, let us remind you, that you should go to amazon.com and get a copy of our new book, <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. The workbook will help your teenager know what questions to ask about colleges of interest to him or her and will help your teenager research the answers. Let me say, by the way, that one of our favorite sources of college information, the National Center for Education Statistics’ <a href= "https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a>, does <em>not</em> provide data about colleges outside the U.S. So, if your teenager likes our notion of studying full time outside the U.S., he or she will have to dig a little harder to answer all of the questions we pose in our book.</p> <h2>1. The New Statistics</h2> <p>So, what’s all this about Canada? Well, in <a href= "https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/03/27/ill-be-in-canada-more-students-are-looking-to-head-north/?utm_term=.83c7154428d7" target="_blank">an article about two months ago in <em>The Washington Post</em>, Susan Svrluga wrote</a> about the increased interest of U.S. students in Canadian universities and the possible reasons for it. Here are some of the statistics she provides in the article:<strong> </strong></p> <ul> <li>Applications to Canadian universities from students outside of Canada are on the upswing, and the number of international students studying at Canadian universities has doubled in the past 10 years.</li> <li>Twice as many students as usual have been looking for information on the <a href="http://www.universitystudy.ca/" target= "_blank">Universities Canada website</a> since last November. The website “offers profiles of Canadian universities, a large study programs database and helps you plan your university education. The information on [the] site is provided by Universities Canada and its 97 member universities.” (quoted from the website)</li> <li>Some of the best Canadian universities have seen dramatic increases in U.S. applications: a 25 percent increase at McGill; a 35 percent increase at <a href="http://www.mcmaster.ca/" target= "_blank">McMaster University</a>, a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario; and an 80 percent increase at the <a href= "https://www.utoronto.ca/" target="_blank">University of Toronto</a>.</li> <li>And the price is attractive, too. According to <em>The Washington Post</em> article, “At the current exchange rate, tuition and fees are about $13,000 less for an international student’s first year at the University of Toronto than they would be at <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target= "_blank">Harvard</a>, and $11,000 less than out-of-state rates at the <a href="http://www.virginia.edu/" target="_blank">University of Virginia</a>.” So, as we said about Richmond last week, the cost of attending some excellent universities outside the U.S. is surprisingly reasonable, though not necessarily cheap.</li> </ul> <p>The Universities Canada website offers eight reasons for attending college in Canada. All of them are good, but I can see how the following four might resonate with some U.S. students and with other foreign students who are looking for a safe college environment and secure future:</p> <blockquote> <p>Affordability: While Canada’s quality of education and standard of living are among the highest in the world, the cost of living and tuition fees are generally lower than in other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.</p> <p>Support services: International students benefit from services to help them transition to living and studying in Canada: orientation activities, student advisors, language support, academic associations, social clubs and other programs at their educational institutions.</p> <p>Cultural diversity: Canada ranks among the most multicultural nations in the world. Regardless of ethnic origin, international students feel at home in our diverse and welcoming communities and campuses.</p> <p>Opportunity to stay in Canada after graduation: International students have the opportunity to work during their studies and after they graduate. University graduates may also be eligible to transition to permanent residence in Canada. Visit the <a href= "http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/index.asp" target= "_blank">Citizenship and Immigration Canada website</a> for more information. (quoted from the Universities Canada website)</p> </blockquote> <p><em>The Washington Post</em> article quoted Ted Sargent, a vice president at the University of Toronto, which recruits outside Canada, including in the U.S. Sargent said, “Canada is having a moment. It is a time of opportunity. . . . A lot of people know that half of the people in Toronto were not born in Canada. Canada is a place that is focused on attracting talent from around the world. . . . That messaging about diversity and inclusivity is very resonant today.” One can see how Canada’s open arms are appealing to the students and their families who are concerned about the ramifications of the Brexit vote in the U.K. and who are concerned about some of the new proposed immigration policies in the U.S. <em>The Washington Post</em> article offers several insightful anecdotes about individual students, including a long story about one Syrian graduate student’s difficulties in getting back into the U.S. after a trip to check on the humanitarian medical work he had been doing in Turkey.</p> <p>Interestingly, Universities Canada published a statement after our president’s first executive order about immigration. Here it is:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Universities Canada does not typically comment on executive action being taken by another country, but we do so today because of the real impediment this new executive order poses to the free flow of people and ideas and to the values of diversity, inclusion and openness that are hallmarks of a strong and healthy society.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <h2>2. Check Out Universities Canada!</h2> <p>I think it is worth it for you and your teenager to check out the Universities Canada website and read some of the profiles of the universities that you will find there. As Americans unfortunately are with many things about Canada (including its history and government), I think we are quite ignorant of its higher education system. That seems ridiculous when many top Canadian universities are a lot closer to where some of us live than universities in a distant part of our own country. We likely know more about Canada’s ice hockey and baseball teams, its actors and singers who have big careers in our country, and our television industry’s use of Vancouver to film some of our favorite shows than we know about its universities. I think once you see some of its universities’ reasonable tuition rates, you will be sorry you didn’t think of Canada sooner (this is also true for graduate programs, by the way).</p> <p>So, what are the best universities in Canada? I thought a decent source might be the <em>Times Higher Education</em> World University Rankings for 2016–2017, which lists the top 980 universities in the world. If you don’t know it, <em>Times Higher Education</em> is a weekly publication based in London. <a href= "https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2017/world-ranking#!/page/0/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/stats" target="_blank">Its website</a> explains its rankings this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Ours] is the only global university performance table to judge world class universities across all of their core missions--teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings use 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.</p> <p>For the [World University Rankings], [our] in-house data team now ranks 2,150 institutions worldwide, with 1 million data points analysed across 2,600 institutions in 93 countries. In 2016, the global media reach of the rankings was almost 700 million. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>That’s a lot of institutions and a lot of data. Just so you know, the five top-ranked institutions worldwide, according to this list, are the <a href="http://www.ox.ac.uk/" target= "_blank">University of Oxford</a>, <a href= "http://www.caltech.edu/" target="_blank">California Institute of Technology</a> (Caltech), <a href="https://www.stanford.edu/" target="_blank">Stanford University</a>, the <a href= "https://www.cam.ac.uk/" target="_blank">University of Cambridge</a>, and the <a href="http://web.mit.edu/" target= "_blank">Massachusetts Institute of Technology</a> (MIT).</p> <p>Here are the top six Canadian universities, along with their world ranking, according to this list. So, if you have a smart teenager, you might <a href= "https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/best-universities/best-universities-canada#survey-answer" target="_blank">want to start with the profiles of these, available on the <em>Times Higher Education</em> website</a>:</p> <ul> <li>University of Toronto--22</li> <li>University of British Columbia (with a student body that is 25 percent international)--36</li> <li>McGill University--42</li> <li><a href="http://www.umontreal.ca/en/" target= "_blank">University of Montreal</a> (the only French-speaking one in the top five)--103</li> <li><a href="https://www.ualberta.ca/" target="_blank">University of Alberta</a> (in Edmonton)--107</li> <li>McMaster University--113</li> </ul> <p>Of course, just as there are in the U.S., there are many other great universities in Canada. Your teenager doesn’t have to go to one of the top six anymore than he or she has to go to one of the top six in the U.S. or one of the top six in the world. The Universities Canada website can give you all the information you need about many universities to start your search.</p> <h2>3. A Personal Reflection</h2> <p>Maybe if we had written our new book this week instead of a couple of months ago, we would have added another requirement for building your teenager’s <em>long list of college options</em> (or LLCO, as we called it). If you don’t already have the book, we ask that your teenager put together an LLCO that includes two four-year colleges in each of the nine geographic regions of the U.S., at least two public flagship universities, and one college outside of the U.S. All of this is, of course, designed to get you all outside your geographic comfort zone--where, undoubtedly, some of the best higher education is happening.</p> <p>So, if we had written the book today, we might have said that your teenager’s LLCO should also include one Canadian university. Given everything we have just read, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode123" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode123" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode123</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 122: A Truly American International University
<p>Before we start today’s episode, which will take us abroad, let us remind you to rush out right now and get our new book if you have a junior at home (and even if you have a freshman or sophomore). That’s “rush out right now” figuratively speaking, because the book is available at amazon.com, so there is no need to leave home to get it. But why now? Because using the book is a perfect way for your teenager to spend some time this summer--that is, researching colleges of interest to him or her and/or colleges of interest <em>to you</em> for him or her!</p> <p>In case you missed our recent episodes, the book is <em><a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a></em>. And, as we have said before, it is a WORKbook. It makes the point that many of us learned the hard way: that is, it takes a lot of work to figure out the best colleges for your teenager to apply to. And, as some parents we have worked with recently can tell you, deciding where to apply is probably more important than deciding where to enroll. If your teenager (with your help) chooses colleges to apply to wisely and with enthusiasm, then the choice of where to enroll ends up being a lot happier and easier to make.</p> <p>But back to our current series, <em><a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">Colleges in the Spotlight</a></em>. As many of our regular listeners know, I spent last week in London attending my daughter’s graduation from her master’s degree program. My son had previously attended the same university for his bachelor’s degree, and I was looking forward to doing the graduation ceremony a second time. It is not surprising, I guess, that the alma mater of two of my kids would become today’s episode. That’s not because, by the way, it is the alma mater of two of my kids, but rather because it is a university--or one of a group of similar universities--that just might persuade some of you to leave your geographic comfort zone.</p> <h2>1. Spotlight on Richmond</h2> <p>At the beginning of our new book, we ask students to expand their college options by investigating all geographic regions of the U.S. and putting together their own personal <em>long list of college options</em> (or LLCO). Then, we go one step further and ask students to make sure that they have at least one college that is <em>not</em> in the U.S. on their LLCO. In the book, we talk to students about studying outside the U.S.:</p> <blockquote> <p>This is a favorite topic of ours, and we can’t say enough about it. There are truly great options outside the U.S. We hope that every one of you will take advantage of studying abroad for at least a semester, no matter where you end up in college. <strong>Studying abroad is for everyone these days</strong>--not just for rich kids, not just for kids studying foreign languages, not just for kids at private liberal arts colleges. But you can actually study outside the U.S. for more than a semester or even for more than one year; you can simply go to a college outside the U.S. full time for four years.</p> <p>You might want to check out one of our favorite options: <a href="http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target= "_blank"><strong>Richmond, The American International University in London</strong></a>. Jointly accredited in the U.S. and the U.K., it is a one-of-a-kind institution. It offers students four-year bachelor’s degrees--first, on an idyllic campus in Richmond-upon-Thames (just outside London) for freshmen and sophomores and, then, on an ideal Kensington campus in the heart of London for juniors and seniors. We have seen Richmond up close for a decade and still love it. (P.S. Richmond offers master’s degrees, too, if you’d rather wait for your study abroad experience.) The global future is here, kids. Join it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that could not be more true. There are plenty of universities to choose from outside the U.S., but let me talk to you a bit today about Richmond, the American International University in London because it is the one that I know the best. I have known its students; I have known its professors (with whom I have been very impressed); I have known its staff members. I have seen it as the parent of an undergraduate student for four years and as the parent of a graduate student for a little over a year.</p> <p>I have seen what being an international university is all about. At the graduation ceremony last week, after the Master of Arts and Master of Business Administration students were presented with diplomas, we had the roll call of undergraduate students. There were about 180 undergraduate candidates for Bachelor of Arts degrees--and they represented 42 countries.</p> <p>Now, when we did our virtual nationwide tour of colleges (way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">Episodes 27 through 53</a>), we often commented on the number of foreign countries that U.S. colleges claimed they drew students from. Some colleges--especially large universities--were fond of saying that they drew students from 100 foreign countries, and we always thought that was great. But those colleges typically had thousands of students, so I am not sure how international each class students sat in actually seemed to the students.</p> <p>At Richmond, 42 countries were represented in just 180 college seniors. Every class students sat in was international--just like every dorm hallway and every group of students just hanging out and chatting. I remember well how international my son’s group of friends really was. This year, about 63 graduating seniors at Richmond came from the U.S., about 41 from the U.K., and the remaining 78 from the following countries: 9 from Spain, 7 from Italy, 7 from Bulgaria, 6 from France, 5 from Germany, 4 from Sweden, 4 from Lebanon, 4 from Belgium, 3 from Nigeria, 2 each from Brazil and Norway, and 1 each from Kuwait, Cameroon, Estonia, Guam, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Libya, Bahrain, Greece, Albania, Jordan, Portugal, India, Zambia, Pakistan, Kenya, Cyprus, Finland, Montenegro, the Republic of Kosovo, Egypt, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Australia.</p> <p>Wow. It was amazing to see all the kids and to see the very obvious cross-cultural bonds that had been forged, but it was also amazing to see all of the families and to hear all of the languages being spoken by the proud families of the graduates. It left no doubt in my mind about the value of the truly international experience that these kids had enjoyed.</p> <p>For the record, Richmond is dually accredited in both the U.S. and the U.K. Richmond describes itself as a liberal arts university, and we have talked about the merits of liberal arts study frequently here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>. In fact, one of the speakers at graduation last week spoke about the liberal arts tradition at Richmond and its significance. Richmond prizes what it believes to be the result of a liberal arts education: namely, students who can think critically and creatively and who can make connections among a broad range of subjects they have studied.</p> <p>In our new book, one of the topics we call on high school students to investigate when exploring their college options is the presence of a core curriculum. As we have said before, some colleges have quite an extensive required core curriculum, including specific required courses; some colleges have a less specific required core curriculum, including a choice of courses in specified, but broad, fields of study (like the humanities); and some colleges have no required core curriculum at all. Depending on what you or your teenager wants, having a core curriculum can be either a positive or a negative in a college you are considering.</p> <p>Richmond, in fact, has a sort of mixed core curriculum consisting of 10 three-credit courses taken in the freshman year. Its core curriculum includes some specific courses like Research and Writing I and II, Creative Expression, Scientific Reasoning, and Transitions: London Calling I and II (which focuses on service learning and answers the question, “How can you use London, with all its attractions and all its problems, to help others whilst helping yourself?”) But, less restrictively, the core curriculum also includes a Quantitative Reasoning course (which depends on the student’s major), the student’s choice of any one of 17 Humanities and Social Science course options, and two additional courses of the student’s own choosing outside the major. So, the core is there--with a little wiggle room. Frankly, I am glad as a parent that it was there because I am quite sure that my son would have otherwise avoided quantitative reasoning at all costs.</p> <p>And let me mention one more very attractive feature of Richmond’s undergraduate program, and this is something else we suggest that students look for when exploring their college options. It is Richmond’s far-reaching study abroad programs, which are available through partnerships in Europe, North and South America, the South Pacific, Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East, but also through Richmond’s own mini-campuses in Rome and Florence. My son did a summer at the Rome campus as a high school student, and both my son and daughter did a semester at the Florence campus during their undergraduate study. (By the way, your college student can study at Richmond’s Florence campus through the <a href="https://www.aifs.com/" target="_blank">American Institute for Foreign Study</a> from whatever college he or she chooses in the U.S. My daughter Polly went there for a semester from <a href= "https://www.fordham.edu/" target="_blank">Fordham University</a>.)</p> <p>Richmond’s Florence program is outstanding in many ways, including for the variety of art and art history courses that are offered and for the Italian language classes that are offered. Students can earn a full year of language credit in just one semester because of the required one-week full-time Italian course that students take prior to the beginning of the actual semester, followed by a second Italian course at the appropriate level during the semester.</p> <p>Finally, I just learned that Richmond now offers a full freshman year at the Florence campus. I am sorry I don’t have any children left to send! What could be better than a year in Florence, a year in Richmond-upon-Thames, and two years in London? That’s a truly international university, as I might have mentioned already.</p> <h2>2. What’s the Downside?</h2> <p>At graduation, I happened to be seated next to the mother of one of the American graduating seniors. The family had lived in London for 14 years before moving back to the U.S. We marveled at the great opportunity that Richmond was for our kids. We wondered why everyone didn’t do it.</p> <p>But surely there is a downside? Frankly, I am not sure that there is. Perhaps surprisingly, the cost is actually not the downside. Tuition this coming year for U.S. students is $38,000—not as cheap as your state’s public university for sure, but not as expensive as many private colleges in the U.S. And, yes, the kids do have to travel back and forth to London, which isn’t cheap. However, the kids tend to leave only at the semester break because they enjoy visiting the homes of their classmates in Europe for shorter breaks. So, it really amounts to two round trips per year.</p> <p>I understand that, for some parents, the real downside is having their children so far away from home that they really can’t see them more than during the month-long semester breaks and summer vacations. There really is no argument to make if that is your concern, parents. However, I will tell you that you are likely to miss your children a lot more than they will miss you. I am sure that some have a bit of homesickness at the beginning, but there is so much new to see and do that I don’t believe it lasts very long. And at smaller colleges, like Richmond, there is a bit of a family atmosphere anyway, with small classes and many opportunities to build close relationships both with the other students and with the professors.</p> <h2>3. The Master’s Degrees</h2> <p>The real “deal” at Richmond, by the way, is the M.A. program, which costs about $15,500 (the M.B.A. is a little bit pricier) and is completed in just one full calendar year (that is, two academic semesters and a summer). That’s compared to the two years (or four academic semesters) you would have to pay for at a far higher annual price at many private U.S. colleges.</p> <p>As I mentioned in a Facebook Live chat I did with my daughter when she was home in New York City doing her internship last summer, I thought that her M.A. program in Visual Arts Management and Curating was excellent. She worked hard and graduated “with Distinction,” but that is thanks to the outstanding professors she had and how committed they were to the students. My daughter and her classmates traveled to many museums and galleries for classes, they met with working professionals in London in and outside of classes, and they had easy access to their professors.</p> <p>So, if you have an older child graduating from college next year, consider whether a good and reasonably priced graduate program in London--or somewhere else outside the U.S--might be the way to go.</p> <h2>4. Next Week</h2> <p>Next week, we will turn our college spotlight on colleges north of the border--that is, colleges in Canada, which are becoming more attractive to U.S. students. We’ll tell you why, so stay tuned.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode122" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode122" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode122</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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USACC 121: No Harvard for You!
<p>Today in our current series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">Colleges in the Spotlight</a>, we want to look at a great article published in <em>The New York Times</em> by an award-winning journalist writing a very personal piece. Although the title of our episode is “No Harvard for You,” it is really about many colleges a lot like Harvard--highly selective, prestigious, private colleges, which have disappointed a lot of kids this March and April. This is an unusual perspective and a memorable one. Special thanks to my friend, Regina Rule, school board member in Manhasset, New York, who posted this article on Facebook. I probably never would have seen it without her.</p> <h2>1. Michael Winerip’s Article</h2> <p>Let me quote first from <em>The New York Times</em> blurb about the article’s author, Michael Winerip, so you can see just how impressive he is:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mike Winerip hasn’t held every job at The Times, just most of them. Over nearly 30 years, he has written five different columns--Our Towns, On Sunday, On Education (three times), Parenting and Generation B.</p> <p>He has been a staff writer for the magazine, investigative reporter, national political correspondent, Metro reporter and a deputy Metro editor. . . .</p> <p>In 2000, he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his exposé in the Times magazine of a mentally ill New York City man pushing a woman to her death on the subway. . . . In 2001, he played a leading role on the team of reporters that won a Pulitzer for the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And there is plenty more. There is no doubt that Mike is a smart, perceptive, and accomplished guy. Clearly, he is someone worth listening to. You should go read his entire piece, entitled “Y<a href= "http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/29Rparenting.html" target="_blank">oung, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard</a>,” published in <em>The Times</em> on April 29, 2007. Yes, 2007. It might as well have been yesterday. Perhaps his words are even more true now.</p> <p>Let’s listen to the beginning of his piece:</p> <blockquote> <p>On a Sunday morning a few months back, I interviewed my final <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target="_blank">Harvard</a> applicant of the year. After saying goodbye to the girl and watching her and her mother drive off, I headed to the beach at the end of our street for a run.<strong> </strong></p> <p>It was a spectacular winter day, bright, sunny and cold; the tide was out, the waves were high, and I had the beach to myself. As I ran, I thought the same thing I do after all these interviews: Another amazing kid who won’t get into Harvard.</p> <p>That used to upset me. But I’ve changed.<strong> </strong></p> <p>Over the last decade, I’ve done perhaps 40 of these interviews, which are conducted by alumni across the country. They’re my only remaining link to my alma mater; I’ve never been back to a reunion or a football game, and my total donations since graduating in the 1970s do not add up to four figures.<strong> </strong></p> <p>No matter how glowing my recommendations, in all this time only one kid, a girl, got in, many years back. I do not tell this to the eager, well-groomed seniors who settle onto the couch in our den. They’re under too much pressure already. Better than anyone, they know the odds, particularly for a kid from a New York suburb.</p> <p>By the time I meet them, they’re pros at working the system. Some have Googled me because they think knowing about me will improve their odds. After the interview, many send handwritten thank-you notes saying how much they enjoyed meeting me.</p> <p>Maybe it’s true.<strong> </strong></p> <p>I used to be upset by these attempts to ingratiate. Since I’ve watched my own children go through similar torture, I find these gestures touching. Everyone’s trying so hard. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let me stop right there for a minute. Parents, how many of you had your seniors do one or more of these alumni interviews? Parents of juniors, many of you have these on your horizon. I used to do them years ago for Cornell, so I know a bit about the way Mike feels. A young friend of mine went through alumni interviews for her applications to <a href="https://www.georgetown.edu/" target= "_blank">Georgetown</a> and <a href="https://www.yale.edu/" target= "_blank">Yale</a> and <a href="https://www.cornell.edu/" target= "_blank">Cornell</a> just a few months ago. </p> <p>To tell you the truth, I am not sure how I feel about alumni interviews and, for those of you who know me, you know that it is rare that I don’t have a strong opinion about something. I see why a college would use its alumni in this role, and I see why alumni would be willing to take on this task. I did myself, after all. But I am not sure how much alumni interviews really contribute to the admissions process or how valid those contributions are.</p> <p>In the old days, it seems to me that many more applicants were interviewed at the colleges by admissions officers. Maybe they weren’t any smarter or savvier than alumni, but they were trained in what they were doing. They likely knew what to look for, how to get the best from a nervous kid, and how to represent the college--and its admission process--accurately and fairly. I am not entirely sure that alumni interviewers--or, at least, not all alumni interviewers--can do all of those things. So why continue doing it, colleges?</p> <p>Here is what Mike says about why he continued to interview for his alma mater:</p> <blockquote> <p>It’s very moving meeting all these bright young people who won’t get into Harvard. Recent news articles make it sound unbearably tragic. Several Ivies, including Harvard, rejected a record number of applicants this year.</p> <p>Actually, meeting the soon-to-be rejected makes me hopeful about young people. They are far more accomplished than I was at their age and without a doubt will do superbly wherever they go.</p> <p>Knowing me and seeing them is like witnessing some major evolutionary change take place in just 35 years, from the Neanderthal Harvard applicant of 1970 to today’s fully evolved Homo sapiens applicant.<strong> </strong></p> <p>There was the girl who, during summer vacation, left her house before 7 each morning to make a two-hour train ride to a major university, where she worked all day doing cutting-edge research for NASA on weightlessness in mice.</p> <p>When I was in high school, my 10th-grade science project was on plant tropism--a shoebox with soil and bean sprouts bending toward the light.</p> <p>These kids who don’t get into Harvard spend summers on schooners in Chesapeake Bay studying marine biology, building homes for the poor in Central America, touring Europe with all-star orchestras.</p> <p>Summers, I dug trenches for my local sewer department during the day, and sold hot dogs at Fenway Park at night. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Mike is right. The escalation in what kids now present as their credentials on college applications has continued in the decade since this piece was written. College applications have almost become parodies of themselves. What more could high school kids do? Is any kid just a kid anymore? Well, if so, that kid isn’t getting into Harvard--or any other very selective college--where even stellar kids aren’t being admitted. Mike continues this way:<strong> </strong></p> <blockquote> <p>What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.<strong> </strong></p> <p>At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.<strong> </strong></p> <p>Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them.<strong> </strong></p> <p>I took one AP course and scored 3. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder if this makes any kid who didn’t get into some Ivy or <a href="https://www.stanford.edu/" target="_blank">Stanford</a> or <a href="http://web.mit.edu/" target="_blank">MIT</a> or the like this April feel any better. It probably doesn’t. But it does underscore just how crazy admissions at top schools can be. I keep saying to prospective applicants that these schools could fill their seats with kids with perfect SATs and perfect high school GPAs and incredible extracurricular activities. And I guess it’s true. Of course, these schools would be quick to say that they look for plenty of other things, too. And I hope that’s true, though I would like to see some evidence of it.</p> <p>One of Mike’s final comments is this:<strong> </strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I see these kids--and watch my own applying to college--and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>They are indeed, Mike. Parents, don’t forget that. Your kids are “under such pressure.”</p> <p>I have watched a number of kids go through this recently. Let me take one example of a smart and talented kid who did not get into her top Ivy-like choices, but did get into a fine private university and a fine public flagship university. She chose the private university and immediately applied to its honors program (she had already automatically been accepted into the honors program at the public flagship when they sent her the acceptance). But this private university required a separate honors program application--well, actually there were four different honors programs, each one more impressive than the last.</p> <p>She asked me to look over the FOUR essays she had to write for the honors application. Honestly, I would have had trouble writing the fourth one myself. I felt a bit like Mike as I sat there, with my two Ivy League degrees, staring at the essay and wondering what in the world I would have said.</p> <p>I did what I could to help her, but she did not get into the honors program she applied for (likely a result of her SAT scores, according to the honors program descriptions). Now, I think that is okay. She will do well at the university. She will probably have a great time there (which is actually an important part of the college experience, too, I think). I am fine that she didn’t get into the honors program, but I doubt she is, and I know her parents are disappointed. So, I will say one more time to you, parents: “They’re under such pressure.” At some point, you have to let that go. Once the acceptances are in and the college-going decision is made, it is time to be happy. No more disappointment. Look forward to the fall and a new adventure for your kid. I don’t want to have to remind you again!</p> <h2>2. Next Week</h2> <p>We are going to take a break next week in honor of college graduations and Memorial Day. I am actually traveling to the U.K. to attend my daughter’s master’s degree graduation ceremony at <a href="http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target="_blank">Richmond, The American International University in London</a>. Many of you are making or just made the same kind of trip if you have older kids graduating from college somewhere this month. It is a time for celebration, and we hope you have a great one!</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode121" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode121" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode121</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 120: Lots of College Options in Our New Workbook
<p>Today, we have figured out a way to talk both about our new book--<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</a>--and to make good on the title of our current series, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-colleges-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">Colleges in the Spotlight</a>. As we were writing the book, we realized that we could use a lot of college examples, drawn from our earlier podcast episodes, to illuminate the points we were trying to make. I thought it would be interesting to see just how many colleges were mentioned in the book--and by “mentioned,” I mean that they were used to illustrate the answers to some of the 52 questions that teenagers are asked to find the answers to for each college on their Long List of College Options (LLCO). In a way, these colleges are in our spotlight for things that they are doing right or for characteristics they have that are noteworthy. To find out why we mentioned each college, you are going to have to get the book! </p> <h2>1. Colleges in the Spotlight</h2> <p>So, here we go. Here are the colleges that we thought were worth mentioning--for some reason or other (they are listed roughly in the order in which they are mentioned in the book, and I might have missed a few):</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.fordham.edu/" target="_blank">Fordham University</a> (joint program with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)</li> <li><a href="http://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target="_blank">Richmond, The American International University in London</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.colorado.edu/" target="_blank">University of Colorado Boulder</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.uri.edu/" target="_blank">The University of Rhode Island</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.tuskegee.edu/" target="_blank">Tuskegee University</a></li> <li><a href="https://uiowa.edu/" target="_blank">University of Iowa</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.uvm.edu/" target="_blank">University of Vermont</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.udel.edu/" target="_blank">University of Delaware</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.uwyo.edu/" target="_blank">University of Wyoming</a></li> <li><a href="http://www2.cuny.edu/" target="_blank">City University of New York</a> (and its <a href="http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/main/" target="_blank">Hunter College</a> campus)</li> <li><a href="http://www.wm.edu/" target="_blank">College of William & Mary</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.upenn.edu/" target="_blank">University of Pennsylvania</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.fisk.edu/" target="_blank">Fisk University</a></li> <li>Rutgers, <a href="http://www.rutgers.edu/" target="_blank">The State University of New Jersey</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.psu.edu/" target="_blank">Penn State</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/" target= "_blank">University of California</a> campuses</li> <li><a href="https://www2.calstate.edu/" target="_blank">California State University</a> campuses</li> <li><a href="https://www.cornell.edu/" target="_blank">Cornell University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.soka.edu/" target="_blank">Soka University of America</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.unm.edu/" target="_blank">The University of New Mexico</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.columbia.edu/" target="_blank">Columbia University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.brown.edu/" target="_blank">Brown University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target="_blank">Harvard University</a></li> <li><a href="https://barnard.edu/" target="_blank">Barnard College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.morehouse.edu/" target="_blank">Morehouse College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.spelman.edu/" target="_blank">Spelman College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.hsc.edu/" target="_blank">Hampden-Sydney College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.wabash.edu/" target="_blank">Wabash College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.kenyon.edu/" target="_blank">Kenyon College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.kent.edu/" target="_blank">Kent State University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.nyu.edu/" target="_blank">New York University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.carleton.edu/" target="_blank">Carleton College</a></li> <li><a href="https://twin-cities.umn.edu/" target= "_blank">University of Minnesota</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.msoe.edu/" target="_blank">Milwaukee School of Engineering</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.uaf.edu/" target="_blank">University of Alaska Fairbanks</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.washington.edu/" target= "_blank">University of Washington</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.unh.edu/" target="_blank">University of New Hampshire</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.gsu.edu/" target="_blank">Georgia State University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.amherst.edu/" target="_blank">Amherst College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.vassar.edu/" target="_blank">Vassar College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.reed.edu/" target="_blank">Reed College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.hamilton.edu/" target="_blank">Hamilton College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.coloradocollege.edu/" target= "_blank">Colorado College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.rice.edu/" target="_blank">Rice University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.duke.edu/" target="_blank">Duke University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.caltech.edu/" target="_blank">California Institute of Technology</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.sjc.edu/" target="_blank">St. John’s College</a></li> <li><a href="http://web.mit.edu/" target="_blank">Massachusetts Institute of Technology</a></li> <li><a href="https://manoa.hawaii.edu/" target="_blank">University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa</a></li> <li><a href="http://evergreen.edu/" target="_blank">The Evergreen State College</a></li> <li><a href="http://pitweb.pitzer.edu/" target="_blank">Pitzer College</a> (one of the five undergraduate colleges of <a href= "http://www.claremont.edu/" target="_blank">The Claremont Colleges</a>)</li> <li><a href="https://www.centre.edu/" target="_blank">Centre College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.goucher.edu/" target="_blank">Goucher College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.hampshire.edu/" target="_blank">Hampshire College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.bennington.edu/" target="_blank">Bennington College</a></li> <li><a href="https://sterlingcollege.edu/" target="_blank">Sterling College</a></li> <li><a href="http://drexel.edu/" target="_blank">Drexel University</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.northeastern.edu/" target= "_blank">Northeastern University</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.smcvt.edu/" target="_blank">St. Michael’s College</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.rochester.edu/" target="_blank">University of Rochester</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.umb.edu/" target="_blank">University of Massachusetts Boston</a></li> </ul> <p>That’s more than 60 colleges, which is actually quite a few. Of course, you can always refer back to the <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">virtual college tour we did in Episodes 27 through 53</a> for a discussion of even more colleges, organized by geographic region of the U.S.</p> <p>But the new book doesn’t stop with those 60-plus. We also name some great college towns--“great,” according to one of the lists of great college towns that publications love to compile. Do you know what colleges are located in these towns?</p> <ul> <li>College Station, TX</li> <li>Charlottesville, VA</li> <li>Saratoga Springs, NY</li> <li>Asheville, NC</li> <li>Flagstaff, AZ</li> <li>Boulder, CO</li> <li>Santa Cruz, CA</li> <li>St. Augustine, FL</li> <li>Burlington, VT</li> <li>Annapolis, MD</li> <li>Ann Arbor, MI</li> <li>Athens, GA</li> <li>Oxford, MS</li> <li>Iowa City, IA</li> </ul> <h2>2. Now, It’s Up to You</h2> <p>Now, it’s up to you. At least, that is what we say at the end of the book. We wrote this to each student, assuming that he or she had done the assignments as they were presented:<strong> </strong></p> <p>You have done a lot of work to gather information about the colleges on your LLCO. You have completed a College Profile Worksheet on quite a few colleges by now. You have learned more than many high school students know about a variety of specific colleges and about higher education generally.<strong> </strong></p> <p>So, it’s time to start comparing and contrasting the colleges you have researched. That will be a long process, which will require analysis and evaluation by you and your parents and perhaps other important family members. And it’s okay that it is a long process because this is a big decision for all of you.<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>Remember that choosing which colleges to apply to can be every bit as important as choosing which college to attend.</strong> In an ideal world, you should be happy with every college you apply to because that will take the pressure off as you wait for acceptances to come in.<strong> </strong></p> <p>Of course, you might be more excited about some choices than others, but don’t apply to any college that you would not want to attend. That is a waste of your time and money. <strong>We are confident that there is a college that you can be admitted to that will make you happy.</strong> Even safety schools don’t have to be disappointing choices. If they are for you now, you just haven’t looked hard enough yet! Get busy. </p> <p>We mean that last point really sincerely: If your teenager’s safety schools are disappointing choices for him or her, you all just haven’t looked hard enough yet. There are great colleges--especially some public flagship universities and some large private universities--that are very likely to admit good students, especially those who come from other states. Having a safety school that your teenager does not want to go to is really not having any safety school at all.</p> <p>We mean it when we say, “Look harder.” We hope that our new book will help your teenager look harder, think harder, and work harder to expand his or her LLCO, to get exciting colleges onto that LLCO, to learn as much as possible about each one of them (by completing a College Profile Worksheet for each one), and to feel satisfied when all of the applications are submitted--that is, satisfied that all of the colleges he or she applied to are good choices, just for different reasons. And a satisfied teenager is likely to produce a satisfied parent. Or at least it should.</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode120" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode120</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 119: Explore College Options with a New Workbook
<p>We are going to take a tiny detour from our new series, <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em>, to talk a bit about our brand new book, which we have called <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank"><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em></a>. First, let us give a shout-out to high school students at Brooklyn Tech for their help in choosing the title for the book. We tried out a few titles on them, and they chose one quite close to the one we are using. For those of you who don’t know Brooklyn Tech, it’s a selective high school full of smart public school kids of all backgrounds, and it is also home to three really great teachers from the Early College high school that we co-founded in 2009. So there’s a shout-out to you, Wandy Chang, Doug Shuman, and Lev (that’s just Lev, like Cher).</p> <h2>1. What’s in the New Workbook?</h2> <p>Let’s start by saying that this book is for high school students. Our last book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank"><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em></a>, was—obviously—for you, parents. It was really a discussion guide that we hoped you would use to talk with your teenagers about the deal breakers each of you had when thinking about colleges to apply to and then to attend.</p> <p>This book is a bit different. It is a workbook--and we mean WORKbook--for high school students. It makes the point that many of us already know: It takes a lot of work to figure out the best colleges for your teenager to apply to. And, furthermore, figuring out where to apply is likely more important than choosing where to attend, as we have said many times. I can’t emphasize enough how strongly we believe that. If your teenager chooses colleges to apply to wisely and with enthusiasm and if those colleges meet with your approval as well, then the choice of where to attend is a lot easier to make.</p> <p>Here is what we said to your teenager in our new book’s introduction, entitled “Why Are We Talking to You Now?”:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>If you are a high school freshman or sophomore,</strong> you are in the perfect spot to get a head start in the college admission game. You can use this workbook over the next couple of years to put together the best personalized research guide about colleges—ever.</p> <p><strong>If you are a high school junior,</strong> this workbook is ideally suited for your immediate use. You should be able to use it productively at any time during your junior year and up until your college applications are finally submitted.</p> <p><strong>If you are a high school senior,</strong> you should find this workbook helpful, too, if you still have some time before your college applications are due. But you have to hurry up! (And remember that all colleges do NOT have a January 1 deadline.)</p> <p>Since 2014, we have been talking to your parents in our weekly podcast, <em>USACollegeChat</em>. The truth is that we have given them more information about colleges than anyone could probably use.</p> <p>We took them on a virtual tour of colleges nationwide and profiled many public and private colleges in every region of the country to try to get them—and, of course, you—to look outside your family’s geographic comfort zone when considering where you should apply.</p> <p>When we put together that virtual college tour, we realized something very important: There are a lot of colleges out there, and it is impossible to keep up with what is going on at most of them.</p> <p>We also realized what your biggest problem is (well, yours and theirs, actually): <strong>You don’t know anything about most colleges.</strong> We have been doing this for a couple of decades, and there was a lot of stuff we didn’t know either, as it turned out. So, how do you solve that problem?</p> <p>The simple answer is just to ask a guidance counselor at your high school. You would think that guidance counselors would know quite a bit about lots of colleges and that they could pass that information on to you. Here’s why that usually doesn’t work.      </p> <p>Let’s start with public high schools. As you probably already know, most public high schools don’t have guidance counselors who are dedicated to working only on college counseling. That means that your guidance counselors, with caseloads in the hundreds, have to help students with college applications while dealing simultaneously with students who might be in serious personal or academic trouble. That’s an overwhelming job, and that is exactly why <strong>most high school guidance counselors cannot help you enough</strong> when it comes to exploring many college options, narrowing them down, and finally choosing the perfect colleges to put on your list.</p> <p>Some public high schools—and even more private schools—have designated one of the school’s guidance counselors as a college counselor, specializing in college placement and perhaps financial aid and devoting all of his or her time to helping students undertake and complete their college searches. If your school has a college counselor like that, you are lucky indeed. Of course, searching through hundreds of colleges to find the right ones for you and then working through those college applications (including all of the essays) is the work of a lot of hours—at least 20 hours and really closer to 40 hours, we would say. Does your counselor have that much time to spend with you? Unfortunately, probably not, even if you attend a private school.</p> <p><strong>What if you are homeschooled?</strong> Without the help of a school guidance counselor or college counselor—even for a very limited amount of time—you might feel more at a loss than your friends who attend public or private schools. Should you expect your parents to know everything you need to know about a wide array of college choices? No, you shouldn’t. Respecting your parents’ opinions about colleges is certainly important, even crucial. But it is not likely that they are experts on the many, many colleges here in the U.S. (and abroad).</p> <p>All high school students need to get help from somewhere or someone. We believe that this workbook is a good way to get some. That’s why we are talking to you now. We want you to have a way to find out the information you need about many colleges so that you will be in the best possible position to compare those colleges and then to make the right decision about where to apply and, eventually, about where to attend. While you will undoubtedly want and need some adult advice in thinking through the many options, <strong>what you need first is information—and a lot of it.</strong></p> <p>If you already have a list of colleges you are interested in, you will need information about each one of those. But, just as important, you will need information about colleges that are not yet on your list—including colleges that you have never considered because you didn’t know they existed. That’s not your fault now, but it will be if you don’t take steps to correct it. So, let’s get started.</p> </blockquote> <p>We couldn’t be more serious about this. Most kids and most parents just don’t know enough to choose colleges. The only solution to that is to get information. And the only way I know to get information is to do some work.</p> <h2>2. But First…</h2> <p>Before your teenager actually starts getting detailed information about colleges, it is important to expand your teenager’s list of options, as we have said before. We call this the LLCO in the book--that is, your teenager’s “long list of college options.”</p> <p>We give your teenager several instructions for how to expand the LLCO so that your teenager can increase his or her chances of choosing the right colleges to apply to. Those of you who are loyal listeners of <em>USACollegeChat</em> won’t be surprised at some of those instructions, like this one:</p> <blockquote> <p>Make sure that you have at least two four-year colleges in each of the nine geographic regions of the U.S. on your LLCO.</p> </blockquote> <p>Once your teenager’s LLCO is set, the real work begins.</p> <h2>3. Here’s the Work</h2> <p>So, here’s the work. We created what we are calling the College Profile Worksheet in order to help your teenager gather the information you both need to move forward in the college search and application process. This is what we said in the book:</p> <blockquote> <p>Before you begin your research into the colleges on your LLCO, let’s take a few minutes to preview the College Profile Worksheet at the back of this workbook. It outlines the critical information you should find out about each college on your LLCO before making a decision about whether to apply to that college. It’s actually 11 pages long--but those pages include lots of space for you to write in!</p> <p>The worksheet is going to look long to you. But this is an important decision you are about to make. In fact, we would argue that <strong>deciding where to APPLY is just as important as deciding where to ENROLL--maybe more important.</strong> After all, if you don’t apply to a college, you can’t possibly enroll there. This is the decision that sets all of the others in motion.</p> <p>The College Profile Worksheet calls for you to make a lot of notes about colleges you are interested in. Why write all of this information down, you might be asking? Because you can’t remember it. Believe us, after you research about four colleges, you will not be able to remember which college had the great bike paths and which college had the required math courses. You need a convenient way to recall each college--without having to go back to the website and look up the information again.</p> <p>We learned this the hard way. When we were profiling colleges for our virtual college tour, we went back and forth to the same college website far too many times before realizing that we should have just jotted everything down the first time. We actually made a crude version of the worksheet for ourselves, and we have now improved it and put it into this workbook for you. The College Profile Worksheet will save you lots of time in the long run.</p> <p>Here are the categories of information you will be researching about each college on your LLCO:</p> <p><strong>History and Mission</strong></p> <p><strong>Location</strong></p> <p><strong>Enrollment</strong></p> <p><strong>Class Size</strong></p> <p><strong>Academics</strong></p> <p><strong>Schedule</strong></p> <p><strong>Housing</strong></p> <p><strong>Security Measures</strong></p> <p><strong>Activities and Sports</strong></p> <p><strong>Admission Practices</strong></p> <p><strong>Cost</strong></p> <p>You will see that the College Profile Worksheet asks you several questions in each category. Answering those questions will give you a good understanding of many important features of each college on your LLCO. As a result, you should be able to decide more efficiently and more accurately whether each college is a good match for you.</p> </blockquote> <p>This might sound like a lot of work to you--and to your teenager. But we insist that your teenager should not be making a decision about attending a college--or even applying to a college--if he or she knows any less about it. We guarantee that the 52 questions we provide and the 52 answers your teenager will discover will give you both a better picture of colleges in the U.S. than most educated adults have. By the way, we tell your teenager almost exactly where to look to find the answers--for example, on a college’s website or in <a href= "https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a>, our favorite online source of college information, which we have talked about many times.</p> <p>Parents: Listen up. You are about to spend tens of thousands of dollars--and many of you will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars--on your upcoming college purchase. So isn’t it worth it to do a little research up front?</p> <p>Summer is a perfect time to get your teenager to use our new book to do the work that is necessary before making any important college decisions. Get it now, and let your teenager get used to the idea of his or her new summer job!</p> <h2>Find our books on Amazon!</h2> <ul> <li><em>How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">available as a Kindle ebook and in paperback</a>)</li> <li><em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students</em> (<a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Explore-Your-College-Options/dp/0986408832/" target="_blank">available in paperback</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode119" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode119" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode119</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 118: It’s the Colleges’ Turn To Beg!
<p>Since Decision Day is almost upon us, we are going to refrain from giving any more general advice. If you want specific advice for your teenager, call us. That’s free advice available to parents with seniors until April 30 at 11:59 p.m. New York City time</p> <p>So, we are in our new series, which we are calling <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em>. Last week, we shone our spotlight on <a href="http://www.spelman.edu/" target="_blank">Spelman College</a> and its fellow HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). Today, we are headed to the West Coast to take a look at the <a href="http://www.ucla.edu/" target= "_blank">University of California, Los Angeles</a>, which we talked at length about way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-39-colleges-in-the-far-west-region-part-i/" target="_blank">Episode 39</a> of our virtual nationwide college tour.</p> <p>As we said then, UCLA was started in 1919 as the University of California’s Southern Branch and its star has been rising ever since. By many accounts, it now ranks academically with well-known and highly regarded <a href="http://www.berkeley.edu/" target= "_blank">UC Berkeley</a>, the university that UCLA was the Southern Branch of. When we recorded Episode 39, UCLA’s incoming freshman class average GPA was 4.25, with comparably high SAT scores. UCLA serves about 28,000 undergraduates and a total of about 42,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. About one-third of its undergraduates are Asian, and about one-quarter are white. About 80 percent are California residents. UCLA’s undergraduates study in 125 majors across five schools and colleges: College of Letters and Science and the Schools of the Arts and Architecture; Engineering and Applied Science; Theater, Film and Television; and Nursing. And the Bruins play some great basketball, have won more NCAA titles than any other university, and have produced 250 Olympic medalists. It looks as though any candidate would need to be exceptional to get into UCLA these days.</p> <p>Given those remarkable statistics, it is even more intriguing to listen to today’s episode in which the tables have now been turned: The college is trying to convince the students to come (rather than having the students try to convince the college to accept them). You might have noticed your friends who have seniors of their own travelling the country in this last week or two to take their kids to “admitted students’ days” so that everyone can get one last look before making the big decision. Well, I believe that a lot of those visits include a hard sell by college administrators, who have crafted the perfect sales pitch to convert admitted students into enrolled students. Why? Because, as we have said before, colleges are looking for a high “yield rate”--that is, the percentage of students who actually enroll from those who have been admitted. This yield rate affects the way some people judge a college and its attractiveness and its prestige--and it undoubtedly affects some of the many independent college-ranking systems as well.</p> <h2>1. “UCLA Works To Seal the Deal”</h2> <p>So, let us take you to an article written recently by Teresa Watanabe in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, entitled “<a href= "http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ucla-admissions-20170405-story.html" target="_blank">UCLA works to seal the deal with thousands of freshmen admitted for fall 2017</a>.” You should read it, if only for its great human interest angle and the personal stories of real seniors faced with real decisions. We will give you just some highlights here.</p> <p>Let us start by saying that the article focuses on the work being done by UCLA’s vice provost of enrollment management, Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, to convert admitted students into enrolled students. The article tells the story of Ms. Copeland-Morgan’s hard sell to a group of 11 Los Angeles high school seniors. Really? The vice provost of enrollment management is meeting with 11 students? At some colleges, 11 might be almost a noticeable number of a small freshman class, but the UCLA freshman class is bigger than a lot of colleges’ total enrollment. That sounds like a lot of meetings for Ms. Copeland-Morgan.</p> <p>The article notes these statistics:</p> <blockquote> <p>[UCLA] sent out letters of acceptance to about 16,000 high school seniors last month and is now working to seal the deal with enough students to fill 4,350 freshman seats.</p> <p>Last year, 37% of those offered admission accepted, a yield rate topped only by UC Berkeley among the University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses.</p> <p>Copeland-Morgan told the [11 students she was talking to that] they were elite scholars who were selected from a record 102,000 applications from all 50 states and 80 countries. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let’s look at these brand new numbers. First, UCLA was clearly quite selective in choosing to admit just about 15 percent of its applicants. It is a public university, after all. Second, as I do the math, UCLA needs only about a 27 percent yield rate to fill those 4,350 freshman seats. Last year, it got a 37 percent yield rate. Consequently, it looks to me as though UCLA is probably in fine shape--maybe too fine, if it gets the same yield rate and has to find room for an extra 1,500 freshmen!</p> <p>The article continues as Ms. Copeland-Morgan talks to the 11 high school students:</p> <blockquote> <p>She told them they deserved to attend UCLA, [which] she described as one of the world’s top 15 universities. She also tried to ease their worries that they might not fit in and feel comfortable. The campus is richly diverse, she told them and their parents, with more than a third of its students low-income, underrepresented minorities and the first in their families to attend college. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>While those words might have been encouraging, especially since Ms. Copeland-Morgan was herself an alumna of the very high school some of the 11 kids were attending, she also noted that “UCLA’s top-notch faculty and staff included people who would help them find classmates to connect with--and keep them on the right path. ‘If we see any of them acting crazy, we’re going to talk to them like our own children,’ Copeland-Morgan said, prompting one dad in the audience to give her a smile and thumbs up” (quoted from the article).</p> <p>By the way, it wasn’t just Ms. Copeland-Morgan at the sales pitch on behalf of UCLA. According to the article, “[o]ther staff members talked up UCLA’s food, three years of guaranteed student housing, 1,000-plus student organizations and elite athletics, with its teams boasting 113 NCAA championships.” I have to admit that I am surprised that UCLA would send more than one staff member to do this recruiting—or, in fact, that UCLA would send even one. But the article explains that this personal touch has improved UCLA’s yield rate, “especially among minority, low-income and first-generation college students” (quoted from the article). The article quotes one of the newly accepted students attending the sales pitch as saying this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I was nervous about UCLA because it’s so prestigious and because of my status as a minority,” he said. “But the staff seemed so friendly and caring. I can see myself walking onto the campus as a Bruin.”</p> </blockquote> <p>And so the face-to-face hard sells seem to be working. And according to the article, Ms. Copeland-Morgan “said she jumps at the chance to make a personal pitch to students who can help UCLA fulfill its mission to reflect the diversity of Californians.” To that we say, good for her, good for the kids, and good for UCLA.</p> <p>The article continues on this theme:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Ms. Copeland-Morgan] and her staff also have . . . enlisted faculty members to help with what she called “culturally relevant” programs to give admitted students and their families a chance to get a feel for the campus. Recently, they sponsored an event, “Your Future is Bruin,” for Latino students, offering Spanish for monolingual parents and play spaces for siblings.</p> <p>“UCLA has an obligation as an anchor institution in the city to give back in different ways to the community,” Copeland-Morgan said. “This is my passion. This is my ministry.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, what are the results of this considerable personal investment by UCLA staff, which has to come at a substantial price? According to the statistics quoted in the article, the results are impressive, especially when it comes to underrepresented minority students:</p> <blockquote> <p>The yield rate for African American freshmen rose to 50% last fall from 44% in 2014, by far the highest among UC campuses.</p> <p>At UC Berkeley, by comparison, the rate fell to 37% last year from 47% in 2014. UC Santa Barbara’s rate was 23%; UC Santa Cruz, 17%.</p> <p>UCLA also increased its Latino yield rate to 52% last year from 49% in 2014 and its first-generation rate to 54% from 49% over that same period. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Enough said.</p> <h2>2. So What?</h2> <p>So what does this have to do with your senior? First, you should think about whether any administrators and faculty members showed up to make the big sales pitch at any meetings for admitted students you have attended recently. If they did, I believe that means that the college actually cares a lot about whether its admitted students come--and probably for more reasons than just to improve its yield rate. It likely bodes well for the attention that those professionals will give your kid in the future. Furthermore, if the college is reaching out to your teenager because he or she is African American or Latino or the first generation in your family to go to college, then you should be pleased and relieved that the college cares enough to make that effort.</p> <p>Second, I hope that your teenager got a kick out of being on the other side of the bargaining table--especially if he or she had a grueling applications season and a difficult round of acceptances.</p> <p>For those of you who have freshmen, sophomores, or juniors at home, you should think hard about going to any admitted students’ days when the time comes, especially if your teenager is trying to choose among several good options. You both should sit back at the sale pitches and let the colleges work hard to get your business. Ask important questions. Demand good answers. Enjoy your time in the spotlight.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode118" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode118" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode118</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 117: The Best Case for Historically Black Colleges and Universities?
<p>We know that some of you are still discussing which college your teenager should attend next fall, and we are sure that, by now, you are tired of re-listening to Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank">69</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-70-college-decision-time-for-above-average-students/" target="_blank">70</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-71-college-decision-time-for-below-average-students/" target="_blank">71</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-114-its-college-decision-time/" target="_blank">114</a> of <em>USACollegeChat</em>—all of which we hoped would guide you through these difficult days. So, we thought we would let someone else do the talking today. Not us, but rather a college student--one we found to be remarkably insightful.</p> <p>This episode will also start a new series, which we are calling <em>Colleges in the Spotlight</em>. Now, to be honest, I am not sure that we can sustain this series for very long, but we do have a few colleges or types of colleges we find ourselves wanting to put the spotlight on because of what they are doing. You will recall that we took a close look at <a href="http://www.gsu.edu/" target="_blank">Georgia State University</a> back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-103-can-you-find-a-college-like-georgia-state/" target="_blank">Episode 103</a>, and now I wished that we had saved it for this series. If you can’t remember the impressive stuff we said about Georgia State, you should go back and listen again. Really.</p> <p>Today’s spotlight is on <a href="http://www.spelman.edu/" target="_blank">Spelman College</a> and indeed on HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) generally; therefore, the episode is especially relevant for students of color, but not just for black students. You might recall that we talked about the enrollment of HBCUs back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-100-historically-black-college-and-university-freshman-enrollment-on-the-rise/" target="_blank">Episode 100</a>. We noted then that HBCU enrollment seemed to be on the rise and that HBCUs were also becoming more attractive to Latino students for a variety of reasons, which were well described in our episode.</p> <p>And, if you were with us way back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-30-colleges-in-the-southeast-region-part-ii/" target="_blank">Episode 30</a>, you might recall that we highlighted Spelman, a well-respected all-female liberal arts college, founded by Baptist leaders, which offers 27 majors to just over 2,000 undergraduate women, drawn from most states across the country (with our home state of New York as one of the top five states sending students to Spelman). Spelman has an enviable student-to-faculty ratio of 10-to-1, meaning that students should typically be in small classes and get close attention from faculty members.</p> <p>For those of you with seniors and with a letter from an HBCU in your stack of college acceptances (maybe even from Spelman!), this episode is for you. And for those of you with freshmen, sophomores, or juniors at home, this episode should make you think twice.</p> <h2>1. Ms. Mitchell’s Piece</h2> <p>As our regular listeners can probably recite by now because we frequently find ourselves talking on this topic, HBCUs were founded to serve students who had previously been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first colleges to provide higher education to the family members of freed slaves. Over the years, HBCUs have produced extraordinary leaders in every field of endeavor and thousands and thousands of well-educated American citizens.</p> <p>Today’s focus is on an opinion piece published in <em>The New York Times</em> by Skylar Mitchell earlier this month. It is part of the On Campus series in the <em>Times</em>—“dispatches from college students, professors and administrators on higher education and university life” (quoted from the website). That makes two weeks in a row we have used the On Campus series to bring you an insight that we thought was extraordinary. Last week, the piece was written by a college admissions office staffer, but this week it is written by an actual college student. And now we are going to stop giving the <em>Times</em> free advertising unless it wants to start sponsoring the podcast.</p> <p>Because Ms. Mitchell wrote her piece in her own voice, with a rare combination of thinking and feeling for a college sophomore, I would like to read it to you in its entirety. It is not long, but you won’t forget it anytime soon. Her voice is, quite obviously, not our voice, so here are Ms. Mitchell’s own words from “Why I Chose a Historically Black College.” Listen on the podcast or <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/finding-growth-at-my-historically-black-college.html" target="_blank">follow this link to read her essay</a>.</p> <p>For once in my life, I have absolutely nothing to add. She speaks eloquently for herself.</p> <h2>2. Think Again</h2> <p>Ms. Mitchell obviously did a great job in choosing colleges to apply to, and we have tried again and again to emphasize how important that step is. Choosing colleges to apply to is every bit as important as choosing which college to attend--probably more so.</p> <p>And I believe that Ms. Mitchell did get into some great ones, if Swarthmore and Spelman are any indications. What she had, obviously, were options. And regardless of whether your teenager is as smart as Ms. Mitchell must be, what you need are options. Remember that, parents of freshmen and sophomores and juniors.</p> <p>And, finally, we will say this one more time at <em>USACollegeChat</em>: Think hard about putting an HBCU on your teenager’s list of possibilities. If we couldn’t convince you before, surely Ms. Mitchell has.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode117" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode117" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode117</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 116: Getting a Remarkable College Recommendation Letter
<p>For those of you still debating which college your teenager should attend next fall, let us remind you, one more time, to take a look at Episodes <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank">69</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-70-college-decision-time-for-above-average-students/" target="_blank">70</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-71-college-decision-time-for-below-average-students/" target="_blank">71</a>, and <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-114-its-college-decision-time/" target="_blank">114</a>—all of which aim to help you sort through some of the issues you might be facing in choosing the best college for your teenager. We wish you the best during this often stressful time--and, if you need an outside perspective, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Seriously.</p> <p>Well, we thought about taking this week off to enjoy everyone else’s spring break. But last week, I read <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/opinion/check-this-box-if-youre-a-good-person.html" target="_blank">a great opinion piece in <em>The New York Times</em> entitled “Check This Box If You’re a Good Person,"</a> and I thought we should share it with you in case you missed it. The author is Rebecca Sabky, who works in admissions at <a href= "http://dartmouth.edu/" target="_blank">Dartmouth College</a>. Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth is the smallest of the Ivy League institutions. I think that “Check This Box If You’re a Good Person” can fairly be called “a feel-good piece,” and I believe that we could all use that right now.</p> <p>For those of you with freshmen, sophomores, or juniors at home, this piece will definitely give you an idea you never had before--and that’s saying something when it comes to the subject of college recommendations. So, sit back and think outside the box with us.</p> <h2>1. Ms. Sabky’s Piece</h2> <p>Because Ms. Sabky did such a good job of writing her short personal piece, I am simply going to read it to you. I don’t want to mess it up, and it doesn’t need any further explanation from us. By the way, this piece is part of the On Campus series in the <em>Times</em>—“dispatches from college students, professors and administrators on higher education and university life” (quoted from the website). So, listen to the podcast or <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/opinion/check-this-box-if-youre-a-good-person.html" target="_blank">follow this link to read the article</a>.</p> <p>As a parent, I feel exactly the way Ms. Sabky does. Raising a kind and generous child is every bit as important as raising a super-smart one. In the case of this Dartmouth applicant, his parents clearly got both!</p> <h2>2. Think Outside the Box!</h2> <p>So, think outside the box when it comes to your teenager’s college recommendations. We are not saying that an unusual off-the-beaten-track recommendation takes the place of recommendations from teachers, who can judge your teenager’s academic abilities--probably especially when applying to highly selective colleges. But an additional recommendation--when one is allowed by the college--that can shed light on your teenager’s personal traits and values could, evidently, end up being priceless.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode116" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode116" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode116</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 115: What About a Gap Year Before College?
<p>While today’s topic might not be an issue in higher education generally, it could well be an issue in your own teenager’s higher education--and it’s an issue that you might want to think about quickly right now if you have a high school senior. It is the notion of having your teenager take a gap year between finishing high school this spring and starting college this fall. For those of you who have high school juniors at home, it’s not too early for you to be thinking about this option, too.</p> <p>For those of you wrestling with which college your teenager should attend when he or she has some options, let us remind you that, last year in April, we did a series of three episodes on how to think about that college decision--one for <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-70-college-decision-time-for-above-average-students/" target="_blank">above-average students</a>, one for <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank">average students</a>, and one for <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-71-college-decision-time-for-below-average-students/" target="_blank">below-average students</a>--because we felt that their options and their reasons for choosing one college over another might be very different. You should go back and re-read the show notes or re-listen to Episodes 69, 70, and 71--or, at least, the one that best describes the academic standing of your own teenager. As we said last week when we highlighted some key points from those three episodes, we just can’t do any better now than we did then in pointing out the serious questions you should consider in making this all-important choice with your teenager.</p> <p>With all that said, we are guessing that there are some families that are not thrilled with the college options they have at the moment, and today’s episode might give those families something else to consider. Like everything, the notion of a gap year has pros and cons, though I have to say that there are a lot of fervent supporters--far more than I thought before I did this episode. Let’s get some background.</p> <h2>1. The Background</h2> <p>Let me start by saying that I happened on an article from The Conversation from way back last May. The Conversation is, in its own words, “an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.” The Conversation explains that its “team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public. Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.” (quoted from the website) The Conversation, which was founded in Australia and now operates in the U.K. and U.S. as well, is a free resource, which addresses issues in arts, business, politics, the environment, health, technology, education, and more--so check it out.</p> <p>The discussion today <a href= "https://theconversation.com/starting-college-heres-why-you-should-think-about-a-gap-year-58700" target="_blank">comes from an article by Joe O’Shea</a>, the Director of Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement at <a href="https://www.fsu.edu/" target="_blank">Florida State University</a>, and Nina Hoe, the Study Director at the Institute for Survey Research at <a href="https://www.temple.edu/" target= "_blank">Temple University</a>. In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. O’Shea is the president of the board of the <a href= "http://www.americangap.org/" target="_blank">American Gap Association</a>, and Ms. Hoe is the Association’s Director of Research. My guess is that they might not be the most impartial chroniclers of the benefits of a gap year; nonetheless, they offer a lot of information on the topic in their article.</p> <p>Although gap years have been discussed--and taken--in the U.S. for many years, the notion of a gap year landed squarely on our collective radar when Malia Obama decided to take 2016–2017 as a gap year before attending <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target= "_blank">Harvard</a> this coming fall. Now, that probably had to do with the fact that her father was finishing up his presidency more than anything else, but perhaps she put gap years on the map for a lot of families that had never thought about them.</p> <p>The data show that about 11 percent of Australian students more than 10 years ago were taking gap years compared to no more than 3 percent of U.S. students today. What is a common topic of discussion and real alternative for educated families in the U.K. is rarely discussed here in the U.S., especially among middle-income and lower-income families.</p> <p>And yet, Mr. O’Shea and Ms. Hoe assert, in their article, that gap years are getting more popular in the U.S. So, let’s look at what the research shows.</p> <h2>2. The Research</h2> <p>The authors present evidence that an alarmingly sizable percentage of students on college campuses are stressed severely enough--including to the point of being medically diagnosed with anxiety or depression--to cause them to seek counseling from on-campus health services. The authors also note that “faculty and staff are reporting that today’s students lack coping skills such as resilience and the ability to succeed independently despite adversity” (quoted from the article). It is a picture of too many college students who are burned out from intense high school years, over-anxious, and unable to handle the many demands of college academic and social life.</p> <p>Well, if that’s the problem, what does research say about the solution? Here is what the authors say:</p> <blockquote> <p>Research shows that a gap year . . . can provide students the opportunity to gain personal skills such as independence, resilience, confidence and focus. A combination of activities during this year that involve volunteering, interning or working, either domestically or internationally, can provide meaningful experiences that challenge students outside their comfort zones. These experience[s] can help students reevaluate how they understand themselves and the world.</p> <p>Several peer-reviewed studies focusing on students in the U.K. and Australia have shown that students who took a gap year experienced a host of personal benefits, such as higher levels of motivation and higher academic performance in college.</p> <p>A 2015 survey of over 700 former gap year participants found overwhelming personal, academic, career and civic engagement benefits associated with taking a gap year.</p> <p>Over 90 percent of all respondents indicated that their gap year provided important time for personal reflection, aided in personal development, increased maturity and self-confidence, and fostered the development of interpersonal communication skills.</p> <p>Specifically related to college, 73 percent of respondents reported that their gap year helped them increase their readiness for college, 59 percent said it increased their interest in attending college and 57 percent said it helped them figure out what they wanted to study in college. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>As loyal listeners of <em>USACollegeChat</em> know, we are all about getting kids outside their comfort zone, so that is an appealing aspect of a gap year. And I do think that what the research finds is entirely believable. I imagine that most adults would agree that a one-year dose of the real world—whether that is in a volunteer or paid setting, whether that is at home or far away, whether that is working with people like you or people not at all like you—is likely to help teenagers grow up and give them more life-coping skills than they had when they started.</p> <p>But what about their future academic life? What if they like the path they are on in their gap year so much that they decide not to go to college at all? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? And what happens when they do go to college after a gap year?</p> <p>Here is some research cited, with obvious approval, on the American Gap Association website:</p> <blockquote> <p>From Joe O’Shea’s book, <em>Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs</em>: “. . . In Australia and the United Kingdom, economic researchers found that high school students who deferred their admission to college to take a Gap Year went to college (after their Gap Year) at the same rate as those who accepted an offer and intended to go straight there (Birch and Miller 2007; Crawford and Cribb 2012). They also found that taking a Gap Year had a significant positive impact on students’ academic performance in college, with the strongest impact for students who had applied to college with grades on the lower end of the distribution (Birch and Miller 2007; Crawford and Cribb 2012).” In fact, in the United Kingdom and in the United States, students who had taken a Gap Year were more likely to graduate with higher grade point averages than observationally identical individuals who went straight to college, and this effect was seen even for Gap Year students with lower academic achievement in high school (Crawford and Cribb 2012, Clagett 2013). (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, now I am really interested--because I feared that kids who took a gap year might end up opting out of college (which would obviously not be my preference for them). It is also persuasive that gap-year kids with lower grades in high school graduated with higher college grades than similar students who went straight to college. Whether that finding is the result of academic knowledge actually gained during the gap year or of enhanced personal traits (like motivation and self-confidence) doesn’t really matter, I guess. So, there does not seem to be a personal or academic downside to a gap year--at least according to this research, these authors, and the American Gap Association.</p> <h2>3. The Design (and Expense) of a Worthwhile Gap Year</h2> <p>How then do Mr. O’Shea and Ms. Hoe characterize an appropriate gap year experience? This is what they say:</p> <blockquote> <p>Gap years need to be properly designed so they can challenge students with new roles and perspectives that accelerate their growth as thinkers and citizens. Experiences that push students out of their comfort zones and allow them to explore new cultures and people from different backgrounds can create an impactful experience. They provide students an opportunity to reflect on a number of challenges and also allow for critical self-reflection that can root part of their identity in contributions to others.</p> <p>In an ideal gap year experience, students get to develop actual relationships with people who are different from them. And when that happens, students can begin to see the world from different perspectives and learn about the complexity of social challenges. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, that all sounds great. And if that can be done in the context of an internship near home or a volunteer slot in a nearby community, then I can get past one fear I have, which is that that gap years are just one more thing that benefit rich kids who can afford to fly off to some exotic locale or who can get a fascinating internship because of their parents’ connections.   Do you know, by the way, that there are companies that plan gap years for kids, including booking all of the travel? That can’t be cheap. Just like college admissions coaching, the notion of gap year experiences has spawned a whole industry. And that does worry me a bit.</p> <p>Perhaps the title of a <em>New York Times</em> article last May by Mike McPhate says it all: “<a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/malia-obamas-gap-year-is-part-of-a-growing-and-expensive-trend.html" target="_blank">Malia Obama’s ‘Gap Year’ Is Part of a Growing (and Expensive) Trend</a>." His article notes that the price tag on an international gap year program could run as high as $35,000.</p> <p>But here are a couple of other ways to do it:</p> <blockquote> <p>[U]niversity administrators . . . note that gap-year plans come in a variety of forms, some of them at no cost. <a href= "https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps" target= "_blank">AmeriCorps</a>’ <a href="https://www.cityyear.org/" target="_blank">City Year</a>, for example, pays students stipends to teach. Another popular program, <a href= "http://www.globalcitizenyear.org/" target="_blank">Global Citizen Year</a>, provides financial support--more than $6 million since 2010--for students to pursue experiential learning.</p> <p>But those programs can be highly competitive. City Year, for example, says it selects only about one in four applicants. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, although these programs sound promising, it’s like trying to get into college all over again. I am not sure how that helps kids cope with burnout and stress. And, as we might have expected, colleges themselves are getting into the game, according to Mr. McPhate’s article:</p> <blockquote> <p>More universities have begun formal gap-year programs that take varying approaches to enrollment and the providing of aid, including <a href= "http://www.princeton.edu/bridgeyear/">Princeton</a>, <a href= "http://activecitizen.tufts.edu/tufts1plus4/">Tufts</a>, <a href= "http://globalgap.unc.edu/">University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill</a> and <a href= "https://www.elon.edu/e-web/students/orientation/gap-semester/default.xhtml"> Elon University</a>.</p> <p>At Princeton and North Carolina, for example, freshman-year enrollment is deferred and at least some financial help is provided, while Elon considers participants enrolled and charges its regular tuition. Another <a href= "http://www.newschool.edu/lang/first-year-abroad/">program</a> <a href="http://www.newschool.edu/lang/first-year-abroad/">offered by</a> <a href= "http://www.newschool.edu/lang/first-year-abroad/">the New School in New York City</a> also treats students as enrolled and offers up to a full year of academic credit.</p> <p>Florida State University is among the latest campuses to <a href="http://news.fsu.edu/More-FSU-News/FSU-introduces-gap-year-scholarships"> start offering scholarships</a> to gap-year students. Late last year, the public institution said applicants could get up to $5,000, and sent an email to the entire incoming [freshman] class urging them to consider deferring their freshman year. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Clearly, I am not understanding how a gap year turns into a year where tuition is charged and a full year of academic credit is given. That really makes it sound more like a study abroad program. And, in fact, there are already colleges (NYU is one) where freshmen can take their freshman year in another country--a real study abroad experience before you ever study at home.</p> <h2>4. So What?</h2> <p>So, what is the purpose of a gap year and who should think about taking one? Well, I think that the vocal proponents of gap years think everyone should take one, given the positive results that the research seems to show. I am probably a bit more restrained in my enthusiasm, but I am willing to be persuaded. Parents, I am afraid that you are going to have to do some research of your own if you think your senior would benefit from a year of experiences--paid or unpaid, nearby or far away--before starting into his or her college career.</p> <p>Here are a few quotations from <a href= "https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/dont-send-your-kids-to-college-at-least-not-yet/" target="_blank">another <em>New York Times</em> article, written last year by Abigail Falik</a>, who is the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year (which we mentioned earlier) and who is, I am assuming, a bit partial to the notion of gap years.</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p>What if college freshmen arrived on campus not burnt out from having been “excellent sheep” in high school, but instead refreshed, focused and prepared to take full advantage of the rich resources and opportunities colleges have to offer?</p> <p>The “gap year,” a common practice across Europe and Australia, has yet to take root in the United States. A primary barrier is the stigma we associate with the term--it conveys privilege and frivolity and is often viewed either as a luxury for a select few, or remediation for kids who didn’t get into the college of their choice.</p> <p>And yet, the research shows undeniable, positive impacts in terms of increased maturity, confidence and achievement. A recent Middlebury study showed that students who take a year off before arriving outperform their peers in their academic and extracurricular engagement on campus. . . .</p> <p>Given its known benefits, it’s time to rebrand the “gap year” as anything but a “gap.” When used intentionally, the year before college can be a bridge, a launch pad and a new rite of passage. It’s the students who find the courage to step off the treadmill--replacing textbooks with experience and achievement with exploration--who are best prepared for life after high school. And a growing number of colleges are taking notice.</p> <p>Bill Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s undergraduate admissions dean, wrote a manifesto about the need for students to take time off before college. Rick Shaw, Stanford’s undergraduate admissions dean, now speaks about the value of non-linear paths and the learning and growth that come from risk taking and failure, as opposed to perfect records. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, if I had not been sure that the notion of a gap year was an issue in higher education when I started this episode, I am pretty sure now. Parents, start your research!</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode115" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode115" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode115</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 114: It’s College Decision Time!
<p>Well, it is almost April 1, the date by which a lot of colleges will make high school seniors happy or sad. In fact, many colleges have already done that in the past two weeks, with some doing so today and tomorrow. We are sure it is a tense time for lots of families--whether it leads to great joy or considerable disappointment. There is hardly a bigger issue in higher education, of course, than the admissions game, its fairness and unfairness, and its results for thousands and thousands of kids. Whatever the case may be, many of you are now in the position of making a final decision about where your teenager is going to go to college next fall.</p> <p>Last year in April, we did a series of three episodes on making that college decision--<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-70-college-decision-time-for-above-average-students/" target="_blank">one for above-average students</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank">one for average students</a>, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-71-college-decision-time-for-below-average-students/" target="_blank">one for below-average students</a>--because we felt that their options and their reasons for choosing one college over another might be very different. You should go back and re-read the show notes or re-listen to Episodes 69, 70, and 71--or, at least, the one that best describes the academic standing of your own teenager. We just can’t do any better now than we did then in pointing out the serious questions you should consider in making that all-important choice with your teenager.</p> <p>Of course, we know that many of you are too busy, especially right now, to review all three episodes, so we thought we would highlight some of the key points we tried to make in them. We chose points that apply to all seniors, regardless of their academic standing. We will assume for these discussions that seniors have a choice of colleges to attend, though that might mean as few as two colleges or as many as eight or 10 colleges. A small number of options, however, doesn’t necessarily make the choosing process any easier.</p> <h2>1. Rejection by the First-Choice College</h2> <p>Let’s start with what some families will consider the worst-case scenario, even though it likely is not really that: What if your teenager has just been rejected by his or her first choice? In <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-69-college-decision-time-for-average-students/" target="_blank">Episode 69</a>, we quoted from some remarkably insightful comments from a young woman named Julia Schemmer, who was rejected by her “dream” school--UCLA. She accepted a spot in the Class of 2019 at the University of California, Riverside. Here are some of the reflections that she offered other teenagers (originally published in <em>High School Insider</em> and re-published by the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> on March 31, 2016, as “<a href= "http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-rejected-college-20160331-story.html" target="_blank">Rejected from your dream school? Remember these three things</a>”):</p> <ol> <li> <blockquote><strong>It isn’t your fault.</strong> When a college rejection letter comes in the mail, it is easy to immediately invalidate everything you have ever done and view your experiences as a high school student as incomplete or inadequate. It’s not true. Many universities have rigorous application requirements with expectations that are often left unknown to anyone but the admissions board. You could have the perfect SAT, the most extracurricular activities, or the best GPA, but it could be true that the college wasn’t looking for things like that. . . .</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote><strong>It’s not the end of the world.</strong> There are so many colleges and universities that would absolutely love to have you walk through their door. Whether it’s expanding your knowledge of other universities that may be better suited to your goals or working hard to transfer to your dream school, there are still opportunities to attend a great learning institution. When I decided to commit to attending a school different from my dream school, of course I was disappointed. However, I currently love the university that I attend and the major I am pursuing. If anything, UCLA will always be an option for my graduate school education. (quoted from the article)</blockquote> </li> </ol> <p>Thank you, again, Julia! These are both excellent and important points. Neither is easy for kids to accept, however. No matter how many times any adult or older teenager says these two things, it is likely that kids will simply need to come to terms with this rejection over time. Parents, it’s not going to happen in a day or two--no matter how good you think the college options still on the table are. So, bear with your teenager while he or she goes through the stages of profound disappointment, whatever they are</p> <h2>2. Selectivity of the College</h2> <p>Let’s look at the selectivity of the college options that your teenager now has. We are going to assume that those colleges are not necessarily equivalent in terms of their selectivity. In other words, your child might have been accepted at a couple of selective private colleges (though not necessarily at a highly selective college), at a couple of less-selective private colleges, at your public flagship university or another public university in your state, and/or at a public flagship university or another public university in another state. You might also have a local community college on that list. But even if your child has just two options of colleges with differing degrees of selectivity, the decision-making process is still quite serious.</p> <p>Let’s put the financial aspects of this decision aside for a minute and look first at the selectivity of the colleges. Let me start with our conclusion, which remains the same as last year’s conclusion, since no new research has indicated anything that would make us change our minds: Your teenager should go to the most selective school that accepted him or her. Are there any arguments on the other side of that decision? Yes, but they are not persuasive.</p> <p>Apart from the undeniable prestige of attending a college that is more selective, we have said previously--based on a lot of data from various colleges--that graduation rates are higher at more-selective colleges. In other words, your teenager is more likely to graduate with a degree if he or she attends a more-selective college. Furthermore--and this is almost as important--your teenager is more likely to finish that degree in a reasonable amount of time, ideally four years (rather than the longer timelines many college students now operate on, where six years is not surprising). By the way, in the long run, getting out on time saves you money—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.</p> <p>Practically speaking, what does our advice mean? It means that you should talk with your teenager about going to the toughest, most academically prestigious college possible. Not just because of the prestige factor, but because it will affect his or her future--both four years from now as graduation approaches and likely a whole lot longer in terms of the classmates your teenager will have and where they will all end up working many years from now.</p> <p>Now, we know that many advisors would start talking to you about “fit” right now. We have even talked about “fit”—that is, how well your teenager will “fit” into the college community, based on brains or athletic ability or race or religion or socioeconomic status or any number of other things. We, too, want your teenager to fit into the college community that he or she chooses; we are just hoping that it will be an academically strong and well-resourced college community, with great professors and with students who progress through it and graduate on time.</p> <p>Here are a few questions we asked last year: What if that most selective college is far away from home and you and your teenager wanted a close-to-home option? What if that most selective college is private and you and your teenager wanted a public option? What if that most selective college is located in an urban setting and you and your teenager wanted a rural or suburban option? What if that most selective college is not faith based and you and your teenager wanted a faith-based option?</p> <p>Well, you are going to have to weigh all of these factors. But we are suggesting here that the selectivity of the college be moved to the top of your list of factors to consider when making this important decision.</p> <p>By the way, the most selective college your teenager was accepted to might well be a public university—especially if it is your state’s or another state’s flagship university. As we have said many times, there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public college. For a list of great public colleges, go back and listen or re-listen to the nationwide virtual college tour we took you all on in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">Episodes 27–53</a>. You will see the same names come up over and over again, including these: the <a href= "http://www.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank">University of California, Berkeley</a>; the <a href="https://www.umich.edu/" target="_blank">University of Michigan</a>; the <a href= "http://www.virginia.edu/" target="_blank">University of Virginia</a>; the <a href="http://www.unc.edu/" target= "_blank">University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill</a>; the <a href="http://www.wm.edu/" target="_blank">College of William and Mary</a>; the <a href="https://uiowa.edu/" target= "_blank">University of Iowa</a>; the <a href= "http://www.washington.edu/" target="_blank">University of Washington</a>; and the <a href="http://www.utexas.edu/" target= "_blank">University of Texas at Austin</a>. And there are quite a few more. If your teenager got into one of them, that is worth thinking really hard about.</p> <p>And let us add one note about community colleges for those of you who did not listen in last week when we devoted <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode113" target="_blank">Episode 113</a> to community colleges. If your child is at least an average student in high school, we don’t think that a community college is likely to be his or her best choice, although we understand that there might be financial reasons or family reasons to keep a child close to home and within commuting distance and that a community college might fit those circumstances very nicely.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the difficulty that many students seem to have in graduating from a community college or in transferring from a community college to a four-year college really worries us. Listen to last week’s episode to find out about the scandalously low graduation and transfer statistics. Last week, we concluded that, unless you think your teenager is smarter, harder working, more motivated, and more goal oriented than the typical community college student, your teenager is likely to have some difficulty graduating from a community college and/or transferring to a four-year college. So, talk with your teenager and think hard about that choice.</p> <h2>3. Your Choice for Your Teenager</h2> <p>What if your teenager has just been accepted by the college that <em>you</em> really want him or her to attend, but that college is not your teenager’s first or second or even third choice? Who wins? That is one of the worst problems we can imagine.</p> <p>As a parent and as an adult, I would like to say that you should win because you have been around longer and seen more and perhaps you even know more and are likely paying the bill. But I don’t think you <em>can</em> win in this situation without convincing your teenager that you are right. In previous episodes (like Episode 69), we have told many anecdotes that prove this point.</p> <p>Here is the bottom line for us: College is hard, and it is almost impossible when the student is not reasonably happy there. So, parents, we believe that you will eventually have to give in to what your teenager wants because, in fact, he or she is the one who is going to have to do the work.</p> <p>By the way, for all of you parents who have younger children coming up through high school and just starting the college process, here is your lesson today: Don’t let your teenager apply to colleges that you don’t want them to attend. It’s as simple as that. If you are satisfied, even if you are not necessarily thrilled, with every college on your teenager’s application list, that ensures that you will be satisfied with whichever one is your teenager’s final choice.</p> <h2>4. What About the Cost?</h2> <p>So, now let’s talk about money. What if your teenager got a great financial aid package--even a full ride--at a college that is not nearly as good as a more selective college that he or she was accepted by? Clearly, that is a hard choice. And I am not going to say to go out and find a bunch of obscure scholarships that go begging every year (though I know that happens). I am going to say that the best possible college education is something worth investing in--even if that means loans that your teenager gets and/or loans that you as parents get. I know that is not a popular position, and I know that many advisors and parents alike believe that having a student graduate with little or no debt is the most important thing. I simply don’t agree. By the way, as we have already said, attending a better college will likely ensure an on-time graduation--which, in the long run, can save you a lot of money on extra years of schooling.</p> <p>Paying for college is hard--especially paying for private selective colleges. That’s just one more reason we love those great public flagship universities.</p> <h2>5. Next Steps</h2> <p>If your teenager has not already visited all of the colleges that have accepted him or her and that are still under serious consideration, you probably should do that now, if it is logistically and financially feasible. As we have said before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, this is the best time to visit: when the list of colleges is short enough that the college tour can be reasonably cost-effective and efficient. The visits can be helpful both for your teenager in making his or her decision and for you as a parent in accepting that decision. Speaking as a parent, I think it would be difficult to send a child off to college without ever having seen it; and, yet, my husband and I did that when we sent our middle child off to <a href="https://www.richmond.ac.uk/" target="_blank">Richmond, The American International University in London</a>. Well, at least we had been to London, I told myself at the time. And it all worked out. We hope it will all work out for you and your teenager, too.</p> <p>Here is an offer that we made last year at this time. Call me and tell me what your teenager’s choices are and what your circumstances are. I will be happy to give you some free advice, for what it’s worth. I do this all the time, and I would love to do it for you. Nothing is more important than making the right decision now. The next four years are critical.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode114" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode114" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode114</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p> <p> </p>
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Episode 113: The Community College Challenge
<p>Today’s episode focuses on a higher education issue that we have talked about before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, though not recently--that is, the pros and cons of attending a community college, which is a marvelous institution in theory, but a somewhat more disappointing institution in reality. At least, that has been our position in the past.</p> <p>When I read a recent article about where community colleges find themselves these days, I thought we might look at them one more time. If you are the parent of a senior, we will offer some recent facts that might affect your decision to send your own teenager to a community college next fall. If you are the parent of a junior, these same facts might affect your wanting to use a community college as your teenager’s safety school option or as your teenager’s only option during the application process next year.</p> <h2>1. The Funding Picture</h2> <p>The article I read was <a href= "https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-02-13-as-community-colleges-have-their-moment-leaders-face-tough-challenges" target="_blank">written by Jeffrey R. Young and disseminated online by EdSurge</a>. EdSurge is an organization that, in its own words, “report[s] on [the] latest news and trends in the edtech industry to help . . . entrepreneurs who build new products and businesses; educators who use these tools; [and] investors and others who support companies and schools” (quoted from the EdSurge website). So, here is some background for our discussion, thanks to Mr. Young and EdSurge:</p> <blockquote> <p>Nationwide, enrollments in community colleges have been declining for several years, in part because the job market as a whole has been improving, so fewer people have felt the need to . . . [head] back to school. And even as some states and cities propose efforts to make two-year colleges free to students, the broader trend is that many state governments have scaled back public support for community colleges in recent years. In Arizona, for instance, the state funding for two major community college districts [Maricopa Community College District and Pima Community College District] is down to zero.</p> <p>“Like all public higher education support, the funding is going down,” says Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “It’s worse in some ways at community colleges,” she adds, because the total amount that community colleges spend per student has been decreasing, according to The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing. “They just don’t have the money to serve students the way they did,” she adds. “That’s a reason to be very concerned.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, that is a reason to be concerned--for sure, if you live in the Phoenix-Tempe-Tucson area, where funding is “down to zero,” and presumably if you live in other community college districts in similar financial trouble. We have read plenty in the news over the past year about public <em>four-year</em> universities that are living in a world of declining state funding and, often, that are raising tuition to make up for that loss, much to the anger of the state residents.</p> <p>But, if you thought that public community colleges could be your fallback position, perhaps it is time for you to think again. Because what happens when state and local governments cut back on their funding of their community colleges? Clearly, the community colleges are going to have to raise their tuition--which, to be fair, is typically very low--or they are going to have to reduce educational and support services to their students. Unfortunately, there’s no free lunch, even at community colleges. For some students, whose only viable option is their local community college, either choice that a community college is forced to make will be a serious blow.</p> <h2>2. The Pros of Community Colleges: A Review</h2> <p>Let’s review quickly some of the pros and cons about community colleges, also referred to as two-year colleges. Here’s a list of reasons to put two-year colleges on your teenager’s list of colleges to apply to (these reasons are conveniently taken from our first book, <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank">How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students</a>):</p> <ul> <li>Two-year colleges offer associate’s degrees, which can be enough for some careers, including high-paying technical careers. Later, if the student wants to do so, the credits earned for an associate’s degree can be transferred to four-year colleges and applied toward credits needed for a four-year bachelor’s degree.   (In fact, some two-year colleges in some states are now authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees, especially in technical fields where workers in the labor force are in short supply. Students pursuing those bachelor’s degrees would need to stay at the two-year college longer, of course.)</li> <li>Two-year colleges offer students who have struggled in high school a chance to improve their academic record and gain the fundamental skills and study habits they will need to succeed in more advanced college study. After doing well at a two-year college, such students can get into a better four-year college than they could have gotten into right out of high school.</li> <li>Two-year colleges can be a good choice if a student is undecided about an academic field of study in college and/or about a future career. Trying out different academic majors and different programs leading to different career paths is cheaper and likely easier to do at a two-year college than at a four-year college.</li> <li>Two-year colleges offer their students core liberal arts courses (which can often be transferred to four-year colleges later) and/or technical training in many different fields at a very low price. Putting two-year colleges on your teenager’s list of college options is a reasonable decision if paying for college—either right away for a two-year degree or eventually for a four-year degree—is a critical concern for your family.</li> </ul> <p>Let’s underline that last point, which, I think, is the primary point for the kids who head to a community college right out of high school. The fact that it is so much cheaper than any four-year option is sometimes irresistible. We know that students can get financial aid of all kinds from four-year colleges, which could make their time there essentially free, but none of those deals is a sure thing. Paying the very low tuition at a community college, especially with whatever financial aid is available, is a sure thing.</p> <p>Let’s also acknowledge that we understand that there might be family reasons to keep a child close to home and within commuting distance and that a community college might fit those circumstances very nicely. Sometimes it is hard to argue against family reasons like that.</p> <h2>3. The Cons of Community Colleges: A Review</h2> <p>So, what’s the downside of going to a community college? As we have said before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, the choice of a community college for students coming right out of high school is quite different from that same choice being made by adults returning to college or starting college for the first time. But, we are focused here on students coming right out of high school, just like your own teenager. Here is what Mr. Young’s article says about one very important college statistic:</p> <blockquote> <p>… [T]he truth is that community colleges don’t always pay off for students. Completion rates are notoriously low--only about 38 percent of students who started at a community college in 2009 completed a two- or four-year degree within six years. And students who take out even small loans to attend can end up with crippling debt if they end up with no degree to show for their efforts. As [Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Urban Institute] puts it: “You really can’t pay back anything if you’re working at the minimum wage.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>That is a sobering statistic: Not even half of community college students complete <em>any</em> college degree in six years--not even a two-year associate’s degree. Admittedly, that statistic includes all kinds of students who attend community colleges--from bright kids right out of high school who need to save money to returning adults who have been out of school for a decade to kids who struggled in high school and couldn’t get into a more selective college. Nonetheless, we quoted evidence many episodes back that said that students are more likely to graduate if they go to a more selective college, for many reasons. You have to put that in the scale as you weigh college options for your teenager.</p> <p>In addition to that seriously low completion rate, the transfer rate of students from community colleges to four-year colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees is also shockingly low, as we reported back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-64-volunteers-to-help-in-college-applications-process/" target="_blank">Episode 64</a>, based on <a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/volunteer-pushy-moms-help-community-college-students-transfer-to-four-year-schools/" target="_blank">an article in <em>The Hechinger Report</em></a>. Here is that statistic, which was taken from a report from Teachers College, Columbia University:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . 80 percent of entering community college students say they intend to earn a bachelor’s degree, but only about a quarter actually make the transfer and 17 percent eventually get the degree. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, as parents, you need to think hard about whether your teenager is different from the typical community college student--smarter, harder working, more motivated, more goal oriented, or something. Because, otherwise, the statistics are telling you that he or she is likely not to graduate with even an associate’s degree and is likely not to transfer to that more expensive four-year college you say you are saving up your money for. We all think our own kids are different and, maybe, better. But how much are you willing to gamble on that?</p> <h2>4. What Is the Answer?</h2> <p>Mr. Young’s article also noted that community colleges are trying out a few ideas in the hope of improving those statistics, and that’s a good thing. Let’s look at two of them. The first idea is something that community colleges are calling “guided pathways,” and the idea really couldn’t be simpler. Here it is:</p> <blockquote> <p>The metaphor for the traditional community college is a “cafeteria” of course offerings, says Melinda Karp, assistant director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “We’ve since realized that too much choice is actually overwhelming,” she adds, “and too many students are unable to put together a program of study that gets them where they want to go.”</p> <p>John Hamman, a dean at Montgomery College, agrees. “What we need to do is help and talk to students about, what do you want to do?” Many community college students who struggle with subjects like mathematics, for instance, might prefer a different track that requires less math—but may not know the option exists. . . . And we don’t do a good enough job helping students [take] those smart pathways.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, this problem exists at all levels of schooling and can be solved, at least partly, by intelligent and experienced advisors. Certainly, we had to serve in that capacity at the high school we co-founded in NYC. It was clear that we had to be vigilant to make sure that students were taking what they needed to take in order to graduate--and, in our case, to graduate early in three years. But, it is also true that four-year college advisors need to pay attention to course selection and graduation counseling--especially, as we just said in our last episode (<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-112-speeding-up-college-graduation/" target="_blank">Episode 112</a>), if students are trying to do four years of college in three years.</p> <p>In this case of community colleges, given their low graduation rate, they absolutely need “guided pathways” to make sure that students get onto a track as soon as possible and stay on track to finish the courses needed to earn a degree. If you are looking at a community college for your teenager, it would be wise to check out whether it has these pathways spelled out and this kind of academic advising available.</p> <p>The second idea aimed at improving community college statistics is making online coursework more available. Here is what the article said:</p> <blockquote> <p>Community colleges are . . . starting to do more to offer online courses, says Rufus Glasper, president of the League for Innovation in the Community College. But they are more likely to offer blended programs and require at least some in-person attendance, rather than set up all-online programs, he adds.</p> <p>“Community colleges need to do more with online so that we can have lower price-point options for our students as well,” he says. That can be especially tough for two-year colleges, though, since they often don’t have the resources to invest in new online infrastructure that it takes to start fully online programs. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>On the other hand, I am wondering whether the fact that community colleges often offer blended courses instead of fully online courses is actually a plus. Quite recently, <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-107-whats-all-this-i-hear-about-online-college-courses/" target="_blank">in Episode 107</a>, we discussed the pros and cons of online courses for various groups of students. We remained concerned at the end of that episode about the ability of most freshmen to take important introductory or foundational courses online (like Calculus I or Composition 101 or Introduction to Sociology or Spanish I or Biology 101) and get everything out of them that they would get if they were in a classroom with a professor two or three times a week. Offering courses fully online to save the student money may backfire if the student cannot complete the course with a satisfactory grade or with a satisfactory amount of knowledge. We are going to remain concerned that fully online courses might not, in the long run, improve a community college’s graduation rate or successful transfer rate.</p> <h2>5. Where Does That Leave Us?</h2> <p>Toward the end of Mr. Young’s article, he again quotes Ms. Karp, of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College:</p> <blockquote> <p>“This is their moment because [community colleges] are the access and equity engines of higher education,” argues Karp. . . . “In this age when we’re talking about how do we open up access to higher education but also make sure our labor force is prepared for . . . jobs of the future, they’re in an ideal position.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Community colleges might indeed be in an ideal position in theory, but they are going to have to improve their results in practice. Those results are what continue to worry us as seniors choose their first step into higher education. Let me simply repeat what I said a few minutes ago: Unless you think your teenager is smarter, harder working, more motivated, and more goal oriented than the typical community college student, your teenager is likely to have some difficulty graduating from a community college and/or transferring to a four-year college. So, talk with your teenager and think hard about your choice.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode113" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode113" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode113</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 112: Speeding Up College Graduation
<p>One of the biggest practical issues in higher education today is the rising and insanely high cost of a college education--obviously. The cost of going to college is not something we talk about a lot here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, partly because there are so many other people talking about it all the time. But sky-high cost is the reason behind the topic we are going to discuss in this episode: speeding up college graduation--that is, graduating in <em>fewer</em> than the traditional four years.</p> <p>Of course, given that so many students these days are taking <em>longer</em> than the traditional four years to graduate--so many, in fact, that <em>six-year</em> graduation rates are a standard part of college data reporting--graduating in <em>fewer</em> than four years takes on a new meaning. When I was in college some decades ago, everyone knew one or two kids who finished in fewer than four years, and we all thought those kids were incredibly smart. But there was no institutionalized plan for speeding up graduation--at least not at my university.</p> <h2>1. The Early College Movement</h2> <p>Speeding up graduation is something that Marie and I know a bit about.   Back in 2009, Marie and I and principal Chris Aguirre co-founded an Early College high school in Brooklyn. While many Early College high schools were concentrating on getting high school students into college courses earlier while still in high school, our high school concentrated on getting high school students out of high school quicker and into college full time.</p> <p>We adopted Chris’s crazy idea that all of our public school students--most of whom posted just average or below-average middle school grades--could be put on a three-year high school completion schedule by using trimesters instead of semesters during the school year. To be clear, that meant that our students could graduate in three years instead of the traditional four. Well, it was hard work, but it worked. At the end of our first three years, about 65 percent of our first class of students graduated--a full year early--and went on to college. We actually beat New York City’s <em>four-year</em> graduation rate. By the way, virtually all of the rest graduated the following year, on time.</p> <h2>2. The NYU Story</h2> <p>So, Marie and I know that more education can be accomplished in less time, if someone is trying hard to make that happen and if those in charge have set up the framework to make it possible. It was with those fond memories of our accelerated three-year high school schedule that I recently read about a new plan at <a href= "https://www.nyu.edu/" target="_blank">New York University</a> (NYU), where a year of undergraduate residential study is now about $66,000. <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/nyregion/nyu-accelerated-graduation.html" target="_blank">The article by Elizabeth A. Harris in <em>The New York Times</em> gives us some background</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[In February], [NYU] announced a series of measures that [makes] it easier to graduate in under four years, part of an initiative aimed at diminishing the university’s enormous affordability problem.</p> <p>In some ways, the school is just catching up with its students. Ellen Schall, a senior presidential fellow and the head of the university’s affordability steering committee, which is tackling college cost on a number of fronts, said that about 20 percent of N.Y.U. students already graduated ahead of schedule.</p> <p>“We were surprised,” Professor Schall said. “That’s part of what convinced us we needed to make this more transparent and more available to more students.”</p> <p>Students have long found ways to make it through school more quickly to save money. But there is increasing momentum to formalize the process in the face of ballooning outrage over college costs and student debt — while N.Y.U. is expensive, many other private universities [also] cost $60,000 or more a year. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I was also surprised that 20 percent of NYU students graduated in fewer than four years. Perhaps that is really a sign of the times--a confluence of high college costs, an increase in options for earning actual college credits while in high school through Early College and dual enrollment programs, and the fact that more and more students are taking Advanced Placement high school courses and exams to try to get high enough scores to earn some college credits.</p> <p>According to the article, here are some ways that NYU is going to help its students graduate quicker:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . [W]hile students pay for 18 credits per semester, many actually take only 16, officials said, so the university will increase the number of two-credit courses it offers.</p> <p>It will also allow many students to transfer in up to eight credits from other schools, like local community colleges where they can take inexpensive classes over the summer--in the past, this has been allowed on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the university has trained advisers to help students create schedules that will get them to their three-year goal. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, so I guess if students took an extra two-credit course each semester, or 18 credits instead of the typical 16, that would give them 108 credits in six semesters, or three years, leaving students perhaps another 20 credits shy of graduation. Allowing students to transfer in a certain number of credits from cheaper summer courses or from college courses taken while in high school puts these students closer to the goal line. At that point, they would need to take several heavier-than-18-credit semesters or additional courses during the summer at NYU itself--both of which would cost money. No one said it would be easy, but a substantial portion of $66,000 is a lot of money to save.</p> <p>Furthermore, there is no doubt that students would need trained advisers to make this work. I imagine that there are confusing regulations galore that no student could ever figure out on his or her own at every college in the U.S. I recall how hard it was to get our kids out of high school in three years. Marie and I spent countless hours scheduling kids and checking to make sure that all of the State’s and City’s graduation requirements were being met as we went through those three years.</p> <h2>3. Stories from Other States</h2> <p>In the article, Ms. Harris widens her lens and tells these stories about public universities:</p> <blockquote> <p>Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, pushed to make it easier for students in his state to graduate from public colleges early by allowing more credits from high school or technical programs. Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, included in his budget proposal this month that schools in the <a href= "http://www.wisc.edu/" target="_blank">University of Wisconsin</a> system should create a three-year degree for 60 percent of its programs by the summer of 2020. <a href="http://www.purdue.edu/" target="_blank">Purdue University</a> in West Lafayette, Ind., which is a state school, has also been experimenting with three-year degree options. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>I think it is significant that colleges in the University of Wisconsin system--which would hopefully include the flagship campus at Madison--might create three-year degrees for 60 percent of its programs over the next few years. Of course, we will see what happens to that proposal. But whatever happens, it seems likely that other such proposals in other states might not be far behind. It is also important to notice that <em>public</em> universities are making these moves. As you know, public universities are often the default college solution for many students who cannot afford private colleges. And, for many such students, the cost of <em>four</em> years at their state’s best public institutions is, unfortunately, not affordable, either.</p> <p>Here is what Ms. Harris says about private colleges:</p> <blockquote> <p>Among elite private institutions, official [accelerated]programs remain rare, though <a href="http://www.wesleyan.edu/" target= "_blank">Wesleyan University</a>, the Connecticut liberal arts school, announced a formalized three-year track about five years ago. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Let’s take a look at the <a href= "http://www.wesleyan.edu/academics/curriculum/3year.html" target= "_blank">Wesleyan plan, as explained on its website</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Students who graduate in six semesters (three years of normal course loads plus summer courses) may expect to save about 20 percent of the total cost of a Wesleyan education. The three-year option is not for everyone, but for those students who are able to declare their majors early, earn credit during Wesleyan summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical path to graduation can be of genuine interest. . . .</p> <p>For most students, the greatest challenge lies in figuring out a way to earn . . . [enough] credits and complete the particular course requirements for the major in six semesters instead of eight.  Understanding the ways of earning additional credit and accelerating the pace of one’s semester standing is crucial for developing a feasible three-year academic plan. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, saving 20 percent isn’t bad--not quite a full year’s savings, but enough to make it worth pursuing.</p> <p>Interested Wesleyan students will have to earn credits faster and will also have to declare their majors early, presumably in order to ensure that they can get all of the major’s requirements met. So, no waiting around till junior year and no changes once a student is headed down a given track. Clearly, accelerated graduation is not for the student who is taking his or her time exploring subject fields and majors and even trying out more than one major.</p> <p>Let’s look at the ways Wesleyan says that students can earn additional credits on an accelerated three-year schedule:</p> <blockquote> <p>Most students who graduate early use a combination of pre-matriculant credit, summer credit, and in-semester course overload. . . .</p> <p>Pre-matriculant credit.  Up to 2.00 pre-matriculant credits [that is, actually credits for two <em>courses</em>] may be applied towards graduation. </p> <div style="margin-left: 2em;"> <ul> <li>Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test credit.  In most cases (exceptions include Biology, English, Computer Science, and Physics), it is necessary to first complete a course in an appropriate Wesleyan department to convert an AP or IB exam into Wesleyan credit.</li> <li>College courses taken in high school.  To be eligible for Wesleyan credit, the course must have been taken with college students and taught by a college professor on a college campus.  If the course is listed for credit on the high school transcript, it may not be used for Wesleyan credit. (quoted from the website)</li> </ul> </div> </blockquote> <p>Of course, we all understand taking courses in the summer and taking additional courses during a regular semester. But the ways to earn credit <em>before</em> a student gets to Wesleyan are especially interesting and specific. Wesleyan places clear and academically rigorous restrictions on using AP or IB test credit as well as on using credits for college courses taken in high school. For example, it will not take dual enrollment course credit, and it will not take credits from the type of college courses that many Early College high schools now run. I actually couldn’t agree more with Wesleyan’s position on both of those; in fact, our Early College high school put our third-year students into courses that Wesleyan would have loved: on a college campus, with other college students, and taught by a college professor.</p> <p>So, given all of these regulations, how many Wesleyan students actually graduate early? According to the article, the Wesleyan president “estimated that about 20 Wesleyan students annually graduate in three years, up from roughly three a year before [we] made the option official” (quoted from the article). That’s a big increase, of course, though not a substantial portion of the approximately 750 freshmen Wesleyan admits in a year.</p> <h2>4. What’s the Downside?</h2> <p>So, what’s the downside to an accelerated college experience other than the intense and likely difficult academic experience that we have already mentioned? People seem to believe that the biggest downside of all is that students will simply miss out on what it means to have the full college experience—including making friends (and future connections) of all kinds, exploring extracurricular activities, taking advantage of internships and study abroad programs, and the like. In fact, students on accelerated schedules do engage in all of these, but it is probable that some things will be missed in the face of the considerable academic pressure caused by taking additional credits each semester and each summer.</p> <p>Is the hard academic work and some missed opportunities worth it? Is going to a more expensive college that a kid loves for three years better than going to a cheaper college that a kid is less excited about for four years? Here’s just one more thing for you to think about, parents, as you get your own teenager ready to make a college decision next month.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode112" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode112" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode112</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 111: The College Major Dilemma
<p>We believe that today’s topic is an issue in higher education not only because the ins and outs of it are talked about often by professors and college administrators, but also because it is something that you as parents will undoubtedly be talking about to your kids once they get to college--if you haven’t started already. It is an issue that comes up in college applications—far too often, from my own point of view. It is the issue of what kids should major in when they go to college.</p> <p>“Why is that even an issue for parents?” asked no parent ever. Here’s why. Let me <a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/fashion/farmer-son-college-tuition-patriotic-mother-daughter-gifting.html" target="_blank">read a letter written recently by a father to Philip Galanes, the “Social Q’s” columnist who gives “lighthearted advice about awkward social situations”</a> in the words of <em>The New York Times</em>:</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p><em>My wife and I are spending a fortune to send our son to an Ivy League college. Over the holidays, he came home and told us that he loves his agricultural science class and wants to volunteer at a sustainable farm over the summer. Excuse me, but I am not paying $60,000 a year (after taxes) for him to become a farmer. My wife tells me to relax; his interests will probably change. He is only a freshman. But what if they don’t? How should I handle this?</em></p> <p>I love Burt Bacharach and Hal David. (What right-thinking child of the ’70s doesn’t?) But I have a bone to pick with some lyrics in “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” namely: “Lord, we don’t need another meadow. There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow.” Not true! If your son wants to be part of the revolution in sustainable farming and end world hunger, more power to him. (Or your wife may be right: He could trade in his overalls by Labor Day. He’s just starting out. What better time to explore?)</p> <p>Still, you have a point. He who pays the piper calls the tune, as the proverb goes. But did you tell your son, before school began, that it was Goldman Sachs or bust? Probably not. (I also suspect that your parameters for acceptable study are broader than that.) You and your wife should discuss the education you are willing to underwrite and share the news with your son. He may accept your decision. . . . But here’s hoping he won’t. There are surely less controlling ways to teach him the consequences of his professional choices. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>And there you have it. Parents are often concerned about the marketability in the job market and the earning potential of whatever their kids are studying. Of course, kids are concerned about this, too, but perhaps not quite so much. So, let’s talk about it.</p> <h2>1. Some Thoughts from Cornell University</h2> <p>Let me start with some thoughts from my own alma mater, <a href= "https://www.cornell.edu/" target="_blank">Cornell University</a>, which won’t surprise anyone in our listening audience. I do so because I have an inkling that the young man whose father wrote the letter might very well be studying at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I think that for obvious reasons.</p> <p>In my <em>Cornell Alumni Magazine</em> (January/February, 2017), the then-interim president and past president of the University, Hunter Rawlings, was quoted as telling undergraduates in an economics lecture to “major in what you love” and that “[t]he major you choose isn’t as important as parents think” (page 12). That’s kind of a double whammy for some parents, President Rawlings. I am wondering how the father who wrote the letter would feel about those remarks. While I was truly pleased by the President’s remarks, I doubt that father shared my point of view.</p> <p>What was driving President Rawlings? Perhaps it was <a href= "http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/09/rawlings-catalyzes-faculty-review-undergrad-curriculum" target="_blank">a story by Susan Kelley that I read back in September, 2016, as reported in the <em>Cornell Chronicle</em></a>. The story informs our discussion in this episode:</p> <blockquote> <p>Interim President Hunter Rawlings is prompting the Cornell faculty to review undergraduate curriculum this year with an emphasis on the value of a liberal education.</p> <p>“Cornell has rarely, if ever, talked about undergraduate education across the campus. We talk about it within the colleges, but we almost never consider the education all Cornell undergraduates receive from a unified perspective,” Rawlings said before discussing the initiative at the Sept. 14 faculty Senate meeting. “I would like to stimulate a conversation this year across the colleges.”</p> <p>Rawlings defines “liberal education” as one faithful to its original meaning in Latin: “education for free citizens” who are capable of participating in civic affairs and government. Liberal education, he noted, “is distinguished from purely vocational education and emphasizes critical thinking, moral reasoning, close reading, clear speaking and writing, and the capacity to conduct independent and collaborative research.”</p> <p>“The faculty owns the curriculum. It is their business,” he emphasized. But the time is right for a comprehensive review, he said. . . .</p> <p>As president of the Association of American Universities for the past five years, he has seen a nationwide loss of faith in liberal education. That loss is tied to a strong emphasis on vocational education--a degree as a ticket to get a job. “Research universities have not done much to define and defend liberal education,” Rawlings said.</p> <p>In Rawlings’ view, the College of Arts and Sciences is central to the discussion: it has Cornell’s core departments such that the other colleges rely on it for many of their students’ requirements and electives. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>What does it take to educate free citizens? Is it arts and humanities or history or the social sciences or mathematics or the natural sciences? Isn’t it all of those things that colleges often refer to as general education or the core curriculum or distribution requirements? Is President Rawlings concerned that some students in the pursuit of a career-related degree in college in mechanical engineering or accounting or agricultural science, for example, will overlook those other fields that make up a liberal education--an education for future citizens? That is precisely what he doesn’t want to happen at Cornell. (And, by the way, father who wrote that letter, a degree in agricultural science will probably get your son into a career a lot quicker than a lot of other degrees I could name, so you might want to calm down.)</p> <p>Some listeners will recall our long explanation of what a core curriculum is back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-87-assignment-7-looking-at-core-curricula/" target="_blank">Episode 87</a>, where we discussed the value of a core curriculum and whether the presence of a strong core curriculum with many requirements and/or with strict requirements should be a deciding factor in what colleges a kid might want to apply to. In fact, the details of such a core curriculum gets its own question in our College Profile Worksheet, which can be found in our new book <em>How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Seniors</em> (out next month).</p> <h2>2. Some Thoughts from Pomona College</h2> <p>But President Rawlings and I are not the only ones who are concerned about “a nationwide loss of faith in liberal education.” I stumbled across an excellent talk given to Pomona College students last June by the U.S. Senator from Hawai‘i Brian Schatz, a 1994 graduate of <a href="https://www.pomona.edu/" target= "_blank">Pomona College</a>. Feel free to go all the way back to our virtual nationwide college tour and listen to <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-40-colleges-in-the-far-west-region-part-ii/" target="_blank">Episode 40</a>, where we discuss Pomona College. Pomona is the oldest and founding college in the highly respected California consortium of five colleges, known as <a href= "http://www.claremont.edu/" target="_blank">The Claremont Colleges</a>. Pomona offers its 1,600 academically bright students a liberal arts curriculum, with 47 majors and a focus on the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.</p> <p>Here are some of the Senator’s remarks, quoted from <a href= "https://youtu.be/Z0dUg0L346M" target="_blank">a YouTube video of his talk</a> (to learn more about Pomona College, you should watch the whole video):</p> <blockquote> <p>Liberal arts education is the best preparation for whatever you want to do next. And I believe that strongly, personally, because here I am in the U.S. Senate with a degree in philosophy from Pomona College. I didn’t get the law degree, and I didn’t get the economics degree. I got the degree in philosophy. And I remember my academic advisor saying . . . “[S]tudy what you want to study and it will all work out.” A liberal arts education provides that foundation. I think you want well-rounded thinkers in all sectors of society--in the public sector, in the private sector, in the not-for-profit sector. Whatever you want to do, I think it’s important to get that liberal arts education. As I meet students, I just encourage them to find that motivation internally and stick with it. . . . (quoted from the YouTube video)</p> </blockquote> <p>And, parents, as we often say here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, it is hard for students to find that motivation unless they have a liberal education or, at least, unless they have the benefit of taking a variety of college courses through core requirements in fields that they did not have access to before they got to college, including the Senator’s choice of the field of philosophy.</p> <h2>3. Some Thoughts from the Future Job Market</h2> <p>Well, I know this is a hard sell, so let me reflect with you on some interesting information I picked up at the Early College conference I attended and spoke at last week. A great conference in sunny Orlando sponsored by <a href="http://www.knowledgeworks.org/" target="_blank">KnowledgeWorks</a>, it offered a keynote address by the same professor who keynoted last year, Dr. James Johnson, Jr. (Director, Urban Investments Strategy Center, Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, University of North Carolina). Dr. Johnson, who has been a professor for 37 years, spoke brilliantly last year about changing demographics in the U.S.</p> <p>This year, he turned his attention to “Jobs on the Move” and, again, spoke brilliantly. While it would be impossible to repeat his presentation here, let me give you just a few interesting facts he presented to support his view that the world of work is changing dramatically, that we are now living in a state of “certain uncertainty,” and that education is necessary, but insufficient:</p> <ul> <li>In the 1980s, blue-collar jobs shifted off shore, resulting in a loss of 7.2 million jobs between 1979 and 2015 (a drop of 37 percent).</li> <li>In the 1990s, white-collar jobs shifted off shore--for example, in the IT sector. By 2000, business processing was moving off shore, like operations, administration, sales, and customer services. By the way, workers in call centers in India are graduates of India’s equivalent of our M.I.T.</li> <li>Now, knowledge processing is being outsourced, like R & D activities. Perhaps 13 percent of white-collar jobs are vulnerable--in business, computer, legal, and medical fields. For example, medical scans are already being read halfway around the world in 15 minutes for $80 compared to our $800 and three weeks before you get the results. In the new world of medical tourism, an operation can be had in India for 10 percent of the cost here. Good talent is simply cheaper off shore.</li> <li>In the new world of robotics outsourcing, problem-solving robots will put more white-collar jobs at risk. Accountants have a 94 percent chance of being replaced, and pilots have a 55 percent chance of being replaced. Self-driving vehicles will cost millions their jobs.</li> <li>As we leave the Information Age, we are entering the Human Age. Many of us will become freelancers in a global online marketplace. Any work you want done, you will post on a site and get a quick reply from someone who can do it. Already $1 billion a year is earned by freelancers (with 9 million freelancers registered).</li> </ul> <p>Dr. Johnson concluded by saying that we educators in the audience should quit trying to train people for a particular job; we are too busy preparing our nation’s kids to work for someone else, who will be outsourcing their jobs sooner or later. We should be giving our nation’s kids the tools to make and navigate their own paths and to let their own creativity thrive.</p> <p>What are those tools? Dr. Johnson suggested these for a “competitive tool kit” (quoted from his keynote speech):</p> <ul> <li>“Analytical reasoning”</li> <li>“Entrepreneurial acumen” (that is, expertise)--We will come back to entrepreneurship in a minute.</li> <li>“Contextual intelligence” (that is, staying on top of information and change in your own field)</li> <li>“Soft skills and cultural elasticity” (that is, moving from situation to situation in different settings with different people, which call for different responses)</li> <li>“Agility and flexibility” (in a lifelong-learning mindset)</li> </ul> <p>Dr. Johnson noted that the <a href="http://www.unc.edu/" target= "_blank">University of North Carolina</a>, where he teaches, offers a minor in entrepreneurship in the College of Arts and Sciences. Entrepreneurship is not just for business majors! Here is some information about the minor in entrepreneurship, quoted from the College’s website:</p> <blockquote> <p>This interdisciplinary minor in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences encourages students to think and act entrepreneurially. Students will gain knowledge and skills to start successful ventures of all kinds: artistic, commercial, media, social, scientific, sports, [design, computer science,] and public health. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>Here is an example of one of those tracks, quoted from the College’s website:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . The [Artistic] track examines the concepts and tools needed to pursue artistic ventures, including the formation of business plans for student created ventures, and includes the legal aspects and challenges of Intellectual Property, i.e. copyright, trademarks, logos and patents. The instructors cover the music industry with emphasis on music publishing rights, the recording business, and booking and promotion for the live performance industry.  It also includes discussions of the television, motion picture and theatre businesses.  Guests who feature prominently in these industries are brought in to share their careers and interact with students.  Such guests can include musicians, singers, theatrical producers, film and television actors, talent agents, dancers, record industry executives, et al. The course takes students through the process of creating formal business plans for proposed artistic ventures, plans that are built and revised throughout the semester. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>After the presentation, I chatted with Dr. Johnson. I told him that one of my musician sons had gotten a master’s degree in Creative Entrepreneurship from the <a href="https://www.uea.ac.uk/" target="_blank">University of East Anglia</a> in the U.K. At the time, I thought that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard, though I knew deep down that it was a made-to-order master’s degree for him. I told Dr. Johnson that I was feeling much better about his degree now, thanks to Dr. Johnson’s explanation of the rise of entrepreneurship and the Human Age.</p> <p>I went on to ask Dr. Johnson what he thought about the role of liberal arts in a college education, given his concern that our schools and colleges should not be preparing students for a specific job. He said that he believed that the liberal arts definitely had a place in a college education. I am imagining that means <em>at least</em> in those early core requirements when students are learning to analyze and to think across a variety of disciplines and to be agile and flexible in their learning. He said that, after all, you can’t always put engineers in front of people. By the way, you can and should <a href= "https://youtu.be/y2hjb2Ni-yU" target="_blank">find Dr. Johnson on YouTube</a> so you can hear from him yourself.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode111" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode111" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode111</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 110: The New Common App College Essay Prompts
<p>We are not sure that the topic of today’s episode qualifies as an “issue” in higher education, which is the name of our current series, but it is certainly something that will soak up a lot of the time of high school students who will be applying to college next fall and likely of their parents as well. The topic is <a href="http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank">The Common Application</a> essay prompts. </p> <p>Now, I feel as though we just finished discussing college application essays a few weeks ago back in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-106-the-nightmare-of-the-supplemental-college-application-essays/" target="_blank">Episode 106, “The Nightmare of the Supplemental College Application Essays.”</a> And today we are back to everyone’s favorite application essay discussion: The Common App prompts for the main essay, or personal statement. I couldn’t have predicted that we would return to this topic so soon, but news is news. The Common App people have <a href= "http://www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/application-updates/common-application-announces-2017-2018-essay-prompts" target="_blank">recently released the updated prompts for use in 2017-2018</a>, and we wanted to bring this news to your attention as soon as we could.</p> <h2>1. The Process</h2> <p>As it turns out, the Common App people asked for feedback about this year’s essay prompts from member colleges and individual users as they considered any changes for next fall’s/winter’s applications. The Common App website states that feedback was received from 108 member colleges (out of the “nearly 700 colleges” that accept the Common App, according to the website). Personally, I don’t think that is a great response rate, as we say in the evaluation business. Nonetheless, just over 100 colleges did let the Common App people know what they thought of the essay prompts, and my guess is that feedback came from someone in the admissions office that had a lot of experience looking at the essays written in response to those prompts. According to the website, 91 percent of those 108 member colleges agreed or strongly agreed that this year’s prompts were effective.</p> <p>In addition, feedback was received from over 5,000 individual users—59 percent were students (the largest category of respondents), followed by 23 percent school counselors and 11 percent teachers. According to the website, 90 percent of those individual users of all types agreed or strongly agreed that this year’s prompts were effective.</p> <p>Well, with that kind of endorsement, it hardly seems that changes needed to be made for next year. Nonetheless, some comments from those colleges and individual users did cause the Common App people to make a few changes--some quite minor, but actually some quite major. Let’s take a look now at how this year’s <em>five</em> essay prompts have become next year’s <em>seven</em> essay prompts.</p> <p>And, by the way, the word limit for next year’s essays will remain at this year’s 650 words.</p> <h2>2. The Two Unchanged Prompts</h2> <p>Two of this year’s prompts--#1 and #4--will remain exactly the same for next year:</p> <ol> <li>Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.</li> </ol> <ol start="4"> <li>Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma--anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.</li> </ol> <p>This decision makes good sense to me as I think back over the many essays I read and edited with kids last fall. I think that both of these prompts produced relevant and interesting essays and that kids seemed to have a relatively easy time understanding what each of these prompts was asking for and writing to it in a straightforward fashion.</p> <p>For example, many students who came to the U.S. from another country or whose parents came to the U.S. from another country wrote reflective essays for prompt #1 about their background or their national or ethnic identity. For prompt #4, I read essays ranging from solving personal or family problems to solving widespread religious or political discrimination problems here and abroad, and I found many of these essays to be powerful and persuasive.</p> <p>So, I guess that, if any of the Common App people had asked me my opinion, I would have concurred that these two prompts had worked well for students.</p> <h2>3. The Three Edited Prompts</h2> <p>The remaining three prompts from this year will be used again for next year--#2, #3, and #5--but in a slightly edited form (the italics show the editing):</p> <ol start="2"> <li>The lessons we take from <em>obstacles we encounter </em>can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a <em>challenge, setback, or failure.</em> How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?</li> </ol> <ol start="3"> <li>Reflect on a time when you <em>questioned </em>or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your <em>thinking</em>? What <em>was the outcome</em>?</li> </ol> <ol start="5"> <li>Discuss an accomplishment, event, or <em>realization </em>that <em>sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. </em></li> </ol> <p>These edited versions seem perfectly fine and might perhaps help students focus their thoughts better. The editing also broadens each prompt a bit, thus making it easier for students to find something in it to react to. For example, prompt #2 had previously discussed only “failure” and has now been broadened to include obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. I applaud that change because I found that too many kids thought they had “failed” when no adult with any perspective on life would have ever looked at those situations the kids were in and called them “failures.” So, I think that the editing makes this prompt broader and less negative sounding (even though I am sure that the original prompt was not meant to be as negative as many kids took it).</p> <p>Again, if any of the Common App people had asked me my opinion, I would have agreed that these three prompts could benefit--though probably only slightly--from some broadening.</p> <h2>4. The Two New Prompts</h2> <p>That brings us to the first of the two new prompts for next year’s essays:</p> <ol start="6"> <li><em>Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?</em></li> </ol> <p>I think this is a fine prompt, and I can imagine a number of students who essentially wrote to this prompt last year, though in the guise of a different prompt. I think kids will find this one to be engaging and a natural fit. This prompt lends itself to the kid who gets lost in science research, in violin practice, in writing poems, in building LEGO models, and a hundred other things I can think of--and kids can, too.</p> <p>And that brings us to the final new prompt for next year’s essays:</p> <ol start="7"> <li><em>Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. </em></li> </ol> <p>What? Are you kidding, I said as I read it for the first time. I asked myself why the Common App people thought they had to go here: Essentially, write anything you want or turn in something you’ve already written for some other reason. While freeing, I wondered if it might be just too freeing.</p> <h2>5. Some Final Thoughts</h2> <p>Then, I read a piece online in <em>The Huffington Post</em> by Scott Anderson, Senior Director for Access and Education at The Common Application, entitled “<a href= "http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-common-app-essay-prompts-are-changing-heres-why_us_589a3fd5e4b0985224db5b3a" target="_blank">The Common App Essay Prompts Are Changing. Here’s Why It Doesn’t Matter</a>.” Here are some of Mr. Anderson’s remarks:</p> <blockquote> <p>The Common App essay prompts have one purpose: to help you introduce yourself to your colleges. (Yes, showcasing your writing ability is part of the equation, but that’s the role of the essay itself, not the prompts.) That’s why the instructions are at least as important as the prompts themselves. Here’s what they say:</p> <p><em>“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.”</em></p> <p>In a sense, the entire essay exercise boils down to that one leading question: What do you want the readers of your application to know about you? This is not a trick question. The ball is fully in your court and always has been. What you write is entirely up to you. So write about yourself–about what you love, where you come from, what you aspire to, how you spend your time, what bugs you, what inspires you, who is important in your life.</p> <p>In other words: Write an essay on a topic of your choice. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Interesting, I thought. Mr. Anderson goes on to say this:</p> <blockquote> <p>. . . If the prompts afford so much flexibility, what’s the point in resurrecting <em>Topic of your choice?</em></p> <p>Simply put: you’re busy. Applying to college is no small undertaking, and for most of you, the essay--or essays, depending on where you apply--will be the most time consuming task. So use <em>Topic of your choice</em> to reduce your stress, not add to it. If you’ve already written something that you’re especially proud of, then share it. If a specific college uses an essay prompt that sings to you, then use it here. . . . But <em>Topic of your choice</em> doesn’t mean <em>default choice.</em> If the unfocused charge to simply “write anything” seems overwhelming, then let the prompts guide you when you’re ready to start writing.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess it would be great for a student to be able to use a short essay he or she had written in an English class or a history class or a biology class--something that reflected his or her values, beliefs, or original ideas; something that spoke to what the student is and said it in an interesting or revealing way. I am not sure how many such essays exist; but, if they do, all the better for the student.</p> <p>Mr. Anderson concludes his article by suggesting that it is too early for high school juniors to start writing their essays. He believes that what they will likely write about “hasn’t even happened yet.” He thinks that kids should, however, start “thinking–about yourself, about what is important to you, about the interests and experiences and talents and relationships that reveal who you are” and about “<em>what … you want the readers of your application to know about you,</em><em>”</em> <em>just as the instructions say.</em></p> <p>With apologies to Mr. Anderson, my guess is that it is not too early to start writing and that anything so important to a high school student, anything that has so shaped his or her values and beliefs and interests and talents has likely already happened. Sure, something more could happen this spring or this summer, something that a student might rather write about, but my guess is that lots has already happened, especially when it comes to a student’s background or national, ethnic, racial, or gender identity. Families have already struggled or succeeded. Family members have already been lost or added. Talents and passions and values have already been born and nurtured. Academic interests have already been developed and encouraged.</p> <p>What we know for sure is that high school juniors these days have a lot to think about. And college essays are now one more thing.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode110" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode110" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode110</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 109: Early Decision and Early Action Anxiety in College Admissions--Part II
<p>This is the third in our series of episodes discussing issues in higher education, and it’s the second part of a two-parter that looks at the Early Decision and Early Action options for high school students who will be applying to colleges next fall. I mentioned last week that I was infuriated by this issue. I meant that I was infuriated on behalf of the kids and families who are trying to figure out how to play this college admissions game, which is hard enough without having to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of various Early Decision and Early Action options at various colleges and how those options interact with each other.</p> <p>Last week, we discussed the pros and cons of Early Decision. I won’t repeat all of the reasoning here, but I will repeat my conclusion, which is this: Early Decision is better for an individual applicant than it is for the pool of applicants. In other words, Early Decision might be great for your own teenager, even though it could well be concerning for the futures of all of our teenagers collectively. Of course, you have the luxury of thinking only about your own teenager. You aren’t setting policy for colleges or high schools across the country, and you don’t have to be fair to all high school seniors. You are likely to do what is best for your own teenager. </p> <p>In that world, I believe that many of you will end up considering an Early Decision option very seriously, given everything we said last week. However, if your teenager just isn’t ready to make such a big decision around November 1--a decision that will be a binding decision--then let’s look at an alternative option for you. That alternative option is Early Action, the option that some would call the kinder, gentler option in the early admissions game.</p> <h2>1. Early Action</h2> <p>Under the Early Action option, high school seniors can still apply early--around November 1--but they are <em>not</em> ethically committed to enroll at the college if accepted. That is, the decision to apply Early Action is <em>not</em> a binding decision by a high school senior to attend that college and only that college. Early Action enables kids to apply to more than one college that offers an Early Action option and hold onto any acceptances until April--before having to make a <em>final decision</em> among <em>all</em> of the acceptances that come in on both the early <em>and</em> the regular schedules.</p> <p>In counseling students myself, I encourage them to apply under the Early Action option to as many of the colleges on their final list as they can. I just don’t see a downside. And it can certainly take the pressure off a student to know in December that he or she has a guaranteed acceptance from a college or two or three well before April comes.</p> <p>Here is one thing you have to keep in mind, however. Students have to take the SAT or ACT early enough to have the scores before November 1, and a student has to believe that the scores he or she has by November 1 is about as good as he or she can get. Because most students are going to take the SAT and/or the ACT more than once, that means taking the exam in the late spring of the junior year and again in the early fall of the senior year. Or, perhaps, it means taking the exam in late summer and again in the fall. There are, of course, pros and cons to these choices.</p> <p>For example, we often advise good students who have had a rigorous high school program to take the test in the late spring of the junior year, to study and prep over the summer, and to take it again in the early fall of the senior year. Students who might not be as strong and who are not well prepared by the spring of their junior year might be better off studying and prepping over the summer and taking the test for the first time in September of the senior year. Here is one thing we do know: Taking the test just a couple of months apart and doing <em>nothing</em> to prepare in between the two testing dates is a waste of time and money; not much is going to be gained in regular school learning or in maturation in a couple of months.</p> <p>Here is another option we have recommended. Apply Early Action to one or more colleges using your available test scores if you think you are likely to be accepted. In this case, the Early Action colleges would likely be your safety schools--that is, schools you can probably get into without improving your scores. If there are more selective colleges that you are holding out hope for, but for which you need better scores, re-take the SAT or ACT in November or December and don’t apply to those colleges until the regular deadline of January 1 or later.</p> <h2>2. Single-Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action</h2> <p>Let’s look at a mixed approach that has now been taken by some colleges, including some prestigious ones, and that is an option called Single-Choice Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action. This option means that applicants <em>cannot</em> apply to any other college under an Early Action or Early Decision option, but may apply on a regular decision timeline. If an applicant is admitted under this single-choice or restrictive option, that student may have until about May 1 to make a decision. Could it get any more confusing?</p> <p>So, Single-Choice Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action, is like Early Decision in that the student is permitted to apply to only one college early, but it’s like Early Action in that the student is permitted to wait until regular decision acceptances come in before making a final decision about enrolling. You can see how that is pretty good for the student and pretty good for the college, though not ideal for either one. You can also see how this option just further complicates an already-complicated admissions process. This option, we believe, is not nearly as widespread among colleges as either Early Decision or regular Early Action.</p> <h2>3. The Craziness of Some College Admissions Options</h2> <p>I must confess that I myself have had to read and re-read some colleges’ website information on admissions many times to figure out what all the options meant. I cannot imagine how a high school kid by himself or herself ever completes and submits a college application anymore, especially if that kid has parents who do not speak English or cannot help for whatever reason. That’s probably the subject for an episode of its own!</p> <p>Before we look at a few examples of colleges with crazy admissions options, let’s put one more option on the table: two rounds of Early Decision, or Early Decision I and Early Decision II. (By the way, colleges may also have Early Action I and II, though Early Decision I and II appear to be more common.)</p> <p>So, why Early Decision I and II, with Early Decision II having a later deadline? One reason is that some students want the college to have access to later college admission test scores or to their first semester senior grades, in case either of those is better than earlier scores or grades. Another reason is that a student who gets rejected from his or her first-choice Early Decision college in December can then apply to his or her second-choice college in a round II of Early Decision. Both of these situations happen to favor the student.</p> <p>But another reason is that having two rounds of Early Decision is a way for a college to improve its own statistics--in this case, the “yield rate,” or the percentage of students who are admitted and then attend. It has been said that this statistic might affect a college’s ranking on some publication’s list or other. So, that might be reason enough for how we got to this place.</p> <p>Now, let’s look at a few real examples of colleges, all of which shall remain nameless:</p> <ul> <li>Take this private Southern university, which has both Early Action and Single-Choice Early Action options, but no Early Decision option.</li> <li>Or this public Southern university, which has three options: Early Decision I (with notification in late December), Early Decision II (for those who need a little more time to apply, with notification in mid-February), and Early Action (with notification in late January).</li> <li>Or this Midwestern college with only about 1,000 undergraduates, which offers Early Action I and Early Decision I as well as Early Action II and Early Decision II options (with all decisions no later than February 15)--plus a regular decision option, of course. That’s five options!</li> <li>Take this private Northeastern college, which offers the following information, quoted from the website:</li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>Students who apply by the November 15 deadline for [Early Decision] Round I will be notified of the decision on their application in mid-December. Those who apply by the January 15 [Early Decision] Round II deadline will hear by February 15, as will those who convert Regular Decision applications to Early Decision by February 1. While Early Decision candidates may initiate applications to other colleges, if they are accepted under one of the Early Decision plans they must immediately withdraw all other applications and enroll at [this college].</p> </blockquote> <ul> <li>Or this Ivy League university, which offers the following information, quoted from the website:</li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>If you are a Single-Choice Early Action applicant to [this university], you may apply to another institution’s early admission program as follows:</p> </blockquote> <ul> <li> <blockquote>You may apply to any college’s non-binding rolling admission program.</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>You may apply to any public institution at any time provided that admission is non-binding. </blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>You may apply to another college’s Early Decision II program, but only if the notification of admission occurs after January 1. If you are admitted through another college’s Early Decision II binding program, you must withdraw your application from [this university]. </blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>You may apply to another college’s Early Action II program.</blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote>You may apply to any institution outside of the United States at any time.</blockquote> </li> </ul> <p>My view is this, not that the university asked: If a student can follow that, he or she deserves to be admitted right now!</p> <p>And one last word, parents: Remember that your teenager can be <em>deferred</em> when applying early, in which case the application will go into the pile to be considered with the applications submitted on the regular decision timeline. Or, your teenager can be <em>rejected</em>, in which case he or she <em>cannot</em> re-apply in some cases on the regular decision timeline. So that’s one more piece of the puzzle that you will need to consider.</p> <h2>4. A Personal Anecdote</h2> <p>Permit me a final personal anecdote. It may give you an idea of what awaits you next fall. This is a real story about a high school senior we worked with last fall. Let’s call her Kate. Kate had great grades (straight A’s, including in AP courses and honors courses), great activities (including excellent community service activities, a variety of school activities, and championship school and community sports teams), and satisfactory (but not great) SAT scores.</p> <p>We helped Kate apply under Early Action plans to three universities, where we thought she would be accepted, based on her record. In fact, Kate got three Early Action acceptances in December: from <a href="https://www.binghamton.edu/" target= "_blank">Binghamton University</a> (one of New York State’s best public universities), from the <a href="http://www.colorado.edu/" target="_blank">University of Colorado Boulder</a> (a great public flagship university in one of the most beautiful settings in the U.S.), and from <a href="https://www.baylor.edu/" target= "_blank">Baylor University</a> (a very good private Southern university, which gave birth to one of the great medical schools in the U.S.). Kate got good scholarships from both the University of Colorado Boulder and Baylor. By the way, listeners, this is what it means to get outside your geographic comfort zone; be the New Yorker applying to colleges in Colorado and Texas. So, three Early Action acceptances are making life in Kate’s household a lot easier these days--while she waits on answers from eight more highly selective private universities, including two Ivies, in April.</p> <p>Now, I will be the first to tell you that I lobbied hard for Kate to apply to <a href="https://cals.cornell.edu/" target= "_blank">Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences</a> under its Early Decision plan. Kate wants to go to medical school eventually, and the Ag School (as we Cornellians call it) is a good stepping stone to that. I believed that she might barely get into the Ag School on the Early Decision plan, given her academic record and the high proportion of Early Decision applicants who are accepted into the Ag School’s freshman class. Furthermore, she is a New York State resident, and the Ag School is one of the State-supported colleges within Cornell (which is a unique private-public partnership that we have spoken about several times at <em>USACollegeChat</em>). Finally, I did not believe that Kate would get into Cornell on a regular decision timeline, largely because of her less-than-stupendous SAT scores.</p> <p>Here was the problem: Kate had her heart set on <a href= "https://www.yale.edu/" target="_blank">Yale</a> or <a href= "https://www.georgetown.edu/" target="_blank">Georgetown</a>. I was pretty sure she would not get into Yale, and I doubted that she would get into Georgetown. I thought Early Decision at the Ag School would be her best chance to get into a highly selective university, but that meant giving up any hope of Yale or Georgetown. In the end, I was not persuasive, so I settled for getting her to do those three Early Action applications. Now we are all waiting for April. Since I believe she will be happy at either Boulder or Baylor, I am less concerned than I might otherwise have been. She is less concerned, too--thankfully--and that is the beauty of Early Action.</p> <p>So, what’s our advice? Well, it’s nothing straightforward. You are going to have to lay out the Early Action and Early Decision options and rules for each college your teenager is going to apply to next fall and figure out the best path. We are afraid that each case is unique. We are convinced, however, that making some use of some early options is likely to be in your teenager’s favor. Good luck, and call us when you get stuck.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a title="http://usacollegechat.org/episode109" href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode109" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode109</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <p> </p>
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Episode 108: Early Decision and Early Action Anxiety in College Admissions--Part I
<p>Welcome back to <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-10-issues-in-higher-education/" target="_blank">Series 10, <em>Issues in Higher Education</em></a>. This is the second in our series of episodes discussing a variety of issues in higher education, and it’s a two-parter. Today’s and next week’s issue is one that, to put it bluntly, I find infuriating. This infuriation has likely been felt by anyone who has tried to navigate the world of Early Decision and Early Action admission to colleges in these past five or six months. So, let’s get started sorting it all out.</p> <p>We will talk about Early Decision today; next week, we will look at Early Action and then talk about some colleges that offer both Early Decision and Early Action--and indeed some that offer more than one round of one and/or the other. It’s close to insane.</p> <p>More than a decade and a half ago in September of 2001, <em>The Atlantic</em> published a long and fascinating article by James Fallows, entitled “<a href= "https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/the-early-decision-racket/302280/" target="_blank">The Early-Decision Racket</a>.” We believe that title really says it all--now more than ever. For those of you interested in how we got here, read the article and get a brief history.</p> <h2>1. Early Decision Cons</h2> <p>In the olden days, it used to be that a student could apply to one college and one college only under an Early Decision plan--meaning that the student would apply early, get an answer early, and agree to attend that college if accepted. For students, it was--and still is--a binding decision. Furthermore, Early Decision was also the only “early” game in town.</p> <p>Perhaps the most important reason that lots of folks grew to dislike the Early Decision option was--and likely still is--that a student accepted under this plan had to agree to attend the college <em>before</em> he or she had any other acceptances and <em>before</em> he or she had any idea what scholarships and other financial aid might be offered by any other colleges. For students who depended on financial aid to pay for college--and that’s more and more students these days, for sure--having to choose a college without being able to compare financial aid packages put those students and their families under undue financial pressure.</p> <p>Many critics of Early Decision today express a legitimate concern that Early Decision favors the children of the wealthy, who do not need to worry about paying for college and comparing financial aid packages. Frank Bruni, a <em>New York Times</em> writer whose work we have read from twice before at <em>USACollegeChat</em>, wrote a column entitled “<a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/the-plague-of-early-decision.html" target="_blank">The Plague of ‘Early Decision’</a>” last December. Talking about his view of the biggest problem with Early Decision at selective colleges, Mr. Bruni wrote this:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Early decision] significantly disadvantages students from low-income and middle-income families, who are already underrepresented at such schools. There’s plenty of evidence that applying early improves odds of admission and that the students who do so--largely to gain a competitive edge--come disproportionately from privileged backgrounds with parents and counselors who know how to game the system and can assemble the necessary test scores and references by the November deadline.</p> <p>These students also aren’t concerned about weighing disparate financial-aid offers from different schools and can commit themselves to one through early decision. Less privileged students need to shop around, so early decision doesn’t really work for them. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Mr. Bruni went on to quote one of our favorite experts here at <em>USACollegeChat</em>: Harold O. Levy, the executive director of the <a href="http://www.jkcf.org/" target="_blank">Jack Kent Cooke Foundation</a>. (You can <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-67-a-candid-interview-with-harold-levy-on-college-access-admissions-counseling-and-scholarships/" target="_blank">listen to our interview with Harold here</a>.) According to Mr. Bruni, Harold said, “That’s just unfair in a profound way.” We know from our own earlier interview with Harold and from the Foundation’s excellent work that they are all about trying to ensure that our nation’s selective colleges open their doors to more low-income bright kids, who are often under-recruited and overlooked by these colleges.</p> <p>Mr. Bruni goes on to register his own concern about a still different aspect of the Early Decision landscape:</p> <blockquote> <p>[W]hat worries me . . . is how the early-application process intensifies much of what’s perverse about college admissions today: the anxiety-fueling, disappointment-seeding sense that one school above all others glimmers in the distance as the perfect prize; the assessment of the most exclusive environments as . . . the superior ones.</p> </blockquote> <p>To follow up on Mr. Bruni’s notion, let me point to a story reported last December in <em>The New York Times</em> by Anemona Hartocollis and Richard Pérez-Peña. The title says it all: “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/us/tulane-college-applicants-acceptance-emails-wrong.html" target="_blank">Agony as Tulane Applicants Learn Acceptance Emails Are in Error</a>.”</p> <p>In a nutshell, 130 kids who had applied under an Early Decision option to Tulane University, a very good private university in New Orleans, received acceptance emails as a result of a glitch in new computer software even though they had not been accepted (in fact, some had been accepted for the following spring term, while others had been deferred to the regular decision pool of applicants). Admittedly, this is an awful and embarrassing situation for Tulane. But here is the “anxiety-fueling, disappointment-seeding” part that Mr. Bruni spoke of: The student being interviewed for <em>The New York Times</em> article “asked not to be fully identified because she was humiliated and did not want to be associated with what she called a scandal.” Humiliated? Really? Because she was not accepted Early Decision to Tulane (even though she was, in fact, accepted for the following spring term)? Maybe things have just gone too far.</p> <p>The article about Tulane continues this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>Students and parents, already full of anxiety over the high-stakes admissions process, expressed their disbelief and agony online.</p> <p>“These kids are already so anxious, and the whole process has become so crazy, so this is really a horrible, horrible thing to put them through,” said Phillip Trout, a college counselor at Minnetonka High School in Minnetonka, Minn., and past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, Mr. Trout. The process looks pretty crazy to many of us watching it, too.</p> <p>So, Mr. Bruni offers us yet another perspective on the Early Decision issue, and it is this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Early decision moves the admissions process forward on the calendar, so that high school students start obsessing sooner. They press themselves to single out a college at the start of senior year, when they may not understand themselves as well as they will toward the end of it. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, high school seniors mature a bit and can think through complex problems better as the year goes on. I am not sure that there is much difference between applying to a college on November 1 under an Early Decision option and on January 1 under a regular deadline. However, there might indeed be a difference between a student’s making a <em>final decision</em> about a college to attend on November 1 (because the student’s decision would be binding if he or she were accepted in December) and making that final decision the following April from among, hopefully, several choices. So, I’ll give Mr. Bruni that point.</p> <p>And here’s one last note from Mr. Bruni’s article:</p> <blockquote> <p>Marla Schay, the head of guidance at Weston High School, in an affluent suburb outside Boston, told me that while 60 percent of the seniors there submitted early applications seven years ago, it’s above 86 percent now. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow, 86 percent of those likely well-off suburban kids applying early. Times have changed, and the race is clearly escalating. Any high school seniors who have to overcome any kind of barrier when making their college applications--whether that is financial worries or English as a second language or lack of college counseling or parents who cannot help—are going to be just that much further behind. </p> <h2>2. Early Decision Pros</h2> <p>On the other hand, if you can put those very substantial negatives aside, it seems to us that Early Decision is still a great option for some kids. I guess the problem is that Early Decision could be a great option for your own teenager, even if it might be a bad option for teenagers in general. With my education leader’s hat on, I have to say that Early Decision worries me increasingly; but with my advocate-for-one-particular-kid’s hat on, I still might recommend it for that one kid.</p> <p>If your own teenager is absolutely clear about what his or her first-choice college is, then Early Decision is the way to go if that college has an Early Decision option. Many colleges have the option, but not all colleges have it.</p> <p>Why might Early Decision be a good move for your teenager? There are two primary reasons. First, your family could get this whole college admissions process over with as efficiently as possible at some point in December. As we have already mentioned, the application is usually due around November 1, with a decision usually coming in December. And that would occasion a huge sigh of relief from everyone concerned! In fact, it also would save all of the stress of completing numerous applications. Even with the Common Application’s cutting down on some of that stress, it means that no more supplemental essays would have to be written and no more application fees would have to be paid.</p> <p>The second reason might be even more important, and it is why we are hard-pressed <em>not</em> to recommend Early Decision for kids who are ready. It is that your child might actually have a better chance--even a much better chance--of being accepted if he or she applies Early Decision. There has been a lot of press about that recently, but I am going to go back to an excellent article by Nick Anderson in <em>The Washington Post</em> from last March, which offered some really rather astonishing statistics on 2015 numbers from 64 “prominent colleges and universities” (my guess is that this year’s numbers won’t be very different and, if anything, could well be more favorable toward Early Decision applicants). His article was aptly entitled “<a href= "https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/03/31/a-college-admissions-edge-for-the-wealthy-early-decision/?utm_term=.2ffe9bed5e7b" target="_blank">A college-admissions edge for the wealthy: Early decision</a>.” Unfortunately, it’s just what critics fear.<strong> </strong></p> <p>Here are the acceptance rates for Early Decision applicants (listed first) compared to the overall acceptance rates (that includes both early and regular admissions) for all applicants (listed second) from a selection of great colleges:</p> <ul> <li>University of Pennsylvania: 24% <em>vs</em>. 10%</li> <li>Tufts University: 39% <em>vs</em>. 16%</li> <li>Kenyon College: 58% <em>vs</em>. 24%</li> <li>Barnard College: 43% <em>vs</em>. 20%</li> <li>Northwestern University: 38% <em>vs</em>. 13%</li> <li>Duke University: 27% <em>vs</em>. 12%</li> <li>Williams College: 41% <em>vs</em>. 18%</li> <li>Haverford College: 46% <em>vs</em>. 25%</li> <li>Johns Hopkins University: 29% <em>vs</em>. 13%</li> <li>Smith College: 57% <em>vs</em>. 38%</li> <li>Oberlin College: 54% <em>vs</em>. 29%</li> </ul> <p>By the way, inasmuch as the overall acceptance rate includes both early <em>and</em> regular acceptance rates, the regular acceptance rate by itself would actually be <em>even lower</em> than the second numbers we just read.</p> <p>Those percentages have got to make you think twice before you as a family dismiss the notion of applying on an Early Decision schedule. But if those numbers weren’t convincing enough, here is another eye-opening statistic from a sample of great colleges--the estimated percentage of the freshman class that is made up of Early Decision acceptances:</p> <ul> <li>University of Pennsylvania:       54%</li> <li>Middlebury College:       53%</li> <li>Emory University: 53%</li> <li>Vanderbilt University:       51%</li> <li>Kenyon College: 51%</li> <li>Barnard College: 51%</li> <li>Northwestern University:       50%</li> <li>Hamilton College: 50%</li> <li>Swarthmore College:       50%</li> <li>Bowdoin College: 49%</li> <li>Duke University: 47%</li> <li>Colorado College: 45%</li> <li>Dartmouth College: 43%</li> </ul> <p>Do you get the picture? Just about half of the seats in the freshman classes of these selective, academically first-rate colleges are filled before the applications of high school seniors applying on the regular schedule are even looked at. In fact, <em>The Washington Post</em> article declared that, of the top-60 national liberal arts universities and colleges, as ranked by <em>U.S. News & World Report</em>, 48 filled one-third or more of their seats with Early Decision applicants (including two more Ivy League schools, Brown University and Cornell University, with 38 percent shares each) and 16 filled one-half or more of their seats with Early Decision applicants.</p> <p>You really have to stop and think about these statistics. No kidding. What are your teenager’s odds of getting into a place when one-third or one-half of the seats are already taken?</p> <p>Some colleges are publicizing now that students who are accepted on an Early Decision schedule are getting nearly as much financial aid as those accepted on a regular decision schedule, so that’s a good thing for low-income kids who want to better their acceptance chances at a favorite college. And there is usually a disclaimer in college website information that a student may be released from a binding Early Decision acceptance if the financial aid package offered does not make it possible for that student to attend the college--though I have never tried to test that and, therefore, don’t know how sticky a college would make that withdrawal.</p> <p>By the way, is it obvious why a college would want so many Early Decision students? It should be. A college wants good students who really want to be at that college. It doesn’t want to play the admissions game any more than the applicants do. It doesn’t want to be worried about the incoming class in April, either.</p> <p>But somehow, my concern is still on the side of the students. And the number of Early Decision applications is going up, as more and more families hear the numbers you have just heard. Where will it all end?</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode108" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode108</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 107: What’s All This I Hear About Online College Courses?
<p>Welcome to Series 10, <em>Issues in Higher Education</em>. We want to spend at least the next handful of episodes discussing a variety of what we believe are issues in higher education--not necessarily about college access or college applications or college admissions, which is where we spend most of our time with you. Yet, we believe that these issues could have long-term implications that are important for your family.</p> <p>When casting about for a good definition of what we mean by an <em>issue</em>, we came across the <em>Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary</em> and its definition of <em>issue</em>: “a subject or problem that people are thinking and talking about.” We think that definition will give us plenty of room to take up a number of issues we have been thinking about lately.</p> <p>By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with the <em>Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary</em>, it is a compilation of American English vocabulary that students will use in high school and college. Interestingly, the Dictionary, published by the Cambridge University Press, contains, according to its website, “more than 2,000 key vocabulary items from the content areas of math, the arts, chemistry, earth science, physics, American and world history, social studies, language arts, and other disciplines, as well as the more general vocabulary used in academic writing and speech, such as ‘analyze,’ ‘derive,’ and ‘subsequent.’ That might be a handy dictionary to have.</p> <p>So, let’s get started. Our first issue is online college courses. Now, this is an interesting issue for us because I am not much in favor of online courses as a way for college students to get the most out of their college experience (even though I once wrote a college online business course, which I thought was pretty good). Marie, on the other hand, has both written and taught quite a few online courses for several colleges at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Marie has also written and taught <em>blended</em> college courses--that is, courses that are partly online and partly in class. She is something of an expert on this issue of online higher education. And, as always, we might not entirely agree.</p> <p>We want to take a look at fully online courses today, though some of what we say will undoubtedly apply to blended courses as well. We are going to look at a variety of student populations and talk about each one separately.</p> <h2>1. Online College Courses for Freshmen</h2> <p>Let’s start with college freshmen. When they arrive on campus, it is likely that some of them already took online courses in their high schools--either on their own at home or while sitting in high school classrooms or computer lab facilities.</p> <p>We are going to suggest, for openers, that high school students who take an online course while sitting in a high school building under the supervision--even the loose supervision--of high school staff members are not really getting the full online experience. Those students are not doing classwork on their own schedules, studying and meeting assignment deadlines on their own, or sinking or swimming without the benefit of any live over-the-shoulder professional adult guidance.</p> <p>Parents, you <em>cannot</em> judge such experiences to be indicative of what a college online course might be like for your freshman. In fact, when we were working at the high school we co-founded in New York City, almost all of our students took at least two online high school courses in our classrooms, and we were still very reluctant to see them enroll in any online courses when we sent them off to college for the first time.</p> <p>On the other hand, if your teenager has taken an online course entirely at home--including as a fully homeschooled student--then your teenager has had an experience closer to a college online course. His or her success with such courses might be better predictors of his or her success in college online courses.</p> <p>With that said, there are many, many students who come to college without having had any experience with online courses. These are the students who worry us most. Why?</p> <p>Taking online courses at the college level requires that students have better-than-average self-discipline and self-motivation. It is easy to get behind in an online course when you don’t have to show up physically at a building for class two or three times a week. There is no camaraderie of walking to class and sitting in class with other new freshmen. It is easy to imagine that you will do that online assignment on your computer at midnight and then accidentally fall asleep or go out with friends.</p> <p>Taking online courses at the college level also requires that students have better-than-average reading and writing skills. This is something that a lot of students don’t think about nearly as hard as they should. Most online courses have a lot of reading associated with them, even if a professor gives video lectures as part of the course (and they all don’t do that). And most online courses require a lot of writing, both of a formal nature and of a more informal nature, such as when responding to posts of classmates typically each week. Unfortunately, many college freshmen simply do not have the reading and writing skills they should, as we have said here at <em>USACollegeChat</em> too many times to count.</p> <p>And now I will offer an opinion. I think that it is unlikely that most freshmen can take an important introductory or foundational course (like Calculus I or Composition 101 or Introduction to Sociology or Spanish I or Biology 101) and get everything out of it online that they would get if they were in a classroom with a professor two or three times a week. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.</p> <h2>2. Online College Courses for Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors</h2> <p>I feel slightly better about sophomores and juniors and seniors taking online courses, but only slightly. I still think that live instruction in a classroom or lab or even lecture hall is likely to give students more food for thought and likely to engage them better with the content of the course.</p> <p>To the degree that the online course is an elective in a field that is not the student’s major, I feel less concerned. But that is only because I am admitting that it is not as important for the student to learn the content as well.</p> <p>To be fair, I do think it is probably true that upperclassmen have more self-discipline than freshmen and, therefore, stand a better chance of getting through an online course as the professor intended. So, that’s a plus for upperclassmen. It is also probably true that, if an upperclassman is super-interested in the content of the course, there is a better chance that the he or she will do whatever is required to learn the material.</p> <h2>3. Online College Courses for Undergraduate Students in the Summer</h2> <p>Let’s talk about summer school, and I will give you a real example of a student I had worked with during his application process. Let’s call him Victor. Victor had won a handsome scholarship to the prestigious state university he chose to attend. The scholarship required that he keep a 3.0 GPA--not an unreasonable requirement, I believe.</p> <p>Well, Victor did what lots of freshmen do. He got busy with friends and activities and let his GPA plummet closer to a 2.0 than a 3.0. He was notified that he would lose his scholarship for his sophomore year, though he might appeal to get it back if his grades rebounded.</p> <p>We knew that he had to get his grades up ASAP. So, during the summer after his freshman year, Victor and I chose four online courses that the university offered--two courses in each of two summer sessions. Victor was able to take the online courses at home, which was critically important since he could not afford to live on campus and take regular summer school courses. We chose courses that I thought leant themselves to online study (that is, not advanced mathematics or sciences, even though Victor is a biology major)--courses like music history and contemporary literature.</p> <p>Partly because there was a lot riding on the successful completion of these courses (and partly because I talked to him every day about what was due and whether he had done it), he finished the four courses with four A’s. Were the courses somehow easier than the courses would have been if he had taken them in class? To tell you the truth, I am not sure, though I have my suspicions that they were. Nonetheless, those A’s and a good fall semester of his sophomore year dug him out of the academic hole he had found himself in, and he got his scholarship back.</p> <p>So, in Victor’s case, online courses were a great option. They would also be a great option for other college students in his situation. Or for college students who want to get a bit ahead before the next academic year, for whatever reason. Summer courses online--like summer courses in classrooms--can be a very attractive way to catch up or move ahead, depending on your college academic situation. Parents, that is an idea that might be useful to your own kids who are in college now or will be soon.</p> <h2>4. Online College Courses for Graduate Students</h2> <p>Let’s turn our attention to online courses for graduate students (you might have one of those at home now, parents, or you might have one in the future). At the end of September, I read a piece in <em>The New York Times</em> by Kevin Carey. It had this intriguing title: “<a href= "https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/upshot/an-online-education-breakthrough-a-masters-degree-for-a-mere-7000.html?_r=0" target="_blank">An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000</a>.” Here is what the article said:</p> <blockquote> <p>The master’s degree business is booming. College graduates looking for a leg up in the job market are flocking to one- and two-year programs that promise entry to lucrative careers. Top colleges are more than willing to provide them--for a price. Tuition for a 30-credit master’s in computer science from the University of Southern California runs $57,000. Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon charge over $43,000 for the same degree.</p> <p>But one highly ranked program, at Georgia Tech, has taken a very different approach. Its master’s in computer science costs less than <em>one-eighth</em> as much as its most expensive rival--if you learn online. And a new study by Harvard economists found that in creating the program, Georgia Tech may have discovered a whole new market for higher education, one that could change the way we think about the problem of college costs.</p> <p>Georgia Tech rolled out its online master’s in computer science in 2014. It already had a highly selective residential master’s program that cost about the same as those of competitor colleges. Some may see online learning as experimental or inferior, something associated with downmarket for-profit colleges. But the nation’s best universities have fully embraced it. Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, U.S.C. and others have also developed online master’s degrees, for which they charge the same tuition as their residential programs.</p> <p>Georgia Tech decided to do something different. It charges online students the smallest amount necessary to cover its costs. That turned out to be $510 for a three-credit class. U.S.C. charges online students $5,535 for a three-credit class. (Both programs also charge small per-semester fees.)</p> <p>With one of the top 10 computer science departments in the nation, according to <em>U.S. News & World Report</em>, Georgia Tech had a reputation to uphold. So it made the online program as much like the residential program as possible. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow, that is powerful. I have to think twice about something like this that Georgia Tech would do, because Georgia Tech is as good as it gets. And what’s more, here is some information from the article about the student-professor relationships in the online degree program:</p> <blockquote> <p>Charles Isbell, a senior associate dean at the College of Computing, helped lead the effort. Mr. Isbell has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and machine learning from M.I.T., and he teaches those subjects at Georgia Tech. He translated his lectures into well-produced online videos while administering the same homework assignments, midterms and final exams. Tests are proctored by a company that locks down a student’s computer remotely and uses its camera to check for cheating.</p> <p>In theory, on-campus programs offer direct access to professors and peers. Mr. Isbell began noticing differences in that respect between his residential and online students. He was interacting much <em>more</em> with students who had never set foot on the Atlanta campus.</p> <p>“I never see students at my office hours,” he said. A few linger after class to ask scheduling questions, but that’s about it.</p> <p>Many of the thousands of online students, by contrast, are constantly interacting on a website set up for that purpose, where Isbell can log on and help. “I can jump in and say: ‘No, you should be thinking about this,’ ” he said. “I spend more time helping them with assignments online than I ever do on campus. The experience for the students and for me is much richer online.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there’s something I wasn’t expecting. But perhaps here is the reason, as explained later in the article: “The traditional on-campus students in the Georgia Tech master’s program tend be young and just out college, with an average age of 24. The average age of the online students was 35. A sizable number were 45, 50 and older. Ninety percent were currently employed.” (quoted from the article) It seems, then, that online courses might work better for older students, for students who are likely more serious than traditional undergraduates, and for adult students who might need that master’s degree in order to keep a current job or get a better one.</p> <h2>5. Online College Courses for Adult Students</h2> <p>That brings us to the final population, and that is adult students--not just older <em>graduate</em> students, but older <em>undergraduate</em> students. For a couple of decades, adult students have been the only growing population of college students.</p> <p>Adult students usually return to college--or start college for the first time--because they need some sort of credential in order to earn a living or a better living. Therefore, they are serious students. They are highly motivated. They are disciplined. They have what it takes to succeed in online courses.</p> <p>But--and it’s a big but--they are not like your high school seniors will be next year when they are college freshmen. And that’s precisely why we have been reluctant to recommend online courses for first-time college freshmen coming right out of high school.</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode107" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode107</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 106: The Nightmare of the Supplemental College Application Essays
<p>We are still in <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-9-the-last-minute/" target= "_blank">Series 9, <em>The Last Minute</em></a>. That’s because we told you <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-105-colleges-still-accepting-applications/" target="_blank">in our last episode that many colleges, including some top-ranked public and private ones, were still accepting applications</a>--and will be doing so right through January and February, with some into March and April, and a few even beyond that. So, if you have a high school senior at home and he or she intends to take advantage of that fact, this episode is for you. And perhaps equally important, but less urgent: If you have a high school junior at home, this episode is for your family big time.</p> <p>We have talked on numerous occasions (most recently <a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/episode-98-college-application-essays-one-more-time-part-i/" target="_blank">in Episode 98</a>) about the dreaded college application main essay or personal statement. This is the place in <a href="http://www.commonapp.org/" target="_blank">The Common Application</a> where your teenager is asked to write about 650 words on his or her choice of one of five prescribed topics. Everybody talks about this essay (including us), and everybody has lots of advice about how to produce a memorable piece of work (including us).</p> <p>But we are going to talk today about a slightly different topic, which we also addressed briefly back in Episode 98. This is one that I have been painfully focused on for the past couple of weeks, and it is the college application supplemental essay. </p> <p>My personal story goes something like this: I had worked with a number of students here in New York City on their Common App main essays over the course of the fall months. I probably read and edited (that is, edited back and forth with the students) more than 50 of them. Suddenly, just before Christmas, some of these students started emailing me their supplemental essays and asking whether I might give them some guidance and some help in editing them. I made the “mistake” of helping the first few students, and I guess word got around. As January 1 deadlines approached, more and more students sent me more and more supplemental essays. Some kids sent as many as a dozen across six or seven different colleges! Having read and edited with students perhaps 100 supplemental essays in the past several weeks, I now feel like something of an expert on the topic. So, let me pass on what I learned in the trenches. </p> <h2>1. Supplemental Essays: The Word Count</h2> <p>As you probably know, supplemental essays are required by lots of colleges, especially by the highly selective ones. Some colleges require one, some require two, and some require even more (at last count, I put one Ivy League institution at seven open-ended questions calling for answers of various lengths, though not all actual essays). Typically, supplemental essays are not as long as the main personal statement, fortunately--although we all know that higher word counts allow us to be a bit sloppy and it is sometimes easier to write more rambling words than to write fewer better-chosen words.</p> <p>Many of these supplemental essays seem to call for about 350 to 400 words, or about four meaty paragraphs, which is not really too long when you think about it. Many of them seem to run quite a bit shorter, at about 100 to 150 words, which can be downright restricting <em>if</em> you actually have something to say. Some of them--which are not really essays at all, but more like short-answer questions--ask for just 200 characters (or about 35 words), as one Ivy put it.</p> <p>Here is the point: These word limits are very different, but they are all way lower than the 650-word personal statement. These lower word limits imply a different style of writing. While an applicant might relax into a narrative personal story in the main 650-word essay, using lots of descriptive detail and many examples to elaborate the main idea, the shorter essays do not really permit that. They need a much more focused, straightforward, get-to-the-point style if the question is to be answered effectively in far fewer words. Now, I am sure that there are some creative writers among our current crop of college applicants who could write a brilliant poetic response to one of these shorter essay prompts. But, I am going to state, for the record, that I have not found too many of them. Most high school kids are going to have enough trouble writing a coherent, logical response, which gets in some important facts and pertinent background information and perhaps an insightful opinion or two.</p> <p>So, if you are a parent who is reading supplemental essays in the next few weeks, look for essays that make sense and that are clearly written. They need to make a point (or two or maybe three) both effectively and efficiently. Help your teenager edit out the extra sentences and superfluous words--including all of those that don’t contribute to the point(s). Because we all know that getting down to 100 words can be brutal.</p> <p>One final note on word limits: As you might already know or could have guessed, one college’s 400-word essay topic is another college’s 150-word essay topic. Obviously, as we will talk about in a minute, there are some topics that come up over and over again across many, many colleges. You will quickly learn that it is truly helpful for your teenager to have a drafted long response to these topics and--just as important--a drafted short response for the same topics. That takes some thoughtful and careful editing. Believe me, having a long version and a short version of popular essay topics can help you speed through the supplemental answer nightmare.</p> <h2>2. Supplemental Essays: The Tone</h2> <p>So, let’s talk about tone. I am going to use “tone” here to mean both the attitude the writer has toward the subject (or content) of the essay and the attitude the writer has toward the audience (and by “audience,” we mean, of course, the college admissions staff). I have already said that I think that <em>most</em> supplemental essays call for a straightforward, academic, somewhat formal tone. Yes, the applicant will be writing about his or her personal background, ideas, and even opinions, but not in the words he or she would use if writing to a friend or a relative or perhaps even to his or her own teacher. </p> <p>This doesn’t mean the essays have to be stuffy or dry or boring. An applicant’s personality can shine through even though the writing is not chatty. Maybe that’s the style applicants should strive for: <em>personality, with decorum and appropriateness</em>.</p> <p>Let me say that one of the worst problems I found with tone was my high school seniors’ gushing over how wonderful the college is or what great students go there or what fantastic and potentially helpful alumni it has. To take one example, the kids often wrote about a college’s “Nobel Prize-winning professors” or “world-famous professors who are doing brilliant research” or “dedicated professors.” Parents, explain to your teenagers that colleges know how great their professors are and they don’t need a high school senior to tell them. It is fine to be admiring and polite, of course; but, gushing just sounds naïve and unsophisticated. I would settle for “well-known” or “highly respected professors” instead, if you really want to talk about them. So, let’s shoot for <em>admiring and polite</em>, but not over-the-top.</p> <h2>3. Supplemental Essays: The Likely Topics</h2> <p>Some of the topics for the supplemental essays, especially the shorter ones, are a bit odd, chosen perhaps to allow an applicant to show his or her creative side. If given a choice among essay topics, I rarely recommend that a kid choose one of the odder ones--unless that kid is particularly creative or perhaps naturally funny or witty.</p> <p>However, there are several often-used and often not-optional topics that your teenager should have a longer (about 350 words) answer and shorter (about 100 words) answer for:</p> <ul> <li>“Why our college” or “Why is our college a good fit for you” or “How will our college contribute to your goals and interests” or some version of that--As we said in Episode 98, this topic virtually requires your teenager to read up about the college and refer, in the essay, to what he or she has learned from that research. For example, an applicant could reference the college’s diversity or academic strengths or curriculum or research opportunities for students or community outreach efforts or faith-based mission or something else. If this is one of the longer-length essays, then the applicant will need to reference several things about the college.</li> </ul> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Remember: This is an essay that is not easily used from college to college because of the specifics about the college, so tell your teenager to be careful about trying to get double duty out of it. This is precisely the kind of essay that can cause some teenagers to become a bit gushy and overly complimentary, so watch out for that, too. By the way, if this is the only supplementary essay required by a college, then your teenager can write about his or her interest in a field of study that the college offers; but, if there are more supplementary essays for the college, your teenager probably is going to need to save that content for a different essay. </p> <ul> <li>“How can you contribute to our college” or “What can you bring to our college” or “Our students live in suites, so what would you bring to your suitemates” or some version of that--This is the reverse of the previous topic, like “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This essay has to be about what traits and skills and talents your teenager has--like commitment to community service or love of research or musical talent or athletic prowess--and how those will be a plus for the college if your teenager is admitted. Again, if this is one of the longer-length essays, then your teenager will likely need to write about several of his or her traits or skills or talents in order to make his or her best case.</li> </ul> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">It’s hard to write this essay without sounding boastful, so watch the tone. Again, if this is the only supplementary essay, then your teenager can write about his or her interest in a field of study that the college offers and how he or she might contribute to classes or projects in that field; but, if there are more supplementary essays for the college, your teenager is probably going to need to save that for a different essay. </p> <ul> <li>“Why are you interested in the field of study you are proposing to major in” or some version of that--We frequently see applicants write a version of this essay for the main Common App essay or personal statement. That is a serious mistake. Tell your teenager to save any talk about his or her field of academic interest for this supplemental essay if this is one that a college requires. For example, whatever led to his or her interest in art or French or electrical engineering or something else--all of that goes into this essay.</li> </ul> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">This is also the place to look carefully on the college’s website at the academic degrees and majors listed (and concentrations, if available, within those majors) and to cite the exact name of the degree, major, and concentration, if available, that the college uses. For example, there are many variations of “biology” within some colleges and indeed from college to college; it is important to write each college’s essay on this topic as specifically as possible, using the words that each college uses to describe its own majors, concentrations, and so on. Know, for example, that some colleges offer both a B.A. and a B.S. in Biology. So, what is the difference and which one is your teenager headed for?</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">It is likely that your teenager already had to declare a major in another question on the Common App, so this should not come as a surprise. If your teenager has no idea what he or she wants to major in, we totally understand that, but it will probably make for a less appealing essay. Tell your teenager to keep in mind that the major and/or concentration written about here is not cast in stone, so it is likely better to write about something specific with as much passion as possible.</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">As we said in Episode 98, this is the supplemental essay where pre-med majors write about why they are drawn to the field of medicine; if you are going to do that, the story should be a good one. Everyone wants to be a pre-med major, but if an applicant has a compelling reason (and that doesn’t mean “to help people”), then the pre-med choice is more believable. I recently read an interesting essay by a high school senior of Asian background, who wrote that her immigrant parents had always had difficulty when it came time to file income taxes—both because they did not speak English very well and because they did not understand the array of documents they needed to provide in order to complete the forms. The student said that she hoped to become an accountant to help families like hers. I thought that was actually interesting, and definitely not the same thing as every other kid who wants to be a business major will write.</p> <ul> <li>“Describe an activity that is important to you” or “Write about something that is important to you” or, more specifically,“Talk about the role of sports in your life” or some version of that--We often see applicants write a version of this topic for the main Common App essay or personal statement. Again, that is a serious mistake. Tell your teenager to save any talk about an activity or sport that is especially meaningful or significant to him or her for this supplemental essay topic. This is the place for the story about conquering a fear of water and then competing on the swimming team or serving as the treasurer of your school’s cancer fundraising organization or writing for the school newspaper or playing in the orchestra that toured in China or working at a summer camp for kids or picking up a younger brother or sister or niece or nephew after school every day and watching that child until a parent comes home. Remember: “Activity” can mean something a teenager does for the family.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>“Describe a community that you are part of” or some version of that--This essay allows for a bit of creativity in defining the “community” that the applicant chooses to discuss. It also, happily, allows for the applicant to take one of the basic essays he or she has written and to bend it cleverly to fit this topic. For example, it could be a school community or church community or community of athletes or community of volunteers or theatrical community or musical community or you name it.      </li> </ul> <ul> <li>“Write about a time when you had to work with someone whose background (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, politics, income, gender identity, or sexual orientation) was different from yours” or some version of that--Many colleges are committed to promoting student diversity on their campuses and are, understandably, interested in how new students will react to that diversity. Specific examples drawn from an applicant’s school or community would probably work best to show whether and how that applicant values diversity. For students who go to school or live in a community that is not racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, or otherwise diverse, this topic might be harder to write about, but could turn out to be very insightful—if, in fact, diversity is one of the main reasons the applicant chose to apply to that college.</li> </ul> <p>Clearly, you and your teenager must look at the totality of the supplementary essays each college asks for and mix and match the ones you have with the ones that are needed. What is one college’s “activity that is significant to you” is another college’s “community that you are part of.” You see how that works?</p> <p>I recently worked with one high school senior on 11 college applications. We managed to do almost all of her supplementary essays with longer or shorter versions of three basic essays that we established at the beginning: one about her interest in medicine and medical research (and it was a compelling story, which included the biology research she did in high school competitions); one about her brother, who has a life-threatening disease, and the work she does with a community of volunteers to raise awareness and money to fight that disease (and, incidentally, how she plans to continue that work in college); and one about playing and traveling for several years on championship softball teams at school and in the community. You can already see how these work with the topics we just discussed and how they can be shaped to fit various purposes.</p> <p>By the way, parents of juniors, just to give you the heads up, here are some of the super-short questions your teen might see in the future (you can start getting ready now):</p> <ul> <li>Who or what is an inspiration to you?</li> <li>If you could live for a day/have lunch with/ spend some time with someone past or present, fictional or real, who would that be and why?</li> <li>If you had to invent a course to teach at our college, what would it be?</li> <li>What books have you read recently outside of school?</li> <li>What museums, concerts, exhibitions, films, and theatrical performances have you attended recently?</li> </ul> <p>Those should get you thinking. As always, call us, if you could use some free advice!</p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode106" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode106</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 105: Colleges Still Accepting Applications!
<p style="text-align: left;">Well, we thought we would be starting a new series for the new year, but it turns out there are one or two things we would like to say to the seniors who are looking at their college prospects now--albeit a bit late--with newly serious eyes.  I was talking to one of my best friends recently.  He has twin girls, who were just finishing up their applications when we chatted on December 27.  He said that one of the girls was feeling a bit blue as she looked over the list of colleges she had applied to and worried that none of them seemed to be the perfect choice.  <br /> <br /> I found myself giving him two messages for his daughter. </p> <h2 style="text-align: left;">1.  There’s Not One Perfect College Choice.</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">The first is the message that any concerned parent would send, and it went something like this:  Don’t worry.  There are many colleges out there that would be a fine choice for you.  There isn’t just one perfect college.  You could be happy at any number of colleges, including the ones on your list, and you likely will be.  <br /> <br /> Her father added that he thought there was really no way to know how good a fit a college might be until you were actually enrolled and living on the campus and taking classes and making friends and involving yourself in activities, etc.  Her dad is a smart guy and, in this case, exactly right.  <br /> <br /> However much you think you know about a college from reading the website and visiting the campus and attending a few sample classes and talking to kids who go there will be nothing compared to that first month as a student there.  And really that first semester as a student there, because that first month can be atypically difficult, especially if the college is far from home.  So, yes, applicants should do their homework about a college before applying (our new book is designed to help high school students do exactly that), but applicants also have to accept that fact that they can’t know everything in advance.<br /> <br /> Parents, if you attended college and had a choice of colleges yourself, after the acceptances came in, do you ever think about how your life might have been different if you had chosen a different college?  I really don’t, but did so on the occasion of preparing this episode.  <br /> <br /> This will surprise you, Marie (well-known Barnard alumna), but I very nearly chose to go to Smith College or Pembroke College (now fully merged into Brown University).  Yes, two women’s colleges!  I liked the idea of women’s colleges as a high school senior more than I do now.  So, was I right then?  Perhaps I was.<br /> <br /> I also thought hard about going to two great Southern universities--Vanderbilt and Southern Methodist (my mother’s alma mater).  Although I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I spent all my summers in Texas at my grandmother’s.  I loved the idea of going to college in the South and believe, to this day, that I would have thoroughly enjoyed either of those universities.  <br /> <br /> But, as our listeners know, I chose Cornell.  In fairness, my father, an Ivy Leaguer himself, chose Cornell for me.  I could tell that he wanted me to go to Cornell, though he never said it, so I did.  I don’t regret my choice for a minute.  Was it a perfect choice?  Well, a near-perfect choice, except for the weather.  But I have to believe that any other choice would have made me quite happy, too.  They might have been just as perfect.<br /> <br /> Maybe the key here is to get great colleges onto your list of college options so that you apply only to places that you would really like to attend.  It is comforting to go into the waiting period of the next few months knowing that you could be happy at any of the colleges on your list.  That’s one reason we spend a lot of time talking to you about options, taking you on our virtual nationwide college tour (<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">Episodes 27 through 53</a>), going through the deal breakers in your decision making (see <a href= "https://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816/" target="_blank">our first book</a>), and doing the research you need on each college option (see our upcoming book). </p> <h2 style="text-align: left;">2.  Lots of Colleges Are Still Accepting Applications.</h2> <p>So, that brings me to my second message to my friend’s daughter:  If you are really concerned (and not just fretting over nothing, as kids sometimes do), there are still a lot of great colleges accepting applications.  I have to admit that when I Googled “colleges still accepting applications,” I couldn’t believe the number that came up.  Sure, some have deadlines of January 10 or 15 or 31, but some have deadlines in February, March, April, May, and beyond.  Yes, for the fall of 2017.  And you still have some time to submit applications even to those with January deadlines.  One note of caution:  I double checked the deadlines of all the colleges that were supplied by my Google search and found many of them to be wrong.  So please check out the actual website of any college that you might be interested in!<br /> <br /> There is no way to generalize about the colleges with later deadlines, but I have noticed that quite a few of them are the branch campuses of large public universities, though some great flagships also have relatively late application deadlines.  Other than that, you can find small liberal arts colleges, larger liberal arts universities, faith-based colleges, HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), single-sex colleges--really, just about anything.  They are large and small.  They are urban, suburban, small town, and rural.  They include some highly selective colleges, some selective colleges, and some not-so-selective colleges.  They include colleges in the North, South, East, and West (including as west as it gets).<br /> <br /> Let me read you a sample of colleges with late application deadlines to prove our point.  Here are just some of the colleges--including truly great colleges--you can apply to by January 15 (and really 10 days should be plenty of time to pull some of these off):</p> <ul> <li>Bryn Mawr College</li> <li>Bucknell University</li> <li>Carleton College</li> <li>Case Western Reserve University</li> <li>Centre College</li> <li>Colgate University</li> <li>College of the Holy Cross</li> <li>Colorado College</li> <li>Denison University</li> <li>Drexel University</li> <li>Florida State University (January 18)</li> <li>Franklin and Marshall College</li> <li>George Mason University</li> <li>Grinnell College</li> <li>Haverford College</li> <li>Kenyon College</li> <li>Lafayette College</li> <li>Loyola Marymount University</li> <li>Macalester College</li> <li>Mills College</li> <li>Mount Holyoke College</li> <li>Oberlin College</li> <li>Occidental College</li> <li>Providence College</li> <li>Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute</li> <li>Skidmore College</li> <li>Smith College</li> <li>Soka University of America</li> <li>Southern Methodist University</li> <li>Stony Brook University</li> <li>Tulane University</li> <li>University of Colorado Boulder</li> <li>University of Connecticut</li> <li>University of Delaware</li> <li>University of Denver</li> <li>University of Georgia</li> <li>University of Massachusetts Amherst</li> <li>University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill</li> <li>University of Oregon</li> <li>University of Puget Sound</li> <li>University of Southern California</li> <li>University of Vermont</li> <li>Villanova University</li> <li>Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University</li> <li>Washington University in St Louis</li> <li>Wellesley College</li> </ul> <p><br /> Need more time?  Well, here are colleges with February deadlines (albeit many are on February 1, but some are on February 15):</p> <ul> <li>Baylor University</li> <li>Clemson University</li> <li>Colorado State University Fort Collins</li> <li>DePauw University</li> <li>Dickinson College</li> <li>Fisk University</li> <li>Hunter College (CUNY)</li> <li>Ithaca College</li> <li>Juniata College</li> <li>Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)</li> <li>Ohio State University (main campus)</li> <li>Quinnipiac University</li> <li>Rhode Island School of Design</li> <li>Saint Michael's College</li> <li>Simmons College</li> <li>Spelman College</li> <li>St. Lawrence University</li> <li>Stevens Institute of Technology</li> <li>Transylvania University</li> <li>University of Maryland (Baltimore County)</li> <li>University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)</li> <li>University of New Hampshire (main campus)</li> <li>University of North Carolina Wilmington</li> <li>University of Rhode Island</li> <li>University of Wisconsin–Madison</li> <li>Earlham College</li> <li>Morehouse College</li> <li>Rollins College</li> <li>Texas Christian University</li> <li>The College of Wooster</li> <li>University of Kentucky</li> <li>Yeshiva University</li> </ul> <p>I was going to stop there, but there are some that I would like to mention with deadlines in March (yes, March!).  You really have no excuse not to apply to one of these if you are interested:</p> <ul> <li>Georgia State University</li> <li>Hampden–Sydney College</li> <li>Hampton University</li> <li>Randolph–Macon College</li> <li>SUNY at Albany</li> <li>University of Dallas</li> <li>University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa</li> <li>East Carolina University</li> </ul> <p>Okay, you get the point.  But, believe us that we could name colleges with deadlines in April, May, and even June, including some that we have recommended in our virtual nationwide college tour--colleges like SUNY New Paltz, Old Dominion University, the University of Iowa, Louisiana State University, and the University of Central Florida.<br /> <br /> So, parents of high school seniors, don’t despair.  If your teenager is truly questioning his or her choices now, it’s not too late.  Again, the options that we have just read are a sample of colleges still accepting applications (and there are many options that we have not read).  Lots of these options would be great for any student.  So, if you and your teenager are so inclined, take an hour or two now and have a last look.  It might not change any final decision your teenager will eventually make about where to go to college, but it might let you all sleep better for the next few months.<br /> <br /> As always, call us, if you could use some free advice!<strong><br /></strong></p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode105" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode105</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 104: Public Universities--One More Time
<p>This is our final episode before the holiday break and before those of you with seniors are facing what is likely D-Day--Deadline-for-college-applications Day--at least, for many, many colleges anyway. We struggled to think of something hopeful to say, and we settled on one last look at a group of colleges your teenager and you might not have considered sufficiently, and that is public universities. They have long been a favorite topic of ours, as evidenced by our detailed coverage of them during our virtual nationwide college tour (<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">Episodes 27 through 53</a>) and our oft-repeated description of public flagship universities as the hidden jewels of our higher education system in the U.S.</p> <p>But recently, I read some new information that might make them even more attractive to you, and that information is about money. Our regular listeners know that I care relatively little about the cost of a college compared to the education and college life it provides and the quality of its match to a particular student. But even I was pleased to find out this information. Perhaps it is just in time for adding one or two more colleges to your teenager’s list (especially if the applications are relatively easy or the deadlines are a bit later than January 1, both of which can be true for large public universities).</p> <h2>1. Out-of-State Tuition Prices Dropping</h2> <p>A few weeks ago, I read an Associated Press article, by Jeff Amy, which had a catchy headline: “<a href= "https://www.apnews.com/644c3ac6e5b44b3db6dfa765b496fa1e/Seeking-students,-public-colleges-reduce-out-of-state-prices" target="_blank">Seeking students, public colleges reduce out-of-state prices</a>.” It starts with an interesting story from the <a href="https://www.usm.edu/" target="_blank">University of Southern Mississippi</a> (USM) in Hattiesburg, but doesn’t stop there. Here is the USM story:</p> <blockquote> <p>The 14,500-student school has cut annual out-of-state tuition and fees from $16,529 this year to $9,964 next fall, even as it increases the cost for Mississippi residents by 4 percent, to $7,963.</p> <p>The idea is to reverse a 2,000-student enrollment dip by pricing a USM education below some public universities in nearby states, and attract enough high-schoolers from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to raise overall revenue. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, as our regular listeners might say, those high school seniors could also come from New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Why? Because kids need to get outside their geographic comfort zone! And now, USM and other public universities are making it even more attractive and cheaper to do just that.</p> <p>According to Mr. Amy’s article, “The Associated Press counted at least 50 public colleges and universities nationwide that have lowered nonresident tuition by more than 10 percent in recent years without making similar reductions for in-state students.” Is there any particular reason for that trend? Mr. Amy’s article offers this statistic:</p> <blockquote> <p>Many [colleges] are squeezed by falling numbers of traditional college-age students. High school graduates have fallen nationwide since 2011 and won't peak again until 2023, according to the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that was something I didn’t know. So now, let’s head way north from Hattiesburg and take a look at the <a href= "https://umaine.edu/" target="_blank">University of Maine</a>’s flagship campus. Mr. Amy tells this story:</p> <blockquote> <p>One widely noticed move was made by the University of Maine in Orono, which charges high-achievers from nine other states the same tuition they’d pay at their home state’s flagship. This saves them $12,000 to $17,000 from Maine's out-of-state tuition of $29,498; applicants with lower grades and test scores get $9,000 off.</p> <p>"The state of Maine needs young people, and we're not producing enough of them," said University of Maine Provost Jeffrey Hecker….</p> <p>It's working: Applications jumped, freshman enrollment rose 9 percent to 2,260 students this fall…. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>This arrangement at the University of Maine echoes some arrangements we talked about during our virtual nationwide college tour (Episodes 27 through 53) where groups of neighboring states in various parts of the country offered good financial deals to students to cross state lines and attend public universities. And, parents, don’t forget to check out about any regional exchanges your state belongs to (e.g., <a href="http://www.wiche.edu/wue" target="_blank">Western Undergraduate Exchange</a>, <a href= "http://msep.mhec.org/" target="_blank">Midwest Student Exchange Program</a>), which offer tuition discounts to residents of member states.</p> <p>Of course, as we have said before, some public universities take some heat from state taxpayers for recruiting students from outside the state, especially when they believe that out-of-state students who can pay more are admitted instead of in-state students who deserve those places. But, as some states cut back on their funding of their own public universities, it is no surprise that those universities have to seek revenue elsewhere. Thus, at least in some states, out-of-state students are going to get a good deal.</p> <h2>2. Public Universities Recruiting Out-of-State Students</h2> <p>Last month, <em>The New York Times</em> published an article by Laura Pappano entitled “<a href= "http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/education/edlife/survival-strategies-for-public-universities.html?_r=0" target="_blank">How the University of Alabama Became a National Player</a>.” The whole article is well worth reading and tells about many more universities than we are going to talk about in this episode. But here is the Alabama story in a nutshell:</p> <blockquote> <p>With state funding now just 12.5 percent of the university’s budget, campus leaders have mapped an offensive strategy to grow in size, prestige and, most important, revenue. The endgame is to become a national player known for more than championship football….</p> <p>The university is spending $100.6 million in merit aid, up from $8.3 million a decade ago and more than twice what it allocates to students with financial need. It also has hired an army of recruiters to put Bama on college lists of full-paying students who, a few years ago, might not have looked its way.</p> <p>The University of Alabama is the fastest-growing flagship in the country. Enrollment hit 37,665 this fall, nearly a 58 percent increase over 2006. As critical as the student body jump: the kind of student the university is attracting. The average G.P.A. of entering freshmen is 3.66, up from 3.4 a decade ago, and the top quarter scored at least a 31 on the ACT, up from 27. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>While it is clear that there are Alabama taxpayers who are annoyed that its well-known and much-loved flagship university is spending its money on out-of-state recruiters and merit aid to bright kids, it is also clear that these strategies seem to be working for the University. And that is why the <a href= "https://www.ua.edu/" target="_blank">University of Alabama</a> now has 45 recruiters, with 36 of them in out-of-state locations.</p> <p>According to Ms. Pappano’s article, Alabama is just one example of this trend. To take another example, the <a href= "http://www.sc.edu/" target="_blank">University of South Carolina</a> (USC) has 20 recruiters, and now USC receives twice as many applications from out-of-state students as from state residents. Ms. Pappano sums it up this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>It is no accident that states with among the largest drops in state allocations since 2008--Arizona (down 56 percent), South Carolina (down 37 percent) and Alabama (down 36 percent), according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--have entrepreneurial public campuses trained on growth. Those same states also had the greatest net gain in students: More entered the state to attend their four-year public institutions than left to study elsewhere, according to fall 2014 data, the most recent available. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <h2>3. What Does It All Mean?</h2> <p>So, what does it all mean? First, giving great tuition breaks to out-of-state students likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities. Second, recruiting out-of-state kids who can afford to pay <em>more</em> likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities.   Third, giving merit scholarships to out-of-state bright kids likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities. All of these scenarios are understandably of concern to state taxpayers. These scenarios are also a concern to those of us who believe that public universities have a mission to make a college education accessible to a wide range of students, not just the best and the brightest and the most able to pay.</p> <p>On the other hand, if you are the parent of a teenager who is looking for another college to add to the list as we get down to the wire, we can say that this could be the time to look both to public flagship universities and to other public universities that are actively recruiting out-of-state students. Check out the articles we have been discussing for more information. Depending on your teenager’s grades and test scores, there might even be a substantial financial break for you.</p> <h2>4. Good Luck!</h2> <p>We will be taking a short holiday break next week, and we will be back with you on January 5. At that point, those of you who have a senior with applications due in the first few days of January should be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Of course, some of you will still have deadlines to face in February and March and even later. And if you have a junior at home, your life is about to change.</p> <p>But, parents of seniors, let us say again what we have said before: There is not just one perfect college for each kid. There are many colleges that would make each kid happy and many colleges that would give each kid a great education. Your kid will find one or more than one. Until then, we are keeping our fingers crossed for you. Happy 2017!</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The <a href= "http://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook-ebook/dp/B00ZTJOEAY" target="_blank">Kindle ebook</a> version of our book, <em>How To Find the Right College</em>, is on sale for $0.99 through 2016! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a <a href= "http://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank">paperback workbook</a>.</strong></p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode104" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode104</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul>
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Episode 103: Can You Find a College Like Georgia State?
<p>We are going to Georgia--well, not literally--in today’s episode to talk about a college that we did not include in our virtual nationwide college tour (<a href= "http://usacollegechat.org/tag/series-4-looking-at-colleges-outside-your-comfort-zone/" target="_blank">Episodes 27 through 53</a>), but I now wish we had. I have to admit that I did not know virtually anything about the college we are going to talk about, and that’s why Marie and I say all the time that we learn something every day while navigating the ever-changing world of college. I think this episode will be eye-opening to many of you.</p> <h2>1. What’s in a Headline?</h2> <p>It all started when I read the following headline in a recent issue of <em>The Hechinger Report</em>: “<a href= "http://hechingerreport.org/at-georgia-state-black-students-find-comfort-and-academic-success/" target="_blank">At Georgia State, more black students graduate each year than at any U.S. college</a>.” This excellent article, which was written by Nick Chiles and which also appeared in <em>The Atlanta Journal Constitution</em>, takes a close look at how one college has changed the game for many students (and not just black students) who might have found it difficult--and perhaps unfairly difficult--to get into and succeed at other colleges. You all should really go read the whole article, because I can’t do it justice without reading it aloud to you in its entirety.</p> <p>Mr. Chiles offers these statistics to make his case:</p> <blockquote> <p>With its jumble of slate-gray concrete buildings mixed in with the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta, Georgia State now graduates more black students with bachelor’s degrees every year than any other nonprofit school in the United States (1,777 in 2015). That stat includes the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Spelman, Howard and Florida A&M.</p> <p>From 2003 to 2015, according to GSU, its graduation rate (finishing a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting) for African-American students rose from 29 to 57 percent. For Hispanic students, it went from 22 to 54 percent. By 2014, for lower-income students (those eligible for a federal Pell grant), it reached 51 percent--nearly the same as for non-Pell students. Its graduation rate for first-generation students went up 32 percent between 2010 and 2014.</p> <p>And GSU increased those percentages while also increasing its number of black, Hispanic and low-income students by 10 percent. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Any way you look at it, those are some impressive statistics. This is not a new topic for <em>USACollegeChat</em>. We have talked in previous episodes about the shockingly low graduation rates in too many colleges, and we have talked about the scandalously low number of students of color in too many public universities. Both issues concern us. So, we are especially pleased to spotlight the work that Georgia State has been doing on both of these fronts.</p> <h2>2. How Georgia State Won</h2> <p>To what does <a href="http://www.gsu.edu/" target= "_blank">Georgia State</a> credit its success when so many other colleges have failed? Here is what Mr. Chiles said about that:</p> <blockquote> <p>The centerpiece of GSU’s turnaround is the system it created and calls "GPS Advising." Using computer algorithms, it closely tracks student performance, and GSU’s army of advisors monitors every student’s academic output on a daily basis. If a student’s performance veers off course just a bit, counselors receive an alert. They reach out to the student to find the source of the problem. According to GSU calculations, in 2014-15 the system generated more than 43,000 individual meetings between advisors and students.</p> <p>In addition, knowing how frequently students drop out because they find themselves unable to cover tuition, GSU instituted a program that provides modest "retention grants" to students who are short of money. Last year it offered nearly 2,000.</p> <p>Another program, called "Keep HOPE Alive," helps students who have lost Georgia’s HOPE scholarship--which covers tuition costs at state institutions--re-qualify for the money by working to lift their GPAs back to the required 3.0. And for incoming [freshmen] it considers “at risk,” GSU offers an intensive seven-week summer prep program. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>We are sure that these ideas cost Georgia State both administrative time and money. But look at the results. And haven’t we all known kids who had a scholarship and lost it when they underperformed during that important freshman year; Marie and I certainly have. Look at the support that Georgia State provides to its students who might otherwise have dropped out and suboptimized their entire futures: black kids, Hispanic kids, low-income kids, first-generation-to-college kids, and plenty of other kids who needed just a bit of help to win.</p> <p>But, as Mr. Chiles goes on to say, it’s not just about these supports. It’s about the whole culture of Georgia State. Mr. Chiles continues his explanation: <em><br /></em></p> <blockquote> <p>In interviews at Georgia State, many black students said they feel they have the best of both worlds: the black peers, support staff and cultural environment they might find at an HBCU, but the resources and the diversity of a large state school.</p> <p>On the weekends, GSU students said the campus feels even more like an HBCU. That’s because the number of black students who live on the downtown Atlanta campus is more than double the number of white students--2,794 black students this fall compared to 1,209 white students. Most of its 25,000 [undergraduate] students commute from nearby homes or apartments. (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there are lots of things to comment on here. First, we have talked in previous episodes about the nurturing and supportive environment of many HBCUs and how that sometimes makes all the difference to a student, especially to a student far from home. Georgia State seems to have that environment, even though it is not an HBCU. By the way, according to <a href= "http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/" target="_blank">College Navigator</a> (our favorite research tool for finding out important stuff about colleges), the undergraduate student body at Georgia State is 42 percent black/African American, 27 percent white, 12 percent Asian, 9 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 10 percent everything else (Fall, 2015). Incidentally, Mr. Chiles notes that Georgia State has also recruited a large number of black administrators, advisors, and professors. According to a Georgia State administrator, 10 percent of Georgia State instructors are black--compared to only about 4 percent at other colleges that are not HBCUs.</p> <p>Second, we want to point out the number of black students who live on Georgia State’s campus, which is largely a commuter campus. Being able to house those students gives them all of the advantages of college life that they otherwise would not get by living at home. We should note here that, according to College Navigator, 94 percent of Georgia State students are from Georgia (Fall, 2015). If you are not from Georgia, but you are impressed by what Georgia State has done, you might think about becoming part of the out-of-staters who make the trip to Atlanta (a group that might get bigger as more and more parents around the country look at what Georgia State has accomplished). We should also say that out-of-state tuition and fees will run more than $25,000 per year, so it’s not the cheapest option you are going to find, but we do believe that you might actually get what you pay for. We should also say that the deadline for applications for next fall is not until March 1, so you still have plenty of time to take a longer look.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">And third, for those of you who don’t know it, Atlanta is a great city. In addition to the popular culture that is so evident there, it is home to great civic institutions, like the truly memorable National Center for Civil and Human Rights and The Carter Center (“Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”). By the way, you can go to Georgia State’s website and take the virtual campus tour, which will give you a good idea of what its piece of Atlanta looks like.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Let’s take one last look at Mr. Chiles’s well-researched article (again, please go read the whole piece, really):</p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: left;">Bernard McCrary, director of Georgia State’s Black Student Achievement office, said it helps that many of GSU’s black staff members were the first in their families to attend college, just as he was.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">"I think when you have a lot of first-generation folk, these are people who understand what that struggle is like for students because they’ve gone through it or had family members go through it," McCrary said. "They get it, they understand and will do everything in their power to make sure the students they service are successful.” (quoted from the article)</p> </blockquote> <p>First, Georgia State <em>has</em> an Office of Black Student Achievement, which provides a wide variety of academic, support, leadership, and outreach activities, programs, and services. So, that says something about its commitment to serving its African and African-American student population. Second, the staffing of the university says something about its commitment to serving first-generation-to-college students. Giving these students role models--just like giving black students role models on its staff and faculty--is obviously intentional and should make parents of first-generation-to-college students rest a bit easier when sending their kids off to this university.</p> <p>Although we were not necessarily trying to champion Georgia State in this episode, but rather the kinds of successful programs and services that Georgia State has put in place for students of color and first-generation-to-college students, I guess we have ended up championing Georgia State. So, while we are at it, let’s talk about one interesting thing we noticed on its website, and that is its <em>methods</em> for reviewing applications. Here is what the website says:</p> <blockquote> <p>At Georgia State, we recognize that everyone is different. We give you options on how we evaluate your application because we know that every student is unique. Selecting how you would like to be reviewed as a freshman applicant is as simple as choosing which information to supply when you complete the application--skip the optional essay and letter of recommendation sections for the merit-based evaluation, or include an essay and letter(s) of recommendation to be evaluated holistically. It’s your choice; either way, we hope you choose Georgia State University.</p> <p>The Merit Review is based purely on your academic merits as they align with Georgia State’s admissions requirements, including your high school transcript(s) and test scores. Choosing this method of review means that you have elected not to complete the optional essay and letter of recommendation sections of the admissions application, and that you will be assessed solely on your previous academic performance and scores. If you choose this review method, Georgia State will reach out to you if any other information is necessary to make our admissions decision.</p> <p>The Holistic Review gives the Office of Undergraduate Admissions an enhanced picture of your abilities through the admissions application. For this option, please complete the essay and letter of recommendation sections of the Common Application, in addition to providing your transcript(s) and test scores. We strongly encourage the holistic review option if you would like to be considered for merit scholarships, if you are an international applicant, or if you’d simply like to share more about yourself as we make our admissions decisions.</p> <p>Our decisions are based primarily on academic merit. The optional essay and letters of recommendation provide additional insight about you as an applicant as Georgia State selects its freshman class. (quoted from the website)</p> </blockquote> <p>So, it’s your choice, kids. If you have the grades and test scores, you don’t have to bother with everything else. Interesting. By the way, according to College Navigator’s figures from Fall, 2015, about 57 percent of Georgia State applicants were admitted. Those admitted had SAT average scores in the low to mid-500s across all three subtests.</p> <h2>3. What Does This Mean for You?</h2> <p>So, let us say again that we were not necessarily trying to put the spotlight just on Georgia State University in this episode, but rather on the kinds of successful programs and services that Georgia State has put together to meet the needs of many of its own students of color and first-generation-to-college students.</p> <p>With that in mind, parents, consider whether the colleges on your teenager’s list have similar academic and support services, programs, and even offices, especially if your teenager is a student of color or first-generation-to-college student. You should be able to find that information on a college’s website, but you can always call and ask. Finding a college that can nurture a teenager who needs a bit more support can make all the difference, as Georgia State has indeed proved.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The <a href= "http://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook-ebook/dp/B00ZTJOEAY" target="_blank">Kindle ebook</a> version of our book, <em>How To Find the Right College</em>, is on sale for $0.99 through 2016! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a <a href= "http://www.amazon.com/How-Find-Right-College-Workbook/dp/0986408816" target="_blank">paperback workbook</a>.</strong></p> <h2>Ask your questions or share your feedback by...</h2> <ul> <li>Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode at <a href="http://usacollegechat.org/episode103" target= "_blank">http://usacollegechat.org/episode103</a></li> <li>Calling us at (516) 900-6922 to record a question on our USACollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast</li> </ul> <h2>Connect with us through...</h2> <ul> <li>Subscribing to our podcast on <a href= "https://goo.gl/app/playmusic?ibi=com.google.PlayMusic&isi=691797987&ius=googleplaymusic&link=https://play.google.com/music/m/Ikwd4b3gadzkxvaz7xvtzs4gshu?t%3DUSACollegeChat_Podcast" target="_blank">Google Play Music</a>, <a href= "http://nycollegechat.org/iTunes" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://nycollegechat.org/Stitcher" target= "_blank">Stitcher</a>, or <a href= "http://tunein.com/radio/NYCollegeChat-p650771/" target= "_blank">TuneIn</a></li> <li>Liking us on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/USACollegeChat/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or following us on <a href= "https://twitter.com/USACollegeChat/" target= "_blank">Twitter</a></li> <li>Reviewing parent materials we have available at <a href= "http://www.policystudies.org">www.policystudies.org</a></li> <li>Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help</li> <li>Reading Regina's blog, <a href= "http://parentchatwithregina.org/" target="_blank">Parent Chat with Regina</a></li> </ul> <h2> </h2>
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Episode 102: Using Technology To Communicate with Colleges
<p>Today’s episode takes us into the world of technology, so that means I’m already in trouble, but fortunately not Marie. We want to highlight four ways colleges find out things about applicants, now that we live in a world of super-connectedness--which can be good and can be not so good.</p> <h2>1. Email Address</h2> <p>So, let’s start with the most obvious: an applicant’s email address. Virtually all kids have email addresses these days; indeed, kids are called on to provide them as part of the Common App—under Profile, then under Contact Details. So, tell your teenager that colleges will see his or her email address.</p> <p>We know that college counselors have certainly talked to kids about this for quite some time, but it never fails that some kid still has an email address that sounds unprofessional, silly, or even offensive. Let me tell you a story about that--one that I have never forgotten, although it happened several years ago when I had the pleasure of hearing a very forthcoming college president speak frankly about this very topic to our juniors at the high school we co-founded.</p> <p>He recounted a story about how he personally had offered a kid a great scholarship to come to his college and then had to send him a follow-up email. The president of the college saw the young man’s email address--which included language that, though sadly popular among many teens, is considered by many to be a racial slur. The president immediately withdrew the scholarship. He said to the young man that his college was not looking for students who were comfortable using that sort of language to identify themselves or anyone else. Talk about learning a lesson the hard way!</p> <p>So, parents, look at your teenager’s email address. Double check that it is something straightforward, like <em>his or her name @gmail.com</em>. Make sure it is not too cute, funny, personal, weird, or offensive to anyone of any religion, race, ethnic group, nationality, or gender. No one wants to lose a scholarship because of an email address.</p> <p>And, by the way, make sure that your teenager actually checks his or her email every day from now through next April. We cannot tell you the number of high school kids we know who have gotten emails from various colleges about important matters and who didn’t see them in a timely manner. This totall