Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some Early Application deadlines pushed back

Right around this time last year, some of us on the east coast were surprised with an October snowstorm. Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy came with plenty of warning, but the aftermath is always a shock. November 1 is an early application deadline and this storm is definitely throwing a wrench in the works. Colleges were flexible with their deadlines last year, and it looks like the same will be true this year. (If you were procrastinating and these deadlines bought you some time, I won't pile on but let that be a lesson to you.)

I started to compile a list, and then found an extensive one here (thanks to Nancy Griesemer and her cabin fever):

Of course, this isn't a complete list because colleges will make decisions as time goes on. If you're applying early and don't see your college on that list, check their homepage or social media accounts for news. 

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tomorrow is a big day for college admissions

On October 10, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas. "Fisher" is Abigail Fisher, a white student in Texas who asserts she was denied admission at the University of Texas at Austin because of her race. Texas is a state that guarantees admission to any state institute of higher learning to graduates of any Texas high school who place in the top ten percent of their class. In this instance, Abigail Fisher was not part of the top ten percent and was also denied admission as part of the general process. She has since graduated from Louisiana State University. 

Some numbers on UT-Austin (2011, from collegeboard.com):
Total undergraduates: 38,437
Total applicants: 32,589
Admitted: 15,172
Enrolled: 7,149

Based on these, the admit rate is 47% of applicants, which is highly selective according to College Board.

The racial breakdown of the student body is listed as 48% white, 21% Latino/Hispanic, 18% Asian, and 5% African-American. 91% of its population is made up of in-state residents. 

I've come across a few thought-provoking articles and they're all worth a read--

From New American MediaFate of Affirmative Action Hangs on Fisher v. Univ. of Texas
A tie vote would mean that the University of Texas wins, but a tie doesn’t have the same precedential value as a majority five-three decision. Likely to back Texas would be Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. I think these three are fairly safe predictions. As the court’s health care decision shows, you can never be sure what’s going to happen. Nobody expected Justice Roberts to be the savior of Obama’s health care. So you don’t want to say you can be sure, but if you look at what the justices have written in the past, the remaining justices are skeptical of affirmative action. Sometimes people vote for what they’re skeptical of, but one of those five would have to change for Texas to win [by getting a four-four vote].
From the New York Times: Play Close Attention to the Supreme Court This Week
Among the reasons that nearly every public or private college or university utilizes racial preferences in admissions – other than in states like California where voters have banned the practice – is the belief that students learn at least as much from their classmates as their professors, and that a broadly diverse student body creates an educational environment most conducive to learning.
From the Washington Post (opinion): Why race matters in college admission
As a practical matter, we do not understand how a rule forbidding all consideration of race could possibly be enforced. Essays and letters of recommendation are critical components of the application process at law schools. They allow us to evaluate intangible virtues such as courage, commitment and moral compass. In their personal statements, many applicants discuss how race has influenced their lives. Writers of recommendations frequently mention race in explaining how an applicant has overcome challenges. Would those advocating race-blind admissions have us censor the statements of applicants and their recommenders? How could we carry out such a task, even if we were inclined to do so?  
Also from the Washington PostSupreme Court considers about-face on racial preferences in college admissions in Texas case
The case also raises several contentious side issues, including whether affirmative-action programs hurt the very people they are supposed to be helping. A new book by law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor argues that “large preferences often place students in environments where they can neither learn nor compete effectively, even though these same students would thrive had they gone to less competitive but still quite good schools.”

I don't envy the decisions any admissions office has to make. Every student has a story and a case to admit could probably be made for each one. My point is only this-- admissions is a maddening process. Sometimes policies make sense, sometimes they don't. We don't always get the answer we want. The process isn't always fair. I know Ms. Fisher wants this to be about an applicant's merits, and on the surface I believe that to be true. Yet... if it were that simple why would colleges ask for essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities? Why wouldn't they solely consider test scores and grades? Because it's not that simple. And after tomorrow's arguments, the whole process could get turned on its head.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

7%...or, a little college essay inspiration?

So Erik Qualman tweeted out this link last week and it is just chock full of good advice. It's a column from the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, written by a 92 year-old. The list is 45 life lessons long, and you can read the whole thing here, but these are my favorites:

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

Good stuff, isn't it? If you haven't started on the essay yet, it's really time to get down to it. What's inspired you lately?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why hire a college consultant? I'll tell you

I've seen a few articles lately that question whether it's worth it for families to hire an independent educational consultant. To me, it's simple: if you need help and you're not getting it, hire a college consultant. 

I know the value of objective help when it comes to figuring out college plans. I was fortunate to attend a school that had dedicated college counselors, but I know this is not typical. In most schools the person responsible for guiding the process is the school counselor, who is also responsible for one hundred different things-- administrative tasks, conflict resolution, and whatever else is needed. They’re a valuable, necessary resource and the demands placed on them are increasing.

On average, a single school counselor is responsible for over 300 students. I earned my master’s degree in secondary school counseling, so I’ve seen what these wonderful professionals are expected to achieve with increasingly limited resources. College planning falls down the list because there are simply more important things that need immediate attention. In 2003, a National Center for Educational Statistics study found that “43 percent of all public high schools reported that more than 20 percent of their counselors’ time is spent on college advising, which meant that 57 percent of school counselors spend 0-19 percent of their time on college advising. Using NCES’s ratio of 315 students per counselor in public high schools and the estimate of hours the average counselor spends on college counseling, ”counselors are spending 38 minutes per year per student for college advising" (p 9, NACAC Fundamentals of College Advising). 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to School!

Back-to-school ads always seem to start a little earlier every year. I no longer have a need for a new backpack or notebooks every August, but those ads always make me frown just a little because it means summer is inevitably winding down. And I hate to see it go. If you're gearing up for your Junior or Senior year, college is getting awfully close. But if you're a Sophomore or even a Freshman, it's not too early to think about college too. So, in honor of new colored pens, I have one tip for each year.

Freshman Year: Sign up for some activities.
Start to get an idea of what you’re interested in and what activities you’d want to see through to Senior year. It’s ok to sign up for a bunch of different things now because the whole point is try.

Sophomore Year: Test Prep. Yes, those tests.
As a sophomore, you can take a practice PSAT or the PLAN, which is the pre-ACT. If you do well, then that’s fantastic! If you don’t, then you’ll know where to focus your energy. And remember, it’s only practice so even if you do well on the practice PSAT you’ll still need to take it again as a Junior. If you don’t want to take any actual tests, then get yourself some prep books. Just make sure they contain actual test material.

Junior Year: Lead
By now you should be involved in activities you care about. This is the year to start to take a leadership position. Go after an editor position if you're on the school paper or chair a committee.
Senior Year: GRADES
Don't think for a minute that once your applications are in you can go easy on your work. Colleges have the option to rescind, and believe me they'll do it. You've worked hard for three years; don't let it all be for naught.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One more way to take advantage of summer

One of my goals when working with students is to simplify the process as best I can, and I find that a little organization goes along way. With that in mind, in my last post I offered up a few tips on things to do this summer that could give you a jump start on the college process before the school year really gets going. I have one more: fill out an application.

The Common Application is used by 456 schools and for many students it's a great time saver. Others think it's why acceptance rates appear to be shrinking. But I digress.

The 2012-13 version will be released on August 1, but a paper copy is available right this minute. Print it out.

For our purposes here the beauty of the common app is that it also contains questions you'll see on other college applications out there. If your parents went to college, do you know where? Do you know what they majored in? Get some of these answers now and when you sit down to fill out your "official" applications, you can fly through these easy questions. Write it all down and file it away in a safe place (but not so safe you can't find it again. I think we've all done that.) This will become your reference sheet.
If you're feeling really bold, go ahead and take a crack at one of the six essay questions. I know the back-to-school ads have already started but there's still plenty of summer left and plenty of time to take of advantage of it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 Ways to Take Advantage of Summer

Summer is probably my favorite time of year. I love that it stays light late in the day, I love the warmth, and I especially love the beach. Here is the Northeast, summer is our reward for winter. Take a break; you've earned it.

Just not for the WHOLE summer.

Savvy students will take advantage of these next few months and set themselves up for the coming school year. So what can you do? Here are the things I'd put on top of my to-do list.

1. Do Something 
I'm trying to be open-ended here, not vague. Did you land an internship? Are you working retail? Baby-sitting for some kids in the neighborhood? Fantastic. An experience is only as good as you make it. (Yes, it could be a potential college essay topic but don't get hung up on that.) Any job you have can teach you something if you let it. Don't discount summer work!

2. Speaking of the college essay...
Summer is the perfect time to work on it! You don't have the pressure of the school year and you can devote more time to the process. Brainstorm. Write about the topic you've got in mind. If it doesn't work you'll either realize that now and move on, or you'll have the time you need to fix it. Fall seems like a long way off right about now, but you'll be way ahead of the game once September rolls around.

3. Visit some colleges
College campuses will be emptier that during the school year, but there's still plenty of information to soak up. (The tour schedules might be a little different, so make sure you plan ahead.) Approach it like you would any other time of year. Do your research--what are you looking to gain from the visit? Hang back when the tour is over and talk to the student guide. There's someone who was in your shoes recently and is a wealth of information. Another potential bonus for summer visits is the admissions representative from your area might have more time to talk to you. 

There's a lot to take advantage of in the summer. Recharge those batteries, but don't lost momentum.