October 1 is an important day in the financial aid process. It’s the first day students can access and submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile for the 2019-2020 academic year. If you’re not sure what these forms are and whether or not to submit them, look no further. All the basic information you will need is right here.

Filling Out the FAFSA and CSS Profile WHO SHOULD SUBMIT THESE FORMS? Any U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen who is seeking need-based aid from post-secondary institutions must submit the FAFSA, the acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The first thing to understand about the FAFSA is that it is the student’s form, not yours. Many parents complete it on behalf of their child, and if the student is under 18 the parent will be required to co-sign. But when the questions refer to “you” or “your” they are addressing the student, not the parent.

Before beginning the FAFSA, the student must initiate the process by creating their Federal Student Aid Identification number, or FSA ID. It is their electronic signature. Once that’s created, the parent can create their own FSA ID if they expect to co-sign the FAFSA or want access to it. To create your FSA ID, go here:

If You Want Your Child to Succeed, Don’t Sell Liberal Arts Short Critical-thinking skills are useful in any profession, and not all classes are obscurantist or politicized.

By Michael Zimm March 2, 2018 5:42 p.m. ET 327 COMMENTS It’s college admissions season, and every parent is mulling the perennial question: “What major will help my child get a good job?”

Standard answers today invariably center on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM. Given the skyrocketing costs of higher education, parents and students alike can be forgiven for viewing a college degree as a passport into the professional world, and STEM majors are seen as the best route to professional success.

But my advice is to let your child know that a liberal-arts degree can be a great launching pad for a career in just about any industry. Majoring in philosophy, history or English literature will not consign a graduate to a fate of perpetual unemployment. Far from it. I say this as a trained classicist—yes, you can still study ancient Greek and Latin—who decided to make a transition into the tech world.

I am far from alone. There are plenty of entrepreneurs, techies and private-equity managers with liberal-arts degrees. Damon Horowitz, a cofounder of the search engine Aardvark, holds a doctorate in philosophy. Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman both earned master’s degrees in philosophy. The startup where I work employs computer programmers who studied musical composition and philosophy as undergraduates.

Throughout history it has been common for people to study subjects with no immediate relationship to their intended professions. In antiquity, education was intended to enrich students’ lives. Pragmatic benefits such as rhetorical ability, logical reasoning and business skills were welcome byproducts of a good education. The phrase “liberal arts” comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “worthy of a free person.” A liberal-arts education gives someone the freedom to participate fully in civic life.

If You Want Your Child to Succeed, Don’t Sell Liberal Arts Short PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES The liberal arts are lately associated with esoteric areas of study. It is true that there are professors teaching Homer, Shakespeare or Jane Austen using dense, impenetrable jargon. I cannot follow most of what those professors say. I doubt many can, even the students who obnoxiously nod along. But professors who attempt to dress up or show off their learning by employing dense, turgid language do their fields—and their students—a great disservice.


The liberal arts are not the purview of a particular ideology or political interest group. Though the liberal arts have cultivated a reputation as a home for radical professors and “woke” students, rest assured that plenty of liberal-arts teachers and majors are anything but activists. The radicals get the headlines simply because their voices are the loudest. I taught undergraduates while I was in graduate school. My students came in every ideological and political stripe imaginable. Some were left-wing organizers while others were staunch conservatives. I am happy to report that students of all political persuasions were able to offer sharp insights on Virgil’s poetry.

Fields of study centered on philosophy, history, literature, art and music help us appreciate the ambiguity of the world, which in turn exercises our creative muscles. Liberal-arts courses don’t offer clearly defined answers to questions. Rather, they nurture disagreement among students and help them develop the ability to marshal cogent arguments in support of defensible positions. The ability to express a viewpoint verbally and then articulate it in writing is a skill that will serve graduates whether they are pitching a business plan to a venture-capital firm or writing a report to shareholders explaining why their portfolios took a hit last quarter.

We should update the liberal arts to take into consideration the realities of the modern world. Software permeates nearly everything. All students, no matter their major, should develop a basic familiarity with coding tool sets such as true-false statements, also called “Booleans,” and if-then or conditional statements.

But coders gain, too, from studying the liberal arts. “The value of an education in a liberal arts college,” said Albert Einstein, “is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” Constructing arguments based on historical evidence or studying rhetoric to improve one’s ability to persuade an audience has obvious applications. Interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems are crucial to addressing modern challenges such as cultivating relationships in an increasingly digital world and creatively integrating new technologies into different sectors of the economy.

So when parents ask themselves “What course of study will help my child get a job?” they shouldn’t think only about how the workforce operates today but how it will operate 10 or 20 years down the road. Though no one knows for sure exactly what the landscape will look like, we can be certain that critical thinking will still have value. And in that world, so will a liberal-arts degree.

Mr. Zimm is a creative strategist at Digital Surgeons, an experience design company.

Appeared in the March 3, 2018, print edition.

Don't Send Your Kids to College. At Least Not Yet.

In the past few weeks, anxious high school seniors across the country have received admissions decisions from colleges. Some might feel like they’ve won the lottery; others have dashed hopes and diminished confidence. Few in either category realize how little these outcomes matter in the long run; that, as Frank Bruni puts it, “where you go is not who you’ll be.”

Regardless of where the cards fall, a growing number of educational experts and thought leaders have some counterintuitive advice: don’t send your kids to college . . . at least not yet.

Our conveyor belt to college has striking costs. Nationally, one-third of college freshmen don’t return for a second year. Kids take about six years to complete a degree, and only 9 percent of students from low-income backgrounds will have a degree by the time they turn 24. Beyond this, stress among college students is alarmingly high and rising each year with the majority of students feeling consistently anxious, overwhelmed or hopeless. These concerning trends are playing out from community college to the Ivy League.

The outlook for those who graduate is not what it once was: students are saddled by unprecedented levels of debt and few leave campus with the skills employers value most. One recent study showed that while 96 percent of college administrators think their graduates are ready for the work force, just 11 percent of employers agree.

The current system is failing our kids, country and economy. How will we fix it? We need to get back to basics and ask: “What do today’s kids most need to learn, and how do we re-design the system around that?”

A growing number of colleges have begun to embrace a novel solution: change the outcomes of college by changing the inputs. 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?

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.

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. And the American Gap Association reports that students who take a year before college are 75 percent more likely to be “happy” or “extremely satisfied” with their careers post-college.

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.

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. Princeton, Tufts and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have recently developed “bridge year” programs that encourage – and pay for – students to spend a year immersed in the world before arriving on campus.

Growing evidence also shows that a structured “bridge year” can be a game-changer for low-income students by helping them develop the growth mindset and grit associated with college persistence and completion. Reflecting this, scholarships for students who have historically not had these opportunities are growing as well. For example, at Global Citizen Year, the organization I founded and lead, our goal is to find the highest potential students we can, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Since 2010 we have disbursed over $6 million in financial aid with 80 percent of each year’s class receiving need-based financial aid.

Admissions criteria are changing to give preference to students with real world experience. In January, Harvard and more than 80 other colleges released Turning the Tide, a blueprint for de-escalating the admissions arms race by focusing less on personal achievement and more on values, integrity and commitment to others. One proposed pathway is to give an admissions boost to students who take a service year before arrival.

As it becomes increasingly evident that our educational system is failing so many, it’s time to demand a stronger foundation for kids from all backgrounds.

Whether celebration or disappointment characterize admissions season for your family, one thing is clear: regardless of which school your child chooses, you would be wise not to send your kid to college . . . at least not yet.

Abigail Falik (@abbyfalik) is the founder and C.E.O. of Global Citizen Year. An expert on the changing landscape of education, Falik has been profiled by Fast Company, NPR, Forbes and The New York Times.

Want your child to get into college and have a good life? Here’s how.

A few weeks ago, I sat in a high school auditorium with a hundred other parents and listened while guidance counselors gently, sometimes haltingly, listed the state requirements for graduation for the incoming freshmen, our children, the Class of 2020. They then went on to cite a dozen alternative paths that ranged from vocational to college prep to state-sponsored scholarships. With each progression, the stakes grew higher and the list grew longer: AP and honors classes, foreign language requirements, dual enrollment with the local community college, virtual school supplementation.

Still, I knew that for a portion of the students in the audience, even the longest list of requirements they showed us did not cover the number of courses they might take, probably while juggling intense work, research, sports, or arts practices or schedules, all in the hopes of getting in to the colleges of their dreams.

After the presentation, I wandered around the school’s curriculum fair, surrounded by parents and their children whose wide eyes betrayed them: they were overwhelmed, almost paralyzed by the onslaught of information and choices and decisions in front of them. I couldn’t blame them. It felt like we were all being asked to declare what our 8th graders’ futures would be by deciding whether they would take regular or AP biology at the age of 14.

My husband and I were college classmates at an Ivy League university, one that we both still dearly love. We met our best friends and each other there, and we found our experiences both valuable and formative. So of course, when we started having children, we had ivy-covered stars in our eyes and dreams that we could give our children the same experiences we had. But as the years have gone on, my dreams for my children have evolved.

As an alumni interviewer for my alma mater and a friend to many families who have gone through the college admissions process, I have watched too many high school students bend, if not break, under the pressure of the grueling exercise. They don’t just take nine AP classes in their high school careers; they take 20, and they fit them in while pursuing research opportunities, oratory contests, volunteer work, religious school, and Mu Alpha Theta competitions. One child I interviewed this year regularly took Uber to his sports practices because he shared a car with his siblings and his parents were at work.

Now acutely aware that I only have my oldest son at home for another four short years, my new dream for him is to find a balance between achievement, personal growth that I hope includes compassion and empathy and an awareness of his own dumb luck, and the uniquely poignant experience of being a teenager.

A few months ago, in a new report produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project, “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions,” lead author Richard Weissbourd and his colleagues advocated changes to the college admissions process that might both relieve some of the intense pressure on college applicants and finally send the message to students and – the harder sell, to their parents – that meaningful community and intellectual engagement and an interest in the public good could be as important and valuable in college admissions as a high SAT score or a transcript full of AP classes.

When the report came out, it was all over my Facebook feed. Was this a true sea change for college admissions? Could we really transform a culture driven by insane high school workloads, high stakes standardized tests, and the nagging suspicion that only finding a new element on the periodic table might be enough to get a kid into college?

Knowing what I do from my experiences interviewing high school students, I was dubious. Then this Harvard Crimson article seemed to confirm my concerns: Harvard’s own undergraduate dean of admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, acknowledged that though he might add questions to the Harvard application regarding community engagement, Harvard would continue to leave the rest of the application process as is.

In an interview for my story about the report for the College Gameplansection of NBC News, Katie Fretwell, dean of undergraduate admissions at Amherst College, echoed Fitzsimmons when she told me that Amherst, too, would mostly continue business as usual, even though she too very much endorsed the report. “But we’re trying not to encourage kids to do things for appearance’s sake,” she explained, adding that in addition to standardized test scores and a rigorous course load, Amherst’s holistic application review values quality over quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities and substance and depth when it comes to volunteer work. How do admissions offices determine authenticity in students’ service experiences? “A commitment over time,” she said simply. “Longevity matters.”

Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, also agreed: “Yes, we want students who have achieved in and out of the classroom, but we are also looking for things that are harder to quantify: authentic intellectual engagement, a concern for others and the common good. We often talk in the Yale admissions committee room about the prevalence of something we call ‘otherness’ while reviewing a student’s application,” he told me.

When I contacted Weissbourd, who is a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-director of Making Caring Common, I had a lot of questions – and, admittedly, a lot of skepticism. I worried, as did many of my friends with high school age kids, that this would become just one more burden on high school kids to bear, one more box to check. “Meaningful community engagement” would not inspire kids to be kind, I thought, it would just be another system to game. As my friend Susana MacLean, a mother of two in suburban New Jersey, lamented, “My daughter is a junior who is taking 10 honors and nine AP courses in high school in addition to playing soccer and being a leader in fencing and on the Science Olympiad team. She is already stretched to the limit. She has no free time and she is sleep-deprived and exhausted.

“She is a very nice kid. She helps friends with their math and physics homework. She teaches her little brother how to build robots. She is a good friend and a wonderful daughter. But if colleges now want to see ‘evidence’ that she is a kind person, is she supposed to take on a community service project on top of everything else? What is she supposed to stop doing in order to fit charitable work into a 24-hour day? Should she take less-challenging courses, even though she loves the more rigorous classes? Should she drop one of the activities she enjoys and is good at?  Should she stop sleeping altogether?”

Weissbourd told me that the goals of the report are realistic and that true change can come from it, but it will only come if parents and students themselves “turn a corner.”

Along with the report’s recommendations to avoid “overcoaching” students for college as if it is a game to win, to take the SAT or ACT no more than twice, to explore fewer activities but with deeper commitment and engagement, and to limit the number of AP and IB courses in a student’s courseload, Weissbourd believes that even more of the crucial work in changing the grueling culture of college admissions will have to come from inside the applicants’ homes, not in the ivory towers of the Ivy League.

Weissbourd said, “This is complicated stuff. With my own kids, I had to sort out my own status concerns, my own fears about competition with other parents or the fears that I was failing my kids if they were in five activities instead of eight, or I was cheating my kids if they weren’t getting SAT tutors when they were freshmen in high school. There is a contagion of fear out there that may actually be contrary to parents’ values, and you have to honor your values. There are people succeeding in every profession who did not attend these elite schools.”

Who is the best student in class? Depends on whom you ask.


Life is longer than the road to college, and as Weissbourd points out, there are many great colleges available to students today that are not in the category of elite schools like Harvard. For a certain portion of students, those elite schools – and the workload that comes with applying to them – will be appropriate. Some children actually thrive taking the most challenging courses they can tackle, pursuing independent research projects, and committing to sports, arts, or other activities that they truly love. For them, “community engagement” might mean volunteer work, or it might mean just looking at those sports or arts differently: as ways to connect with their communities in a meaningful way.

For other students, those workloads and schedules will not be appropriate; they won’t thrive under those conditions. But they can still look at their activities and pursuits as chances to dive deeper into their communities and do more for the public good, as the “Turning the Tides” report recommends. Those students will still have access to great classes, great professors, and great campuses – they just might not be Harvard.

Weissbourd says that could actually be better for the students. “Sending your kids to elite colleges doesn’t always mean expanding their options,” he says. “You can also be constricting their options, because then they think if they want to be a teacher or a firefighter or a carpenter, it’s not in the cards for them.”

To be clear, none of the recommendations in the report are new values for colleges admissions. Even the most elite schools have always favored depth over breadth and quality over quantity, whether in courses or extracurricular activities. They have always appreciated demonstrations of kindness and empathy and deeper, sustained commitments to service have always held more weight in admissions than one-off stints or expensive missionary trips. This is not actually news. What is news is that colleges are saying it loud and clear through this report, trying to convey to parents that yes, they mean it: who your kid is every day of the week is important. Your kid is more than a test score or their grades. Your kid is also more than the name of the college he or she will attend.

My own oldest child is registering for high school next week as I write this. As someone who was always internally driven not just to achieve but to overachieve, this has presented one of my biggest challenges in my parenting: how to let my son be who he is and to show me his own path to college and beyond. My natural instinct is to push him, just because that’s my natural instinct in general. Luckily for both him and me, I have been able to get over myself.

The true way to relieve the crushing pressure of college admissions has been within our power all along: we must do the work on ourselves as parents and to follow our kids’ leads while we gently guide and support them – not to get them into a good college, but to get them to be good people. Let them learn to steer their own ships, and they will be prepared for wherever the tide takes them.

Allison Slater Tate is a freelance writer and editor and the mother of four children. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @allisonstate, or at her Web site.

Like On Parenting on Facebook for more essays, advice and news. You can sign up here for our newsletter. You can find us at


A college-admissions edge for the wealthy: Early decision

Many of the nation’s top colleges draw more than 40 percent of their incoming freshmen through an early-application system that favors the wealthy, luring students to commit to enroll if they get in and shutting out those who want the chance to compare offers of grants and scholarships.

The binding-commitment path known as “early decision” fills roughly half of the freshman seats at highly ranked Vanderbilt, Emory, Northwestern and Tufts universities, as well as Davidson, Bowdoin, Swarthmore and Claremont McKenna colleges, among others, a Washington Post analysis found.

The Post found 37 schools where the early-decision share of enrolled freshmen in 2015 was at least 40 percent. At Duke University, the share was 47 percent, and at the University of Pennsylvania, it was 54 percent.

[Sortable table: See the details of the early decision advantage]

The rising influence of early-decision enrollment underscores a stark and growing divide in college admissions between the masses of students who apply to multiple schools through the “regular” process in quest of the best fit and deal and a privileged subset who apply early and simultaneously pledge to attend just one, without fear of cost, at a time when the sticker price for private schools often tops $60,000 a year. Call them the Shoppers and the Pledgers.

College admissions: The Early Decision advantage

Davidson College 638 48% 5,382 22% 510 61%
University of Pennsylvania 5,488 24% 37,268 10% 2,435 54%
Claremont McKenna College 675 27% 7,156 11% 343 54%
Emory University 2,437 30% 20,492 24% 1,357 53%
Middlebury College 961 33% 8,891 17% 589 53%
Tufts University 1,839 39% 19,063 16% 1,360 53%
Lafayette College 704 49% 7,465 30% 672 51%
Kenyon College 428 58% 7,076 24% 492 51%
Vanderbilt University 3,582 23% 31,464 12% 1,607 51%
Barnard College 748 43% 6,655 20% 635 51%
Connecticut College 347 70% 5,182 40% 482 50%
Northwestern University 2,667 38% 32,122 13% 2,018 50%
Colgate University 829 47% 8,724 27% 773 50%
Hamilton College 616 38% 5,434 25% 473 50%
Swarthmore College 567 36% 7,818 12% 407 50%
Washington and Lee University 577 39% 5,377 24% 454 50%
Bowdoin College 950 26% 6,790 15% 500 49%
Wesleyan University 960 39% 9,822 22% 787 47%
Duke University 3,048 27% 30,112 12% 1,745 47%
Bucknell University 830 53% 10,967 25% 938 47%
Lehigh University 999 58% 12,843 30% 1,261 46%
College of the Holy Cross 442 75% 6,595 37% 738 45%
Colorado College 875 30% 8,060 17% 583 45%
Williams College 593 41% 6,883 18% 551 44%
Pitzer College 405 29% 4,149 13% 267 44%
Pomona College 1,157 15% 8,099 10% 400 44%
Haverford College 323 46% 3,467 25% 346 43%
Dartmouth College 1,856 26% 20,507 11% 1,116 43%
Gettysburg College 444 68% 6,386 40% 699 43%
Carleton College 689 31% 6,722 21% 491 43%
Dickinson College 406 77% 6,031 47% 731 43%
New York University 8,459 29% 56,092 33% 5,917 42%
Union College 399 60% 5,996 38% 568 42%
Johns Hopkins University 1,866 29% 24,716 13% 1,299 42%
Wake Forest University 1,223 43% 13,281 29% 1,284 41%
University of Richmond 791 42% 9,977 31% 807 41%
Skidmore College 415 67% 8,508 36% 686 41%
Smith College 409 57% 5,006 38% 609 38%
Grinnell College 316 53% 6,414 25% 442 38%
Brown University 3,043 20% 30,396 9% 1,615 38%
Cornell University 4,560 26% 41,900 15% 3,180 38%
Bryn Mawr College 279 50% 2,890 39% 385 36%
Amherst College 483 36% 8,568 14% 477 36%
Oberlin College 520 54% 7,815 29% 778 36%
Harvey Mudd College 436 18% 4,119 13% 214 36%
College of William & Mary 1,070 50% 14,952 34% 1,518 36%
Washington University in St. Louis 1,652 37% 29,259 17% 1,731 36%
Whitman College 166 76% 3,790 43% 364 35%
Brandeis University 698 35% 10,528 34% 802 31%
Sewanee: University of the South 190 75% 4,509 41% 469 30%
Mount Holyoke College 321 50% 3,858 50% 532 30%
Rice University 1,389 20% 17,951 16% 969 29%
Wellesley College 375 44% 4,555 30% 595 28%
George Washington University 1,034 69% 19,837 46% 2,589 28%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 554 65% 17,752 42% 1,379 26%
Rhodes College 188 76% 4,666 47% 562 25%
St. Olaf College 245 73% 7,571 36% 763 24%
Macalester College 277 44% 6,030 39% 583 21%
Occidental College 255 41% 5,911 45% 517 20%
Centre College 100 68% 2,716 71% 379 18%
Furman University 126 94% 5,043 65% 672 18%
University of Miami 638 39% 33,415 38% 2,080 12%
DePauw University 69 75% 5,182 65% 596 9%
Northeastern University 773 31% 50,523 28% 2,797 9%

Nathan Hanshew, 17, a senior at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., said he applied to a dozen schools but did not opt for early decision anywhere.

“That was too risky,” he said. “You’re stuck in a bond, like a marital bond.”

Shopping around paid off hugely for Hanshew, a Polish immigrant, who learned March 17 in a surprise announcement in front of cheering classmates that he won a full-ride scholarship from George Washington University.

Kate Morrison Kate Morrison (Family photo)
Kate Morrison, 17, a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Md., said she was drawn to Bowdoin after a soccer coach there encouraged her to apply early. She visited the Maine college last spring. “I just loved it so much,” she said. “I was really, really content.” No athletic scholarship, no financial aid. But she applied early decision in the fall and was admitted Dec. 11. Her search was done.

This week, angst is cresting for traditional applicants as prestigious colleges finalize who’s in and who’s out. Ivy League decisions are scheduled to be released Thursday evening. But admitted early-decision students are tranquil; they’ve known for months where they’re going to college. Early-decision applicants also enjoy a crucial edge over the regulars: Their admission rates tend to be much higher. That’s because schools want good students who really want them, and they want to lock them down.

At Penn, the admission rate for early applicants was 24 percent for the class that entered in 2015. The total admission rate, early and regular, was 10 percent. Eric Furda, Penn’s dean of admissions, said the academic credentials of students who win early admission tend to be stronger than those admitted later in the cycle. Furda also said more early-decision students than ever are qualifying for need-based financial aid.

“This pool is becoming broader and deeper and more diverse than it’s ever been. It’s time to start telling that story,” Furda said. “I don’t want lower-income families to be told, ‘Don’t apply early decision because you’re going to need to compare financial-aid packages.'” These days, nearly as many early-decision freshmen receive need-based grants from Penn as their peers admitted in the regular cycle, he said.

The Post reviewed 2015 admissions data for 64 schools as reported through a questionnaire called the Common Data Set. The analysis covered top-60 schools on U.S. News and World Report lists of liberal arts colleges and national universities, and it found 48 schools in which early-decision admits comprised at least a third of the total enrolled class and 16 in which they comprised at least half.

[U.S. News college ranking trends 2015]

While most early-decision admits enroll, a few do not. The most common reason: If a financial aid offer is deemed insufficient, an admitted student may be released from their pledge.

Within the Ivy League, Penn appears to be the most aggressive user of the early process. The early-decision share of freshmen at Dartmouth College was about 43 percent. At Brown and Cornell universities, it was about 38 percent. Columbia University, which also uses early decision, is the only Ivy League school that refuses to make public its Common Data Set reports.

Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities also allow students to apply early, but they do not require admitted students to decide on enrollment until May 1. That technique, which enables comparison shopping, is known as “early action.” Stanford, the University of Chicago, MIT and hundreds of other schools use early action.

Georgetown University’s longtime dean of admissions, Charles Deacon, said he favors early action because students should be as sure in May of where they want to attend as they were in November. He calls it a “student-centered” approach to admissions, in contrast to “enrollment management” techniques in vogue at many schools.

“No matter what anybody tells you, the early pool favors those who are more advantaged,” Deacon said. “They’re the ones who have been better advised. They know more from their families. There’s an advantage, for sure, and that plays itself out particularly at the early level.”

Early decision, which developed gradually among elite schools from the late 1950s through the 1970s, has drawn criticism in recent years, earning a critique in a 2001 Atlantic article headlined “The Early-Decision Racket.” In 2006, the public University of Virginia announced that it was ending an early-decision program in an effort to attract more low-income students. It now uses early action.

“For us, the early-action plan makes the most sense,” U-Va. dean of admission Greg Roberts said. “And it’s more in line with our values and enrollment goals.” Most top-tier schools with early decision are private. An exception is the public College of William and Mary, in Virginia.

[Nation’s prominent public universities are shifting to out-of-state students]

Though some schools have spurned the practice, the volume of early-decision applications to elite schools is growing, and some of them are filling a larger share of their seats with those applicants, making it far more difficult to get in during the normal cycle.

At Williams College, a premier liberal arts school in Massachusetts, a little more than 40 percent of freshmen come through early decision. Williams President Adam Falk said early decision provides stability for the college in what can be a volatile market, and it provides peace of mind for successful applicants who can then leave “an insane-feeling rat race” during their senior year of high school.

Jon Reider, a former Stanford admissions officer who counsels students at San Francisco University High School, said that 15 years ago, early decision was not a central part of most of his advising conversations. Now it is. Another important variable is that ultra-selective Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale are “single-choice” early-action schools, meaning that students may not apply early to any other private school, with few exceptions. So students must weigh their top choice carefully, and it can feel like making a life-altering gamble.

But the calculations are much more complex than a simple ranking of choice, Reider said. Sometimes admission to that first-choice school is so tough to obtain, even in an early application, that it makes more sense to apply early decision to a second choice, or even a third choice. “You’ve got one chip,” Reider said. “One card to play. It’s an absolutely crazy system.”

Even more bewildering: Some schools offer two rounds of early decision. Some — the University of Miami, for example — offer two rounds of early decision and early action.

Charlotte Smith Charlotte Smith (Family photo)
Charlotte Smith, 17, a senior at Walt Whitman High, put her early-decision chip on Wake Forest University, in North Carolina. Her application was deferred into the regular pool. For many applicants, that is demoralizing. For Smith, it was a relief.

“I’m actually glad,” Smith said last week as she had several applications pending and some offers in hand, including some with scholarships. It’s hard in November, she said, “to pick one school and say this has everything I want.” As students, she said, “we’re still trying on different versions of ourselves.”

Micah Guthrie, 17, a senior at Washington Latin, is shooting for liberal arts colleges but not through early decision. “I make a lot of my decisions last minute,” he said. In the fall, he said, “I really didn’t know a lot about a lot of colleges.”

Micah Guthrie Micah Guthrie (Nick Anderson/The Washington Post)
Among his targets is Davidson, advertised on a sweatshirt he wore to school the other day. His mother, Michelle Guthrie, a registrar at Washington Latin, said money is a factor wherever he gets accepted. “We’ll make it happen,” she said. “But I’m hoping some scholarships come with those choices, too.”

Davidson had the highest share of early-decision admits in its entering class among colleges The Post analyzed: about 60 percent. Davidson said it is firmly committed to access, with half of the early-decision students who were admitted qualifying for need-based financial aid. That is nearly the same as the share in regular admissions who receive need-based aid. The small college, which has a robust NCAA Division I sports program, said it also relies heavily on early decision for athletic recruiting.

A few years ago, the share of early-decision students entering Emory was less than 40 percent, said John Latting, the university’s dean of admission. Now two rounds of early decision fill about half of Emory’s class. Latting said the volume of early-decision applications has doubled in the past four or five years.

“Mostly what’s going on is an unbelievably competitive marketplace” for top students, he said. “Early programs bring some calm to what is otherwise a frenzy.”

Latting said Emory uses financial aid aggressively to ensure it enrolls a diverse class. About 20 percent of freshmen have enough financial need to qualify for federal Pell grants, a sizeable share for a private university. But Latting acknowledged that early-decision applicants, the Pledgers, tend to be more affluent than the regulars, the Shoppers. That creates added pressure on schools hunting for more students from low-income families.

“I wouldn’t for a minute say this is the right system for the nation,” Latting said.

Concealing the Calculus of Higher Education New York Times

An undergraduate degree from a flagship state university often comes with a six-figure sticker price for on-campus residents. A private college could cost a quarter of a million dollars nowadays.

So since 2011, the federal government has required all schools to provide something called a net price calculator on their websites. You put in some financial data, and the calculator estimates what your actual cost would be, after any scholarships. If you aren’t among the very affluent and are applying to a private college, that net price can be tens of thousands of dollars below the list price.

Not long after the calculator became standard, a service called College Abacus emerged, allowing families to compare multiple schools at once. That spared them the laborious task of plugging the same data into multiple calculators many times over.

And how did many colleges respond? By blocking College Abacus’s access to their calculators. Imagine if Expedia or Kayak could not search for tickets on some of the most desirable airlines, and you get the idea.

Since I first wrote about College Abacus in late 2014, several schools, including Oberlin, Skidmore and Hamilton, have lifted their blocks. Others, however — like Harvard, Princeton and the California Institute of Technology — have not.

This week, I asked all of them some pointed questions. Choosing which school to attend is one of the biggest financial decisions that many people will ever make. And unlike other similarly consequential decisions about what house to buy or where to invest your retirement money, there is precious little data to use when picking a college. So why on earth would a school want to make it harder for people to compare the potential costs, which is one bit of data that actually is readily available?

At first, College Abacus left plenty of reasons for schools to be suspicious. Would it charge users? Sell their data? Ultimately, it decided not to do either. It’s now a unit of the ECMC Group, which, among other things, represents the federal government in bankruptcy court when debtors try to discharge their student loan debt. That alone probably raises some eyebrows, though no school officials I spoke to said this.


Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE

Economic View: Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist Fair Game: A Student Loan System Stacked Against the Borrower Your Money Adviser: How to Approach Student Loans, as First Payments Come Due Degrees of Debt: New Data Gives Clearer Picture of Student Debt One upside of ECMC’s ownership is that the federal government requires the company to engage in financial literacy efforts. College Abacus helps fulfill that mission and thus does not need to earn any revenue. The company also created a tool, called Pell Abacus, specifically for low-income families.


Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., is one of several schools that have made it easier for families to compare many colleges at once. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times Colleges also worry about College Abacus’s accuracy. It works by gathering the questions that each calculator asks, sometimes combining similar ones from different schools, and then putting them all in one place, though you can compare only three colleges at a time on its site. Then, it takes the answers to all the questions, puts them into the three calculators, collects the results and displays all of the estimates on one page. And they are indeed estimates; applicants do not get actual offers until after they have applied and been accepted.


Continue reading the main story Advertisement

Continue reading the main story Abigail Seldin, co-founder of College Abacus, has repeatedly urged financial aid officials to call her with their concerns and allow her to test the results. Hamilton decided to take her up on the challenge, and it did find one significant problem in the way the company had rephrased a question about the net value of any business owned by an applicant’s parents. Ms. Seldin said the company fixed the problem within 24 hours.

Your Money A column on anything and everything that hits you in the wallet. How Should You Manage Your Money? And Keep It Short Think Seriously About Spending for Play How to Help in a Global Refugee Crisis How Much Car Do You Buy to Keep Your Teenager Safe? For Children, Dumbed-Down Phones May Be Smartest Option See More »

Cameron Feist, Hamilton’s director of financial aid, said that one of his top staff members spent about 15 hours testing College Abacus before the school decided to stop blocking access to its calculator for a yearlong trial period. Why so much time, given that College Abacus is just one college search site among many and that Mr. Feist’s employees are quite busy? “We don’t ever want there to be barriers in front of students who are considering Hamilton,” he said.

So why won’t Harvard, Caltech or Princeton reconsider? If only we knew. Harvard did not comment at all. At Caltech — which is in the business of producing graduates who come up with elegant ways to use software — Kathy Svitil, a spokeswoman, said that the decision maker there was too busy to talk to me. I asked one question via email and did not get a response.


Cameron Feist, director of financial aid at Hamilton College, which has stopped blocking access to College Abacus’s calculator for a yearlong trial period. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times At Princeton, a spokeswoman, Min Pullan, said that it was not possible to find anyone to speak with me and emailed the following statement: “Princeton University has its own financial aid calculator, which is available to the public and is more accurate in presenting cost and aid calculations for prospective students. Therefore, we do not see the need for an external tool.”

I asked her to explain how College Abacus’s efforts would be less accurate and expressed wonder at the notion that the desire to compare multiple schools at once would not qualify as a “need.” She responded by saying that the university had nothing further to add.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

Look Ahead 4 hours ago Why not use the College Scorecard produced by the Dept of Education? The data comes from federal financial aid databases and tells you total... NB 1 day ago While it is frustrating that some colleges are eliminating a resource that could make the already cumbersome college application process... Frank 1 day ago Lack of transparency is the m.o. of these universities...for them, not for you. There is no other business in which you must reveal your... SEE ALL COMMENTS WRITE A COMMENT So what’s really going on here? One strong hint comes from a letter that Ms. Seldin received from a dean of financial aid. He wrote to her after she sent a mass note last year urging the schools that were blocking her tool to reconsider. She declined to identify him, as she still hopes to win him and others over.

“We are experiencing record student demand, engage families early in financial aid discussions and are meeting our goals,” the dean told her. “Why you think I should open myself up to a purely financial comparison when we are so much more than that, I have no idea. It is probably because you have not sat where I sit. So, kindly cease communication with me.”

Continue reading the main story INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC Student Loan Calculator A guide to student loans at various universities, and what it takes after graduation to repay that debt.

OPEN INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC I have no doubt that colleges, especially those that do not have endowments big enough to meet the full financial needs of each accepted student, are worried about the consequences of “direct financial comparisons.” But to deliberately throw up roadblocks that prevent easy comparisons is to turn up an institution’s collective nose at anyone with even the mildest pecuniary concerns.

Many of these schools would much prefer that prospective students spend far more time on their individual websites and use each of their calculators one by one. There, the colleges can surround the results with sunny explainers and Instagram-worthy pictures. They are selling an expensive product, after all, and have strict goals to meet for each class. They are increasingly focused on numbers, carefully calibrating their aid offers to make sure that the average amount paid by members of the freshman class hits a specific financial target. (Even if the schools are “so much more than that.”)

CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY 65 COMMENTS But that is no excuse for standing in the way of making the process easier for families. If the schools worry that students will abandon their research based on an unfriendly result from College Abacus’s calculator, they are probably selling most families short. Given the magnitude of the financial decision, complete with teary-eyed teenagers who set their hearts on an expensive dream school, of course the families will approach the schools directly for more information. Often, they’ll come in search of a different, better financial answer.

Moreover, schools that stand in the way of making data easier to use are failing to recognize families’ desperation for numbers that can help them make comparisons. If you want to know how much your child might learn, how much happier they might be, what kind of relationships they might forge, well, good luck. Maybe it’s impossible to get good data to answer those questions. Or perhaps most colleges simply aren’t tracking or publicizing such things, with few exceptions.

The results of the net price calculators, however, are there for all to see, if only because the federal government forced the schools’ hands. And those schools that deliberately make it harder for families to compare their net prices are sending their own telling signal to the marketplace of applicants.

Twitter: @ronlieber

Make the most of your money. Every Monday get articles about retirement, saving for college, investing, new online financial services and much more. Sign up for the Your Money newsletter here.

A version of this article appears in print on January 16, 2016, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Concealing the Calculus of Higher Education. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe


Film Shows Clinton Aide’s Own Struggle With Anthony Weiner...

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Obama Immigration Actions

Op-Ed Columnist: Time for a Republican Conspiracy!

East Coast Snowstorm Is Expected to Hit This Weekend

Hillary Clinton Gets Set for a Long Slog Against Bernie Sanders

Feature: How Rachel Bloom Makes ’Em Laugh

The Big Search to Find Out Where Dogs Come From

Op-Ed Contributor: Can Iran Change?

T.M.Q. — Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Why Green Bay...

‘Dark Money,’ by Jane Mayer View More Trending Stories »What's Next Loading... Go to Home Page » SITE INDEX THE NEW YORK TIMES

Site Index Navigation NEWS

World U.S. Politics N.Y. Business Tech Science Health Sports Education Obituaries Today's Paper Corrections OPINION

Today's Opinion Op-Ed Columnists Editorials Contributing Writers Op-Ed Contributors Opinionator Letters Sunday Review Taking Note Room for Debate Public Editor Video: Opinion ARTS

Today's Arts Art & Design ArtsBeat Books Dance Movies Music N.Y.C. Events Guide Television Theater Video Games Video: Arts LIVING

Automobiles Crossword Food Education Fashion & Style Health Jobs Magazine N.Y.C. Events Guide Real Estate T Magazine Travel Weddings & Celebrations LISTINGS & MORE

Classifieds Tools & Services Times Topics Public Editor N.Y.C. Events Guide Blogs Multimedia Photography Video NYT Store Times Journeys Subscribe Manage My Account SUBSCRIBE

Times Insider Home Delivery Digital Subscriptions NYT Opinion Crossword Email Newsletters Alerts Gift Subscriptions Corporate Subscriptions Education Rate Mobile Applications Replica Edition International New York Times Site Information Navigation © 2016 The New York Times Company HomeSearchAccessibility concerns? Email us at We would love to hear from you.Contact UsWork With UsAdvertiseYour Ad ChoicesPrivacyTerms of ServiceTerms of SaleSite Information Navigation Site MapHelpSite FeedbackSubscriptions Go to the next story

ACT urges students to send ‘screenshots’ of scores to colleges

n what could be one of the bigger fails in the history of standardized testing, ACT executives today announced that scores from the September test could in many cases be delayed beyond deadlines for this year’s early college applications.

“For students who took the ACT® with the optional writing test, scoring and reporting of results is taking longer than typical due to the introduction of the enhanced design of the writing test, which uses a new scoring rubric,” wrote Steve Kappler, ACT vice president for brand experience in an email to NACAC members. “Students who took the ACT with writing may view their multiple-choice scores—their ACT composite score, subject test scores (English, mathematics, reading and science), and subscores—on the ACT student website. Official score reports, however, cannot be sent to students, high schools or colleges until the writing test scoring is complete.”

The problem appears to be some combination of an unusually high September test volume and slower-than-usual scoring because of the transition to both a new scoring rubric and a new scale for the Writing portion of the test. Instead of a ‘holistic writing score’ ranging from 2 to 12, students will now receive a subject-level Writing score on the more familiar 1 to 36 scale. According to ACT, the new scale will allow for “precise evaluation of student writing and a more detailed score report.”

So far, ACT has refused to support students affected by the absence of Writing scores by sending colleges official score reports minus the Writing score for those needing these results for early consideration. No reason has been provided, only an indication that it’s not the policy of ACT to send partial results.

So where does that leave students? ACT suggests that they take “screenshots” of their scores as posted on the ACT website and send copies of the email explanation from ACT along with the screenshot to “applicable colleges to verify they are among the students impacted by this situation.”

ACT is urging colleges to consider accepting the screenshots of students’ September multiple-choice scores from their official ACT student account as a provisional measure. Presumably official reports may be ordered or will be immediately forwarded once Writing scores become available. ACT advises that "the college typically receives the score report within 2 to 3 days" after an order has been placed.

Another option would be for colleges to make decisions based on self-reported scores provided on applications, contingent on the receipt of official reports later or after admission. This option, however, opens the door for some rejected students to decide not to pay for score reports after the fact. Colleges could also simply extend early application deadlines or the dates by which they will accept official score reports.

But the problem doesn’t end with the September tests. October test-takers can also look forward to delays in scoring such that they may be eliminated from early consideration at some schools. In response to a notification received from ACT, Boston College announced:

"ACT has notified colleges that delivery of scores this year will be delayed due to their implementation of an enhanced design to the Writing portion of the test. While we will make every effort to include October results in our evaluation of Early Action applications, it is likely that they will not arrive in time to be considered. Students should designate Boston College as a recipient of these results on or before the day they take the exam to ensure their swiftest possible delivery to the Office of Undergraduate Admission."

This, of course, eliminates the opportunity for students to review scores before having them sent directly to colleges. And in view of some of the extremely low Writing test scores received so far by otherwise outstanding students, this may be a recommended course of action.

Colleges are only now being updated by ACT on the situation, which has been evolving over the past several weeks. It would be useful for them to post policies shortly. In the meantime, test-takers, who are directly affected by the delays in reporting, will be notified by email in the next several days.

All this is very disappointing for those who looked to ACT as a strong alternative to the confusion arising from the College Board transition to a new test. Hopefully ACT will get scoring timelines back to normal and make administrative accommodations for the larger-than-usual number of students taking the increasingly popular test.

And given the ease with which scores may be sent electronically, ACT should really be willing to send colleges partial score reports to accommodate test-takers in both September and October, for those schools not willing to accept screenshots or self-reported scores on applications.

MCAS or PARCC? The choice is clear

Next month, education policy makers in Massachusetts will decide whether to keep the highly praised Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) or adopt the controversial Common Core-aligned test developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). About half of Massachusetts public school students transitioned to PARCC last year. By most accounts, it did not go well. The so-called compromise, billed as MCAS 2.0, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Since then, opposition to PARCC has been growing across the state and has brought together an unusually bipartisan coalition of high-stakes testing opponents, states’ rights advocates, teachers’ unions, and academics who simply believe that PARCC is inferior to MCAS. In the face of this opposition, and with the potential for a statewide referendum on Common Core in 2016, Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester on Tuesday dropped his support for the PARCC exam. Instead, Chester plans to recommend that the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education adopt a hybrid model that retains state control of the standardized test, but models the exam after PARCC. This so-called compromise, billed as MCAS 2.0, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Allowing the state to develop and administer its own exam might satisfy those whose opposition to PARCC is based solely on federalism concerns. But it will do little to satisfy those who oppose the national testing regime on the merits. Issues of local control aside, there is no evidence that the PARCC test is more predictive of college readiness than MCAS 1.0. An example of a correct PARCC answer. An example of a correct PARCC answer. And there is plenty of evidence that suggests that Common Core’s focus on “global awareness,” “systems thinking,” and “cross-cultural flexibility” (rather than substantive content) has made Massachusetts public schools less academically rigorous than they used to be. Much has been said about Common Core’s failings in the area of mathematics. You can review some critiques of Common Core math here, here and here. Put simply, Common Core aims to offer a “deeper” understanding of “fewer” mathematical concepts. Because Common Core aims to have students explain mathematical concepts, not just solve math problems, students are discouraged from using time-honored shortcuts, such as mnemonic devices that help one remember the order of operations, crossing-off zeroes when dividing, or cross-multiplying when dividing fractions. With Common Core math, students no longer cross-off zeroes when dividing or cross-multiply when dividing fractions. To most parents, these short-cuts make math easier. But to a Common Core supporter, these devices are cheap tricks that undermine a student’s ability to think conceptually. The problem with this approach is twofold: First: Children who know their math facts and can solve traditional math problems but have trouble “explaining” how they did so are doomed to mediocrity. A student who gets seven out of seven math problems correct receives a score of 70 percent on her math test if she cannot answer three narrative questions about why she solved the problems the way she did. Second: By minimizing the importance of rapid recall and efficiency, Common Core makes upper-level high school math — which presumes a base level of automaticity — more difficult. A father's photo went viral after he wrote a check using "Common Core numbers." (Facebook) A father’s photo went viral after he wrote a check using “Common Core numbers.” (Facebook) Of course, under Common Core, teachers may never have to confront this second problem because many public schools will spend so much time on “deeper” levels of thinking that they will not have time to cover parts of algebra II, pre-calculus, and calculus courses. All of this leaves students inadequately prepared for college-level math. But, the authors of Common Core are not concerned with educating engineers, scientists, or mathematicians. They are concerned only with educating at the level of the lowest common denominator. But Common Core makes a mockery not only of math. It also decimates the language arts curriculum. You can review critiques of the Common Core ELA standards here and here. Suffice it to say, the Common Core ELA standards revolve around mastery of content-free skills. What does this mean? According to the Pioneer Institute‘s Center for School Reform, Massachusetts has witnessed a 50-percent drop in the amount of classical literature taught in public schools since adopting Common Core in 2010. That’s because, despite its name, Common Core does not specify a common canon of literature to which students should be exposed. Nor does it require the study of the great literary genres. Since adopting Common Core in 2010, Massachusetts has witnessed a 50-percent drop in the amount of classical literature taught in public schools. By emphasizing skills, detached from content, Common Core reduces the amount of poetry, drama, and classical literature taught in English classes in favor of “informational texts” (including political speeches, government documents, how-to texts, and newspaper articles.) Early reports indicate that, overall, Massachusetts students scored at least 8 percentage points lower on PARCC tests than on previous MCAS exams. Proponents of PARCC and the underlying Common Core curriculum will no doubt claim that those calling for a return to MCAS are simply “shooting the messenger” — attacking the test and the standards because student scores went down. But sub-par academic standards are the real reason to abandon Common Core and PARCC. Massachusetts should scrap this unpopular social experiment, regardless of the test results.

  • See more at:

An Admissions Surprise From the Ivy League

AS the country struggles to address extreme income inequality and inadequate social mobility, the most venerated colleges are increasingly examining their piece of that puzzle: How can they better identify and enroll gifted, promising students from low-income families, lessening the degree to which campuses perpetuate privilege and making them better engines of advancement?


That discussion just took an interesting turn.

About three weeks ago, a group of more than 80 colleges — including all eight in the Ivy League and many other highly selective private and public ones — announced that they were developing a free website and set of online tools that would, among other things, inform ninth and 10th graders without savvy college advisers about the kind of secondary-school preparation that best positions them for admission.

What’s more, these colleges plan to use the website for an application process, in place by next fall, that would be separate from, and competitive with, the “Common App,” a single form students can submit to any of more than 600 schools. If colleges in the new group — which calls itself the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success — have been taking the Common App, they would continue to, but would clearly be encouraging students to explore this alternate route.

If you know anything about the frenzied, freaked-out world of college admissions these days, you can imagine how much commotion this development generated among obsessed parents, overburdened guidance counselors and others caught up in the whorl. It was something to behold.

It also revealed curious logic at the pinnacles of higher education.

Unlike many of this new coalition’s harshest critics, I trust that the schools involved really do want to diversify their student bodies, which don’t reflect American society.

But like those critics, I wonder how the new application process will accomplish this and whether it would be more effective to adopt less complicated, confusing strategies.

First, some context, along with details about what the coalition is proposing:

Frank Bruni Politics, social issues, education and culture. Ben Carson and Donald Trump Lack Electricity in a Charged Debate OCT 28 What Family Really Means OCT 24 The Scary Specter of Ted Cruz OCT 21 Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Debate Magic OCT 13 The Republicans’ Ugly Revolt OCT 10 See More »

As it stands now, the country’s most selective colleges are dominated by students from affluent backgrounds. As my Times colleague David Leonhardt noted in a recent article: “For every student from the entire bottom half of the nation’s income distribution at Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, Yale and more than a few other colleges, there appear to be roughly two students from just the top 5 percent (which means they come from families making at least $200,000).”

During the 2013-14 academic year, the most recent time period for which figures were available, 38 percent of undergraduates nationally received federal Pell grants, reserved for students from low-income families.

In the Ivy League, the percentage ranged from 12 (Yale) to 21 (Columbia), according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While 31 percent of students at the University of California, Berkeley, received Pell grants, just 13 percent at the University of Virginia did.


Continue reading the main story

Such low percentages largely reflect the flawed education and support systems that too many underprivileged kids in this country encounter. These children don’t have the academic grounding, transcripts and test scores that their wealthier counterparts do, frequently because they haven’t attended schools of commensurate quality.

From preschool through 12th grade, we’ve failed them. We can hardly expect higher education to rush in belatedly and save the day.

At the same time, there’s evidence that talented kids from low-income families who could handle the work at leading colleges and get ample financial aid often don’t realize it. And there are aspects of those colleges’ admissions processes that work against them.

Members of the new coalition say that they are trying to change that and to “unlock some of the mystery of what it means to apply to any institution,” in the words of Zina Evans, the vice president for enrollment management and associate provost at the University of Florida, whom I spoke with last week. I spoke as well with admissions officials at Yale and at Smith College, which, like Florida, belong to the coalition.

They said that the new online tools are meant to be one-stop shopping for information about financial aid, application requirements and more. Students could also use this online platform to interact with top schools, sending inquiries and receiving answers.

The platform would include a so-called “locker” for creative work — essays, videos, drawings — that students would be encouraged to begin filling in the ninth grade, as a reminder that college is on the horizon.

They could share those lockers with mentors. And come application time, they could upload its contents for admissions officers.

The platform would additionally serve as an application portal to colleges in the coalition, which would be able to customize their individual demands more easily than they do with any supplements to the Common App that they currently require.

If you’re asking how this makes applying to college easier for poor kids, you’re right to, and you’re in a mind meld with many confused and skeptical college counselors and higher-education experts.

They predicted that privileged kids with hovering parents would interpret the coalition’s suggestion about beginning to fill a locker in the ninth grade as yet another reason to turn the entire high school experience into a calculated, pragmatic audition for college admissions officers.

Meanwhile, underprivileged kids, lacking the necessary guidance and awareness, might never take advantage of the platform.

“We have to make sure we give them the resources,” said Emmanuel Moses, the senior manager of college guidance at the Opportunity Network, which nurtures underprivileged kids to and through college. In other words, a set of online tools to be used with mentors won’t do much good if there aren’t mentors to use them with.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

Reader October 18, 2015 The assumption that everyone wants to go to the Ivy League is a wrong one. Every year our local newspaper publishes the local valedictorians... HCNY1105 October 18, 2015 I can see this helping if they limit the use of this resource to kids who are likely to be eligible for Pell grants, otherwise it would be... David Zicarelli October 18, 2015 Mr. Bruni's book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be makes his position on elite college admission quite clear, and it turns out to be quite... SEE ALL COMMENTS Coalition members conceded that they hadn’t fully figured out that part but said they were determined to. “That’s the core challenge,” Audrey Smith, the vice president for enrollment at Smith College, told me.


Continue reading the main story Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The coalition’s composition also contradicts its message of unimpeded, universal access. Partly because the coalition is limited to schools with six-year graduation rates of at least 70 percent, it’s a league mostly of exclusive schools that seem to be distinguishing themselves from the pack. That has led some critics to question its stated motives.

“A group of America’s most high-profile private colleges, already obsessed with prestige, are attempting to grab more,” wrote Jon Boeckenstedt, the associate vice president of enrollment management and marketing at DePaul University in Chicago, in The Washington Post. DePaul does not belong to the coalition.

He added that they were “making hollow promises to low-income kids they could already serve if they really wanted to.”

When I spoke with him last week, he went even further.

“I think the Common App has become much too common for some of these people,” he said, referring to coalition members. “I think it completely offends their vanity.”

Whatever the case, there’s much about their admissions criteria that runs counter to the enrollment of underprivileged children, and it’s unclear if the new online platform and application process would really fix that.

High scores on the SAT or ACT correlate with high family income, in part because performance on these tests can be improved with the special classes and private tutoring that money buys. That was one reason cited by Hampshire College when it announced last year that it would stop collecting applicants’ scores and would go unranked by U.S. News & World Report, which factors in those numbers.

Continue reading the main story Sign Up for the Opinion Today Newsletter Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

A transcript brimming with Advanced Placement classes is a testament to the applicant, yes — but also to the resources of the secondary school that offered a broad menu of such classes. And students from certain backgrounds and school districts are more likely than those from others to have hands-on help rounding up the perfect letters of recommendation, orchestrating an attention-getting extracurricular dossier and even writing impressive essays.

Regarding essays, Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, conceded his concern that “there’s a lot of work being done on personal statements that’s decreasing their value in the admissions process.”

If the locker and other features of the new platform wind up giving disadvantaged kids additional, untraditional ways to show their mettle, it may turn out to be a step in the right direction. But the schools in the coalition need a more detailed plan than they’ve articulated for making sure that those kids know about the platform and how it can benefit them.

Any rethinking of the status quo of admissions is terrific. The same goes for any spotlight on the dearth of diversity at many exclusive schools. I just hope the members of the coalition accomplish more, in the end, than merely illuminating education’s inequities.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter at and join me on Facebook.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A New Coalition of Elite Colleges Tries to Reshape Admissions

Perhaps the college application process should be preceded by a trigger warning. For students, it’s the season of stress. Admissions deans aren’t so fond of it, either. They complain of a system that is rushed, less revealing than they would like and “very transactional,” as Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, puts it. At both ends of the admissions game — picking a freshman class or applying for a spot in one — the experience is vexing.

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a new organization led by admissions deans at top campuses, has announced an ambitious goal: to make applications more reflective and in tune with how students organize and express themselves. In April, it will offer free online planning tools and in July a new application, for the class of 2021.


Strategy: E.D. II: The Not-So-Early DecisionOCT. 26, 2015 With the Common Application now used by more than 625 schools, the coalition is marketing itself as a high-integrity brand. Coalition members must have a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent and meet students’ full financial need or, if public, offer “affordable” in-state tuition (as yet undefined). So far, more than 80 of about 140 eligible colleges and universities have signed on, including all the Ivys, liberal arts elites like Amherst and Bowdoin and publics like Texas A&M and Miami University of Ohio.

The coalition wants students as young as ninth grade to engage with its college planner. They will be able to upload videos, photos and written work to a portfolio, called a virtual college locker. Selected items from the portfolio could be added — in some cases years later — to a college application. They can also invite counselors, parents and even admissions officers to view the portfolio and advise on it. (Yes, it works on your phone.)

The organizers believe that access to their schools will be enhanced, in part by getting information sooner to low-income and first-generation students, thus giving them a better shot. Many discover too late the classes, tests and activities needed for a top college, said James G. Nondorf, coalition president and dean of admissions and financial aid at the University of Chicago. “Deciding you want to go to one of our kinds of schools, you have to be doing things all through your high school years.”

That said, the backlash to the coalition’s plans has been vocal. Critics have been quick to dissect the membership list, noting that a number of the private colleges are “need aware” — an applicant’s ability to pay can factor in admissions decisions — or they include loans in their financial aid packages. That can discourage access. Some high school counselors have complained that there are too many changes already in the 2016-17 admissions cycle, citing a revised SAT and an earlier start to applying for federal financial aid. Though the coalition had already pushed back the locker’s launch date in the wake of negative feedback, counselors are now asking for a full year’s delay.


Continue reading the main story

And some criticism has gone to the very heart of the program: that drawing 14-year-olds into admissions tasks will make a stressful process more so. In an Oct. 13 letter to the coalition, 100 counselors from Jesuit high schools, many serving low-income and first-generation students, objected to pushing first-year students to think about college. They should be acclimating to high school, they wrote, and learning for learning’s sake.

Continue reading the main story

Document: Letters of Concern “We believe ninth grade is a time for students to reflect and become their academic selves,” said Katy Murphy, director of College Counseling at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif., and a past president of the Jesuit High School College Counselors Association.

“To start putting together an electronic résumé puts a lot of pressure on kids and parents to consider what should go into that locker,” she said.

Mr. Nondorf argues the opposite, that an early start reduces pressure. “When they get to their junior year there isn’t this terror, ‘Oh, my God, it’s time to apply to college.’ They are looking at their portfolios: ‘I’m ready for this.’ ”

The hope is that with years to collect and curate one’s life, a more authentic applicant may emerge. “I can go down the components of an application and I am concerned about every single one of them as showing the true voice of an applicant,” said John F. Latting, vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admissions at Emory, a coalition member. “Literally,” he said, “every single one.”

Some colleges intend to begin a dialogue years before it’s time to apply. Barbara Gill, who oversees undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland and is vice president of the coalition, is readying her staff to advise students via the online platform starting in eighth grade, one on one — “not to replace the role of the counselor in the high school but to augment it,” she said. (And, of course, to build brand loyalty to the Terrapins.)

Dean Paul Thiboutot at Carleton College, a coalition member, envisions chat rooms with his admissions officers or shopping-style prompts: “Could we send a reminder to someone that we responded to as a ninth grader who we didn’t hear from? ‘Remember, at one time you had Carleton in your cart?’ ”

Much is yet to be figured out. With schools able to have customized pages, will students have to answer even more questions than they do now on myriad supplements? If the complaint about the Common Application is its lack of nuanced questions, what will these ask? Not clear.

The coalition was born of frustration following widespread website crashes and glitches with the Common Application two years ago as early-decision deadlines approached.

That month, with many admissions directors gathered in New York for a meeting at the College Board, Dr. Latting invited 15 to dinner. Seated at a long table in a theater district restaurant, they decided they “had to take more control,” he said.

Like the coalition, the Common Application comprises member institutions. But it is run by a professional staff whose rules spurred longstanding beefs with colleges. Questions on a college’s supplement had to be approved, and were rejected if deemed too similar to the main form. If the Common App was not the school’s exclusive application, it was pricier. Some objected to a policy change, to go into effect this admissions season, that members no longer have to evaluate candidates holistically, an approach that looks beyond grade-point averages and test scores.


“We don’t need any more pressure in this community,” said James P. Conroy, chairman of post-high school counseling at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill. Credit Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

After the meeting in New York, Dr. Latting drafted a letter spelling out complaints, and 23 enrollment and admissions directors signed. Last spring, an expanded group formed a nonprofit organization and began to develop an application that has evolved from a hedge against tech failures to a tool for reshaping the admissions process.

But the Common Application board has not been sitting still. Six months after the technical troubles, it replaced its embattled chief executive with Paul B. Mott, a one-time assistant admissions director at Williams College. Mr. Mott has been more accommodating to member colleges, immediately approving more than 100 custom questions that had been denied or put on the back burner (approval is no longer required for supplement questions).

The organization also revised its mission statement to have a sharper focus on equity and access, and in August unveiled new college search and planning tools, plus a partnership with the Dell Foundation to help students find scholarships. It is piloting a tool to remind those eligible for financial aid to fill out the forms.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

Jeff R 2 hours ago Working in a high school with 370 9th-12th graders (and I have a very low counselor to student ratio compared to many of my school counselor... kc 3 hours ago This is all about the college rankings. The more applicants a college can reject, the higher that college's rankings.And this 9th grade... ellen 16 hours ago Hmmm... I think 9th grade is too late. Perhaps we should start the portfolio in K or pre-k to really get a sense of who the applicant is. SEE ALL COMMENTS WRITE A COMMENT A response to the coalition effort? “No, it’s not,” Mr. Mott insisted. A 2014 member survey, he said, had revealed that colleges wanted help “bringing in diversity and identifying talent.” Last year, the Common Application processed 3.7 million applications from 860,000 students; 32 percent identified as first generation.

Coalition members that now use the Common Application will still accept it. And how much the coalition tools will reshape the process depends on how members reshape themselves. “Why is Yale asking for the same inputs that Yale was asking for 30 years ago?” Mr. Quinlan asked. He worries “about how hard it is becoming to differentiate students in my applicant pool.”

Would Yale replace its second 500-word personal statement with something from a digital portfolio? It could, he says.

Dr. Latting imagines Emory accepting recommendation letters from community groups in lieu of high school counselors.

Mr. Nondorf expects next year’s applicants to the University of Chicago to include “video, art, something they created in high school of which they are particularly proud” that “conveys what makes them tick and who they are.”

Last spring, one of the strongest students at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago was wait-listed at the University of Chicago. A gifted musician, her International Baccalaureate recital “was one of the best ones we’ve ever had,” said Michael Boraz, the principal. Her writing, though, lacked sparkle — or coaching. Mr. Boraz called the university to advocate for her and she was admitted. He now wonders if her application would have been seen differently if she had been able to replace an essay with her recital video.

Low-income and first-generation students are both helped and hurt by technology. Kevin Murchie, who teaches Advanced Placement English at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, said students desperately need more information — and sooner — about college. He is keen on a planning tool starting freshman year of high school. But Wi-Fi is spotty in his classroom, he said. Essay writing is tough because many students lack home computers. Students who do have one use pirated word processing software rife with bugs. And they use their phones. So Mr. Murchie requires assignments to be turned in on paper. How to upload an essay to an online portfolio? The library has a scanner, but demand for it is high.


Continue reading the main story Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Ms. Murphy, the Jesuit counselor, said that rolling out so quickly would be hard on schools with few resources. “How are they supposed to manage this?” she asked. And how will underserved students navigate a portfolio?

In a diplomatically worded letter sent last month to the coalition, the Association of College Counselors of Independent Schools also complained of feeling rushed. Emmi Harward, its executive director, said schools and families need more time to understand the platform, and to be sure there are no glitches. “It is riskier to say nothing and have this go wrong,” she said.

CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY 76 COMMENTS At one of the nation’s top public high schools, word of a new application is being received with resignation. James P. Conroy, chairman of post-high school counseling at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill., has eight full-time college counselors for a senior class of about 1,000. Offered the chance to pilot the coalition platform this fall, Mr. Conroy declined. He fears the early start will intensify the college competition.

“We don’t need any more pressure in this community,” he said. Parents of eighth graders already want to meet with the college counselors. “We say that is way too early.” Will alternatives to the traditional essay reveal more about applicants? “Why does this make it any less packaged?” he asked. “They have essay help; now they will have video help.”

But Mr. Conroy knows the new coalition platform can’t be ignored. “It’s not the university of nowhere. These are the gold-plated schools. It’s a question mark of how it’s going to go. It could go very smoothly — or it could be, ‘Why aren’t you having classes now to do this?’ ” he said. “We will try to walk that fine line, which here is not walked very well, between information and hysteria.”

Correction: October 26, 2015 An earlier version of this article misstated James G. Nondorf’s honorific on subsequent references. He does not have a Ph.D.

Laura Pappano is writer in residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges College personnel everywhere are struggling with students' increased neediness. Posted Sep 22, 2015

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively. Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.” Does the first response simply play into and perpetuate students’ neediness and unwillingness to take responsibility? Does the second response create the possibility of serious emotional breakdown, or, who knows, maybe even suicide?

Two weeks ago, that head of Counseling sent us all a follow-up email, announcing a new set of meetings. His email included this sobering paragraph:

“I have done a considerable amount of reading and research in recent months on the topic of resilience in college students. Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been an increase in diagnosable mental health problems, but there has also been a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life. Whether we want it or not, these students are bringing their struggles to their teachers and others on campus who deal with students on a day-to-day basis. The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.”

He also sent us a summary of themes that emerged in the series of meetings, which included the following bullets:

Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much. There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue. Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development. Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies. Failure and struggle need to be normalized. Students are very uncomfortable in not being right. They want to re-do papers to undo their earlier mistakes. We have to normalize being wrong and learning from one’s errors. Faculty members, individually and as a group, are conflicted about how much “handholding” they should be doing. Growth is achieved by striking the right balance between support and challenge. We need to reset the balance point. We have become a “helicopter institution.” Reinforcing the claim that this is a nationwide problem, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article by Robin Wilson entitled, “An Epidemic of Anguish: Overwhelmed by Demand for Mental-Health Care, Colleges Face Conflicts in Choosing How to Respond" (Aug. 31, 2015). Colleges and universities have traditionally been centers for higher academic education, where the expectation is that the students are adults, capable of taking care of their own everyday life problems. Increasingly, students and their parents are asking the personnel at such institutions to be substitute parents. There is also the ever-present threat and reality of lawsuits. When a suicide occurs, or a serious mental breakdown occurs, the institution is often held responsible.

On the basis of her interviews with heads of counseling offices at various colleges and universities, Wilson wrote:

“Families often expect campuses to provide immediate, sophisticated, and sustained mental-health care. After all, most parents are still adjusting to the idea that their children no longer come home every night, and many want colleges to keep an eye on their kids, just as they did. Students, too, want colleges to give them the help they need, when they need it. And they need a lot. Rates of anxiety and depression among American college students have soared in the last decade, and many more students than in the past come to campus already on medication for such illnesses. The number of students with suicidal thoughts has risen as well. Some are dealing with serious issues, such as psychosis, which typically presents itself in young adulthood, just when students are going off to college. Many others, though, are struggling with what campus counselors say are the usual stresses of college life: bad grades, breakups, being on their own for the first time. And they are putting a strain on counseling centers.”

In previous posts (for example, here and here), I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, seems to agree with this assessment. In an interview for the Chronicle article, he said:

“[Students] haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.”

In my next post I’ll examine the research evidence suggesting that so-called “helicopter parenting” really is at the core of the problem. But I don’t blame parents, or certainly not just parents. Parents are in some ways victims of larger forces in society—victims of the continuous exhortations from “experts” about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment. We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.”

If we want to prepare our kids for college—or for anything else in life!—we have to counter these social forces. We have to give our children the freedom, which children have always enjoyed in the past, to get away from adults so they can practice being adults—that is, practice taking responsibility for themselves.

Basic Books, with permission Source: Basic Books, with permission And now, what do you think?

Have you witnessed in any way the kinds of changes in young adults described here and that seem to be plaguing colleges and universities? How have you, as a parent, negotiated the line between protecting your children and giving them the freedom they need for psychological growth? Do you have any suggestions for college counselors and professors about how to deal with these problems they are struggling with?

I invite you to share your stories, thoughts, and questions in the comments section below. This blog is, among other things, a forum for discussion. As always, I prefer if you post your comments and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions if I think I have something worth saying. Of course, if you have something to say that applies only to you and me, then send me an email.

Private Colleges Are Offering Record Tuition Discounts to Win Students

Where to find the biggest bargains.

Those scarily high tuition prices most private colleges say they charge are increasingly as make-believe as Freddy Krueger: Only 11% of freshmen paid them last year, according to a survey of private colleges released today.

The rest—89% of freshmen at private colleges—received a school grant or scholarship worth, on average, 54% of the published or “sticker” tuition, the National Association of College and University Business Officers reported. Both those numbers are all-time records.

The survey indicates that colleges eager to recruit applicants are luring students with big grants— often labeled “merit scholarships” to flatter recipients, but in reality more like the discounts off of a retailer’s price tag.

In 2013, the latest year for which data are available, most private colleges reported sticker prices for tuition and fees somewhere between $30,000 and $45,000 a year. (Room, board, books, and travel typically add another $15,000 to $20,000 to the total annual costs.)

But schools that accepted more than half of applicants charged net tuition, after scholarships were subtracted, of less than $20,000. Those that accepted less than half of their applicants charged their students an average net tuition of about $23,600

That explains why the odds are lower for getting a deal at an Ivy League college. Nearly a third of schools—mostly large, selective, wealthy universities with plenty of applicants—didn’t increase their discounts last year, NACUBO reported. The most selective colleges on MONEY’s Best Colleges list—those with admissions rates of 33% or less—gave only about half of their students grants.

But that still leaves more than 1,000 non-elite private colleges attempting to attract students with ever-bigger scholarships or discounts off their ever-higher tuition. In fact, among the 736 colleges in MONEY’s rankings, nearly 100 award a scholarship to every single freshman. Those schools accept an average of 66% of applicants.

College officials cited three key reasons for the rise in discounts.

Psychology. Research by Lucie Lapovsky, a former president of Mercy College in New York who now serves as a consultant to colleges, shows that at least 40% of students and parents would opt for the bragging rights they get when a school gives them a large scholarship off a high tuition, rather than a school that has lower tuition and lower aid, but similar net costs. Economics. The combination of rising tuition and financial woes for the middle class mean more applicants need scholarships to afford private colleges, said Steven Klein, vice president for enrollment management at Albion College in Michigan, where 100% of freshmen received a school grant in 2012 (the latest year for which federal data are available). Competition. In part because of a decline in the number of 18-year-olds, more colleges are having recruiting problems, and thus need to offer bigger discounts. About a third of the schools surveyed told NACUBO that their enrollment declined last year. The latest numbers “provide more evidence that students and families should look beyond sticker prices,” said NACUBO President and CEO John Walda. Instead, he said, families should focus on the “net” price, which is the price they pay after grants and scholarships have been subtracted.

Sign up for and more view example

One unfortunate result of the growing practice of raising sticker prices and offering more aid is confusion for students and parents, Lapovsky contends. Students have to apply to colleges in the fall, without a good sense of how much the college will actually cost them. Although colleges are required to provide a net price calculator tool on their websites, Lapovsky says many are outdated or give such general estimates that they aren’t helpful.

So students typically have to wait until April to see their final offer. And because colleges demand an answer by May 1, many students have just a few short weeks to make a potentially life-changing financial decision.

In addition, Lapovsky says, the common but mistaken assumption that colleges with high tuition are “better” than those with lower tuition can lead families to make costly college choices.

In fact, MONEY has found no significant relationship between the average net price charged by the colleges in our rankings and important quality indicators such as the earnings of recent graduates.

For more advice on paying for college, and to create a customizable list of colleges based on criteria such as size, selectivity, and affordability, visit the new MONEY College Planner.

75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2015

Nobody ever said that college was easy. With tests, book lists, and seemingly endless assignments, college students are under a whole lot of stress. Sometimes all that’s needed at the end of a long day is a good meal, but unfortunately, they can’t always get it. Let’s face it: College dining halls are typically not culinary havens. Thankfully, though, there are more than a few colleges across the country that go above and beyond when it comes to their dining services. From schools that have their own vegetable gardens to ones that host chef demonstrations and serve only food that’s made in small batches from scratch, we’ve tracked down the 75 best colleges for food in America.

75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2015 (Slideshow)

This is our fourth annual ranking of the best colleges for food. Over the years, the list expanded from 52 colleges in 2012 to 60 colleges in 2013 to 75 colleges in 2014. To assemble our ranking, we started out with a full list of roughly 2,000 colleges, and after rigorous research and outreach to their dining services, we narrowed that list down to about 300 contenders. These standout colleges were highly respected for a variety of reasons across the country, and had dining programs that caught our attention. After that, we ranked the final 75 by scoring each of those colleges on the below criteria:

Nutrition and Sustainability: The college makes consistent efforts to ensure that its food is well-balanced as well as tasty, and is healthy not just for the students, but for the environment as well.

Accessibility and Service: The college accommodates all dietary preferences, has a variety of options for students to choose from, and makes sure that the dining options are conveniently located near students’ dorms. Dining program has on-campus eateries that are open late at night, and meal plans let students purchase off-campus food.

MORE ON COLLEGE FOOD 52 Best Colleges for Food in America 60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013 75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014 The 25 Best Colleges for Tailgating 25 Best College Bars in America Education and Events: The college offers nutrition and culinary education to every student on campus and holds food-centered events to foster community and break the monotony of the dining experience.

Surrounding Area: Students have access to exciting and vast food options in the area surrounding the college and can access it easily. We compiled information from Yelp to grade colleges on the quality and accessibility of all the food around campuses within a five-mile radius.

The “X” Factor: These are the little extras that made our jaws drop and prove that these colleges really go above and beyond and get genuinely creative.Even though the actual quality of the food was extremely important in our ranking, the overall dining experience, including the surrounding area, is what really determined which colleges made the cut and which didn’t.

Even though the actual quality of the food was extremely important in our ranking, the overall dining experience, including the surrounding area, is what really determined which colleges made the cut and which didn’t. Surprisingly, it wasn’t only the Ivy League schools that came out on top; smaller colleges often had better programs that could cater to each and every student’s need due to their lower population.

The nine newcomers this year include the University of South Carolina, which uses no frozen foods and has nine certified executive chefs on campus; Rhode Island School of Design, which builds recipes around seasonal ingredients and offers pizza delivery until 12:30 a.m.; and Georgia Tech, which has a completely sustainable food program and recently rebranded its dining halls as “community restaurants.” Other first-time inductees include UNC Chapel Hill, the University of Southern California, Ball State, Northeastern, Duquesne, and Tulane.

Slideshow: 75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2015 The Northeast has the most colleges on our list, with 26, followed by the West and South, with 16 schools each. 10 schools from the Midwest made the cut, and seven are in the Mid-Atlantic. Health-conscious California has more ranked schools than any other state, with 15; followed by Massachusetts with seven; New York and Pennsylvania with five schools each; and Connecticut, Georgia, and Maine with four schools each. One more Southern school made the cut this year than last year, along with one additional Northeastern school, two fewer Mid-Atlantic schools, and one fewer Midwestern school. The amount of Western schools on the list remained the same.

The schools on our list really make an effort to ensure that students are well-fed with healthy, sustainable food in unique preparations. Schools including UC San Diego, Tulane, University of Washington, and NYU have food trucks stationed on campus daily; Yale, University of Washington, Purdue, Dickinson, Stanford, and Mills boast on-campus farms; Bates, UCLA, and Northeastern all have dining halls that have been Certified Green by the Green Restaurant Association; and schools including Johns Hopkins, Tulane, Purdue, Northeastern, and Columbia host regular chef cooking demonstrations and classes.

Students across the country are becoming more mature in their tastes and more demanding in what they expect of their higher education dining experience. They want their food to taste great, to be fun, and to be sustainable, and these colleges are stepping up to the challenge. If you’re a food lover who wants to go to a college that’s as passionate about food as you are, then you might want to get those transfer forms ready after you check out our picks for the 75 Best Colleges for Food in America.

75 Tulane University, New Orleans


Is this a dining hall or restaurant?

New Orleans is one of the finest cities for food in America, and Tulane is located right in the heart of it. While students can venture off campus to eat if they’d like, Tulane’s dining halls provide everything they need. All items are made from scratch, and their late-night City Diner, open daily from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., serves a famous 16-ounce “Big City Pancake” on a pizza tray along with New Orleans staples like shrimp and grits, po’boys, chicken and sausage jambalaya, and red beans and rice. Their popular on-campus food truck, Ironsides, specializes in waffle sandwiches, and it’ll soon be joined by a second food truck called Rouler that serves New Orleans street food. Their main dining hall was remodeled this summer, cooking demonstrations are held regularly at a special demo kitchen, produce is purchased from several local farms, a weekly farmers market is held on campus, and students can use their “NOLA Bucks” to purchase food at 25 off-campus restaurants.

74 Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Boston College

Customized salads are made to order.

Feel like watching behind-the-scenes videos about what goes on in the dining hall? At Boston College you can, with the school's Kitchen Confidential web series. And if that isn’t enough, you can also take a virtual nutrition tour that assesses popular nutrition facts and topics, all with the intent of educating and encouraging students to lead a healthy and happy life. Boston College also hosts a Featured Chef Series to expose students to the dishes of such culinary celebrities as Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, and Giada De Laurentiis, prepared by the dining staff. Clearly this school knows how to please its students. Click here for the 73 top colleges for food.

Did we miss any? Let us know! Leave us a comment or send us an email about food on your campus and we’ll consider it for next year.

Additional reporting by Sidney Harrison.

75 Tulane University, New Orleans

74 Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

73 University of Southern California, Los Angeles

72 University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Calif.

71 California Baptist University, Riverside, Calif.

70 Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.

69 Duquesne University, Pittsburgh

68 California State University, Chico, Calif.

67 Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.

66 Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.

65 Colby College, Waterville, Maine

64 Southern Methodist University, Dallas

63 College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine

62 Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.

61 Saint Anselm College, Manchester, N.H.

60 Saint Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.

59 University of Washington, Seattle

58 Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

57 University of Delaware, Newark, Del.

56 UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.

55 Tufts University, Medford, Mass.

54 University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Calif.

53 Northeastern University, Boston

52 Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

51 Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.

50 Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

49 Roger Williams University, Bristol, R.I.

48 Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.

47 Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif.

46 University of Houston, Houston

45 Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.

44 Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

43 UC Davis, Davis, Calif.

42 Connecticut College, New London, Conn.

41 Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

40 Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.

39 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

38 Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn.

37 Carroll University, Waukesha, Wis.

36 University of Chicago, Chicago

35 University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.

34 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

33 High Point University, High Point, N.C.

32 Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

31 Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis

30 University of San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

29 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

28 UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.

27 Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif.

26 Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

25 St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

24 Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

23 University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

22 University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.

21 Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

20 UC San Diego, San Diego

19 Brown University, Providence, R.I.

18 Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

17 UCLA, Los Angeles, Calif.

16 University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

15 James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

14 Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

13 UMass Amherst, Amherst, Mass.

12 Mills College, Oakland, Calif.

11 Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

10 Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

9 Boston University, Boston

8 Occidental College, Los Angeles

7 New York University, New York City

6 Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

5 Duke University, Durham, N.C.

4 Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.

3 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.

2 Columbia University, New York City

1 Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine

Most students don’t pay full price at college. Discounts are now at record highs.

Almost 90 percent of freshmen get grant aid from their colleges — an all-time high, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

That money covered more than half of the tuition and fees for those full-time, first-year freshmen, the study estimated, an average of more than 54 percent.

That proves that students and parents should look past the sticker price to determine what school they could afford, NACUBO President and CEO John Walda said in a statement.

[This guideline could help families figure out how much to pay for college]

Discounts on tuition continue to rise even though it is affecting many schools’ bottom line — and even though enrollment dropped at about half the schools surveyed. The competitive pricing is intended to lure students who might otherwise choose a less expensive education.

The study concluded that college business officers have significant challenges ahead: Lower enrollments, drops in net revenue from tuition and, at the same time, more demand from students and families expecting large grants to offset college costs.

Projected average net tuition revenue essentially held steady in 2014 — and independent colleges get, on average, a third of their operating revenue that way.

[How college students can save money on pricey textbooks]

Last year, the abrupt announcement that Sweet Briar College would close offered a grim warning of the risks of tuition discounting to many college officials; the private college’s then-president and board said declining enrollment and too-generous discounts to students had crippled the school financially. Alumnae and other supporters fought to keep the school open and this year, as students return, their grants remain in place.

While school financial officials are concerned about revenue and a business model that some warn is unsustainable, students keep worrying about the sheer cost.

How To Save For Your Child's College Education: 6 Common Questions

Is a more expensive college for my child worth the cost?

First, let’s dispense with the notion that the more expensive the college, the better the education. More prestigious schools tend to offer generous aid packages, often making them less expensive than less elite ones. However, if you are deciding between an elite school that actually is more expensive and a less prestigious school offering more aid, two key studies both reached the counterintuitive conclusion that, even though graduates of prestigious schools earn more than those from less selective ones, one’s alma mater does not actually boost one’s earnings. They did, however, find a correlation between the schools to which one applies and one’s future earnings. That means someone with a 1400 SAT score who went to Penn State but applied to the University of Pennsylvania will earn as much as someone with a 1400 SAT who went to Penn. They speculate that the mere fact of applying to a top-notch school gives an indication of your ambition, drive and future earnings.

The exception? People from disadvantaged groups such as blacks, Latinos, low-income students and students whose parents did not graduate from college will benefit from attending more elite schools.

Just as few people buy houses with all cash, most parents shouldn’t expect to save up 100% of their child’s education costs, says Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of, publishers of websites about planning and paying for college. He recommends covering a third of costs from savings, a third from current income (your earnings during the college years) and a third from your future income (in the form of loans). If you don’t want you or your child to take on debt, then aim to save two-thirds. “It’s cheaper to save than to borrow. Because every dollar you borrow will cost you $2 by the time you pay the debt. The difference being that if you save, not only are you eliminating those loans, but you’re earning the interest rather than paying the interest,” he said.

Recommended by Forbes MOST POPULAR Photos: The 25 Master's Degrees With The Highest Salary Potential TRENDING ON LINKEDIN 11 Secrets Of Irresistible People

MOST POPULAR Photos: The 25 Bachelor's Degrees With The Highest Salary Potential MOST POPULAR The DJ That Turned Down Wall Street How The College Pricing And Student Loan Systems Hurt Students 3 Education Experts On Ways To Improve College Pricing And Payment Is College Even Still Worth It? Taking Out Student Loans? Do It Right With These 8 Tips

When should I start saving and where?

Start saving as soon as possible. “Time is your greatest asset. If you start saving from [the child’s] birth, a third of your college savings goal will come from your earnings. If you wait till the child enters high school, a tenth of the goal would come from earnings and you would have to save six times as much per month,” said Kantrowitz. But be sure not to set up a taxable account in your child’s name, because that will do more to cut your aid eligibility than the same amount of money counted as a parent asset. The best investment vehicle for saving for college costs is a 529 savings plan, which functions similarly to a Roth IRA in that your contributions will be taxed but the earnings will not. Set one up either right after the child’s birth or even before (designating yourself the beneficiary and then changing it to your child after he or she is born). Check out your own state’s 529 plan first to see if it offers you additional tax benefits. If not, go with one that charges the lowest fees.

How should I save and invest the money?

Continually invest by setting up biweekly or monthly automatic transfers from your savings or checking account into the 529. If you have a newborn child this year who will be going to an in-state public college, save $250 a month; for an out-of-state public college, $400 a month; and for a private nonprofit, $500 a month. “Whenever you have a windfall, like a big income tax refund, you have an inheritance, you win the lottery, you get a bonus at work, take at least half that money and put it into college savings. Any time a regular expense ends, like your child no longer needs diapers or day care, take the money you were spending on that and redirect it into college savings,” said Kantrowitz. To invest, use an age-based allocation which will start with more aggressive (and therefore riskier) investments. That will give your money a chance to grow more quickly early on but also build in time to recover if the market goes south. The allocation will become more conservative as your child approaches college.

How do I prioritize my child’s college education against retirement and other financial priorities?

Always prioritize saving for retirement over saving for your child’s education. Your child can always take out loans for college, but there are no loans for retirement. If you balk at the idea of their having student loan debt, just remember that if you fall short of your retirement goal, then they’ll have to support you later on. Additionally, assets in retirement accounts like Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) and 401(k)s are exempt from financial aid calculators, so having the money there will lower your apparent net worth. Other financial tasks that come before college savings include maxing out your retirement contributions, funding your emergency savings, and paying off credit card debt.

How can I lower costs?

First, strategically place assets in accounts where they’ll be shielded from the financial aid analysis. For instance, if the grandparents want to help pay, they should wait until after the aid offer has been made and the bill has arrived, and then send just one year’s worth of a gift to the parents. If you will have more than one child in college around the same time, increase the number of family members enrolled at the same time to boost your aid. Have the older child take a gap year after college so that her college years overlap with those of her younger brother for three instead of two years.

Consider getting a degree abroad. While costs and student visa rules vary from country to country, many offer equivalent degrees for less. Plus, three-year undergraduate degrees are not uncommon abroad. Another option: Start out at a community college and then transfer to a state university.

This is the third in a series of four stories. Read the related articles: How The College Pricing And Student Loan Systems Hurt Students, Is College Even Still Worth It? and 3 Education Experts On Ways To Improve College Pricing And Payment

Laura Shin is the author of the Forbes eBook, The Millennial Game Plan: Career And Money Secrets For Today's World. Available for Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook and Vook.

College Tours, for Just $43,500

When it comes to finding the perfect college, the sky’s the limit.

For $43,500 — about $1,000 more than the average cost at a private four-year college — families can buy a 10-hour “jet card” for a private plane to whisk them to and from prospective schools. “I wouldn’t call it a budget saver,” said Joshua Hebert, chief executive of Magellan Jets, which offers the package. “It’s always going to be more expensive than commercial, but it’s substantially more convenient.”

Planes seat nine. Conveniences include door-to-door chauffeur service; notepads for assembling pro/con lists, summarized and typed up for you at trip’s end; and — once the big decision is made — a gift basket of school apparel.

This year, 29 families have given the service a try, mainly in Florida, the Northeast and California, Mr. Hebert said.

The company recently added a similar package for families weighing another milestone decision: which summer camp to choose.

Helicopter parenting is increasingly correlated with college-age depression and anxiety.

Recent studies suggests that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.

By Julie Lythcott-Haims

Excerpted from How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, out now from Henry Holt and Co.

Academically overbearing parents are doing great harm. So says Bill Deresiewicz in his groundbreaking 2014 manifesto Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. “[For students] haunted their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure,” writes Deresiewicz, “the cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential.”

Those whom Deresiewicz calls “excellent sheep” I call the “existentially impotent.” From 2006 to 2008, I served on Stanford University’s mental health task force, which examined the problem of student depression and proposed ways to teach faculty, staff, and students to better understand, notice, and respond to mental health issues. As dean, I saw a lack of intellectual and emotional freedom—this existential impotence—behind closed doors. The “excellent sheep” were in my office. Often brilliant, always accomplished, these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives.

In my years as dean, I heard plenty of stories from college students who believed they had to study science (or medicine, or engineering), just as they’d had to play piano, and do community service for Africa, and, and, and. I talked with kids completely uninterested in the items on their own résumés. Some shrugged off any right to be bothered by their own lack of interest in what they were working on, saying, “My parents know what’s best for me.”

The data emerging confirms the harm done by asking so little of our kids when it comes to life skills, yet so much of them when it comes to academics. One kid’s father threatened to divorce her mother if the daughter didn’t major in economics. It took this student seven years to finish instead of the usual four, and along the way the father micromanaged his daughter’s every move, including requiring her to study off campus at her uncle’s every weekend. At her father’s insistence, the daughter went to see one of her econ professors during office hours one weekday. She forgot to call her father to report on how that went, and when she returned to her dorm later that evening her uncle was in the dorm lobby looking visibly uncomfortable about having to “force” her to call her dad to update him. Later this student told me, “I pretty much had a panic attack from the lack of control in my life.” But an economics major she was indeed. And the parents got divorced anyway.

In 2013 the news was filled with worrisome statistics about the mental health crisis on college campuses, particularly the number of students medicated for depression. Charlie Gofen, the retired chairman of the board at the Latin School of Chicago, a private school serving about 1,100 students, emailed the statistics off to a colleague at another school and asked, “Do you think parents at your school would rather their kid be depressed at Yale or happy at University of Arizona?” The colleague quickly replied, “My guess is 75 percent of the parents would rather see their kids depressed at Yale. They figure that the kid can straighten the emotional stuff out in his/her 20’s, but no one can go back and get the Yale undergrad degree.”

Here are the statistics to which Charlie Gofen was likely alluding:

In a 2013 survey of college counseling center directors, 95 percent said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on their campus, 70 percent said that the number of students on their campus with severe psychological problems has increased in the past year, and they reported that 24.5 percent of their student clients were taking psychotropic drugs.

In 2013 the American College Health Association surveyed close to 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses about their health. When asked about their experiences, at some point over the past 12 months:

84.3 percent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do 60.5 percent felt very sad 57.0 percent felt very lonely 51.3 percent felt overwhelming anxiety 8.0 percent seriously considered suicide The 153 schools surveyed included campuses in all 50 states, small liberal arts colleges and large research universities, religious institutions and nonreligious, from the small to medium-sized to the very the large. The mental health crisis is not a Yale (or Stanford or Harvard) problem; these poor mental health outcomes are occurring in kids everywhere. The increase in mental health problems among college students may reflect the lengths to which we push kids toward academic achievement, but since they are happening to kids who end up at hundreds of schools in every tier, they appear to stem not from what it takes to get into the most elite schools but from some facet of American childhood itself.

As parents, our intentions are sound—more than sound: We love our kids fiercely and want only the very best for them. Yet, having succumbed to a combination of safety fears, a college admissions arms race, and perhaps our own needy ego, our sense of what is “best” for our kids is completely out of whack. We don’t want our kids to bonk their heads or have hurt feelings, but we’re willing to take real chances with their mental health?

You’re right to be thinking Yes, but do we know whether overparenting causes this rise in mental health problems? The answer is that we don’t have studies proving causation, but a number of recent studies show correlation.

In 2010, psychology professor Neil Montgomery of Keene State College in New Hampshire surveyed 300 college freshmen nationwide and found that students with helicopter parents were less open to new ideas and actions and more vulnerable, anxious, and self-conscious. “[S]tudents who were given responsibility and not constantly monitored by their parents—so-called ‘free rangers’—the effects were reversed,” Montgomery’s study found. A 2011 study by Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga looking at more than 300 students found that students with “hovering” or “helicopter” parents are more likely to be medicated for anxiety and/or depression.

Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers. Here’s how to fix it.

Dan Griffin says that the key is figuring out how to get kids to tune into their own motivation, and to get the parents to tune out of their motivation to shield their kids from failure and disappointment. A 2012 study of 438 college students reported in the Journal of Adolescence found “initial evidence for this form of intrusive parenting being linked to problematic development in emerging adulthood ... by limiting opportunities for emerging adults to practice and develop important skills needed for becoming self-reliant adults.” A 2013 study of 297 college students reported in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that college students with helicopter parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life and attributed this diminishment in well-being to a violation of the students’ “basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.” And a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Colorado–Boulder is the first to correlate a highly structured childhood with less executive function capabilities. Executive function is our ability to determine which goal-directed actions to carry out and when and is a skill set lacking in many kids with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

150702DXRaiseAdultCover The data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done by asking so little of them when it comes to life skills yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we’ve made for them.

Karen Able is a staff psychologist at a large public university in the Midwest. (Her name has been changed here because of the sensitive nature of her work.) Based on her clinical experience, Able says, “Overinvolved parenting is taking a serious toll on the psychological well-being of college students who can’t negotiate a balance between consulting with parents and independent decision-making.”

When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.

When seemingly perfectly healthy but overparented kids get to college and have trouble coping with the various new situations they might encounter—a roommate who has a different sense of “clean,” a professor who wants a revision to the paper but won’t say specifically what is “wrong,” a friend who isn’t being so friendly anymore, a choice between doing a summer seminar or service project but not both—they can have real difficulty knowing how to handle the disagreement, the uncertainty, the hurt feelings, or the decision-making process. This inability to cope—to sit with some discomfort, think about options, talk it through with someone, make a decision—can become a problem unto itself.

Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, says that there are three ways we might be overparenting and unwittingly causing psychological harm:

When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves; When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own egos. Levine said that when we parent this way we deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are. In short, it deprives them of the chance to be, well, human. Although we overinvolve ourselves to protect our kids and it may in fact lead to short-term gains, our behavior actually delivers the rather soul-crushing news: Kid, you can’t actually do any of this without me.

As Able told me:

When children aren’t given the space to struggle through things on their own, they don’t learn to problem solve very well. They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem. The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety. Neither Karen Able nor I is suggesting that grown kids should never call their parents. The devil is in the details of the conversation. If they call with a problem or a decision to be made, do we tell them what to do? Or do we listen thoughtfully, ask some questions based on our own sense of the situation, then say, “OK. So how do you think you’re going to handle that?”

Knowing what could unfold for our kids when they’re out of our sight can make us parents feel like we’re in straitjackets. What else are we supposed to do? If we’re not there for our kids when they are away from home and bewildered, confused, frightened, or hurting, then who will be?

Here’s the point—and this is so much more important than I realized until rather recently when the data started coming in: The research shows that figuring out for themselves is a critical element to people’s mental health. Your kids have to be there for themselves. That’s a harder truth to swallow when your kid is in the midst of a problem or worse, a crisis, but taking the long view, it’s the best medicine for them.

Excerpted from How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott- Haims. All rights reserved.

A unique summer reading list — from college admissions deans and counselors

There is no shortage to summer reading lists — for kids and adults — but here is a unique one, a collection of recommendations from college admissions officers and counselors. It was assembled by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, who annually asks college admissions deans and high school counselors to send him recommendations of books that are great summer reads for parents, students and everybody else. The list includes books about college, other non-fiction and great fiction. You can see last year’s list here, the 2013 list here in The New York Times, and this year’s, below, following an introduction from Barnard.


By Brennan Barnard

“No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” In the immortal words of Alice Cooper, “school’s out for summer!” There is nothing more freeing than the last day of school each June, when months of laziness, long sunny days and lack of responsibility abound. Perhaps, sports, work and other commitments increasingly encroach upon the sacred institution of summer vacation, but nonetheless the end of the school year evokes joy among students and educators alike.

And then there is summer reading. Two words that can reduce even the most studious and intellectual engaged high school student to a sullen, bitter teenager. I can still recall the panic and spite I felt during the week before Labor Day as a young person. This was the annual moment when I finally owned up to my procrastination and opened the books that had been assigned by my teachers. I was not much of a reader and obligatory reading was especially painful. All I wanted to do was play outdoors with friends. As an adult, summer reading is a much more celebrated concept. It means an opportunity to hopefully complete the array of partially begun titles on my nightstand.

At The Derryfield School, summer reading has an interesting twist that would have been much more palatable for me as a high school student. Every faculty member chooses a favorite book and students can pick a title from this diverse list. Some students choose books based on their most adored teacher and some based on the brief summary provided. Then there are likely students (like I would have done) who choose the shortest book on the list regardless of topic. During the first week of school, faculty members gather with students who read their recommendation for an engaging discussion.

Inspired by this practice, I solicited summer reading recommendations from colleagues in college counseling and admission from high schools and colleges across the nation. Here is what they are reading:


“Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite” by William Deresiewicz

Recommended by: Timothy Pratt, Dean of College Advising, St. Paul’s School, NH

“Anxious Kids Anxious Parents” by Lynn Lyons

Recommended by: Courtney M. Skerritt, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Hockaday School, TX

“Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City” by Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson

Recommended by: Vicki Englehart, Dean of College Counseling & Guidance, Lake Highland Preparatory School, FL

“How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by: Julie Lythcott-Haims

Recommended by: Liz Pleshette, Director of College Counseling, Latin School of Chicago, IL

“Primates of Park Avenue” by Wednesday Martin

Recommended by: Rhody Davis, Director of College Counseling, Viewpoint School, CA

“David & Goliath: underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants” by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by: Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling, San Francisco University High School, CA


“Writing from the Heart – Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice” by Nancy Slonim Aronie,

Recommended by: Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling, The Derryfield School, NH

“One day in the life of the English language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook” by Frank L. Cioffi

Recommended by: Jeffrey Durso-Finley, Director of College Counseling, Lawrenceville School, NJ

“The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education” by Andrew Roberts

Recommended by: Mark C. Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling, Colorado Academy, CO

“Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be” by Frank Bruni

Recommended by: Jennifer Delahunty, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Kenyon College, OH


Education Related:

“The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan

Recommended by: F. Sheppard Shanley, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Northwestern University

“Thinking Fast, and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Recommended by: Morning Celeste Naughton, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Warren Wilson College, NC

“Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol

Recommended by: Vernon Castillo, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Union College, NY

“Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within” by Kenney Werner

Recommended by: Susan Dyment, Director of College Guidance, Sant Bani School, Sanbornton, NH.

“The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities” by William D. Cohan

Recommended by: Matthew J. DeGreeff, Director of College Counseling, Middlesex School, MA

”The Road to Character” by David Brooks

Recommended by: Stephanie Balmer, Head of School, The Harpeth Hall School, TN

“Whistling Vivaldi” by Claude Steele

Recommended by: Martha C. Merrill, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid, Connecticut College, CT

College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Anthony Delbanco

Recommended by: Noel Blyler, Associate Director of College Counseling, Charles Wright Academy, WA

“Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” by Scott Barry Kaufman

Recommended by: Joe Freeman, Assistant Director of College Counseling, Randolph School, AL

“A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer

Recommended by: Mimi Csatlos, Director of College Counseling,Virginia Episcopal School, VA

“Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel

Recommended by: Susan B. Zarwell, Director of College Guidance, University School of Milwaukee, WI

“Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” by John Krakauer

Recommended by: Jennifer Rohan Beros, Assistant Director of College Counseling, University School, OH

“Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip Health and Dan Heath

Recommended by: David S. Bonner, Director of College Counseling, King Low Heywood Thomas, CT


“Don’t Let Him Know” by Sandip Roy

Recommended by: Michael Stefanowicz, Assistant Director of Admission, Saint Michael’s College, VT

“Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits” by Kevin Roose

Recommended by: Peter C. Jennings, Director of College Counseling, Concord Academy, MA

“Bill Bryson’s Earth: A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson

Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, Assistant Director of College Counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, RI

“Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach” by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner

Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Director of Admission, Smith College, MA

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by: Ryan Ricciardi, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Bowdoin College, ME

“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson

Recommended by: Matthew Cohen, Associate Director of Admissions, Skidmore College, NY

Uprooted by Naomi Novick

Recommended by: Alison Slater, Senior Assistant Director of Admission, Denison University, OH

“The End of College” by Kevin Carey

Recommended by: Stuart B. Titus, Associate Director of College Counseling, St. George’s School, RI

“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence” by Pauline Maier

Recommended by: Paul Sunde, Director of Admissions, Dartmouth College, NH

“Redemption Road” by Lisa Ballantyne

Recommended by: Julie Ramsey, Director of Admissions, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

College Board waiving fee for students retaking SAT after flaw

BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 16, 2015 The College Board said late Monday night that it will now waive fees for any student in the United States who took the June 6 SAT but wants to retake it because of irregularities with the administration of the exam. The unprecedented decision was made after the College Board was forced to discard two of 10 sections of the SAT because of printing errors on test booklets — and students and parents expressed concerns about the reliability of the scores.

The College Board, which owns the SAT, has said repeatedly that the final scores would be as reliable as if the entire test had been graded because the SAT is designed to collect enough information even if the entire test is not scored. Shortly after the June 6 test printing error was discovered, the College Board said it would not score one section, but then said two sections would be discarded. That, according to FairTest, or the nonprofit National Center for Free and Open testing, represents 22 percent of the SAT.

Students and parents have been calling the College Board asking for a free make-up of the SAT and/or refunds. One Long Island, N.Y., student named Julia Ellinghaus filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court seeking class-action status for all June 6 SAT test-takers against the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, according to the New York Daily News in this story. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages and suggests that students be able to retake the test for free.

That’s just what the College Board has decided to do. At 9 p.m. Monday, it updated a statement on the College Board website about the printing error, putting the news of a free SAT retake for June 6 test-taker near the bottom. Zach Goldberg, director of media relations for the College Board, noted the change in an e-mail, which said:

“We remain confident in the reliability of scores from the June 6 administration of the SAT and don’t want to cause undue anxiety for students by making them believe they need to sit for the test again. However, we have waived the fee for the October SAT administration for students who let us know that their testing experience was negatively affected by the printing error and we will continue to do so.”

It is not known exactly how many students took the SAT on June 6, but about 487,000 people registered for it, and all are affected, said the College Board.

The problem developed when students taking the SAT on June 6 discovered that the time allotted for one section, the last reading section, said 25 minutes rather than the 20 minutes they were supposed to have. Because of the way the test is administered, some students were taking the final math section at the same time as some were taking the reading section with the misprinted timing instruction, the College Board said.

Selected by our Editors Todd Rutherford needed help. And then he saw the Confederate flag.

While GOP candidates stammer, Clinton directly confronts race

How many students will choose to retake the test — which is next given in October — is unclear. It is also unclear as to whether June 6 students can see the results of the June 6 test before deciding to retake it for free.

Most of the students taking the June 6 test were thought to be high school juniors planning to apply to college this coming fall and winter for admission in fall 2016. For students who want to apply as early as possible to schools with rolling college admissions, an October SAT test date could mean a delayed application because some schools start accepting applications as early as Sept. 1.

FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer said in a statement: “The decision not to score two entire test sections is unprecedented in the history of the SAT. It is not justified by anything we have seen in the published literature about the exam.”

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

View article on classic site