What Overparenting Looks Like From a Stanford Dean’s Perspective

Excerpted from HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, published June 9, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott-Haims. All rights reserved.

To What End?

A heightened level of parental involvement in the lives of kids obviously stems from love—unquestionably a good thing. But by the time I stepped down as dean at Stanford in 2012 I had interacted not only with a tremendous number of parents but with students who seemed increasingly reliant upon their parents in ways that felt, simply, off. I began to worry that college “kids” (as college students had become known) were somehow not quite formed fully as humans. They seemed to be scanning the sidelines for Mom or Dad. Under-constructed. Existentially impotent.

Tremendous good can be said about the baby boomers—they were drafted into and questioned the Vietnam War, lay their bodies on the line in the monumental civil rights and civil liberties struggles of their day, and fueled the greatest economic growth our nation has ever seen. But did Boomers’ egos become interlaced with the accomplishments of their children to such an extent that they felt their own success was compromised if their children fell short of expectations?14 And did some of these parents go so far in the direction of their own wants and needs that they eclipsed their own kids’ chances to develop a critical psychological trait called “self-efficacy”—that is, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura identifies as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”?15 There’s a deeply embedded irony here: Maybe those champions of self-actualization, the Boomers, did so much for their kids that their kids have been robbed of a chance to develop a belief in their own selves.

Author Julie Lythcott-Haims Author Julie Lythcott-Haims (Kristina Vetter) Did the safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, checklisted childhood that has been commonplace since the mid-1980s and in many communities has become the norm, rob kids of the chance to develop into healthy adults? What will become of young adults who look accomplished on paper but seem to have a hard time making their way in the world without the constant involvement of their parents? How will the real world feel to a young person who has grown used to problems being solved for them and accustomed to praise at every turn? Is it too late for them to develop a hunger to be in charge of their own lives? Will they at some point stop referring to themselves as kids and dare to claim the “adult” label for themselves? If not, then what will become of a society populated by such “adults”? These were the questions that began to gnaw at me and that prompted me to write this book.

These questions were on my mind not just at work but as I made my way in my community of Palo Alto, where the evidence of overparenting was all around me—even in my own home. Too many of us do some combination of overdirecting, overprotecting, or over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives. We treat our kids like rare and precious botanical specimens and provide a deliberate, measured amount of care and feeding while running interference on all that might toughen and weather them. But humans need some degree of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way. Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own. Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own? And why do these problems I’m writing about seem rooted in the middle and upper middle classes? After all, parents care deeply about doing a good job and if we’re fortunate enough to be middle- or upper-middle-class, we have the means—the time and disposable income—on our side to help us parent well. So, have we lost our sense of what parenting well actually entails?

And what of our own lives as parents? (“What life?” is a reasonable response.) We’re frazzled. Worried. Empty. Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired, but with childhood feeling more and more like an achievement arms race, can we call what we and our children are living a “good life”? I think not. Our job is to monitor our kids’ academic tasks and progress, schedule and supervise their activities, shuttle them everywhere, and offer an outpouring of praise along the way. Our kids’ accomplishments are the measure of our own success and worth; that college bumper sticker on the rear of our car can be as much about our own sense of accomplishment as our kids’.

How Students Lead the Learning Experience at Democratic Schools

Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

Are We Taking Our Students' Work Seriously Enough? In the spring of 2013 I attended a board meeting for an organization that provides financial support to Palo Alto’s public schools. In casual conversation afterward as the parents were taking one last piece of coffee cake and heading out into their day, a woman who knows of my work pulled me aside. “When did childhood get so stressful?” she pleaded with a faraway look. I put my hand on her shoulder as tears slowly filled her eyes. Another mother overheard and came toward us, nodding her head. Then she leaned in, asking me, “Do you know how many moms in our community are medicated for anxiety?” I didn’t know the answer to either question. But a growing number of conversations like this with moms like these became another reason to write this book.

The dean in me may have been concerned about the development and prospects of young adults who had been overparented—and I think I’ve made better choices as a parent thanks to spending so much time with other people’s young adults. But the parent in me has struggled with the same fears and pressures every other parent faces, and, again, I understand that the systemic problem of overparenting is rooted in our worries about the world and about how our children will be successful in it without us. Still, we’re doing harm. For our kids’ sakes, and also for our own, we need to stop parenting from fear and bring a more healthy—a more wisely loving—approach back into our communities, schools, and homes. Through research woven together with real-life observations and commonsense advice, this book will show us how to raise our kids to become adults—and how to gather the courage to do so.

Julie Lythcott-Haims served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for over a decade at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. A mother of two teenagers, she has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.


Information Regarding the Saturday, June 6, SAT Administration

Last updated June 8, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. EDT

On Saturday, June 6, Educational Testing Service (ETS) informed the College Board that there was a printing error in the standard test books ETS provided to students taking the SAT that day in the United States.

We apologize for this error.

After a comprehensive review and statistical analysis, the College Board and ETS have determined that the affected sections will not be scored and we will still be able to provide reliable scores for all students who took the SAT on June 6. We expect to deliver scores within the usual timeframe.

To accommodate the wide range of incidents that can impact a testing experience, the SAT is designed to collect enough information to provide valid and reliable scores even with an additional unscored section. From fire drills and power outages to mistiming and disruptive behavior, school-based test administrations can be fragile, so our assessments are not.

We take our responsibility to students very seriously, and we regret the confusion some students experienced. For more information, we encourage students and their families to check back here for the latest updates.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Q: What happened during the June 6 administration of the SAT? Shortly before noon Eastern time on Saturday, June 6, Educational Testing Service (ETS) informed the College Board that there was a printing error in the standard test books ETS provided to students taking the SAT® on June 6 in the United States. The time allotted for a specific math or reading section — either section 8 or 9, depending on the edition — was incorrect in the student test books but correct in the script and manual provided to test center supervisors. The copy in the student test books indicated “25 minutes” while the manual and script indicated the correct time limit of "20 minutes."

As soon as ETS became aware of the error during the administration of the test, it worked to provide accurate guidance to supervisors and administrators.

Q: Will my scores be available and still be delivered to colleges and universities? After a comprehensive review and statistical analysis, the College Board and ETS have determined that the affected sections will not be scored, and that we will still be able to provide reliable scores for all students who took the SAT on June 6. We expect to deliver scores within the usual time frame.

Colleges and universities will know these scores are valid.

Q: How is it possible to not score a whole section and still have valid scores? To accommodate the wide range of incidents that can impact a testing experience, the SAT is designed to collect enough information to provide valid and reliable scores even with an additional unscored section. From fire drills and power outages to mistiming and disruptive behavior, school-based test administrations can be fragile, so our assessments are not.

We have deliberately constructed both the Reading and the Math Tests to include three equal sections with roughly the same level of difficulty. If one of the three sections is jeopardized, the correlation among sections is sufficient to be able to deliver reliable scores.

Q: When will I get my scores? We expect to deliver scores to students within the usual time frame.

Q: Who does this affect? All students who took the SAT on June 6 in the United States are affected. This does not affect students who took the SAT on Sunday, June 7, or any SAT Subject Test offered that day.

Q: Where can I go for additional information? To address any additional questions from students and families, our customer service professionals are available at sat@info.collegeboard.org.


Essays About Work and Class That Caught a College’s Eye

Of the 1,200 or so undergraduate admission essays that Chris Lanser reads each year at Wesleyan University, maybe 10 are about work.

This is not much of a surprise. Many applicants have never worked. Those with plenty of money may be afraid of calling attention to their good fortune. And writing about social class is difficult, given how mixed up adolescents often are about identity.

Yet it is this very reluctance that makes tackling the topic a risk worth taking at schools where it is hard to stand out from the thousands of other applicants. Financial hardship and triumph, and wants and needs, are the stuff of great literature. Reflecting on them is one excellent way to differentiate yourself in a deeply personal way.

Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE

Your Money: College Essays That Stand Out From the CrowdMAY 17, 2013 Your Money: Four Stand-Out College Essays About MoneyMAY 9, 2014 Each year, to urge them on, we put out an open call for application essays about these subjects and publish the best essays that we can find. This year, we chose seven with the help of Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford whose new book, “How to Raise an Adult,” is coming out next month.

Continue reading the main story Students and Money, in Their Own Words Each year, we put out a call for college application essays about money, work and social class. This year, we picked seven — about pizza, parental sacrifice, prep school students, discrimination and deprivation.

The essays that came over the transom were filled with raw, decidedly mixed feelings about parents and their sacrifices; trenchant accounts of the awkwardness of straddling communities with vastly different socio-economic circumstances; and plain-spoken — yet completely affecting — descriptions of what it means to make a living and a life in America today.

The single most memorable line we read this year came from an essay by Carolina Sosa, who lives in Centreville, Va., and will attend Georgetown University. In writing about her father’s search for a job, she described the man named Dave who turned him away.

“Job searching is difficult for everyone, but in a world full of Daves, it’s almost impossible,” she wrote. “Daves are people who look at my family and immediately think less of us. They think illegal, poor and uneducated. Daves never allow my dad to pass the first round of job applications. Daves watch like hawks as my brother and I enter stores. Daves inconsiderately correct my mother’s grammar. Because there are Daves in the world, I have become a protector for my family.”

Vanessa J. Krebs, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Georgetown, who reads about 1,400 essays year, told me that when she first received my interview request, the phrase “the Daves” immediately jumped out of her memory bank.

Your Money A column by Ron Lieber on anything and everything that hits you in the wallet. How to Manage High Medical Bills MAY 20 Tax-Deductible Clothing Donations Are Great, Except Your Used Socks MAY 15 Credit Cards With 2% Rebates, While (or if) They Last MAY 8 Student Loan Facts They Wish They Had Known MAY 1 Navigating the Thickets of Student Loan Counseling APR 24 See More »

Though Ms. Sosa might easily have become embittered by her encounters with the Daves, Ms. Krebs said that she was moved by the fact that the essay concluded with the desire to pursue a career in public service, even if she wasn’t exactly sure where that desire would take her.

“This is a starting point, and she is still figuring that out,” Ms. Krebs said. “A lot of people think they need to have all the answers already. Or they feel like they do have it all figured out.”

Other memorable moments emerged in an essay by Martina Piñeiros, a Chicago resident who will be attending Northwestern University.


Continue reading the main story “Fatigue and two jobs had ruined who both my parents used to be, and I began to value the little time I had with my mother more than ever before,” she wrote. “This little time could not make up for the time I spent alone, however, nor could it assuage the envy I had of the little girl my mother looked after. She, though not my mother’s daughter, had the privilege of having my mother and her delicious cooking all to herself; I would always get the leftovers. She also had the privilege of having my mother pin her silky blonde hair into a pretty bun before ballet classes while my dad wrestled with the hairbrush to pull my thick brown hair into two lopsided ponytails before dropping me off at the bus stop. But I couldn’t blame the girl for depriving me of my mother; her parents had also been consumed by their jobs.”

It is rare that any teenagers write well about what it is like to have more money than average. Most don’t even try, for fear of being marked as privileged in a world where some people resent those who have it or are clueless about it. Yorana Wu, who lives in Great Neck, N.Y., and will attend the University of Chicago, wrote about her father, who spends much of the year in China, where he opened a canned fruit factory when Ms. Wu was 8 years old.

“That was the first year a seat at the dinner table remained empty and a car in the garage sat untouched,” she wrote. “Every dollar comes at the expense of his physical distance.”

While she has her tennis and music lessons (and expresses mixed feelings about the affluence that allows for them), she speaks to him in five-minute phone segments when he is away.

“He is living the American dream by working elsewhere,” Ms. Lythcott-Haims, my fellow reader, observed. “There is a cost to this choice.”

We published a pair of essays about what it means to navigate two worlds simultaneously. One, by Annabel La Riva, who is also the subject of a video feature, discusses the distance (in more ways than one) between her Brooklyn home and her Manhattan church choir, where her love for singing began.

In another, Jon Carlo Dominguez of North Bergen, N.J., discusses his choice to turn right out his front door, toward the prep school he attends, instead of left, toward his neighborhood school. When the two schools meet on the football field, he writes, some of his classmates shout, “That’s all right, that’s O.K., you’ll be working for us someday.” His response is to tutor his local friends with his used test-preparation books, share guides to lucid dreaming and pass on tips he learned from Dale Carnegie.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

dc Yesterday If there wasn't so much income inequality and if schools weren't charging ridiculous rates of tuition and if states provided more financial... mr isaac Yesterday Connections, connections, connections. Born a poor black child, I stumbled into the 97th percentile on some test they told me to take and... Alex Yesterday The nose ring is a common flip off to the system so why should that same system respond with mountains of cash for a very costly education... SEE ALL COMMENTS “Every single day he is making a choice, and he is conscious of the costs and the benefits on both sides,” Ms. Lythcott-Haims said. “The way that he addresses it is beautiful. He’s trying to bridge that world and be that bridge.”

One of the 10 or so essays that Mr. Lanser, the associate dean of admission for Wesleyan, read about work this year was set at a Domino’s Pizza store in Forestdale, Ala. Adriane Tharp, who will attend the university in the fall, is the author, and her rendering of the lineup of fellow misfits who were her colleagues there is something to behold.


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Continue reading the main story There is the pizza maker from Pakistan who looks like Bob Dylan and sings folk songs from his homeland; the part-time preacher who also delivers pies; and Richard, the walking “Star Wars” encyclopedia. One woman has worked for pizzerias for over 25 years and is about to apply to college.

“The point of the essay is not to tell us that she needs work or doesn’t,” Mr. Lanser said. “What she wants us to learn from this is that she is able to embrace difference and learn quite a bit from those differences.”

I offered him the opportunity to disabuse overeager parents of the notion that admissions officers at competitive colleges devalue work experience, and he laughed. “We think there are valuable life skills and people skills to be gained in the workplace,” he said, adding that he personally believes that everyone should work in the service industry at some point in their lives.

Rob Henderson’s service was to his country, and his essay was ultimately about what the United States Air Force did for him.

Of his time as a foster child, he wrote, “I was compelled to develop social skills to receive care from distracted foster parents.” He was finally adopted, but his parents quickly divorced (the adoption came up in arguments before his father cut off ties) and eventually found stability with his mother and her partner, at least until her partner was shot. An insurance settlement led to a home purchase, which ended in foreclosure.

After high school, he enlisted. Eight years later, he’s still deciding where he’ll attend college in the fall. “I’ve accomplished much over the last seven years because the Air Force provides an organized setting that contrasts with the chaos of my upbringing,” he wrote.

Ms. Lythcott-Haims felt herself rooting for him, and she added that his essay was a good reminder that the United States military is a beacon for many young adults, even with the high risks that may come with their service. “This is one way you make a life in America,” she said. “It’s more common than we realize. And he is self-made.”


How to Survive the College Admissions Madness by Frank Bruni

HERE we go again. At Harvard, Emory, Bucknell and other schools around the country, there have been record numbers of applicants yearning for an elite degree. They’ll get word in the next few weeks. Most will be turned down.

All should hear and heed the stories of Peter Hart and Jenna Leahy.

Peter didn’t try for the Ivy League. That wasn’t the kind of student he’d been at New Trier High School, in an affluent Chicago suburb. Most of its graduating seniors go on to higher education, and most know, from where they stand among their peers, what sort of college they can hope to attend. A friend of Peter’s was ranked near the summit of their class; she set her sights on Yale — and ended up there. Peter was ranked in the top third, and aimed for the University of Michigan or maybe the special undergraduate business school at the University of Illinois.

Both rejected him.

He went to Indiana University instead. Right away he noticed a difference. At New Trier, a public school posh enough to pass for private, he’d always had a sense of himself as someone somewhat ordinary, at least in terms of his studies. At Indiana, though, the students in his freshman classes weren’t as showily gifted as the New Trier kids had been, and his self-image went through a transformation.

“I really felt like I was a competent person,” he told me last year, shortly after he’d turned 28. And he thrived. He got into an honors program for undergraduate business majors. He became vice president of a business fraternity on campus. He cobbled together the capital to start a tiny real estate enterprise that fixed up and rented small houses to fellow students.

And he finagled a way, off campus, to interview with several of the top-drawer consulting firms that trawled for recruits at the Ivies but often bypassed schools like Indiana. Upon graduation, he took a plum job in the Chicago office of the Boston Consulting Group, where he recognized one of the other new hires: the friend from New Trier who’d gone to Yale. Traveling a more gilded path, she’d arrived at the same destination.

He later decided to get a master’s degree in business administration, and that’s where he is now, in graduate school — at Harvard.

Frank Bruni Politics, social issues, education and culture. Hillary’s Prickly Apologia MAR 10 Christians Loving Jews MAR 7 Hillary’s Messy Habits MAR 4 Despicable Us FEB 28 The G.O.P.’s Assertive God Squad FEB 25 See More »

Jenna, 26, went through the college admissions process two years after he did. She, too, was applying from a charmed school: in her case, Phillips Exeter Academy. Her transcript was a mix of A’s and B’s, and she was active in so many Exeter organizations that when graduation rolled around, she received a prize given to a student who’d brought special distinction to the school.

Continue reading the main story FACEBOOK CHAT Why Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be

Frank Bruni will answer questions and respond to comments about the college admissions mania — and how best to choose and use a college — on The Times’s Facebook page.

GO TO FACEBOOK But her math SAT score was in the low 600s. Perhaps because of that, she was turned down for early decision at her first choice, Claremont McKenna College.

For the general admission period, she applied to more than half a dozen schools. Georgetown, Emory, the University of Virginia and Pomona College all turned her down, leaving her to choose among the University of South Carolina, Pitzer College and Scripps College, a sister school of Claremont McKenna’s in Southern California.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story “I felt so worthless,” she recalled.

She chose Scripps. And once she got there and saw how contentedly she fit in, she had a life-changing realization: Not only was a crushing chapter of her life in the past, it hadn’t crushed her. Rejection was fleeting — and survivable.

As a result, she said, “I applied for things fearlessly.”

She won a stipend to live in Tijuana, Mexico, for a summer and work with indigent children there. She prevailed in a contest to attend a special conference at the Carter Center in Georgia and to meet Jimmy Carter.

And she applied for a coveted spot with Teach for America, which she got. Later she landed a grant to develop a new charter school for low-income families in Phoenix, where she now lives. It opened last August, with Jenna and a colleague at the helm.

“I never would have had the strength, drive or fearlessness to take such a risk if I hadn’t been rejected so intensely before,” she told me. “There’s a beauty to that kind of rejection, because it allows you to find the strength within.”

I don’t think Peter’s example is extraordinary: People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates. Nor is Jenna’s arc so unusual. For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. Besides, life is defined by setbacks, and success is determined by the ability to rebound from them. And there’s no single juncture, no one crossroads, on which everything hinges.

So why do so many Americans — anxious parents, addled children — treat the period in late March and early April, when elite colleges deliver disappointing news to anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of their applicants, as if it’s precisely that?

I’m describing the psychology of a minority of American families; a majority are focused on making sure that their kids simply attend a decent college — any decent college — and on finding a way to help them pay for it. Tuition has skyrocketed, forcing many students to think not in terms of dream schools but in terms of those that won’t leave them saddled with debt.

When I asked Alice Kleeman, the college adviser at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Bay Area of California, about the most significant changes in the admissions landscape over the last 20 years, she mentioned the fixation on getting into the most selective school possible only after noting that “more students are unable to attend their college of first choice because of money.”

But for too many parents and their children, acceptance by an elite institution isn’t just another challenge, just another goal. A yes or no from Amherst or the University of Virginia or the University of Chicago is seen as the conclusive measure of a young person’s worth, an uncontestable harbinger of the accomplishments or disappointments to come. Winner or loser: This is when the judgment is made. This is the great, brutal culling.

Continue reading the main story What madness. And what nonsense.

FOR one thing, the admissions game is too flawed to be given so much credit. For another, the nature of a student’s college experience — the work that he or she puts into it, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed — matters more than the name of the institution attended. In fact students at institutions with less hallowed names sometimes demand more of those places and of themselves. Freed from a focus on the packaging of their education, they get to the meat of it.


Credit Ben Wiseman In any case, there’s only so much living and learning that take place inside a lecture hall, a science lab or a dormitory. Education happens across a spectrum of settings and in infinite ways, and college has no monopoly on the ingredients for professional achievement or a life well lived.

Midway through last year, I looked up the undergraduate alma maters of the chief executives of the top 10 corporations in the Fortune 500. These were the schools: the University of Arkansas; the University of Texas; the University of California, Davis; the University of Nebraska; Auburn; Texas A & M; the General Motors Institute (now called Kettering University); the University of Kansas; the University of Missouri, St. Louis; and Dartmouth College.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

JF 8 days ago And meanwhile, in the real world, middle-class families are just trying to help get their kids through an affordable undergraduate program... Rootless Desi 8 days ago I think the best way for all of us to survive the college admissions madness is to stop writing about the college admissions madness. To say... manfred96 8 days ago Excellent piece. Thank you. SEE ALL COMMENTS I also spoke with Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, one of the best-known providers of first-step seed money for tech start-ups. I asked him if any one school stood out in terms of students and graduates whose ideas took off. “Yes,” he responded, and I was sure of the name I’d hear next: Stanford. It’s his alma mater, though he left before he graduated, and it’s famous as a feeder of Silicon Valley success.

But this is what he said: “The University of Waterloo.” It’s a public school in the Canadian province of Ontario, and as of last summer, it was the source of eight proud ventures that Y Combinator had helped along. “To my chagrin,” Altman told me, “Stanford has not had a really great track record.”

Yet there’s a frenzy to get into the Stanfords of the world, and it seems to grow ever crazier and more corrosive. It’s fed by many factors, including contemporary America’s exaltation of brands and an economic pessimism that has parents determined to find and give their kids any and every possible leg up.

And it yields some bitter fruits, among them a perversion of higher education’s purpose and potential. College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it. And that’s lost in the admissions mania, which sends the message that college is a sanctum to be breached — a border to be crossed — rather than a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it’s worth.

LAST March, just as Matt Levin was about to start hearing from the schools to which he’d applied, his parents, Craig and Diana, handed him a letter. They didn’t care whether he read it right away, but they wanted him to know that it had been written before they found out how he fared. It was their response to the outsize yearning and dread that they saw in him and in so many of the college-bound kids at Cold Spring Harbor high school, in a Long Island suburb of New York City. It was their bid for some sanity.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Matt, like many of his peers, was shooting for the Ivies: in his case, Yale, Princeton or Brown. He had laid the groundwork: high SAT scores; participation in sports and music; a special prize for junior-year students with the highest grade-point averages; membership in various honor societies; more than 100 hours of community service.

For Yale, Princeton and Brown, that wasn’t enough. All three turned him down.

His mother, Diana, told me that on the day he got that news, “He shut me out for the first time in 17 years. He barely looked at me. Said, ‘Don’t talk to me and don’t touch me.’ Then he disappeared to take a shower and literally drowned his sorrows for the next 45 minutes.”

The following morning, he rallied and left the house wearing a sweatshirt with the name of the school that had been his fourth choice and had accepted him: Lehigh University. By then he had read his parents’ letter, more than once. That they felt compelled to write it says as much about our society’s warped obsession with elite colleges as it does about the Levins’ warmth, wisdom and generosity. I share the following parts of it because the message in them is one that many kids in addition to their son need to listen to, especially now, with college acceptances and rejections on the way:

Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted — and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them.

We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again — and to wherever you are headed.*

Mom and Dad

Frank Bruni is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.”

He will answer questions and respond to comments about the college admissions mania — and how best to choose and use a college — on The Times’s Facebook page.


How To Reap the Most Out of College (Or Any) Education Annie Murphy Paul | October 15, 2013 | 3 Comments

growing body of evidence suggests that the most significant thing about college is not where you go, but what you do once you get there. Historian and educator Ken Bain has written a book on this subject, What The Best College Students Do, that draws a roadmap for how students can get the most out of college, no matter where they go.

As Bain details, there are three types of learners — surface, who do as little as possible to get by; strategic, who aim for top grades rather than true understanding, and finally, deep learners, who leave college with a real, rich education.

Bain then introduces us to a host of real-life deep learners: young and old, scientific and artistic, famous or still getting there. Although they each have their own insights, Bain identifies common patterns in their stories:

Pursue passion, not A’s. When he was in college, says the eminent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, he was “moved by curiosity, interest, and fascination, not by making the highest scores on a test.” As an adult, he points out, “no one ever asks you what your grades were. Grades become irrelevant.” In his experience as a student and a professor, says Tyson, “ambition and innovation trump grades every time.”

Get comfortable with failure. When he was still a college student, comedian Stephen Colbert began working with an improvisational theater in Chicago. “That really opened me up in ways I hadn’t expected,” he told Bain. “You must be OK with bombing. You have to love it.” Colbert adds, “Improvisation is a great educator when it comes to failing. There’s no way you are going to get it right every time.”

Make a personal connection to your studies. In her sophomore year in college, Eliza Noh, now a professor of Asian American studies at California State University-Fullerton, took a class on power in society: who has it, how it’s used. “It really opened my eyes. For the first time in my life, I realized that learning could be about me and my interests, about who I was,” Noh told Bain. “I didn’t just listen to lectures, but began to use my own experiences as a jumping off point for asking questions and wanting to pursue certain concepts.”

9780674066649p0v1_s260x420Read and think actively. Dean Baker, one of the few economists to predict the economic collapse of 2008, became fascinated in college by the way economic forces shape people’s lives. His studies led him to reflect on “what he believed and why, integrating and questioning,” Bain notes. Baker himself says: ”I was always looking for arguments in something I read, and then pinpointing the evidence to see how it was used.”

Ask big questions. Jeff Hawkins, an engineer who created the first mobile computing device, organized his college studies around four profound questions he wanted to explore: Why does anything exist? Given that a universe does exist, why do we have the particular laws of physics that we do? Why do we have life, and what is its nature? And given that life exists, what’s the nature of intelligence? For many of the subjects he pursued, Bain notes, “there was no place to ‘look it up,’ no simple answer.”

Cultivate empathy for others. Reyna Grande, author of the novels Across A Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies, started writing seriously in her junior year in college. “Writing fiction taught Reyna to empathize with the people who populated her stories, an ability that she transferred to her life,” Bain notes: “As a writer, I have to understand what motivates a character, and I see other people as characters in the story of life,” Grande says. “When someone makes mistakes, I always look at what made them act the way they do.”

Set goals and make them real. Tia Fuller, who later became an accomplished saxophone player, began planning her future in college, envisioning the successful completion of her projects. ”I would keep focused on t

he light at the end of the tunnel, and what that accomplishment would mean,” she said to Bain. “That would help me develop a crystalized vision.”

Find a way to contribute. Joel Feinman, now a lawyer who provides legal services to the poor, was set on his career path by a book he read in college: The Massacre at El Mazote, an account of a 1981 slaughter of villagers in El Salvador. After writing and staging a campus play about the massacre, and traveling to El Savador himself, Feinman “decided that I wanted to do something to help people and bring a little justice to the world.”


Colleges Must Help Students Get a Life, Not Just a Job

President, Denison University Email Colleges Must Help Students Get a Life, Not Just a Job Posted: 12/03/2014 1:07 pm EST Updated: 12/03/2014 1:59 pm EST COLLEGE Share 161 Tweet 64

Comment 1 Share on Google+ What is the value of higher education relative to jobs?

First, we need to get the question right. Graduates need jobs, but that's not all. They also need employment situations that pay decent wages, that enhance their skills, and that allow them to build the kinds of lives they want to lead.

Second, we need to remember that communities have a vested interest in the answer to this question. We need to prepare a generation of students to be the kinds of professionals who work in ways that drive society forward.

Higher education can get this right, but not without a whole-of-community approach. We need to understand how the various components and years of a collegiate experience fit together. Six principles matter:

Think in developmental terms. The initial years of college should be broad and inquisitive. Early on, students should be given opportunities to ask big questions about human history, the role of work, and the lives they want to lead. Small classes, faculty mentorship, and engaged learning environments are crucial. The linchpins are faculty mentorship and exposure to a wide range of courses. Start early and explore often. By their second year in college, students should be involved in the career exploration process. It should start with a wide perspective and provide plentiful opportunities for students to interact with a range of people and hear stories about how they built careers and lives in different ways. Take advantage of the entire year. Most colleges only occupy students about 60 percent of the year. We need to reimagine the college experience as 12 months and use the times between semesters for professionally oriented activities like financially supported internships, externships and short seminars focused on professional skills. Ask parents and alumni to provide mentorship and expertise. Colleges have alumni who care deeply about their alma mater, and parents who often are very engaged. We need to enlist them in the process, connecting them with students as career mentors and coaches who can offer advice, networks and other forms of support. Support graduates as they find their on-ramps. Building a career is a process that often has stumbling blocks. We need to provide career support for students during the first five years post-graduation, at least, as they seek to refine their goals and navigate the on-ramps into the professions. Embrace technology. Nothing trumps face-to-face classrooms that are small and interactive, but technology is crucial to a great career exploration program. For example: We can connect students with alumni mentors using online platforms. Seminars can be offered between semesters and post-college, using blended learning tools to offer training in profession-specific skills and nomenclature. So what is success? Five, 10 and 20 years out, students should self-report career success and life satisfaction. Using new data, from sources like LinkedIn, colleges should be able to measure career paths and success across different kinds of professions or geographies.

Running beneath this is an argument about relationships. Simply put, a great career exploration program should focus on exposing students to a wide range of good mentors and role models who offer advice, networks, experiences and skills development. A college is a community, and education happens as students interact with, learn and benefit from peers, faculty, staff, local community members, parents and alumni. If we get the relationships right, everything else will follow.

I also am making a more subtle argument: Work anchors our lives and our communities. In particular, I am intrigued by Harry Boyte's discussion on civic professionalism, which says we need to train a generation of students to reimagine professional practice in ways that allow them to pursue personal and civic passions through work, not outside of it. This generation does not want to bifurcate those roles. As a result, they will lead more meaningful lives, and our communities will be healthier.

A great college experience helps students decide the kind of life they want to lead, how work facilitates that life, and gives them the attributes, networks and experiences to get there.


Colleges, Recruiting Even the Imaginary Students NY Times

Colleges, Recruiting Even the Imaginary Students By LORI ROZSA DECEMBER 9, 2014 The cascade of college marketing mail started when my daughter was a junior in high school. What began as a trickle — a few teaser postcards, a couple of glossy catalogs — turned into a flood the summer before her senior year.Friends who had shepherded their children through the college application process had warned me about the reams of mail sent out by colleges, almost all of it unsolicited, so I wasn’t surprised.

What did surprise me was when Brother Bill started getting college mail.

“Time is running out, William!” warned the postcard from Florida Southern College. “Everyone would love to see you on campus,” Flagler College wrote.

“Learn why you should add us to your list,” said the letter from the United States Air Force Academy. “If you’re considering top schools like Duke, U.C.L.A. and Northwestern, then you need to consider one of America’s most selective universities — the United States Air Force Academy.”

The problem was, William wasn’t considering any of those schools, because he doesn’t exist. Somewhere in the vast and opaque marketing relationship that exists between colleges, high schools and the college-testing agencies, an entirely new student was born.

A computer program had apparently misread a form, because William’s first and last names were close in spelling to my daughter’s name, off by just a few letters. The program did get the home address right.

As more mail came in for Brother Bill, the cynical gamesmanship of the college admissions process really sank in. Students (and sometimes, even more so, their parents) who become starry-eyed when colleges come calling via the mailbox need a gentle but clear reality check: It’s all about the numbers, not about them.

Many colleges are chasing the lowest admissions rates, which is the holy grail that they seek to help them them climb up the exclusivity ladder. The more students a college can persuade to apply, the more they can turn down, making their “admit rate” look, in some cases, spectacularly exclusive. (Stanford’s acceptance rate for students who applied last year was 5.07 percent, the lowest in the country. Harvard’s was 5.8 percent.) Exclusivity may not be a rational basis for a college search, but it does give parents bragging rights.

To help colleges reach those potential applicants, the College Board and the ACT, the big testing agencies, sell student names and information to colleges. In 2013, each student’s name fetched 37 cents, according to Inside Higher Ed. More than 3.2 million students take those tests.

College enrollment managers mine that data, looking for prospects. According to a higher education consulting firm report, in 2013, private colleges spent $2,433 per new student to bring in their new recruits; public colleges spent $457 per student.

Not all colleges were taken in by the software hiccup that mistakenly created Bill. His stack of mail, while sizable, was nothing compared with what the real student in the house was getting. But he was invited to apply for a merit scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis, “based on your academic achievement and scores,” and the University of Miami was very persistent in trying to get him down for a visit.

Some of the marketing was targeted in curious ways: Bill received mail from the Milwaukee School of Engineering; my daughter did not. An engineering bias against girls? But then she got an invitation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Bill heard nothing from them. They were both invited to join the United States Marines. A United States Army recruiter even called our home, looking for Bill.

They both also received separate but identical invitations to compete in a sketchy-sounding scholarship beauty contest, which really made me wonder who else besides the testing companies is buying student information.

High school seniors and parents suffering through this season of high hopes and even higher anxiety — the acceptance season for the class of 2019 — may want to greet all of the flattery from colleges with level heads and a heavy dose of skepticism. As pleasing as it is to believe that dozens of colleges across the country really, really want to see you, what they actually want to see is only your application.

Of course the flip side of that is true as well: if they reject you, don’t take it personally.


Promiscuous College Come-Ons

SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

Promiscuous College Come-Ons NOV. 22, 2014

BETWEEN the last application season and the current one, Swarthmore College, a school nationally renowned for its academic rigor, changed the requirements for students vying to be admitted into its next freshman class.

It made filling out the proper forms easier.

A year ago, applicants were asked to write two 500-word essays as supplements to the standard one that’s part of the Common Application, an electronic form that Swarthmore and hundreds of small colleges and big universities accept. This was slightly more material than Swarthmore had previously requested, and it was more than many other highly selective schools demanded.

Not coincidentally, the number of applicants to the college dropped, and its acceptance rate in turn climbed, to 17 from 14 percent, making Swarthmore seem less selective.

This year, it’s asking for just one supplemental essay, of only 250 words.

Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE

Alexa Verola, a senior at Mahwah High School in northern New Jersey, is applying to 29 colleges.Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets NOV. 15, 2014 Swarthmore is hardly alone in its desire to eliminate impediments to a bounty of applicants. Over the last decade, many elite colleges have adjusted their applications in ways that remove disincentives and maximize the odds that the number of students jockeying to get in remains robust — or, even better, grows larger.

In one sense, that’s a commendably egalitarian approach and a sensible attempt to be sure that no sterling candidate is missed.

But there’s often a less pure motive in play. In our increasingly status-oriented society, a school’s reputation is bolstered by its glimmer of exclusivity and by a low acceptance rate, which can even influence how U.S. News & World Report ranks it. And unless a school is shrinking the size of its student body, the only way to bring its acceptance rate down is to get its number of applicants up. So, many colleges methodically generate interest only to frustrate it. They woo supplicants for the purpose of turning them down.

It’s a cynical numbers game that further darkens the whole admissions process, a life juncture that should be exhilarating but is governed these days by dread.

It depersonalizes the process, too. Ideally, colleges should want students whose interest in them is genuine, and students should be figuring out which colleges suit them best, not applying indiscriminately to schools that have encouraged that by making it as painless (and heedless) as possible.

“Colleges are actively saddling themselves with a whole group of applicants about whom they know little and who, in turn, know little about them,” Lauren Gersick, the associate director of college counseling at the Urban School of San Francisco, told me. “You have a whole bunch of people fumbling along and freaking out.”

In a story in The Times last weekend, Ariel Kaminer observed that it’s not uncommon these days for an anxious, ambitious student to submit applications to 15 or more schools. Kaminer rightly cast this as a consequence of the overheated competition for admission to the most elite ones. Students spread their nets wider in the hopes of a good catch, and the Common Application abets this.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story But so do the schools, which hawk themselves more assertively than ever. They fly in counselors like Gersick and give them elaborate sales pitches. They send their own emissaries out into the world, armed with glossy pamphlets. They buy data to identify persuadable applicants and then approach them with come-ons as breathless as any telemarketer’s pitch.

A recent email that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute sent unbidden to one high school senior invited him “to apply with Candidate’s Choice status!” (The boldface letters and the exclamation point are Rensselaer’s, not mine.)

“Exclusively for select students, the Candidate’s Choice Application is unique to Rensselaer, and is available online now,” the email said, after telling its recipient that “a talented student like you deserves a college experience that is committed to developing the great minds of tomorrow.”

“The marketing is unbelievable, just unbelievable,” said Kay Rothman, director of college counseling at the NYC Lab School, in Manhattan. “There are places like Tulane that will send everyone a ‘V.I.P.’ application.” She told me that she routinely had to disabuse impressionable students of the notion that they’d won some prized lottery or been given some inside track.

A certain amount of outreach and promotion is necessary, even commendable.

Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS

Bay Area HipHop 22 hours ago There is a book that was written a few years ago called "Crazy U" by Andrew Ferguson that describes in greater detail all the things... Lew Street 22 hours ago Ah, Swarthmore. We did a drive through and did not even get out of the car on our swing through PA, the college road trip equivalent of not... PlasticMoonRain 22 hours ago It does not help that newspapers such as the NY Times and most other media are obsessed with "elite" colleges, when the fact is, most... SEE ALL COMMENTS “I don’t think colleges are guilty for marketing their product,” Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College, said when I spoke with her last week. “Colleges need to explain to students what their product is about.”

And there can be other rationales for what looks like a loosening of application demands. Smith and several other similarly prominent colleges no longer require the SAT or ACT, and McCartney said that that’s not a bid for more applicants. It’s a recognition that top scores on those tests correlate with high family income and may say more about an applicant’s economic advantages — including, say, private SAT tutoring — than about academic potential.

JIM BOCK, Swarthmore’s dean of admissions, said that by lightening the essay load for its current applicants, the college was less concerned about boosting its overall number of applicants than about making sure candidates of great merit didn’t miss out on Swarthmore and vice versa. He mentioned the hypothetical example of a high school student from a low-income family who works 10 or more hours a week and doesn’t have ample time to do different essays for different schools.

“Sometimes asking too much is asking too much,” he said in an interview on Friday.

But will Swarthmore’s applicants this year give quite as much thought to its suitability for them, to whether it’s the right home? I’m betting not.

When it’s a snap for a student to apply to yet one more college and each school is simply another desirable cereal on a top shelf that he or she is determined to reach, there’s inadequate thought to a tailored match, which is what the admissions process should strive for. It’s what the measure of success should be.

That was the feeling expressed by a group of counselors and consultants in a thread of Facebook comments last July about colleges doing away with supplemental essays.

One of them, Laird Durley, wrote that students insufficiently motivated to write something extra for a school “probably shouldn’t go to those schools anyway,” and he rued the extent to which simply gaining admission to a school with a fancy name — any school with a fancy name — ruled the day.

“It is harder than ever to sell ‘fit’ as opposed to ‘logo affixing,’ ” he wrote, adding that “what you will learn there” has taken a back seat to a different consideration: “Look at my brand!”


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Parents: We need to get a grip on our own college application anxiety

Parents: We need to get a grip on our own college application anxiety

My oldest son just turned 15.

His birthday slid by, nothing like a milestone. He’s been a teenager for years. He won’t vote for ages. Kind of a holding year, right?

But, actually, something’s going on. Like the matter of his birthday cake. He wanted just a plain homemade one, not the bakery-bought extravaganza we’ve had for years. No 3-D dioramas built out of icing? No. Apparently not.

He cleaned out his room and carted boxes of dusty action figures to the attic. He’ll give me a hug without being asked. He even had a Homecoming date.

And then came College Night. I almost didn’t catch it on the 9th grade calendar, so unaccustomed am I to considering him – or myself, for that matter – far enough along to start the college chase. Yet off we marched, and there we encountered the Dreaded Graph of Harsh Reality, displayed for us all to see:

(collegeapps.about.com) Yes, you’re reading it right. All those red dots? Pretty much every kid below (and many above) a 3.5 GPA? Denied.

And then there’s Princeton:

(Via collegeapps.about.com) Look closely at that clot of 4.0 Denials. Now shut your eyes and picture all those Red Dots up late perfecting homework, school night after school night. All those urgent anxious heart-to-hearts with Moms and Dads who just knew that Red Dot was capable of more than he was producing. It’s actually a compliment that we push you to aim so high. Now, off to your test-prep tutor.

To be fair, my son’s school made a heroic effort, there at College Night, to stress the well-rounded application. The sports, the community service, the extra-curriculars. Essays, teacher recommendations. They joked it helps if your last name’s also what admissions officers call the college library. Funny.

But once they shoot the Dreaded Graph of Harsh Reality up on that giant auditorium screen, it’s hard to think about all the other intangibles, those pieces of your child’s intellect – of your child’s heart – that are random, unquantifiable, ungraph-able. The pieces that emerge in fits and starts, the quick passions so quickly abandoned, the restless curiosity chased by bland inertia. All the spiky, tangled bits that can’t be groomed, that simply can’t be curated, to please an admissions officer down the road.

Infuriating? Terrifying? Absolutely, yes, to the parent facing down the barrel of the Dreaded Graph. I looked up behind me, at my son sitting with his lovely, goofy classmates. Do we really need to launch this race? When he’s just started the pivot from childhood to, well, whatever comes next? When he’s just slowed the gyrations of adolescence enough to begin the practice of introspection, self-inquiry, self-knowledge? When he’s just given up diorama birthday cakes?

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing recently about what should be the purpose and goal of college education, especially in the elite schools rejecting all those Red Dots. Last July, William Deresiewicz threw the first bomb, charging, in The New Republic, that our top colleges doggedly seek, and then relentlessly promote, “people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.” In other words, “excellent sheep.”

Predictably, the Empire struck back. No, complained Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, the real problem with elite college admissions these days is that they’re too soft, too “squeamish” to rely heavily enough on what he calls that “magic measuring stick”: standardized testing.

And, by the way, elite employers should hire college graduates that way too, using more “magic” standardized tests. Others waded in, guns blazing. If elite colleges shouldn’t simply spot and polish highpowered hoop-jumpers, those most “excellent sheep,” what should they try instead?

From where I sat at College Night, under the glare of the Dreaded Graph, all that talk sounds almost fantastical. How can we seriously discuss what our children should learn in college – once they’ve won the race to that starting line – until we address how distorting and disabling the college race itself can be? Must I really let that Graph direct the rich years my son and I are entering together?

It’s not like his heart and mind will re-bloom, start fresh, the day I drop him in some freshman dorm.

I can’t say for sure what college should teach its students. But I do know one thing about the mad sprint to get in: parents like me need to slam on the brakes, and get a grip on our own anxiety. It’s time to question our own devotion to the hoop-jumping path, and give up our own ambition, however dark and secret, to join the best possible flock come that first Parents’ Weekend.

So I have a plan. Not for my son, but for myself. Sure, it’s fine for me to push him to work hard, take school seriously, and do his best. I can insist he treat standardized tests like any other essential skill he must work to improve, if he’s not a natural. I can rant when he lets cross-country interfere with Geometry homework. I’m cleared to reward him when effort earns a good grade.

But I also promise to watch closely for the signals his own heart and mind will send about what the real purpose of his life might be. I promise to stay alert for signs and hints of his authentic strengths and interests, not just the ones that might game the Dreaded Graph someday. I won’t skew his college search to the highest-ranked schools that his numbers make possible. And I’ll listen more to what he wants to learn there than to how many alums are hedge fund billionaires or high officials in the White House. I swear I’ll dig deep for enough imagination to picture him on paths without traditional college if it comes to that – quite a dramatic leap for this former academic. I pray he learns to think this way about his own life, too.

Just let it not be me who’s the most excellent sheep of all.

Laura Fitzgerald Cooper is the Content Director for YouScience. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and three sons. A graduate of the Yale Law School and Hollins College, she was a professor of public constitutional law at Washington and Lee University before retiring to spend time with her boys.


Need a Plan B for College? There are Options

Let’s just say Plan A didn’t work out so well; you and your student were surprised by a few of the rejection letters.

Hopefully you planned well and had a few solid safeties on the list, but maybe now, several months later, they are not looking quite so attractive. Do not despair, there is hope, there is a Plan B.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has created its annual College Openings Update. And as of May 17, more than 450 public and private colleges still had openings.

The Update lists not only which colleges have openings for freshmen and transfer students but also has an update on housing availability and financial aid opportunities. The list is updated frequently and will be available until June 30. Vist www.nacacnet.org and type in College Openings Update in the search box.

Colleges with openings in North Carolina are Appalachian State, Chowan, Guilford, Johnson C. Smith, Lenoir-Rhyne, Montreat, Pfeiffer, Queens, St. Andrews, UNC Pembroke, Warren Wilson and William Peace.

Colleges with openings in South Carolina include Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Erskine, Limestone and Newberry College.

There definitely are options available to the resourceful family. Joyce E. Smith, Chief Executive Officer of NACAC said: “Part of demystifying college admission is understanding that, for many institutions, the application process is a year-round endeavor. Some colleges accept applications throughout the year, while others may continue to have openings available even after the May 1 national response deadline.”

You might be surprised to see some of the public and private colleges and universities on the list, including Sarah Lawrence, Arizona State, Gonzaga, Ohio Wesleyan and the University of Vermont.

Just because there are openings doesn’t automatically mean an acceptance letter is guaranteed. Students still need to apply and take the time to prepare a compelling application and send all support materials, including transcripts, test scores and letters of recommendation.

After reviewing the list, students should contact schools of interest to find out deadlines and timelines and get details on their specific procedures to apply.

What if even this Plan B is not looking too optimistic?

If students and families can’t find a good match on the College Openings Update, they might want to consider taking a gap year. Investigate some possibilities at www.americangap.org.


Source: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/19/4919660/need-a-plan-b-for-college-there.html#.U4ZREihq7HN

Is This Any Way To Pick A College?

There are more than 7,000 colleges in the U.S., and 21.8 million students enrolled in them. That's potentially 21.8 million opinions about what makes a school "the best."

The penalty for a bad choice can be huge. The cost of a degree continues to soar, graduation rates vary widely from college to college, and a growing body of evidence suggests that picking a supposedly "top" school doesn't necessarily pay off later in life.

With so many variables—cost, location, curriculum, reputation — parents and students often turn to rankings and reviews. The most famous and influential is probably the one by U.S. News & World ReportThere are also rankings in CNN Money and Forbes, plus published guides by Princeton Review, Barron's, Fiske's and The College Board. The Department of Education has its own College Navigator site. Later this year, the Obama Administration is expected to release its own Postsecondary Institution Ratings System or PIRS, that, it proposes, will eventually be tied to federal student dollars.

Each of these ratings systems and guides has its own particular recipe for weighing the available data. We're not going to get into the long-running debate about the merits of this or that formula, but we can take a hard look at the ingredients: The strengths and weaknesses of criteria such as selectivity, prestige, and graduation rates. How useful is the information? How fair? And how easily can colleges game the rankings?

As you'll see, this is a subjective judgment based on limited evidence, but, hey, that also describes these rankings systems themselves.

1) Selectivity

For decades, the primary measure used to rank universities was by looking at which ones graduated the "best men." From the 1930s to the 1950s, for example, Prentice and Kunkel published a guide that listed colleges based on how many of their alumni appeared in Who's Who.

This method was simple and transparent.

It also largely mirrored social class, and it was somewhat circular: the "best colleges" were where the "best men" went, so the "best men" (most, back then, were men) kept going there.

Selectivity today is defined as the ratio of students who apply to those who are accepted (a metric that colleges can and do mess with, by soliciting more applications). It also means looking at SAT or ACT scores and high school grades of the entering students. The U.S. News & World Report rankings, originally conceived in 1959, made selectivity a significant part of their formula. It still accounts for 12.5 percent of the rankings all by itself. It also indirectly influences other measures, like academic reputation and retention rates (the percentage of students who return from year to year.)

But here's the problem: the vast majority of American college students today go to nonselective institutions that admit just about everybody. And so what use can they make of this information?

We give "selectivity" one mortarboard.

2) Reputation

How good would you say that Princeton's undergraduate business program is? That's a trick question: There is no such program. Yet when other college presidents were asked this question, they gave the nonexistent program top marks. That's known as the "halo effect."

U.S. News bases 22.5 percent of its formula in some categories on reputation, in part by asking leadership at peer institutions for their opinions. As the halo effect shows, that's a less than foolproof process. Our rating: One mortarboard.

3) Learning

It sure would be nice, in theory, if we had a way to directly measure what students actually learn in college. But the kinds of standardized tests given in each grade by states that form the basis of K-12 accountability are screamingly unpopular at the college level. (Honestly, they're not all that popular at the K-12 level either). Two caps in theory, but in practice? One mortarboard.

4) Graduation Rates

Instead of judging colleges by who they exclude, it could be fairer and a lot more useful to examine what happens to the students they let in. The most basic approach is to look at the graduation rate, as Forbes, U.S. News and other rankings do.

There's just one problem: If you're going to rank schools by graduation rate, how do you adjust for differences in the quality of entrants or the level of resources the school has available? A cash-strapped public university that takes all comers is likely to have a lower graduation rate than a private school with tiny classes and a big endowment. In the California State University system, just to pick one very large example, the four-year graduation rate is just 16 percent.

And don't forget, the mere number of students with diplomas doesn't speak to thequality of that diploma.

Bottom line: graduation is a crucial, if limited, yardstick. Graduation rates are most useful when comparing colleges within a similar category. Two mortarboards.

5) Earning Power

One of the biggest reasons people go to college is to get a better-paying job. So why not judge colleges, at least in part, by their graduates' incomes? It's a simple return-on-investment question, especially important given the huge amounts we're borrowing to go to school. And, as noted above, there's growing evidence that higher income is not necessarily linked to attending expensive private schools.

The only colleges currently regulated based on value for money are for-profits. According to a federal regulation known as the "gainful employment" rule, for-profit schools whose graduates can't pay back their loans can lose eligibility for federal student aid. The Obama administration's new ratings system would probably include graduate income as one measure. But as of right now, federal law prohibits linking records of students at individual schools to federal income or employment data.

In the meantime, the only employment and salary information we have is largely self-reported, on sites like Glassdoor.com, or collected by institutions themselves. In both cases, the data is likely to be incomplete. Also, some have argued that this method is unfairly biased against colleges that educate a lot of future teachers, social workers, and artists, and in favor of tech and engineering-heavy schools. Two mortarboards. 

6) Broader Outcomes

Income and employment don't tell us everything we need to know about the value of higher education. Far from it.

Educated people, by the numbers, are healthier, live longer, vote more, and have stronger marriages. And that's to say nothing of the intangible benefits to individuals of a liberal arts education and, to society, of having an educated and informed citizenry.

There must be colleges that do a better or worse job of developing those qualities. Unfortunately, what we don't have are agreed-upon ways of measuring them.

That's why the recent Gallup-Purdue survey is so interesting, with its findings that going to a top-rated school had no impact on later success or happiness.

And while that survey challenged our definitions of "prestige," the pollsters did find a strong link between great teaching and learning experiences in college, and how that showed up in terms of happy, engaged alumni years later.

"If you are a graduate who was emotionally supported during college, it more than doubles your odds of being engaged in work and triples your odds of thriving," says Brandon Busteed, director of Gallup's education practice. "So we're talking about life-altering differences."

They hope to market some of their services to universities, but it's a little ways down the road. If reliable ratings that include broader long-term outcomes emerge, we'd give them: Three mortarboards.

7) Individual Needs

Given this incomplete, fuzzy view of colleges, a would-be college student would be well advised to consider their own individual needs.

Noodle.com, a for-profit startup, takes a throw-everything-at-the-wall, consumer-friendly approach to college ratings, adding together the Department of Education's information on cost of attendance, retention and graduation rates with subjective and self-reported information.

Noodle.com will tell you not just a list of colleges matching your search criteria—if you enter your grades and transcript information, it can tell you which ones you are likely to get into, and which ones are rated most highly by students like you. "If you ask me what the best law schools are, I can give you a general list, but the answer we need to get to is asking, 'why do you want to go to law school?'" and returning a recommendation based on those motivations, says CEO John Katzman.

Of course, any system is only going to be as good as the data we have, which is wildly incomplete. With millions of students and countless variables, there's never going to be a ranking that can find the one true "best" college.

A customized approach, like Noodle's, keeps that fact front and center. Four mortarboards.

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/05/20/313985038/is-this-any-way-to-pick-a-college

Four Stand-Out College Essays About Money

May 12th, 2014, 5:35pm, Topics: essays, admissions, admissions officers, topics, financial aid, class, wealth, money, overcome


Talking about money is hard. Writing well about yourself may be harder still. So trying to do both at once, as a teenager, while addressing complete strangers who control your future, would seem to be foolhardy.

But each year, plenty of high school seniors who are applying to college give it a go. Many skip the story of the sports team triumph or the grandparent’s death and write essays about weighty social issues like work, class and wealth, or lack thereof. Perhaps that’s what affects them most. Or maybe those are the subjects that they think will attract an admissions officer’s eye.

In any case, for the second year, we put out a nationwide call for the best college application essays about these topics. With the help of Jennifer Delahunty, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and an accomplished essayist and editor herself, we picked four to share here.

They are a diverse lot, touching on topics ranging from work at McDonald’s and thrift store shopping to homelessness and reckoning with a parent’s job loss. What they share, however, is a quality that admissions officers crave but don’t see as often as they’d like: The applicant’s brain, laid bare on the page, wrapping itself around a topic that most people don’t write enough about or don’t write about in a deep or moving way.

“It’s the one part of the application where they completely control the voice, and that makes it a really valuable document for us,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions. “When you’re applying to an institution with thousands of students who have the same general academic and testing credentials, those things only get you in the door. The rest of the application will separate you out.”

Mr. Quinlan accepted Viviana Andazola Marquez, who lives in Thornton, Colo., into the class of 2018. Her short, matter-of-fact essay about the logistics of homelessness was the most powerful one we read.

“There it sits, sullen in the passenger’s seat like a child in time out,” she wrote of her frequent attempts to get her homework done using borrowed computers. “Here we go again — someone else’s laptop to navigate, another Wi-Fi network to hack, another stubborn connection to overcome. After a frustrating drive through the neighborhood and careful identification of a network, success is stated simply: connected.”

Ms. Delahunty was struck by two things in this essay. The first was the language. “This is almost like a poem, it’s so laconic and compressed,” she said. “ ’I fill the cracks in the road to success made by forces beyond myself.’ What a beautiful line.”

The second was the lack of bitterness, which Mr. Quinlan picked up on as well. “She uses the story to her advantage but she doesn’t lament it,” he said. “Lots of people write about obstacles, but there is a forward-looking nature to this. It’s a look at what she’s overcome without her steeping in it.”

Clare Connaughton steeps readers in her financial struggles a bit in her essay, noting how hard her mother has worked cleaning houses to keep them in a middle-class neighborhood. But much of it is about the joy she eventually found in shopping at thrift stores with her mother near their home in Mineola, N.Y. “We woke up early and are now waiting on a long line behind Brooklyn hipsters,” she wrote. “Our beloved thrift store is now trendy and popular. My mom and I laugh about it all the time during dinner.”

Ms. Connaughton will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. “There is a real sense of enlightened awareness in this one,” Ms. Delahunty said. “The idea that necessity became trendy is such an interesting perspective on how she lived her life.”

If there was an underdog in this group, it was Griffin Karpeck. The Darien, Ill., resident did a fair bit of telling and not quite enough showing in his essay about working at McDonald’s and what he learned from his colleagues. A job at McDonald’s is an ordinary thing, and teenagers tend to not make it a goal, let alone build a college application around it. So perhaps that’s why Ms. Delahunty, who has read over 15,000 application essays during her career, had never seen one about working under the golden arches before.

Neither had Laura Schutt, the assistant director of admission at Butler University, where Mr. Karpeck will matriculate this fall. She was thrilled to see it, however, given how often she tells prospective students that they shouldn’t be afraid to discuss their part-time jobs. “When I got this I thought ‘Oh my gosh, somebody finally wrote about something I talk about!’ ” she said. “It jumped out at me.”

I asked her whether this might be too big a risk, and said that a snooty admissions officer would wonder why an ambitious teenager would choose to write about selling hamburgers instead of literature. “No, it’s opening us up to him,” she said. “Him getting beyond that bubble of the suburbs and seeing how a job at McDonald’s is so important to various individuals and the meanings it has to them — he’s already dealing with the topics that you can carry forward onto a campus that was founded on liberal arts principles.”

Mr. Karpeck might have missed one big opportunity because of timing. One of the children of the chief executive of McDonald’s happens to be in one of his high school classes this school year. That would have made for a zinger of an opening line had it happened sooner, but he sent his application in before he realized who was sharing a class with him.

Andy Duehren, who will attend Harvard, took a different kind of risk, writing about his father’s job loss and depression and his own uncaring response to it.

“I became more critical, more attentive to his flaws and shortcomings,” he wrote of his father. “He lost his glasses, got linguini when we asked for rigatoni at the grocery store, and forgot my friends’ names. At family dinner he sat largely silent until he interrupted with a non sequitur or unrelated question. I promised myself, with all of my naïve bravado, that I would never make myself vulnerable like he did, that I would never wallow in past regrets or failures.”

In the essay, however, he makes himself plenty vulnerable. “I do love that, when a writer self-implicates,” Ms. Delahunty said. “And then comes this point of redemption. It’s a loving, honest portrait of a breadwinner that was operating on so many different levels.”

One thing that we’ve never seen in our two years of soliciting these essays is a great one about what it means to be rich. Bad ones abound at Kenyon, alas. “We see a lot of essays about students who have studied abroad and they recognize either their own privilege or that the poor brown people are happier than I,” she said. “That’s always the ending. I absolutely hate those essays, though I sound like a cynic.”

Ms. Delahunty allows, however, that it is hard for teenagers to write about privilege without sounding like they’re bragging. And it’s complicated, given how seldom affluent children are encouraged to acknowledge their class status and how few of them ever dislike the comfort and experiences that wealth can bring. Mr. Quinlan adds that given how hard many top colleges are working to attract the best lower-income students, applicants may be getting an implicit message that it’s better to write about struggling financially.

Still, plenty of parents are paying full freight at $60,000 a year or more. Here’s hoping that one of their children sends in an essay about an underexplored aspect of that life next year. We’ll be looking for them again in the mailbox at moneyessays@nytimes.com starting next winter, and we’ll publish a new batch in the spring.

Source: https://centerforadmission.squarespace.com/config#collectionId=500712a8e4b0fa181dde2031

Move Over STEM - Employers Value Liberal Arts, Too

Monday, April 27th, 12:47pm, Topics: STEM, liberal arts, declare major, employment, career

If there is one thing that can keep college students up at night - besides that final term paper they put off, of course - it's which major to declare while earning their bachelor's degrees.  For many individuals, this choice can have a profound impact on their graduate school and professional careers.  Some students may shy away from liberal arts majors as a result, instead considering in-demand science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) fields as their best bet. 

That's not necessarily the best decision to make.  While STEM subjects are certainly important, students can also gain highly valued skills by studying liberal arts.

Employers Look for Liberal Arts

The Fiscal Times pointed out that majoring in liberal arts tends to be viewed as a poor investment. The cost of higher education continues to climb, making students and parents alike yearn for some sort of guarantee that college will actually pay off further down the road. Stuck in this mentality, students may forgo certain majors that seem to have less real-world applications so that they can increase their odds of financial success after graduation.

But students who graduate from school with a liberal arts degree are far from doomed in terms of their chances to advance professionally. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities' report Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight, businesses are looking to hire well-rounded candidates who are familiar with a wide range of faculties. In fact, four out of five employers polled stated that they believe all students should cultivate a strong knowledge base spanning both sciences and liberal arts topics. 

Additionally, the vast majority of those surveyed affirmed that there is more to a student's job application than his or her major. The research revealed that 93% consider skills related to communication, critical thinking and problem solving to rank higher than the subject candidates studied in college.

Students Weigh Their Options

As with anything, students contemplating declaring their major in one of the humanities should take these findings with a grain of salt. Although employers may claim that they would prefer to hire candidates who have had exposure to liberal arts, this may be an attitude better suited for an ideal world. With economic uncertainty persisting and an unending sprint toward innovation, companies could find that when push comes to shove, they have to look out for their own financial interest and future security. This could mean that even though employers would love to take on the philosophy graduate who has a different method of thinking, they may have to go with someone with specialized IT skills who would prove invaluable.

Source: http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com/articles/move-over-stem---employers-value-liberal-arts-too_13787.aspx?mcid=53060#.U16FqChq7HN

Colleges Fund Incoming Undergraduates' Gap Years

Monday, April 27th, 2014, 12:41pm, Topics: gap year, term abroad, year abroad, students loans, financial aid, need-based aid

When most people think about study abroad programs, they tend to regard these experiences as invaluable components of some undergraduates' college careers. That being said, a share of schools throughout the country may now be laying the groundwork for individuals to head overseas before they enroll in a single university course. These so-called "gap years" are not an entirely new trend; Tufts University, along with other notable institutions, has recently kicked off a program that enables accepted students to participate in a year abroad and that mitigates hefty costs with financial aid.

Financial Hurdles Put Kibosh on Past Students' Gap Years

Taking time off between high school and college so that young adults can discover the world and find themselves has been a long-standing tradition throughout European nations. In recent years, this trend has made its way across the pond, as U.S. students find such a proposition highly appealing. However, not everyone can afford to travel for an entire year right before having to handle the expenses associated with earning a bachelor's degree. In light of this issue, a select number of colleges have decided to open up this opportunity to all of their incoming undergraduates, establishing programs and allocating funds to cover the costs that students would incur. 

Schools See Benefits of All-Expenses-Paid Programs

Paige Sutherland with The Associated Press reported that the Tufts venture plans to enable its students to challenge their perceptions of self and the world by navigating through a distinctly new culture. To foster this development, the university intends to ease the financial burden of a gap year, paying for everything from housing to air travel. Tufts would ultimately be saving their students tens of thousands of dollars, which could prove to be a smart investment, as undergraduates would start their actual college career in better financial circumstances. 

"A lot of kids are very burnt out after high school," Lydia Collins, a freshman at Tufts who took a year to work in microfinance in Ecuador before starting university, told The Associated Press. "Taking this time to be with yourself and see yourself in a new community and light will only help you to succeed in college."

Princeton University joins Tufts in this effort to educate undergraduates before they even set foot inside the classroom. This institution's program offers incoming students need-based assistance to fund their gap years abroad, allowing them to travel to exotic destinations, such as India and Senegal.

Source: http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com/articles/colleges-fund-incoming-undergraduates-gap-years_13809.aspx?mcid=53062#.U16Dqihq7HN

Social Media: The New Game Changer for College Applicants?

Monday, April 28th, 2014, 12:35pm, Topics: social media, college admissions, blog, internet presence, yield

The numbers for the Class of 2018 are in and they are more frightening than ever.

Getting into an elite college these days seems to carry the same odds as winning the lottery.

Stanford and Harvard just weighed in at under 6% while almost all Ivies now accept under 10% of all applicants. This selectivity is not limited to Ivy League schools either as Duke, MIT, Berkeley, University of Chicago and other elite schools continue to reject far more qualified applicants than ever before.

The essential lesson for high school juniors and their parents who are preparing for the Fall's application season is this: "Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in."

Indistinguishable from those who get in? This seriously begs the question of how acceptance decisions are made at these institutions. We all realize that given the number of qualified applicants, it is virtually impossible to make viable objective distinctions based only on GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, activities, essays and recommendations that all look the same. College acceptance decisions are arguably more subjective than ever before. An Ivy League admissions officer has even been quoted as saying: "Some 70 percent of kids who apply are qualified to come to school here, and we have space for one in ten. We can be as choosy as we like. It almost always comes down to whether or not you’re a likable person."

Enter social media. Let's drop the overly hyped fears of how colleges only use social media to reject qualified applicants. That notion is simply absurd. Instead, let's focus on how a thoughtful, responsible social media presence can help applicants stand out in a crowded field. Rather than sophomoric posts to impress their friends, high school students should be using social media platforms to build a presence that impresses college admissions officers. These nurtured public views can demonstrate their skills, interests and activities better than any college essay or personal statement. Authentic social media profiles and blogs documenting an applicant's activities, interests and academic successes tell a story in words and images that can and will set them apart from their other highly talented peers.

Social media is here to stay and will continue to influence character assessments made by colleges, scholarship committees and employers. Learning how to build a responsible online presence has become an essential life skill. It is time to let your social media work for you rather than against you. 

Source: http://socialassurity.com/newsandblog/2014/4/9/social-media-the-new-game-changer-for-college-applicants

Tips for Avoiding Senioritis

4:45pm, April 9th, 2014, Topics: senioritis, college admission, senior planning, senior spring

The symptoms show up every year. High school seniors try to balance extracurricular activities, a social life, college admission and perhaps a part-time job. Somewhere along the way, home work begins to seem less important and spending time with friends becomes the top priority. Then, they get accepted to college, and after that, high school seems even less important. School work begins to slide, and so do their grades. The diagnosis? Senioritis. 

Senioritis can be defined as 
a “sickness” that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation. Senioritis is easy to catch and hard to get rid of. It can also be dangerous to your plans for the future. Every year, colleges take back their offers of admission, put students on academic probation, or change financial aid packages because of it. For example, Wilkes University (PA) gives merit-based financial aid based in part on class rank. "Four [students] this year were awarded one merit level based on their class rank at the point of application, but [their] final transcripts showed that their class rank had fallen to such a level that they no longer qualified for the original merit level," says the dean of enrollment services at Wilkes. "The damage ranged from $1,000 per year to over $3,000 per year in merit aid." 
A less obvious consequence of slacking off senior year is the lack of being prepared for the challenges of college. Freshman year can be tough, even for students who kept up with their course work throughout high school. Imagine entering college with rusty study skills?

"The habits one forms early in life are often carried over into later stages of life, be it college or the professional world," says the dean. "Motivation and hard work will always win out over basic intelligence."

Regardless of the consequences, it is still tempting to let school work slide. After all, seniors are busy people. To help you fight that temptation, read on for some ways to avoid senioritis.

Plan ahead. You probably already know what activities you'll stay involved in this year. And you know that college applications are coming up fast. Plus, you want to make the most of your time with friends and family. Fitting all of it in without pulling your hair out (or pulling your grades down) is the goal. The best tool is a calendar or day planner. Write down all of your deadlines, for applications, papers, tests and so on. Then note your other activities, your sports schedule, drama or band rehearsals, SAT or ACT day, or college visits.

Then, map out what you have to do. To complete that English paper, when should you begin working on it? If the big game is the night before the due date, plan to finish the paper a few days ahead of time. You won't have time to get it done the night before because you'll be leading the team to victory!

Don't obsess. It's easy to get caught up in the college admission process and forget about the here and now.

"Don't spend the whole senior year obsessing about college admission," says the director of admission at Oberlin College (OH). "Going about the business of being a good student and good citizen, making choices for the betterment of your brain, body and spirit, often offers more benefit for college admission than some plan crafted to impress college admission officers." So don't get involved in some activity just to impress colleges. You don't have time for that. Instead, do the things you love, and drop activities that you're just not that committed to. (That doesn't include academics, though!)

Talk about it. Senior year can be sad and exhilarating at the same time. You and your friends catalog all the "lasts"—the last first day of school, the last football game, the last prom. But you're also looking forward to graduating and starting college.

"Remember in The Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow said 'part of me is over there and part of me is over here'?" says a representative from Westmont College (CA). "That's how seniors feel."

She advises seniors to talk about their feelings—which can range from fear of leaving high school to stress about college admission to anticipation of the new experiences college will bring. Useful people to talk to are your friends (who are going through the same things you are), your parents, your guidance counselor and other adults whom you respect.

Have fun. "I always encourage seniors to celebrate their senior year," says the representative from Westmont. "They have worked a long time to get to this point and should do all they can to enjoy it."

Source: http://www.nacacnet.org/studentinfo/articles/Pages/Senioritis.aspx

Do You Really Have Until May 1 to Decide?

4:23pm, April 9th, 2014, Topics: intention to enroll, deposit deadline, college decision, multiple deposits, admission decision

Students accepted for fall admission are supposed to have until May 1 to decide between the colleges that accepted them (unless you were admitted under a binding early decision program).  And yet some colleges seem to imply in their acceptance letters that waiting until that date could leave you shut out of housing options, classes, or even space in the class altogether.  So do you really have until May 1 to decide?

First, you should know that all colleges that are members of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling agree to follow the Statement of Principles of Good Practice which says clearly that, unless you are accepted in a binding early decision program, the college will…

“…permit first-year candidates for fall admission to choose among offers of admission, financial aid and scholarships until May 1 …”

“...work with their institutions’ senior administrative officers to ensure that financial aid and scholarship offers and housing options are not used to manipulate commitments prior to May 1."

“…neither retract nor adversely alter their offers of admission and/ or financial aid prior to May 1 for candidates who choose not to reply until that date, nor will they state or imply that candidates might incur such a penalty by waiting until May 1 to submit an enrollment deposit.”

So yes, unless explicitly stated otherwise, you have until May 1 to make up your mind.  If a college implies or outright says that waiting until May 1 could somehow be detrimental, don’t let it scare you into making a decision sooner than you’re ready.  Instead, call the admissions office and politely ask for clarification.  If you don’t get a straight answer, ask your counselor to call for you. This decision is too important to make in a hurry or without all the right information. 

In return, you need to do the right thing, too, and…

1. Reply to all your colleges by May 1, including those you decide not to attend (so they know the spot they offered you can now go to someone else).

2. Only place a deposit at one school.  You don't get to plunk multiple deposits down at more than one school so you can buy more time after May 1 to decide. 


Source: http://www.wiselikeus.com/collegewise/2012/02/do-you-really-have-until-may-1-to-decide.html

Please Don't Play the Multiple Deposit Game

4:15pm, April 9th, 2014, Topics: college admittance, multiple deposits, intention to enroll, deposit deadline

Seniors who've been admitted to several desirable colleges need to make some difficult decisions next month, as colleges require admitted students to declare their intention to enroll by May 1.  It can be a stressful time especially for a student who is really struggling with the decision. But whatever you do, don't try to cheat your way to more time by placing multiple deposits.

Some families plunk down deposits at multiple colleges in an attempt to buy a little more time for their kids to choose which college to attend.  The thinking is that you can hold your spot at a few schools and then back out of the additional schools when you eventually name the chosen one.

This is bad idea for a number of reasons. 

I know that this is your search process and you shouldn't make decisions based on other people.  But when you place multiple deposits, you're taking spots that other kids desperately want.  That's not a nice thing to do. 

Also, deadlines are real.  And sometimes, we have to make difficult decisions under time pressure because of those deadlines.  Successful people accept this and find a way to get things done when they need to be done.  The truth is that you're unlikely to gain any additional clarity surrounding your college choices by (literally) buying another week or two to think about it.  Take the allotted time to consider your options, but make your decision by May 1. 

And most importantly, if you place a deposit at more than one college and any of your schools find out that you're doing this, they can revoke your offer of admission (even if they're the school you eventually did choose).  College admissions officers take violations like this very seriously.  Imagine how a boss would react if she extended a job offer to someone and found out that he'd been dishonest with her during the interview process.  What if she found out he'd misled other companies with whom he'd interviewed.  Wouldn't that taint his reputation and cause the boss to take back his job offer, even if all of his credentials were still legitimate?  That's how colleges feel when they find out an accepted student was dishonest.

If they catch you lying (and that's what you're doing when you place multiple deposits), no college will care about your GPA or SAT scores or your certificate proclaiming that it was, in fact, you who discovered what really killed the dinosaurs.  You'll be out.   

I know what some of you are thinking. "How will a college possibly know if I place multiple deposits?"

Whatever the likelihood is that a college could discover it, is the risk worth the potential reward?  I don't think it is.

Source: http://www.wiselikeus.com/collegewise/2010/03/please-dont-play-the-multiple-deposit-game.html

Eleven Hot College Majors

4:10pm, April 9th, 2014, Topics: college major, emerging fields, majors, employment

There's good news for students looking for college majors with great employment prospects. Employers are looking for students with a background in several traditional fields, and colleges are creating new majors in emerging areas. The following are 11 hot majors you might want to explore.

Biomedical Engineering

The folks standing at the intersection of the life sciences, engineering and medicine can enjoy exciting work – and a stable job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the biomedical engineering field will see 62 percent growth in jobs between 2010 and 2020.


This field teaches students how to build automated identification devices, such as facial recognition systems. The biometrics industry is expected to grow to $363 million by 2018, according to New York-based Transparency Market Research.

Forensic Science

Forensic science students learn how to use technology to analyze evidence. As technology evolves, more professionals are needed to operate the new, sophisticated tools to prevent and investigate crimes.

Computer Game Design

The global market for video and online games is expected to reach $82 billion by 2017, according to DFC Intelligence, a San Diego-based market research company.

To succeed, designers must learn animation, audio design, programming and production management skills.


Large companies and governments have made protecting their computer systems a top priority. Between 2014 and 2016, the Pentagon plans to add more than 4,000 experts at its Cyber Command. Students who specialize in cybersecurity can also expect to find openings in health care, energy, and at security services firms.

Data Science

Data science draws from various fields, including math, statistics and computer science.The International Data Corp., a technology market research firm, says the global volume of computerized data is doubling every two years. This will help create some 4.4 million jobs worldwide by 2015, estimates technology research firm Gartner Inc.

Business Analytics

People employed in business analytics use data and statistical methods to examine business performance. Courses focus on computer software, math, statistics and communication skills.

Petroleum Engineering

New technology has created access to shale formations thought unproductive 10 years ago. To tap these reserves, a new crop of petroleum engineers will be in demand.

Public Health

Two factors give public health majors rosy prospects: the threat of global epidemics, and the part of health reform that focuses on prevention. Students can focus on the scientific aspects of the discipline, the statistical angle or policy, and find work in hospitals, nonprofits and community health centers.


Between 2012 and 2020, robotics could create between 2 million and 3.5 million new jobs, according to Metra Martech, a London-based market research firm. The field is multidisciplinary, drawing on aspects of computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, psychology and many other disciplines.


New and retooled environmental degree programs are placing fresh emphasis on practical problem-solving, a skill enticing to employers. Sustainability managers in all sorts of companies and organizations look for ways to improve efficiency and decrease waste and pollution.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/slideshows/11-hot-college-majors/13

The Waiting Game

March 27, 2014, 3:06pm, Topics: deferred, rejected, deferral letter, followup, waitlist, college options, admission

Some of you may have heard from your colleges already. If you are still waiting, or have been waitlisted from your favorites colleges, it is important for parents and students to have patience and get a handle on the following:

  • Contact Your Schools: Call all of the schools you have not heard from and check on your application package to make sure it is complete. This time of year is difficult for admissions offices because they often have not received everything they need to make a decision on you! Call and help everyone in the process. The office manager or assistant can often pull up your file on the computer and provide you with your status. 
  • Keep in Touch: If you are waitlisted, be sure to return your response form if you want to remain on the waitlist. Additionally, write a letter to go into your file for your "first choice" colleges, providing an update of your activities and grades while emphasizing your love for their school and intention of attending. Provide relevant updates on your life; a great grade on a paper, a recently acquired honor or award, making an athletic team, being cast in a play, or an extra recommendation letter. The students who keep in touch are the first ones off a wait list, as they are showing demonstrated interest in their college of choice. It is okay to ask how many students were placed on the wait list last year, and how many of those gained admission. 
  • Explore Your Options: There are reputable colleges that will still consider your application. If you feel or your family feels as if you want more choices for next year, please call and set up an appointment to explore your options. 
  • Make the Best of the Situation: It's tough to be deferred from your dream school, but it may be a signal to move on. Once you have completed all the steps to follow up with the admissions office, focus your energy on making your best choice possible among the places to which you've been admitted, and the positive contributions these schools could make toward your life. 
  • Let us know the good news! The decision of where to attend can be the toughest of all, and we are looking forward to assisting in the decision-making process. Remember, you can be quite happy at more than one college.

It is a tough a year as ever. Remember that being waitlisted means you are still in the game! Now, college admissions representatives want to see if you are serious about wanting to attend.