Meredith Reynolds - Head Start College Blog

Archive for June, 2007

Grades in the Mail! Work Smarter, Not Just Harder
June 20th, 2007

End of another school year…should ‘ve of, could ‘ve, would ‘ves abound. Whatever your story, thankfully, “It’s over!” Regrettably, that moment of euphoria–throwing your papers into the trash bins or into the air on the walk home, is ever so fleeting.

Breaking the crazy, lazy daze of summer haze, I must report that grades do matter. They matter a lot! According to a recent University of California study, high school grades are a better predictor of college performance than the dreaded SAT’s. [We knew that all along…but now its true because University of California said so.]

Recognizing that the college admissions offices exist to identify high school students who will succeed and thrive at the various colleges and universities across the country. I believe the next few years will bring even more emphasis by college admissions officers on grades, activities, community service and employment…less on SAT’s. This trend will not be limited to small liberal arts colleges. UCLA adopted just such an holistic approach to admissions this year and reports good results particularly in the area of minority admissions indirectly confirming the SAT’s socioeconomic bias.
What to do? Take a day off, go to the beach, the shore, the lake or the river and then come back home committed to working even harder next year. Working harder means also working smarter.  Select classes, activities, community service and work that allows you to explore your interest. Less can be more if it is done better.

Oh yes, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Princeton or Cal State Long Beach: Numbers Aren’t Always What They Seem
June 6th, 2007

F. King Alexander, President of Cal State Long Beach, asserts in today’s “Inside Higher Ed” that people need to change how they evaluate a college’s program. Currently colleges are ranked by “US News” in large part by SAT scores and graduation rates (first-time, full time enrollees who earn degrees within six years). Princeton leads the country with a rate of 97 percent. Cal State Long Beach reports a 48 percent graduation rate. Alexander insists a comparison of these two numbers does not accurately reflect the relative quality of education offered at the two institutions.

Alexander does not propose throwing out graduation rates as a tool for comparison, but suggests adding to that measure the total graduates (8000 for Long Beach, much less for Princeton) and the percentage of students who are eligible for Pell Grants (a proxy for serving disadvantaged students). Alexander suggest that by adding these numbers many of the excellent public universities would begin to compare favorably with the private institutions that currently dominate the top of the US News rankings and thereby have more of an opportunity to catch the attention of the highly qualified high school seniors.
It would be an oversimplification if you discard Alexander’s proposal as an attempt to bash elite private schools and build up public universities. In the same article, he notes that Cornell University, University of Southern California and Brigham Young University are currently ranked slightly less competitive than their peers but graduate far more students from economic bases that include larger shares of Pell eligible students than their peers. Alexander is asking that we consider which institution is really doing the best by its students? For parents and students, its not as simple to know which school is “better” as US News would like us to think.

The “New” Chapman University: Orange, CA
June 5th, 2007

The papers have been filled with accolades for the new, state-of-the art film school at Chapman University that many believe rivals or surpasses the traditional icon University of Southern California. Applications to the film school have been streaming in with only 22% being offered a position.

What the papers may have missed was what was going on at the rest of Chapman University just four blocks away. There too the number of applications have been growing each year to the point the school no longer offers interviews.  It was reported by admissions that they accepted 44% of the applicants for non-film school programs.

Why the growing popularity? Though most definitely a liberal arts university that encourages students to explore many fields, Chapman prides itself in producing graduates with real-world skills, pre-professional training as they describe it. Obvious examples are business/accounting, clinical psychology experience, nursing, teaching and much more. Improving its graduates chances of landing a good job is popular with parents and students alike.
Chapman learning takes place in small classes with maximum student/professor interaction.  Construction was everywhere on this very compact main campus when I visited this past week. New libraries, dorms, classroom buildings are intermingled with buildings that date back to the founding of Chapman–the date of the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln.  Few schools in the country can boast of  “no parking problem” as does Chapman that just completed construction of a brand new football field and track over a two-story underground parking structure!

Though Orange has a plethora of antique stores that are of little interest to most students the restaurants are reported to be good and it sits minutes from Angel Stadium, the Pond and of course Disneyland…the happiest place on earth. All in all, I would recommend you give this “new” Chapman a look–definitely a small, liberal arts university on the upswing.

Young Men and College: Aren’t Going and Aren’t Staying?
June 4th, 2007

“Women make up 58 percent of college and university students, with the percentage of men shrinking every year.”

“Nationwide, male students are also much more likely than women to drop out of school, have lower grades, have run-ins with campus judicial systems and even commit crimes…A lot of times its fighting, vandalism, damaging property. The overwhelming majority of the time it involves alcohol.”

“Experts also say men are less likely to seek help from tutors, teachers and counselors than women–one reason they probably drop out more often.”
Orange County Register June 4, 2007.

According to this Register article, university professionals are becoming more interested in serving the specific needs of male students. University of California Irvine Asst. Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham believes boys of all races generally do worse in school because they are more physically active and find it harder to sit and study or listen to a lecture.

Along that line, together with my local PTA book club, I recently read The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life, by Michael Gurian. Gurian’s message is that the innate learning style of boys is inconsistent with traditional kindergarten through high school education programs. In addition to brain research, he includes separate chapters on boys with ADD/ADHD, undermotivated boys and sensitive boys. Whether or not Gurian’s specific suggestions for change will be effective in bettering the lot of boys in our schools is yet to be seen. However, Gurian’s work most certainly will raise awareness of the learning differences between boys and girls which is an important first step.

As parents we all know boys are different from girls and boys are different from each other. But if for example, if boys are less likely to seek out help with school then perhaps as parents we need to stay more on top of our son’s grades in order to encourage them to get help when they need it. We hope that by the time our son is in college he will have learned the benefits of seeking help and will initiate it on his own…well, perhaps after a stumble or two freshman year.

On my son’s graduation day from Oberlin College, I felt pride and relief that he had stuck it out. So many of his male friends from freshmen year didn’t cross the stage that day. As he gathered his cap and diploma, a woman rushed up to him and gave him a giant hug–it was his tutor from the learning center who he finally sought out his sophomore year. After the ceremony driving to lunch he summed it up perfectly with a big smile on his face, “I’m never going to school again!” Well two years later he makes mention from time to time of graduate school, but no definite plans. He loves his work as a musician which pays the rent so everything is good.
PS In the interest of equal time…a very different book but one about challenges girls are facing is Stressed-Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure, by Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D. Subject for future blog.

Perhaps most important for the entire family, the Head Start College program paces students to complete their applications by Thanksgiving.


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