Meredith Reynolds - Head Start College Blog

Archive for August, 2007

Colleges That Change Lives: Go West Pope We’re Here
August 9th, 2007

As promised I made my way last night to the Universal City Hilton for the annual Southern California CTCL panel discussion and college fair. Students and parents continued to stream into the room as the introductory speaker explained the origins of Pope’s book of the same title.  As the now legend goes Pope working as an education writer for New York Times was concerned about all of the “horror” stories surrounding college admissions, particularly surrounding Ivy league and “Brand name” colleges. Insisting that the majority of colleges accept 70% of those who apply and most students are accepted to their first choice college, he set out to find the quality, lesser known great liberal arts colleges  by interviewing students and faculty without the knowledge of  college administrators. His current list (schools can be dropped and added) includes 40 small (under 4000), liberal arts colleges and universities.

Of course I was nodding agreement when CTCL rep emphasized that “match” was the key, not the “prize”.  However, a critical element in any student’s “match” is location and  Pope has failed to find a single CTCL’s in sixteen states including California most western states and the midwest. When asked why California has not one CTCL Pope is reported to answer, “I sought the unknown schools and most California schools are well-known.” Antioch (though closed now) , Beloit and Reed college are far from unknown. If Pope wishes to help students from all over the country find a good match and I challenge him to look at an Occidental College, Mills College or any of the Claremont Colleges. California does have CTCL.
However, don’t misunderstand, I support wholeheartedly the core characteristics of the undergraduate education that Pope identifies including frequent opportunities to work with professors and frequent opportunities to work and play with students pursuing a myriad of interests outside the classroom. But for some students the good match is a medium sized school with a broader curriculum and more diverse student body…or even a large school for others. For example, University of Oregon is a medium sized public university that works very hard to offer many smaller learning experiences for undergraduates.

My recommendation is to read Popes’ book particularly the first two chapters, familiarize yourself with the desired qualities and find colleges and universities that “match” your student’s broader interests with as many of these CTCL qualities as possible.

One Postscript: Did CTCL offer an alternative to the “horrors” of college admissions as was their express motivation. Approximately 400 students and parents were present last night (100 without chairs during the panel discussion) and then directed to visit 35 college tables in a crowded room (at any given time 5-10 people at each table). Unwilling to push my way to tables,  I left early. In the foyer I found numerous high school students shaking their heads saying “It’s crazy in there”. I wonder if they are more confident about their chances to get into their first choice school after last night?…or do they think there’s so many applicants, will I be accepted anywhere?

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


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