Meredith Reynolds - Head Start College Blog

Archive for April, 2008

RN’s 101 Health/Wellness Tips for College Students
April 24th, 2008

Just reviewed this article and it provides advice for college students that recognizes the realities of college life.Topics covered include: diet, exercise, sleep, sexual health, illness, stress, mental health, and study abroad. So click the link and print a copy and go over it with your son/daughter or… …print a copy and give it to your son/daughter for them to go over on their own.

College Survey: Factors in Admissions Decisions
April 23rd, 2008

…the college search “‘two-step”

EVERY COLLEGE IS NOT FOR YOU: Know Your Strengths and Apply to Colleges that Value those Strengths.

Happily colleges and universities are not all the same. Step one of the college search process is to consider what you require in a college experience and identify a set of colleges that “match” your requirements. Step two is to realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses, review the application process of each of your “match” college comparing and determine those college admissions processes that will highlight your strengths.

“Factors in College Admissions”

Source: 2007 State of
College Admissions NACAC
(National Association for College Admission Counseling)

Public vs. Private Institutions:
Note: Admissions Officers in public Institutions read on average 2.5 times more applications than their private counterparts.

Private colleges place a higher value on Tip Factors: essay/writing sample, interview counselor and teacher recommendations, work and extracurricular activities and demonstrated interest.

Private colleges attribute slightly more importance to strength of curriculum.

Public colleges are more likely to consider class rank to be considerably important, while private colleges rated it as moderately important.

Small vs. Large Colleges:

Larger colleges placed more emphasis on admission test scores than smaller colleges.
Smaller colleges attributed more importance to essay, interview, counselor and teacher recommendations, and demonstrated interest.

Comparing Colleges based on Selectivity Level:

More selective colleges place more emphasis on tip factors and the evolving academic factors. Because applicants to most selective institutions typically have similarly high grades and test scores, these colleges need more information. (Grades in college prep courses are of considerable importance to 85.7% as compared with grades in all classes are of considerable importance to 54.2%.)

More selective colleges placed slightly more emphasis on subject test scores (AP and IB) and SAT II scores.

Numbers Say Look East of Mississippi
April 14th, 2008

Parents, students, high school officials and colleges anxiously read  forecast  after forecast of the number of high school graduates in upcoming years. Most recently, the Western Interstate Commission for High Education (WICHE) released its 7th edition of “Knocking at the College Door”.

The good news is that on a national level, the number of public high school graduates is projected to peak this year at just over 3 million before beginning a gradual decline through 2013-14 —when numbers are expected to begin climbing back to peak levels by 2017-18. However, it will be most meaningful for individual families and colleges to consider the numbers region by region because there is considerable variance between them.
Starting closest to home the number of high school graduates in the Western region peaks this year. Between now and 2014-15 the total number of graduates will decline only 2% and then begin rising. California high school graduate numbers will remain stable. However, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Utah will experience explosive growth (increase between now and 2014-15 of 20%). What this means to future college applicants in California –many may find colleges and universities in popular neighboring states relatively more difficult to gain acceptance to.
Other popular destinations for California students are Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. A bit of better news here is that those states are predicted to have slowing production of high school graduates (losses between 5-10% between now and 2014-15).

Not to be forgotten the Pacific Northwest. Both Oregon and Washington like California are predicted to to have stable production of high school graduates through 2014-15.

In summary, the Western region will have overall significant increase in numbers of high school graduates while East and Midwest will experience declines. Advice: Time to open those maps and look past the Mississippi.

PS: Oh yes, and current second through fifth graders may enjoy historic low graduation rates…! Yippee!

Spots for Top 20,000 High School Graduates in Country
April 13th, 2008

It’s that time of year when parents and students are left shaking their heads. We all know a handful of truly exceptional high school students that we have watched with awe through their high school years and are sure they can “name their ticket” and go wherever they choose… sadly that is rarely the case.

Let’s assume “truly exceptional high school student” wishes to go to an Ivy League school. To follow is the number of spaces in each school’s freshman class: Brown (1,455), Columbia (1,852), Cornell (3,378), Dartmouth (1,021), Harvard (1,679), Univ of PA (2,541), and Yale (1,318). The total freshmen spaces in Ivy League schools is 13,244.

Suppose your “truly exceptional high school student” isn’t so sure Ivy League is everything so he/she is also considering Duke (1,618), Georgetown(1,626), Northwestern (1,968), and Stanford (1,629). Adding these schools brings the total freshmen spots at prestigious private schools to 20,085!

This past year there were 3M public high school graduates. If forty percent went to a college or university that means there were 1,200,000 public college applicants (private/parochial high school graduates not counted…so nos are low) and our “truly exceptional high school student” needs to be in top 20,085 (top 2%) of all high school graduates (not just those at your high school). Though a extrapolation I would caution that the “truly exceptional public high school student” should be in top 1% of country to take into account private school graduate competitition.
A growing factor to add is the increased number of foreign students attending undergraduate colleges in the United States. This number is expected to continue to grow with the weak dollar. These foreign students who offer international and ethnic diversity at little cost to college.

So recognize how stiff the odds are and congratulate your “truly exceptional high school student” if they are accepted at one of these top private schools! And of course hope that its a good match not merely a prize?!

Admissions Rates: Not at Bottom Yet!
April 4th, 2008

A story repeating itself at colleges and universities across the country is falling acceptance rates sending shock waves through homes and high schools across the country. The Washington Square News (NYU’s paper) reported yesterday that NYU’s acceptance rate fell 8% to “its lowest rate in years”–24%. The reason for the drop is not unique to NYU. Too many students accepted places in last year’s class forcing NYU admissions to limit even more the number of students offered places in the class of 2012.

Some suggest this shortage of capacity is “only at the few most competitive schools” or “the result of students submitting more applications”. I have watched the trend of falling acceptance rates at schools that accept 40% and more of their applicants. Sadly, there are no “sure things” anymore.

Many colleges and universities have gotten creative in attempts to expand their capacity by offering freshman placement at abroad programs in the fall or admission in January taking advantage of juniors who typically go overseas opening campus housing. [Query: With the dollar at its current low, will predicted numbers of juniors go overseas? What if they stay on campus?]

Demographers promise “Within a few years, fewer high school students will be applying for college nationwide, and the admission rates will probably start going back up.” …How many is “a few years”? How many “fewer” high school students? And which college admissions rates will rise, when and how high? I dont see anything tangible in that prediction to help high school students in their college search.
One fact we do know is there are no “Do overs” with a student’s applications. For that reason, I strongly encourage you to listen carefully to advice of your high school counselor and others who have been through multiple admission cylces. In addition, I caution you that when you look at the numbers in any of the college reference books realize they are often as much as two years old and may very well be 10-16% above current levels in acceptance rates, test scores and GPA’s.
But don’t despair. There are plenty of colleges out there where your student will thrive. The times dictate that you as parents and students need to look beyond “the big names”, be open to colleges you may never have heard of and find the diamond in the rough that will welcome your student AND most important give them a great college education/experience.

Boomerang Student: College Graduate Back Home!?
April 3rd, 2008

Look around at your friends with college graduates. What are their college graduates doing? Many are living at home!

Studies reveal that a growing phenomena is a young person who goes away to college, has a great experience, graduates, then moves back home for a year or two to figure out what to do with his or her life. Graduates and parents are wondering whether it makes sense to spend four or more years at college and finish with no clear sense of who they are or what they want to do next.

The trend points to one of the great shortcomings of many of our nation’s leading colleges and universities. Structured, mentored opportunities to think about life after graduation are rare. The formal curriculum focusses on the academics disciplines of the arts and sciences. Advising on how various majors connect to pathways into the workplace is typically haphazard. Career planning offices are often understaffed and marginal to college life.

Programs that give undergraduates in the liberal arts the opportunity to step outside an academic framework and see how the subjects they are studying connect to life beyond college are critical. Employers and graduate programs prefer students with experience in the fields in which they intend to work or pursue advanced degrees.

Most colleges today advertise some sort of internship program. Only a limited number, however, have created a structured, well-supported program that helps students find and prepare for the right placement, link that experience back to classroom work, and provide for reflection in a mentored setting.

College will be one of life’s richest experiences. But remember that college is both an experience in itself and a building block of a total life structure. Choose a college that takes this latter role seriously.

[Excerpts from The Christian Science Monitor, January 10, 2008/ Freeland.]

Don’t be Defined by Colleges. Define Yourself!
April 1st, 2008

To follow is an article from FORBES that I hope will add perspective to your college search whether a high school senior or freshman. FIGHT HARD to always remain in CONTROL of the process , making it a process that responds to your needs, not those of colleges…because as suggested by this article, you will never predict the needs of the college of your choice.

Don’t Take It Personally
Joie Jager-Hyman 04.01.08, 6:00 AM ET

The largest number of students in U.S. history–a whopping 3.3 million, according to the Department of Education–are expected to graduate from high school this spring, which inevitably means increased competition for college admissions, especially on our nation’s elite campuses. This week, thousands of ambitious students will receive notice that they were rejected from some of the colleges to which they applied. Though it can be tempting for students (and parents) to take these decisions personally, it is important to remember that the colleges themselves have an entirely different view of the admissions process.

It wasn’t until I worked in college admissions that I learned the monumental role of circumstance in what is often labeled a test of accomplishment.

Just days after I had graduated with the class of 2000, I was offered and quickly accepted a position as Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College. The job was instantly appealing because, like so many recent graduates, I didn’t want to leave college. And, even after four years as a student there, I couldn’t help but be in awe of Dartmouth. After dropping me off on the first day of orientation, my mother turned to me with teary eyes and said, “I can’t believe we went from Auschwitz to Dartmouth in two generations.” I had experienced what felt like a miraculous transformation from outsider to insider and wanted to help others experience this journey as well.

One of the primary ways in which Dartmouth’s admissions office trained new hires was to have us read the previous year’s applications, including the notes and decisions recorded by the admissions staff. The files were mesmerizing; each manila folder held captivating papers of potential. It wasn’t just the applicants themselves who were lobbying for admission–it was entire communities. Teachers, counselors, peers and employers wrote in on their behalf, describing blossoming future scientists, artists and wide-eyed contributors to society at large. Before reading the ultimate verdict, I tried to play my new role. I divided the applications into two piles–kids that were “better” than I had been in high school and kids that were “worse.” Those in the former category would get in. It seemed so easy.

After I had made my initial decisions, I checked to see if I had predicted accurately, if the students I had chosen were currently walking around campus in “shmobs” (our nickname for freshmen mobs who went everywhere in packs before they developed real friendships). Reading over the admissions officers’ notes and verdicts, I quickly realized that something very powerful had happened in the four years since I had graduated from high school. Most of the “better than me” pile had gotten wait-listed or rejected. The college was not only getting superior applicants, but more of them. In an ironic twist, I almost certainly would not have been able to admit myself with the credentials I had in high school.

With a few weeks of training under my belt–reading through files, sitting in on recruitment meetings, giving campus “information sessions,” etc.–I hit the road, traveling across the country to speak to students, parents and counselors about the application process. At first, it was pretty cool. I had never stayed in a hotel by myself, rented a car or been looked at as a real authority figure.

It didn’t take long before I was confronted with the challenges of representing a sought-after college in a competitive admissions cycle. During my travels and in my information sessions, I was often met with tooth-gnashed accusations and angst-ridden questions: An irate guidance counselor demanding to know why we “hated” her school and continually disillusioned her top students, a frantic mother following me into the bathroom to ask if her son should take his SATs again. Nervous students addressing me as “ma’am,” asking if I thought it was OK for them to drop AP Physics. All I could do was to answer these people in the ways that I had been taught to answer. Deep down, however, it became quite difficult to ignore a clichéd but legitimate existential question: Who was I to judge?

The months of November through March are known as “reading season” in the admissions world, when the officers close the curtain and retreat backstage to do the gritty work of evaluating applications. We knew what we were looking for in a class overall. We wanted top students, winning sports teams, high SAT scores, socioeconomic diversity, legacies, students of color, sons and daughters of big donors, strong international students and a even some “creative loners”–a term coined by Dartmouth President Emeritus James Friedman, which is shorthand for the rare students who really love to learn but don’t necessarily know how to pad their resumes.

With all these things to consider, there was no question that we had to turn down many exceptional candidates. It was simply a matter of too many great applications and too few spaces.

I now understand that the college admissions process is not about assessing an applicant’s future potential or past achievements in a vacuum. The job of the admissions office is to assemble a class of students that satisfies the institution’s different priorities and limitations. For what it’s worth, every student who is admitted to a top school–whether or not they play football or have parents who donated money–is qualified for admission and belongs there. And, plenty of athletes, legacies, students of color and even “creative loners” get rejected from selective universities each year, as do plenty of kids with great grades, high test scores and exceptional extracurricular resumes.

In the end, applicants have little control over the decisions that colleges make. However, they do have control over how they interpret these decisions. The smartest students realize that college admissions should never be taken personally–whether or not they get into the Ivy League.

Joie Jager-Hyman is the author of Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Students and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize.

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


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