Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

I’ve done my share of ranting about the media’s focus on all the bad news in college admissions today.  So it was nice to see this article as a voice of reason in the "Parenting" column of the New York Times.  The author, a Harvard interviewer, points out that most of the kids he interviews won’t get in to Harvard.  In fact, he admits that none of his own four children will get in (they won’t even apply).  And most importantly, he reminds readers that all of those kids will still be OK even without a Harvard acceptance.  Thanks to Paul K and Katie K (though not the same "K") for sending it to me.

Decisions, Decisions

Like many seniors across the country, the members of our Collegewise class of 2007 are making their final college selections before the May 1 deadline.  And more than any class we can remember, they seem to be wrestling with their choices, seeking our advice about which college will really be the right  choice for them.  That’s something we love to see because it means…

1.  In spite of all the bad news, seniors are still getting accepted to colleges.  They have choices. 
2.   Our seniors giving this decision the time and attention that it deserves.

If you’re in a wrestling match with your college choices and are struggling to make the right decision, we’ve got a few tips that might help a little. 

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Telling It Like It Is

We’ve always been impressed by colleges who aren’t afraid to come right out and say, "We aren’t for everybody."  We think kids deserve honest answers about what their life at each college would actually be like, but it’s often hard to get those answers from the slick brochures and flashy websites.  Student blogs, however, are a different story.  They’ll tell it like it is.  And according to this article, one quarter of college admissions offices now offer blogs written by students or admissions personnel, and the vast majority of those blogs are largely uncensored.   What a great way to give prospective students a sense of what it’s actually like to be there.   

Just Say “Yes.”

We’re always telling our Collegewise kids that where they go to college isn’t nearly as important as what they do while they are there.  That’s an even more important concept to remember at this time of year for kids who might be dealing with some admissions rejections.  Four minutes is hardly enough time to explore this idea, but NBC’s Today Show recently had on Lloyd Thacker from the Education Conservancy.  Lloyd advises that kids say "no" to colleges that rejected them, and start saying "yes" to a future at a college who did.  It’s good advice, and as we’re big fans of Lloyd and the work his organization is doing, I just wanted to share the clip.   

A Brief Trip to the Soapbox

This year, the nation’s most selective colleges got even more competitive.  Is anybody really surprised?  Every year they get more competitive.  And every year around this time, respected media like the New York Times run articles like this one about acceptance rates dropping, applicant numbers rising, and exceptional students failing to gain access to the highly competitive colleges of their dreams.  I’m a college counselor, and it’s gotten to the point I don’t know why I even bother to read these articles because I know exactly what they’re going say–the same thing they said last year and the year before that.  So while I’m on my soapbox, I’ve got a college-related suggestion for kids, parents and media. 

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“Fair” thee well…

A lot of students and parents return from a college fair wondering what they really got out of it.  But you can make your experience at the fair much more productive with just a little preparation.  The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) offers some good tips to get the most out of your visit to the fair, as well as a schedule of fairs near you.  We’ve also got some Collegewise tips of our own that have helped our students.  And finally, read Arun’s blog entry to hear a former admissions officer’s fair perspective. 

Give it the old college try…again.

This is the time of year when seniors get all their news–both good and bad–from colleges.  Some of those applicants across the country will, unfortunately, get all bad news and be left with no college choices.  This article reminds them (and the rest of us) that there is still plenty of room on lots of college campuses, like UC Riverside, UC Merced, Cal State Northridge, Cal State L.A., Loyola Marymount University, Whittier College and Mount St. Mary’s, to name a few.  It’s nice to be reminded that, no matter who you are, if you want to go to college, you (still) can go. 

A Fool’s Errand?

A Swarthmore professor of psychology offers his proposed fix for the college admissions craze in this article.

While I don’t necessarily agree that drawing students out of a hat is the right solution (though he certainly makes a good case), his premise is absolutey true–"Students trying to get into the best college, and colleges trying to admit the best students, are both on a fool’s errand. They are assuming a level of precision of assessment that is unattainable."

Fake Ranks?

We’re not fans of the US News rankings, and apparently, neither is the president of Sarah Lawrence College.  Her recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post argues that the problem with US News college rankings is that they "are far from reliable" and in fact, "some of their numbers are made up."

The letter is sparking even more discussion of the perils of college rankings.   Inside Higher Ed just did a great piece entitled "Would US News Make up Fake Data? "  A lot of people in the know seem to think the answer is "Yes."

St. John’s College

Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM

The home page of the St. John’s College website reads: 

“The following teachers will return to St. John’s College next year: Plato,
Newton, Galileo, Cervantes, Dante, Melville…”

The list of recognizable names continues on and fades into the background.

No, St. John’s doesn’t literally reincarnate history’s greatest minds, but its unique
“Great Books” program means that students spend all four years reading,
studying and discussing the most important books in Western tradition.

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