Posts tagged ‘Harvard University’

April 26, 2013

Students ‘baffled’ and ‘dumbfounded’ by 2013 college admissions decisions

by Grace

The number of college applications continues to increase and admission rates continue to decrease, with 2013 decisions leaving some students ‘a bit “baffled” and “dumbfounded”’.

The New York Times recently reported 2013 acceptance rates for about 75 colleges.

Applicant pools are growing larger; the University of Southern California received more than 47,000 applications this year. That’s 10,000 more students than just two years ago, when this year’s applicants were sophomores.

Colleges are also becoming more selective. The Ivy League reported an admit rate that dipped to 5.79 percent at Harvard this year. Stanford accepted 5.69 percent of its more than 38,800 applicants. The University of Chicago accepted only 8.8 percent of its more than 30,300 applicants.

Why are so many good students denied admission?

There are various reasons for this: Colleges concerned about their rankings are appearing more selective (and appealing) than ever. Admission officers often select students who are likely to enroll. And, of course, the huge volume of applications dictates that there just isn’t enough room for every good student who applies.

Unexpected outcomes have reinforced the sometimes unpredictable nature of the “holistic”college application process.

There are other reasons for the outcomes, all of which make holistic college admissions a complex, unpredictable process. So if you are a student or a parent who is scratching your head as you review the chart, just know that you’re not alone. Our student bloggers are a bit “baffled” and “dumbfounded” about the admission decisions, too.

One particularly frustrated parent:

I’ll scream if I hear the word “holistic” at a college info session again….

Dan Edmonds argues that higher selectivity is a myth.

What many parents and students don’t realize is that increasing numbers of applications isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s harder to get into a selective school; rather, it’s a sign of changes in behavior among high school seniors. More and more people who aren’t necessarily qualified are applying to top schools, inflating the application numbers while not seriously impacting admissions. In fact, it has arguably become easier to get into a selective school, though it may be harder to get into a particular selective school.

This helps explain why students feel pressured to apply to so many schools, with the average student applying to more than nine colleges this past fall.

Our high school guidance counselor keeps saying there is no need to panic.

… there are more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in this country, and many of them offer an excellent education and admit the majority of students who apply. But as interest increases at selective institutions, it may help disappointed applicants to know that thousands of smart, talented, qualified students had to be turned away.

March 6, 2013

Quick Links – Title IX for boys; digital learning works better for some; higher funding does not equate with higher graduation rates; more

by Grace

◊◊◊  Glenn Reynolds suggests we should consider ‘Title IX for our boys’

… If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

◊◊◊  ‘For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.’

Digital learning is expanding access to higher education, but may be widening the  achievement gap. Students who have trouble learning in a traditional classroom have even more trouble learning online, concludes a study of community college students in Washington state. For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.

Online courses can widen learning gap (Joanne Jacobs)

◊◊◊  Texas comes out looking good in latest Department of Education of Education report.

The Department of Education has just released its first state-by-state comparison of education statistics, and the report has a few surprises. Texas performed extremely well, tying five other states for the third-best graduation rate in the country, at 86 percent.

And Texas isn’t the only high-performing red state: Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Tennessee all place within the top ten as well. Meanwhile, New York, Rhode Island, and California, all of which take a traditional, high-spending, blue model approach to education, are closer to the middle of the pack , with graduation rates in the mid-70s.

This is convincing evidence against the popular notion that we can fix the public education system if only we are willing to spend more money. Not only does Texas do a better job of graduating its students than its blue state competition; it does so at a fraction of the cost per student.

Education reformers should pay close attention to how Texas achieved these results. Clearly, it’s doing something right.

The Texas Education Miracle (Via Media)

◊◊◊  The 10 Colleges Most Likely to Make You a Billionaire (Harvard Is #1) (The Atlantic)

In news that will shock no-one, earning a Crimson pedigree may be the surest-fire way to amass greenbacks. Almost 3,000 graduates of Harvard University are worth more than $30 million (each), according to rankings compiled by market research firm Wealth-X seen by Quartz, and most of them earned the money themselves. That’s more than twice the number of what Wealth-X calls “ultra-high-net-worth individuals” (UHNWIs) produced by any other institution in the world….

  • Of course, the top of the list is rather dense with Ivy. But even among top schools, wealth varies greatly: while the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University graduated a combined 2,390 UHNWIs, Yale, Princeton and Cornell count among them only 1,604, in total.
  • Of the US schools in Wealth-X’s Global top 20, just three are public: University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley.
  • At least in the US, having a business school probably helps. The top five on the global list–Harvard, Penn, Stanford University, Columbia and New York University, in that order–all have top-flight MBA programs. Of the top 15, only Princeton lacks a B-school. On the non-US list, meanwhile, France’s Insead and LBS are both exclusively graduate business schools.
January 14, 2013

If you want a job at an elite firm . . .

by Grace

Last year the Chronicle of Higher Education gave us the lowdown on the specific circumstances where it can be extremely important to attend a particular name brand elite college.

If you want to get a job at the very best law firm, investment bank, or consultancy, here’s what you do:

1. Go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or (maybe) Stanford. If you’re a business student, attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania will work, too, but don’t show up with a diploma from Dartmouth or MIT. No one cares about those places.

2. Don’t work your rear off for a 4.0. Better to graduate with 3.7 and a bunch of really awesome extracurriculars. And by “really awesome” I mean literally climbing Everest or winning an Olympic medal. Playing intramurals doesn’t cut it.

This comes from a study where Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University interviewed insiders at these elite firms.

Keep in mind this study focused on very specific career paths.  If a student is truly interested in a high-powered investment banking career or something similar, then paying for that gold-plated college degree might be worth it.  But how many 18-year-olds really know they want the lifestyle entailed in working for a white-shoe firm?  For those who are committed to this particular plan, Bryan Caplan offered a summary of the winnowing process that is conducted in the human resources offices of these employers.

1. Most applications practically go straight in the trash…

2. Evaluators have a lot of slack…

3. Super-elite credentials matter much more than your academic record…

4. Super-elite schools matter because they’re strong signals, not because they’re better at building human capital…

5. At least in this elite sample, I’m totally wrong to think that extracurriculars don’t matter. … But they have to be the right kind of extracurriculars.  You have to signal that you’re not signaling!…

6. Grades do matter somewhat, but mostly as a cut-off.  They’re a signal of work ethic more than IQ…

The credentialing game starts young.

Robert Teitelman pointed out that the process ensures these top firms will be staffed only with individuals who had the good fortune to be able to play the credentialing game that begins at a relatively young age, and essentially culminates at age 18 in the college admissions process.

On the face of it, there’s a quality to Rivera’s conclusions that seems pretty obvious. Anyone who’s been around Wall Street and consulting — or anyone with a teenager suffering through college admissions — knows the pressure that exists to get students into “elite” schools, however defined, in order to slot them onto a transmission belt to high-paying jobs, mostly at what Rivera calls the elite professional-services firms. This is the core of the myth that drives so much of upper-middle-class child rearing: the necessity of getting the tyro into Harvard or other elite universities, not for any educational attainments (so impractical), but for the effect it supposedly has on future prospects. Rivera is essentially putting flesh on those ghostly bones; she’s arguing that decisions made in college admissions — good, bad or indifferent — play a determinative role in where you go to work and how much money you make. She is not only offering empirical backing to the mania for, say, elite kindergartens and endless tutors, but she’s significantly raising the stakes: only the “top” matters. This is remarkable if only for the fact that college admissions, for all its importance, is about as scientific as necromancy.

The system is “terrible for organizations”.

It’s a bit frightening to realize that employment among these firms essentially relies on the signaling granted by admissions to these elite schools.  As Megan McCardle explained, this system is ‘a convenient shorthand for a group of people who are really busy” and is “terrible for organizations”.

The Ivy League is full of smart, interesting people.  But it is not full of all of the smart, interesting people in the country, or even a majority of them.  And given the resumes required to get there, it produces a group of people who are narrow in certain predictable ways….

This requirement to get the “right” degree from the “right” college to enable you to get the “right” job also exists in other fields.  Here’s an example from the world of music.

In my subfield of music, we have a version of the above phenomenon which determines who gets jobs. There is a short list of maybe half a dozen cronies who basically run the profession, and if you manage to get into their grad programs, you will get whatever top jobs are out there in a given hiring season. Jobs are filled with a phone call.

As someone else mentioned, the current market conditions don’t help things. If a committee has to weed people out of a stack of 200 applications, the pedigree is a quick (and dirty) method of winnowing the list without bothering to look at other aspects of the applications.

Choose your graduate program carefully and with full knowledge that you will be sealing your own fate before you even hit the campus.

A broader lesson for those in the college search and selection process:  Consider how important the particular school and/or department is in the trajectory of your desired career.  In some cases it might be a determining factor, but in most cases it is not so consequential.

October 31, 2012

Quick links – Higher education supports Obama, schools that recruiters love, Ann Romney on public education

by Grace

——  ‘Contributors affiliated with University of California, Harvard are Obama’s No. 1, No. 4 donor groups’ (The Daily Caller)

Individuals and political action committees affiliated with University of California system and Harvard University are collectively the highest and fourth-highest donors to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, respectively. That’s not just a ranking of colleges and universities. It’s a ranking of everyone.

The data come from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign contributions.

Individuals and PACs affiliated with the University of California system have given the 2012 Obama campaign $927,568 thus far. The grand total from Harvard is $535,405.

By way of comparison, the number-two collective contributor to Obama’s campaign is Microsoft Corporation ($680,769) and right behind it is Google Inc. ($661,996). Microsoft and Google are, respectively, the publicly traded companies with the third- and fifth-highest market capitalizations in the United States.

Romney lags in financial support from higher education

Of the organizations that saw their individual employees and PACs donate to Mitt Romney’s campaign, the top six are all financial institutions. No organization in the top 20 is a university or educational entity.


——  List of colleges with the most employable graduates

The New York Times has just released a list of schools with the most employable graduates…. 

Thousands of recruiters were chosen from the top companies in 20 countries, ranging from Mexico to Malaysia. The New York Timeswrites the survey was compiled by Paris-based human resources consultancy Emerging and Trendence, an company that researches employer branding, personal marketing and recruitment.

Top 5 schools

  1. Harvard University – U.S.
  2. Yale University – U.S.
  3. University of Cambridge – Britain
  4. University of Oxford – Britain
  5. Stanford University – U.S.


——  Ann Romney thinks we ‘need to throw out’ the public school system

It’s not surprising that she has no love for teacher unions.

I’ve been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers’ unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.

September 26, 2012

Quick Takes – New York test scores may drop next year, mining jobs pay better than Ivy League degree, girls still avoid shop class, and more

by Grace

—   Changes in New York’s standardized tests next year may cause scores to drop.

That is because the state is moving quickly to put in place new curriculum standards, called Common Core, which stress more critical thinking to help prepare students for college and careers. The state’s math and English exams, therefore, will for the first time be testing students on elements of the Common Core.

Students taking the English exams next year, for instance, will be asked to analyze and compare passages, rather than summarize them. In math, fractions, rather than probability or statistics, will be stressed.

“I would not be surprised if the test scores next year would drop, because it will be a whole new test based on much higher standards,” said one state education official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The Common Core is a much more rigorous set of standards.”

Aaron Pallas, professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is an expert on city schools data, also predicted there may be a drop in scores next year.

“It’s almost always the case when there’s a fundamental change in a test format that scores go down,” Dr. Pallas said. “So there’s going to be discontinuity. That’s one reason why it’s hard to make judgments from one year to the next when there’s several moving pieces.”

He added: “It will take some time and next year will be a new baseline from which we can look forward to see how things are happening over the next three or four years.”


—  Forget Harvard.  Go for the big bucks in mining careers.

Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after a decade-long commodity bull market created shortages of workers as well as minerals.

Those leaving the college of 2,300 students this year got paid a median salary of $56,700, according to PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data from surveys. At Harvard, where tuition fees are almost four times higher, they got $54,100. Those scheduled to leave the campus in Rapid City, South Dakota, in May are already getting offers, at a time when about one in 10 recent U.S. college graduates is out of work.
Harvard Losing Out to South Dakota in Graduate Pay: Commodities (Bloomberg)


—  Why don’t more girls enroll in shop class?  “Stigma”, according to NPR

The Shop Class Stigma: What Title IX Didn’t Change (NPR)

Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, which said no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from any education program or activity. Vocational education courses that barred girls — such as auto mechanics, carpentry and plumbing — became available for everyone. But it’s still hard to find girls in classes once viewed as “for boys only.”…

Now, for the most part, schools don’t discriminate or deny girls educational opportunities. Yet, the conclusion by a National Women’s Law Center study a few years ago raised a different point.

Boys are still routinely steered toward courses that lead to higher-paying careers in technology and trades. Meanwhile, 90 percent of students in courses that lead to lower-wage jobs, like child care and cosmetology, are female.

I don’t accept that a male/female imbalance for a particular occupation is necessarily a problem that must be fixed by legislation.  But if there is a problem of pushing girls towards lower-wage jobs, the NPR story used a poor example to show this since the girl in the story was steered away from auto mechanics toward engineering.   Her family encouraged her to aim for a higher paying job in a field dominated by men, not exactly a fit with the NPR’s narrative.


—  Reading the classics may improve executive function and other attention-related abilities.

Reading a classic novel such as “Pride and Prejudice” can be entertaining, but, according to new research by a Michigan State University professor, it also can provide many other benefits beyond that….

… blood flow was increased in areas of the brain far beyond those responsible for what cognitive scientists call “executive function,” regions normally associated with tasks that require close attention, such as studying, doing complex math problems or reading intensely….

“It’s early, but what this research suggests so far is that core skills in the liberal arts have immense cognitive complexity,” she said. “It’s not only the books we read, but also the act of thinking rigorously about them that’s of value, exercising the brain in critical ways.”

The work also brings together scientists and literary scholars to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction.

Imagine that.  Assigning students books with higher levels of text complexity is good for learning.

Related:  High school students are assigned too many FIFTH-GRADE books (Cost of College)

May 14, 2012

Harvard online learning: ‘five years from now will look very different from what we do now’

by Grace

Last week Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced their new partnership, known as edX, will offer free online courses.

Harvard’s involvement follows M.I.T.’s announcement in December that it was starting an open online learning project, MITx. Its first course, Circuits and Electronics, began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit. Similarly, edX courses will offer a certificate but not credit.

Coursera and Udacity, two other MOOCs (massively open online courses) from elite universities have also recently been announced.  This online thing seems to be taking off, accompanied by ardent predictions from educators.

“My guess is that what we end up doing five years from now will look very different from what we do now,” said Provost Alan M. Garber of Harvard …

“Online education is here to stay, and it’s only going to get better,” said Lawrence S. Bacow, a past president of Tufts who is a member of the Harvard Corporation.

President John Hennessy of Stanford summed up the emerging view in an article by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker, “There’s a tsunami coming.”

Online learning is not brand new, but David Brooks makes a point about the recent entry by the most selective institutions:

But, over the past few months, something has changed. The elite, pace-setting universities have embraced the Internet. Not long ago, online courses were interesting experiments. Now online activity is at the core of how these schools envision their futures….

What happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education: a rescrambling around the Web.

Rescrambling.  Makes me think of this.

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

February 1, 2012

Only two of the top ten universities give out merit scholarships

by Grace

While all the top ten ranked universities offer generous need-based financial aid, only two – University of Chicago and Duke – award merit scholarships.

First, here are the top ten universities as ranked by US News & World Report.

#1         Harvard University
#1         Princeton University
#3         Yale University
#4         Columbia University
#5         California Institute of Technology
#5         Massachusetts Institute of Technology
#5         Stanford University
#5         University of Chicago
#5         University of Pennsylvania
#10       Duke University


Chicago offers less aid to more students

Chicago awards merit aid to about 10% of its freshman, averaging about $8,000 per recipient.  Here is the description from their website:

Merit awards are determined by the Office of College Admissions regardless of financial need and are guaranteed for four years of undergraduate study. They include the following:

  • University Scholarship: Partial scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, renewable for four years
  • Chicago Public Schools Scholarship: A full-tuition scholarship to selected students who have graduated from a Chicago Public Schools high school
  • Police and Fire Scholarship: A full-tuition scholarship to selected students who are sons or daughters of active-duty Chicago police officers or firefighters
  • The University also honors National Merit Finalists with a renewable award of $1,000 to $2,000.


Duke offers more aid to fewer students

Duke gives merit aid to about 3% of its freshman, averaging about $25,000 per recipient according to US News reporting.  This excludes their athletic scholarships.  More information is available at their website, but you have to wade through the details to learn that some of these “merit” scholarships actually have a need component.  (I’ll write about this messy detail in a future post.)


Scholarship information for both schools from USNWR, based on 2010 data

University of Chicago Non-need-based Scholarships/Grants  
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $7,772
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $0
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $12,854
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $0
… 
Duke Non-need-based Scholarships/Grants  
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $24,985
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (freshmen) $39,470
Average non-need-based scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $21,158
Average non-need-based athletic scholarship or grant award (undergraduates) $38,398
November 25, 2011

Colleges that saddle graduates with the most debt (and those that don’t)

by Grace

From U.S. News & World Report, based on 2010 graduates

Colleges With the Most Student Debt

10. Fordham University – 64% of students graduate with debt averaging $38,151
..9. Stevens Institute of Technology – 70% of students graduate with debt averaging $38,554
..8. Case Western Reserve University – 60% of students graduate with debt averaging $39,236
..7. Widener University – 85% of students graduate with debt averaging $40,386
..6. New York University – 55% of students graduate with debt averaging $41,375
..5. Florida Institute of Technology - 65% of students graduate with debt averaging $41,565
..4. Barry University – 64% of students graduate with debt averaging $42,798
..3. Nova Southeastern University – 76% of students graduate with debt averaging $43,206
..2. Clark Atlanta University – 93% of students graduate with debt averaging $45,227
..1. University of North Dakota – 83% of students graduate with debt averaging $45,369

Fordham offers relatively generous merit aid, but it seems the combination of a high COA (approx. $59,000) and loan-heavy financial aid helps put it on this list.  Barry University is a HBCU.

Colleges With the Least Student Debt

10. Louisiana Tech University – 49% of students graduate with debt averaging $14,039
..9..Rice University – 36% of students graduate with debt averaging $13,944
..8. Brigham Young University – 31% of students graduate with debt averaging $13,354
..7. Texas Tech University – 40% of students graduate with debt averaging $11,502
..6. Lamar University – 63% of students graduate with debt averaging $12,110
..5. California Institute of Technology – 43% of students graduate with debt averaging $10,760
..4. Harvard University – 34% of students graduate with debt averaging $10,102
..3. Yale University – 28% of students graduate with debt averaging $9,254
..2. Sam Houston State University -46% of students graduate with debt averaging $7,602
..1. Princeton University – 24% of students graduate with debt averaging $4,385

With their generous financial aid policies that include middle- to high-income families, it’s not surprising to see the Ivy Leagues well-represented on this list.  Rice combines  relatively low tuition and favorable need/merit aid.

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