Posts tagged ‘University and college admissions’

February 6, 2013

Quick Links – GED test changes; race-based college admissions; flipped classrooms; and more

by Grace

◊◊◊  GED test changes will make it harder to pass

Normally, there’s no rush to complete the seven-hour test, which is designed to approximate a high school education by measuring proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. If students pass only some components of the test, they have as long as they want to retake the sections they failed.

But test-takers’ previous scores will expire when a new version of the GED debuts Jan. 1, 2014 — a change that will affect more than 4 million people nationwide, said CT Turner, the GED Testing Service’s director of public affairs.

Other changes to the test are expected to include a higher required reading comprehension level, mirroring a slight increase nationwide in the performance level of graduating high school seniors.

The test, which had previously been offered on paper, will become online only.

Applicants rush to fulfill GED requirements before rules get tougher (lohud.com)


◊◊◊
  POLLS FIND DISDAIN FOR RACE-BASED COLLEGE ADMISSION PREFERENCES (The College Fix)

A Supreme Court decision on whether universities can use race as an admissions factor is expected by June, however the court of public opinion has already weighed in on the matter – and Americans of all stripes stand largely against affirmative action, according to a variety of recent polls.

In those surveys, at least half if not more of those polled voiced opposition to race-based preferences.

Take a Rasmussen national telephone survey, which found only 24 percent of likely voters were in favor of using race as a factor in college admissions, while 55 percent stood opposed, and the rest were undecided. That survey was conducted 11 months ago.

More recently, a survey released in October found that 57 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 – so-called young millennials – are opposed to racial preferences in college admissions or hiring decisions. In other words, nearly six out of every 10 opposed the practice.


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  Flipped classrooms shows positive results in a Detroit school, but lack widespread evidence that they improve academic achievement.

Flipped learning apparently is catching on in schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of “flipped” teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director Kari Afstrom.

Under the model, teachers make eight- to 10-minute videos of their lessons using laptops, often simply filming the whiteboard as the teacher makes notations and recording their voice as they explain the concept. The videos are uploaded onto a teacher or school website, or even YouTube, where they can be accessed by students on computers or smartphones as homework….

Class time is then devoted to practical applications of the lesson — often more creative exercises designed to engage students and deepen their understanding. On a recent afternoon, Kirch’s students stood in pairs with one student forming a cone shape with her hands and the other angling an arm so the “cone” was cut into different sections.

Promising results in a Detroit school

In the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township, Clintondale High School Principal Greg Green converted the whole school to flipped learning in the fall of 2011 after years of frustration with high failure rates and discipline problems. Three-quarters of the school’s enrollment of 600 is low-income, minority students.

Flipping yielded dramatic results after just a year, including a 33 percent drop in the freshman failure rate and a 66 percent drop in the number of disciplinary incidents from the year before, Green said. Graduation, attendance and test scores all went up. Parent complaints dropped from 200 to seven.

Green attributed the improvements to an approach that engages students more in their classes.

“Kids want to take an active part in the learning process,” he said. “Now teachers are actually working with kids.”

But no substantial evidence that flipped classrooms are better

“They’re expecting kids to do the learning outside the classroom. There’s not a lot of evidence this works,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a New York City-based parent advocacy group. “What works is reasonably sized classes with a lot of debate, interaction and discussion.”

Teachers flip for ‘flipped learning’ class model (Yahoo News)


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  What Uncle Sam can (and cannot) do to improve K–12 schooling: Lessons for the next four years (American Enterprise Institute)

A new report from AEI:

… As Obama and Duncan prepare for a second term, it is worth examining what the federal government can and cannot do to reform America’s system of education. Washington has been particularly effective in ensuring constitutional protections are upheld in education, connecting education reforms to national priorities, giving states and districts incentives for implementing policy changes, and collecting and reporting data related to school reforms. However, because decisions directly affecting individual schools are made at the state and local levels, Washington bureaucrats have largely failed at enforcing mandates and fixing poorly performing schools. The new Obama administration would do well to embrace a more measured approach to education reform that reflects lessons learned from past successes and failures….

“When it comes to fixing schools, the federal track record is bleak.”

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.

November 9, 2012

Even for holistic college admissions, test scores and grades are very important

by Grace

Even when admissions administrators at highly selective colleges stress their holistic admissions approach, don’t be fooled into thinking that extracurricular activities and a dynamic personality can overcome poor test scores and low grades.  From the 6 Biggest Lies in College Admissions:

“We look at the WHOLE student.”

A parent raises their hand in the information session at a very competitive college and says that Sally has low SAT scores or a less than perfect GPA, and wants to know if she will still be considered. The very diplomatic speaker says “We look at the whole student and all their accomplishments, not just GPA or SAT scores.” I have yet to see a kid with a 3.0 or 500s get into an Ivy League, Stanford, Duke or Georgetown unless they are a recruited athlete, just played Carnegie Hall, or their uncle donated the library on campus. Yet parents come into my office every month with the unrealistic hope that their child will now be in contention at a college that is ridiculously out of range. The truth is that colleges look at the whole student if your SATs and GPA make the cut, and the bar is VERY high at top colleges. Otherwise, you must have something AMAZINGLY compelling about you to propel you into consideration. Simply loving the guitar or horseback riding, probably isn’t going to do it.

Read about more Biggest Lies in College Admissions’ from GoLocalProv.

Related:  SAT scores matter, even for test-optional colleges (Cost of College)

September 27, 2012

A glossary of high school standardized tests

by Grace

From Princeton Review, a glossary of standardized tests

AP (Advanced Placement): End of year, college level exams that are used for admissions purposes at just a few competitive schools (the Ivies, Berkeley, UCLA, USC), and to give students college credit at virtually every college and university. The scoring grid goes from 1-5 (higher is better), with 3 representing a passing score. These tests are traditionally given at a student’s high school during the second and third weeks of May. ACT: An alternative to the SAT. This test tends to reward students who are better in reading and grammar than they are in math. The ACT is the dominant college entrance exam in the Midwest and the South, and is scored on a 1-36 basis (the average score is about 21 or 22). The best time to take this test is in February or April of the junior year and/or September of the senior year. The practice ACT is called the PLAN. To sign up for the actual ACT, go to http://www.act.org.

PSAT: An excellent practice test for the SAT that has absolutely nothing to do with college admissions. Rather it serves the following functions. It is a strong window into your testing soul — if you do well on the PSAT, you are likely to do equally well on the SAT. Very good testers can achieve National Merit stardom, a scholarship contest that is predominantly linked to PSAT scores from the junior year of PSAT testing. Finally, when you sign up for the PSAT, you will be given the chance to join the Student Search Service through which your name will be released to colleges and you will receive ridiculous amounts of junk mail from colleges that both interest and horrify you. The PSAT is offered at your school during the second week or the third Saturday of October and you must sign up for this test through your high school. There is no essay or Algebra II on the PSAT and it’s about half the length of the SAT.

SAT: The grande dame of admissions tests and you know it all too well. The SAT is popular in the West and the East, and is scored from 600-2400. The average score is about a 1560, a good score is anything over 1800, and 2200+ is the number for the most ridiculously competitive schools. The SAT has Math, Reading and Writing sections, includes some Algebra II and an essay, and can be taken 2-3 times since colleges only count students’ highest scores. To sign up to take the actual SAT, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Subject Tests: The Subject Tests are one hour, multiple choice exams that focus on individual subjects. Until recently, these used to be called the SAT II exams. Subject Tests are offered in Biology (Ecology or Molecular), Chemistry, Physics, World History, US History, Math Level I (not accepted by the UC but is accepted by private colleges), Math Level 2, English Literature and a host of foreign languages. These are of some significance in elite private college admissions, and can be submitted to UC schools to show strength in a subject where perhaps your grade is a little soft. If you are fluent in a foreign language, then take the Language with Listening Subject Test on the first Saturday in November. The test is offered in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. You will need to bring a portable CD player with headphones with you to the testing center. You may take up to three Subject Tests in one day (although we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s pretty tiring), and each Subject Test is scored on the 200-800 scale. A good score is 600+, and a great score is anything over 700. To sign up to take the actual Subject Tests, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Related:  A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests (Cost of College)

July 27, 2012

‘Full pay’ as a hook for college admission may be growing in importance

by Grace

College admissions counselors admit the right “fit” is increasingly about how much a student can pay

Admissions counselors like to talk about finding the right “fit” for applicants — a great match between a student’s educational and other goals and an institution’s programs. But a new survey of the senior admissions officials at colleges nationwide finds that this “fit” is, from many colleges’ point of view, increasingly about money. As evidence of that pressure, the survey found that:

  • For many colleges, a top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more. Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years — driven by high figures in the public sector — was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more)….
  • Among all sectors of higher education, there is a push to recruit more out-of-state students and international students.
  • Recruiting more “full-pay” students — those who don’t need financial aid — is seen as a key goal in public higher education, a sector traditionally known for its commitment to access. At public doctoral and master’s institutions, more admissions directors cited the recruitment of full-pay students as a key strategy than cited providing aid for low-income students….
  • The interest in full-pay students is so strong that 10 percent of four-year colleges report that the full-pay students they are admitting have lower grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants.
  • At community colleges, a focus on serving students who don’t have money remains central, with 66 percent of admissions directors citing that as a key strategy — more than cited any other strategy. But even in that sector, a notable minority (34 percent) said that an important strategy for the institution was attracting more full-pay students.

This survey is a reminder that a college’s financial aid department’s job is “to supply the college with as many paying freshmen as possible”.

At least this trend can be a consolation of sorts for all those “rich” families who have no chance of receiving need-based financial aid.

Related:

June 25, 2012

The average student will apply to more than nine colleges this fall

by Grace

The average student will apply to more than nine schools this fall, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. In an age where students can not only visit schools almost every day, but can also access limitless information and virtual tours from home or their cellphones, this figure seems much too high to those of us working in higher education.

I was surprised to hear the number is that high.  But I disagree with the writer, an admissions counselor who scolds students to be more thoughtful and scale down on the number of their college applications.  She blames students for escalating this crazy “admissions game” as they casually add colleges to their lists without careful research, leading to a situation where “enrollment managers and admissions offices are struggling to forecast how to fill their classes”.  Her advice?

Figure out what you need and want now, and apply to five or six schools, max, which offer you most, if not all of it. Forget about trying to get as many acceptances as possible to places that don’t speak to you.

Most of the commenters disagreed with the author, as did I.  The number one reason for applying to so many (12) colleges in our case was financial.

… for many students, the number of applications is driven by economic uncertainties, not by lack of self-knowledge….

Absolutely unpredictable which schools dished out the most merit money to which kid. Only a fool (or a 1%er) would follow Ms. Suriani’s advice.

Another reason for so many applications is the secretive admissions process at many schools.

Given the lack of transparency on the part of those most competitive schools, it is best to treat acceptance as independent random events, so the more you apply to the greater the chance of getting into one of them.

And then there’s the illusion that most kids really know what constitutes a good “fit” for them.

Sometimes it seems that colleges forget that the other half of the equation in admissions is 17 or 18 year old kids who feel (rightly or wrongly) that their futures are on the line. Kids, really, who don’t have that good an idea what “fit” is good for them. Who don’t yet know if they are a person who likes big cities or small towns, who think they “might” want to study engineering, but also really liked that creative writing class they took senior year in high school. The colleges are the grown ups in this equation. It is time for them to start acting like it.

Until colleges change how the game is played, it’s likely the number of applications will continue to grow.  On the other hand, if the “higher education bubble” bursts, applications to some schools may plummet.

Related:   Is it wrong to be your kid’s administrative assistant?

April 19, 2012

What exactly is a Likely Letter?

by Grace

A good explanation of a Likely Letter comes from the University of Virginia Admission Blog:

What is a Likely Letter?
Around this time of year [early March], many colleges and universities send letters to some very strong students telling them that their applications are impressive. These letters are commonly referred to as likely letters, but you might also seen them called love letters or early writes.

Why do you send Likely Letters?
In this day and age, it’s hard to feel confident about admission. These letters let some of our strongest candidates know we were impressed by their applications. These letters are not specific to UVa. Selective schools around the country send them. Doing a search for “Likely Letter” or “Love Letter” on College Confidential will yield signs of them being sent by plenty of other schools.

It must be exciting to receive a Likely Letter from your dream school, but remember that it is not a guarantee of admission.

A quick recap:

  • Likely Letters are sent by many selective schools to some top applicants
  • The vast majority of applicants will not get a Likely Letter
  • Decisions are not finalized yet
  • Getting a Likely Letter does not equate to an offer into one of the scholars programs
  • Likely Letters are sent via standard mail

Do not read into the absence of a letter.


Apparently Likely Letters have been more likely this year.

July 20, 2011

The Common Application goes live on August 1st

by Grace

Marilyn G.S. Emerson has some suggestions  for rising high school seniors.

Don’t wait – begin now!  If you wait to begin the college application process until school resumes in the fall, you’ll find the added workload to be about the same as having added another full course!  Also, many unexpected things can occur during the fall of senior year that could prevent you from giving the application process your all.  So, don’t delay.

Read more here.

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