Archive for May, 2013

How Do We Reinvent Education from Kindergarten through College?

May 29, 2013

As a private college counselor, I understand why most colleges want to see SAT or ACT test scores in addition to the high school transcript.  They often do not know how much grade inflation exists at different high schools, nor do they know the caliber of the classes students take.  Although the SAT and ACT are not the best predictors of college success, the tests are the same for everyone and provide a measure of understanding that the high school transcript may not.

Today, there is constant talk about the need to reinvent education from kindergarten through college.  While the task is somewhat daunting, it does appear that there are some significant changes that need to take place at every level, and now, not later. 

Education should have goals that go beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.  In order for students to be successful in school and in life, they need to develop their critical thinking, communication, and analytical reasoning skills.  Yet it seems like far too many students are not having this opportunity at any point in their educational career. 

An interesting quote in the book, “How to Reinvent College,” caught my eye.

“The A is now the most common grade on college campuses nationwide; it accounts for roughly 43 percent of all grades given. Meanwhile, results of the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a test used by more than 500 colleges to measure academic progress, reveal that almost 40 percent of students make absolutely no improvement in writing, complex reasoning, or critical thinking during four years of college.”

Surely, we can do better than this.


College Admissions: Getting the Best Teacher Recommendations

May 23, 2013

Teacher recommendations are important for college admissions because they give a picture of a student in an academic setting. Students should make sure to ask a teacher who teaches in the core classes: English, science, math, social studies, or foreign language. Many colleges like to have two teacher recommendations, each from a different subject area.  Do not send more unless you are asked to do so.

Students should not wait until their senior year to request teacher recommendations. Teachers get busy in the fall and the more recommendations they have to do, the less time they will have to spend on them. Meet with two teachers before the end of your junior year and talk about what you would like them to know about you.   Provide them with a list of your interests and accomplishments that they can include in the recommendation if they wish.  Make sure the teachers know about you both inside and outside of the classroom and what they feel you can bring to a college campus.

As colleges and universities continue to receive increasing numbers of applicants each year, the need to stand out from the competition is also increasing. When a teacher writes a personal recommendation it can show a college a lot more than just academic information.  It can attest to your character, motivation, and leadership abilities.  Teacher recommendations might be that piece of information that distinguishes you from other applicants as colleges make admissions decisions.

College Admissions: A Few Facts Families Need to Know

May 16, 2013

There is almost too much information out there for families to absorb about the college admission process.  Thus, it is pretty hard to figure out what is accurate and what is not.  When you are planning on going to college, you need to know that the information you read is correct or it obviously is not much help.  In fact, poor information can actually hurt you.  Sometimes people have different opinions about test prep and college admissions and this is what they write.  You need to be able to determine the difference between the facts and the myths.

One common myth about college admissions is that schools want well-rounded college applicants. In reality, they want successful academic students with different backgrounds, artistic talents, athletic abilities, and unique interests who will make up a well rounded freshman class.

Ten years ago, colleges were interested in accepting students who were well-rounded in many different areas of their lives, with academics of course being one of the most important.  Today, good grades and test scores continue to be significant, but colleges are definitely more interested in accepting college applicants who stand out in specific areas of their lives and demonstrate leadership and commitment to that activity.  In regard to extracurricular activities, whether they are in school or in the community, quality is more important than quantity.


College Rankings – What Do They Tell Us Anyway?

May 8, 2013

Quite frankly, I am sick of college rankings.  If it isn’t U.S. News, it is Forbes, Money or endless other publications ranking what they consider the best colleges and universities. Just yesterday, Bill Bennett came up with his own list of schools. The college rankings can tell us anything from the most connected schools to the best value universities. These college rankings measure different attributes that may or may not be important to a family when they are considering schools for their child. Often they are more confusing than helpful.

Many college rankings are oversimplified and downright unfair.  They can be the result of professors, students, or even the universities themselves answering questionnaires that have been sent to them by a magazine or newspaper.  Many times college administrators are asked to evaluate colleges with which they have no knowledge, not just their own school. 

Rankings often lead to misleading conclusions. Some colleges will spend money to improve something that will help their ranking, but may not benefit the students at all.  Many use college rankings in their marketing materials.  These rankings often ignore factors that are of concern to prospective students.  Too frequently, they contain the same schools over and over.

As a private college counselor, I pay very little attention to these rankings because I want my students to consider colleges that are right for them. The highest ranked schools may not be the best fit or a college where they will have a successful academic and social experience. That to me is what is far more important than any college ranking.


College Admissions – College Acceptance is Conditional

May 2, 2013

With final college decisions and deposits due today, May 1st, high school students know where they will be attending college in the fall. Don’t forget that this school will require your final transcript in order to finalize your college acceptance. This is not a time to slack off and miss classes or blow off your finals. No one wants their college acceptance rescinded and schools can do this if they see a significant drop in grades.

Waiting lists have increased at almost every college and university this year.  If accepted students allow their grades to drop significantly their final semester or are caught cheating, plagiarizing, or involved in a senior prank or behavior that leads to arrest, it gives an admissions committee the option to revoke their acceptance and take a student off the wait list who is more than eager to attend.

Beware:  Every college acceptance is conditional and if you look carefully, you will see that in the fine print of your Congratulations letter.