Saturday, December 18, 2010

Early Admission Returns

Casady seniors have enjoyed great returns in early admissions from colleges and universities.

Roughly 70% of our seniors have already been admitted to 1 school of their choice.

6 of our seniors have already signed on the dotted line through Early Decision programs.

And 2 seniors have already committed to take their athletic talents to D-I programs.

Here is a current list of the colleges/universities who have admitted Casady seniors thus far:

Auburn University (Athletics, swimming)
Austin College
Baylor University
Beloit College
Boston College (Honors Program - Top 5% only)
Boston University (Early Decision, binding)
DePauw University
George Mason University
Georgetown University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Hendrix College
Hope College
Indiana University
James Madison University
Loyola Marymount University (Film School)
Manchester College
Northeastern University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University
Point Loma Nazarene University
Pomona College (Early Decision, binding)
Regis University
Rhodes College
Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
Santa Clara University
Sewanee: The University of the South (Early Decision, binding)
Southern Methodist University
St. Olaf College (Early Decision, binding)
Texas Christian University
Trinity University
University of Alabama
University of Arizona
Tulane University
University of Arkansas
University of California at Berkeley (Athletics, rowing)
University of Chicago
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Kansas
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri at Columbia (School of Journalism)
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
University of Oklahoma (Presidential Scholars Program)
University of Rhode Island
University of San Diego
University of Tulsa
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Valparaiso University
Vanderbilt University (Early Decision, binding)
Washington University in St. Louis (Early Decision, binding)
Westminster College (Fulton, MO)
Westmont College
West Point (United States Military Academy)
William Jewell College

Congrats to all our seniors on their early success!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Great Article

I came across this great article on Derryfield High School's college counseling philosophy.

Reading through the article I could barely suppress my "Amens".

Similar to us, Derryfield champions a college fit approach over a college prize approach.

Like us, Derryfield's community has been able to subvert the impulse in our "serial applicant" culture to apply to 20 schools.

This year our seniors are averaging 4-5 applications which is a clear indicator that our kids are going against the current as opposed to going with it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reveal Your Gifts

To close out this month's focus on applications, I thought I would connect you to a pro on the topic. In April, by popular demand, we are bringing back to campus author of the book, Winning the Admission Game, and former Dean of Admission at Franklin and Marshall, Peter Van Buskirk.

Today Mr. Buskirk blogged on the topic of applications and provided some shimmering insights. His blog title, "Reveal Your Gifts".

In preparing your applications for admission, it is important to remember that the application you submit is like a personal statement. You are saying to the admission committee, “This is who I am and what I have to offer.” In a tight competition, your ability to make a compelling statement in this regard can make all the difference.

It is critical, then, to bring your talent to life. If you are a musician, make a studio quality recording. Audition if you can. If you are an artist, attend portfolio days or assemble a portfolio of your work to submit with your application. This demonstration of talent will be required for entry into highly selective conservatory or specialty programs in the arts. It can also make the difference for you at schools that value the arts but are not pre-professionally oriented. You do not need to have professional aspirations as an artist, musician, actor or dancer in order for your talent to give you a competitive edge in the selective admission process.

To read the rest of this article click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 Warning Signs That the Senior's Family is Losing It

I came across this Top 10 list posted on our faculty billboard.

I'm always a sucker for Top 10 lists.

Here then are the Top 10 warning signs that your whole family may be losing its grip on reality thanks to the college admission process:

10. Son ignores State Department travel warning in order to seek re'sume' building community service experience among Kurdish separatists near the Iraq-Turkey border.

9. Daughter complains that classmate who uses a wheelchair has a better college essay topic.

8. Son is distressed that the SAT does not offer extra-credit problems.

7. Mom has a sudden falling out with best after the best friend's daughter is accepted early at Yale.

6. Dad proclaims that only SAT vocabulary words may be used in dinner conversations.

5. The family hires a private investigator to verify that the student's great-great-grandfather was half Cherokee.

4. Thanksgiving dinner conversation is devoted to critiquing essay drafts.

3. Daughter memorizes Tiers 1 and II of the US News National University rankings.

2. Mom searches the Web for a car-window decal that says "also accepted at..."

1. Message on the family answering machine notes that daughter is a National Merit Semifinalist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Application Madness, A Response

In response to the application madness gripping our country, here are my thoughts and advice:

Avoid the Easy. A lot of the application volume stems from an emerging trend among adolescents. Colleges are picking up on the fact that seniors either want to apply to schools with the easiest application (that's code for no essays), or find the easiest way to apply to the most schools (that's code for Common Application). "Snap apps" and other free or abridged applications are capitalizing off of this "easy" mentality. But in the end, most of the students who take the easier route, either find a dead end at the end of the road, or they discover that the road lacked any real satisfaction. My advice then: Take the time then to fill out the harder application. When you choose to write an essay or two, it will not only give you a greater sense of fulfillment when you submit it, but you will also communicate to the college a greater sense of interest.

Broaden the Bull's Eye.
Too often we think that if we apply to more selective schools, it will increase our chances of getting into one. My response: Imagine you’re an archer. The target stands 1000 feet away. The bull’s eye is the size of a pea. According to Bill Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard, that’s your odds at getting into a Top 20 University – about 3% without an admissions advantage. The fallacy here is to think that if you apply to all 20 schools that you will broaden the bull’s eye. Fitzsimmons' response: All a student has done is drawn a circle around the same pea-size target 20 times. My advice then: shorten the distance to the target and broaden the bull’s eye. This means then that you apply to more schools where your GPA and test scores fall into the median range. And it also means looking at Naviance, analyzing objectively via scatter grams where the Casady threshold for acceptance is, and applying to more schools where your circle on that scatter gram graph falls squarely within the green boxes. By doing this, you will significantly increase your chances of hitting your target.

Debunk the Myth of Fit. In our office we have punted the term "first choice" college. The myth of fit is that there is only one college that was meant for me. The truth is that there are a number of colleges that fit your foot like a glass slipper. Most of our seniors believe this now. The fact that we only have 4 ED applications validates this. Polygamy, in this singular case, is a good thing. Loving many schools, especially schools that have a reputation for loving many students (85% of colleges and universities admit 50% or more), can turn a fear-ridden journey into a fun-filled adventure. Too often we get our heart set on that one school, and then the whole college search process gets tainted forever by bitterness when we are rejected. I can't tell you how much more fun I would have had at my senior prom if I hadn't asked the one girl who had a college boyfriend. Her "no" made that night miserable for me. Your prom night college-wise doesn't have to be a bummer. What I've always found ironic is how schools like Stanford and Harvard have gained more lovers by spurning them. Their desirability is increased by marketing rejection.

Reach Out where there has been Out Reach.
One of our program's strengths involves outreach. Over the past couple years, Casady School has made a serious commitment to reaching out to colleges and universities all over the country. Mr. Hoven and I have now visited almost a 100 schools (you will find this list on our web page). That's not even including the national conferences and colloquies that we have attended. By reaching out, we have been able to network with admissions officers, tell them what makes Casady unique, and let them tell us what makes their college unique. Colleges, especially along the coast, that no longer have the budget to send reps out to the Midwest, really appreciate our gesture. Most importantly, we are now able to pick up a phone or pull out a business card and call/email a dean or rep on our student's behalf. By doing this, we can help a student go from a specter to a story, from a number to a name, and from two dimensional to three dimensional. This also means that our students (and families) have an opportunity to reach out because of our outreach and graft into the connective tissue of relationship that has already been formed.

Be not afraid.
So often we allow fear to drive our decisions. It's essentially part of America's DNA. All you have to do, for example, is go to an airport to experience it. What's the terrorist level today? Yellow? Orange? Red? Or just turn on the local news. What's the journalistic rule of thumb: If it bleeds, it leads? Or just head north on I-35 into Kansas just past Emporia, and you will find signs aligning the highways like, "Accept Jesus Christ or REGRET IT FOREVER", or my favorite, "Stop, Drop, and Roll Won't Work in Hell". I think you get the picture. My hope then is that faith will replace fear. Perfect love, the apostle John writes, casts away fear. Faith takes root in us when we realize that we are loved by our divine Creator. Inevitably that will spill over into every other facet of life, including the college search.

Last year 74% of our seniors' applications were greeted with love and a glass slipper. When Chris Bright announced that statistic at graduation, there was an eruption of warm applause. In that moment, graduation felt more like a wedding where we celebrated the matches that had been made between seniors and colleges. There is no reason that graduation at Casady can't be more like a wedding ceremony every year.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Application Madness Reality

It's all over Facebook and Twitter today.

As of 10:55 am, I've already counted five "re-tweets" of the article published by both The Times and The Chronicle.

It's the hot-button topic of the season.

Application inflation and the pressures that college admissions are under to increase their applicant pool and decrease their acceptance pool.

Here's a little sampling from the article, entitled, "Application Inflation: Bigger Numbers Mean Better Students, Colleges Say. But When is Enough Enough?"

The numbers keep rising, the superlatives keep glowing. Each year, selective colleges tout their application totals, along with the virtues of their applicants.

For this fall's freshman class, the statistics reached remarkable levels. Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called "simply amazing," and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff "deeply impressed and at times awed." Nine percent were admitted.

To read the rest of the article click here. (Cautionary note: For senior parents and students who just filed applications to some of the schools mentioned in this article, I am fearful this article will only raise anxiety levels from orange to red. But at the same time, this article speaks the harsh truth about what's happening in selective college admissions. There are agendas in play that have nothing to do with education and nothing to do with the student's best interests.)

So what does all this application madness mean for Casady students?

That's the question I will attempt to answer carefully and thoughtfully in the next blog post.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Application Season, Part 3

At NACAC last month in St. Louis, I attended a seminar on the "creep trend" that's spreading across our high school landscape.

More students are applying earlier and earlier.

This stems from a shared concern among seniors that if they don't apply early there might not be a spot left in the spring.

And there is a shared concern among parents that there might not be any money left in the spring.

Just yesterday, consequently, the Times did an article on this trend. The article's title gives away the overarching thesis: applying early is the new black.

So I thought I would test this thesis a bit.

Based on data I gathered from Naviance, here is a November 1 Application Report for our Class of 2011:

Total Applications: 148
Total Colleges: 64
Early Action Applications: 52
Early Decision Applications: 4
Regular/Rolling Decision Applications: 87
Priority Applications: 2

Right now about 35% of our pending applications are earmarked for "Early". This is really about the same percentage as last year. Our overall volume of early applications, however, is significantly up versus last year. Last year at this time we had about 75 total applications pending versus 148 this year. This year's spike mainly reflects the number of Casady seniors who have applied to state universities.

In lieu of this trend, the glaring irony is the fact that while students are applying earlier and earlier, the vast majority are waiting later and later to decide their final choice.

My guess is that we will see this same trend within our own community. This stems largely from the fact that our students tend to fall in love with many schools. This is one reason why our team has punted the word "first choice". Our students and families value choices - plural.

Our goal then is to help students apply to a range of schools across the spectrum of admission selectivity in order to ensure that they have choices.

Last year almost all of our seniors were admitted to 2 or more colleges.

We hope to continue that trend this year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Application Season, Part 2

About a year ago, an article came out about the book that my wife and I co-authored. The newspaper that published the article will remain anonymous. But in the article, the writer wrote, "After Josh and his wife struggled with infidelity for six years, they turned to adoption."

Staring at the computer screen (online version), I did a double take. Did she really use the word "infidelity"? My face went ash white with horror. I looked a bit like that ghoulish figure in Munch's expressionistic painting "The Scream". My public reputation was sure to suffer irreparable damage!

At about that time, I got a call from the chief editor. Her voice quivered through the entire explanation. Come to find out, the writer had used the appropriate word, infertility, but in a final spell check, the program had changed the word to infidelity. I was reminded then that words do matter. Even letters and their proper ordering.

The moral of the story perhaps could go like this: the devil can be in the details.

It's important then that seniors invite a couple of editing eyes to comb through the application to look for blunders. Because in the end, it can be the difference between being "accepted" to college and being "excepted".

Recently, The Times wrote an article on this very topic. It read like a good horror film, filling my gut with paralyzing fear and howling laughter.

Here's a sample from the article.

You’ve filled out the application and added the personal statement, supplemental essay and activity sheet. Finally, it’s time to click “submit.”


Take a few minutes to proofread. Applications that are sent electronically don’t permit students to unseal the envelope and take one last look on the way to the post office.

Admissions offices see files littered with misspellings, grammatical mistakes and poor word choice. Students rely too much on programs that purport to check spelling and sentence structure.

A computer failed to catch this slip: “I love to turn on soft music and light scented candles because I love the smell of incest.”

To read the rest of the article click here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Application Season, Part 1

We have officially entered the application season.

From now until early January, 84 Casady seniors will be filling out applications to hundreds of colleges and universities.

So to kick off this Application Season, I'd thought I would do a trilogy of blog posts on this crucial topic.

So let's begin.

It goes without question that Application Season is often when the madness really begins.

It's as though college suddenly becomes the only planet in the family's solar system, and like the sun, everything else seems to revolve around it.

Parents can't stop nagging their senior about it.

There seems to be like a hundred little tasks to accomplish from writing essays to stamping envelopes for teacher recommendations.

And all the while the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking.

Deadlines are imminent.

And if it is not postage stamps or plastic zip lock bags to separate applications from each other, it's the ubiquity of the college topic thanks to grandparents, and friends, and teachers, and coaches, and youth pastors, and even your college counselor (yes, I am guilty as charged!)

It's like you feel you have no place to just be yourself.

Where you aren't reduced to your GPA or ACT score.

It wouldn't surprise me if I don't see a few Casady seniors slumped down in the back row at AMC Quail Springs, wearing shades and a hoodie, sitting among 3 year olds like Silas, my son, watching Toy Stoy 3, just in search of a couple hours of respite from the constant, unstinting, 24-7 college talk that is rife with a staccato of pressing questions and unsolicited advice and doomsday statistics.

"So where are you applying to college?" Um...

"Thinking about rushing? What house?" Um...

"Possible majors?" Um...

"Are you taking the ACT again?" Um...

"You're thinking about applying where? Never heard of it? What does your mom and dad think about that? I mean aren't you interested in an Ivy? Or at least going to a college that is ranked high in Newsweek?"

"Oh, wow, you're applying there. I heard like only 1 out of 35 got accepted in the whole state last year. Good luck with that application."

Someone just shoot you now - right?

If one person can feel your pain it's Lloyd Dobler. Who's Lloyd, you may ask? He's just an 80's icon from the movie Say Anything. In one famous scene, Lloyd, a rising senior in high school, faces a firing squad of adults who want to know what his plans are for after high school.

Lloyd's response is a cult classic.

As we launch into this application season, I hope that you will remember that what is most important to you.

The people you love.

Lloyd certainly understood this.

But how easy it is to forget this when you are competing for a spot at colleges during a time when 1.5 million seniors will attend college, where colleges are tripling the volume of applications they are receiving (Standford topped 50,000 applicants last year), and where international students are flooding admissions with applications, many willing to pay full price to get in.

There will certainly be stressful moments.

Maybe even heated exchanges at the dinner table.

But my hope is that parent and student are both able to maintain a healthy sense of perspective and humor through it all.

Because in the grand scheme of things, it is just a season of life. A single chapter.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Selection Month, Part 4

On Saturday I ran into a Casady mom at Krispy Kreme. She introduced herself and told me she had a 9th grade daughter. She shared with me that she had attended the Dessert with the Dean event on Wednesday with Maria Laskaris, Dean of Admission at Dartmouth College. What she took from that night was the importance of helping her daughter move from the "what" to the "why". Before her daughter decided to join a club or volunteer her time, she needed to explore why she wanted to do it. The mom then referenced Dr. Powell, and how on UD Parent Night, Dr. Powell explained to a room full of parents that in high school,the question that students learn to answer in their essays and writing is the "Why" question.

Too often, I think, we don't ask why, especially when it comes to our college search and final selection. We rely instead on US News and World Report and their ranking system to answer that question for us. It's a symptom, really, of a much larger, systemic problem. Too much of our curriculum is done to kids. As I've witnessed first hand, this pedagogical approach to education doesn't produce "autonomy, mastery, or purpose," to borrow from Daniel Pink's new book Drive. Instead this approach produces in our kids an unhealthy co-dependence, shoddy apprenticeship, and an anemic purposelessness.

I tell my 9th grade English students on the first day of class, for example, that I'm not going to answer the "why" questions for them. This is their education. Not mine. And though I will certainly help them in their exploration, I won't climb that mountain or dive into that oceanic depth for them.

This brings me then to what I most appreciated about my two full days interacting with Maria Laskaris. Beyond being an Ivy Dean, Maria is a mother, in fact, one of only three moms among the Ivy League Deans. Therefore Maria knows what the college admission process is like on the other end. She's been in the "other's shoes". She knows the anxiety that comes with not knowing whether or not the college will accept her daughter. She's suffered sleepless nights. She's calculated the odds. She's rehearsed the rejection speech to comfort her daughter. And she's had to deal with the vagaries of competitive college admissions. But what Maria discovered through the process that alleviated personal anxiety and made the process more enjoyable was realizing that her daughter's college thumb print was not the same as her own.

And even though Maria wanted her daughter's thumb print to match the one at Brown, in the end, she knew that her daughter's anatomical match was at Wesleyan. Now with her second child going through the college process, Maria has been able to relax and enjoy the match making process all the more, where her daughter's artistic thumb print will probably best match a school like Oberlin.

It's ironic to me, in closing, that a Dean of Admission at an Ivy School can understand more clearly than most parents that a college is not a match to be arranged, but a match to be made.

So let's not be afraid to ask why. And let's not be afraid to discover the answer that lies beneath and let that be the navigating instrument that leads us to our True North.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Selection Month, Part 3

My favorite movie of all time is Dead Poet's Society.

It's the story that inspired me to become a teacher.

On the first day of class, Mr. Keatings (played by Robin Williams), gives his students a lesson on literature and life that his students will never forget.

Too often we approach the college search/selection process from the Neoclassic School. We seek to do what is most linear (prep school - top tier college - high powered job) and logical (good college + good grades in college > good graduate school = good paying job.) We draw a graph and measure the college's merit in a formulaic way. The x-axis represents the college's prestige. The y-axis represents the college's ranking.

But what are rankings, really? Colleges know that rankings are like sex - they can help successfully market and sell their school. What US News and World Report: The College Edition is to seniors and parents is what Sports Illustrated: The Swimsuit Edition is to libidinous men. Moreover, rankings tends to underscore the binary way we view the world - there are winners and losers; successful people and unsuccessful people; BCS Bowls and Sun Bowls; championship banners and consolation ribbons. I would argue this dualistic worldview derives its potency from our Greco-Roman heritage. We've been conditioned to split the world into two halves and divide people into two categories. We do this in sports. In politics. In religion. In zip codes. In school districts. And on and on..

Now don't get me wrong. First, I love competition. I love winning as much as anyone. And I love cheering for a winner. The fact that my CU Buffs are riding a four year losing streak in football, for example, eats me up. And last year, beating Heritage in basketball - well, I'll be honest, it felt reaaaalllly good!

Second,I grew up in a logocentric family. My dad was of the head chief of our "linear Bottomly tribe" (Air Force Academy > Purdue University > Pilot). I was raised to use common sense and be prudent. I was also raised to understand the value of an education. But it wasn't rankings that ultimately determined my college path. It was a combination of personal reflection and family conversations about the realities we faced. On the reflection side, I realized I wasn't Air Force Academy material. I was a words and ideas guy. Not a numbers and graphs fella like my dad. At the top of my families priorities was affordability. They had invested in my college-prep education; I was largely responsible for funding my college education. Big loans, therefore, were not an option. It didn't make fiscal sense to spend inversely to what I would make professionally as a teacher (I knew early on that putting "Tolkien and Lord of the Rings scholarship" on my resume wouldn't put food on the table.)

Honestly, based on observation of our students, what disturbs me most about rankings is the way that they often stymie reflection. Not long ago, for example, I asked a really smart student, "Why are you interested in Stanford?" He shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Well, because it's prestigious and ranked high." I pressed this student a bit and he acknowledged that he didn't really know why he wanted Stanford, just that it was what anyone of his academic stature should consider.

Our headmaster, Chris Bright, cited in his last blog post an article by Mark Taylor, the chairman of the religious department at Columbia University. The article bemoans the fact that his students, who are like the Casady student I talked with, really don't know why they are at Columbia. Reflecting on this, Taylor writes:

In today’s market-driven economy we constantly hear that choice is the highest good and that competition fuels innovation. But this is not always true. Choice provokes anxiety and competition can quell the imagination and discourage the spirit of experimentation that is necessary for creativity. In a world obsessed with ratings, well-meaning parents all too often train their children to jump through the hoops they think will lead to success.

Part of the problem, I believe personally, is that we have as Wendell Berry puts it, "provided a cure that preserves the disease." We are so driven by success that we have forsaken the heart's deepest hunger, which is to find significance.

For Mr. Keatings, he understood that business, medicine, and law were all noble pursuits and necessary for culture to thrive, but he also understood that we are not robots, but that created in the imago Dei, we were designed with a restless soul that hungers for beauty and truth and relationships and love. Without this form of divine photosynthesis, we will dry up at the roots, wilt, and die.

So my challenge to students and parents as they come down the "September selection" stretch is not that they rip out the rankings from Newsweek. But that they use them as a starting point, not a stopping point. It's time then to do some real soul searching, reflection, and personal examination. It's that time to determine as a family how you measure and rank a school's value. Perhaps "alumni giving" is not as important to you as the retention percentage each year, or the graduate school/job placement percentage upon graduation.

In the end, I hope that you discover that the college selection process can be like falling in love. And when it comes to falling in love, there is no real science to it. When we decide whether or not to marry a person, we don't pull out our calculator or spreadsheet to crunch numbers and fill in cells with datum. We throw caution into the wind. We jump out of a window and yell, "Geronimo!" Because love, in the end, is a mystery. It can not be reduced to utility. The same is true with a radiant and dazzling college match.

I like what Jim Miller, the Dean of Admission at Brown University, tells prospective students about how to navigate the selection process. "Become a 'gutologist'," Miller exclaims, "in other words, go with your gut." I like that. And I would add this: It takes guts to follow your gut, but in the end, it's often when we follow our gut that we feel the deepest sense of peace in our own skin.

So how will you approach the college selection process?

From the Neoclassic School of formulas and graphs?

Or the Romantic School of feelings and guts?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Selection Month, Part 2

His name is Lloyd Dobler.

Who's Lloyd, you may ask?

He's just an 80's iconic figure from the movie Say Anything.

He's your quintessential existential romantic; an 18 year old who yearns for authenticity, and lives for the moment.

Ask Lloyd about his "future plans", specifically about college, and Lloyd says what all of us at one point have wanted to say.

Kickboxing. The sport of the future. You got to love Lloyd's honesty about his chances at "greatness."

But in all seriousness, we are all often like Lloyd in that we're far more comfortable telling people what we're against as opposed to what we are for.

Teens do this every day, right? They are against excessive homework, curfews, limits on Facebook, text messaging, and what they can wear.

The same is true when thinking about college.

There are the anti-Ugg boot'ers. These are girls primarily who are not opposed to wearing Uggs for style, but adamantly opposed for wearing them to stay warm. These are the girls that exclaim "Ugh!" anytime you mention parts of the country that involve snow.

There are also the BBB'ers. These are the fellas primarily (and girls) who are not interested in any schools that are not "Big Bowl Bound". If the college isn't competing in a big time, D-1 football conference, to be blunt, and isn't winning enough games to go to Tempe or Miami for the BCS championship, then forget about it.

Then there are the hobbits. These are your students who are not interested in any colleges that don't border the state of Oklahoma. For these students, "the Shire" includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. Flying is simply not an option. (ps. I love hobbits. They are my favorite Middle Earth creatures.)

And finally there are the SAT'ers. These are the students who will not consider a college that has an average SAT score below 1500.

Parents aren't any different, I've learned. They are Lloyd Dobler's in their own way.

There are those parents that will not consider any colleges whose team colors are burn orange or bright orange for that matter.

There are those parents who will not consider any colleges that Southwest Airline doesn't fly into.

And there are those parents who will not consider any colleges where the car decal sticker won't invoke oohs and aahs from onlookers in the neighborhood.

The truth is that all of these "anti's" are actually roundabout ways of identifying the college criteria that is important for students and parents.

It's okay then to begin with what you are against.

Eventually you will break through into what you are looking for.

I want a warm, Southern, rah-rah, Super Greek school.

I want an open curriculum where I can dabble, explore, and create my own kind of academic fusion.

I want to be able to jump on I-35 or I-40 and get home in time for dinner and mom to begin a load of laundry.

I want to study in Paris, work a paid internship, and write a thesis with a professor.

I want to play college athletics, but not at a school where sports will consume my life, but compliment my college experience.

I want to bleed crimson and cream - period.

I want to wear purple and learn how to make a horn frog sign with my fingers.

I want to know my professors, learn in small classes with a Socratic pedagogy.

I want to live in a big city with skyscrapers, long lines of yellow taxi cabs, and steam rising like mist above the crowded streets.

In closing, one question I find that helps students really clarify what they want to get our of their experience is this one:

When you walk across and receive your diploma, what do you hope to have experienced and accomplished?

Perhaps this is as good as any place to jump in over Chinese food or mom's famous lasagna.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Selection Month, Part 1

September is the month of selection.

Finalizing one's college list to be more exact.

I often tell my seniors: "You can choose where you apply, but you can't choose where you will be admitted. So choose wisely."

Last year our seniors embraced this guiding principle.

74% of the 343 college applications were deemed admissible by 110+ colleges and universities.

Many seniors were not only admitted to the majority of the schools they self-selected.

But they were also offered financial merit money to matriculate.

This year our seniors are off to a fantastic start! Many seniors have already finalized their college list. Others are getting closer.

Just today a senior came in and told me that he had spent the weekend researching and "soul searching" over college.

What he presented to me was his final college list.

The week before we had met and his college list looked like drip art, something of a hybrid between a Jason Pollock painting hanging in The Chicago Art museum,
and something my three year old would create if he were given goggles and a spray paint bottle.

His school list was sprayed all over the place, not just in terms of colleges, but types of colleges, from liberal arts schools to specialized schools, not to mention a panoply of college majors.

I shared my concerns. He listened. I told him that it was normal to be scattered, for the list to feel muddy and messy, and therefore emotionally to feel a bit overwhelmed, anxious, and bewildered. I reminded him that he had time for order to emerge from the chaos. For clarity to emerge from the convolution. And for confidence to emerge from the insecurity.

Somehow over the weekend, this student experienced a provocative convergence. Everything just came together in clarity.

Instead of 12 colleges. He now had 6.

Three colleges were "Likely" schools, two were "Target" schools, and one was a "Reach" school.

Pulling up his Naviance account - there they were listed under "Colleges I'm Interested In".

Looking up from my computer I could almost feel the palatable peace that had settled within in his own skin.

If there is one hope I have it is that I can help supplant a student's anxiety over the selection process with a sustained excitement for the application season.

In the next blog post, I'm going to explore the thought process that goes on in the college selection process. But not just the teen psyche. But also the parent psyche.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Word to Parents: The Great Temptation

There is an ancient Greek story about a legendary robber named Procrustes who used to force his victims to fit a certain bed by stretching or lopping off their legs. Sometimes as parents we can unknowingly do to our children in the college process what Procrustes did to his victims. We stretch our kids to apply to more highly selective colleges. We lop off any schools on the list that aren’t ranked by Newsweek. We coerce our kids into applying to only “car decal” colleges, because let’s be honest, the bumper sticker matters!

So easily we forget that the college process is not about us. It’s about the child. Michael Thompson, a well-known psychologist, noted that the college process is really about separation or individuation, about the students defining themselves in terms independent of their parents. Thus when we take over, we rob our kids of that “rite of passage” experience into adult-decision making.

Our goal is to subvert the Procrustes impulse that often quickens to a manic beat around the release of the US News and World Report College Edition. Now don’t misinterpret our cautious posture: It’s not that we don’t want to “stretch” our kids; it’s how we “stretch” our kids and in what directions. Our hope then is that we “stretch” them to find the absolute best fit college.

Frank Sachs said it best: "College is a Match to be Made, not a Prize to be Won." It's important to remember through this entire college process that your student is the prize.

In the end, we are confident that your student will have college choices - plural. And our overarching hope is that your student doesn't just "gets in", but that they flourish while they are in college, and Lord willing, graduate in four years ( your pocket book is saying "Amen" isn't it?).

To the journey.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

College That Changes Lives College Fair

Mark Hoven and I would like to formally invite ALL rising senior students to caravan up with us to Tulsa's Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center for the College That Change Lives college fair.

We will leave the Bennett Athletic Center at 5 pm. The event lasts from 7 pm - 9 pm.

There will be a 30-minute panel presentation by CTCL deans and directors, and then immediately after the panel presentation, the college fair begins, lasting approximately 1.5 hours. Casady seniors will be able to collect information from and speak directly with admission representatives from the 40 colleges and universities that inspired noted education reporter and former New York Times education editor Loren Pope to write the book Colleges That Change Lives.

In the recent past, these 40 colleges have grown in popularity among Casady students, and as a result, we've seen more and more students matriculate to some of these 40 colleges.

I think of Taylor Helm, a 10' Casady graduate, who will attend DePauw.

I think of Rose Dubiskis, another 10' graduate, who will attend Hendrix.

I think of Lindsey Henderson and Tori McCune, both 10' graduates, both of whom will attend Rhodes this fall.

These are just a few of our outstanding Casady graduates who have matriculated to one of the 40 colleges that Loren Pope argues are as "good as the Ivies".

Below is a complete list of the 40 colleges that will attend the fair:


If you have any questions about the college fair this next Monday, you can contact me at or Mark at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bootcamp Session #1!!

Session #1 is in the books.

And what a hit it was.

The MD lab was jam packed with rising seniors

ready to get a jump start on their college applications through the Common Application.

I did a little iPhone video to capture the moment.

In our session we perused the 418 colleges and universities that accept this application. (Click here to see the 2010-2011 "all member" list).

We worked through every section together, and paused at many spots, exploring questions, seeking clarification.

My favorite question of the group: "So if my cell phone contains a voicemail that includes somewhat questionable lines from a somewhat questionable movie - you're suggesting that I might want to change it just on the rare chance that a college rep might call and hear that message?"

Many seniors also had a chance to look at the supplemental pieces to each school. Wake Forest University always asks creative, thought provoking supplement questions. Curious what they are? Here are the 8 essay prompts:
  • Please list meaningful readings you have completed during the past two years in order of their interest to you:
  • Describe the culture in which you grew up. What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What outrages you? What are you doing about it?
  • As a part of 2010 Wake Forest orientation, the freshman class examined The Andes of Ecuador, a painting by Frederic Church. Next year what work of visual or performing art should the incoming class analyze? Why?
  • Think about your academic passion. Design your ideal seminar class in the context of a liberal arts curriculum.
  • What idea most challenges you?
  • What final Jeopardy category would ensure your victory?
  • I wish I knew....
  • What should we know about you that we haven't yet learned?
If I could answer just one prompt - "I'll take J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings for final Jeopardy, Alex!" :)

Okay maybe one more. What many don't know about me is that I can dance. Like Michael Jackson-meet-Justin Timberlake dance. Break dance-meet-hip hop. I'm serious. I may be 35 years old, but I still got enough moves not to look like a total fool.

Switching gears; we are looking forward to our next bootcamp session on Thursday.

Let's pack the place again!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Common Application Bootcamp

I thought I might begin by setting the mood.

While you listen you might want to stretch, do some leg kicks, maybe take a lap around Casady lake.

Because rising seniors, the time has come.

It's the 2nd annual Common Application Bootcamp.

414 colleges and universities await your application!!!

On August 1st the Common Application went live. To go ahead and register with the Common Application you can go directly to their web site by clicking here.

Or you can enter into the Common App. web site by going through your Naviance account.

Tomorrow and Thursday from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm you have a chance to join Mrs. Cockrum and myself to "run the gauntlet" with us.

It's first come first serve.

There are about 18 computers to work on.

Once the computers fill up then we will ask you the senior to return the next session.

Don't fret, because if we have significant overflow, we will add a session this week, and we are working on adding 2 sessions during the week of August 16th-20th.

We want to ensure that every senior has a chance to participate.

As far as the objectives for our sessions:

We will go through each section of the Common Application so you understand what a "holistic application review" constitutes.

We will address any questions.

Input personal information.

Work on rough drafts for short and long essays.

Organize resume info that reveals your passions and interests.

As far as what to bring, you will need to know your social security #, your parent's email, your email, your parent's employer, your parent's educational pedigree.

That's the most pertinent.

In addition, if you have any essays or resumes, you will want to bring them too.

Put them on an E drive and we can insert them.

Don't worry if you don't have any of the major content pieces done (essays and resume).

You have ample time to get that done.

This is just a jump start workshop.

Last year we had over 50 seniors participate.

I hope we top that number this year.

So come all 82 of you!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mock Admission Event - June 2nd

Mark and I are so excited about the 1st ever Mock Admission Committee Fly-In for the Casady class of 2011 on Wednesday, June 2. At the event, our admission reps from Vandy, LMU, SMU, KU, Hendrix, and the OU Honors College will run a workshop on the college admission process.

Students will work in six committees to evaluate 3 applicants for admission to a fictitious liberal arts college. The students will have to admit, wait list, and deny one applicant. Our sense is that the kids will be enlightened by all that factors into an admission decision.

Today we met with the "seniors in waiting" to explain to them our expectations in terms of attendance, dress code, and behavior. We told them that we know it is prom day and that we have tried to schedule everything to fit around hair appointments, make-up sessions, etc.

Below is the event schedule. Students will meet from 9:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Parents will meet from 1-2:00 p.m.

9:30-10:15 a.m. Welcome & General Q&A about college application process (Fee)
10:20 a.m. Breakout Session for Mock Admission Committee (McClendon)
11:30 a.m. Return for Debriefing of the Committees (Fee)
12:00 p.m. First Senior Class Cookout (TBA)
1:00-2:00 p.m. "Two minute drill"/Q&A session Parents w/ Admission O's (Fee)

We believe this event will help launch our seniors into the exciting college application season!

We hope to see all junior students and parents at this event!

Let's finish strong together.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Show Me the Money Part 4

In a report I had to submit for our 10 year ISAS evaluation, I was asked to identify 5 challenges that we will all face in college admissions over the next stretch of Casady life. Here is what I enumerated:

· Affordability issues in post-Fannie Mae economic climate

· Depreciating value of undergraduate degree

· Greater regionalization in post-9/11 era

· Student selection of soft academic programs in fear of low grade point

· Monetary lifestyle choices that undervalue education

You will notice that the majority of our challenges ahead involve finances.

Looking closer, you will notice that 2 of the 3 are challenges beyond our control.

Like the golf ball size hail that blasted the Village and Nichols Hills like artillery shells on Sunday.

A thin financial portfolio.

Tuition hikes.

Corporate job cuts.

It's no wonder then why more families are taking a calculated, conservative, economically-centered approach to the college admission search.

It's not uncommon then, when we are discussing colleges, that I can literally see the geometric graph in mom and dad's mind, where the X axis represents the COS ("Cost of School" = tuition, room and board, books, travel expenses), and the Y axis represents the ROI ("Return on Investment" = job securement and salary cap). It makes perfect sense to do this exercise for those reasons.

However, 1 out of the 3 challenges we face is within our control.

This has to do entirely with our "purchasing choices" - a term I learned taking Dave Ramsey's Money Make Over class. What Ramsey helped me understand is that how we spend our money ultimately reveals what we both value and don't value. If, for example, I choose to buy Silas a really nice sports car when he turns 16, earning major "cool dad points", and possibly securing him a date for prom, as opposed to investing that money in a 529 Plan, which would probably result in a temporary but massive Dow Jones drop in "cool dad points" - what ultimately does that reveal about my personal value system?

So in the final analysis, I want to encourage you to focus your energies on what you can control. I certainly hope to do this both for Silas and our daughter, Olive. I truly want them to know that when it comes to their education, I was willing to "put my money where my mouth was".

Show Me the Money Part 3

I've asked Mary Ann Cockrum, our endearing registrar, to offer a few pearls of wisdom and practical tips as someone who has just been through the college admission process with her son Guy.

She knows first hand what it is like to experience "sticker shock".

She knows the prevailing myths swirling around in the atmosphere like Panhandle dust that can wreak havoc on parents anticipating college costs.

She knows what it's like to call and introduce herself to her new best friend - her financial aid officer.

She knows what it's like to fill out forms like FASFA and the CIS Profile.

She knows what information you will have to be ready to divulge.

She knows what EFC stands for.

Most importantly, she knows the value of a college education, and understands that if you really value education for your children, there will inevitably be challenges and sacrifices.

To read Mrs. Cockrum's insights and thoughts on financial aid, click here. She's written multiple posts on the topic. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Show Me the Money Part 2

Gold Medal "Show Me the Money" Colleges/Universities: $300,000 - $200,000

Baylor University
Oklahoma University
Rhodes College
Southern Methodist University
Texas Christian University
Tulsa University

Silver Medal "Show Me the Money" Colleges/Universities: $199,999 - $100,000

Hendrix College
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University
Sewanee (University of the South)

Bronze Medal "Show Me the Money" Colleges/Universities: $99,000 - $40,000

Austin College
DePauw University
Drexel University
Hampden-Sydney College
Kalamazoo College
Knox College
Loyola (Chicago)
Loyola (New Orleans)
Ohio Wesleyan
Regis University
Saint Louis University
Trinity University
Tulane University
University of Arizona
University of Michigan
University of San Diego
Westmont College
Wooster College

Honorable Mention "Show Me the Money" Colleges/Universities: $39,000 - $5,000

Averett University
Colorado School of the Mines
Cornell College
Furman University
Ohio State University
University of Cincinnati
Virginia Polytechnic Institutes
Whitworth University
William Jewell College

Show Me the Money Part 1

I'm sure you've seen the famous scene below.

If not, I invite you to watch. It will on take a minute or so.

Plus it's hilarious.

So let's be honest: we are all Rod Tidwell's in regard to paying for college, especially in our post Fannie Mae era, where stocks and bonds are slowly recovering, but not nearly at the speed or proportion of rising tuition costs.

So what does this mean?

I'd argue it means that we are seeing a new, emerging trend.

Where getting into college is not as important as getting more from a college.

Affordability, in other words, has vaulted above admissability.

Not for everyone.

But for a majority.

Consider, for example, that 20+ Casady seniors will be attending a state university.

Families who decided that it was in their best interest to say "No" to schools like Trinity, Wash U, and Notre Dame who said "Yes" to them in admission.

Now as an important caveat: the quality of education at our state universities is on the rise. It's hard to find a better deal than the one you can get at OU or OSU.

Nevertheless, the trend toward staying in state does seem to underscore that the price tag really, really matters.

To our senior families today.

To our senior families tomorrow.

That's why it is not uncommon for families to ask the questions:

"Where can I get the best deal?"

"What are the best college buys?"

"In other words, who is showin' our families the moooonnneeey?"

Tomorrow I will unveil the Gold, Silver, and Bronze "Show Me the Money" Clubs for colleges and universities that offered our student's scholarship monies.

To date, as a teaser, our 74 seniors have been offered 113 scholarships for $3,576,890.

Perhaps the trail of money will help guide some of you along the unsteady path of college admissions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shines Like Stars

What stands out to you from the chart below?

Two things shine like stars for me.

One is the application-per-students between 2006 (7.4) and 2009 (5).

Two is the acceptance results between 07' (40%) and 09' (69%).

What this reveals is the dramatic shift that we have made together in the face of humongous cultural forces.

What we have done is counter cultural, especially in the independent school world, and somewhat counter intuitive.

With 3.3 million high school graduates, a swelling influx of international applicants, the mainstreaming of the Common Application/Universal Application, and the media's fixation with rankings and admission statistics, one would think that the best strategy is to apply to more colleges. The logic is simple: the more colleges I apply to, the better chance I have of securing many choices. And the better chance I have of getting into a "name brand" school.

I would argue that this logic shaped how Casady families approached the college admission process through 06'.

Today, though, I believe the evidence points us in a new direction. Instead of "shotgunning" out 15 applications, our students are fine tuning their search, where they are investing themselves in their research (thanks Naviance), keeping an open mind to "hidden gem" schools, placing an accent on colleges that want them for what they will bring, and shopping for the best deal.

In other words, our families have bought into our new paradigm for college admission in which it is all about the right FIT.

Sometimes that fit points to a "CTCL'er" - a "College That Changes Lives" like Rhodes and Hendrix.

Or a "BBB'er" - a "BCS Bowl Bound" university like TCU.

Or a "SS'er" - a "Single Sex" school like Hampden Sydney. (Okay so we haven't had a boy make the plunge yet...but I stress yet...we had 2 applicants this year, both accepted, both awarded scholarships. One visited; loved it; but thought it was just too far away).

Consider, in closing, this year's statistics.

Total Seniors: 74
Total Applications: 366
Application Average: 4.8
Acceptance %: 74%

I don't think it is a coincidence that as we ( as a community) have embraced a philosophy of "best college fit" that our acceptance rate has gone up.

That we are applying to more schools and new schools (30+).

That the scholarship monies offered continues to increase (more on this soon).

And that ALL of our students have excellent college choices.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Casady's College Map of YES

Above is what I like to call the College Map of YES!!!

This map celebrates the 250+ college acceptance letters our seniors received from 100+ schools.

Perhaps my favorite statistic this year is that our Class of 2010 applied to 30+ schools that Casady students have not applied to before.
This demonstrates an openness to excellent colleges that fit our student's passions, learning style, and interests that are sometimes neglected by the new's media.

During a time when many schools are disappearing on the radar screens of colleges because of greater regionalization, Casady is showing up on new radar screens. Casady's name, in other words, is getting out there, and more and more colleges are discovering the par excellence of our students simultaneously as our families are discovering the college's par excellence.

To see the entire college YES list for the Class of 2010 - click here.