Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Early Decision or Not? Some Thoughts, Advice, and Stats

Should I apply Early Decision or not?

Early Decision, by definition, is where you apply to one school, and if you are admitted, you are in a binding agreement to matriculate the following fall.

Now schools like Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Boston College are offering Single Choice Early Action (SCEA), which just means that you can only apply to one school, but it's non-binding, which means you can say No to that one school, even if they say Yes to you. It also means that you have a greater length of time to decide (May 1).

So ED or SCEA - it's a common question I receive from anxious seniors in the fall.

My answer is always the same. That depends.

It depends, for one, on the degree of interest in that school. If your heart meter registers a 10 (on a 1-10 scale; 1 = "Bartleby"-level interest; 10="Rome and Juliet"-level passion) every time you think or talk about that school - then Yes, applying ED might be the appropriate decision.

But if your heart meter registers an 8, 9, or 10 with other schools too. Then you might not.

But there are also hash realities about the state of college admissions right now. Not everywhere, certainly. But at the top. Yes. Unless you've been living in an igloo in remote Alaska for the past five years, you know that the volume of applications to selective/highly selective colleges have skyrocketed. More high school graduates than ever before. More international applicants than ever before. More pressure on colleges to "raise their ranking" in popular magazines. The "attract-to-reject" marketing strategic formula could look something like this:

Higher app volume + Lower acceptance % = Higher US News & World Report: College Edition ranking (which means higher bonds rating, which then means more money to build more climbing walls, which means higher tuition rates...)

This is just the way things are at schools on the first and second page of that magazine, along with a couple others. So therefore, if you just look at the raw data, it's easy for the pragmatist and strategist in you to deduce that to apply ED gives you your best chance at gaining admission. It may not get you the best financial aid package, but it gives you the best chance to get a golden ticket in.

But also remember that though the fish bowl may be smaller, the fish in that bowl are that much brighter.

Here are just a few statistics I pulled from The Princeton Review: The Best 376 Colleges (2011 Edition) concerning ED applications/admits last year:

School ED app. Accept %/#

Brown 2803 22%
Duke 1482 32%
Rice 1214 25%
Columbia 2921 40%
Vanderbilt 2150 32%
Stanford (SCEA) 4860 753
Dartmouth 1574 29%
Northwestern 1395 40%
Richmond 585 40%
Williams 538 40%
Amherst 440 34%
American 565 73%
Boston U 897 44%
Bowdoin 740 31%
NYU 2854 39%

The news for early admissions for the Class of 2016 from the NYT is what most of us predicted. Gloom and more gloom. To see the numbers for yourself (if you haven't already done so) click here.

A colleague of mine at a high powered independent school in the northeast texted me that after speaking with their Ivy reps, their college counseling office is bracing for all the "non-athlete" applicants (and there a bunch of them) to get the defer or deny letter. Translation: the athletes get to eat first at the Ivies. The rest will have to wait until the spring.

So that is either good news if you can throw a ball or dunk a basketball or run really fast. But for those students who have solid academic and resume credentials only, it may not be as encouraging.

Now we must all wait and see.

And take deep breaths.

And say long prayers.

And make sure that you have a Plan B.

And Plan C.

And maybe a Plan D.

Friday, November 18, 2011

US News and World Report Lists - Writing in the Disciplines

A final list. And one of my favorites as an English teacher.

Writing in the Disciplines.

These colleges typically make writing a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum. Students are encouraged to produce and refine various forms of writing for a range of audiences in different disciplines.

Brown University
Carleton College
Clemson University
Colorado State University
Cornell University
Duke University
George Mason University
Hamilton College
Harvard University
Miami University - Oxford
Middlebury College
North Carolina State U - Raleigh
Princeton University
Purdue University
University of California - Davis
University of Iowa
Washington State University

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jerry Maguire's Advice for Seniors on the College Admission Bubble

Today I got an email from a colleague on the admission side of the desk.

It was in response to a conversation this admission rep had with one of our students.

This student, as little bit of background, is on the proverbial bubble in terms of admissibility, particularly when it comes to GPA and test scores.

So what can this student do to augment his or her chances at gaining admission?

To answer that question, the college rep quoted one of his favorite lines from one of his favorite movies, Jerry Maguire.

Here is the scene in case you haven't seen the movie.

So often we forget that college admission reps want to see their applicants from their territory get into the school.

They are like sports agents who want to see their clients get the multimillion contract.

They are looking for any additional information they can leverage to help bolster their client's chances.

So how then does a "bubble senior" applicant "help a college rep by helping themselves"?

A handful of specific things to keep in mind.

First. They need to have their best academic trimester/semester possible. The higher the grades the more ammo you give a college rep to show an upward/college readiness trend.

Second. They may need to re-take the SAT or ACT that best suites them. Tracking our student's performance on both the ACT and SAT, they tend to score highest on their 3rd test, which often occurs sometime in September-December.

Third. If a student gets deferred, it may behoove them to have a core teacher write an additional progress report to submit to their college rep, especially in classes where there is growth.

And fourth. Never underestimate the value of grit and persistence.

A recent NYT article recently argued that too often we forget that the best indicators for success in college and in life is character. So often we put so much emphasis on numerical data, and how we can raise our kid's scores or grades, that we end up forgetting what the impetus and thrust of education is truly for. We educate to develop flourishing human beings who can in turn become change agents in culture and society. We educate to see our students become the caliber of people who are full of zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.

This is ultimately how someone helps themselves, and by so doing, helps everyone around them, well beyond just college admission reps and college counselors like me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The St. Louis Cardinals and Green Bay Packers- What Seniors Applying to College Can Learn from "Wild Card Teams"

Not long ago a senior came in with a question.

"Mr. Bottomly, what have you heard about Centre College?"

We talked about what I knew about Centre.

She then asked if it was okay if she added Centre to her "My Colleges" on the Common Application.

This student already had a clear #1 and was applying ED 1. She even had a clear #2, with plans to apply ED 2 if she was deferred or denied from her ED 1 school. She also had a nice constellation of schools in her final list that we're well within her wheelhouse, schools like Rhodes, DePauw, Sewanee, SMU.

I told her, "Sometimes the wild card team wins."

She looked at me quizzically. I knew she was an athlete, so my analogy/metaphor would work.

Take the St. Louis Cardinals. Two months ago none of the MLB prognosticators would have given the Cards a chance to make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series.

Or take the Green Bay Packers. It was last January, I know, but remember that they too were a wild card team, and they too beat the odds and won the Super Bowl.

Sometimes the team, or in this case the college, that you least expect to make a "deep run" ends up emerging as the winner.

Many times that college that you hear is "good", maybe from a peer, or surfing College Confidential threads, or in a conversation at an alumni event, can emerge as an excellent college fit for you.

This student obviously might never visit Centre, especially if she gets into one of her ED schools.

But you never know what could happen between now and May 1.

None of us are immune to the vagaries of college admissions, especially the higher up the chain of selectivity you go.

So seniors: don't be afraid to add a "wild card college".

You just never know what might happen.

Just ask the Cards and Packers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

US News and World Report Lists - Internships, Study Abroad, Service Learning

US News and World Report: College Edition have a section that includes lists for schools that get the nod for programs that help undergraduates thrive.

Here a few of those lists.

Internships (Schools nominated in this category require or encourage students to apply what they're learning in the classroom to work in the real world through closely supervised internships or practicums, or through cooperative education, in which one period of study typically alternates with one of work.)

Berea College
Drexel University
Georgia Tech
Kettering U
Northeastern U
Rochester Inst. of Tech.
U of Cincinnati
U of Maryland-College Park
Wagner College

Service Learning (Required volunteer work in the community is an instructional strategy in these programs. What's learned in the field bolsters what happens in class, and vice versa.)

Bates College
Berea College
Calvin College
College of the Ozarks
John Carroll
Michigan State
Ohio State
Portland State
U of Maryland-College Park
U of Michigan
UNC-Chapel Hill
Wagner College

Study Abroad (Programs at these schools involve substantial academic work abroad for credit - a year, a semester, or an intensive experience equal to a course - and considered interaction with the local culture.)

Beloit College
Boston U
Carleton College
College of St. Benedict
Dickinson College
Goucher College
Indiana U
Kalamazoo College
Macalester College
Michigan State
St. John's University
St. Olaf
U of Illinois
U of Minnesota
U of Texas - Austin
Webster U

Tuesday, November 1, 2011