Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Colleges Should I Visit over Spring Break?

If you are "spring breaking" somewhere, I would encourage you to check out a range of colleges in that particular area. Here are some recommendations:

Rocky Mountain

Colorado: CU-Boulder and CU-Colorado Springs, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State U., Fort Lewis College, Mesa State College, Western State College, U. of Denver, Colorado College, Regis University

Pacific Northwest

Washington: U. of Puget Sound, Whitman, Whitworth, Evergreen State, and U of Washington

Oregon: Lewis & Clark, Willamette, Reed, U. of Oregon, and Oregon State

California: Stanford, Santa Clara, U. of San Francisco, Claremont Colleges, Whittier, Occidental, Loyola Marymount, Univ. of San Diego, U. of Southern California, U. of California system (esp. Berkeley, Santa Barbara, LA, & Santa Cruz), St. Mary’s, Redlands.


U. of Arizona, Arizona State, U. of Northern Arizona, U. of New Mexico, New Mexico State, College of Santa Fe, St. John’s College

Texas & Louisiana: U. of Texas – Austin, Trinity, Southern Methodist, Rice, Texas Christian, Austin College, Southwester, Loyola, Baylor, Tulane, Xavier (HBCU*), Dillard (HBCU*)

Northern Midwest

Montana: U. of Montana, Montana State

Minnesota: Carleton, Macalester, and St. Olaf

Wisconsin: U. of Wisconsin, Ripon, St. Lawrence University, and Beloit

Michigan: U. of Michigan, Michigan State, Hope, Kalamazoo


Illinois: U. of Chicago, Northwestern, Lake Forest, Knox, Loyola, U of Illinois (Champagne)

Iowa: Cornell College, Grinnell, and Coe College

Nebraska: Creighton University, University of Nebraska

Ohio: Kenyon, Oberlin, Denison, Wittenberg, Xavier, Ohio Wesleyan, College of Wooster, Miami (Oxford), Hiram, Case Western

Indiana: Indiana U., Notre Dame, DePauw, Earlham, Butler, and U of Evansville

Missouri: Washington U., St. Louis U., U. of Missouri – Columbia, Westminster, William and Jewell

Kansas: U. of Kansas, Kansas State, Southwestern, University of Kansas City-Missouri


Pennsylvania: Bucknell U., Franklin and Marshall, Dickinson, Gettysburg, Bryn Mawr (women), Haverford, Villanova, Lafayette, Lehigh, Carnegie Mellon, U. of Pennsylvania, Allegheny, Drexel

New York: Colgate, Hamilton, Hobart & William Smith, Cornell, Rochester, Ithaca College, Union, Skidmore, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, New York U., Columbia, Fordham, Bard, Barnard (women), City College

New Jersey: Princeton, Drew

Maryland: Johns Hopkins, Washington College, Goucher , and U of Maryland

Washington, DC: Georgetown, George Washington, American, Howard (HBCU*)

Northern New England

New Hampshire: Dartmouth, U. of New Hampshire, Keene State College, Colby Sawyer College

Vermont: U. of Vermont, Middlebury

Maine: Colby, Bates, Bowdoin

Southern New England

Boston Area: Boston College, Boston U., Tufts, Brandeis, Babson, Bentley, Emerson, Simmons (women), Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wheaton, Wellesley (women), Northeastern

Western Massachusetts: Amherst, Hampshire, Williams, Smith (women), Clark, Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic

Connecticut: Trinity, Yale, Connecticut College, Fairfield University, U. Conn

Rhode Island: Brown, Rhode Island School of Design, Salve Regina, Roger Williams, U. of Rhode Island, Providence College, Bryant.


Alabama: Auburn University, Alabama, Samford

Georgia: Emory, Spelman (HBCU*, women), Morehouse (HBCU*, men), Georgia Tech, UGA

Kentucky: Centre College

Tennessee: Vanderbilt, Belmont, U. of the South (Sewanee), Rhodes, U. of Tennessee

North Carolina: UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, Wake Forest, Davidson, Guilford, Elon, UNC-Asheville

South Carolina: College of Charleston, U. of South Carolina, Furman, Wofford, Clemson, Presbyterian.

Virginia: U. of Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Hampden-Sydney (men), Randolph, Washington & Lee, William & Mary, Mary Washington, Hampton (HBCU*), Virginia Tech, Shenandoah

Florida: U. of Miami, Rollins, Eckerd, Flagler , U. of Florida, Florida State

*HBCU= Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Monday, March 5, 2012

Should I Take AP Bio or Honors Forensics?

Every year at this time I get a staccato of questions from students and parents about academic course programming.

Should I take AP Bio and risk getting a B?

Or should I take Honors Forensics and get the easy A?

And will colleges really know how hard AP Bio is compared to Honors Forensics?

And what about electives?

Is it okay if I substitute out a Spanish 5 and take something like AP Art History or Music Theory?

These are all excellent questions.
And my answer is always the same. It all depends. It all depends upon what kind of colleges and universities you plan on applying to.

This is where I often point to the "pyramid of selectivity".

Most Highly Selective (1/8)

Highly Selective (1/4)

Selective (1/2)

Somewhat Selective (6/8)

If you plan to apply to colleges that admit 6/8, then taking the "easier" core class probably won't be a big deal when you factor in everything else - rest of academic program + performance, extracurricular activities, essays, teacher/counselor recommendations, possible interview. But once you start thinking about selective institutions that admit 1/2 like a SMU or a USC that admits 1/4, and on up the pyramid to the schools that admit 1/8 to 1/10 like Duke, Vandy, and the Ivies, then you really have to re-think your strategy.

At Casady, we counsel our students to take the following measures when it comes to course selection:

  • Aim for 5 core classes (math, science, English, humanities, and language)
  • Try to move to the next level of rigor in at least four core classes (all five if possible).
  • Plan for a 4th year and/or 5th year of language studies (if recommended by faculty), especially if you plan to apply to schools admitting 1/4 to 1/10.
  • "Doubling up" in one core subject is not recommended until the senior year.
  • Preserve the senior year for substituting out a class you don't want to take for substituting in a class you do want to take.
  • And avoid the senior year "myth trap": your senior year grades do matter. Many colleges, especially selective schools, will call for current grades days before they go to committee.

In the end, I always counselor students (and parents) to strive to take the most challenging curriculum they can handle, and then do the best they can in that curriculum. The challenge in "identifying the right amount of challenge" is that it is never an exact science. It's often a communal act of discernment among many parties - student, parent, coaches, counselor, club sponsors, etc. What's best academic programming wise for one student then may not be the best course of action for another student.