Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Well-Rounded" + "Well-Angled"

There is a new hyphenated word being used in the world of highly selective schools.

It's the word "well-angled."


All of us have some idea of what well-rounded means.

It's always been the lingua franca of the independent school world.

And the foundation of Western pedagogy. 

A well-rounded student has many hyphens in their profile.





A well-rounded student is not necessarily excellent and passionately involved in one "hyphenated sphere."

A well-rounded student is very good and modestly involved in many "hyphenated spheres."

The student is not just into one thing.

But many.

Not singular.

But plural.

I've reported before that the Dean of Admission at Harvard shared with us at the Harvard Summer Institute last year that almost two-thirds of admitted students were "well-rounded."

My guess is that Bill Fitzsimmons could have said that about any applicant.

But dig a bit deeper, and the student admitted, most likely had a "hook."

A hook is a "+1 credential" that helps elevate the applicant from the pack.

Recruited athlete.  +1.

Legacy.  +1.

URM (Under Represented Minority).  +1.

URD (Under Represented Demographic).  +1.

URG (Under Represented Gender).  +1.

Now it is beginning to seem that if a student is "well-rounded" but not "hooked," then the student's only chance at admission is if he or she is "well-angled."

*And let me clarify - this is at the most highly selective schools, specifically universities. 

What then does this mean?

The way I interpret this new term is two-fold:  1)  "well-angled" means that a student bends their academic curriculum toward a particular academic major or discipline.  An example then would be the student who plans on applying to the engineering college within a highly selective university.  He or she then "angles" her curriculum in such a way that he or she drops humanities and languages, and loads up on math and sciences.

2)  "Well-angled"means that a student starts majoring in a major before they major in a major.

 In other words, the student starts taking college-level course work in a specific academic discipline before they are freshman in college.

I've been amazed at how many kids today are looking for or signing up for college-level course/experiences as a way to "angle" themselves.  Highly selective colleges, it seems, are really jumping at the opportunity to create a new revenue stream.  Of course, these kinds of programs advantage the advantaged.  The cost alone is normally too steep for the personis mediocribus.

The concern I have is that 1) this "well-angled" terminology will create a wide spread panic among students and parents, and that as a result, they will start protesting the fact that their student has to take World History, or that they have any general core requirements.  The liberal arts education, over time, as a result, will go kaput.  2)  This "well-angled" terminology will force students to prematurely decide what academic route to take for a career. 

These trends are already starting to creep into our ethos.

We have, for example, students at our school who will graduate and not know what the Renaissance is any real depth.  Why?  They only have to take two years of history.

And at the same time, we are seeing such a heavy attrition of kids NOT matriculating to liberal arts colleges.

Two years ago - only 13% of our class matriculated to lib arts colleges (87% to universities).

Last year - 9%.

To compete then at the university level at highly selective schools, it seems that our kids are being manipulated into curriculum and career decisions that at 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, they should not have to decide.

When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a sportscaster on ESPN.

How about you?

It does make me wonder how much longer liberal arts colleges, and in fact, liberal arts curriculum in the independent school world, will be able to survive.

And how much longer it will be until the British/European model of education replaces our model, which then will create a much more specialized student and work force.

Time will indeed tell.

In the meantime, I strive to do the best I can to discern the right academic curriculum each student should take within our graduation requirements and course offerings to give them the best competitive credential possible to gain admission at whatever level of admission selectivity.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Demise of Guys

I saw this graph in an article this week.

It reinforces the chasm growing between men and women who are college educated.

At our local flagship university, for example, the gap between men and women enrolling each year is almost 250 with each class.

There is now almost 1000 more females in school than males.

Which of course is now proliferating out into major urban sprawls.

Which then is making it harder for young women to find young men who are a "good match" in terms of education and career levels and ambitions.

Perhaps you have heard, read, or seen some of the stuff by Philip Zimbardo on this topic.

One of his more popular TEDS Talks is on the "demise of guys."

Zimbardo begins with sobering statistics about the growing gap between males and females matriculating and graduating from college.

And then he delves more deeply into the problems that young men are facing today in relationship to the opposite sex.

Preferring objects to people.

Gamers.  Cave Dwellers.

Socially awkward.

Addicted to pornography.

Paralyzed by intimacy.
The Ted Talk is worth the six minutes, especially if like me, you are raising a boy.

Or have in your English class of 14 students - 10 boys and 4 girls.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Debunk Myths

The last four posts have explored ways that students applying to college can survive the "perfect storm" in college admissions.

Duke University, for example, just announced this week that they filled up 44% of their freshman class in Early Decision (admitting 753).  There are now only 950 places left to fill...from 29,000 Regular Decision applicants.

Do the math.  Tsunami alert.

It's important then with college admission realities like this to keep perspective, take a student-centered approach, foster an open mind, and choose wisely.

Finally, it's important that you (the student) debunk myths.

The most pervasive myth in our culture is that only certain schools will prepare people for success.   
Tell that to over half of our U.S. Senators.  They graduated from public universities.   
Tell that to 43 of the top 50 CEO’s in the world.  They graduated from schools other than Ivies.    
 Tell that to Condoleezza Rice – a graduate of Denver University.   
Or Stephen Spielberg.  He was rejected from USC three times.  He graduated from Cal State Long Beach.    
Tom Hanks.  He attended Colby Community college.    
Or Sam Presti, the Thunder’s GM - an Emerson College graduate.  
Or our beloved Dr. Powell, head of the Casady English department - a University of Redlands (CA) graduate.
Part of the genius of America is that genius can come from anywhere.  
In fact most of the greatest success stories in the West are about people who came out of nowhere as "nobodies" and through grit, hard work, perseverance, sheer determination and luck became the "somebodies" that they are.
Undoubtedly, white squalls will form.   
There will be scary moments in the college process.  
But stay the course.   
You just wait and see.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Keep an Open Mind

In the face of the perfect college admission storm, we've talked about the importance of keeping perspective, taking a student-centered approach, and choosing wisely.
Now we come to the fourth tip.
Keeping an Open Mind.
Try not to let the fact that you may or may not have heard of a school close your mind off from exploring it.   
Many Casady students have discovered “hidden gems” all across the US...and beyond.  
One book that helped provide a new compass and needle point for finding excellent colleges was Loren Pope's book Colleges That Change Lives. 
Pope's thesis:  these 40 schools are better than the Ivies! 
One the salient points that Pope makes involves the idea that there are programs within the colleges that phenomenal.   
Take Rhodes College, for example.  
They have a Summer Plus Program that allows students to intern with research doctors at St. Jude’s Hospital during the summer and school year.   
One student I met at Rhodes turned down three Ivies to attend Rhodes because of the Plus program.  
That student would have made Pope proud.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Choose Wisely

In this series of posts on surviving the college admission storm, we have focused thus far on the importance of keeping perspective and taking a student-centered approach.  

Now to the third tip.

Choosing wisely. 

You get to choose where you apply, not where you get accepted. 

Let me say that again.

You get to choose where you apply, not where you get accepted.

The former is in your control;  the latter is in the sole hands of the admission committee.

The goal then is to craft a college list that reflects the college reality.  

Think of an Egyptian pyramid.  

That’s the college admissions reality.  

There are only about 100 schools that admit fewer than apply (these also tend to be "need" schools that give money to students based on W-2's).  

The lion’s share of schools are still looking for a reason to admit you (and possibly give you a merit scholarship based on your GPA, test scores, and leadership credentials).  

It’s wise then to build a final college list where your academic credentials (GPA, test scores) are in the mid-50% to top 25% range of admitted students at half of your schools.

The impulse, of course, is to flip the pyramid over and apply to a majority of schools in which your credentials are "profile negative."

This is the "7-1" strategy.  

The student applies to 7 "reach" schools with a single digit admit rate.

And then applies to 1 "likely" school with close to a triple digit admit rate.

My advice.  Take a more balanced approach.

1-2 "reach" (25% chance or less) schools.

2-4 "target" (50-50% chance) schools.

And 1-2 "likely" (75% chance) schools.

Sometimes we like to use the term "financial likely" term, but as we're all discovering, it is becoming harder and harder to find these kinds of schools.

For our kids, we encourage them to use Naviance, in particular, which can help the student balance their application list.

Other ways is to look at the 75% to 25% ranges for test scores.  

One of the reasons I do keep a copy of the US News and World Report College Edition is because it provides test ranges that can help the student get an idea of the "competitive playing field," and therefore, what scores they need to aspire toward to get on the field for at least a tryout.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Make a Bucket List

High school graduation rates.
1st Gen's matriculating to college.
International students.
The Common Application.
Marketing and Rankings.
Combine these forces and you have the perfect storm.
 So how you survive this perfect storm in college admissions?
 Yesterday we focused on the importance of keeping perspective.
 Today our focus will be on taking a student-centered approach to the admission process. 
As opposed to a destination-centered approach
It’s normal to want to begin with “The List.”   
But try instead to start with you (remember – you and not your parents, siblings, teachers, counselors, etc. are going to college).   
Make a “bucket list” of things you want to experience before college graduation.   
Do you want to join a sorority?   
Live in a big city?   
Double major?   
Study abroad?   
Play in an orchestra?   
Perform in a play?   
Compete in college athletics?   
Mountain climb?   
Tailgate on Saturday’s?   
Come home regularly?  
Meet a diverse range of people?   
Conduct research?   
Write a mini dissertation?  
 Once you start figuring out what you want out of college, it will be far easier to find the kinds of colleges that best match your interests, ambitions, and preferences. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Keep Perspective

In my last post, I introduced the inimical forces converging in the college admission atmosphere to create the perfect storm.
High school graduation rates.
1st Gen. college students.
International students.
The Common Application.
The gazillions dumped into marketing.

How then do you, the student, come through the storm?
 First things first.
 Keep perspective.  The good news is that the overall acceptance rate at colleges is still 70%.  
 That hasn’t changed since the 1980’s.  
 In addition, it’s important to remember that only 24% of Americans have a college degree.   
Recent studies show that a person with a degree will earn $600,000 more over a lifetime than a person without a degree.    
That a person goes to college then is often more important than where they go to college.         

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Introduction

It’s the collective groan that college bound seniors at Casady and beyond are making these days in the face of emerging college application trends.
Take, for example, the University of California-Berkeley.
They just broke the all time record with over 90,000 applications. 
Vanderbilt and Yale just surpassed the 30,000 application marker.
It seems every school from the Big XII to the Ivy League are saying the same thing.
Applications are up.  Acceptances will certainly be down.
Harvard’s Dean of Admission, Bill Fitzsimmons, anticipates that America’s oldest college will accept less than 6% from their application volume of over 35,000.  
Harrowing statistics like these confirm what colleagues in my field have been forecasting for years – the perfect college admission storm.
Why is this?
Prognosticators point to five inimical forces converging in college admissions.
The rise of both high school graduates (roughly 70% of 3.2 million) and the spike in 1st generation college students. 
The influx of international students to US colleges  (249,439 in 2012).

The popularity of the Common Application (922, 827 applications; 13.6 submissions per second; 3,014,132 teacher recommendations – and all just in the month of December).

And the billion dollar “attract to reject” marketing model (attract the application;  reject the applicant).
So how then do you, the student, not only survive the maw of the college admission storm, but, more importantly, emerge on the other side with excellent college choices?

That's what we will be exploring in the next five posts.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parents - Red Line Lowering

In my first post on this topic, I shared about the opportunity I had to engage Dr. Joanne Deak, a leading expert on the adolescent brain.

In her session on "Understanding the Adolescent Brain," she opened by saying point blank: "You are going against neurobiology. The adolescent brain is not equipped to handle the stresses and strains that 17-18 years old are put under, especially when it comes to the college process."

Like I mentioned in the first post, Dr.Deak explained how the Corpus collosum is under massive construction during the teenage years. Dr. Deaks compared the Corpus collosum to a 10-lane highway, like I-5 in LA. In order for teens to be able to think, organize, judge, and make morally sound, non-destructive decisions, "all lanes" on the Cc have to be open. What often happens though is that stress causes the Amygdala (feeling center) to swell, which then triggers a suppression of the Prefrontal cortex, which then causes the "highway to shut down."  What ensues is a series of emotional, academic, and volitional "crashes."

So what the new brain research shows is that adolescence is the worst time for organization

Many times kids are just trying to get from A to B, let alone trying to navigate the labyrinthine realities of college admission.   

This then is why one of the primary tasks of the helicopter parent involves lowering the red line.

Here then are five "red line lowering" strategies.

"College Talk":  It starts with how much time you spend talking about college, and what kind of tone you take when you do talk with your kids about college.

My parents did a very helpful thing in my junior and senior year.   They put limits on "college talk" within our home.  

In fact, we only broached the topic once a month.  

Once a month at lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant.  

I always knew when, in other words.

The tone, moreover, was always conversational.  Warm and inviting.   

It was nice to know that college was only one piece of my life, instead of the whole pie!

Senior Year Course Selection:  My rule of thumb:  let the senior substitute out a class they DON'T want to take. 

 Still aim for 5 core course with upward traction rigor-wise in at least 4 of them.   

(*The exception to the rule are the Ivies.  Since they are often looking for a reason to not admit a student, I would be careful, since taking a "softer" course could give the Ivy school exactly what they need to put you in the defer or deny pile (did you drop below the red line?  sorry.)  I had a senior, for example, who took four of the hardest courses we offer - English IV, AP Biology, Multivariable Calculus, and AP Statistics - but added Chinese 1.  This was all a top Ivy needed - a freshman course in his senior year!)

Application Season:  Help your student think ahead and set aside a couple major blocks of time a couple weeks before application deadlines.  

It's amazing what 3-4 hours of uninterrupted blocks of time will do to help kids get stuff done.

"Decompressor Spaces":  Do things intermittently that are fun, relaxing, and stress relieving.  A movie, pedicure, massage, a round of golf, coffee, rock climbing, paint balling - you get the idea, just to remind your kids that life is more than SAT scores, college essays, interviewing tips, and financial aid dollars. 

Application Crush:  It's hard in the new "Common Application" era to resist the impulse to send out more apps, not less.  Not to mention there are the increased financial burdens today to find the best college deals.  So ultimately we give our kids license to apply to as many schools as they want, though we counsel them to consider limiting the total number to no more than 8.   We had one senior this year apply to 20 schools - new record;  a handful applied in the teens.  Most though applied to 3 or 4 schools.  

More importantly, we talk with students about taking a balanced-approach:  1-2 "reach" schools (25% or less), 2-3 "target" schools (50-50%), and 1-2 "financial likely" schools (75% or better.

Parenting teens is hard work.

I had a veteran parent (4 teens now in college) tell another parent (first in HS):  "Raising teens is all about lowering the bar of expectation."

 Good advice.  For you to your teen.  And for you to yourself.  

You aren't going to parent this process perfectly.  

You will have your own "red line" moments.

The key is just to try and keep first things first.

Your child.

And the relationship with that child that will go on way beyond the college years.