Thursday, March 27, 2014

Admission Decisions Today (5 pm eastern time) and Icebergs

As highly selective admissions announce their decisions today and next week (here are the numbers!), the question in the aftermath [for counselors like me] is always this one:

If 85-90% of the students applying to these schools are admissible (according to the admission deans), then how do these admission officers make their decisions?

I would offer my iceberg analogy.

This is something I drew up on a napkin while listening to Bill Fitzsimmons talk about admissions at Harvard at the Harvard Institute.

90% of the reasons why or why not are underneath the surface.

Where we will never know why.

Which often then translates to students beating themselves up over the 10% above the surface that had NOTHING to do with the decision made.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bracketology and Highly Selective College Admissions

How's your NCAA bracket looking?


I filled out 8 brackets.

And all of them have been blown to smithereens.

I'm proud to say though I picked Dayton vs. Stanford.

I'm not proud to say I also picked Western Michigan, Louisiana Lafayette, and Western Kentucky.

Which brings me to the correlation between bracketology and highly selective admissions.

We're about to enter the two major 24 hour windows of time where all the #1 seeds reveal their winners and losers...and maybes.

I probably have 68 or so admission decisions pending for my students at those "blue blood" schools.

Enough to fill out a NCAA-like bracket.

And mentally I do it every year. 

I try my best to prognosticate who will win and advance and who will lose and well go somewhere else.

And every year I do about as well in my "highly selective admission bracket" as I do in my NCAA bracket.

There are kids who like Mercer don't beat Duke but get into Duke...and I didn't see it coming.

And there are kids who like Wichita State are undefeated in college admissions right up until April 1st and then they get smeared...and I didn't see it coming.

The reality is that highly selective admissions is simply too unpredictable these days.

The application volume. Plus...

The pressures for greater selectivity (which means lower admit rates and higher yield rates).  Plus...

The institutional agenda.  Plus...

The hidden variables that come into play in making very complex, highly nuanced decisions.

This article is an excellent reminder of what a "crap shoot" highly selective admissions is today.

As Mr. Gould points out in the following article, admission decisions say very little about the student, and much more about the institution making those decisions.

In the end, if a student's application list is balanced, then that student will have some excellent final choices that a majority of 18-year old's would give anything for.

March Madness is certainly my favorite time of year (other than the Masters in April) as a sports fan...but my least favorite time of the year as a college counselor.

But in the end, I'm always surprised how each student ends up where he or she is able to get a great college education.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul....Excellent Read

If you want the extended, full disclosure story behind the overhaul of the SAT, then I would invite you to read this article from The Times.

The article raises important questions about standardized testing.

The reality is that standardized testing has simply reinforced the savage inequalities that have existed socioeconomically.

Standardized tests advantage the advantaged.

And disadvantage the disadvantaged.

Scores, in other words, reveal zip codes and income brackets.

Not raw acumen and intellectual ability.

Not to mention intellectual curiosity and creativity and innovation (does any standardized test reveal this?).

Standardized tests are here to least at 80% of the colleges and universities out there.

It's a $4.5 billion dollar cash cow for the empire called The College Board.

Hopefully though the new SAT will provide ways to create a more even playing field for students.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New SAT 1 Unveiled

I was at the Harvard Summer Institute last June when College Board President, David Coleman, gave us - college deans and counselors - a sneak preview of the radical changes coming to the SAT 1.

Two sections only again.

Scored on the traditional 1600 scale.

An optional essay.  What....optional?

"Real world" vocabulary words.

So fewer words like parsimonious and inchoate.

And more words like synthesis and adaptability.

21st century words, in other words.

Data driven math.

Evidence-based literary analysis.

Less archaic and more relevant literature.

Like MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

And the Declaration of Independence.

And health care equivalent of free, universal test prep through Khan Academy!

This is a step in good direction....IF colleges and universities are going to continue to use standardized test scores to conquer and divide...excuse me, I mean bolster their ranking status...I mean evaluate the applicant's ability to succeed in their freshman year. 

Nevertheless, I'm not sure if a overhauled test will change the fact that only 42% (according to the College Board) of the US test taking population scored high enough to qualify as "college ready."

That said, I don't foresee the new SAT 1 having a significant impact on the Casady community.

We have steadily seen 15% of our seniors submit SAT I scores to colleges.

85% still prefer and score highest on the ACT.

But it will certainly change the game for our kids in terms of the PSAT...and National Merit.

Here is a link to an excellent article explaining the new SAT 1 that will be fully functional in the spring of 2016.