Tulane Retracts 130 Early-Admissions Offers

The New York Times: “Alyssa was in her high school health class around midday Wednesday when she got the email welcoming her to Tulane University and giving her a college email address. In a grueling college admissions season, it was her first-choice university, and she had applied early decision, meaning she was committed to the place. Excited by the news, Alyssa texted her mother, told many of her classmates and was congratulated by one of her favorite teachers, a Tulane alum. But two or three hours later, she received a second, decidedly more downbeat email telling her it had all been a mistake.”

“Tulane’s defenders were quick to point out that it is not the first university to have made such a mistake. Some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country — including M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon, Vassar, U.C.L.A., Fordham, Johns Hopkins and the University at Buffalo — have sent out misfired admissions notices in recent years.”

“The university’s explanation was complicated and blamed new software. True offers … come from the Office of Admission. When a student accepts the offer and makes a deposit, that results in the type of message, from Technology Services, that the 130 students received, with instructions on how to set up a Tulane email account. ‘Due to a coding error in how we installed new software, our system mistook deferred students for deposited students,’ he said.”

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‘Hotel at Oberlin’ Reflects College’s Values

The New York Times: “Oberlin, like many other colleges and universities around the country, has decided that campus guest quarters, instead of perfunctory, can become pampering places that help promote the institution’s brand and image.”The Hotel at Oberlin “was designed to be one of the most environmentally sustainable hotels in the world. It has earned platinum-level status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system used by the U.S. Green Building Council.”

“Even guests who might be oblivious to the hotel’s solar, geothermal and radiant cooling and heating systems might have trouble overlooking amenities that chain hotels would not think to offer for rooms starting at $129 a night.For example, soap dishes in each room are made by a local glassblower. Shampoos and lotions are locally produced and made with all-natural ingredients. And the food at 1833 Restaurant, the hotel’s dining facility, is locally grown as much as possible.”

Mike Frandsen of Oberlin comments: “One of the objectives we had going into this was communicating Oberlin’s core values. So if we didn’t pick out the soap dishes and the picture frames, we did make a conscious decision to work with people who understood that sustainability is something we value here at Oberlin, and a big part of our story.”

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Board Games: How to Tackle the SAT

“To learn about last-minute strategies for students to boost their SAT scores, Business Insider talked to Chris Ryan, an SAT instructor who got a perfect score on the SAT … ‘It’s like the old Clash song, Should I Stay or Should I Go,’ he says. In other words: Are you going to stick with this question and tough it out, or move on?”

“Test-takers must understand their strengths and weaknesses and leverage that information to decide which problems to spend time on and which ones to pass up. To do this, Ryan suggests practicing what he calls ’30 second starters.’ You set a stop watch to count down 30 second intervals and you start different practice questions. This exercise gives students a good idea of which questions come easily and which ones they struggle on.”

“He also stressed that students shouldn’t be scared of skipping the questions they immediately recognize they will struggle on. Test-takers shouldn’t waste time on their “problem” questions, but they should eventually answer all the questions on the exam … Even though there is technically a quarter of a point penalty for wrong answers, it’s always better to answer them all. Test-takers’ instincts are probably better than they think, and the penalty for guessing shouldn’t stress them out, according to Ryan.”

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LinkedIn: An Emerging Tool for College Applicants

The New York Times: “Public schools from San Francisco to New York City are teaching online conduct skills as part of a nationwide digital citizenship push to prepare students for colleges and careers. Teenagers who set up LinkedIn profiles in the hope of enhancing their college prospects represent the vanguard of this trend. But the phenomenon of ambitious high school students on LinkedIn also demonstrates how social networks are playing a role in the escalation of the college admissions arms race.”

“For high school students, LinkedIn is partly a defense mechanism against college admissions officers who snoop on applicants’ public Facebook and Twitter activities — without disclosing how that may affect an applicant’s chance of acceptance. A recent study from Kaplan Test Prep of about 400 college admissions officers reported that 40 percent said they had visited applicants’ social media pages, a fourfold increase since 2008.”

“Some high school students are establishing LinkedIn profiles to give the colleges that do look something they would like them to find … To attract high school students, LinkedIn in 2013 dropped its minimum age requirement for members in the United States to 14 from 18. Since then, the site has had a significant increase in high school users.”

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Ivy League Chances: Longer Than Ever

Business Insider: “The steady uptick of college applicants, especially at elite schools, is stark, driven in part by the emergence of Common App, which allows students to apply to many schools at once.Take, for example, an article in the Harvard Crimson about the acceptance rate for the class of 2000. ‘The class was chosen among a pool of 18,190 applicants, making Harvard’s admission rate a paltry 10.9 percent — the lowest in College history,’ The Crimson wrote.”

“Twenty years later, the authors of that story are likely to be aghast that the acceptance rate has spiraled ever lower. With more than double the applicants, about 95% of students who applied to Harvard were rejected … In addition to the sheer number of applicants which make the field appear more competitive, the academic credentials of students are also becoming more impressive, in part due to the increase in international students who have begun to flood US colleges and universities.”

“Selective colleges may have ballpark figures they hope to achieve (and not surpass) when it comes to the percentage of an incoming class that can be comprised of international students … The increase in international applicants, therefore, while it may drive down the overall acceptance rate, likely has less impact on US applicants than is sometimes believed … And while in many cases it looks like GPA and standardized test score averages are increasing, some of this should be attributed to the test prep era, which is ubiquitous in the college admissions process.

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Legacy: The Booster Shot of College Admissions

Business Insider: To increase your chances of admission, apply “to the same school as one of your parents. While legacy status — the term used to indicate a family member attended the same school — has been recognized anecdotally as providing a benefit to college applicants, education startup AdmitSee has used data it collects to definitively prove this correlation … The company analyzed the profiles of students who indicated their legacy status, and found that legacy students scored lower on the SAT than nonlegacy students.”

“Preferential treatment for legacy students has been studied before. Michael Hurwitz, a Harvard doctoral student, conducted a study at 30 highly selective colleges and found that legacy students had seven times the odds of admissions as nonlegacy students. But the issue of awarding an advantage to legacy students remains a contentious issue, especially in the face of push back over affirmative action policies in college admissions.”

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How Admissions Officers Use ‘Big Data’

Business Insider: “Just as companies pay for consumer data to make informed decisions, it turns out, colleges and universities do the same, according to a report by non-partisan think tank New America. The report, called ‘The Promise and Peril of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education,’ detailed the ways in which colleges pay for student data. For less than 50 cents a name, colleges glean student data from third-party groups.”

“The students’ demographic information is then used for ‘predictive analytics,’ a little-known x-factor that colleges often use for enrollment management. The process pulls a multitude of data points into a model that predicts the probability a particular student will apply to a school, choose to attend after they’ve been accepted, or perform well once enrolled. The third-parties also have their own predictive models that colleges can pay for, which can include around 300 different data points on students.”

“The report also explained how colleges rank students based on this data. Admissions teams individually score students’ likelihood of becoming an applicant, being admitted, and deciding to enroll, usually on a scale of 0-10 based on factors like: race and ethnicity, zip code, high school, and anticipated major, according to the authors.”

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Yale to Admit More Students

Associated Press: “Yale University will be accepting more undergraduate students this year, but don’t expect it to be any easier to get in. Freshmen classes will be larger by about 200 students beginning next year under a long-planned expansion that will see the Ivy League college’s student body grow by about 15 percent, to 6,200.”

“For the class that arrived on the New Haven campus last year, the school accepted only 6.7 percent of more than 30,000 applicants, one of the lowest rates in the country … Yale’s applicant pool has grown in the past nine years from 22,500 to nearly 31,500, an increase that Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said has been driven largely by students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, such as minorities and students from low-income households. A larger student body, he said, will allow Yale to welcome students from more diverse backgrounds.”

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Ranking the Return on Your College Investment

The New York Times: “Earnings data are finding their way into a proliferating number of mainstream college rankings, shifting the competitive landscape of American higher education in often surprising ways. This fall, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education … introduced their first college rankings. Forty percent of their result is measures of ‘outcomes’ — earnings, graduation rate and loan repayment rate.”

“Last year The Economist released its first college rankings, and it relies even more heavily on earnings data … The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has issued another set of rankings, adjusting the College Scorecard salary rankings first for choice of major … and yet another ranking that assesses students’ expected earnings, given their characteristics when they entered college, to the actual outcome … Both Forbes and Money magazines, in their rankings, incorporate PayScale data on earnings.”

“It should go without saying that the value of an education should never be reduced to purely monetary terms.” Phil Baty of Times Higher Education comments: “The success of a college graduate should not be measured purely in terms of the salaries they earn. There’s more to life than a high salary. This is why we’ve also put an emphasis on how much the student is intellectually engaged, stimulated and stretched by their college education.”

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Keys to a Good College Experience

Quartz: “Analyzing data from a study of more than two dozen institutions, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa conclude that many students ‘enter college with attitudes, norms, values, and behaviors that are often at odds with academic commitment.’ And many universities reinforce these beliefs by building lavish amenities and marketing themselves as something akin to a resort with a curriculum.”

“Real learning—that is, learning that makes a significant and lasting change in what a person knows or can do—emerges from what the student, not the professor, does … Instead, meaningful learning emerges from a proactive conception of knowledge, where the student’s goal is to experiment with new and unexpected ways of using what he or she is learning in different settings. This requires students to see themselves as the central actors in the drama of learning.”

“The relationships students form in college also have a profound influence on their experiences, shaping not only who they spend time with but how they will spend their time … scholars have found that students who interact frequently with peers who are different in significant ways (racially, ethnically, religiously, socioeconomically, and so on) show more intellectual and social growth in college than those who don’t … Decades of research have demonstrated that students who study together learn more, and more deeply.”

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