Unlocking The Mysteries of Admissions

The New York Times: “It’s a widespread misconception that applicants have an automatic right to be admitted to the school of their choice if they have higher grades or test scores than other candidates. It’s not that grades and test scores don’t matter — they nearly always do — but colleges aren’t obligated to choose the students who are deemed most likely to earn high college grades or graduate … Instead, what counts in admissions depends on the mission of the institution — and that can vary a great deal from school to school.”

“Mission statements don’t necessarily make it easier for students to understand the nuts and bolts of admissions, but they are absolutely vital. A school’s admissions policy must flow from its mission. But by and large, colleges aren’t doing a good enough job explaining to applicants how admissions choices stem from their policy. While most colleges list some of the factors they consider in admission — such as leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities — they need to go further to explain how applicant characteristics are assessed and weighted.”

“How could admissions offices be more open about how they choose? They could start by publishing vignettes to illustrate how admissions decisions are made, spell out why certain kinds of applicant profiles do or don’t make the grade, and describe how they identify talented students who fall short in terms of grades or test scores. Descriptions of the kinds of complex deliberations conducted by real admissions committees would be enlightening to both applicants and their families.”

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Bard Unlocks the ‘Microcollege’

The Wall Street Journal: “The maximum-security inmates who beat a Harvard College team in a debate two years ago put a national spotlight on the prisoners’ ambitious college program, the Bard Prison Initiative. Now Bard College is launching a new satellite in another site that bucks tradition: the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights.”

“The ‘microcollege’ will be free for students, and aims to attract talented low-income applicants who haven’t sought degrees due to the pricetag or personal hardships. The experiment aims to find ways to make college possible for people who are often discouraged, excluded or underestimated … The new microcollege is modeled on the prison program: Bard faculty will teach small seminars leading to a two-year associates degree in liberal arts, with the hope that students will go on to get bachelors degrees elsewhere.”

“Applicants won’t submit transcripts or test scores. Instead, they will have interviews and write essays at the library. The state Board of Regents has accredited the program, which will be funded by a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Pell grants.”

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Ivy League: What Are The Most Popular Majors?

Business Insider: “So what do undergraduates at the eight Ivy League schools like to study? Turns out, it’s surprisingly similar no matter which school they attend. At six of the eight schools, economics is the most popular major among students who graduated in 2016. The most popular major at the two outliers, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, were engineering and finance, respectively.”

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How Much Is That College Degree Worth?

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Quartz: “While Americans without university degrees have seen a fair rise in household income in recent years, they still lag far behind their college-educated peers. Per triennial data from the US Federal Reserve published this week, people with college degrees these days have a median net worth more than four times that of people without.”

“It’s not that college-educated Americans are making dramatically more money than before—in fact, their median net worth has only grown 2% between 2013 and 2016—but rather that those without college degrees still have a long way to go to catch up. In that three-year period for which Fed data was collected, the median net worth for those with only a high school diploma actually jumped around 25%, from $54,100 to $67,100. But the median net worth for those with college degrees is $292,100.”

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The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?

The Washington Post: “Do most freshmen really gain 15 pounds during their first year as undergrads? Research tells us no. Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average. The actual weight gain of freshmen varies greatly among different studies, with an overall average of 7½ pounds. A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.”

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Freshman Friends: A Key To Coping in College

Quartz: “A 2008 poll conducted by the Associated Press and mtvU found that 40% of college students said they felt stress regularly—and almost one in five seriously considered dropping out of school. With those high stress levels in mind, the researchers, including Stanford economics professor Matthew Jackson and former Stanford doctoral candidate Desmond Ong, put nearly 200 Stanford freshmen—who had recently moved into first-year dorms—through a battery of personality tests and questionnaires.”

“Their goal was to determine which students occupied central roles in these different networks—notably groups based on trust, fun, and excitement. The researchers found that individuals were more particular about whom they included in their trust networks compared to groups related to fun and excitement. In those selective trust networks, freshmen were more likely to include highly empathic students. In contrast, when students wanted to feel positive and have fun, they were more likely to seek out dorm mates high in happiness.”

“Just as you need the right outfit for a particular occasion, college freshmen need certain friends for certain situations. When you need a dose of fun, engaging with a positive and happy friend can lift your mood. But that friend may not be the best person to go to when you need someone to confide in. An empathic friend, on the other hand, may be just the right person for helping you through difficult and challenging times.”

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Harvey Mudd: STEM ‘Boot Camp’

Business Insider: “Located in Claremont, California is an 829-person liberal arts college that might go unnoticed to the uninitiated. It’s not a member of the Ivy League, nor does it have the celebrity of Stanford University, its neighbor to the north. In fact, if you’re not familiar with the Claremont Consortium, you’ve probably never heard of the school. Harvey Mudd College is a STEM powerhouse. It routinely shows up on lists that rank the best value colleges and, based on median salary, its graduates out-earn those from Harvard and Stanford about 10 years into their careers.”

“Mudd embraces its academic rigor and describes its core curriculum as a ‘boot camp in the STEM disciplines — math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering — as well as classes in writing and critical inquiry’ that it says ‘gives students a broad scientific foundation and the skills to think and to solve problems across disciplines’.”

“Every entering student must take a computer science class, a rare requirement for a liberal arts college. But Mudders must also graduate with a strong liberal-arts background, taking just as many courses in the humanities as they must in core introductory courses in the sciences.”

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Cornell Tech: Campus of the Future?

The Wall Street Journal: “Conceived by the Bloomberg administration, Cornell Tech was envisioned as a $2 billion, 12-acre campus devoted to the marriage of academia and business in the hopes of engendering a new class of tech-savvy biz kids. Phase One was officially completed on Sept. 13, with the first three buildings (costing $700 million) up and running for some 300 students and (to date) three corporate giants—Citigroup, Two Sigma Investments and Ferrero, an Italian chocolate company.”

“The new campus buildings and their land-sculpted surrounds set a new bar for architecture. Priorities have been upended. While expensive new campus structures usually make bold visual statements, at Cornell Tech sustainability and landscape, not ambitious form making, lead the way.” For example: “At four stories and 160,000 square feet, the Bloomberg Center—designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis—is wrapped in an animating metal screen scalloped in soup-lid-size scales that turn a golden or lagoon-ish green hue depending on how they catch the light. It helps to cool and minimize waste at a building that aims to achieve the new holy grail of energy usage: net-zero.”

“Beneath the prow are a cluster of built-in outdoor seats and tables. A path sweeps past the other two buildings—a dorm and office-cum-incubator—into an open plaza and lawn with a seemingly endless array of seating arrangements and table options. The buzz potential is palpable … Beneath the lawn and plaza, there’s a rain-harvesting tank and 80 geothermal wells. Gardens perform bio-filtration services; pavers absorb overflow … When the campus is completed by 2043, there will be 2,000 students and 10 buildings. Cornell Tech puts the island at the heart of where ideas in business and architecture are headed.”

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College Lists: There are Apps For That

The Wall Street Journal: “Many websites and apps ask students a lot of questions to generate college lists, but only a few invite them to have a little fun with the process. The iOS app Admittedly quizzes users on their preferences for such factors as walkability or weather. An article on the app headed, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go,’ suggests 10 campuses in hilly terrain. (Admittedly recently launched on the web as myOptions.)”

“The College Fair, a mobile app launched in 2016 under the name Schoold, asks users for academic and personal data, then claims to use Netflix-like algorithms to fine-tune college lists. The app also posts whimsical rankings such as ‘Beyonce’s Short List’ of schools the pop star might like, and ‘Places Where the Professors Know Your Name’.”

“An extensive website called BigFuture, by the nonprofit college-planning concern The College Board, has helpful tools linking students’ interests with potential majors, careers and colleges … The Naviance program, owned by the Cincinnati-based education software company Hobsons, offers a wealth of college- and career-planning tools … It’s well-known for its ‘scatterplots—dot diagrams charting the grades and test scores of students from the same high school who applied to a particular college in the past and showing whether they were admitted. Seeing where your grades and test scores appear in relation to others’ helps students estimate their chances of admission.”

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Snooze Alarm: Should Teens Get More Sleep?

The New York Times: “Many high-school-age children across the United States now find themselves waking up much earlier than they’d prefer as they return to school. They set their alarms, and their parents force them out of bed in the morning, convinced that this is a necessary part of youth and good preparation for the rest of their lives. It’s not. It’s arbitrary, forced on them against their nature, and a poor economic decision as well. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that teenagers get between nine and 10 hours of sleep. Most in the United States don’t.”

“A Brookings Institution policy brief investigated the trade-offs between costs and benefits of pushing back the start times of high school in 2011. It estimated that increased transportation costs would most likely be about $150 per student per year. But more sleep has been shown to lead to higher academic achievement. They found that the added academic benefit of later start times would be equivalent to about two additional months of schooling, which they calculated would add about $17,500 to a student’s earnings over the course of a lifetime. Thus, the benefits outweighed the costs.”

“Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek and Wendy Troxel conducted analyses to determine the economic implication of a universal shift of middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. at the earliest. This study was stronger than the Brookings one in a number of ways … It examined downstream effects, like car accidents, which can affect lifetime productivity. And it considered multiplier effects, as changes to the lives of individual students might affect others over time. They found that delaying school start times to 8:30 or later would contribute $83 billion to the economy within a decade. The gains were seen through decreased car crash mortality and increased student lifetime earnings.”

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