Payback Time: Colleges That Change The World

“The Princeton Review recently published ‘Colleges That Pay You Back: 2016 Edition,’ which includes a list of the top schools in America for making an impact. Princeton Review based the ranking on student ratings and responses to survey questions covering community-service opportunities at their schools, student government, sustainability efforts, and on-campus student engagement. They also took into account PayScale.com’s percentage of alumni from each school that reported having high job meaning.”

To access a list of the top 25 schools, click here.

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Swarthmore: Academic Life in a Plant Kingdom

The Washington Post: “It is no accident that many of the nation’s top universities hold their graduation ceremonies this month outdoors, in the designed landscape. Perhaps no other institution has embraced this ideal more than Swarthmore College, the small liberal arts college 10 miles southwest of Philadelphia … Created in 1929, the Scott Arboretum grants Swarthmore’s 1,500 students an academic life immersed in the plant kingdom.”

“Covering about 300 acres, it fuses three key elements: an arboretum of old and rare trees, a series of designed gardens around and among the college buildings, and a group of major plant collections that include magnolias, flowering cherries, hydrangeas and tree peonies. Add to that an adjoining 220-acre native hardwood forest — Crum Woods — and you reach the idea that if any place can take young and curious minds out of the digital universe and back into the physical world, it is here.”

“Sometimes, the gardens function as an outdoor classroom — exquisitely at the Science Center, where the outer wall of one building doubles as a chalkboard … Two gardens move front and center for this weekend’s commencement … The first is the Dean Bond Rose Garden … This Sunday, by tradition, approximately 350 graduating seniors will go to the garden, select a rose and have it pinned to their gown. They will then proceed to the commencement ceremony itself, which occurs in the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater … The tradition of commencement in this space is so strong that it is held rain or shine.”

John Beardsley, the director of garden and landscape studies at Harvard comments: “Clearly a campus is not necessary to learning — you can learn online — but you learn something else in a shared landscape space, which is about creating a sense of belonging.”

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Dear Penn Freshmen: It’s Going To Be Okay

Dear Penn Freshmen is “an online project launched in February by University of Pennsylvania Wharton School student Lauren McCann, reports Quartz. Started as a assignment for a course on organizational behavior, the project—which asks upperclassmen across Penn’s undergraduate schools to write letters to their younger selves—drew more than 10,000 unique visitors within 24 hours of going live.”

“Dear Penn Freshmen isn’t aiming to reform college mental health resources … It simply wants to show young students that falling through the cracks is neither shameful nor uncommon.”

Says McCann: “Particularly at high-pressure colleges, it’s so easy to crumble. A lot of the time, we talk about mental health and no one wants to come out and say they’re dealing with it… One thing that’s been really great about the letters is people’s willingness to put their name on it … At a place like Penn, everyone’s always trying to stand out and draw lines from one another, but we’re all dealing with a lot of the same issues … nothing is more comforting in the world than hearing ‘me, too.’”

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New Media Challenge College Newspapers

Huffington Post: “This is the new college media world: a trend of quickly growing startups, fueled by investors and seed money, running entirely on content that college students and fans of the provocative create.”

“In the past couple of years, websites like The Tab, the Odyssey, Spoon University and FlockU began to create a foothold in collegiate life and culture, just as student newspapers have scaled back. A small, central staff of professionals runs each outlet, while students write all of the articles … each say they can offer a more unfiltered view of collegiate life and a larger platform for writers, with potential connections to professional media outlets.”

“These startups won’t replace traditional campus newspapers, said Gary Kayye, who teaches at the University of North Carolina journalism school, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have an impact.” Says Kayye: “It’d be short-sighted and downright naive to think that these types of publications won’t have any effect. The plethora of campus newspapers that are owned by campuses need to seriously join the digital age and certainly the mobile age.”

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Which Colleges Are The Most Fun?

To determine which schools have nailed the formula for fun, Business Insider looked at 12 categories from The Princeton Review’s 2016 college rankings, including lists like “Party Schools” and “Lots of Beer.” Since alcohol isn’t the only way to have fun, (the formula) also included schools that placed on lists like ‘Happiest Students’ and ‘Best Quality of Life’ … the typical ‘fun’ school is a large public university with a strong Greek system and competitive athletics. However, several smaller schools with close-knit communities earned spots on the list as well.

The school that has the most fun? University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by Tulane, and then University of Iowa. You can review the rest of the list here.

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It’s All Downhill For Mid-Year Middlebury Grads

Last Saturday, 113 Middelbury College seniors took part “in one of the most unusual processions in higher education: The 29th Annual Middlebury Ski-Down,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Taking a post-graduation ski run is a tradition reserved for the so-called “Febs” — or those Middlebury students who graduate in February because they entered the college mid-year. “While proficiency in snow sports isn’t a formal graduation requirement like the first-year writing-intensive seminar, the ski-down might as well be mandatory.”

“At a formal ceremony in the morning, students walked across a stage, listened to speakers, shook hands with the college president and received a replica of the walking stick used by the school’s co-founder. But under their caps and gowns, some said they sweat through fleece and wool since there is little time to change before jumping on buses for the ski-down … Most are on skis or snowboards. A few walk. Many wear their caps and gowns, even accessorizing with bright feathered boas. Family and friends cheer from the bottom of the hill.”

“They don’t make you go down if you don’t want to,” said Olivia Aborn, a 22-year-old history major from Hingham, Mass. “But I would hate to not be there. This is it.”

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Survey: Political Activism Rising On Campus

FiveThirtyEight: “A new survey that captures the attitudes of 2015 college freshmen shows unprecedented levels of interest in both political engagement and student activism, underscoring the youth vote’s potential to reshape the electoral landscape.”

“The survey found that nearly 9 percent of freshmen say there’s a “very good chance” they’ll participate in a student protest on campus, the highest in the survey’s history and up from about 6 percent in 2014. Black and Latino students were more likely to express this view than white and Asian-American students.”

“From one vantage point, the emboldened political attitudes of these 18- and 19-year-olds mirror a rise in volunteerism and commitment to others also captured in the survey — offering evidence disputing the view of younger Americans as narcissistic or incurious about the world.:

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No Place Like Home: College & Personal Growth

“For previous generations, college was a decisive break from parental supervision; guidance and support needed to come from peers and from within,” write A. Douglas Stone and Mary Schwab-Stone in The New York Times. “In the past two decades, however, continued family contact and dependence, thanks to cellphones, email and social media, has increased significantly — some parents go so far as to help with coursework.”

Stone is a physics professor at Yale and Schwab-Stone a retired psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study Center. “Instead of promoting the idea of college as a transition from the shelter of the family to adult autonomy and responsibility,” they write, “universities like Yale have given in to the implicit notion that they should provide the equivalent of the home environment … But college is a different kind of community than a family, and its primary job is education of the student and adaptation to independent community living.”

They conclude: “Every college discussion about community values, social climate and behavior should also include recognition of the developmental importance of student autonomy and self-regulation, of the necessary tension between safety and self-discovery.”

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