Stanford Acceptance Rate Drops to Zero

Frank Bruni of The New York Times writes: “Cementing its standing as the most selective institution of higher education in the country, Stanford University announced this week that it had once again received a record-setting number of applications and that its acceptance rate — which had dropped to a previously uncharted low of 5 percent last year — plummeted all the way to its inevitable conclusion of 0 percent. With no one admitted to the class of 2020, Stanford is assured that no other school can match its desirability in the near future.”

“’We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,’ said a Stanford administrator who requested anonymity … News of Stanford’s unprecedented selectiveness sent shock waves through the Ivy League, along with Amherst, Northwestern and at least a dozen other elite schools where, as a consequence, there could be substantial turnover among underperforming deans of admission.”

“At first blush, Stanford’s decision would seem to jeopardize its fund-raising … But over recent years, Stanford administrators noticed that as the school rejected more and more comers, it received bigger and bigger donations, its endowment rising in tandem with its exclusivity, its luster a magnet for Silicon Valley lucre.”

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Study Abroad: The Four-Year Program

BloombergBusiness: “Many students are choosing to go further than a one-semester break and attend all four years of college in a foreign city. The number of students enrolled in college outside their countries rose 463 percent from 1975 to 2012, said a report last month by Moody’s Investors Service. International students in the U.S. have grown by 70 percent since 2005, according to the report.”

“College in Europe can be astonishingly cheap for Americans. Forty public and private colleges in continental Europe offer free bachelor’s degrees, taught in English, to Americans … An additional 98 colleges ask tuition of under $4,000 per year … European colleges want American applicants because they can charge higher tuition for non-EU residents. Americans in Europe will still pay considerably less than they would at home … The main thing that holds some Americans back from studying across the Atlantic is a fear that they’ll sacrifice quality—and North American career opportunities.”

Jennifer Viemont, “co-founder of Beyond The States, a database of 350 colleges in 30 countries that offer bachelor’s degrees taught in English,” comments: “The biggest worry people seem to have is that a name from Europe won’t carry the same weight as one from the U.S., but there’s a serious upshot of graduating a year early and with a fraction of the debt. Plus, you’ve seen the world.”

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New SAT Vocabulary Breaks Down in Tiers

The new SAT divides vocabulary into three tiers, reports The Christian Science Monitor. “Tier One words are the simple ones children will pick up on their own: clock, say, or baby. Tier Three words – isotope, say, or peninsula – are generally tied to a specific domain and best learned as needed. Tier Two words tend to have multiple meanings, across a range of domains.” Yes, there’s a word for that: “Polysemy, your 50-cent new word for the day, means having, or being open to, multiple meanings … Host, for instance. It’s used in biology and computer science as well as in social conversation and other areas.”

“The old SAT rewarded rote memorization of definitions. The new test asks students what words are being used to mean in the context of a particular passage. The New SAT … is particularly concerned with testing how well students are identifying ‘arguments’ and ‘claims’ being made in the reading passages, and the ‘evidence’ presented to support them. But if a student thinks of an ‘argument’ not as a tool of persuasion but rather as something likely to get him sent to the principal’s office, he might not do too well on the test.”

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What Admissions Officers Tell Their Own Kids

The New York Times asked admissions officers from nine schools for the advice they give their own children on finding the school that’s right for them. Here is some of their pearly wisdom:

“Knowing who you are provides a protective armor in a process that can be overwhelming. Not only are you inundated with communication from the colleges, everyone you know has an opinion of what is a good college and what is not, and they feel very free to express it. It’s empowering for a teen to be able to say, ‘I’m the kind of person who…’ ” – Diane Anci, Kenyon College.

“Getting those applications in early is the best way to reduce stress senior year. I want them to do well in their academic courses and extracurricular activities and to enjoy that last year of high school. Why spend it struggling with applications? … Think about it strategically: there are thousands of applications and essays to get through. If you get yours in early, the reader may be more relaxed and in a better mood at that point in the process.” – Clark Brigger, Penn State University.

“When my son was applying to schools, I never read his essay. Parents can sometimes do more harm than good with the essay. My advice to students is to first show your essay to a friend and ask, ‘Can you hear my voice in this? Could you pick my essay from a stack of 200?’ The essay doesn’t have to be about something life-changing or confessional. Smaller topics, written well, almost always work best.” – Stephen Farmer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.” – Stuart Schmill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I’m not looking for students to have done any particular activity in the summer; but instead, I’m looking to see how students grew from whatever they undertook. I do see students who are doing magnificent research and that is a great thing. And I see students, like my daughter, who are working as a lifeguard at the pool all summer, and they are both learning from those experiences.” – Laura Simmons, Georgia Institute of Technology

“As my son prepares his college list, I’m going to hand him a spreadsheet. Across the top will be the schools, and down the side will be the list of things he feels are most important to him in a college. When he visits these schools and does his research, he’ll fill in the spreadsheet, and it will be a nice road map for him. At some point, once you visit two or three schools in a day or five schools a week, they begin to blend, and you definitely want some bread crumbs to remind you of where you’ve been.” – Gil Villanueva, University of Richmond.

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Do Longer School Days Improve Performance?

Quartz: Britain “will spend up to £285 million ($400.7 million) for a quarter of secondary schools to extend their school day by an hour, in an attempt to improve academic standards … But do longer school days help? The Education Endowment Foundation, a non-profit group that aims to close the achievement gap between family income and educational attainment through evidence-based research, finds that on average, pupils make two additional months’ progress per year from extended school time or well-designed after-school programs.”

“Research shows there is no magic formula to how many hours of school is best. Formal instruction-time in schools around the world range from 6,054 hours in Hungary to 10,710 hours in Australia … But there are bigger forces at play than number of hours of instruction.”

“Kids in Korea, for example, have a relatively short day, but they then go study so much that the government has to stage 10pm raids on study centers to get kids to go home … In France, kids can go to school early and stay late, until 6:30pm. The US puts in significantly more hours than most, with lackluster performance … the bigger problem is that time spent in school is secondary to the quality of teachers, the quality of the training they get, and how they are treated.”

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Strong Stories Can Overcome Weak Numbers

Writing in The New York Times, Frank Bruni explains how admissions officers at some colleges take the time “to notice details embedded in her letters of recommendation and mentioned fleetingly in bits of personal information.” For example, an applicant to Davidson College had ACT scores and a GPA well below that of most of its students. Her extra-curricular activities were not particularly noteworthy, either.

However: “She’d been reared by a single mother. She had a 6-year-old brother. And for the last few years, she’d spent three nights a week making his dinner and getting him to bed while her mom was at work, earning an income so modest that the teenager met the federal requirements for receiving free lunch at school … And though her high school wasn’t chockablock with counselors, she’d had the good sense to read up on Davidson and, in her application, lay out a mix of cogent, sophisticated reasons that it was right for her … Everything about her suggested maturity, independence, determination.” She got in.

Meanwhile, The Air Force Academy “has a 17 percent acceptance rate … Because it’s free and funded by the government, it feels an extra obligation to be open to all … And because it is preparing its students to be military officers, character matters as much as — if not more than — test scores.” The academy sometimes admits applicants “despite inferior scores, and who nonetheless perform superbly at the academy. One had an ACT of well under 20, and yet she’d earned A’s in A.P. classes at her high school in inner-city Philadelphia.”

“Delving into her background, the administrators concluded that the low ACT was in part a function of a childhood in which she’d bounced around in foster care and even lived with teachers … That she’d nonetheless challenged herself academically and maintained a high grade point average struck academy administrators as remarkable. They admitted her, and she went on to win a coveted award for her performance during basic training. An Academy admissions officer says it’s not about ‘a sad story or a sob story. It’s about: What are the candidates’ life experiences, and how did they react?’”

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Quote of the Day: Leon Botstein

“They don’t do anybody any good, not the taker, not the college, and America is obsessed with these tests—the college rankings are partially to blame for this. They’re dumb. They are useless. Doing well on a test has nothing to do with learning and nothing to do with actually being successful in life. It helps you get into college, and you learn absolutely nothing from it.” – Bard College president Leon Botstein on the SAT and ACT.

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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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