Fun Facts for Harvard Hopefuls

The Wall Street Journal: “Harvard’s admissions office pays special attention to recruits from 20 U.S. states labeled internally as ‘sparse country’ because students from those places, including Maine, Arizona and Montana, are relatively underrepresented on campus … Applicants from two dockets—the greater New York City and Boston areas—had admit rates of 11.3% and 12.8%, respectively, for the class of 2018. That’s roughly double the rates for other dockets … For the class of 2018, 7.4% of applicants who said they planned to study humanities were admitted, compared with 4.6% of aspiring engineers and computer scientists.”

“Harvard instructs admissions officers to give top marks to recommendation letters if they are ‘truly over the top,’ with phrases like ‘the best ever’ or ‘one of the best in X years’ … At trial, Harvard highlighted moving applicant essays, including one from a Vietnamese immigrant who was bullied in school for his accent … Harvard’s interviewer handbook said applicants who were “bland” should get low marks on the personal rating, which measures their personal qualities through their essays, recommendations and interviews … Roughly 86% of recruited varsity athletes who apply to Harvard were admitted, according to trial testimony.”

“Children of major donors often get flagged by the development and admissions offices … Socioeconomically disadvantaged applicants also get special consideration … And the admit rate among students with at least one parent who graduated from Harvard was 33.6%, more than five times the rate for everyone else … Harvard admitted 14.5% of early-action applicants for the class of 2022, and about 2.9% of regular-decision applicants.”


RIT Introduces ‘Magic Spell Studios’

“The RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC) is a university wide research center and production studio focused on exploring the cutting edge of interactive digital media. It is available for anyone in the RIT community, regardless of academic or institutional affiliation, as well as numerous partners and community collaborators. The MAGIC Center is designed to bridge the gap between research and prototyping, and the ability to bring industry polish and commercial scale and support to experimental projects.”


Harvard: ‘Bubbly’ Candidates Rise to Surface

The New York Times: “Days before the opening of a trial accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants, the college issued new guidance to its admissions officers earlier this month on what personalities it is seeking in its incoming freshmen, a question at the heart of the case. The new guidelines for the Class of 2023 caution officers that character traits ‘not always synonymous with extroversion’ should be valued, and that applicants who seem to be ‘particularly reflective, insightful and/or dedicated’ should receive high personal ratings as well.”

“One of the odder quirks of the trial testimony has been how often the word ‘effervescence’ has come up. It has been hammered home that Harvard values applicants who are bubbly, not ‘flat,’ to use another word in the Harvard admissions lexicon. Admissions documents filed in court awarded advantages to applicants for ‘unusually appealing personal qualities,’ which could include ‘effervescence, charity, maturity and strength of character.’ Now ‘reflective’ could be a plus as well.”

“The guidelines on assessing personal qualities also say that a top-rated student might have ‘enormous courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life,’ or perhaps ‘a singular ability to lead or inspire those around them,’ or even ‘extraordinary concern or compassion for others.’ One thing has not changed. The lowest rating, once defined as ‘questionable or worrisome personal qualities,’ is still the same.”


ACT & SAT Math Scores Don’t Add Up

The Washington Post: “Scores on college admission tests for the Class of 2018 are sending warning signs about math achievement in the nation’s high schools.Forty-nine percent of students in this year’s graduating class who took the SAT received a math score indicating they had a strong chance of earning at least a C in a college-level math class, according to data made public Thursday. That was significantly lower than on the reading and writing portion of the tests: 70 percent of SAT-takers reached a similar benchmark in that area.”

“Among those who took the ACT, the share showing readiness for college-level math fell to the lowest level in 14 years — 40 percent. That was down from a recent high of 46 percent, according to ACT data made public last week.”

“The SAT scores gave the fullest picture to date of results from the revised version of the test launched in 2016 … The average score on the SAT was 1068 out of a maximum 1600, up slightly from the previous mark of 1060. This year’s national average for the reading and writing section was 536 out of 800, and for math it was 531.”


Maryland Students ‘Crowdfund’ Tuition

The Baltimore Sun: “Thousands of students … have increasingly taken advantage of crowdsourcing platforms to help them cope with steady increases in tuition and fees in Maryland and across the country … The number of education-related campaigns has increased each year since GoFundMe launched in 2010, said spokeswoman Heidi Hagberg. She said that more than $70 million a year has been raised on the platform for educational initiatives, with more than 100,000 annual fundraisers for causes ranging from teachers’ back-to-school drives to students’ college tuition.”

“GoFundMe hosted twice as many campaigns in 2017 as in the previous year related to college tuition in Maryland, Hagberg said in an email. And according to GoFundMe data from the 2016-2017 academic year, the most recent available, about $1.5 million was raised for Marylanders’ educational purposes in roughly 3,200 campaigns.”

“John Quelch, dean of the University of Miami business school and an expert in consumer behavior, said widespread acknowledgement of the onerous nature of paying for college motivates many students to feel comfortable publicizing their need.”


How Duke Decides

Duke Today: “Here’s a tip for high school seniors wondering how to ace the essay portion of the college application: Just be yourself.” Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions, comments: “The challenge is for the student to come across as the individual they are. They should worry less about the quality of the writing and more about the opportunity for the reader to learn about the student.”

“Guttentag said admissions officers work hard to understand each applicant’s personality, interests and character as they build a class of new Duke students each year that is talented, balanced, engaged and diverse. Grades matter a great deal, but so does a student’s desire to learn and a willingness to put talent into action.”


New Mexico State Launches ‘Crimson Concierge’

Forbes: New Mexico State has introduced Crimson Concierge. Yes, it’s a concierge service for its students, managed by Sodexo, “the food services and facilities management company .. No kidding. New Mexico State’s concierge is believed to be the only one in the country, at least for now. But Sodexo says it’s planning others.”

“The Crimson Concierge program handles everything from travel arrangements to moving and storage, events tickets, auto services and local events … The Crimson Concierge also includes laundry service, doctor referrals, and local support such as running errands. This summer, it even helped students find housing … To improve the way Sodexo delivered the services, it also worked with Ritz-Carlton’s famous Leadership Center to train its concierges … There’s no fee to use the concierge.”

“Colleges are resistant to calling their students ‘customers,’ according to the latest research. The conventional wisdom seems to be that there’s a ‘middle ground’ between considering college students customers versus simply students. But the most forward-looking universities can already see that in order to compete for the top students, you have to at least treat them as customers — otherwise they’ll enroll somewhere else.”


MIT Launches Billion-Dollar AI Intitiative

The Verge: “MIT has announced a $1 billion initiative to … establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT president L. Rafael Reif calls ‘the bilinguals of the future.’ By that, he means students in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history, and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.”

“MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research ‘ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.’ It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to ‘disrupt’.”


Stanford Study Says Rankings Don’t Matter

Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education examines all of the evidence about rankings and comes to this conclusion: the best way to find a college that is a ‘good fit’ is to ignore the rankings. Notably, the finding isn’t based on abstract ideas about the value of education not being something that can be measured. Rather, the analysis is based on research about factors many students (and parents) say they take into consideration when they evaluate potential colleges: student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income. If you care about those factors, the rankings will not steer you well, the paper says.”

“Key factors in U.S. News and other rankings reward graduation rates and reputation. U.S. News has, over the years, placed more emphasis not just on raw graduation rates but ‘expected’ graduation rates to reward institutions with higher than expected rates for students from at-risk populations. But the Stanford study finds that graduation rates still reflect the student body being served more than the quality of the institution. And the study says there is no evidence linking reputation to anything but … reputation. So reputation is ‘a self-fulfilling metric’.”

“The report adds that ‘rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community’.”