‘Sleep Hygiene’ Improves Academic Performance

The New York Times: “College students who fail to adopt more wholesome sleep habits are more likely to find themselves unable to handle their chosen course load and less likely to reach their academic potential, according to a national study of more than 55,000 college students. The study, by Monica E. Hartmann and Dr. J. Roxanne Prichard of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., found that for each additional day of sleep disturbance a college student experienced each week, the likelihood of dropping a course rose by 10 percent and grade point average fell by 0.02, even when most other factors known to influence academic success were taken into account.”

Dr. Prichard recommends “practicing good ‘sleep hygiene’ — the behavioral measures that can help to assure a full and restful night’s sleep. She and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine offer these suggestions: Go to bed and get up every day at approximately the same time, weekends included. Create a relaxing bedroom setting and follow a consistent bedtime routine.
Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine and any medication with stimulant effects at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t stay up late to cram for an exam or finish homework. If your outside activities are too time-consuming, try to cut back on those that are expendable.”

Also: “If possible, keep all electronics — computer, TV, cellphone, etc. — outside the bedroom, and avoid using them just before bedtime. Don’t go to bed hungry, but avoid eating a big meal before bed. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Instead, do a calming activity like light reading or meditation.Keep the bedroom quiet, dark and cool for sleeping. If outside light or noise is disturbing, consider using light-blocking shades or a white noise machine.”

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How to Manage Time on ACT Math

US News: “Students taking the ACT have just 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the math section. It is therefore understandable that test-takers may fail to answer all the questions in the allotted time frame, or that they might feel compelled to unwisely rush through them. For this reason, it is key for students to understand how to successfully manage their time on the ACT’s math section. Here are tips on how you can make the most of your 60 minutes.”

“Identify weak areas via practice tests and determine how much time to allot to each concept. Your most problematic concepts should be identified as you use ACT practice tests. Some online practice tests even categorize questions by concept, so it should be simple to maintain a list of which areas you struggle with most … Predetermine which functions to complete by hand vs. on a calculator. When used wisely, a calculator can save you valuable time on ACT math problems and serve as a quick way to verify your answers. When overused, however, dependence on a calculator can waste time and cause careless mistakes.”

“Develop a system for marking questions. Students should immediately fill in the corresponding answer bubble when they feel confident about their solutions. While some students may wait until the end of a section to fill in their answer sheets, this method can result in more mistakes. However, when students are unsure about a question and would like to return to it later, they should mark that question with a symbol.”

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Finding ‘Fit’ Can Be a Stretch

The New York Times: “Last fall, when John DiGravio arrived as a freshman at Williams College — a private, liberal arts institution in the Berkshires — the conservative from Central Texas expected to be in the political minority. He did not expect to be ridiculed … At first Mr. DiGravio was taken aback. Then he took his outsider status as a calling. A few months earlier he had started a small, conservative club. He decided to make it bigger. He invited a speaker to give an evening talk on ‘What It Means to Be a Conservative.’ Dozens of students showed up.”

“These days, elite students like Mr. DiGravio, who can financially and/or academically choose from an array of colleges, are often obsessed with ‘finding the right fit.’ Surveys like ones conducted by EAB, an education consulting firm in Washington, routinely indicate that for this group, ‘fitting in’ is one of the top factors when deciding where to go to school. But some students, like Mr. DiGravio, 19, are discovering the pros and cons of being an outsider.”

“’If you have support, that shock can be translated into an advantage,’ he said. That was the case for Jonah Shainberg, a fencer from Rye, N.Y., who is Jewish. When he was accepted to Notre Dame, a football-heavy Catholic university in Indiana, his mother balked at the idea … But once he was there, Mr. Shainberg, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, discovered something about himself he had not totally understood before: His faith was central to his identity. ‘I think Notre Dame made me more Jewish,’ he said.”

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Colleges Boost Transfer Acceptances

The New York Times: “Transfer students — whose challenges have often been ignored in higher education — are feeling a surge in popularity as colleges and universities are increasingly wooing them … last month, the University of California system announced that it has accepted more transfer students than ever before. And in a move that is perhaps more symbolic than substantive, Princeton University has, for its 2018 class, accepted 13 transfer students, the first such students it has enrolled since 1990.”

“Behind the new interest in courting them lies one stark reality: Undergraduate enrollment is declining and has been for six years … That is because of a demographic shift as the number of high school graduates is projected to decline over the next decade, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. In addition, when the economy improves, the job market becomes more attractive to some high school graduates than college. As if that weren’t enough, fewer international students are enrolling in American colleges, after years of intensive growth, partly because of the nation’s more restrictive views on immigration and partly because English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia are luring away such students.”

“Transfer students can offer the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity schools are seeking … Transfers also help a college’s overall yield (or how many students who are accepted actually enroll), something that is crucial to administrators. According to a 2017 survey of its members by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, almost two-thirds of transfer applicants who were admitted to a university enrolled, compared with 28 percent of freshmen … Another reason for welcoming transfer students is that many colleges realize that a high portion of the students they turn away are just as good as the ones they accept.”

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Colleges Abandon Standard Test Essay

Washington Post: “One by one, major schools this year are dropping their requirements for prospective students to submit an essay score from the national testing services. Princeton and Stanford universities last week became the latest to end the mandate, following Dartmouth College and Harvard and Yale universities. Those schools are dropping the requirement because they wanted to ensure that the extra cost of essay testing did not drive applicants away. Others have resisted requiring the essays because they doubted the exercise revealed much.”

“Fewer than 25 schools now require the essay scores, according to some tallies, including nine in the University of California system. Brown University, as of Friday, was the lone holdout in the Ivy League … A longtime skeptic of the timed-writing exercises, Charles Deacon of Georgetown said he never considers the essay scores when reading applications. ‘Just didn’t make any difference to us,’ he said.”

“But Janet Rapelye, Princeton’s dean of admission , said she finds the scores helpful and sometimes reads the essay that yielded the score (colleges can view them) when she wants to know more about an applicant. ‘It’s actually a very good test,’ she said. But the university dropped the requirement, she said, out of concern that testing costs or logistical issues would deter some students from applying.”

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Survivor Maryland

The Washington Post: “It’s ‘Survivor Maryland,’ the wildest, realest reality show you’ve never heard of: a low-budget, junior-varsity take on the popular CBS competition show “Survivor.” Instead of being marooned for several weeks on an island, the players undergo challenges and tribal turmoil during an entire semester at the University of Maryland … The craze began with Austin Trupp, 25, a “Survivor” superfan who started watching the show as a Rockville high schooler with a passion for strategy games and social politics.”

“Trupp started putting the show together the summer after his freshman year. He recruited a cast of 21 hypercompetitive friends and filmed through the fall of 2012, quickly settling on a formula reminiscent of the original — contestants split into tribes that compete in “challenges” testing their teamwork, resourcefulness and athletic ability, with players gradually eliminated via ‘tribal council’ votes. The winner is the last person standing, selected by a jury of eliminated contestants … Six years and five seasons later, ‘Survivor Maryland’ is notorious. Some of its episodes on YouTube have more than 15,000 views. It’s amassed an avid following that includes former showrunners and contestants from the CBS show.”

“More than a dozen spinoffs have replicated Trupp’s concept at other colleges, including Ohio State University, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan. They vary in form and length, and certainly in following, but they’re all trying to replicate the ‘Survivor Maryland’ magic.

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How Legacy Gives A Leg Up

The Wall Street Journal: “At the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, the admission rate for legacies is about double the rate for the overall applicant pool, according to data from the schools. At Princeton University, legacies are admitted at four times the general rate, or roughly 30% compared with about 7% overall over the past five years, the school says.”

“Legacy applicants at Harvard University were five times as likely to be admitted as non-legacies, according to an analysis of admissions data from 2010 through 2015. The numbers—33.6% for legacies and 5.9% for those without parental ties—were submitted in a June court filing for a case claiming Asian students are being discriminated against in the name of greater diversity at the school.”

“Advocates for considering legacy status argue that favoring the children—and, in some cases, grandchildren—of graduates helps maintain an engaged and generous alumni base and lets students serve as ambassadors to new campus arrivals … Critics say giving legacy applicants any preferential treatment undermines diversity initiatives, especially for schools that aren’t growing … A handful of elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology, don’t consider legacy status in admissions.”

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Grade Inflation: Summa Cum Saturated?

The Wall Street Journal: “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t … Honors designations have become close to the norm at many top schools, according to a Wall Street Journal review of the criteria for earning honors and the percentage of the senior class that got the designation at schools in the top 50 of the WSJ/Times Higher Education ranking.”

“Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard.Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001, as highlighted at the time in a Boston Globe article about generous honors policies. Soon after, the school revised its selection process. Northwestern University expanded its pool of eligible seniors to 25% from 16% in 2010, citing concern that students were losing out on graduate-school admissions because they were competing against peers at more magnanimous colleges. Now, the top 5% of the class graduates summa cum laude, the next 8% magna and the next 12% cum laude.”

“Anna Del Castillo said she was ‘filled with pride and joy,’ on learning that she would graduate from Tufts University magna cum laude. At the ceremony in May, the 22-year-old international relations major says, she was surprised by just how many other names were followed by Latin designations—not to mention three levels of thesis honors” … Rather than diminish her own achievement, Ms. Del Castillo said her immediate response during the ceremony was, ‘Wow, I go to school with brilliant people’.”

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Seinfeld Style: The Essay About ‘Nothing’

Bates: Darryl Uy, an admissions officer at Bates College, suggests a ‘Seinfeldian’ approach to writing your college essay. He explains: “It could be about nothing but a few moments in your ordinary life that I can’t find anywhere else in your application. If you could take me into your life for 5 minutes, I think that is a successful essay.”

He adds: “Try to find a topic that resonates with you and your experiences so your personality and voice can shine through … If you’re not funny in real life, don’t try to be funny in your essay. That rarely works.”

Katie Moran Madden, a Bates alum and admissions expert, says the essay should reflect both your personal attributes and what you value. “All of us are trying to shape a community. And we try not to create a community of people with similar talents, interests, perspectives … make the essay about you. It doesn’t have to be exciting. It doesn’t have to move us.”

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Unlocking The Mysteries of The Essay

The New York Times: “Documents showing that Harvard rated Asian-American applicants lower on personality traits than applicants of other races raise questions about how college admissions officers evaluate intangible criteria. What constitutes ‘likability’ or ‘courage?’ How do they know someone is ‘widely respected?’ … Most schools look at grade point averages and standardized test scores and may also review letters of recommendation, college essays and extracurricular activities. Colleges that do consider personal qualities are highly variable in the traits they look at and how they are ranked. Nor are they interested in disclosing their criteria.”

“In a study of 10 unidentified schools commissioned by the College Board, traits included ’emotional intelligence,’ ‘self-efficacy’ and ‘creativity’. Leadership, education experts said, is perhaps the most obvious and the most common trait colleges consider in applicants … Colleges don’t like to talk about this much, and officials don’t like to be pinned down. In general, they say they look for traits that reflect the college’s values or that make a student a ‘good fit’ for the institution.”

“Admissions officers say they look for a ‘hook’ in an applicant’s file that may lift the student into consideration, but just what that is hard to define … similar objections have been raised about the emphasis traditionally placed on standardized tests, which many experts believe fail to measure the potential of minority and low-income students. Earlier this week, the University of Chicago became the first elite research university in the country to drop the requirement that applicants submit ACT or SAT scores, instead announcing a program inviting students to submit a two-minute video introduction — where they can perhaps convey their likability.”

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