The Convergence of Public & Private Schools

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Taken together, privatizing public institutions and publicizing private institutions suggest nothing less than a convergence of these once very different institutions. This convergence has taken a number of forms. For instance, one of the traditional calling cards of a public university has been its affordability. But the decline in state funding has forced public universities to lean far more heavily on tuition revenue.”

“Another of the once-distinctive traits of public research universities is accessibility, or their capacity to open their doors to a broad and diverse group of students. Here, too, budget cuts have taken a serious toll … At the same time, private research universities have been in the vanguard of accessibility in a new domain — online mass education.”

“Finally, convergence has been apparent in the civic-mindedness of private universities. Public universities have long been regarded as anchored in their local or regional communities, while private universities have been seen as more standoffish. Yet, in recent years, there has been a sea change among private research universities in their connectedness to their surrounding communities … the leaders of a number of private universities are now harnessing their resources to invest in community development, job training, local schools, and other opportunities.”


‘Grit’ Can Compensate for Low SATs

The Wall Street Journal: “Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith … But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer? Angela Duckworth (author of Grit) argues that the answer is ‘grit,’ which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal.”

“Though verbal fluency did not come easily to (John Irving) as a young man, what he lacked in aptitude he made up for in effort. In school, if his peers allotted one hour to an assignment, he devoted two or three. As a writer, he works very slowly, constantly revising drafts of his novels. ‘In doing something over and over again,’ he has said, ‘something that was never natural becomes almost second nature’.”

“It’s a similar story among the other groups that Ms. Duckworth writes about … including spelling-bee champions and sales associates: Grit predicts their success more robustly than innate ability. And there is no positive correlation between ability and grit. A study of Ivy League undergraduates even showed that the smarter the students were, as measured by SAT scores, the less gritty they were … To be gritty, an individual doesn’t need to have an obsessive infatuation with a goal. Rather, he needs to show ‘consistency over time. The grittiest people have developed long-term goals and are constantly working toward them. ‘Enthusiasm is common,’ she writes. ‘Endurance is rare’.”


More on Gap Years: Keys to Success

Slate: “A gap year can provide a respite from academic pressures, provide real-world perspective, and help students clarify their goals so that when they do arrive on campus, they’re more focused and better positioned for success. It also helps them enter college as slightly more mature adults—for example, students who take a gap year seem to drink less when they get to college.”

“While the surveys and observational studies suggest gap years make a student more prepared for college, it’s important to note that taking such a break is simply more common among students who in many ways are already positioned for success. Students who have all the qualifications that would predispose them to excel in college then self-select again, possibly giving themselves another leg up (even this self-selection might be another indication of higher maturity, and therefore increased likelihood of success).”

“If you do take one, experts agree that having a plan both for the time off and for enrolling in college when the gap year ends is key for success.”


Gap Year: Should You Be Like Malia?

The Atlantic: “When the Obamas announced Sunday that their eldest daughter, Malia, will attend Harvard University, they also revealed that she will take part in what is becoming an increasingly popular tradition in the United States: the gap year … Harvard in particular encourages this practice, and as a result, between 80 and 110 of their students choose to do so each year.”

“In an article on the university’s website, William Fitzsimmons and Marlyn E. McGrath of Harvard’s admissions department, and Charles Ducey, a lecturer in psychology, assert that a gap year could be an answer to the burnout faced by ultra-ambitious students as they compete to gain entrance into the ‘right’ college followed by the ‘right’ graduate schools, and the ‘right’ sequence of jobs, in order to live in the ‘right’ kinds of communities.”

However: “Students who choose to delay are at considerable risk of not completing a postsecondary credential when compared with their peers who enroll immediately after high school graduation, says a National Center for Education Statistics study … But Joe O’Shea … author of Gap Year,” counters: “The greater the resilience, grit, and tenacity of a student, the more likely they are to complete a degree … taking the time to undertake the gap year that is structured and challenging can help reform a student’s identity and … make it more likely that they’re going to go to college and graduate.”


Clichés To Avoid In Your College Essay

Quartz: “Of the thousands of gushing essays from eager students that wash across their desks each year, a great number are virtually the same. Per the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) … far too many teenagers’ personal statements begin with ‘hackneyed phrases.’ UCAS looked at submissions from 700,000 students who applied to British schools in the past year and found several opening lines being used again and again, which suggests that the subject matter is often drearily similar, too.”

Among the most frequently repeated phrases:

“From a young age, I have been interested in/fascinated by…”
“I am applying for this course because…”
“Reflecting on my educational experiences…”
“Academically, I have always been…”

“Nelson Mandela can take credit for the eleventh most repeated opening line: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ The quote was used by 148 of the applicants in the study.”


The Cost of College Continues To Rise

The Boston Globe: “The average annual “sticker price” — the total cost of college without factoring in any financial aid — for a four-year private college in the United States was $40,656 for the 2014-15 school year, the most recent year for which data was available … The US public four-year college sticker price was $22,093 … For two-year public colleges, the sticker price was $16,444 nationally … The upward trend is clearly visible in data collected by the federal government for the past 15 years.”


Hard Work Pays Off For Diligent Applicants

Quartz: “As challenging as elite college admissions are these days, kids don’t actually have to be world-class athletes or high-ranking chess champions to make the grade. Often, they just have to be extraordinarily hard workers.”

“Vincent Viego a senior at Skaneateles High School in New York who was accepted this year to all eight Ivies as well as 14 other universities … said he spent roughly 10 hours a week filling out and revising his applications, with most of that time devoted to his personal essays, which described his identity as a Cuban-American and his enthusiasm for bioengineering.”

“Dedication alone doesn’t necessarily guarantee success; high test scores, stellar leadership roles, and other achievements also show up in most of these students’ track records. But the common pattern suggests that regardless of how brilliant you are, it pays to put in the extra time.”


Sometimes ‘Plan B’ Is a Better Fit

CNBC: “When students and families weigh everything that goes into attending college, not least the cost, ‘the plan B schools sometimes are a better fit,’ said Katherine Pastor, a school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Arizona.” In fact, ‘close to 17 percent of first-time freshmen were accepted at their top school and chose to attend somewhere else,” according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

“Some 58 percent of those enrolling at their second-choice school said cost was an issue, compared with 41 percent of those attending their first choice,” according to the Institute. “Students opting for their first-choice school, in contrast, were more likely to cite graduates’ record of landing good jobs or getting into top graduate or professional schools. They were also more likely to mention their school’s strong academic record, the Institute found.”

“Pastor, the Arizona school counselor, said she hears about students who set off for their first choice, only to find that it is not a good fit … Outcomes like that can be particularly difficult if a student has passed on scholarships and aid offers from a second-choice school, and now has to restart the process. The upside may be this, however: ‘I have never heard of a kid who picked their second-choice school who has not been happy with their choice,’ Pastor said.”


Which Schools Are The Best Investment?

Business Insider: PayScale’s College ROI Report helps students “decide which school is the best fit for their career goals and their financial situation … PayScale says, however, that this doesn’t mean students should pursue only majors with the highest earning potential or make decisions about where to attend school based solely off college ROI rankings. They need to do what will make them happy — but it doesn’t hurt to be educated on their potential return.”



You Can Negotiate Financial Aid

Business Insider: “What some applicants might not know is that it is possible to bargain with colleges on your financial aid package.” Kwasi Enin, who was accepted by all eight Ivy League schools, offers this advice:

“I took Princeton’s letter and I emailed that to Yale, Columbia, and Penn. Within like a week, they all sent me a new financial aid offer on their financial aid website and they matched the same offer.”

“You need to send them a nice letter saying, ‘I love your school but I have a better offer at a similarly ranked school called ‘X’ and if you can find a way to make it possible that I can attend this school by making the aid work out, that would be wonderful.'”