The 8-Minute Application Review

The Wall Street Journal: “As application numbers surge, admissions officers at some elite colleges say they don’t have time to read an entire file. Instead, staffers from more schools—including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Rice University and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania—now divvy up individual applications. One person might review transcripts, test scores and counselor recommendations, while the other handles extracurricular activities and essays.”

“They read through their portions simultaneously, discuss their impressions about a candidate’s qualifications, flag some for admission or rejection, and move on. While their decision isn’t always final, in many cases theirs are the last eyes to look at the application itself. The entire process can take less than eight minutes.”

“Admissions directors say it is better for staffers than spending solitary months reading essays, transcripts and recommendation letters. They also say it helps train new readers and minimizes bias by forcing readers to defend why they think a candidate is qualified or not, and as a result they’re more confident in the decisions the new committees are making … Readers at Bucknell, which gets more than 10,000 applications, used to take 12 to 15 minutes to review each application. Now a team of two is done in six to eight minutes.” A Bucknell admissions officer says that still adds up to 16 “person minutes.”

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How Hogwarts Inspires New Campus Buildings

Los Angeles Times: “Expensive dormitories, in particular, have begun to exhibit an incurious … nostalgia, with Yale and USC, among other schools, leaning hard on the kind of Gothic Revival excess that first became popular a full century ago … one key source of this renewed interest in the Gothic Revival is — cue the John Williams score — Hogwarts, the boarding school for wizards that stands at the heart of the book series by J.K. Rowling.”

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series, was published in 1997. The film version of that novel appeared in 2001. This year’s crop of college freshmen was born between those two cultural milestones, which means a huge number grew up reading the Potter books or watching the movies or both. Many of them have an expectation (or perhaps a hope) that going off to college means going off to a campus that resembles the Hollywood version of Hogwarts, full of peaked roofs, gargoyles, stone floors, stained glass and huge dining halls warmed by multiple fireplaces.”

At both Yale and USC, “the Hogwarts feel is strongest, by far, in the dining halls, giant rooms with long wooden tables, peaked ceilings and stained glass. It feels almost as if you’ve wandered onto a set for one of the Potter movies, filmed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland and Gloucester Cathedral, among many other locations.”

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Early Ivy Admission Rates Decline

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Business Insider: “Another year of early acceptance notifications, another year where the acceptance rates declined. Almost all eight schools in the competitive Ivy League reported declines in acceptance rates, meaning it’s the hardest year on record to get into the colleges. Columbia and Cornell Universities did not publicly release early-admission figures.”

“Despite getting more difficult, the rates are actually higher than acceptance rates during regular admission in the spring. For comparison, Harvard’s acceptance rate released for regular decision last spring, the lowest in the Ivy League, was 5.2% for the class of 2021. Cornell, which has the highest in the Ivy League, was 12.5%.”

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Unlocking The Mysteries of Admissions

The New York Times: “It’s a widespread misconception that applicants have an automatic right to be admitted to the school of their choice if they have higher grades or test scores than other candidates. It’s not that grades and test scores don’t matter — they nearly always do — but colleges aren’t obligated to choose the students who are deemed most likely to earn high college grades or graduate … Instead, what counts in admissions depends on the mission of the institution — and that can vary a great deal from school to school.”

“Mission statements don’t necessarily make it easier for students to understand the nuts and bolts of admissions, but they are absolutely vital. A school’s admissions policy must flow from its mission. But by and large, colleges aren’t doing a good enough job explaining to applicants how admissions choices stem from their policy. While most colleges list some of the factors they consider in admission — such as leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities — they need to go further to explain how applicant characteristics are assessed and weighted.”

“How could admissions offices be more open about how they choose? They could start by publishing vignettes to illustrate how admissions decisions are made, spell out why certain kinds of applicant profiles do or don’t make the grade, and describe how they identify talented students who fall short in terms of grades or test scores. Descriptions of the kinds of complex deliberations conducted by real admissions committees would be enlightening to both applicants and their families.”

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Bard Unlocks the ‘Microcollege’

The Wall Street Journal: “The maximum-security inmates who beat a Harvard College team in a debate two years ago put a national spotlight on the prisoners’ ambitious college program, the Bard Prison Initiative. Now Bard College is launching a new satellite in another site that bucks tradition: the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights.”

“The ‘microcollege’ will be free for students, and aims to attract talented low-income applicants who haven’t sought degrees due to the pricetag or personal hardships. The experiment aims to find ways to make college possible for people who are often discouraged, excluded or underestimated … The new microcollege is modeled on the prison program: Bard faculty will teach small seminars leading to a two-year associates degree in liberal arts, with the hope that students will go on to get bachelors degrees elsewhere.”

“Applicants won’t submit transcripts or test scores. Instead, they will have interviews and write essays at the library. The state Board of Regents has accredited the program, which will be funded by a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Pell grants.”

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Ivy League: What Are The Most Popular Majors?

Business Insider: “So what do undergraduates at the eight Ivy League schools like to study? Turns out, it’s surprisingly similar no matter which school they attend. At six of the eight schools, economics is the most popular major among students who graduated in 2016. The most popular major at the two outliers, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, were engineering and finance, respectively.”

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How Much Is That College Degree Worth?

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Quartz: “While Americans without university degrees have seen a fair rise in household income in recent years, they still lag far behind their college-educated peers. Per triennial data from the US Federal Reserve published this week, people with college degrees these days have a median net worth more than four times that of people without.”

“It’s not that college-educated Americans are making dramatically more money than before—in fact, their median net worth has only grown 2% between 2013 and 2016—but rather that those without college degrees still have a long way to go to catch up. In that three-year period for which Fed data was collected, the median net worth for those with only a high school diploma actually jumped around 25%, from $54,100 to $67,100. But the median net worth for those with college degrees is $292,100.”

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The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?

The Washington Post: “Do most freshmen really gain 15 pounds during their first year as undergrads? Research tells us no. Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average. The actual weight gain of freshmen varies greatly among different studies, with an overall average of 7½ pounds. A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.”

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Freshman Friends: A Key To Coping in College

Quartz: “A 2008 poll conducted by the Associated Press and mtvU found that 40% of college students said they felt stress regularly—and almost one in five seriously considered dropping out of school. With those high stress levels in mind, the researchers, including Stanford economics professor Matthew Jackson and former Stanford doctoral candidate Desmond Ong, put nearly 200 Stanford freshmen—who had recently moved into first-year dorms—through a battery of personality tests and questionnaires.”

“Their goal was to determine which students occupied central roles in these different networks—notably groups based on trust, fun, and excitement. The researchers found that individuals were more particular about whom they included in their trust networks compared to groups related to fun and excitement. In those selective trust networks, freshmen were more likely to include highly empathic students. In contrast, when students wanted to feel positive and have fun, they were more likely to seek out dorm mates high in happiness.”

“Just as you need the right outfit for a particular occasion, college freshmen need certain friends for certain situations. When you need a dose of fun, engaging with a positive and happy friend can lift your mood. But that friend may not be the best person to go to when you need someone to confide in. An empathic friend, on the other hand, may be just the right person for helping you through difficult and challenging times.”

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Harvey Mudd: STEM ‘Boot Camp’

Business Insider: “Located in Claremont, California is an 829-person liberal arts college that might go unnoticed to the uninitiated. It’s not a member of the Ivy League, nor does it have the celebrity of Stanford University, its neighbor to the north. In fact, if you’re not familiar with the Claremont Consortium, you’ve probably never heard of the school. Harvey Mudd College is a STEM powerhouse. It routinely shows up on lists that rank the best value colleges and, based on median salary, its graduates out-earn those from Harvard and Stanford about 10 years into their careers.”

“Mudd embraces its academic rigor and describes its core curriculum as a ‘boot camp in the STEM disciplines — math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering — as well as classes in writing and critical inquiry’ that it says ‘gives students a broad scientific foundation and the skills to think and to solve problems across disciplines’.”

“Every entering student must take a computer science class, a rare requirement for a liberal arts college. But Mudders must also graduate with a strong liberal-arts background, taking just as many courses in the humanities as they must in core introductory courses in the sciences.”

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