Wake Forest University

February 2010

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Archive for February, 2010

College Admissions Offices Embrace YouTube

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

YouTubeSince its debut nearly five years ago, YouTube has offered a forum for everything from video blogs to amateur music videos. Now it’s also become a tool for college admissions. Tufts University started accepting one-minute videos as part of the application process for high school students this year, and both admissions counselors and the general public can view them on YouTube.  Submissions have included everything from flying elephants  to rap songs  to Q & As. Oh, and students also showcase their dancing and jump roping abilities, among other things.

Tufts admissions department told ABC News  that the videos are not required, but provide an additional piece of information about the applicant. “We’re not judging it on the qualities of the production values,” says Lee Coffin, dean of admissions at Tufts. “We’re not looking for Oscar-winning short films. What we’re really hoping to get out of these videos is another part of the puzzles that make up this 17-year-old person.

“We’ve seen some awful videos,” he adds. “Some are charming in how awful they are. But we chuckle and move on.”

Meanwhile, Yale University is using YouTube to lure prospective students with a video that’s reminiscent of the hit movie, “High School Musical.”  The brainchild of Andrew Johnson, a 2006 Yale graduate who works in the admissions office, the video was produced on a shoestring budget but has turned out to be a big hit. Even though the 16-minute video has only been online for a little over a month, it has already logged nearly 500,000 views.

“I figured the worst case would be a low-cost ‘nice try,’ ” said Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel told the Washington Post. “The outcome went beyond the best case I could imagine. It’s campy, clever and extremely entertaining, especially when you consider that the audience for it is generally subjected to an unending parade of admissions videos that all look the same.”

How to Cope with College Rejection Letters

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. That’s what your mother might advise as you wait for your college acceptance (or rejection) letters to arrive in the mail. Of course, college-bound students are not the only ones feeling anxious these days. Parents are too. Jennifer Stanley recently blogged that though she is used to rejection in her work as a writer, nothing prepared her for the pain she felt when her son was rejected by multiple private schools.

Writing for Psychology Today,  psychotherapist F. Diane Barth says both students and their parents can expect to go through three distinct stages if the dreaded college rejection letter does arrive:

  • Accepting that rejection hurts. There’s no question about it. A rejection letter feels very personal. Even though many of the top universities are overwhelmed with applications and must reject plenty of good students, it doesn’t lessen the hurt if that student happens to be you. Understand that your feelings are reasonable, even if they are not accurate.
  • Understanding meaning. If a rejection letter does arrive, reflect back on what you expected to accomplish by attending that particular school. Did it seem like the only way to reach a particular goal? Did it have special meaning for you or your family? As you reflect, keep in mind that no particular school holds the key to a student’s future, even though it may seem that way right now.
  • Changing direction. Anyone who has been through a major disappointment knows that it can often lead to new personal strength and an increased capacity for problem-solving. Take time to grieve over the rejection, but then think about what’s next. Make a plan and take action.

Barth shares that she herself was rejected by several schools during her college career. But looking back, she can see that the rejections had their benefits. “I believe that these failures were crucial to my development into the person and the therapist I am now. I learned from these experiences that while rejection really does hurt, it can lead to intellectual, personal and emotional growth. “

What Happens When there are More Women than Men on Campus?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Courtesy of New York Times

Courtesy of New York Times

Women have accounted for the majority of U.S. college enrollments since 2000. That’s according to a new report by the American Council on Education, which found 57 percent of those who enroll in college are female. Men also lag in graduation rates at the undergraduate level. Why the gender imbalance? Researchers say men tend to drop out more than women and generally have lower grades. What’s more, older students as well as low-income, black and Hispanic students tend to be disproportionately female.

The gender gap is not universal. According to the New York Times, Ivy League schools are largely equal in gender, and a few are still predominately male. But at some universities, efforts to balance the numbers have led to complaints that less-qualified men are being admitted over women. In December, the United States Commission on Civil Rights  subpoenaed admissions records from 19 private and public colleges as part of an investigation into possible discrimination against qualified female applicants.

But the legal and academic ramifications are not the only issues concerning women. Female students say they also worry about the social ramifications of the gender imbalance — namely the trouble they now have finding dates. “On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, author of “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” told the New York Times.  W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia concurs, adding that women on predominately female campuses are being victimized by men because they have outperformed them. Says Campbell: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships.”

Washington Post Expands Higher Ed Coverage

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Washington Post logoWith more and more high school students applying to college and many universities getting increasingly selective, interest in higher education issues has never been higher. Perhaps that’s why the Washington Post is the latest media outlet to expand its higher education coverage. This week, the newspaper announced it is launching a new on-line page  that offers college news and admissions advice. Features include free articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the latest headlines from Washington area campus newspapers. The site also includes a link to Admissions 101, a Washington Post blog that offers college admissions advice daily.

Today’s admissions topic is the SAT as a predictor of college success. Referring to “Crossing the Finish Line,” a book by former Princeton President William G. Bowen and co-authors, blogger Jay Matthews says: “The book, at least as I understand it, concludes that high school GPA is four times as good a predictor of college completion as the SAT.” He then asks readers to weigh in on the following questions.  Anybody see any contrary research? Should we demand that the colleges recalibrate their rating systems? Or can we be assured that all kids with high GPAs are going to get into decent, if not famous, colleges, so this isn’t really a problem?” See what readers have to say.

A Head Start on College

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Colleges used to target affluent, overachieving high school students with classes designed to give them a jump start on higher education. But more and more schools are now designing early admissions programs for high school students who might otherwise not get a college degree. Sandhills Community College for example, allows students from SandHoke Early College High School to get a diploma and up to two years of college credit in only five years, at no cost. But the program is only open to students whose parents do not have a college degree.

SandHoke is one of 70-early college schools in North Carolina, and the goal of the program is to keep so-called at-risk students from dropping out by bridging the gap between high school and college. “Last year, half our early-college high schools had zero dropouts, and that’s just unprecedented for North Carolina, where only 62 percent of our high school students graduate after four years,” Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project told the New York Times.

Habit is with the nonprofit group spearheading the high school reform in North Carolina. But the idea has spread to California, New York, Texas and other states that see early college as a way to increase the number of college degree holders while also reducing the high school drop out rate. The idea is also backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports the Early College High School Initiative in more than 200 schools across the nation.

“As a nation, we just can’t afford to have students spending four years or more getting through high school, when we all know senior year is a waste,” Hilary Pennington of the Gates Foundation told the newspaper, “then having this swirl between high school and college, when a lot more students get lost, then a two-year degree that takes three or four years, if the student ever completes it at all.”

Closing the College Attendance Gap Between Rich and Poor

Friday, February 5th, 2010

If you’ve ever tried filling out your own tax return, you’re no doubt familiar with the frustration that often comes from deciphering government documents. Many parents feel exactly the same way when they try to tackle the FAFSA — the free application for federal financial aid. While the application may be free, it often costs many hours of aggravation to complete it. Now a new study has found that helping low- and moderate-income parents with the FAFSA might be a good way to start closing the college attendance gap between rich and poor.

In The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment, co-authors Eric Bettinger, Bridget Terry Long, Philip Oreopoulos, and Lisa Sanbonmatsu report on the results of a random assignment experiment. One group of low- and moderate-income families received help completing the FAFSA from H & R Block tax professionals. They also were given an estimate of how much government aid they might receive along with information about local college options. A control group received personalized aid eligibility information, but did not get any assistance with the FAFSA.  When the researchers compared the two groups, they found that those who completed the FAFSA with the help of H & R Block were substantially more likely to not only submit the financial aid form, but also enroll in college the following fall and qualify for more financial aid.

 While all kinds of approaches have been tried over the years to increase college attendance rates among low-income students, this study involving 23,000 people suggests that one answer may lie in helping families gain access to financial aid. The low-income families who were not expected to contribute to their child’s college expenses were the ones who benefitted the most from the intervention.

Changes in Store for Advanced Placement Exams

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Students hoping to get accepted to top universities often take Advanced Placement courses, a rigorous series of classes in 30 subjects that can earn them college credit. In order to receive credit for the courses, students must get a passing grade on a three-hour exam that is independently graded and includes both multiple choice questions and a so-called “free response section.” While the rigorous exams always strike fear in the hearts of high school student, the anxiety level is on the rise as word spreads that changes are in store for both the courses and the tests.

The College Board’s Advance Placement Program is making changes to AP world languages, science and history in an effort to “foster students’ capacity to think and reason in a deeper way.” First up are changes to German, French and World History, which will be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year. Changes to select AP science courses will not go into effect until the 2012-2013 school year, but the College Board has already posted a draft version of the revised AP Biology curriculum online.  As Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board put it, “These changes will spread best practices across AP classrooms worldwide.”