Wake Forest University

August 2010

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Archive for August, 2010

Observers Weigh In on New College Rankings

Friday, August 20th, 2010

US News & World Report published its annual college rankings this week, and there were few surprises as Ivy League schools took leading spots and other well-known universities rounded out the top 25. Aside from some slight adjustments, the top rankings were generally unchanged from previous years. This in spite of the fact that the magazine made changes in its methodology this year in response to scholarly research that called some of its techniques into question.

The changes, which involved the “reputational” part of the survey, did little to quiet critics who immediately weighed in on blogs and websites. In a news roundup, The Huffington Post quoted CBS MoneyWatch’s Lynn O’Shaughnessy as saying a coin flip might do the job just as well in determining the top spot. “The magazine would save itself a lot of trouble if it just flipped a coin every year to determine who was No. 1 since there are only two contenders. Or perhaps the magazine could find a three-headed coin so Yale would also get a chance in the college rankings sweepstakes.”

Meanwhile Lloyd Thacker, founder of the Education Conservancy and a leading critic of rankings, told Inside Higher Education that he was not impressed by the changes because the rankings continued to give a false sense of some colleges being better than others and ignore the need to focus on student needs as opposed to prestige. “The rankings are not rooted in education. They are trying to sell magazines. Is this going to be any more educationally credible? I don’t see that.”

Perhaps it’s appropriate for the last word to go to the magazine itself, which explained its ranking on the Today Show, and on its website. “Why does U.S. News rank colleges and universities? It’s a controversial question with a simple answer: We do it to help you make one of the most important decisions of your life. Your investment in a college education could profoundly affect your career opportunities, financial well-being, and quality of life.” The magazine also posted tips on how the rankings are best used.

  • Do use the rankings as one tool to select and compare schools.
  • Don’t rely solely on rankings to choose a college.
  • Do use the search and sort capabilities of this site to learn more about schools. Visit schools, if possible.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute. College matters. Take your time, and choose carefully.
  • Do think long and hard about the right place for you.

Good advice, no doubt.

Wagner College Goes Test-Optional

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

When it was named number one in U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Up-and-Coming Schools” list, Wagner College in Staten Island was singled out for making promising and innovative changes in its academics, faculty and other key areas. This month, the school continued its innovation by becoming the latest to announce that applicants will no longer be required to provide SAT or ACT scores as part of their application package. Angelo Araimo, vice president for enrollment and planning at Wagner, had a very straightforward explanation for the college’s decision. “We believe that the best predictor of a student’s potential to succeed at Wagner is the student’s high school transcript,” he said in a statement.

Like many of the other 800 colleges and universities that have also gone test-optional, Wagner takes a holistic approach to admissions. “Our process is very personal,” Araimo said. “I want our counselors to get to know the applicants. Doing that gives us a great deal of confidence in the admissions decisions we make.” The new policy will apply to applicants for the Class of 2015 and beyond. In the FAQs posted with its announcement, Wagner addressed the question of whether its standards were changing. “Wagner has always placed the highest value on a student’s academic record (coursework and grade point average), which is proven to be the best predictor of a student’s success in college. In addition to the academic record, the Admissions Committee takes into serious consideration the student’s recommendations, personal statement, interview, extra-curricular activities, and achievements.” Like other test-optional schools, Wagner will still accept scores from students who believe they provide further evidence of their academic ability.

I'm Going to College – Not You!

Friday, August 6th, 2010

collegeJennifer Delahunty calls the college admissions process “the last dance of parenting,” and she should know because she has seen it from both sides. As the dean of admissions at Kenyon College in Ohio, she has watched thousands of parents navigate the college application process with their children. And as the mother of two girls, she has also experienced it first hand. Now she has put together a new collection of essays on the topic entitled “I’m Going to College, Not You! Surviving the College Search with Your Child.”  http://amzn.to/99kRd9 The essays are by such well-known writers as Anna Quindlen, Jane Hamilton and Janet Maslin, as well as some “insiders” like admissions directors from Colby and Smith Colleges and Delahunty herself.  Available on September 1, the book promises to answer such essential questions as: “How can a parent help but not take over?” “How can a parent be less of a ‘helicopter’ and more of a ‘booster rocket?’ ” and perhaps the most important of all…. “How will you keep from wanting to kill each other?”  Delahunty observes that acceptance by a top college has become the equivalent of a “good parenting” stamp of approval, leading to parental obsessions over SAT scores and essays at the same time that their children are wanting independence. In a Q & A on the web site Jungle Red (http://bit.ly/9XYHB6) , she explains some of the reasons behind the college admissions madness.