Archive for the ‘Applications’ Category

Admission rates aren’t all they are cracked up to be

As it becomes easier for prospective students to send out multiple applications, it may be time to de-emphasize acceptance rates as measures of prestige for institutions of higher learning.

Students are sending out more and more college applications, even as overall enrollment declines. Total estimated enrollment for degree-granting institutions in the U.S. dropped to 19.1 million students in the spring of 2013, down 2.3% from one year earlier, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The spring 2012 figure, 19.6 million, was down 0.3% from one year earlier.

But applications are on the rise in part because it’s much easier for students to apply to multiple colleges today, often through just a few mouse clicks, because of electronic forms and because colleges use uniform applications, as the New York Times points out. The most widely used application form, the Common Application, was accepted by 517 colleges and universities this year. Seven years ago, only 315 accepted it. Seven or more applications were sent out by 29% of students applying to college in 2011, up from 9% in 1990.

Two other factors contributing to the rise in applications are more troubling.

The first: Dropping acceptance rates feed the practice of students sending out more applications to improve their odds for success. The increased number of applications drive the rates down, and the cycle is perpetuated the next year.

The second: Because colleges know that acceptance rates are a factor in their prestige ranking on various lists, some of them seek to increase their applicant numbers through marketing blitzes.

As the news media focus on the selection/rejection rates, especially for the most selective schools, college admissions officers often lament that the numbers are given too much importance. But that doesn’t stop higher ed institutions from publicizing their applications and admissions numbers.

Another problem with focusing on acceptance rates is that schools define the term differently. The Washington Post notes that there is no universally accepted definition of “applicant,” and the federal definition of an applicant leaves wiggle room for differing interpretations.

The Post reported that, in 2011, the U.S. Naval Academy claimed an admissions rate of 7.5% — one percentage point better than Princeton University. The academy had counted 19,145 applications when calculating this super-exclusive rate, but only 5,720 applications were complete. The others were just partial applications, and were never seriously considered.

The applications total also included thousands of students who applied to the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar — an event for 11th graders interested in the learning about the academy.

In 2013, the Post reported that Washington and Lee University had claimed 5,972 applications and a 19% acceptance rate, which boosted the university’s reputation by defining it as one of the most selective liberal arts schools.

But more than 1,100 of the counted applications were never completed and, like the Naval Academy example, were never seriously considered. If the incomplete applications had been subtracted from the total, the admission rate would have been 24%.

In some cases, colleges are so aggressive in trying to boost their applicant numbers that they waive all application fees and fill out just about everything on the application form except for the student’s signature — a practice known as the “fast app,” the Post reported.

This year, the most selective title went to Stanford University, at 5%, a new low for the school. The rates for Ivy League schools ranged from 5.9% at Harvard University to 14% at Cornell University. Some schools have been even more selective: IvyWise reported that the Curtis Institute of Music admitted just 2.9% of applicants for its Class of 2015.

But the more we learn about how the acceptance rates are influenced, the less impressed we are.


Find original article at :

Our crazy college crossroads

Over recent days the notices have gone out, an annual ritual of dashed hopes.

Brown University offered admission to the lowest fraction ever of the applicants it received: fewer than one in 10. The arithmetic was even more brutal at Stanford, Columbia, Yale. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had a record number of students vying for its next freshman class — 31,321 — and accepted about one in six who applied from outside the state. Notre Dame took about one in five of all comers.

And right now many young men and women who didn’t get in where they fervently longed to are worrying that it’s some grim harbinger of their future, some sweeping judgment of their worth.

This is for them. And it’s intended less as a balm for the rejected than as a reality check for a society gone nuts over the whole overheated process.

If you were shut out of an elite school, that doesn’t mean you’re less gifted than all of the students who were welcomed there. It may mean only that you lacked the patronage that some of them had, or that you played the game less single-mindedly, taking fewer SAT courses and failing to massage your biography with the same zeal.

A friend of mine in Africa told me recently about a center for orphans there that a rich American couple financed in part to give their own teenage children an exotic charity to visit occasionally and mine for college-application essays: admissions bait. That’s the degree of cunning that comes into this frenzy.

Maybe the school that turned you down ranks high in the excessively publicized “College Salary Report” by, which looks at whose graduates go on to make the most money.

What a ludicrous list. It’s at least as imperfectly assembled as the honor roll that U.S. News & World Report puts together every year. And even if you trust it, what does it tell you? That the colleges at the top have the most clout and impart the best skills? Or that these colleges admit the most young people whose parents and previously established networks guarantee them a leg up?

Maybe it tells you merely that these colleges attract the budding plutocrats with the greatest concern for the heft of their paychecks. Is that the milieu you sought?

About money and professional advancement: Shiny diplomas from shiny schools help. It’s a lie to say otherwise. But it’s as foolish to accord their luster more consequence than the effort you put into your studies, the earnestness with which you hone your skills, what you actually learn. These are the sturdier building blocks of a career.

In “David and Goliath,” Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that a less exclusive university may enable a student to stand out and flourish in a way that a more exclusive one doesn’t. The selectiveness of Gladwell’s science doesn’t nullify the plausibility of his argument.

Corner offices in this country teem with C.E.O.s who didn’t do their undergraduate work in the Ivy League. Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin went to the University of Alabama. John Mackey of Whole Foods studied at the University of Texas, never finishing.

Your diploma is, or should be, the least of what defines you. Show me someone whose identity is rooted in where he or she went to college. I’ll show you someone you really, really don’t want at your Super Bowl party.

And your diploma will have infinitely less relevance to your fulfillment than so much else: the wisdom with which you choose your romantic partners; your interactions with the community you inhabit; your generosity toward the family that you inherited or the family that you’ve made.

If you’re not bound for the school of your dreams, you’re probably bound for a school that doesn’t conform as tidily to your fantasies or promise to be as instantly snug a fit.

Good. College should be a crucible. It’s about departure, not continuity: about turning a page and becoming a new person, not letting the ink dry on who, at 17 or 18, you already are. The disruption of your best-laid plans serves that. It’s less a setback than a springboard.

A high school senior I know didn’t get into several of the colleges she coveted most. She got into a few that are plenty excellent. And I’ve never been more impressed with her, because she quickly realized that her regrets pale beside her blessings and she pivoted from letdown to excitement.

That resiliency and talent for optimism will matter more down the line than the name of the school lucky enough to have her. Like those of her peers who are gracefully getting past this ordeal that our status-mad society has foisted on them, she’ll do just fine.

By Frank Bruni
Find original article :

19 Colleges offering up the best value in Massachusetts

With the average student loan debt hovering eerily close to $30,000, incomers want to ensure they’re receiving an education worthy of the rising costs. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine understands the concern, releasing Tuesday a College Finder capable of identifying the ideal match for students searching for schools.

Users can sort through public and private universities, as well as liberal arts colleges, with the interactive tool (photographed above), by region, graduation rate, annual cost, school size, admission rate, average debt and more. After selecting schools, students can compare them side-by-side to see how they stack up on overall quality and cost.

If that’s not enough, Kiplinger also released a new slew of rankings to help users discover where the colleges boasting the most value are hiding. Among the lists are the “25 Best College Values Under $30,000.” An unsurprising, albeit unfortunate, fact is that no Massachusetts school made the list. Several, however, found their way onto the “35 Best College Values in New England” ranking.

Harvard came in at No. 2 on the list of private universities, falling only behind rival Yale — undoubtedly a tough pill to swallow. MIT then followed in its Cambridge counterpart’s footsteps, ranking third.

As for public colleges, UMass Amherst came in second, while Williams and Amherst nabbed the top two spots on the list of liberal arts colleges.

“It’s easy to overlook quality options when faced with finding the best fit from more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions,” said Robert Long, managing editor of, in a statement.

To help you break through the noise, we rounded up the “Best Value” Massachusetts schools.

– Associate Editor, BostInno

Summer fun takes a backseat to college resume-building

By Globe Staff

Ever since he was an eighth-grader at Sharon Middle School, Shridhar Singh and his parents have planned his summer activities with one main goal: getting into college.

Now a 17-year-old high school senior, Singh has studied electrical engineering at Skidmore College, argued in mock trials at Columbia University, developed apps at MIT, and screened patients for tuberculosis in Thailand.

But this past summer, after still more school vacation plans fell through, the National Merit Scholarship finalist with Ivy League dreams mainly hung out with his friends. It was the most stressful vacation of his life.

“My parents were saying, ‘Colleges won’t like the fact that you haven’t done anything this summer,’ and people would always say, ‘You need to do something this summer,’ ” he recalled. “Occasionally I worried — what if it was true?”

Amid escalating competition for elite and even not so elite colleges, summer has become resume-building crunch time for students whose parents can foot the bill — a season of strategic importance for students trying to distinguish themselves from other students also trying to distinguish themselves.

Children are going to $4,000-plus boot camps where they practice taking the SATs, and are spending sunny days inside, learning how to write code. Some parents are paying $275 an hour to consult professional summer advisers, looking for programs they hope will be attractive to admissions officers or at least lead to an inspiring personal essay on the Common Application.

With college tuition an enormous financial stress for many families, adding pricey summer programs to the tab is something that’s out of reach for most people, who see resume-building activities as yet another example of wealthy families trying to buy their children advantages.

Even for those who can make the investment, with prices that can run from $1,000 for a weeklong day program, to the $10,000 range for longer adventures, parents want to see something beyond selfies, said Diane Borodkin, president of Student Camp & Trip Advisors, in Boston. “They’re not going to spend that kind of money just for their kids to have fun,” she said.

Shridhar Singh has his sights set on an Ivy League education.

Rose Lincoln for the Boston Globe

Shridhar Singh has his sights set on an Ivy League education.


Summer vacation’s changing role — from a time to kick back to a time to lean in — is part of a larger trend that is putting emotional stress on teenagers, a potentially vulnerable population of kids who find themselves under more pressure to succeed than many adults.

Harvard’s dean of admissions has become so concerned about the summer extracurriculars race that the university’s admission website now urges families to “Bring summer back,” with an “old-fashioned summer job” perhaps, or simply time to “gather strength for the school year ahead.”

McMillan, Howland & Spence, a Back Bay-based educational consulting firm, recently convened a staff meeting to figure out how to remind parents to relax. “We’re starting to advise parents to give the kids some time off,” said firm president Don McMillan.

But even as he counsels de-escalation, McMillan points to daunting statistics that show how much harder it has become to get into school than it used to be. At Boston University, 1,742 students applied for early decision for Fall 2014, up 16 percent just from last year. Tufts University received 19,077 applications for this coming fall, a record high, and an increase of 27 percent over the past five years. Northeastern University accepted 32 percent of applicants last year. In 1999, 71 percent of students who applied got in. At MIT, more than one-third of those accepted via early action for the class of 2018 have won national or international distinctions.

It is no wonder that LeRoy Watkins, co-owner of Viking Sports Camps, is bombarded by parents trying to burnish their children’s “leadership” credentials.

“They say, ‘We’ll pay you whatever, my son really needs to be a [counselor in training] for his college application,’ ” Watkins said.

Last year, one mother asked Watkins if Viking was a nonprofit. “She wanted her son to use his experience for a congressional award,” he said, “and when I told her we’re a for-profit company, she asked if there was any way I could make it a nonprofit.” (No.)

While some families guess what will be attractive to admissions officers, others hire independent professionals like Jill Tipograph, founder of the New York-based Everything Summer, who knows that the summer C.V. is so important that she recently surveyed admissions staffs at 100 top schools to get the scoop on what they’re looking for in applicants.

Even as teen programs become more exotic — kids are sailing on Arctic research vessels and learning conservation management in Zimbabwe — Tipograph and others say that fancy locales and pricey opportunities are not necessarily what schools are looking for.

“Colleges are looking for students who use summers to push themselves out of their comfort zones and pursue genuine interests,” Tipograph said. “And they take notice when they see odd experiences that don’t align with anything else.”

In Weston, high school senior Rachel Borczuk, 18, approached her summers with the focus of a professional branding specialist. “I wanted to develop a few main themes on my applications,” she said, “and show schools that I took time out of my life to peruse my passions.”

She spent one summer interning with a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and another as a marine biology camp counselor at the New England Aquarium. In addition to educating a new generation about the importance of taking care of the environment, she was accepted early at her top choice, Duke University.

“When I was sitting on the train going to Boston on a nice day, I wished I could be spending time with friends or going to the beach,” she said, “But in the end, I knew that I was doing what I thought was important.”

Perhaps nowhere is the focus on getting in more intense than at the two-week College Admissions Prep camps run by Summerfuel , a New York-based firm. At Tufts last summer, the site of one of three boot camps, the schedule included morning SAT-prep sessions and evening college-admissions workshops. The 60 students went home not with trophies, but with polished personal statements and resumes.

Meanwhile, as concern over pressure on high school students grows, one of those at the center of the storm, Harvard College admissions and financial aid dean William Fitzsimmons, is worried that traditional school year overscheduling has now invaded July and August, too.

“What can be negative is when people lose sight of the fact that it’s important to develop broadly as a human being, as opposed to being an achievement machine,” he said. “In the end, people will do much better reflecting, perhaps through some down time, in the summer.”

Well, that’s easy for him to say. He already went to Harvard.

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.