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Sunday, June 24, 2012
Summer as the Last Hurrah
About a month ago, I reminded high school juniors to use this summer wisely. With two full years left before college, they still have ample opportunity to pack their summers with the kind of activities that will flesh out the college portfolio. For high school seniors, time is a little shorter. But this summer still has plenty of it.
On the longest day of the year, with the sun high in the sky, the last thing most budding seniors want to think about are college applications. Hear me out. This summer is NOT your last hurrah. As social experiences go, college (at least for most people), is a blast. So think of this summer as a chance to ease the anxieties that will start to gnaw at you come fall.
Many of you will have jobs or travel scheduled this summer. For student athletes, the commitments of Fall semester may start early, and become an ever bigger drain on your time as the college application deadlines approach in October and November. From an emotional perspective, senior year is a very important life chapter. Adding the stresses of college application to the mental transition can be difficult.
For any of you using the Common Application and thinking about getting a head start on your college admission essay, keep in mind that the Common App simply shuts down for several weeks next month.
So as we sit on the very cusp of the summer season, think about getting a head start. Maybe it's as simple as whittling down your university choices and pulling all the requisite applications. Perhaps you are way ahead of the game and start drafts of your college admission essay. Maybe you take the time to visit a few campuses.
Checking off even a few tasks from your college to-do list can help lift an enormous psychological burden come fall semester. And do it now. So you can enjoy the rest of your summer.
Labels: Summer as the Last Hurrah
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Law Schools Respond to Bleak Market
It has been a bad year for law schools and a worse year for many law school graduates. This week the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its annual report. Just 85% of new law school grads can expect to find work-the lowest this figure has been since 1994. A full three-quarters of that 85% were working in non-legal and/or part-time positions.
As a talking point, the rupture of the legal profession makes for good discussion. (For some particularly lively vitriol, visit the Facebook page "Don't Go to Law School"). Although the national unemployment rate has been alarming for the past several years, people seem especially affronted at the prospect that a law degree has lost its traditional value. For new grads, the panic and anger is simpler than that-many are saddled with six-figure debt.
Some law schools are finally responding. Roughly ten of the country's 200 ABA accredited schools have plans to marginally decrease enrollment over the next several years. Some schools are cutting their class sizes by as few as 20, but with tuition at law schools averaging between $20K and $40K a year, these cuts are not insignificant reductions to law school revenue.
At a theoretical level, the cuts make sense. A bleak job market, oversaturated with law grads will gradually improve as fewer people emerge with law degrees. Simple supply and demand. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remarked recently that the country might be better off sending some of its brightest minds into other fields--like science and engineering--where they are needed most.
This decision does not fix the problem for current law school graduates, but may start to set a new tone in a field that is rapidly losing the gloss of high expectation that has historically made it so appealing.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Yes, College Rankings Do Matter. Maybe.
Advice regarding college admissions tends to cycle through differing philosophies. Historically, rankings have been crucial. Students (and parents, and maybe employers) wait with bated breath each year as the US News & World Report churns out its annual number crunching about college rankings.
Lately, college consultants have been fighting back. Part of the reason? High profile schools have been caught in flat-out lies about their own stats . The other reason is cuddlier. Consultants and experts claim that the goal for students in finding the"right" college should be the right fit, not the highest ranking.
I like the sound of this, but, there is always a "but". The "right fit" assumes that a student is attending college to learn. If that is true, I agree that the student should place a greater emphasis on things like class size, campus location and faculty. If a student is going to college in order to get a job, I think ignoring the pedigree of a brand name school could be a liability.
Frankly, in a depressed job market, the best way to get ahead is to get a graduate degree. I'd like to believe that graduate institutions care more about undergraduate performance than where a student went to college. I wouldn't trust recruiters in the professional realm to be as reasonable.
It comes down to what a student wants. If it is a clerkship with the US Supreme Court, that undergraduate better pay very close attention to their college brand. If it is the rite-of-passage that is the "college experience", I think it makes more sense to look for a school that will make you happy.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
STEM or Liberal Arts-That is the Question
Actually, for most students, there isn't much up for discussion. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are scary subjects for many students. The prospect of a Liberal Arts education may sound more realistic and less confining. The abundance of small, liberal arts colleges across the country may be appealing for students looking for a more academically intimate, congenial setting in which to get their college education.
With so many college graduates facing flattened job prospects, the question of what to major in is suddenly more relevant. Ten or twenty years ago, a college degree from a decent school may have been enough. That is no longer the professional climate in which we live.
Payscale.com recently released a report of the top ten majors leading to the highest salaries. Two were science, one math; the other seven were in the field of engineering. For women, engineering offers potentially even better prospects. The dearth of women in the profession means that universities actively court qualified female engineering students; some experts claim that the demand for female students means that universities will quietly reserve spaces for women with lower grades and test scores than their male counterparts.
For law school graduates, who are facing one of the worst job markets in recent history, STEM backgrounds may be the necessary edge. Traditionally, law was seen as a haven for ambitious students with a fear of math and science. Today, the growth of the technology sector has created a need for experts with knowledge of both STEM subjects and the law. (Payscale.com places patent attorneys at a starting salary of $115,000. The American Intellectual Property Law Association places that figure closer to $180K).
All students have their own interests. Few students can will themselves to do well in Organic Chemistry if science isn't a strength. For now, however, it appears that your college major really does matter.
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