|Admissions Essays Blog|
|Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.|
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
On Pizza, College Admissions and Yale
About a month ago, a tiny corner of the internet was abuzz about a 196-word admission essay that landed 18-year-old Carolina Williams an acceptance to Yale University. The content? A paean to her favorite pizza joint, Papa Johns. Apparently, the Yale admissions committee thought it was hilarious. Williams tweeted the story to Papa Johns. The pizza chain, no doubt sensing a ripe marketing opportunity, offered free pizzas and an internship to Williams. Her local paper took up the story, and the story went viral from there.
Last year, a young student was admitted to a handful of Ivies with her essay about Costco. This admissions season, Ziad Ahmed was accepted to Stanford with an essay that repeated the phrase “Black Lives Matter” a hundred times. These news stories are catchy. These students are brave and creative. But the media does a routine disservice to readers by suggesting that any of these essays on their own got these students into elite universities.
That's because real college admissions metrics make for pretty boring copy.
At its core, a viral internet sensation is the act of comments threads wagging the dog. This story is charming, but hardly an instructive anecdote. Williams also happened to be one of the top students in her class. Two hundred quirky words aren't alone what wooed Yale. But those words gave comments trolls a few things to consider-namely, whether Williams was an accomplished writer and whether or not she had good taste in pizza.
One thing's for sure-Williams didn't want Yale as badly as they wanted her. She declined their admission offer in favor of Auburn University in Alabama, which she described as a "better fit".
If anything beyond entertainment emerges from stories like these, it is that everyone likes a whimsical story. Even admissions officers.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Does a College Degree Make You Happier?
According to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the answer is a resounding "yes". It has long been understood that college graduates go on to have higher incomes than non-degree holders. But EPI's report notes that the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is wider now than it has been since 1973. Specifically, in 2015, college graduates earned an average of 56% more than people who did not attend or graduate from college.
That may seem obvious. What is less visible are other compelling statistics, such as the college dropout rate, which hovers around a staggering 40%. Finances are one major factor for students leaving college early; they are often then stuck with enormous debt and no marketable degree to justify it.
Income is an obvious advantage for college graduates, but, statistically speaking, they also enjoy a higher quality of life. College graduates are more likely to have a job, be married, own a home, and be a union member. They are more likely to have retirement funds, and have greater geographic mobility.
Experts note that the solution is more complicated than making traditional college accessible. The U.S. has a difficult relationship with so-called vocational schools and apprenticeships-both of which are far more common in other nations. Professions such as x-ray technicians and paralegals don't require a four-year degree, and offer far better compensation the than minimum wage jobs which many high-school graduates are forced to take. This is particularly relevant given that minimum wage workers can no longer afford rent on a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.
With government-backed financial aid on the chopping block, college is likely to become even further out of reach. Of course, it isn't the degree that buys happiness-it's the income that accompanies it. Any viable long-term solution will need to focus on finding ways other than four-year university degrees to boost earning capacity. The economic health of the country now depends upon it.
Monday, June 26, 2017
In Your Law School Admission Essay, Say Something-Not Everything
Ever been on the receiving end of a monologue disguised as a conversation? How long did it take you to tune out? How did you feel when you walked away? If you're like most people, you don't like getting talked at. Particularly if it is long and meandering.
Still, many law school personal statements read just like that. As an editor, I've come across hundreds of these essays, where only one issue is clear: the writer doesn't have any idea why they really want to go to law school. Remember, your reader has heard the phrases "serve justice" and "help people" more times than they'd care to count. However well-intended these goals may be, they aren't a sturdy enough hook to bear the weight of ill-defined ambitions.
The most effective law school personal statements are clear and concise. They don't start with a cliché or platitude. If you want to study law, know why, and tell your reader. Right away.
Remember that this is graduate school. You're approaching this juncture with some academic and professional experience. Talk about it. Don't simply state your interest in law-explain it. It's okay if you don't know what area you hope to specialize in, but you should have some sense of what a J.D. is going to do to enhance your potential.
Stringing many long words together is no substitute for pith. Know what you want, and be able to articulate it. If you can't assemble a persuasive argument in a law school essay, you're unlikely to be able to do it in practice. And that's what this written audition is really about.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Maelstrom Follows Harvard's Decision to Rescind Admissions Offers
It's been less than a month since Harvard very publicly revoked admissions offers to ten students over offensive memes shared in a private Facebook group. At first blush, the rescission was a deeply satisfying form of schadenfreude-the jokes ranged from the Holocaust to child abuse. Still, it took little time for legal scholars and education experts to weigh in with admonitions about the chilling of free speech.
From a legal perspective, Harvard has done nothing wrong. The First Amendment protects the rights of private citizens against any restrictions on free expression by the government. Harvard is a private institution. In fact, the university has clear rules of their own, reserving the discretionary right to accept or deny admission to any student for any reason.
Still, horrifying as the memes were, legal scholars warn that punishing even this sort of highly offensive speech poses a threat to the policing of all speech. These warnings are coming from some of the most well-known, politically progressive legal minds in the country. Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz called Harvard's decision "a serious mistake". Constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, a Harvard alumnus and the incoming dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law, wrote an opinion piece criticizing Harvard's actions, stating that "speech should not be punished by a campus just because it is offensive, even deeply offensive".
Many students feel the university made the right choice in taking an intrepid stand against hate speech. (One of the students whose admission was revoked is reportedly the daughter of a major donor). The move goes a long way in assuring students that bigotry and violent rhetoric won't be tolerated on campus. But Dershowitz and others say that the end simply doesn't justify the means. Punishing speech of any kind sets a perilous precedent.
At worst, Harvard's decision may represent a threat to free speech on university campuses, a right that Harvard itself has defended vigorously. At best, the very public rescission should serve as a cautionary tale to all students: be mindful of what you post on social media. It is never, ever truly private.
Monday, June 19, 2017
In India, Numbers of Women in Business School Rising
Each year The Economist compiles a list of the top 100 business schools in the world. The U.S. typically dominates in the rankings, while other countries, like Africa and the Republic of Korea, often don't feature at all. In India, just one institution regularly makes the list; the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) is widely regarded as the top business school in the country. And it has one glaring quality in common with U.S. business schools: a notable lack of female students.
There is, however, some good news. A few years ago, just 14% of IIMA's entering class was comprised of women. Last cycle, that number had grown to 21%; this year, enrollment was bumped again to 28%. There are litanies of social reasons for this. The job market is still highly divided by gender. Legal inheritance rights favor men, placing women at a disadvantage financially in terms of capital investment for start-ups. The shortage of female role models in the professional sector makes it difficult to attract girls and young women into business.
A recent economic census by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), revealed that just 14% of India's entrepreneurs were women, many of them running smaller, rural businesses. A 2017 survey by the accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton found that India ranks third lowest in the world for employing women in senior management positions (17%), and only 7% in CEO/ management positions. These statistics aligns with the business school enrollment figures, so the fact that India's most prominent b-school is making gains in female enrollment gives good reason for some optimism.
While IIMA does not reserve specific space for female candidates, it is putting forth increasing efforts to recruit women from discipline diverse backgrounds. This is a strategic move that's already been employed by a number of U.S. business schools, who recognize the ways in which female professionals tend to enhance performance and growth in the active sector.
As with most steps towards progress, these are small and slow-moving, but important to watch.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
The Growing Trend of Free College Tuition
In late 2015, the state of Tennessee became the first in the nation to offer free community college tuition for graduating high school seniors. In return, recipients were required to do 8 hours of community service, maintain a 2.0 GPA, meet with a mentor and apply for all available state and federal aid. Tennessee would cover the rest.
Over the past couple of years, others have followed suit. In fall of 2016, Oregon introduced a similar plan. In February 2017, the city of San Francisco announced their intention to fund free college tuition for students in the city, using levies on the sale of properties sold for more than $5 million. In April of this year, New York became the first state in the nation to offer free tuition at both two-year and four-year institutions. This week, Tennessee upped the ante by expanding their free tuition to all adults.
The "Tennessee Promise" program is reporting good results, with both an increase in applicants in year one, and about an 80% retention rate in year two. Retaining students is critical; nationally, only about a third of community college students go on to receive a four-year degree. By extending their program to include all adults, the state is hoping to improve graduation rates. For many students, life gets in the way of going back to college-people start families, take jobs or otherwise lose the ability to feasibly prioritize higher education.
None of the free tuition programs are without flaws. In Tennessee and Oregon, the programs only kick in once students have exhausted state and federal aid programs. The criticism is that the assistance has the most positive effect on middle-income families, and that low-income students aren't receiving the greatest benefit.
However, in the face of a presidential administration that promises sweeping cuts to federal student aid, state-led programs like these are likely to become more common, and critical to accessible higher education.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Harvard Rescinds 10 Admissions Offers in Response to Offensive Social Media Posts
It's been analyzed, documented and shared, thousands of times over. These days, many admissions officers are paying attention to the social media accounts of college applicants. In some circumstances-particularly at the graduate school level-a positive social media presence can help augment an application. There are, however, situations where bad behavior on social media can cause admission to be completely revoked. This is precisely what happened to ten Harvard admittees this week.
This year, Harvard offered admission to 2,056 of close to 40,000 applicants-an acceptance rate of just over 5%. Of those, 84% accepted the offers. These ten students were members of this highly select group before the Harvard pulled the rug out.
According to Harvard's own newspaper, The Crimson, the students were part of an online messaging group that the Class of 2021 set up in December of last year in order to "share memes about popular culture". At some point, the group evolved from lighthearted into one that hazed members by encouraging them to post more provocative memes. The R-rated memes granted them access to a splinter group with a much darker underbelly.
Among the topics "joked" about in the split-off group—child abuse and the Holocaust. On Harvard's official Facebook page for the class of 2021, students are warned that the university may rescind or deny offers on the basis of morally questionable behavior. Even appalling speech is constitutionally protected, but college admission is not a right.
These ten students just learned that the hard way.
Monday, May 29, 2017
What Students Should Be Looking for in an Admission Essay
In college admissions, there is no topic of discussion as heavily aerated as that of the admission essay. No one really understands what colleges want, and students become paralyzed by soul-searching over a keyboard. Guidance is made more difficult by the fact that adults have a wisdom of perspective that young teenagers simply haven't acquired yet. So when a teacher or college consultant tells a student to "be themselves" in the essay, there's just too much static congesting the conversation.
I'm a person that learns through examples. Even as an adult. And I know I'm not alone. Having someone describe expectations in platitudes just doesn't compute for me. So telling a student to "write from the heart" may be far less effective than showing them essays that "worked". Many universities and news sources annually post the essays of successful candidates. It is important to read these. Not because every high school senior can aspire to being one of the top writers in the country, but because seeing the work of their peers can help dislodge even the worst writer's block.
The excruciating level of competition in college admissions accords too much weight to the essay in the minds of students. Success is a matter of reframing the issue, and creating a good piece of writing for the sake of creating something good, not because it is what students think admissions officers want to hear. It's about trusting that you have an interesting story to tell. A good essay doesn't need to tell the college everything about you, so long as it can tell them something about you.
Rather than seeking to write something perfect, write about something you find interesting. And here's a challenge I'd field to every prospective applicant: write about something that appears nowhere else on your college application. That is how you add depth to your submission.
Like any challenge in life, try to look at the essay as an opportunity instead of a burden. Then take a leap of faith.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Reframing the Value of the High School Grading System
Any parent who has ever had a child struggle in school understands the inherent fallibility of using grades to measure a child's worth. Intelligence and accomplishment are difficult to quantify using a single digit, and evaluating a student's future potential necessarily requires more than a cursory read through a report card. There is no place this plays out more starkly than through the college admissions process.
University admissions committees are responsible for a truly impossible task-evaluating human beings using a transcript of letters and numbers. Though most colleges claim to view a student's talents holistically, how comprehensive can that review really be in the absence of getting to know the person behind the grades? This vulnerability is the pivot point for endless hand-wringing about the magical formula for college admission.
The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is a collective of U.S. high schools working to change the way teachers grade their high school students. They see the current grading system as an outmoded one that teaches students "to value extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation". It sees the segregation of academic disciplines as artificial. The current grading system focuses on "the acquisition of information rather than the making of meaning".
MTC's vision would group metrics differently, allow measurement of performance areas rather than subjects, and assessment of mastery standards on a skill-by-skill basis. It is a beautiful idea that likely faces an uphill battle in implementation in a society where public schools are overburdened already with stretched budgets and overworked teachers (for whom the grading process would become more time-consuming and complex).
That said, a new method could revolutionize the way that colleges evaluate incoming students, fleshing out the souls behind the records. Ironically, MTC's system would most likely work best for higher income students, who are already at a great advantage over their lower income peers. As it stands, MTC's collective is comprised largely of private high schools with smaller student-teacher ratios. These are precisely the institutions with the functional and financial means to execute holistic grading in the first place.
Still, the concept of modifying grading at the high school level could have exceptional long-term benefits on the college admissions process.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Tackling Relevance in Admissions Essays
Each year, the New York Times invites college-bound seniors to submit copies of their admissions essays about money, work and social class. The authors of the top four or five compositions earn a feature in the Times, which also publishes the original work. Each year, the writing is stunning and unspoiled.
These compositions are exquisite in both substance and form. Some are lyrical—short sentences pregnant with meaning, poetry disguised as prose. Others are evocative in their visual imagery. Eighteen-year-old Idalia Felipe, who is headed to Cal State Fullerton in the fall, writes of the "warm touch of a small palm" in her home filled with siblings and tender chaos.
The narratives are flawless, but bear no fingerprints of artifice or professional editing. Caitlin McCormack will start Barnard this year. She grew up padding around the carpets of her parents' bed & breakfast. She writes about the inherent imbalance of power in service professions: "We meet sneers with apologies". Tips become a fertile space for microagressions. And somehow, it is against the texture of this backdrop that she is able to navigate the distinct contours between providing a service and being of service.
This year's selections all tackle the struggle of balancing their socio-economic identities. Jonathan Ababiy, the son of Moldovan immigrants writes of his mother's job cleaning the house of wealthy professors-a home he calls "a telescope to how…the other half lived". But there is no resentment in his words; his hyper-awareness of the social gap was also a window into his ultimate potential.
Setting aside the sheer beauty of this writing, a critical theme emerges. Each of these authors is able to write artfully about privilege-or the lack of it-without sounding brittle. In sharing soft but acute observations, they transcend the narrative ordinary. They become a person you'd like to get to know better.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
New Jersey Teen Accepted into All Eight Ivies
This crowning achievement is still relatively rare, and the small handful of students who grab the honor each year tends to get a lot of press. With notoriously brutal acceptance rates ranging from 5-15%, the odds are in almost no one's favor. So the fact that seventeen-year-old Ifeoma White-Thorpe was also accepted into Stanford is extraordinary. For the 2017-2018 admissions cycle, Stanford's admission rate fell to a mind-boggling 4.65%.
Anyone tuned into this blog knows that I've written relentlessly about the problem with reported acceptance rates. It's simple math: technology has made applying easier, so students apply to more colleges. At the same time, universities have around the same number of spaces open in each freshman class. So, proportionally speaking, colleges are admitting a lower percentage of applying students.
Technicalities aside, this kind of admissions sweep is relatively unheard of, and the credit should fall squarely in White-Thorpe's lap. She is student-government president at her school. Though writing is both a skill and a passion, she aspires to study global health and biology. The appeal of the Ivies was not pedigree but the value of their research institutions.
In 2015, she was one of three national finalists in the Selma Speech and Essay Contest, in which students were invited to write about issues of freedom and self-determination. White-Thorpe wrote candidly about racial discrimination, and living with its very raw, and often terrifying weight.
White-Thorpe hasn't yet made a declaration about attendance, but acknowledges that cost will be a factor. Neither Stanford nor the Ivies offer merit-based scholarships and all come with annual price tags of $50,000 and higher. Fortunately, enormous endowments mean that most offer generous need-based financial aid. With any luck, the positive press will be as persuasive to these institutions as Ms. White-Thorpe's own estimable achievements.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
How to Get Your Application Off the Waitlist
As with anything related to college admissions, there is no sure answer for how to get in—whether you're on the waitlist or not. All colleges evaluate candidates using a variety of different factors. Admissions criteria are often cloaked in secrecy. Above all, there are simply so many applicants these days that there simply is not room for everyone. Still, the waitlist is a particularly precarious stopover, and there are some affirmative actions that waitlisted students can and should take.
1) Figure out the university's policy regarding communications from waitlisted students. Some colleges don't want to hear from waitlisted students at all. Others will invite short, online communications. Others may accept supplemental materials like updated grades and new letters of recommendation. If they do not invite such information, don't send it.
2) Express continuing interest in attending. It sounds almost too obvious. However, universities understand that many waitlisted students won't want to take any chances by waiting around, and will necessarily accept offers at other schools. Let them know you are still interested.
3) Keep them apprised of new information. If you've retaken the SAT or TOEFL and earned a higher score, let them know. Be frugal with your updated statistics. They don't need to know about your last month as a volunteer in the animal shelter. But dramatic improvements in scores or accomplishments can and should be brought to their attention.
4) Put a deposit down elsewhere. There are zero guarantees of admission for waitlisted students. Most students are drawn randomly from the waitlist, only after accepted students have declined offers of entry. Do not put all your eggs in one basket by waiting for the waitlist results, even if it is your top choice. Many waitlisted students won't receive notification until late summer.
5) Get an interview. Very few universities offer interviews for waitlisted students, but if they do, get yourself in there. It's impossible to beat the persuasive effect of a face-to-face interaction.
Above all, try to let go. After you've completed the steps above, it is out of your hands. Consider yourself honored to have been considered, and treat this as a learning experience. It is but a single chapter in a much longer story.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Whittier Law School Shuts its Doors
Last week, the Southern California-based Whittier Law School became the first fully ABA accredited institution in the U.S. to announce its closure. While the downturn in law school enrollment is not new news, the proclamation came as a complete shock to the school's students-one week before final exams.
According to the Los Angeles Times, national law school enrollment is down a full 50% since 2005. Generally speaking, this downturn has had a disproportionate affect on all but the highest-tier law schools, who have accepted students with lower grades and test scores, and who tend to perform less competitively on bar exams. The fizzling job market also means that fewer students are getting the jobs they need to pay down their enormously burdensome debts.
Whittier Law School earned its accreditation in the mid-1970s, and in recent years, gained attention for being one of the most racially diverse law school campuses in the country. The majority of students are non-white and female. Many are full-time working mothers, immigrants, or from low-income families. Whittier had been praised for offering access to the legal profession to students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to practice law. Many of these students are more likely to go on to provide services in underserved communities.
As one current student put it, the shuttering "depreciates" the value of her degree. Existing students will be allowed to finish out their time at Whittier, but many are resentful of paying back six-figure debts to a school no longer in existence.
In January 2017, the board of trustees sold the campus for $13 million, promising to reinvest the proceeds into the campus. This is just one of many reasons that students are threatening to litigate over the decision to close; faculty has already filed a request to enjoin the trustees from closing the school. Law blogs across the country are weighing in on the politics and implications of the board's decision, and the potential domino effect on other struggling U.S. law schools.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Another Obstacle for Low-Income Students in College Admissions
Diversity may be a fashionable term in modern-day college admissions, but opponents need not shiver at the mention of its name. The reality is that the vast majority of American students at four-year universities are white and middle to upper-middle class.
College is often regarded as the ticket to middle class, but if most of its students are already on that train, how can the working class every hope to ascend?
All too often, discussions about "diversity" in higher education are reduced to partisan squabbles over the merits or faults with affirmative action policies. An emerging reality is that socioeconomic status has an even larger impact than race in terms of collegiate success. The fact that the two factors often exist on parallel tracks makes the discussion even more complex.
A recent study by the Center for the Study of Higher and Post-Secondary Education (CSHPE) at the University of Michigan, found that many students from lower income backgrounds faced an unexpected obstacle: information about the quality of their high schools.
Admissions officers receive data about the high schools of nearly all of their applicants. Some of the more valuable metrics evaluated include 1) quantity of AP courses offered, 2) number of students with limited English proficiency, and 3) average standardized test scores. Since lower income students are more likely to go to underserved high schools, they are also more likely to be regarded less favorably than high-income peers who graduated from more competitive (or better serviced) schools.
In its study, CSHPE found that admissions officers were 13% more likely to admit low-income students from underserved high schools, if they were simply provided more information about the quality of the school. Put another way, students from these schools weren't getting declined simply because they attended a lower-performing school, but because admissions committees simply didn't know enough about their schools.
The study is promising in the sense that it gives universities and high schools a somewhat easier goal to reach for in terms of buoying students from lower-income communities. Socioeconomic equality is a much tougher fix, but airing out these deficiencies in the college admissions process? That's a good baby step in the right direction.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Quadruplets Take Top Colleges by Storm
Taking sibling rivalry to the best possible level, four brothers from Ohio have all been accepted to Harvard and Yale. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. One brother got into Stanford and another was waitlisted there. The list of top colleges goes on and on: UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt, Brown and more.
Like many multiples, Zach, Aaron, Nigel and Nick share relationships that are both synergetic and independent. While all four of them boast outstanding credentials, their interests are varied from music to chemical engineering to foreign diplomacy. One thing is certain-these young men have worked hard, and the payoff has come.
The brothers considered drafting a single, jointly created admission essay, but took a more creative pivot by creating four stand-alone essays which-when read together-formed a complete puzzle. Each wrote of their respective experience as a quad, but told a unique story.
In an interview with the New York Times, the brothers said that they had not yet made decisions about which offers to accept, but that Yale was currently offering the largest financial aid packet-something crucial for a family attempting to put four kids through college simultaneously.
Though the brothers are clearly credentialed, their interests are varied, from music to chemical engineering to foreign diplomacy. For the first time in life, their geographic paths may diverge, but the future is looking bright for this talented unit.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Five Ways Parents Can Help With College Admissions
With everything tied up in college admissions these days, the lead up to the process can be one of the most trying times in the parent-child relationship. Parents understand the economic and social benefits of college. They also know that this may be one of the last big decisions in their child's life that they will be an integral part of. How to release some of this tension? Here's a helpful (but not exhaustive) list:
1) Start Early. Every kid is different. Some will be more receptive to parental advice than others. The best lead up to the college craziness is to have it be an organic, stress-free part of everyday conversation before deadlines start to heat up. This gives both parent and child time to wrap their heads around it.
2) Try not to "Project". This is a big deal, and you don't want to kick them out of the nest without first teaching them how to fly. But it's their big deal, not yours. Whether parents mean to or not, they tend to expect their children to share the same values and goals that they do. Your kid is an individual, and the best you can do is steer them, not reshape them.
3) Help them develop a plan. Most people do best when following a path they've created for themselves. "Should" can be a toxic word that induces guilt and resentment. Don't draw the blueprint for them.
4) Be Supportive. This is obvious, but see points 1-3 above. The kids need love and encouragement here, not cracking of the whip.
5) Be Available. It may be that the thing they need most is a friendly ear. The more you push, the more they're likely to back away. Take a stab at treating them as an adult. They might just surprise you.
Most parents will agree that one of the toughest parts of being a parent is watching your kid fail. A strong second? Backing off and letting your kid skin her knees anyways.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Starbucks Goes One Step Further in Supporting College for Employees
In 2014, Starbucks partnered up with Arizona State University (ASU) to create a program offering full tuition coverage to all of their employees. The program, called the College Achievement Plan, was made available to both part-time and full-time Starbucks employees.
Tuition is fully reimbursable by Starbucks, and in turn, ASU provides mentoring and tutorial support across a range of more than 60 undergraduate degrees. The assistance and coursework are available on-line, meaning that geography isn't a barrier to access.
The program is available to Starbucks' more than 15,000 employees, but has turned out to be challenging for students who are not otherwise eligible for college admission. A number of student hopefuls hadn't taken the SAT, didn't have a high enough GPA, or lacked requisite freshman coursework.
Last week, Starbucks and ASU announced an enhanced program, Pathways to Admission, which seeks to help employees overcome ineligibility issues. Under the new program ASU will offer additional tutoring and counseling in order to help employees complete freshman-level courses, as many times as is necessary. Starbucks will foot the bill.
Starbucks' stated goal is to have 25,000 college graduates by 2025. CEO Howard Schultz announced the new program at a recent shareholders' meeting, where he spoke of the company's moral commitment to strive to do more than simply reap profits. Educating its workforce is good for both the company, and the economy.
This is one in a long-line of progressive, employee-centered policies by Starbucks. The company is already renowned for its exemplary management-training program, benefits for part-time employees, as well as a stated commitment to hiring at-risk youth, veterans, refugees and people with disabilities.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
America's College Drop-out Problem
For most college hopefuls, the most daunting and labor-intensive part of the college process is admission. It is the topic of countless blogs and self-help books. It has spawned an entire industry of admissions counselors, coaches, and mentors, all promising to offer the foolproof formula for getting accepted. What's lost in all of this commotion are statistics far more sobering than single-digit acceptance rates: the number of students who start college but don't finish.
What if the real social problem is not getting in, but staying in?
Drop-out statistics are notoriously hard to collect, but a soft estimate is that a full 25% of thirty-somethings in the U.S. who have attended college, do not have either an associate's degree or a four-year diploma. Why?
The simple answer is: cost.
One way or another, most middle to high-income students will find a way to finish college. And let's not forget-statistically, it was easier for these kids to become students in the first place. They were not the first in the family to attend college, they went to good high schools, their parents could afford SAT prep workshops and so on.
Lower income students are more likely to have to work during college. They are less likely to have financial help from their parents. They are more likely to take time off from college, and pick up again at a stage in their lives where it is even less affordable. Imagine, for a moment, being a 30-year-old father of three with a mortgage to pay, trying to juggle the workload and costs of college.
Getting additional financial aid towards the back-end of college can be challenging, but if colleges are truly concerned with long-term student success, the drop-out problem merits far more attention. When students don't finish college, society loses. College graduates qualify for higher-paying jobs. They are more likely to pay back student loans, and more likely to send their own kids to college.
This socioeconomic problem looms far more heavily than issues like affirmative action and getting into an Ivy. But it isn't one that too may people are yet having, and that's a whopping loss for everyone.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Harvard Law School to Begin Accepting GRE
The Law School Admissions Test has long been a requirement for all applicants to ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. High LSAT scores are the golden ticket for law school hopefuls. So when the University of Arizona School of Law announced last May that they would accept both the LSAT and the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) for its 2016-2017 applicants, legal pundits quickly began sparring.
Why? The short, editorialized answer is this: the LSAT is a more rigorous test, and lawyers traffic in prestige. The LSAT applies only for law school admission; the GRE for virtually all other graduate programs.
Far more people take the GRE-somewhere from five to eight times more. The GRE is offered on-line, on a rolling basis throughout the year. The LSAT is a written, in-person exam, presented just four times a year.
Both exams appear to be effective predictors of academic performance, but that isn't the primary reason that the University of Arizona and now Harvard are opening their doors to GRE takers. These institutions want to increase the diversity of their applicant pool.
Diversity is a loaded word in academia, but in practice, casting a wider net will allow law schools to consider more international students, and those from a broader range of academic disciplines. If the change sticks, it may loosen the stranglehold of the LSAT as a metric, and could open up the field of law to competent students who might not otherwise have considered law school.
No word yet on whether Harvard's move has people clucking, or whether this is a foreshadowing of a longer-term shift in law school admissions. Still, a space worth watching.
Monday, March 13, 2017
California Proposes Most Generous College Aid Plan in Nation
With college costs and student loan debts mounting nationwide, legislators in California have crafted an economically ambitious plan. The complex proposal aims to reduce or eliminate the need for student loans for the more than 450,000 students attending Cal State and University of California institutions.
The average annual cost at one of the 23 Cal State campuses is $21,000; at the nine UC campuses, that cost is $33,000. This proposal promises to cover those costs, while continuing to supplement them with federal and state grant programs currently in place. Recipients would additionally be required to work part-time jobs year round, and families earning more than $60,000 annually would receive only partial subsidies.
With more than $2.1 billion in aid offered each year, California is already one of the most generous states in the country. Cost of living in California, however, tends to severely offset these benefits. Several of the UC campuses are located in some of the most expensive cities in the U.S. The state estimates that UC aid recipients currently spend some 60% of their aid packages on housing costs alone.
At the cheaper Cal State institutions, costs of living is also a serious issue. In June of 2016, a Los Angeles Times article reported that one in ten Cal State students was homeless.
Despite the tremendous need and California's robust budget, the proposal faces enormouse barriers. Governor Brown has been cautious in the management of the state budget, even in cash-heavy years. Politically, college affordability faces staunch opposition, particularly given the need for expenditures in other areas such as transportation.
If the proposal leaves the tarmac, however, it could set the stage for similar progressive reforms across the country. With a presidential administration committed to reducing federal student aid, these statewide economic shifts are the ones to watch.
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