The Edge Our college admission blog

A Work In Progress

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 8, 2015

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Do you remember the post I wrote eight days ago called “Admissions Revamped“?  It was about the 80+ schools that make up The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and how they’re “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.”  And do you remember how I wrote bullet points highlighting what you need to know about The Coalition? One of those important points was, “Know that the portfolio feature and interactive tools will be rolled out in January and that the application system will be ready to go in the summer of 2016.” Well, dear readers, though that was indeed the case eight days ago (back when the “college locker” was still called “the portfolio“), circumstances have now changed – and I, of course, want to keep you in-the-know!  While the new application system is still on-track to be released in the summer of 2016, the release of The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016.  Why?

It turns out that there is a LOT of criticism about this new initiative to revamp admissions.  My earlier post touched on the fact that in order for colleges to be eligible for membership in The Coalition, they have to meet specified requirements, such as graduating at least 70% of their students within six years.  However, the reality is that many colleges that serve a disproportionately high number of disadvantaged students (those who the work of The Coalition is supposed to most benefit – think first generation students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those lacking guidance in the admissions process, and those facing other barriers to enrolling in and graduating from college) don’t, in fact, meet the membership requirements – and why not?  Well, because they’re serving high numbers of disadvantaged students!  You can see how this creates difficulties…

hardsituation

 

Further, some critics are skeptical of the motives behind the new initiative (e.g. that The Coalition’s members are simply out to find even more applicants for their schools).  Another concern expressed by college counselors is that all of this is moving forward too quickly, and that a January 2016 release date is just too soon.  The Coalition, while denying sketchy motives, has listened to these concerns about the proposed time line and adjusted their plans accordingly.  As The Coalition’s Board of Directors wrote in a recent e-mail to college counselors, the delay will “allow for more time to engage and answer questions, and for counselors to be closer to finishing their work with the current senior class.”  Furthermore, members of The Coalition’s board haven’t hesitated in putting on the table the fact that the initiative is an undertaking prone to change.  Just last week, at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference, Audrey Smith (one of the aforementioned board members), said, “We are a work in progress.  We see this as an iterative process and we will be adjusting based on the feedback that we receive from all quarters.”  In other words, stay tuned!

See What @admitbot Can Do!

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 7, 2015

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If you’re new to this college admissions blog, this may well be the first that you’re hearing about our beloved Twitter robot, @admitbot.  This little bot can do quite a lot!  Its most impressive skill, however, is its ability to make extremely accurate college admissions predictions based on the information that you tweet to it.  Really!

Picture this – you’re on a bus or a train, you have a little time on your hands, you’re playing around with your phone, jumping from one thing to the next…this is the perfect time to give @admitbot a try!  Just log onto Twitter and tweet ‘help’ to @admitbot.  Within 30 seconds, @admitbot will respond to you with more information on what to do in order to obtain your chances of admission at the schools of your choice (including your chances of admission if you enter hypothetical information, for instance, an SAT score you’d love to earn or a hypothetical GPA).

admitbot

 

And don’t worry, there are only twelve abbreviations to learn in order to be fluent in @admitbot’s native language.  They are:

satr = SAT reading score
satm = SAT math score
satw = SAT writing score
actc = ACT composite
apav = Average AP score
gpa = Unweighted GPA
sport = Athletic hours per week
art = Arts/Theater/Music hours per week
club = Clubs hours per week
work = Work hours per week
vol = Volunteering hours per week
lead = Leadership score (0-17), details here.
 

The tweet format is: @admitbot itemvalue, itemvalue, itemvalue, school name”.  For instance, if I tweet to @admitbot “satr700, satm700, gpa3.2, Skidmore College’, it responds to me saying:
 

 “@admitster Hi! Your chances for Skidmore College,Saratoga Springs,NY are 37%. Visit for details!”
 

Very cool!  And remember, the more information you tweet to @admitbot, the more accurate your predictions will be.  For the full version of @admitbot, and a lot more to help you on your journey to college (e.g. our College List Builder tool and the What If? Engine), all of which are completely free, click here to register with Admitster!

The Wow Factor Revisited

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 6, 2015

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wowLast June I wrote a blog post entitled “The Wow Factor” that told brief stories of different college students who had “wow factor” bling all over their college applications, that is, impressive accomplishments in life that truly set them apart from others in the mad rush of the college application process.  These high schoolers had to their names academic feats that even PhD students would envy, incredible talents as musicians and actors, personal stories telling of grit and perseverance in the face of adversity – there was never any doubt that their applications would dazzle admissions officers!  However, there is a different kind of “wow”, one that has been in the news a great deal lately.  The example of which I speak?  Malia Obama.

All eyes are on her, trying to assess what her college plans will be.  The reason there is such interest in her situation is simple – she is the embodiment of the extremely well-connected “wow factor”! There aren’t too many college applicants who can list “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC” as their home address.  Furthermore, as historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony was quoted as saying in this New York Times article, “Without question, the places and people she has been exposed to would be fodder for a more curious mind and wider personal knowledge than her peers—and that can’t help but be apparent in her college entrance applications and interviews.”  This is the girl who was recently shaking hands with the Pope, and who has also spent time with Nelson Mandela, David Cameron, and President Xi Jinping of China (not to mention the likes of Prince Harry and Justin Bieber, although that may impress peers more than admissions officials).  This article from The Washington Post asks, “Would any college reject President Obama’s daughter?”  Unlikely.

This brings me to my last point, namely that we at Admitster are well aware of the impact of the “wow factor” in college admissions and, as such, have taken it into account when designing our college admissions tools.  When you register with us and begin to tell us a bit more about yourself, one of the things we’ll ask about is your Extracurricular Wow.  The majority of respondents will, in response, enter a “1” or “2” (and that’s OK!), but a minority will score higher, and that will certainly boost their odds of admission to their top-choice colleges.  From our website:

wowfactor

As you can see from the above screen shot, Malia would happily score a “5” on our Extracurricular Wow measure.  Keep in mind, however, that you certainly don’t need to be off the “wow factor” charts in order to get into a great school (and any great school should be a great fit school for you)! Just be sure to showcase what’s unique about YOU in your college applications – and check out https://www.admitster.com/ to get the right help on your journey!

Pressure On All Sides

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 2, 2015

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I was watching Modern Family last night, the Season 6 episode where Haley takes her sister Alex to a music festival to try to take Alex’s mind off the stress of college admissions.  Not too far into the episode, we learn that Alex has just been rejected from Harvard, and she snaps, yelling:

“Why do things the right way?  What’s the point?  Get straight As for ten years, spend your summers building houses, drag your cello to school every day, write the perfect essay – and for what?! No thank you, Alex! We don’t want you, Alex!  I don’t care anymore.”  

Haley, who never cared much for school or academics, responds saying:

“You know what?  I think that this is a good thing for you.  You’re obviously going to get into one of those snooty schools and sometimes you’re going to come in second, or fourth, or maybe even tenth.  But you’re going to dust yourself off, maybe put on some lipstick for once, and keep going!”  

She could have added that some schools are a reach for everyone and that, as much as we may hate to admit it, that college admissions are “an unpredictable crapshoot.”  Though it’s easier said than done, a rejection letter shouldn’t be taken personally.  Still, college admissions IS stressful, and applicants can do no more than try their best and then hope for the best.  Prospective students will never feel fully in control of the process for the simple reason that there is another group beyond applicants to consider in the tangled admissions web – college admissions officers.

I’ve written before on this blog about how it’s important to, every so often, stop and consider the process from the view of the college admissions side of the fence.  And guess what?  College admissions is stressful for them too!

final pressure

Inside Higher Ed just released the findings from the “2015 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors“, which they carried out in partnership with Gallup, and the results tell a very interesting story:

  • 2015 marked “the third straight year of a majority of admissions directors reporting high stress and uneven success at filling their classes.”
  • About 25% of the 268 admissions directors who were surveyed reported that they had “been pressured by senior administrators, trustees or development officials to admit certain applicants.”
  • There is a great deal of skepticism about some of the new approaches taking place in various admissions offices across the country, for instance, admitting a student without consideration of his/her high school transcript.
  • There is more pressure to admit international students and out-of-state students, who will likely pay a higher price tag than others to attend the school.

This is but a small sampling of the findings, but if you’re curious to read the report in its entirety, click here.  The point is that the college admissions process is often stressful for all of its players, both prospective students and the admissions officers who work hard to recruit them.  Hopefully some of the recent changes that are taking the admissions world by storm (for instance, the work of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, the College Scorecard, and a simplified FAFSA) will help to depressurize the admissions pressure cooker.  We’ll certainly be keeping our hand on the admissions pulse, hoping to find it beating along at a normal resting rate, and not overcome with pressure and stress, speeding its way off the charts!  As ever, dear readers, more to come…

Baldwin Wallace University

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 1, 2015

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It was two days ago that I noticed on Twitter a tweet by @ImFirstGen (I’m First! “We celebrate and support those who are among the #firstgen in their family to attend and graduate from college”) that read, “Went to a great session with @BaldwinWallace discussing amazing programs to support their students.” I admittedly knew very little about Baldwin Wallace University so decided, of course, to investigate. Readers, welcome to the next installment of Admitster’s 3026 Series!

I decided to begin my research with the College Scorecard that we’ve all been hearing and reading so much about lately. The average annual net price for federal financial aid recipients is, at $19,046, deemed to be about the same as the national average; the median earnings of former students (who had received federal financial aid) ten years after starting their BW studies, at $44,000, is decidedly above average; and the graduation rate after six years is, wow! Hold on a second! Baldwin Wallace’s six year graduation rate is 70%, where the national average is a grim 44%. BW scores well above average on this important measure, and this is at a school where 1/3rd of students come from a household with an income of less than $40,000 and receive a federal Pell Grant to help pay for college. @ImFirstGen was right! Something very good is going on at BW in terms of student support, and I was determined to learn more about it.

studentsupport

 

My next stop was the school’s own website and, clicking on “About”, I was informed that, “Baldwin Wallace University is a private, liberal arts-based, Methodist-affiliated college located in Berea, Ohio, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, certificates and professional education programs… and so much more.” It was the “and so much more” that I was looking for! The search continued – and became interesting as I click, click, clicked my way through their site. For instance…

  • Founded before the Civil War, in 1845, the school was “one of the first colleges in the nation to admit students without regard to race or gender.”  That is a great feather in the college’s historic hat!
  • The Fall 2015 freshmen class has within its ranks 161 first generation students (out of a class of 768 freshmen), and 98% of those 768 received some financial assistance.
  • Baldwin Wallace offers a personalized approach to education, writing on their site, “We’re on a mission to support you, challenge you, and empower you…from the first day you join our community, until you reach the finish line(s) you set for yourself.”
  • Incoming freshmen can apply to participate in the school’s Jacket Link/Summer Bridge Program, which helps new students to manage the transition from high school to college, and provides them with “activities and resources with an emphasis on academic readiness, campus support, and social/cultural enrichment.”  Click here to read more about it!
  • Some of the other “amazing programs to support their students” that @ImFirstGen was likely referencing in their tweet?  The college preparatory Upward Bound program, the pre-college access program called BW Scholars, the availability of merit scholarshipsMulticultural Student Services, the Single Parents Reaching Out for Unlimited Tomorrows (SPROUT) program, an academic advising program, AND a plethora of resources available at BW’s Learning Center, are but a few examples.

If you’re thinking about applying, know that though you can do so using the Common Application, BW also has its own, free online application. Furthermore, for students who have a GPA of 3.0 or above, BW is test optional – as is written on their admissions page, “Grades, strength of curriculum, and rank in class have always been the most important elements of our admission criteria.” Teacher recommendation letters are also optional. Clearly, we’ve only touched the tip of the BW iceberg, but to learn more about this supportive and inclusive school, click here!

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