The Edge Our college admission blog

Soka University of America

by Katie Z, Ph.D February 28, 2016


A few days ago I stumbled across an eye-catching article from U.S. News & World Report entitled, “Colleges With The Most Students Who Study Abroad.” Having studied abroad in France as an undergraduate, an experience I can’t write enough good things about, I read on with great interest. Which college was tied for first, having had 100% of its 2014 graduates study abroad? Why, it was California’s Soka University of America!

100% of the school’s graduates studied abroad?! Now that is impressive!



After this small taste of what Soka University has to offer, along with the discovery that “Soka” is a Japanese word meaning “to create value”, I was determined the learn more. Readers, welcome back to the 3026 Series!

To begin with, study abroad (and “in a country in which the student’s language of study at SUA is the principle language spoken“) – how do they do it? Exploring the university’s website, I came across this: “A unique aspect of the curriculum at SUA requires that all students participate in a semester studying abroad during their junior year. The cost of study abroad is included in tuition.” Cool! But it doesn’t end there. Reading on, I came across another gem of a fact – “About 60% of our students come from the US and 40% have come from more than 40 other countries.” Imagine sitting in such a diverse classroom! I consider this a great attribute of the school.

The campus itself is located about one hour north of San Diego and one hour south of Los Angeles and, as is pointed out on the school’s website, is “surrounded on 85% of its border by the 4,000 acre Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park“, has architecture “reminiscent of Tuscany, Italy”, has “more than 50% of the campus devoted to natural and landscaped open space”, and is located only three miles from the beach – idyllic!

What else? Well, how about this? Soka University was recently ranked very highly by US News & World Report for “best value, diversity, and happy freshmen”, along with ranking first for “Foreign Student Factor” and “Faculty Resources.” The university can also boast of an impressive 8:1 student/faculty ratio. More? Well, Soka University offers free tuition to students whose families earn $60,000 or less. Further, the school shines at (in particular, earning an A+ mark for housing, diversity, and weather), and also has some noteworthy achievements on the College Scorecard. Of what do I speak?  A below average annual cost for federal financial aid recipients ($10,450), an above average graduation rate (88%), and 96% of students returning after their first year (the national average is 67%), to name but a few examples.

And, of course, academics. Undergraduates at Soka University of America earn a B.A. in Liberal Arts (there is only one major!) and have a concentration in either Social & Behavioral Sciences, Environmental Studies, International Studies, or Humanities. As seniors, SUA students also do a Capstone Project, the goal of which is to “gain in-depth knowledge about a topic within your field of concentration, drawing upon all the skills and knowledge you have developed during your career at Soka.” To learn more about academic life at Soka, check out the Soka University of America Catalog. Finally, if what you’ve just read has piqued your interest, then a visit to the school’s admissions page is a must. A value-creating educational experience, including a fantastic study abroad experience, may well be in your future!

The College Destinations Index

by Katie Z, Ph.D January 28, 2016


Imagine that the famous Waldo is no longer a bespectacled man wearing red & white stripes and a funny hat, but rather is a place – and not just any place, but the place where you will spend the next four years of your life. Waldo is what you’ll wake up to every morning, the air you’ll breath, and the sights and sounds that will surround you on a daily basis. Just as you would do with a busy “Where’s Waldo?” image, you’re searching a map of the United States, trying to find the perfect place to spend your undergraduate days. Now, we’ve already discussed whether weather should be a consideration of yours when thinking about where to apply to college (it should!), but there’s much more to a school’s location than the annual days of sunshine statistics. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) has compiled an extremely useful College Destinations Index that provides detailed information on seventy-five of the top-ranked college towns and cities in the country!

AIER June 3rd

First, sign up with AIER (it’s free) and you’ll then receive an “infographic showing the detailed ranking of all top 75 college destinations.” Using this infographic, you should first decide whether you’re most interested in living in a major, mid-sized, or small metro area, or a college town. Then sit back, relax, and explore! You’ll be presented with pearls of information related to an area’s student life (student concentration, cost of housing, and city accessibility), culture (arts & leisure, international students, and percent of workers in innovative fields), economic health (unemployment rate, entrepreneurial activity, and brain drain/gain), and opportunity (R&D statistics, percent of the population with a college degree, and earning potential).  Magnifying GlassAs the AIER points out, these are criteria that can truly “enrich a college learning experience”, and should be duly noted in deliberations on the important question, “Where should I apply to college?” If you don’t want to sign up with AIER, you can still click here to explore different possible destinations. For instance, in terms of the rankings of Major Metros, San Francisco is ranked first, followed by Boston and Seattle. In terms of College Town rankings, Ames, Iowa (home of Iowa State University) comes out on top. And remember, you can also search by Midsize Metros and Small Metros – a very useful website!

Keep in mind that a college’s physical characteristics (which include location) are a crucial component of the “good fit” equation. When you find an area that looks ideal, the AIER helpfully provides you with a list of nearby colleges and universities to investigate. Cartoon Waldo shouldn’t be the only one exploring – have some adventures of your own!

Beloit College

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 13, 2015


This post finds us stepping to the end of the diving board, adjusting our goggles and bathing cap, taking a deep breathe, and diving back into the refreshingly cool waters of the 3026 Series – splash! Up today is the oldest college in Wisconsin – founded in Beloit, WI, in 1846, it’s the aptly-named Beloit College! Things I like very much about this school:

  • It has both an official mascot, a Buccaneer, and a wonderful unofficial mascot, a turtle! Yes, a turtle! And this is why – “The Beloit College campus features 20 conical, linear, and animal effigy mounds built between about AD 400 and 1200. One, in the form of a turtle, has inspired the symbol (and unofficial mascot) of the College.” Read more about it here!
  • The college is home to a relatively new (completed in 2008) Center for the Sciences – “As a LEED certified green building, it reflects Beloit’s commitment to building the right building in the right way for the College and the broader society.” Another new building on campus is the Hendricks Center for the Arts, completed in 2010, and the fitness center and stadium have also been recently updated – things are happening at Beloit!
  • Beyond being the destination for those seeking to see the world’s largest can of chili, there is also quite a lot going on in the town of Beloit, including an international film festival, which is associated with the college – cool!
  • As was pointed out by U.S. News & World Report in their recent rankings, Beloit College “is known for its success in sending students to post-graduate programs, ranking among the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the country for the number of graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D.”
  • The college boasts of both an art museum and a museum of anthropology – click here to learn more about them and their collections!
  • The college is known for its August tradition of coming up with a Mindset List for the entering class. The list, back in 1998, was “started as a witty way of saying to faculty colleagues ‘watch your references’ (and now) has turned into a globally reported and utilized guide to the intelligent.” Click here to read the Class of 2019 Mindset List – see if it rings true for you!
  • Should you find yourself in the college’s Physics & Astronomy Department, you will discover therein a 500,000 volt Van de Graff proton and alpha particle accelerator!
  • In terms of admissions, it’s worth pointing out that the college has, beyond traditional applicants, also given special consideration to those students who are applying to college as high school juniors, to third culture kids (“people who have grown up in cultures outside of their parents’ culture”), to transfer students, and to international applicants! Further, in terms of current trends, Beloit is test-optional (for most students) and has also recently partnered with ZeeMee, giving applicants the opportunity to bring their college applications to life!
  • On a final note, back in April of 2006, Beloit students broke the record for the longest game of Ultimate Frisbee ever played – 72 hours! Know that the college has a frisbee golf course on its campus and that “you don’t make it through Beloit without ever having played Frisbee!”

If this has piqued your interest, click here to see “Beloit College At Ludicrous Speed” – an hour long tour of the campus given in only five minutes! You can also learn more about the collge’s “distinctive offerings” by clicking here, and for fast facts about Beloit, visit this page. Finally, be sure to check out the College Scorecard data for Beloit College! If you like all that you’re reading, click here to learn more about financial aid options at the college – see what it will take to make Beloit College your ultimate school!

Spooky Traditions

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 1, 2015


In honor of this Halloween weekend, I thought it prudent to bring to your attention a number of colleges that really know how to throw back the candy corn, don disguises, carve pumpkins, decorate dorms, cover in face paint, and indulge in the spookiness and fun that is Halloween!



Some colleges with noteworthy, spooky traditions (in random order) are…

  • Harvey Mudd College’s Halloweiner – It’s a massive barbecue / tailgate party in honor of Halloween!
  • Ohio University’s Halloween Block Party – Click on the link to see the google images of the event.  That is all.
  • Brown University’s Midnight Organ Concert – Come in costume and let the organ set the Halloween mood!
  • Texas A&M’s Wicked Woods – “Come out and join Kappa Sigma and thousands of other Aggies on a fun and frightening tour through the Wicked Woods.  Each year, Kappa Sigma collects over 3,000 pounds of canned goods and donates them to the Brazos Valley Food Bank!”
  • Roanoke College’s Ghost Class – Enroll in “Intellectual Inquiry: Ghosts and Human Perception” and you’ll have the chance to spend a night in a haunted house on campus!
  • Penn State’s Pumpkin Festival – This festival includes a brilliant, lighted pumpkin display!
  • University of Rochester’s Scare Fair – The annual Scare Fair takes place in the Rush Rhees Library and involves screenings of classic horror movies, a stack stalk, tower tours, and a costume contest, among other things.
  • Georgetown University – The Exorcist and the Healy Howl – “Georgetown has at least two great Halloween traditions. One of these is the “Healy Howl,” a midnight gathering of undergraduate students for the purpose of howling at the moon like wolves.  Georgetown’s second great Halloween tradition is the screening of The Exorcist in Gaston Hall. Scripted by Georgetown alumnus William Peter Blatty and shot on and around the university campus, The Exorcist is the Georgetown movie.”
  • Skidmore College’s Moorebid Ball – “It’s always been incredible. Two floors, Two Dj stations, camera booths, and a whole lot of scoping out the scene to see what everyone is wearing.”
  • University of Richmond’s Trick-Or-Treat Street – It’s fitting that a school with a spider mascot should make this list! Trick-Or-Treat Street is a free, community-wide event where everyone “can enjoy food from the Firehouse BBQ food truck, a bounce house and other themed activities, including straw mazes, presented by costume-clad University of Richmond students.”
  • UNC – Halloween on Franklin Street – “Begun in the early 80s with a few town residents, their children and a few college students strolling up and down Franklin Street, the gathering has become known as the Halloween celebration of the Southeast. The event took on a life of its own so that now Franklin Street swells to about 50,000 people after 9:00 pm.”
  • Connecticut College’s Halloween Organ Concert – The event takes place in the chapel and “the audience is invited to wear Halloween costumes and enjoy candy after the concert.”
  • MIT Pumpkin Drop – “If a 5 kg pumpkin is tossed such that it reaches the peak of its trajectory one meter above the roof of the Green Building, which is 90 meters tall, with what velocity does the pumpkin meet the ground in McDermott Court? How much time, in seconds, does the airborne pumpkin have to come to terms with its identity before landing? You may neglect wind, viscous drag, and the altered aerodynamics of cold, wet pumpkins for the sake of simplicity.”
  • Trinity University’s Calvert Ghosts – This Halloween tradition involves the men who live on the 3rd floor of Calvert becoming “ghosts” by getting into their birthday suits and then streaking across campus!
  • Carleton College’s Halloween Concert & Costume Concert – The concert and contest are “held in the sufficiently gothic Chapel every Halloween at midnight, and features the Carleton orchestra providing a soundtrack for the night’s festivities.”
  • Lebanon Valley College’s Walking Ghost Tour – “Every October, students, parents and faculty are invited to get up close and personal with Lebanon Valley College’s many spirits on a walking ghost tour run by English professor Kevin Pry. According to Pry, there are about 18 to 20 active ghost stories surrounding the school, but each year, new chilling tales emerge.”
  • Stanford University’s Mausoleum Party – “After traversing a sea of faux animals, celebrities and monsters, I reached the venue. Cobwebs spread across the facade, and red and orange lights illuminated the sphinxes that flanked the Mausoleum.”

Happy Halloween from all of us at Admitster!

Mental Health Services For Student-Athletes

by Admitster October 27, 2015


Another great guest blog post from our friends over at NCSA Athletic Recruiting!

A Pixar movie called Inside Out debuted over the summer, looking inside an 11 year-old girl’s mind to show how her emotions – feelings of joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness – are triggered, and at which times and under which circumstances. Unless you have a younger family member, neighbor, or perhaps a babysitting gig, you may not have caught the movie. However, whether you’ve seen it or not (and, children’s movie though it may be, I highly recommend it), the film is groundbreaking in the way it introduces mental health and education to kids at a young age.

A recent column in The Huffington Post about the stresses student-athletes face got me thinking back to when I tagged along with a friend and her kids to see Inside Out, and how the topic of mental health and recognizing different emotions early on is not only an awesome initiative, but needs to be brought to life and destigmatized throughout other stages of growing up.

Mental health for student-athletes has been an up-and-coming cause within the NCAA and across various sports outlets. For decades, society’s view of student-athletes has been that of macho-men and infallible women. We’ve labeled student-athletes as a group who seemingly have it all. However, the hardships and anxieties that come with adolescence, growing up, leaving home, and trying to perform your best both on the field and in the classroom, are very, very real for many student-athletes, and they are something we can’t remain naïve about or ignore any longer.

While celebrating student-athletes and their dedication to their sport – and all that they do for their respective schools – are things I believe in whole-heartedly, it’s time we also realize the very real need of mental health support for these rock star young men and women.



As colleges and their athletic departments begin to build programs for student-athletes (or continue to develop programs already in place), let’s take a look at some things student-athletes can do to get help and comfort in the field of mental health.

Ask about the availability of mental health services for student-athletes while you’re on your campus visit.

Even if you view yourself as perfectly happy, perfectly stable, and perfectly perfect when it comes to your mental health and how you cope with ups and downs, I implore you to still inquire about this topic and the help a school offers their student-athletes. Take their services into account when you decide where to attend.

While the obvious hope is for a student-athlete to never have to utilize such services, the reality is that mental health, not injuries, has been declared the number one health and safety concern across the NCAA. Feelings can sneak up on us when we least expect them to, and they can prove to be harder to shake then we ever imagined. Find out, in the event you ever need to lean on a professional, how that would work at the schools on your college list.

What to do if you’re a student-athlete already in college and want to talk about mental health.

Every team – or athletic department – should have a doctor on-hand for their student-athletes. The misconception is that this doctor is only there for physical injuries. However, he or she is also in place to get you the right kind of medical care, period, and that includes mental health care. While a team doctor may not be the most qualified person to help meet your mental health needs, they are the most qualified person to help in referring you to the right care.

If you’re feeling ready to seek help but a team doctor is not an option for you, head to the student health center at your school. The staff of nurses and doctors at student health centers are great with caring for young adults and at addressing the many health issues and concerns that come up on college campuses. As a student at the school, you have access to the health center and, after making an appointment (or walking in if it’s a true emergency), the right professional can be appointed to work with you and be a liaison to the appropriate personnel from your team.

Never underestimate the power of taking a walk with a friend.

This statement is not meant to make light of mental health – or to insinuate that all it takes to cure feelings of anxiety or depression is a conversation and cup of coffee with a friend. However, there is something to be said for taking small steps to help relieve yourself of some of the thoughts and feelings that you’ve perhaps been internalizing. Opening up to a friend will also provide a reminder that you have people who love you and are there to support you. Talking about such personal things may not be easy for you. In fact, it can be really hard.  However, when done with the right person, it can provide you with some instant relief and needed support.

The mental health services a school has available for student-athletes are just one part of finding the right academic, athletic, and social fit for you. We can help you to determine which other priorities will help you identify the right match. The best way to get started is with a NCSA recruiting profile!

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