The Edge Our college admission blog

The Three Year Degree?

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 27, 2015


I recently came across an opinion piece on CNN, entitled “Why We Need the Three Year College Degree”, that I wanted to share with you today.  I bring this to your attention for the simple reason that I agree with many of the points made in the article, and am curious to know your thoughts as well.  Read on…



The main points made in the article are as follows:

  • We have a little problem called the “student debt crisis” in this country – believe me, I know! There’s still no light at the end of my personal student debt tunnel,  but one day, maybe, somehow all those student loans will be paid back…but I digress!  The point is that having in place a three-year bachelor’s degree program instead of a four-year degree program means one year less of having to take out loans for school – instant savings!  As a related U.S. News & World Report article states, “Paying eight semesters’ worth of tuition, room and board, textbooks, and other fees can add up to tens of thousands of dollars—and that’s only if you finish college in four years. For about 60% of students, the college experience takes at least another semester before graduation.”  And the debt grows, and grows, and grows…
  • Three year degree programs are not a radical new idea but, rather, are the norm in many countries.  In fact, I’ve given an earlier example on this very blog – the excellent university colleges in the Netherlands!  At Amsterdam University College, for instance, the cost of tuition per year is 4,076 euro ($4,507) for Dutch and EU students, and 11,666 euro ($12,902) for non-EU students.  This times THREE YEARS (instead of four) equals $38,706 as the cost for an American student to earn his/her undergraduate degree – you don’t need to be John Nash to realize that this is a great deal.
  • Making college a three year commitment could help to address our less-than-stellar college completion rates.  Remember, a school’s graduation rate is a crucial statistic to consider when thinking about where to apply (and you might be surprised at just how low graduation rates are at some colleges and universities)!  Saving students both time and money via a three year degree program could very well be one realistic way to help boost graduation rates.
  • With 4th year students no longer on campus, a college’s capacity would increase, allowing the school to increase the number of students in each incoming class.

Furthermore, the CNN opinion piece doesn’t stipulate that all colleges and universities should take the three year bachelor’s degree route, but rather that the three year degree should be an option at many schools, and especially for those students who receive federal aid.  You’ll be happy to know that they also elaborate on how this could be achieved:

“A better approach would be for schools and their accreditors to rethink their curriculum. For example, reducing the number of electives, cutting back on core requirements or shifting to shorter semesters are all options that schools could use to move to a three-year bachelors and improve the educational experience.”

In case you’ve been inspired, even in the slightest, by the CNN article or this post, here are some examples of three year degree programs in the United States, made available to you by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) – just click here!

I don’t think that the suggestion of a three year bachelor’s degree is such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea – what are your thoughts?

Add ‘Make A List’ To Your To-Do List!

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 26, 2015


To-do lists, shopping lists, bucket lists, playlists, wish lists, mailing lists – we humans have an innate tendency to try to make sense of the world around us, to feel in control, to categorize things, to make assumptions and, yes, to draw up lists.  In general, this quest for sense is a good thing, and it can be especially helpful during the college admissions process!  High school students with their eye on the college ball should take the time to put together a great list of schools that they’re interested in attending – that is, a personalized portfolio of potential colleges and universities.  Today’s post will serve up some college list-making food for thought, flavored with pointers and tips that can help you along in the process.



To begin with, make a long list of ALL the schools that you think could possibly be a good fit for you. Go crazy!  Brainstorm many different colleges and universities, even ones that you know very little about.  For ideas and inspiration, talk to your family, friends, your counselors, your teachers, and your coaches.  Be open to new ideas and suggestions.  Look at different college websites and social media feeds.  Write everything down.  This is your starting point!

Now comes the challenge – whittling down your list to a more reasonable number of schools to which you intend to apply.  What do I mean by “reasonable number”?  Personally, I recommend applying to between 6-9 schools.  Some students feel more comfortable applying to between 10-15 schools.  That’s a lot, but OK.  But applying to more than that?  These stories of one student applying to 20-25 colleges?!  STOP!  It’s too much.  Waaaaaaaaaaay too much.  Take a deep breath.  Relax. Instead of using so much time for completion of an over-abundance of applications, use that time instead to narrow down your list.  You also want to ensure that your final list is well-balanced, in terms of reach, target, and safety schools.  Allow me to elaborate:

  • Reach Schools – Those colleges and universities where your chance of admission is relatively slim (that is, less than 35%).  Personally, I think that applying to three reach schools is enough.
  • Target Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a good chance of being admitted (that is, between 35% – 75%).  At these schools, your academic profile (i.e. grades, test scores, and extracurricular profile) is similar to the average entering student.  Applying to three or four target schools is a good strategy.
  • Safety Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a strong likelihood of admission (that is, 75% or greater).  These are schools where your academic profile is significantly higher than the average entering student, or where you are being recruited for a specific purpose (e.g. to play sports).  In general, I recommend applying to two safety schools. However, if financial aid is a factor in your college considerations, you should apply to three or four safety schools, as it will allow you to compare financial aid packages.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “But how do I know my chances of admission?”  Easy! Register with Admitster, complete your profile, use our college finder tool (or simply enter your own schools, if you already have a good draft list), and we can tell you your chance of admission at each of the schools you’re interested in.  We’ll also calculate your “Chance Of At Least One”, that is, the chance that you’ll get in to at least one school on your list (a number that helps indicate whether you have a relatively robust college list or not).  Ideally, your “Chance of At Least One” percentage should be at or above 90%.  You can also sign up for one of Admitster’s free webinars on the topic of building your perfect college list.  One is on September 7th (click here to register) and the other will take place on September 20th (click here to register).

In short, using Admitster’s College Finder, College Projections, and What If? Engine, we can help you on your journey to college, a journey that starts with a list!


The University of Hawaii at Hilo

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 25, 2015


Diving back into the 3026 Series, today I’d like to introduce you to a school with a highly commendable accolade – last year it was (using national data to determine the probability that any two students at a school are from different ethnic or racial groups) ranked as “the country’s most diverse four-year institution“.  Any guesses?  Perhaps you’re thinking that it might be a college/university located in California?  Nope.  New York?  Nope.  New Jersey?  Nope.  This gem of a school is located in Hawaii, The Aloha State!  Readers, meet The University of Hawaii at Hilo.



For some sweet music to set the mood while you read on, click here

CollegeResults provides me with the following statistics:

  • % Pell Recipients Among Freshmen – 44.6%
  • % Underrepresented Minority – 11.0%
  • % Black – 1.1%
  • % Latino – 9.5%
  • % Native American 0.4%
  • % Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander – 11.8%
  • % Asian – 19.0%
  • % White – 22.9%
  • % Two or More Races – 29.6%
  • % Female – 58.8%
  • % Male – 41.2%
  • % Age 25 and Over – 22.9%

Diverse indeed!  As I’ve written before, the benefits that come from a diverse learning environment are substantial, as you can learn as much from the people around you as you can from your books and assignments.  Don’t underestimate the power of diversity in the classroom – it’s a force for good in HigherEdLand!  Donald Straney, UH Hilo’s Chancellor, agrees.  From his blog:

“Being a diverse campus means that our students are able to study with people who have different experiences and different ways of thinking than they do, and they learn more.  That’s what being the most diverse campus is going to mean for the students, is they are going to have a much better educational experience than if we were the other end of the spectrum.”  

He speaks truth!  Still don’t believe me OR Donald Straney?  Check out this article from Scientific American – “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter: Being Around People Who Are Different From Us Makes Us More Creative, More Diligent, and Harder-Working.”  In short, diversity at a college or university is worth considering (and, in my opinion, is worth actively seeking out for your undergraduate experience) – everyone stands to benefit.

On their admissions page, the university writes that they’re “looking for students with a sense of edVenture” – if you’re looking for education adventures in a beautiful location at a school that values diversity, this university may be one to add to your list of potential schools!  For your first glimpse at the university, click on one of their live campus web cams and start exploring.  Aloha!

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

by Admitster August 24, 2015


I recently wrote a guest blog post for a company called Testive (they build “amazing and intuitive tools that combine people and technology to help students unlock their true potential”) and wanted to share it with you, my dear readers, as well.  The post focuses on the impact of the New SAT not on students and parents, but on colleges and universities.  Remember, it’s helpful to sometimes pause and reflect upon the admissions process through the eyes of college admissions officials, to take a walk in their shoes.  Today’s post looks to do just that, to get a feel for the type of New SAT information being received on the college side of the fence.  From what I read, the new test sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread!  Time will tell how it all plays out, but how the New SAT is being presented to schools both near and far is definitely something to chew on (a slice of tasty bread, anyone?)…



A great deal of the hype surrounding the New SAT has focused on the actual changes to the test, but how do those changes impact admissions on the college side of the equation?  Attempts have been made to glean what those sitting in admissions offices around the country are thinking about the New SAT (e.g. Kaplan carried out a survey of admission officers at 375 schools), but findings have been largely inconclusive, for instance, “Schools were divided on how to evaluate the new writing section” and “No one knows exactly how the new test scores will compare to the previous test scores.”  Though we can’t know what each individual college admissions officer thinks of the revised test, or how college admissions policies will be altered (if at all) to take into account the New SAT, we can look to The College Board to see which types of outreach efforts have been made and how the New SAT is being presented to colleges and universities.

To read on, click here …

Social Media Data – It’s A Thing!

by Katie Z, Ph.D August 23, 2015


This blog has, on many occasions, turned to the topic of your social media presence and the role it plays in the college admissions process (see, for instance, here and here).  Today we focus once again on this important topic, spurred on by a recent PBS article entitled, “The New Tool Colleges Are Using in Admissions Decisions: Big Data.”  The article’s author writes: “The point (of using social media data in the admissions process) is simple: to increase graduation rates by using big data to identify the kinds of students who, experience has proven, are most likely to stick around.”



This means that at some colleges and universities, admissions officers are taking a look at your online presence to help them determine your likelihood of attending AND graduating from their institution.  Under the article’s magnifying glass is Ithaca College, a school that launched a website called myIthaca, which is a “portal for prospective Ithaca College students.”  Through myIthaca, prospective students can register for admissions events, get academic information, track their application, and learn more about the Ithaca College student experience.  Anyone can register for myIthaca, and accepted students can also join IC Peers, the college’s “exclusive social networking community.”  Through these initiatives, those in the admissions office are granted a further window onto their prospective students, as activity on myIthaca and IC Peers (e.g. being enthusiastic about the college, posting photos, and being generally engaged) is an indicator of just how interested a student is in attending the college.  Remember, college admissions is a two-way street, and one of the factors that admissions officials consider is not only how interested they are in you (based in large part on the information in your application), but also how interested you are in them.  As the Vice President of Administration at Sarah Lawrence College is quoted in the PBS article as saying, “How interested an applicant was is heavily correlated with the student who is going to be a good fit and stay on past the first year.”

All of this is to say that, regardless of your feelings on the use of social media data in college admissions (“Great!” vs “It’s too ‘big brother’ and is freaking me out!”), it’s happening and you should act accordingly.  Use your social media presence to show admissions officials at your top-choice schools your enthusiasm – it can be an excellent resource in your toolbox of college admissions strategies!

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