college

Is College Just For The Rich?

When I was a college student, anyone could pay for their own college education with a summer job and a Pell Grant (or scholarship).  Back then, Pell Grants covered almost 80% of the tuition.  Today, Pells only cover about 18%. 

Public colleges – you know, the ones funded by your hard earned taxes – were established to provide an equal opportunity for all students who wanted to get a college degree.  Anyone from any background could lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful career by sheer grit and determination. 

I’m worried that the divide between the haves and the have nots is going to create class wars. Socioeconomic status dictates who has more opportunities to advance themselves than race, gender, or religion do. 

When bright and eager students from low-income families don’t apply to colleges because they don’t want to start their lives in debt, that’s a big red flag in my book.  The wealthy students spend 4 years at elite campuses – I remember my father telling me that my college was like a country club! – taking classes, living in dorms, partying every night, and not worrying one bit about paying the $250,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree.

Yes, two years at a community college does reduce your college tuition by 50% but only 35% of low-income students actually transfer to a 4-year college.  When that much-sought-after bachelor’s degree is the surest way for low-income students to break out of poverty, these stats just aren’t fair.  

Thinking About Getting An MBA? Think Again.

Considering getting an MBA?  Think again.  Many full-time MBA programs are changing the direction of their programs, and MBA grads are giving these programs low rankings. Although the international MBA programs are continuing at major universities, domestic programs are scaling back their executive MBA and MBA markets because of these 3 reasons: (1) employers are reluctant to pay higher salaries; (2) many MBA programs offer online courses; and (3) grad students are losing interest in the MBA programs. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Simmons College have closed their MBA programs and that seems to be a new trend, but full-time MBA programs at the most elite colleges will continue.

Seems that grad students are preferring the master’s programs that can be completed in just 9 months and at about half the cost of an MBA.  These programs are more specialized so students can focus on finance, accounting, international business, management, marketing, economics, or business analytics.

Hmm. Sounds like you might consider avoiding more student debt in lieu of gaining specific business skills for half the cost.  Or, apply your knowledge and skills set where you’re currently working and reap the financial rewards and bonuses.

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If You Missed The May 1st College Decision Deadline, You Still Have Options

While May 1st WAS the deadline for most private and selective public colleges, there are plenty of colleges still recruiting students for Fall 2018.  Only 36% of the thousands of colleges in the US have filled their incoming classes by May 1st.  Yup.  So BREATHE.

There are over 400 colleges that still have spaces for fall undergraduate enrollment according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  Check out which colleges have openings using this easy-to-use list:

https://www.nacacnet.org/collegeopenings

And, if you don’t like any of these 400 colleges, you can always go to a community college and transfer into your #1 college junior year.  You do have options!

Guidance Counselors: Not Available To The Students Who Need Them Most!

When high school students at public schools in wealthy areas have access to better classes and better college advising than others, we are increasing our divide between the haves and the have nots.  Some public school students have engineering, robotics, speech and debate, over 20 AP courses, and excellent introduction to high-paying careers in STEM, while students from inner city ghettos don’t have basics like AP classes, honors courses, and the breadth of courses that selective colleges require for eligibility to attend.

The average high school counselor works with about 450 students, while counselors in poorer districts can have upwards of 1,000 students. These students from low-income families rely on their school guidance counselors to choose the necessary courses to meet minimum requirements for college but when their counselors are struggling to handle the sheer volume of students, they don’t have time to offer the support the college-bound students need to look at majors/careers, GPA and SAT/ACT averages, and financial aid. 

It seems unfair that students who attend public schools in wealthy areas have smaller counselor/student ratios and better courses offerings than students who attend schools in poverty-stricken areas.  Wouldn’t we want those underserved students to get more help?  After all, wealthy students work with private college advisors and most only meet with their guidance counselors for class schedules.  Hmm.

Been Waitlisted? Check Out This FANTASTIC Table of College Waitlists!

If you’ve been offered a place on a college waiting list, don’t hold your breath! This year, colleges have offered more students on their waiting list than their entire freshman class size.  Brown University admitted 2,566 students to fill 1,719 spaces for their freshman class this fall. Considering this is an elite Ivy League college, they should easily receive deposits for all of these spaces.  Right?  Well then why did they offer an additional 2,724 students a place on their waiting list?

Brown isn’t alone.  Just about every college offers waiting list.  Not only do colleges want to unsure that they have a full class of freshmen but these waiting lists give colleges the stats to keep their admit rates low.  Many families rank their colleges choices by admit rates – the more difficult it is to get in, the more desirable it becomes.  Simple supply and demand.

Some of these colleges have waiting lists with over 3,000 students but they admit only 20.  Odds don’t look good.  But colleges do want to know if you would attend if admitted, so letting them know that you would accept their offer off the waiting list could improve your chances of getting in.  Good luck, and check out the source link below for a fantastic table of colleges with waiting lists, how many students are on them, what percentage are admitted, etc.:

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Why Do Colleges Admit Students In Front Of Video Cameras?

Many colleges have changed their marketing strategies to recruit top students.  Instead of sending the “large envelope” to congratulate students on their acceptances, colleges are sending giant mascots, balloons, and gifts to their most coveted applicants.  At Merit, students have received handwritten letters from the dean, and Yale actually called one of my daughters three times to encourage her to accept their full-scholarship offer.  Wheaton filled a bus with admissions officers/staff and drove out to a student’s high school to surprise her with the news (captured on YouTube).  These stories have gone viral on social media building hype about college acceptances, which only benefits the colleges and the very few who get in. 

I wonder if this type of extravagant marketing leads to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression among the tens of thousands of students who don’t get into their top colleges.  When these other students see colleges rolling out the red carpet and offering gifts to a few lucky students, the vast majority of college applicants may suffer in silence as they receive rejection letters.  Social media already creates an unrealistic view of how “happy and successful” everyone else’s lives are compared to themselves. 

At Merit, I recommend that students keep their college lists, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores to themselves.  That way, if they get rejected from their top colleges, they don’t have to share that sad and disappointing news with their friends, relatives, and social media.  It’s tough enough to deal with rejection when students open those small envelopes.  Having dozens of people ask if they got in or having video cameras on them as they check their inboxes, can be devastating.  I hope colleges stop their public hype about accepting a few students to promote their brand.  Let’s give all students the decent respect of choosing their colleges and making those final announcements privately.   

Rejected in California

If you’ve been accepted by “reach” colleges, but waitlisted by your “safeties,” you’re not alone.  Strong students (GPA 3.9 and SAT 1400+) are being rejected by UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and UC San Diego.  Top students are being waitlisted, when they would normally be accepted. Why?

Last year, UCs received more deposits to enroll than expected, which put them in a precarious situation.  UC Irvine actually revoked about 500 acceptances because they didn’t have space to accommodate their incoming class. But amidst public criticism, they reversed their revocation and allowed most of the 500 students to attend that year. To ensure that none of the UCs faced the same situation this year, many UCs, especially the middle-range campuses, are offering waitlist positions instead of acceptances.  On May 1st after they receive all official deposits, they’ll admit students off the wait list.

With the cost of private college tuition soaring ($40,000-65,000/year), many California families are opting for the less expensive public college tuition ($18,000-30,000/year).  Just be prepared as you receive letters from the California public universities in the next few weeks; your “target” or “safety” colleges may offer disappointing news. 

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College Admission Criteria is Changing

Is your high school keeping up?

Finally, colleges are recognizing that GPAs and SAT/ACT scores alone don’t give them enough information to select students who have potential for success in college. 

Rhode Island has recently adopted a new diploma system that requires students to demonstrate competency in the following areas:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Research
  4. Communication
  5. Decision Making
  6. Interpreting Information
  7. Analytic Reasoning
  8. Personal or Social Responsibility

More colleges are jumping on board as they realize that these portfolios give them a more comprehensive peek at student performance that isn’t only GPAs and standardized test scores. These colleges support and participate in this new movement:

  1. Calif Community Colleges
  2. MIT
  3. Pomona College
  4. Smith College
  5. UC Riverside
  6. Univ Michigan
  7. UT Austin

I’ve watched Merit Academy students do projects throughout their 4 years of high school for the past 18 years.  Doing these individual projects over their entire high school tenure gives students a sense of confidence and pride that they don’t get from working for grades and standardized tests. Brainstorming and developing projects requires research, analysis, public outreach, and creating budgets.  As teens delve into these new and exciting steps, it helps them explore future careers.  Each student becomes interesting and fully vested young people.  I am thrilled that other schools are also giving students access to these opportunities instead of forcing them to take AP classes and bury themselves in memorizing facts for one test at the end of the year.  America needs to provide our youth with skills to compete in the ever-changing world and we need to rethink what teens learn in high school.

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Imagine There Were No Transcripts - It's Easy If You Try

Do GPAs and SAT/ACT scores reflect a student’s ability to succeed in college?  Umm. NO!  We’ve known this for decades, yet schools keep ramping up pressure to get good grades in AP classes and colleges use rubrics that heavily weight GPAs and SAT/ACT scores when admitting incoming classes each year.  But, this is beginning to change now that over 100 elite private high schools plan to replace traditional transcripts with competency-based, non-standardized documents without grades using the Mastery Transcript Consortium. 

The goal here is to change the way colleges admit students by eliminating the traditional transcript.  Yup!  The Mastery Transcript Consortium will evaluate students based on levels of proficiency in various areas:
1.  Analytical and Creative Thinking
2.  Complex Communication: Oral and Written
3.  Leadership and Teamwork
4.  Digital and Quantitative Literacy
5.  Global Perspective
6.  Adaptability, Initiative, and Risk-Taking
7.  Integrity and Ethical Decision-Making
8.  Habits of Mind

By creating portfolios to demonstrate projects, experiments, and works of art produced by students, colleges would get a more comprehensive look at the student.  But this movement intends to eliminate grades and standardized test scores completely, which I doubt colleges will accept or adopt anytime soon.  I think that a combination of GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, and projects would be the better option because it checks to see if students have the academic foundation (skills needed to enter college) and the creative and entrepreneurial prowess (skills to think outside the box and become innovative leaders) to become successful students in college.

I believe that students who do independent projects (ProjectMERIT) become confident innovative thinkers – the kind of young adults we need to solve the many problems we as a society face today.  I am pleased to see other high schools challenging the institutional evaluations and hope that colleges welcome new ways to efficiently select their new incoming class of students.

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What If Every Student Did An Independent Project?

How our youth can solve climate change

It’s not surprising to see the mudslinging between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.  After all, who’s to blame for the insidious state of affairs that have developed over the decades?  Is it the selfish and indulgent Boomer who made tons of money on real estate (when it was nearly impossible not make huge financial gains buying houses in the ‘70s and ‘80s) or the entitled lack-luster Millennial who is strife with student debt, housing crises, and low-paying jobs? I’m not going to enter this contentious arena, but instead offer a solution that may bring everyone together – and could possibly save human civilization.

We need people who are not part of a government that has fired the scientists in our EPA and stripped funding from all climate-related research. We need people who aren’t controlled by special-interest groups whose hidden agenda is to make colossal profits and creates environmental degradation.  We need people who realize that we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions NOW and are willing to do the research, make personal changes, and promote community action. 

To do this, WE NEED OUR YOUTH!  Yup, it is going to be the Millennials who are going to bare the brunt of climate disasters and they are the ones who will pull us out – and yes, save the Boomers.  But the beauty here is that the Boomers are going to support the Millennials with their knowledge, experience, and funding, and the Millennials are going to do the work, spread the word, and ultimately save us all. 

Here’s how:

  1. Every high school and college student needs to do a project.
  2. Projects can be as simple as promoting alternative transportation or as involved as building energy systems or carbon sequestration solutions.
  3. Retired professionals will mentor the students as they complete each phase of the projects.
  4. Other Boomers will fund these projects and support/buy the products when they’re rolled out.

When 4 million students enter high school every year in the United States, just imagine how many problems they can solve before they graduate. Besides, these projects will help them get into top colleges/grad schools and win scholarship dollars! To learn more about how to do projects, check out ProjectMERIT. I’ve also written Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project! to guide students through the entire process of doing a project. 

So, let’s encourage our youth to find innovative solutions to climate change by supporting and guiding them through the process.  Stop the name calling and start working together. It’s going to take the Millennials to lead the 99% to save human civilization. 

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