I was speaking with a parent today who was concerned about her children getting into a “good” college. Turns out by good, she meant Ivy. Obviously, the Ivy League schools (plus Stanford) are the Trump Towers of higher education—the biggest brand names—but like Trump Towers, they’re very expensive, difficult to get into and not the best fit for everyone.
This idea was really brought home for me in a couple of fascinating books: Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz and Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni. Both books attempt to calm the mania surrounding the top-ranked schools in the country, but they come at it from different directions.
Hampshire is unique is that their students do not receive traditional letter grades. Instead students receive detailed narrative assessments from their professors (like students at Reed College, St, John's College and Evergreen State College). Instead of choosing a traditional major, Hampshire students design their own rigorous, personalized course of study, culminating in a year-long senior project. In light of this commitment to "authentic assessment," it's not so surprising that Hampshire has been test-optional since the college was founded. Since 1970, their Admissions officers will look at standardized test scores if students choose to submit them, but do not require such scores.
of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays trump anything the SAT could tell us."
Hampshire took a big risk in deciding to go test-blind. U.S. News and World Report, publisher of the most influential college rankings, refused to include Hampshire in its rankings, because they use standardized test scores as part of their methodology. As I've mentioned in my parent presentations, the college rankings are big business to colleges; moving up in the rankings means an increase in applications in the following year as well as an increase in alumni donations. Sarah Lawrence College was test-blind for many years, but returned to being test-optional in 2012 so they could continue to be ranked. After dropping out of the rankings, Hampshire could well have seen a drastic reduction in both for the 2014-2015 school year.
But they didn't. Inside Higher Ed reports that although they did see a dramatic drop in the number of applications, they admitted the most diverse class in the school's history, including:
Saturday College Book Club: The West Point Candidate Book: How to Prepare, How to Get In, How to SurviveRead Now
In the world of acronyms, the PSAT/NMSQT is the biggest mouthful. But what does it all mean?
The PSAT evolved as a practice version of the SAT, but now is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Only juniors can take the NMSQT, so if you took the PSAT for practice as a sophomore, your scores were not forwarded to National Merit Scholarship Corp. even if you got a perfect score. You also cannot retake the PSAT/NMSQT, as it is only offered once a year. There are other versions of the PSAT: the PSAT 8/9 and the PSAT 10. They all test the same skills, but "in ways that are appropriate for your grade level," which means the questions are likely easier, and the high scores are not as high. These tests are also offered at different times through the school year. Learn more about these other versions of the PSAT in the table below or by clicking the links.
Saturday College Book Club: Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming & Just Plain Different by Donald AsherRead Now
I love to learn for the sake of learning and not because I'm aiming for any star-studded diplomas or accreditations, but because there is so much to learn. Your book not only allowed me to see that there were other "Lost Kids" (that's what my guidance counselor called me) but further that there were places trying to find us because we aren't as lost as some of our superiors like to think.
Cool Colleges highlights schools where you run a ranch or a nuclear reactor, study the great books, don't receive grades, take one class at a time, attend after 8th grade or even attend for free! The second edition has added information on eco schools (including my favorite: the Fighting Geoducks of Evergreen State) and still has the traditional complement of ivies, near-ivies and other schools just waiting for the perfect students to find them. Intrigued? This book should be on your shelf.
The layout of the book can be challenging. It's quirky, like its subject matter, and can be difficult to follow. Do not buy the Kindle version: the hyperactive layout makes it virtually impossible to read in that format. That is the only drawback for an otherwise terrific book!
Have you read Cool Colleges? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
This week, we welcome guest bloggers Jacqueline Myers from Nitty-Gritty English!
Heading to college is scary. Heading to college as an adult can be terrifying! I know. I’ve been there! Regardless of why you are heading back to the classroom, most likely you will be taking at least some online college courses to round out your degree. When considering online courses, adult students are typically apprehensive about:
First of all, you may be worried that you won’t understand the types of technology that are required when taking online college courses. But as an online educator, I can tell you that if you can upload an attachment in an email, private message friends on Facebook and use basic word-processing programs like Microsoft Word, you have the beginnings of a successful online college career! Online college course platforms are created to be user-friendly. Asking your professor a question about an assignment is just like typing an email or private messaging a friend on Facebook. Typing up the assignment is like typing in any word-processing program you have used. And, uploading that assignment is very similar to uploading a document in an email.
Quick-start tip: Log into your class the first day it’s available and take the time to explore where everything is. Once you figure out how the class is set up, you will feel much more confident about completing the course successfully! Log in often to make sure you are keeping on top of work and so that you don’t miss any important announcements or emails.
So what's in the book? Everything! Beginning with "The Big Picture" for 9th graders and ending with walking the seniors right onto campus, College Is Yours 2.0 is a collection of 60 short (600 word) essays on every college admissions topic your student will be wondering about, written in a humorous and conversational style. He covers creating a college list, standardized testing, campus tours, financial aid and paying for college (which are not the same thing), working with your counselor, and how to make your final choice. There's even an illuminating chapter for parents that I wish I could just type in here, but I'm going to leave you to read it for yourselves.
Since we're in this together, I've limited my chapters to 600 words--just like some of your college essays.
College Is Yours 2.0 is like a guidance counselor in your pocket, a book you can refer to late at night when you're having trouble sleeping and need reassurance. I'm not certain my boys would have actually read it if I had had it to casually prop up against the Xbox, but it would have been reassuring to me as a college admissions mom. I highly recommend it to every 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grader who is thinking about planning to apply to college.
Have you read College Is Yours 2.0? What did you think?
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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