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AP Courses In Demand in Boston ‘Burbs

by Alexis Mattera

High school students are well aware of the competition they’ll face when they apply to college so they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make their transcripts and resumes stand out to admissions committees. One great way to do this is by taking Advanced Placement classes and as the demand for these courses increases, high schools are doing their part to accommodate all interested students.

Though a Boston Globe review of state data found students at area high schools take AP exams at widely different rates, schools in the city’s northern suburbs have recorded higher rates of AP participation. In Malden, for example, 40 percent of seniors in the class of 2010 took at least one AP exam during their high school careers and the city has even added AP courses in psychology, U.S. government and environmental science to meet the increasing demand. Why? Because administrators are removing barriers. “For lack of a better word, we go after the kids. Teachers, guidance counselors and administrators make sure kids know they have this opportunity,” Malden’s director of guidance, testing and academic support Manjula Karamcheti said.

Are all students succeeding? No, but educators feel the overall benefits of the AP experience can be more important than a student’s score on the test. “When you open up the access, you run the risk of allowing students in that maybe were on the cusp, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Jon Bernard, principal of North Reading High School, where 60 percent of students scored a 3 or higher on their AP exams last year. “Even if the student gets a 2 or a 1 on the exam, I still think they have gained a benefit that will allow them to be successful in their postsecondary pursuits.”

What do you think of this AP for all philosophy?


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Determine Your Dream Job in Three Steps

by Alexis Mattera

Whether your career aspirations include a large salary, a flexible schedule or an ethical employer, it’s up to you to turn those dreams into realities. Sure, high marks in your major classes, several internships and glowing recommendations from members of your field are excellent additions to your portfolio but that’s not all you can do to secure the job you desire most. Here are a few suggestions from U.S. News & World Report:

What are some other paths job seekers should take to find their ideal careers?


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Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

Ed Sec Says Comparing More Schools Will Lead to More Informed College Choices

July 3, 2012

Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

by Alexis Mattera

In the epic battle between quality versus quantity, it's the former that usually prevails but Arne Duncan has a slightly different proposal for soon-to-be college students: increase the quantity of schools you consider in order to find the best quality fit.

Though the annual Higher Education Research Institute survey reported that students are already employing that approach (just 12 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen applied to only one college in 2011), Education Secretary Duncan believes that too many students are making their college choices based on distance from home rather than price, majors and other factors vital to college completion and future success. He feels that if students apply to more schools and compare financial aid packages, they'll find the school and program that's right for them. But not everyone is buying into his "shop around" proposal. Lloyd Thacker, director of the admissions reform group Education Conservancy, said, "The problem with the admissions process is it's become too much like a transaction or consumer process, and less like an investment in education ... I'm not saying what he's doing is necessarily wrong but you need to be very thoughtful that good intentions are tied to sound research.”

Check out the full Inside Higher Ed article here and let us know what you think. Are you ready to go shopping with Duncan or will you be taking a different approach when applying to college?


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R.I.P., Application Essay?

Counselors Weigh Usefulness, Debate Future

June 21, 2012

R.I.P., Application Essay?

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the college application essay: where a student can give admissions officers insight into the person they really are (in about 500 words) that the standard transcript can’t provide. While some schools rely heavily on the document in their admissions processes, others don’t require it at all – a discrepancy that has experts debating its future.

Admissions officers and college counselors discussed application essays and personal statements at length yesterday at the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and according to an article in The Chronicle, counselors are citing essays as burdens on overworked admissions staffs as often as they are questioning their authenticity. Gone (or disappearing) are the days where a great essay can help a borderline student gain admission to their dream schools: Top institutions like Brown are giving them less weight than it has in past admissions cycles – “A spectacular essay can raise more questions than it answers,” said dean of admission Jim Miller – and some schools are requiring applicants to submit copies of graded written work to use as a barometer. What do the students think? Sure, crafting compelling prose comes as naturally to some college applicants as breathing or blinking but Martin Bonilla, director of college counseling at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, Calif., has found that the essays cause his students more stress than any other part of the application.

Do you believe the essay component of the college application is on its way out or here to stay?


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Senioritis-Stricken Students Could Lose College Admission

by Alexis Mattera

There are many reasons why a college will rescind a student’s admission but the number one is by far senioritis. If you think you can abandon your work ethic during your final semester of high school, you’re very wrong...and you may have to reconsider your college plans as a result.

Approximately 100 students who have been admitted to Texas Christian University but failed to keep their grades at the level that helped them gain acceptance will soon receive what’s informally called the “fear of God” letter from the Fort Worth-based school. The letter – which asks floundering students to submit a written statement detailing their less-than-stellar senior year academic performances – is meant as a wake-up call, said TCU dean of admission Raymond Brown. “You need to be aware that people are watching and that this is important. We care because your study skills are going to be atrophying,” he explained. Otterbein University has a similar approach: “We do not automatically rescind the admission decision because of a poor senior year,” said VP for enrollment management Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith, “but we do want the student to know that we are concerned and will be watching their performance.”

What do you think of the stance taken by TCU, Otterbein and other schools regarding their admissions policies?


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Have Smartphone, Will Graduate

Start-Up Employs App, Texts to Help Students Complete College

June 18, 2012

Have Smartphone, Will Graduate

by Alexis Mattera

Many students find it easier to remain committed to something when working closely with someone else. Does the same hold true when that something is college completion? Jill Frankfort thinks so.

Frankfort is the co-founder of Persistence Plus, a new service that draws on behavioral research to deliver personalized messages to students through a mobile phone app or text messages. The company has been in existence for just about one year and has secured agreements with a small number of institutions to test the technology. Thus far, they’ve found students have been engaging with the app and text offerings – “Reminders don’t actually change behavior that much but when you can help someone actually plan out their time and create a mental map of when they’re going to do a behavior, they’re more likely to do it,” explained Frankfort – as well as strategies aimed to guide and inspire students as they encounter the challenges of college life.

Do you think a program like Persistence Plus would help you finish college or would it take more than an app and some text messages to keep you on track toward graduation?


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Recent Grads, Pack Your Bags!

Towns Lure Young Professionals with Debt Repayment, Tax Waivers

June 14, 2012

Recent Grads, Pack Your Bags!

by Alexis Mattera

Armed with degrees in their fields of choice, newly-minted college grads have the world at their fingertips...and, often, student loan payments lurking right around the corner. The job market isn’t what it used to be so what’s a recent grad to do to keep collectors at bay? A change of address may be in order.

Communities across the country are attempting to attract young professionals by offering incentives like paying down college loans and income tax waivers if they become full-time residents of specific cities or counties. Niagara Falls is putting an initial $200,000 behind the idea to, according to director of community development Seth Piccirillo, bring back the talent and brain power the city has lost over the last 50 years. (Here, graduates who have earned a two- or four-year degree or a graduate degree in the past two years can apply for up to $3,500 a year for two years towards repayment of their student loans.) Farther west in Kansas, 50 counties have established Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs) authorized to offer the following financial incentives to new full-time residents: income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loan repayments up to $15,000. To date, program manager Chris Harris has received 338 applications – 75 percent of which have qualified for one or both incentives.

Read more about the current incentive plans here - would you relocate to one of these areas in exchange for the incentives listed?


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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!


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UConn Announces Faculty Hiring Spree, Goals for the Future

by Alexis Mattera

While many colleges and universities – specifically public ones – are cutting back on faculty, the University of Connecticut is putting its shears in storage: President Susan Herbst has announced plans to add 275 new faculty members to the university’s flagship campus in Storrs over the next four years.

According to Gwendolyn Bradley, senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors, UConn’s hiring strategy runs counter to the approach many schools are taking, as they are still reeling from the recession and looking to limit costs wherever possible but to Herbst, expanding the faculty is vital to the university’s future success. "The goal is to improve the quality of education by reducing class sizes and enabling professors to spend more time with our students. We also want to increase the number of courses offered so that our students never have to wait to take a course. We want our students graduating on time," she said. Research is also important to UConn but the focus will be on hiring faculty who both teach and conduct research, depending on the field of study.

The hiring of 65 faculty members – with particular emphasis in the fields of genomics, education, health insurance and finance – will begin this fall, followed by another 90 by the fall of 2013; as a result, the student-to-faculty ratio is expected to decline from the current 18-to-1 to 15-to-1 in four years. You can read the rest of the details here – thoughts from any current or future Huskies?


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Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

Ten Schools Commit to More Financial Aid Disclosure

June 6, 2012

Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

by Alexis Mattera

With student loan debt now totaling more than $1 trillion, current and would-be college students need access to financial aid information more than ever before. The good news is that universities across the country are doing their best to make the facts as clear and available as possible in the near future.

Ten schools – Arizona State, Miami Dade College, North Carolina A&T State University, Syracuse, UNC Chapel Hill, Vassar and the state university systems in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas – have committed to providing key funding information to all incoming students as part of their financial aid packages starting in the 2013-14 school year. The details will include the cost of one year of college, financial aid options such as grants and scholarships, estimated monthly payments after graduation on federal student loans and comparative data about graduation and loan repayment rates. According to the White House, this disclosure will play a vital role in making college more affordable for all students: "Too often, students and families face confusion when comparing financial aid packages, some of which do not clearly differentiate loans from grants, nor distinguish private vs. federal loans, making it difficult to compare aid offers side-by-side. Clarity and accessibility of information is necessary so that students and families can make informed decisions about where to attend college, so they can choose a school that is best suited to their financial and educational goals."

What do you think of this plan? Do you think it will help students better understand financial aid or is the effort too little and too late?


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