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Snow Days are Now E-Days in Ohio’s Mississinawa Valley

by Alexis Mattera

Growing up in Massachusetts, I experienced my fair share of snow days…and attending college in Connecticut kept the class cancellations coming throughout the winter months. Those days were meant for building snow forts and lunch tray sledding for students young and old but for students in Ohio’s Mississinawa Valley School District, the terms Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon and #snOMG translate to something very different: e-days.

For those unfamiliar with the term – we’re looking at you, Randy Parker – an e-day means traditional classes are still cancelled but instead of having to make the days up at the end of the school year, students must log on to their home computers to complete virtual lessons prepared by their teachers. Those without computers aren’t exempt, either: They just receive the assignments when they return to school and have more time to complete the work.

School officials are currently studying how well the program worked with the help of a university to determine whether to continue the program or drop it. The reactions from students are mixed but some high schoolers told National Public Radio they don’t mind e-days because the work will prevent falling behind in class and adversely affect their chances of attending college.

The answers are sure to vary - SpongeBob Square Pants shares some interesting theories on education here - but do you think e-days will be beneficial in the long run or would you rather spend your snow days doing as you please?


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A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

New Facility Combines Winemaking, Wi-Fi

February 7, 2011

A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

by Alexis Mattera

The last thing many people want to think about the day after the Super Bowl (beside Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem flub or the overall lack of enjoyable advertisements) is alcohol but this next story won’t add to a hangover. We promise.

The University of California at Davis, long known for its winemaking program, has unveiled new technology at the school’s Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science to fine-tune the fermentation process. Custom-built probes embedded with microchips measure the sugar density and temperature of fermenting wines every 15 minutes; the readings are then wirelessly transferred to a server at the facility and displayed on a large monitor. The use of Wi-Fi to monitor the process is certainly a big step but enology professor Roger B. Boulton says the footprint will be even larger as the measurements will soon be viewable on the Web and via smartphones. Students and researchers will be able to compare their results with expected outcomes and adjust as necessary to determine how different fermenting conditions affect different grape varieties.

Boulton continued to say that the measurement technology puts the university years ahead of commercial operations because it will ultimately reduce the number of failed batches. How green! What do you think of these developments at UC-Davis? Would having access to this new technology get you to consider a major in winemaking?


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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?


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DePaul Joins the Test Optional Club

University Says Standardized Testing is Out, Essays are In

February 18, 2011

DePaul Joins the Test Optional Club

by Alexis Mattera

Standardized testing is as much – if not more – a part of the college process as dancing when the fat envelope arrives, Facebooking your new roommate and shopping for extra-long twin sheets. That will no longer be the case for DePaul University applicants for the freshman class entering in 2012 because the Chicago school has announced its plans to make the reporting SAT and ACT scores optional.

But don’t start shredding your test prep materials into confetti just yet: Students choosing not to submit ACT or SAT scores will be required to write short responses to essay questions designed to measure "noncognitive" traits, such as leadership, commitment to service, and ability to meet long-term goals. These essays were introduced a few years ago and subsequent research convinced the admissions committee that the nontraditional measures did more than the ACT or SAT to predict the success of low-income and minority students at the university. Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management, said he wants to encourage applicants with high grade-point averages but relatively low standardized test scores to apply and believes the new method will allow his colleagues to better select applicants who are most likely to succeed and graduate.

DePaul is now the largest private university to join the FairTest list, joining Wake Forest as one of the most selective institutions to adopt test-optional policies. Do you think giving students the choice to report their scores will produce the results DePaul expects? What do you think is a better barometer of qualified applicants: test scores or essays?


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University of Lies

College Website Found to Be Fake

March 1, 2011

University of Lies

by Alexis Mattera

Application fees, the non-refundable sums required to get your grades, test scores, essays and extracurriculars considered by a higher education institution, are often the first college-related expenses many hopeful students incur. The costs can add up, especially for students applying to multiple schools, but it’s a necessary sacrifice to start their collegiate careers off on the right foot. That's unless the check is made out to the University of Redwood.

A quick glance at the college’s website doesn't raise cause for concern – the photos are pretty, the mission statement is clear and the faculty directory is thorough – but a little digging revealed the information is copied nearly verbatim from the official site of Oregon’s Reed College. Reed's Kevin Myers said he had found serious mention of the University of Redwood on Asian higher-education blogs, a calculated move given the increase of Chinese attending college in the U.S. in recent years. He suspects the site is part of a scheme to collect application fees from prospective students in Hong Kong and Asia; after receiving said payments, chief technology officer Martin Ringle said "a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know."

The good news is that Reed is fighting back. Go Daddy, the company hosting the University of Redwood site, shut it down but quickly re-enabled it once the "allegedly infringing material" (faculty member bios (which a Reed professor discovered) and school history, for example) was edited out. Ringle and Myers, however, said the infringement continues unabated, and Reed will continue its legal effort to squash the site for good.

We’ve written a fair amount about how to spot and protect against scholarship scams but this is the first we – or the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for that matter – have ever heard of the copying of an entire school. Will this news change the way you research the schools you’re interested in?


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Schools That Set the High Score for Gaming

by Alexis Mattera

Have you ever gotten yelled at by your parents for playing video games when you should have been doing your homework? Gotten your Xbox unplugged just before breaking your kill record in "Call of Duty" because dinner was on the table? Had your internet – and, in turn, "World of Warcraft" – privileges revoked for not keeping up with your chores? If so, take solace in the fact that those punishments will never occur if you attend college at one of the following schools. In fact, they would say the more gaming the better: According to the Princeton Review and GamePro Media, they are the top colleges for video game design!

  1. University of Southern California
  2. University of Utah
  3. DigiPen Institute of Technology
  4. The Art Institute of Vancouver
  5. Michigan State University
  6. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  7. Drexel University
  8. Champlain College
  9. Rochester Institute of Technology
  10. Becker College

The list was compiled from the survey results of administrators at 150 colleges and universities offering video game design courses and degrees. Though they did not make the top 10, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institution, Savannah College of Art and Design and Shawnee State University were given honorable mentions. Everyone has to be Luigi sometimes...better luck next year!


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The NYU Global Network Gains a New Member

NYU Shanghai to Begin Enrollment in Fall 2013

March 28, 2011

The NYU Global Network Gains a New Member

by Alexis Mattera

There’s some big news coming out of Greenwich Village that will have an impact on students nearly 4,000 miles away. It’s NYU Shanghai and no, it doesn’t involve James Franco.

Late Sunday, the school announced plans to launch "a comprehensive research university with a liberal arts and science college" in Shanghai. This is a big deal for New York University, as the campus will be the first American university with full, independent authority in China and another step toward creating NYU's goal of a "global network university." (The school has a similar facility in Abu Dhabi.)

Application materials aren’t available just yet – the first students aren’t expected to be enrolled until the fall of 2013 (half from China and the other half from the rest of the world) and will be admitted based on factors beyond China’s national college admissions test – but nearly 3,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students could eventually call NYU Shanghai home. Like at its home campus, students will have access to a comprehensive liberal arts education, dormitories, athletic programs, student clubs and career counseling and but unique to the NYU global network university model, students can spend as many as three semesters studying in New York, in Abu Dhabi, or in one of the other NYU global sites that form what NYU calls its "circulatory system."

Will you be adding NYU Shanghai to your college search?


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Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

Record High Applications Don't Translate to Equally Impressive Acceptance Numbers

April 1, 2011

Acceptance Rates Plummet for Class of 2015

by Alexis Mattera

It’s not long into April Fools' Day but we’ve already encountered lots of fake educational news. First, it was revealed that GWU President Steven Schnapps’ fist pumping was responsible for the destruction in a campus residence hall. Next, Bryn Mawr announced it had partnered with Bithnian University of Science and Technology to take its alien research to the next level. And lastly, college acceptance rates plummeted at universities across the country. Oh wait, that last one wasn’t a joke at all.

The New York Times’ The Choice blog recently published a table of admissions statistics from 32 selective U.S. colleges and the data show a drop in acceptance rates across the board. Not surprisingly, the lowest acceptance rates were at Harvard (6.2 percent, an all-time low for the Ivy), Columbia (6.9 percent), Stanford (7.1 percent), Yale (7.4 percent) and Princeton (8.4 percent) but what’s interesting is that this year, records were broken for applications received. The schools’ explanations for the limited fat envelopes sent out? They just had far too many outstanding applicants.

There are many factors to consider – for example, high school seniors are applying to more schools than ever before to ensure they have at least one place to attend college – but nothing takes the sting out of "We regret to inform you..." topping a decision letter. Applicants, how have you fared in the admissions race? Were you rejected or waitlisted at a school you considered a safety? Did you score admission at your first-choice school? Are any of you still waiting to learn your higher education fates? Have you already sent in a deposit or are you still securing enough financial aid to pay for school?


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GPAs, Course Difficulty Increase for High School Students

by Alexis Mattera

It’s April and a few things are on the rise: temperatures (yay!), gas prices (boooo!) and high school students’ GPAs and success in difficult courses (yay again!).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its findings of typical high school students’ grade point averages from 1990 to 2009. During that time, the average grade point average increased from 2.68 to 3.0 and the average number of credits also saw an uptick from 26.8 in 2005 to 27.2 credits in 2009. The reason? Researchers cite the importance of rigorous curriculum – highlighting upper-level math and science courses – as a key to greater achievement in high school.

Also included in the study is that 59 percent of students are graduating with accelerated classes on their transcripts and amped-up credits in the core courses of English, mathematics, science and social studies as well as electives like foreign languages, fine arts and computer-related classes. The students with earlier exposure to advanced curricula – specifically those who took algebra I in middle school and began high school with geometry – scored 31 points higher on the study’s math assessment; that being said, male students generally scored higher average mathematics and science than their female counterparts but females had higher overall grade point averages – 3.10 versus 2.90.

With the increasingly competitive college application process and President Obama’s call for an emphasis on education to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, these numbers are promising. High school students, are you taking more difficult courses to give colleges another reason to consider offering you admission? College students, did this method help you get into the college of your choice? Does anyone disagree completely based on personal experience?


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Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

How Far Would YOU Go to Get Off the Waitlist?

April 15, 2011

Harvard Hopeful Sings for Admission on YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

By this time of year, most high school seniors know where they will and will not be heading for the Fall 2011 term but others are stuck in college admissions purgatory as one name on a very long waitlist. While some are doing what the term suggests and waiting for these schools to decide their fates, others – like Harvard hopeful Grace Oberhofer – are refusing to sit idly by: The Washington State resident took matters into her own hands, logged on to YouTube and pled for acceptance to the school...in song.

Though the Tacoma School of the Arts senior has already received acceptance letters from six schools (Duke, Brandeis, Oberlin, Tufts, Tulane and Sarah Lawrence), Oberhofer has her heart set on spending the next four years in Harvard’s hallowed halls. She elected to make her case for admission on YouTube, where she performed an original song expressing her love for the school. Oberhofer’s not relying on comic relief alone to earn her the fat envelope; she supplemented the video with a serious letter. Smart move.

The video, which has amassed more than 36,000 views, proves Oberhofer is capable of composing a catchy tune with some pretty amusing lyrics but the jury’s still out on whether the video will help or harm her chances of admission. Waitlists are especially formidable this year; would you take that extra step to stand out if it meant getting in?


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