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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

October 4, 2011

College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?

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Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

October 6, 2011

Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve wanted to attend University X for as long as you can remember. You made sure your academic and extracurricular accomplishments exceeded its admissions criteria, took multiple campus tours and even made its .edu your homepage but the time has finally come to submit your application packet. Doing so early seems like a no-brainer...but is it really?

Applying to college ahead of traditional deadlines has become quite popular in recent years; with that increased interest, however, comes some confusion. Should you apply early decision or early action? Can you apply early to multiple schools? Can you apply early to one college and regular decision to another? Here’s some much-needed clarification from Examiner.com.

Early Decision: Generally, ED programs are binding and require applicants to relinquish all rights to consider offers from other colleges. If you are surer than sure of your college choice and would go to this school beyond a shadow of a doubt if you were accepted, this is a great route to take. If you’re concerned you will not get in, you should consider another application method that allows you more options.

Early Action: EA, on the other hand, is non-binding in that it allows applicants to choose from other colleges they’ve been admitted to instead of being locked into one. While most early action programs say it’s ok to apply early action and regular decision to other institutions, some can be restrictive (check out Yale’s policy compared to Harvard’s) so be sure to check the requirements before sending in your materials.

College students, did you apply early? If so, what did you think of the process? High school seniors, do you plan to apply early – either ED or EA – and did these explanations help you?

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Tuition at Cooper Union?

November 1, 2011

Tuition at Cooper Union?

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a prospective college student considering a career in engineering, architecture or art, Cooper Union is probably on your radar. Not only is the school among the most selective in the nation but the tuition – zero – has been the best deal in higher ed for more than a century...or it was.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha recently announced that the weak economy has prompted the school to reevaluate its scholarship policy and possibly begin charging tuition for the first time since 1902. Bharucha stressed that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend for free and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged but the mere mention of tuition for degree-seeking students marks a serious cultural shift for the institution: Though a final decision has yet to be made, alumni are furious – “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper. It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country,” said graphic designer, New York magazine co-founder and Cooper Union graduate Milton Glaser – and students are planning to walk out of classes in protest tomorrow.

Bharucha did say that implementing tuition would be a last resort but what do you think of his announcement and its corresponding reaction? What avenues should be explored to preserve free tuition and are there any ways students and alumni can support or contribute to the cause? Lastly, does a potential tuition bill have you reconsidering applying to Cooper Union?

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Early Decision and Early Action Deadlines Extended

November 2, 2011

Early Decision and Early Action Deadlines Extended

by Alexis Mattera

So you took the standardized tests, filled out the application, wrote the essay and secured the appropriate transcripts and letters of recommendation well in advance in order to apply to your first-choice school early. Nice work – it’s just too bad Mother Nature had other plans.

The late October storm that hit the Northeast knocked out electricity, Internet access and, for some students, hopes of getting their early decision and early action applications submitted on time. Thankfully, many institutions have extended these deadlines beyond the traditional November 1st cutoff and NACAC has posted those schools, administrative contacts and new early application dates on its website. Though most are in the Northeast, schools located as far west as California, Oregon and Arizona and as far south as Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky have joined the cause to ensure all interested students have time to apply.

NACAC does note that the list may not be comprehensive and is inviting colleges and universities to update their application dates if they have changed. Conversely, students should contact the schools they are interested in applying to for any admissions updates. Good luck, everyone!

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An Update on Early Admissions

November 15, 2011

An Update on Early Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Teens may be excited about "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" and "The Hunger Games" but it appears applying to college early is just as trendy.

Though the numbers are still being tallied, Duke, Brown, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins are all estimating sizeable increases in the amount of early applications received but they aren’t alone: The University of Virginia and Princeton – two schools which reinstated their early admissions programs this year – have their respective hands full with applicants as well. Also of note is the heightened availability of ED II, a second round of early decision with a January deadline, for students who applied to one school using the binding application option and were rejected or deferred. And with these elevated application numbers comes an expected increase in both acceptance rates and financial aid offerings, something students and their parents will both appreciate.

What do you think of these application trends? Did you apply early or do you plan to apply during regular admission and why?

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Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

November 30, 2011

Students Alter Online Identities During Admissions Season

by Alexis Mattera

Students applying to college have a lot on their plates. There are applications and essays to complete, campus visits to schedule and FAFSAs to navigate of course but college hopefuls are taking an additional step to up their admissions chances by participating in serious social media scrub downs.

With admissions officers looking beyond traditional application materials to select their students – the latest survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent had visited applicants’ Facebook pages while 20 percent used Google searches – college applicants are creating alternate identities to disguise less-than-savory photos or comments on a number of social media sites. "Ask any senior in high school what his or her Facebook name is and you will find that they have morphed their FB identity into something slightly peculiar and mysterious that only their ‘friends’ can figure out," says Naomi Steinberg, owner of Apply Yourself Educational Consulting. And though students’ original online identities often reappear after admissions decisions have been made, Steinberg says the trend of social media expurgation will continue into the next phase of students’ lives as well, like when they begin applying for jobs.

College applicants, do you plan to tweak your social media persona as soon as your applications go out? Current college students, do you think online editing played a role in your acceptance?

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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

December 13, 2011

College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?

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Berkeley Announces Aid Increase for Middle-Class Students

December 15, 2011

Berkeley Announces Aid Increase for Middle-Class Students

by Alexis Mattera

Not-so-breaking news: College is expensive and the costs associated with it show no sign of stopping their steady climb. What’s a college hopeful to do? Consider a school that’s finding ways to bridge the financial gap, like UC Berkeley.

Beginning next fall, Berkeley will amp up its financial aid contributions for middle-class students. School officials reported that while the number of low-income and wealthy students has increased over the last several years, the number from middle-class families has remained flat. Berkeley hopes to regain the interest of middle-class applicants by becoming the first public university to promise families earning between $80,000 and $140,000 a year will contribute no more than 15 percent of their annual incomes toward tuition.

This news – released just one day after Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $2.2 billion budget shortfall and another severe round of cuts to state colleges and universities – has already been dubbed a game changer by Terry W. Hartle: The senior vice president of the American Council on Education also believes other colleges will channel their competitive spirits and do whatever they can to offer similar programs. Learn more about Berkeley’s plan here then tell us what you think.

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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?

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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!

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