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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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Study Reveals Fewer Students Attending First-Choice Schools

by Alexis Mattera

It’s finally decision day. You rush to your mailbox – either traditional or electronic – and find a fat envelope from your first-choice school waiting for you. They like you, they really like you...but will you reciprocate those feelings in the fall? According to a new survey, it’s becoming far less probable.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California Los Angeles study revealed that of the 204,000 college freshmen surveyed at 207 schools, just 58 percent enrolled at their first-choice college. This is the fifth year the percentage has dropped and program director John H. Pryor said financial aid (or lack of it) is a huge factor in students’ decisions. “These students who were accepted and are not attending are much more likely to say they are not going because they did not get the financial aid they wanted.” (Read the survey in its entirety here.)

How many of you were accepted to your first-choice school only to have to give up your spot because of one of the factors cited in the survey?


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Do Students Care About College Rankings?

by Alexis Mattera

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

The trend, discussed in a new Associated Press article, is that students typically use the rankings as a source of data and pay little attention to a school's number. The latest version of the national survey of college freshmen conducted annually by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute revealed that rankings in national magazines were number 11 on the list of factors affecting college choices behind factors such as cost, size and location; the number one factor, however, was academic reputation, which is a bit confusing as reputation is taken into consideration when determining rankings. "As someone who is asked every year to comment on the rankings, it seems to me that who cares most is the media," John Pryor, who directs the UCLA survey, wrote in a blog post last year. "Second would be college presidents and development officers. Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college."

Are college rankings a bigger deal to students or colleges? Did you or do you plan to use college rankings in making your college choices or do you think other factors are more important to consider?


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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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Words of Wisdom for the Wait-Listed

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the college admissions cycle, most students have either been accepted, rejected or wait-listed; while the definitions of and actions associated with the first two outcomes are pretty clear (decide if you want to go or choose another school), things involving the third can be a little murky. What do you do if you find yourself in these waters? Here’s a much-needed paddle from the folks at The Choice blog:

Reevaluate: William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, suggests taking a second look at the school (or schools) you’ve been wait-listed at and deciding which you would realistically attend if you were accepted.

Respond: Some schools look at the time it takes students to reply to a wait-list notification; write a follow-up letter about why you want to go there or surrender your spot if the school isn’t the right fit for you as soon as possible, says veteran counselor Ted de Villefranca of the Peddie School in New Jersey.

Realize: A spot on the wait list is by no means a guarantee of admission – of the 996 students on Yale’s wait list last year, only 103 were accepted – so keep your expectations manageable in case you don’t get in.

Reach out...within reason: Mention only substantive information, says Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of admissions at Yale, and don’t overdo it. In that same vein, JHU’s Conley warns against constantly contacting the admissions staff, as your repeated calls and emails could be a turn-off.

You can read the rest of the experts’ tips here but we want to know if any of our readers are former wait-listers and, if so, what advice do you have for students who are in that position right now?


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Schools with Rolling or Late Admissions Deadlines

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve applied to a number of schools and received your admissions decisions but found that the colleges you once thought were perfect are anything but. Is it too late in the admissions cycle to find the right school for you? Not when countless colleges offer rolling and/or late admissions! Here are a few schools that do just that:


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Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

by Alexis Mattera

When I moved into my freshman dorm at UConn, I was one of the few out-of-state students on my floor. It wasn’t a bad thing by any means – I made a lot of friends through conversations that began with someone asking "Hey, can you say [any word ending in R]?" because they wanted to hear my thick Boston accent in action – but it was certainly foreshadowing for today’s abundance of non-residents at state schools.

According to an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the number of non-Californians accepted as freshmen to the UC system has nearly doubled in just two years. Twenty-three percent of all students admitted for this fall hail from other states or nations, partly because non-residents pay nearly three times the tuition and fees of in-state students – a huge boon for UC, which has had its budget cut by about $1 billion during the last few years. In-state students’ college costs are heavily subsidized with public funds and the nine undergraduate campuses simply don’t have the money to cover the cost of educating them, though UC officials insist that no eligible Californian is denied admission because of non-resident students.) In addition to funding woes, applicants also had to contend with increasing selectivity: UC admitted just 64 percent of the students who applied...and just 21 percent at Berkeley and UCLA.

There were some positive aspects to UC’s announcement (the Merced campus accepted 75 percent of applicants, more students of color were admitted systemwide and an additional 2,100 California graduates gained admission over last year) but what do you think of the influx of non-residents at state colleges and universities?


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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!


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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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GRE to Debut ScoreSelect in July

by Alexis Mattera

College students who want to attend graduate school not only need good grades, excellent recommendation letters and related experience in the field they’re planning to enter but also a solid score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. But what happens if the score you receive isn’t what you (and the schools you’re applying to) were expecting? Starting in July, it’s ScoreSelect to the rescue.

Graduate programs currently receive students’ comprehensive five-year histories of GRE scores but with ScoreSelect, a student will be able to choose to send all scores or just the ones achieved during his or her most recent exam. ScoreSelect also lets students customize their score reports by school: Test takers may send their most recent scores to one batch of schools on test day free of charge and then forward a different set of schools either all of their scores or a specific score from the last five years after the exam for a fee. Why the change, especially so soon after last year’s format overhaul? “What we believe will happen is that students will have more confidence on test day,” said Christine Betaneli, a spokeswoman for GRE administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS).

There are additional details about ScoreSelect on ETS’ website. After getting all the facts, what do you think of ScoreSelect? Is it an option you’ll take advantage of when you take the GRE?


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