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Study U

Five Schools Where Students Still Make Plenty of Time to Study

May 22, 2012

Study U

by Alexis Mattera

The average college student has lots of free time on his or her hands but add in part-time jobs, internships, group work and even commuting and those hours disappear fast. Time spent studying has dipped from 24 hours to 15 hours per week since the 1960s but according to the Washington Post and the National Survey of Student Engagement, students still make ample time and they’ve listed five schools where they’re known to hit the books...hard.

Now how do YOUR study habits compare?


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Are Students Interested in Online Classes? Of Course(ra)!

One Million and Counting Sign Up for Free Virtual Courses

August 13, 2012

Are Students Interested in Online Classes? Of Course(ra)!

by Alexis Mattera

Since its launch earlier this year, Coursera has attracted its fair share of attention in the higher ed sector: Not only has the company formed partnerships with high-profile schools such as Stanford, Michigan, Princeton and UPenn, roughly one million students in 196 countries have registered for the startup’s free online courses.

Though the numbers reported by Coursera (and also its competitor Udacity, which has more than 739,000 registered users in 203 countries) are impressive, they don’t represent the amount of learning actually taking place. Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng explained in an email interview that the number of active students is significantly lower because many registrations are for courses that have not yet begun and many sign up but don’t end up following through with the coursework. So are students interested in free online classes? Yes, but time will tell whether or not the registered students actually stick with the program.

Have you considered enrolling in the online classes offered by Coursera, Udacity and others or do you prefer the traditional classroom experience?


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Attending College Versus Going Pro: A Tough Decision Facing Successful Student-Athletes

by Alexis Mattera

An Olympic gold medal is the ultimate goal for many athletes but when you’ve managed to achieve this feat before even turning 18, what do you set as your next accomplishment? There are usually two options – attend college and perfect your craft or go pro and rack up endorsement deals – but figuring out the "right" choice is becoming more difficult for many up-and-coming student-athletes.

A perfect example is Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old swimming phenom who scored five medals at the London Olympics. She has made it clear that she wants to swim in college but if she does so, she will not be able to take advantage of the potentially millions of dollars in endorsements her Olympic success has afforded her. (The NCAA strictly prohibits athletes from accepting sponsorship and advertising money if they want to maintain their eligibility, though many athletes have petitioned this rule).

A recent article in The Atlantic details that going pro makes more sense for athletes in certain sports – for example, since the level of competition in collegiate gymnastics is lower, gold medalist Gabby Douglas didn’t hesitate to give up her amateur status...and sign a deal with Kellogg’s – but for Franklin, attending college would give her not only a chance to improve upon her already impressive swimming skills but earn a degree and have somewhat of a normal life after her time in the Olympic spotlight. Her choice? She hasn't announced it yet but it's her decision to make. "If Missy Franklin wants to go to school, bravo for her, and nobody who doesn't live inside her heart and mind should criticize it," said sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who has worked with athletes ranging from Olympians Brian Boitano and Kerri Strug to pros Troy Aikman and Steve Young.

What path do you think Franklin will follow? If you shared her situation, what would your choice be and why?


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