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Dual Enrollment Program Doubled in Chicago

by Alexis Mattera

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into making the transition from high school to college. While some students figure this out after they set foot on campus and are overwhelmed by a litany of new responsibilities, others begin laying the groundwork even before they apply. In Chicago, public school students will have more opportunities to pursue the latter route thanks to a change in the dual enrollment plan.

Yesterday, Chicago City Colleges announced its dual enrollment program will double as of the spring semester, giving up to 2,100 qualifying Chicago Public School juniors and seniors the ability to take free college classes at seven schools – Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. This is excellent news not only for students who have exhausted the course offerings at their high schools but also for cash-strapped students – roughly 85 percent of all CPS students come from low-income families – aiming to earn college credit while keeping their expenses in check.

CPS students, will you be taking advantage of the expanded dual enrollment program? Other public school students, is there a program like this in place in your city?


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It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

NSSE Shows Students Study Less Than Expected

November 18, 2011

It’s Time to Study...or Is It?

by Alexis Mattera

Study styles vary greatly from student to student – you find it most effective to study alone in the library while your roommate prefers to orchestrate conversation-filled study groups in your dorm’s common room – so it should come as no surprise that the amount of time spent hitting the books also fluctuates depending on students’ majors.

But just how much of a disparity is there? According to the National Survey on Student Engagement, engineering majors studied the most with 19 hours of preparation per week while students focusing on business and the social sciences studied the least, putting in 14 hours per week. Here’s the complete list:

Though some students may feel like this is enough preparation to earn their desired grades, the numbers didn’t match up exactly with faculty expectations: An Inside Higher Ed article explains the majority of professors reported they expected students to spend one or two hours more studying per week than they actually did except for in the social sciences, where students studied an average of four hours less than faculty predicted. What do you think of NSSE’s findings? If one of the majors above represents your field of study, do you feel the numbers are accurate? Between all of your other commitments (work, extracurriculars, etc.), is it even possible to study as much as professors expect you to?


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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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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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Ohio to Eliminate Remedial Funding in Higher Ed by 2020

by Alexis Mattera

Many colleges across the country offer remedial courses for students in subjects like math, English and science to better prepare them for the curriculum ahead but as budgets continue to tighten, administrators in Ohio are looking to cut funding for these classes completely.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the annual cost for remedial classes in American higher education hovers around $3.6 billion. Though states like Florida, Missouri and South Carolina are making strides to restrict remedial funding to more reasonable levels, Ohio has vowed to eliminate the approximately $130 million it spends annually by 2020. How is this going to happen? Schools appear to be approaching the issue in different ways: University System of Ohio Chancellor Jim Petro is calling for better assessments in grade 10 to ensure enough time for extra help before attending college, the University of Toledo is changing its recruitment tactics by improving outreach to private schools and even guaranteeing scholarships as early as eighth grade to secure better prepared students, and Wright State University is working with nearby community colleges to standardize a remedial education curriculum – a move associate provost Thomas Sudkamp says will best serve students when remediation funding is phased out.

Do you think Ohio’s plan is a step in the right direction or is remedial education funding an integral part of success in college?


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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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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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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?


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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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