April 1, 2010
If you haven't heard already, today may be the day you find out whether you've been accepted to your first-choice college or university, as April 1 is the notification deadline for many of the most selective schools across the country. If the news you've gotten so far hasn't been the best, though, or if you come home to see a slimmer envelope than you'd hoped for, know that you're not alone. Many of the most famous and familiar faces out there were rejected from their top picks. (And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke.)
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a look at the company students with rejection letters will be keeping, and the examples they found should make any dejected high school senior feel just a little bit more hopeful. Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate in medicine, was rejected twice from Harvard Medical School, at one time counseled to join the military instead. There's a decent-sized list of famous faces who have been rejected from Harvard. "Today Show" host Meredith Vieira and broadcaster Tom Brokaw were both rejected from the Ivy; Vieira instead met a mentor at Tufts University who got her into journalism. Warren Buffet, currently one of the richest people in the world, now describes his rejection from Harvard as a mere "temporary defeat," according to the Journal. Ted Turned received dual rejection letters from both Harvard and Princeton University, eventually attending Brown University, where he left on his own terms to join his father's billboard company - a company he has since turned into a media empire.
If you didn't get in everywhere you wanted to, don't be too discouraged. It's rare that an incoming freshmen hasn't had to deal with at least one rejection letter. Check out the New York Times' blog for their ongoing feature of students' experiences this admissions season. Those students are not only dealing with good news, but making tough decisions on whether those number-one choices were really the best fit, or only the top picks in their college searches because of their ranks and reputations.
This is also one of the most competitive years in terms of admissions rates, as more students are applying to the most selective schools than in years prior. Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, for example, have seen percentage increases of applicants in the double digits over the previous year. Both of those schools have admission rates hovering around 14 percent, which seem like tough odds. So expand that net when you're choosing a college, because there could be a diamond in the rough out there that you haven't yet considered.
July 6, 2010
If you just attended your high school graduation, you probably still remember some of the advice given to you by the valedictorian for your class, the student who received the highest marks and highest GPAs over their four years there.
If you attended graduation at Long Island’s Jericho High School, though, it may not even be that easy to name who was up on stage, no matter their words of wisdom. That’s because seven high school seniors were named valedictorians at the school, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Rather than giving a captive audience seven inspirational speeches, the group came up with a skit about their experiences at Jericho. Each valedictorian also had 30 seconds to devote to their personal well wishes.
Honoring multiple students with the title of valedictorian isn’t unique to Jericho. Many of the best suburban schools across the country are now naming more than one student to the top spot, and administrators say this leaves students less stressed and less focused on competition. According to the Times article, administrators say it is usually mere fractions that separate the top five (or seven) spots at any given school, making it difficult to be fair when it comes to choosing a valedictorian and even salutatorian, traditionally the second-place finisher.
How has this changed the make-up of high schools? Consider this. According to the Times, eight high schools in the St. Vrain Valley district in Colorado crowned 94 valedictorians. Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey chose a speaker via lottery among its chosen nine valedictorians. Harrison High School in New York City got rid of the title altogether, naming top graduates a part of the “summa cum laude” class instead. Does this mean students are just more serious about academics, and more are doing better in high school? Or does it mean more have access to a traditionally elite group of high school graduates?
Administrators on the college level warn that the practice only contributes to “honor inflation,” according to the article. Competition exists on the college level, and a healthy degree of that in high school serves as preparation for the rigors of keeping up at institutions of higher education, they say. One Harvard University dean quoted in the article described the case of a home-schooled student applying to the Ivy League institution. That student claimed they were at the top of their class—of one student. What do you think? How many valedictorians did you have at your own graduation?
July 22, 2010
As more high schools across the country begin offering students alternatives to Advanced Placement like dual enrollment partnerships with local community colleges, the College Board, which offers the exams, has been forced to take a look at the AP program in order to make it more relevant to the college-bound.
One of the things the AP provider hopes to do is make sure the high school courses do a better job of preparing students for college-level work. As competition for enrollment increases, especially at the most selective colleges and universities, more schools are becoming stricter about awarding credit for students’ efforts on AP exams. For students interested in those schools, there remains little incentive to sign up for an AP course over a college course elsewhere, as one of the main draws of AP is the fact that you’ll start your freshman year of college with some credits under your belt. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the test provider will work to improve communication between the program and colleges, to both make sure students’ credits are being accepted and to make the courses look more like college-level classes.
Another criticism of even those educators who take on AP courses has been that teachers focus less on looking at topics in an in-depth way, and more on covering the maximum content possible so that students are ready for the AP exams at the end of the class. With more students failing AP exams, particularly in the Southern states, teachers and students are under even more pressure. Such statistics make signing up for dual enrollment, where there may not be a similar comprehensive exam at the end, more desirable, especially for those students who may not be good test-takers. The College Board also plans to make the AP program more flexible by adding computer-based testing dates and making sure students receive their scores earlier.
So what are the benefits? For those who may not have the option of dual enrollment or who may feel more comfortable in a high school classroom, AP is a good option to get some exposure to college-level work. With more than 30 AP courses to choose from, high school students may also be able to take those classes that they’re more interested in, improving their chances of doing well on the final exam. (This must mean your high school has a wide variety of AP offerings, of course.) Finally, if you are confident in your abilities to do well on an AP exams and you do well in a course that will give you the opportunity to transfer college credits to a two- or four-year school, you’ll be getting college-level instruction at a deep discount.
July 2, 2008
On Tuesday, ACT and College Board (the administrators of the ACT and SAT tests) released a conversion table that could be used to compare scores of students who completed either exam. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the table was based on a study of more than 300,000 students who had taken both tests between 2004 and 2006.
The two test providers release a similar table every few years, but the latest chart was a necessary update due to a change in the SAT format. In 2005, College Board added a new mandatory writing section to their exam, one that is optional for ACT takers. To better assist college administrators in making their admissions decisions, the new table predicts the SAT scores of students who chose to opt out of the ACT writing section as well as of those who completed all portions of the exam.
Students who did not take the writing section and received a score of 21 (the average composite score on the ACT), could expect a combined critical reading and math score of 990 on the SAT. Those who chose to complete the writing section of the ACT and received a composite English and writing score of 20 could expect to receive a 490 on the writing portion of the SAT.
College Board stressed that the comparisons were estimates and that a student’s results on one test did not necessarily ensure the suggested equivalent. The company stated that, “In general, the scores should not be compared. However, we understand that our constituents, particularly members of the admissions community, have a need to assess the test scores of students, some of whom might have taken the SAT, while others might have taken the ACT.”
July 15, 2008
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July 16, 2008
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted nearly $900,000 for work on four issues of The Future of Children , a biannually-released journal about effective policies and programs for children. Since its inception in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted nearly $16.5 billion to provide for the health and education of people living in the US and abroad. In addition to sponsoring numerous education-related initiatives, the foundation created one of the biggest, most lucrative scholarship programs in the country, the Gates Millennium Scholars.
Their latest donation will be used by the Brookings Institute and the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs—co-publishers of The Future of Children —to conduct research, disseminate information, host conferences and pay for additional efforts related to the four issues. According to a Woodrow Wilson School news release, the proposed journal topics will include Children in Fragile Families, Children and Youth in Immigrant Families, Work and Family Balance and Postsecondary Education.
The Future of Children is aimed at identifying the research and policies that could assist families in raising their income and paying for school. To this end, researches will study the problems affecting individuals between the ages of 16 and 26, as well as those of their children. Their findings will be disseminated at no charge, and, once available, the results will be posted on www.futureofchildren.org. To encourage legislators to concentrate their efforts on bettering the circumstances of America's youth, journal contributors will also host numerous public awareness events.
July 17, 2008
According to West Virginia’s The State Journal, a recent poll indicates that Americans are prioritizing the affordability of a college education over other factors. Though criteria such as scholastic quality, distance and diversity were also critical, the cost of a school topped the list as most important.
With college costs continuing to outpace inflation and graduates finishing school with growing debt, families are beginning to realize that attending schools within their means may be more important than attending ones of greater prestige. A recent report from the National Center for Education Studies (NCES) stated that during the 2005-2006 school year, 46 percent of first-time, full-time students who sought a degree took out student loans, a few graduating more than $100,000 in debt.
The Chronicle of Higher Education Gallop Poll indicated that, though there were conflicting views over whether the government or the public should be responsible for much of the cost, most agreed that colleges should contribute to the solution by spending a larger percentage of their endowment funds.
As the media focuses on problems of national debt, controversy has grown over the use of annually increasing endowment funds acquired through donations to colleges. Though endowment contributors frequently create stipulations about who may or may not receive their scholarship money, the public has pointed to the questionable nature of storing funds and increasing tuition, especially during a time when debt has become a growing problem for students.
July 18, 2008
During a conference held by the Department of Education this week, department commissioners, educators and business leaders alike expressed their disappointment with Education Secretary Margaret Spelling’s inability to improve the current state of postsecondary education. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education created by the secretary herself complained that, after three years of work, students were still unsure about which colleges best fit their needs, and employers were still dissatisfied with graduates’ lack of preparation for the workforce.
Furthermore, while steps to alleviate the burden of school expenses have been taken—most prominent of which was perhaps the increase in Pell Grant caps—the rising costs of a college education have made paying for school a struggle. During the 2005-2006 school year, more than 40 percent of first-time college students were forced to take out student loans. These factors, combined with the declining value of a college degree, have made securing a sufficiently lucrative job difficult for those with debt, especially when searching for positions within the nonprofit sector.
With only six months left in office, the secretary has little time to apply the suggestions of her peers. Complaining that colleges are not doing enough to prepare students for the business world, previous advertising executive Richard Holland stated, “We just talk about this all the time, and we don’t do anything about it.” Added Education Department’s senior adviser Vickie Schray, “There’s still a lot that needs to be done.”
August 21, 2008
The results of a poll conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup were released today, revealing current American attitudes towards education, at both the high school and college levels. The majority of respondents were in favor of increasing funding for and access to education at all levels.
According to the poll,
September 16, 2008
As many as 29 percent of state university students and 43 percent of community college students require some amount of remedial education upon enrolling in college, according to the results of a study by the group Strong American Schools. The report, entitled "Diploma to Nowhere" was released Monday, and addresses the financial costs of remedial education (as high as $2000-2500 per student), as well as the psychological impact on students.
The study stresses the necessity of appropriate college preparation for students, which includes taking challenging courses and learning study skills in high school. The results clearly indicate that good grades and the basic college preparatory high school curriculum are not always an indicator that students are ready to tackle the challenges of attending college. As many as four out of five students in remedial courses maintained a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher, showing that even those who did well in high school weren't prepared for the kind of work students should expect in college.
While the report encourages educational reform and high school curricula that more closely match college standards, change can be slow in coming. High school students beginning the college search should be aware of the possibility of struggling in school or even having their stay in college prolonged by extra course requirements. The earlier you start the college planning process, the better, so start pushing yourself as early as your freshman year. Enroll in the most challenging courses possible, such as Advanced Placement or dual-credit classes, especially in areas like English and math, and avoid just coasting through your last year or two of high school.
More challenging coursework can lead to a lower GPA, but your impressive resume, your reputation as a hard worker, and your improved reading, writing, math, and study skills will likely make up for any difference in the long run. Being more adept at math, science, and writing can also increase your chances of winning scholarships, as your skills outshine those of your competitors who took the easy way out.
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