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by Agnes Jasinski

For some of you, next fall will be a fresh start on a new campus, whether you’re transferring from a community college to complete a bachelor’s degree, or whether you were unhappy at your four-year university and needed a change of scenery. You’re not alone. The transfer experience is a reality for about one-third of all students who go to college, according to a report issued this week by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) on the transfer admissions process.

The study, which used data from the 2006 NACAC’s annual  Admission Trends Survey and pieces of a dissertation project from Michigan State University, looked at not only the number of college students who transfer schools but what transfer students can expect to be judged on when they apply to new schools, an important piece of information for students worried about how their applications will be perceived by admissions officials. Overall, about 64 percent of all transfer applicants are admitted to their intended colleges; about 69 percent of all first-time applicants are admitted.

According to the study, your academic achievements from high school become much less important than what you’ve done so far at the college you’re currently at. (Both public and private institutions overwhelmingly agreed on this point, according to the study.) College-level GPAs were ranked as the most important thing schools look at when they receive applications from potential transfer students. Grades in transferable courses are also ranked high in terms of what college officials look for. Private colleges are much more likely than public institutions to pay attention to things personal essays, recommendations and interviews. Larger, public institutions viewed the following more positively than private colleges: having 60 or more hours of transferable credit, being more than 25 years old, and planning to enroll part-time.

As far as what else admissions officials considered fairly important on a transfer applicant’s file, the results were a mixed bag:

  • Scores on standardized tests are important to 3.8 percent of public and 8.5 percent of private schools.
  • The quality of prior post-secondary institutions is important to 7.4 percent of public and 13.2 percent of private schools. (The study does not describe how “quality” is judged.)
  • A student’s ability to pay is considered by 3.4 percent of private schools. (This was a non-issue for public institutions surveyed for this study.)
  • Student interviews were considered by 11.1 percent of private schools. (This was a non-issue for public institutions surveyed for this study.)
  • Race/ethnicity was important to 2.4 percent of public and 2.6 percent of private schools.
  • Essays and writing samples were important to 6.1 percent of public and 25.5 percent of private schools.

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by Agnes Jasinski

May 1 is traditionally the day many students submit enrollment deposits to their intended schools and make their college choice official. For colleges will late and rolling admissions, however, now begins the time to woo students into choosing their school for fall.

Despite what you’ve heard about increased competition and limited space at the most selective institutions (and colleges in California, where the state school system is using wait lists for the first time), space is still available at a number of colleges across the country. A survey released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling lists those public and private schools, and whether slots available for new freshman and transfer students are limited or more plentiful.  The Space Availability Survey is also probably good news for students on wait lists, as it shows there are still options for those who may be rejected from those schools they have been waiting to hear back from. The survey also lists which schools still have housing and financial aid available to incoming students, as both may be limited this late in the game.

For once, it seems, the ball is in the students’ courts. Schools that may need to reach deep into their wait lists or that may have lower enrollments overall due to high price tags that may not be as desirable in a tough economy may need to put in a little extra effort getting students interested in their campuses. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education described the “sweet and subtle science” of wooing students who have yet to make their final decisions. At Lafayette College, for example, admissions officials spend much of the late spring reaching out to high school seniors and their parents with personalized follow-up letters, e-mails, phone calls, and on-campus events meant to showcase how their school is different than the rest and is more interested in building relationships with new additions to their student body.

At Menlo College, admissions officials don’t expect to have their incoming class finalized until the first week of September, according to an article yesterday in The Chronicle, with many of those late registrants coming from overseas and transfer students from across the country. Pennsylvania State University at Schuylkill is about two-thirds of the way to their enrollment goal for their new group of incoming freshmen. At the same time, recruitment officers there are contacting juniors for next year.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As the weather grows warmer and spring semester grades are announced, many college students have little on their minds beyond relaxing poolside until the fall semester. Some students, however, won’t be getting much of a break, taking classes right through the season in what admissions officials say may be record numbers.

An article in Inside Higher Ed today reports that at schools across the country, summer enrollments are up, following suit after a year of increased enrollments and admissions competition across the board. Why the bump? Inside Higher Ed suggests a number of possibilities.

The economy may be one reason, as it has not only been more difficult to find a job these days, it has been harder for students to line up internships and other summer opportunities. Some students may also be more aware of the cost of college, and choose to complete their degrees as quickly as possible, often on satellite campuses closer to home. (Some students may be worried that they’re getting on the five-year or “super senior” plan rather than the traditional four-year undergraduate experience, due to major switches or other factors.) With less competition for summer classes than during the fall and spring semesters, signing up for courses in the summer months may also make strategic sense, as students worry about getting all of the credits and requirements completed in a timely manner. Admissions officials have also reported more nontraditional students enrolling in their schools overall, and that population is more likely than the traditional group to enroll in school year-round.

At the University of California-Berkeley, the school’s officials made a concerted effort to attract more students to their summer offerings. As a result, about 1,000 more have registered for summer classes this year compared to 2009. The school also offers more online courses this summer, making it easier for students to justify sacrificing some of their summer off for academics.

Summer enrollments at community colleges are even higher. An increase of more than 6,000 students over the previous year have enrolled in summer classes in the Houston Community College District, according to Inside Higher Ed. Administrators there say many of the students are new, coming from four-year institutions to grab up some credits at their local community college while they work to have some money by living at home or working part-time jobs in their hometowns.

How about you? Are you taking summer classes? If so, what’s your reasoning? If you are signed up, make sure you know of the financial aid opportunities available to summer students, as most schools still offer aid in the summer months, even if you’re only enrolled part-time. And, as always, consider scholarships for summer.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many of you have already made your decisions on the school you’ll be attending come fall. The next step (outside of the obvious, determining how you’ll pay for that choice and evaluating your financial aid letter) will be figuring out where you’ll be living once you’re on your chosen campus.

Many colleges will require freshmen to live in dorms, to build a sense of community and give those first-year students better access to campus offerings and guidance. You’ve probably heard quite a bit about communal living already, either through older siblings’ roommate horror stories or warnings of consuming too many calories in the dorm cafeterias. A number of recent articles have taken a lighter approach to dorm living, looking at the unique options you may have when determining where you’ll be spending most of your time come fall. (You may remember reading about college students demanding more from their dorms; it seems like schools are taking notice.)

One article in The New York Times took a look at dorm rooms that came with “bragging rights” and an air of celebrity about them. While wait lists for them are typically high, some students discover only after they’ve moved in that they’re bunking in the same space as a former politician, celebrity, or historical figure. Princeton University in particular has quite a few of these famous spaces—Michelle Obama had a single room there, and four freshmen currently live in Adlai E. Stevenson’s old room. (The school razed the building where James Stewart spent his evenings.) Yale University boasts Anderson Cooper’s and Paul Giamatti’s old rooms. While colleges are often hesitant to disclose where famous alums lived while attending their schools, the article suggests it’s not too hard to figure out using old yearbooks, and the Times piece alone discloses quite a few of the celebs’ previous addresses.

For those who would rather bring a furry friend from home to college than boast of their rooms’ history, a number of colleges have become more amendable to allowing students to bring the family pet to live with them in the dorms. Another recent Times article took a look at the trend, as colleges begin setting aside dorms specifically for pet owners. The dorms include daycare facilities for when students are in class—although hours are limited to prevent pet neglect—and other amenities staffed by work-study students interested in working with animals. According to that article, about a dozen colleges currently have policies allowing pets access to the dorms. Typically, the policies are limited to cats and small- to average-sized dogs.

What kinds of things will you be considering when you’re ready to make your housing choice? Are you looking for a more traditional dorm room experience, without the frills or additional options now offered by colleges?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Although many students are able to complete their associate degrees in two years, a number of community colleges are looking to shorten students’ time at their institutions even further. The changes at one school alone have included moving from semesters to trimesters, shortening courses from 16 to 14 weeks, and offering more options for degree completion in the summer, when most schools offer fewer classes than in the fall and spring terms.

An article this week in Inside Higher Ed suggests more community colleges are looking to meet the call from the Obama administration and organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to get students out in the real world with degrees before they drop out. President Obama is placing great weight on the power of community colleges to double the number of graduates in the United States by 2020.

At Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, for example, all students are able to earn an associate degree in just 14-16 months if they complete one course every two weeks under the school’s trimester system. According to Inside Higher Ed, about a quarter of the students there have been graduating in a shorter amount of time. Lower Columbia College will introduce a program called the “Transfer Express” this fall. Students in the program will be able to earn an associate degree in one year. You may also remember that Ivy Tech Community College will offer a pilot program come fall to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support. Students will be able to earn their degrees in one year if they commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day-a-week school schedule.

So what’s the incentive to community colleges to move students through faster? Doesn’t it hurt their bottom line? According to Inside Higher Ed, students in accelerated programs are more likely to graduate—and less likely to drop out—than those who may be going to school at a less break-neck pace. Allowing students to finish traditionally two-year programs in a year or a little over also opens up room at community colleges for more students to enroll, a significant advantage when a number of two-year schools are having accommodating an increase in applicants.

Accelerated programs aren’t for everyone, though. Students who have no plans to drop out of school may find the pace too challenging, and consider leaving programs for a more traditional two-year program. Some students will also need additional, remedial instruction in introductory courses that have no place in accelerated programs. If you’re interested though, it could be a decent money-saver for you, as many schools that offer the programs do so with tuition discounts attached.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you’re an incoming freshman new to the idea of communal living, there’s something you should know. You may not be instant best friends with your new roommate. Random pairings are just that: random. And a recent article in The New York Times describes just how bad new undergraduates have gotten at managing even the minutest problems. 

According to the article, students are getting more passive aggressive, using technology and social networking to vent rather than confronting an annoying roommate. One director of housing says students text one another while they’re in the same room rather than talking out a disagreement. Or their complaints will go “public” via Facebook, with the other roommate finding out on the website that there’s trouble brewing in their living space. Students won’t even tell noisy dorm-mates to quiet down, according to a recent focus group at North Carolina State University.

Another problem is more parents getting involved in the conflicts, rather than the students handling their roommate issues themselves, according to the article. Most colleges have mediation services or resident advisers at the ready to handle these problems, but few students take advantage.

But there are ways to make a mismatch work. If you’re aware of the common roommate problems before you move in, like borrowing personal items without the roommate’s permission or messy living habits, you may be more prepared to handle them. If you think you may be the problem, it may be time for a bit of self-reflection. It’s probably not a bad idea, for example, to learn how to not eat food that isn’t yours. 

If it gets really bad, most colleges have systems in place that allow students to swap out their roommates. At Loyola University in Chicago, students are able to move out of their rooms if they find other students to trade places with them, according to the Times article. The school gives unhappy roommates a little help with organized “swap nights,” where they are able to meet other students looking for improved living situations. The University of Florida has introduced the Facebook tool RoomBug as a move away from random assignments. The application allows students to give more detailed responses on what they’d like to see in a roommate, and to match themselves with profiles they feel may be a good fit. Whatever your situation, don’t take a failed roommate situation too personally. By sophomore year, more than 70 percent of freshman year roommates are no longer living together, choosing instead to bunk with friends they make freshman year.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A college freshman goes through a wide range of emotions when it's time to leave home. Many are a little nervous, but mostly excited, with a laundry list of things to do before they're able to relax about their first round of courses. It's probably for the best then for parents to get back on the road and leave new freshmen to their orientations and campus exploring, right? For some parents, seeing their first son or daughter go to away to college has been harder than most.

A recent article in The New York Times took a look programs at colleges across the country that aim to make the transition easier for both incoming freshmen and their parents. According to the article, a formal “Parting Ceremony” at Morehouse College involves literally shutting the gate to the campus as the newly enrolled are left on one side, their parents on the other. At Colgate and Princeton universities, school officials are quick to remind parents that student-only activities start the afternoon or early evening of move-in day. At Grinnell College, a formal welcoming from the school’s president keeps parents on one side of the college gym, students on the other.

The article is one of several lately on “helicopter parents,” or moms and dads who can’t help but involve themselves in every aspect of their children’s lives. While moving day may be an important milestone for college students to share with their parents, especially if they’re the only child, it’s also important for parents to realize that this is their freshman’s first taste of independence. And they won’t learn how to be self-sufficient if mom and dad are hovering.

A recent article in The Chicago Tribune looked at how technology has made helicopter parenting even easier, leading with the story of a 19-year-old college sophomore who has a frequent texting relationship with her mother back home. Administrators say constant communication becomes a problem when parents start taking the lead on their children’s schedules and social lives. According to the Tribune article, some call to remind their sons and daughters about upcoming exams or other deadlines, and are the first point of contact when laundry issues or conflicts with other students and professors arise.

Having a close relationship with your parents is great, but it’s also important to use college as a period of self-discovery. Set up boundaries (do you really need to be Facebook friends with mom and dad?) and make sure that you’re taking advantage of your first stab at independence. And worse comes to worse, you can always study abroad.


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by Agnes Jasinski

While you’re unpacking a semester’s worth of your belongings in your shared dorm room, there are other recent high school graduates packing up for different adventures—volunteer experiences abroad, internships across the country, or backpacking trips through Europe. These students are taking a “gap year,” or time off from the traditional college experience.

The gap year is a popular option in Europe, where students opt out of university-level coursework in favor of experiences they feel will make them wiser and more independent. But the idea has also grown in popularity in the United States. USA Today announced a new blog this week from Mira Fishman, who will be leaving her home in Ann Arbor in three weeks not to go to college, but to volunteer abroad. She’ll spend six months in Buenos Aires at a nonprofit, then another six months in a “grittier city.” She hopes to improve upon her Spanish and boost her resume, and as her plans were worked out independently rather than through the dozens of organized gap year programs out there, she hopes to keep to a strict budget.

Despite the high cost of organized gap year programs—some run up to $20,000 for the year—they’re also growing in popularity, especially among those who want a bit more structure to their gap year. Such programs promise a support network for gap year students, and experiences that are crafted to the interests of the student. Students like Fishman, however, may prefer a gap year that requires more independence and responsibility. An article several years ago in USA Today described “gappers” who completed internships at software start-ups, explored careers to clarify what they’d like to do in college before enrolling, and learned life skills at manual labor jobs. (One student interviewed worked as a deckhand on a “floating classroom” in Baltimore.)

Taking time off may also be an option for those who weren’t able to get in to the school of their choice, although that time off may be spent becoming a more attractive candidate to that chosen college. The gap year then becomes more of a “bridge year,” where the college-bound look to enhance their applications by taking—and acing—courses at the local community college, volunteering, or pursuing internships in their intended fields of study. Bridge years also exist for those already admitted to college; at Princeton University, officials have introduced a bridge year program for admitted students where they pursue service work abroad before coming to campus the following year.

Are you taking a gap year? What are the pros and cons of taking time off before committing to college? Are traditional study abroad programs through your college the right way to go if you're looking to go overseas? Tell us your stories!


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A New Facebook in Town?

August 31, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Looks like there’s a new facebook in town. Sort of. Apparently trying to recapture what the aforementioned site once offered, namely exclusivity to college students, is the new site CollegeOnly.com. It’s really not a bad idea, either, if you think about it. Sure, facebook really took off and their numbers skyrocketed as a result of their opening-up their site and services to the general public, but at what price? Or, at what price to students, I should say. It worked out pretty well for facebook. I mean, does it really make sense to jettison users of your site once they reach a particular age or social status? With regard to site traffic, less is never more.

Several years ago, students could go online and post photos from frat parties and, basically, be college students without fear of their parents, employers, etc. seeing them, for example. Sure, facebook allows you to adjust your privacy settings and sure, you don’t have to accept every friend request you get, but it could be a bit awkward to get an invite from an employer, parent, aunt, etc. with whom you really don’t want to be facebook “friends” for the above-mentioned reasons.

Having only glanced at the site (don’t currently have a “.edu” email address), I can’t go into much more detail, other than to say the clipart on the home page is certainly an interesting choice. Regardless of your gender or preference there’s a plunging neckline there for you. Enjoy.


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Final Exams - The New Health Risk?

Grandmothers Be Advised

September 28, 2010

Final Exams - The New Health Risk?

by Suada Kolovic

The life of the average college student is riddled with papers, mid-terms, all-nighters and of course the untimely tragic death of beloved family members come finals week. Just days into the fall semester, professors say excuses for missing class have already begun to flow: food-borne illnesses, fender-benders, religious holidays, roommate squabbles, registration snafus.

Then there are the grandparents, those poor souls conveniently killed off by college students whose tuition they might even be paying. One commenter on a Chronicle Forums thread on student excuses suggests sending out warning notices to the old folks: "The midterm exam for [course and number] is scheduled for [date]. This puts your life in danger. We recommend that you get a physical exam before that date and avoid all unnecessary travel until the test is over. Grandmothers are particularly at risk."

It happens to the best of us. We’re ill-prepared, panic and give the first excuse our minds can muster. Honesty may be the best policy, but below are a few of the most creative excuses from students who decided to steer away from the classics and put their own special spin on explaining their absence:

  • "My father owns a liquor store and we got a big delivery right before your 11:00 class."
  • "I was absent for yesterday's test because my girlfriend was having a baby."
  • This one is verbatim: "I am really sorry I was not in class today. I some how came down with ammonia and have been really sick for the past 2 days."
  • E-mail just received from student who missed first two classes. Unfortunately it is a once-a-week three-hour block class, so she has missed two weeks of class: "I just found out I am registered for your Wednesday class. I didn't realize I was registered for it. Now that I've found out I'm registered, I would like to attend. Do you think I can still catch up? May I stop by your office and get the syllabus?" I wonder who registered her.

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