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by Emily

Think getting admitted to the local public university is just a numbers game? Think again. State colleges are increasingly adopting a holistic approach to college admissions, especially at more selective flagship institutions. While applicants with high GPA's and standardized test scores are still likely to easily gain admittance, students more towards the middle of the pack may want to be aware of this growing trend in enrollment.

The holistic approach means that colleges are aiming to consider the whole applicant, not just his or her grades and test scores, in the admissions process. This information often includes such things as the student's background, the type of school he or she attended, and the student's employment and extracurricular activities. Participation in athletics, volunteering and community service, or school clubs could all work to a student's advantage under a holistic approach.

How schools collect this additional information about applicants varies, but it's likely to mean a longer and more complicated college application process. For many schools, this has meant adding sections to the application or asking for more, longer, or less formal application essays. For others, it could involve looking more closely at letters of recommendation or beginning to ask for them when they hadn't previously. College admission officials are also contacting high school counselors to ask questions about applicants that may not have been answered by their college application.

There are some significant benefits to this process. Students who have taken a less traditional path through high school may find their applications considered more favorably. Another upside of colleges looking more closely at the whole student comes with the question of "fit." Applicants admitted to institutions with a more holistic approach may find themselves happier at the college they ultimately attend, as their interests and their institution's focus may match more closely than if they'd been admitted based solely on the results of a formula.

If you are applying to a state college or a private college this year, you may want to take a holistic approach to your application, treating each section as if it's going to be read with a critical eye. Students who have little to show for their high school experience other than decent grades and test scores could potentially find themselves turned down by their top choice schools, but students who can demonstrate the full depth of their value could see big returns.


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by Emily

College admission practices are often points of contention, especially when tricky issues like race, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned. Colleges worry about trying to promote diversity and give students a fair chance in their admission practices and other parties worry about practices potentially shortchanging students. Based on some of these concerns, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate allegations of gender bias in admission practices at selective colleges. The concern: in order to preserve male-to-female ratios on campus, colleges are being less selective in admitting male students than in admitting female students.

In recent decades, women have begun to thrive in higher education, making up a significantly larger share of undergraduate students, bachelor's degree recipients, and master's degree students than men. Postsecondary Education Opportunity data shows that currently there are 77 men in college for every 100 women, and 73 male bachelor's degree recipients for every 100 female graduates. While gender gaps still persist within specific fields, including traditionally male-dominated disciplines like engineering and computer science, overall women are coming to college in droves and doing well once they arrive.

This trend shows no sign of reversing and has some worried that men will become increasingly underrepresented in higher education, while simultaneously work opportunities contract in traditionally male-dominated fields that don't require degrees. Schools and other organizations are beginning to address these concerns. For example, a conference panel last month addressed some of the moves being undertaken to encourage more young men to attend college and persist to a degree.

The Commission on Civil Rights inquiry is intended to see if practices are going beyond encouraging young men to enroll and have actually moved into the territory of discriminating against women in admission by admitting a smaller percentage of female applicants and being more selective in admitting women than men. This practice, while possibly unethical at private colleges, would be illegal at state colleges. So far, there hasn't been sufficient evidence to support this theory, with the majority of admission officers recently saying they don't consider gender as an important criterion in college admission, leaving some wondering if the inquiry is entirely necessary. Information subpoenaed from colleges in the Washington, D.C. area should help the commission determine whether reality reflects reporting.

Adding in another level of controversy and drawing a great deal of criticism to the investigation is the strong focus on athletics in the text of the proposal for the investigation. The theory behind it seems to be that Title IX, the federal regulation designed to prevent sex discrimination--most visibly by mandating that men's and women's sports are equally represented in public schools--is preventing men from enrolling in college by limiting their opportunities for athletic involvement. Of all the directions the investigation could take, this certainly seems to be an unusual one, and on the surface it seems to present some problematic and likely inaccurate assumptions about gender. The investigation gets underway this month, so a clearer sense of direction may emerge as time goes on.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While so far it appears that the recession has not had a negative impact on students' desire to go to college, it may be affecting their ability to get there, or at least to get into their school of choice.

State colleges have endured some significant budget cuts in the last year, while also coping with an increased demand for student financial aid and drops in endowments and donations. These circumstances have left schools scrambling to find additional sources of funding to meet everyday expenses and deal with increased demand. To mitigate tuition increases, many state colleges, especially public flagship universities, have begun to admit more out-of-state and international students. These students pay higher tuition, often without significant help from university scholarships, meaning more revenue for the university and lower costs for the in-state students attending.

This is a win-win situation for colleges and out-of-state students, who are more likely than ever to get into their dream school thanks to these new policies. One example is the College of William and Mary, where the out-of-state admission rate has risen from 22 percent of applicants in 2007 to 30 percent in 2009. While out-of-state admission is still significantly more competitive than in-state, students who are able to pay non-resident tuition at public flagship universities may see more success in 2010 than previous years.

However, with more seats being filled by out-of-state students, in-state students are at a disadvantage. At the same time as admissions ratios are being adjusted, more students are applying to in-state schools to take advantage of relatively reasonable tuition costs, especially where a low price corresponds with a top-rate education.

Where competition is fierce and seats and scholarships are limited, students who had been planning on attending their state's public flagship may want to cast a wider net in their college search. Consider a private college-some in California are offering substantial scholarships to students who would otherwise have attended a state college-or think about putting in a year or two at community college first. You may also find a less expensive, but still highly respected, option in a branch campus of a flagship, or in another state college nearby.  It may even be possible to transfer to your dream college later, as more and more university systems and community colleges develop agreements for how credits will transfer between schools.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has chosen 19 schools across the country that it will investigate for instances of gender bias in the admissions process. The schools were chosen based on their proximity to Washington, D.C., with an eye toward making sure the list was a mix of the different kinds of liberal arts public and private four-year institutions.

The commission began its inquiry into whether colleges were being more selective when considering female applicants in November. Why is this happening now? Female enrollment has grown steadily over the years, with about 58 percent of bachelor's degrees being awarded to women, and there has been some concern that men have been given some admissions preference over women as the number of female applicants continues to rise.

The issue has been made even more controversial due to its link to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. The law has been most often applied to athletics, as it mandates that men and women are equally represented on sports teams at these institutions. Advocates for female athletes have grown concerned over the inquisition, as it could raise questions about Title IX and whether the legislation is even still needed because the number of women in higher education has grown so significantly.

Perhaps the real question, however, is why the number of men enrolling in college has decreased. A focus on liberal arts colleges in this investigation could point to the fact that fewer men are interested in liberal arts educations, preferring instead technical or research universities or institutions that have proven backgrounds in male-dominated fields like engineering. Regardless, the results of the investigation should at least answer some questions as to whether gender bias is as prevalent as the commission believes, if women are being treated unfairly, and if there need to be changes made on the federal level regarding legislation to prevent inappropriate admissions practices.

The schools receiving subpoenas include the following: Georgetown University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Shepherd University, Virginia Union University, Gettysburg College, Goldey-Beacom College, Goucher College, Messiah College, Washington Colleges, Catholic University of America, Loyola College in Maryland, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, York College of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, and the University of Richmond. All of the schools were chosen based on their location and how representative they would be in the sample with the exception of the University of Richmond, which has been criticized extensively for reports of gender bias in its admissions policies.


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by Agnes Jasinski

For the first time in history - or in admissions officials' memories - Yale University has offered admission to a set of quadruplets. Ray, Kenny, Carol, and Martina Crouch of Danbury High School in Connecticut haven't yet decided whether they'll be attending the Ivy League school, but they've already made history just by receiving those acceptance letters.

In an article in The New York Times recently, the quadruplets describe being shocked by the news. While they were all hoping for that best-case-scenario of all being admitted to Yale, they were ready for at most one of their brothers or sisters being admitted, and the awkward scenarios that would follow. Jeffrey Benzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, called the quadruplets' applications "terrific," and that the school hoped they would attend.

The quadruplets have all also applied to the University of Connecticut and a number of other institutions separately. In the New York Times article, they describe the pros and cons of all attending the same school. “It might be fun to go somewhere where I’m not ‘one of the quads,'" said Kenny, who has also applied to Princeton University, Williams College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The cost of attending an elite private university is also a large factor. The kinds of financial aid the quadruplets receive from each school they've applied to could very well make their decisions for them.

The New York Times' education blog The Choice revisited the quadruplets' story this week after a number of comments from readers over the weekend suggested that the siblings only gained admission to Yale based on their minority status. (Their mother is Nigerian, and their father is white and from Connecticut.) Their applications, however, were solid. According to the New York Times article, their class ranks ranged from 13 out of a class of 632 (Kenny) to 46 (Martina). They also had impressive standardized test scores. Carol scored a perfect 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A recent analysis by the Associated Press (AP) shows that student-athletes are 10 times more likely than non-athletes to gain admission to their intended colleges and universities through a "special admissions" process. The special admissions refer to allowing students to attend a school on criteria outside of what is typically judged by admissions officials, such as grades and standardized test scores. Put more simply, if you're a stellar athlete with grades that aren't so stellar, you're more likely to gain admittance to an institution of higher education than your less athletic peers.

The analysis identified more than 25 schools, including Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama, where admissions requirements were bent significantly in favor of athletes. According to the AP, at the University of Alabama, 19 football players got in as part of a special admissions program from 2004 to 2006, the most recent years available in admissions data submitted to the NCAA by most of the 120 schools in college football's top tier. The AP got the information using open record laws. Ten schools did not respond to the AP's request, and 18 other schools, including the University of Notre Dame and the University of Southern California, declined to release their admissions data.

Coaches contacted for the AP story justified the special admissions on the basis that other students with special talents - musicians, for example, or gifted dancers - are also judged based on those talents. "Some people have ability and they have work ethic and really never get an opportunity," the University of Alabama's coach Nick Saban said in the article.

So do you buy it? The AP article suggests there isn't anything inherently wrong with special admissions, until it leads to student-athletes being admitted to schools they aren't prepared to attend. Should NCAA admissions criteria be more lax then? Student-athletes participating in NCAA sports are expected to not only have a minimum GPA and decent standardized test scores, but to maintain those qualifications while on a team. Those admitted for their special skills may not be ready for the rigors involved in maintaining a certain academic standard, or more generally, keeping to a rigorous academic schedule. What do you think? Should certain groups of students be offered "special admissions," or should standards remain the same across the board?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Yale  University is playing on the popularity of the tween classic "High School Musical" with a new spot from its admissions - a peppy, somewhat cheesy music video that offers would-be applicants the answer to "That's Why I Chose Yale."

The video, which clocks in at around 15 minutes, starts off safe, with an admissions official discussing what makes Yale stand out above the rest as potential students and their parents look on. That same admissions official, while thinking of an answer to a prospective student's question with a wry smile, breaks out into song. What follows is campy, but it does make the Ivy League institution seem a little less stuffy. There's choreographed dancing in addition to the singing, along with a cameo from NBC news anchor Brian Williams, whose daughter attends Yale. The administrators love it, saying that an effort by students (only current students and alums participated in the making of the video) captures the spirit of the school better than any marketing professional could do. Many students love it, saying that the cheesiness of it makes it cool.

Not everyone has had a positive response to the video. One blogger described the video as "That's Why I Chose to Ram a Soldering Iron into My Ears" instead, calling the effort too earnest. The Yale Herald, while it admitted that the musical romp was fun to watch, especially for those currently at Yale who may recognize familiar faces, suggested the video may do little to entice new applicants not already interesting in the school.  Comments on the story about the video on the Yale Daily News range from "this is so embarrassing" to this: "Next year's class is going to be devoid of any serious academic talent. What a huge sap on our prestige."

What do you think? Are there any Yale students out there who like or dislike the video? Most would agree it's at least better than the effort from Harvard University last year, "Harvard by the Numbers." Let us know what you think, and whether these kinds of efforts hurt or help admissions.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The Washington-based American Council on Education (ACE) released figures today that while female undergraduates continue to outnumber men at community and four-year colleges, that gender gap has begun to level off. According to the report, "Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010," the percentage of undergraduate men at community colleges and four-year institutions remained between 42 and 44 percent between the 1995-1996 and the 2007-2008 academic years.

Exceptions remain among Hispanic undergraduates, where the men continue to lag behind the women when it comes to enrolling in college. The percentage of male Hispanic students 24 or younger enrolled in undergraduate programs fell from 45 to 42 percent between 1999 and 2007. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, the reports suggests this can be explained by the large number of Hispanic males who are also immigrants, making it more difficult to get in and pay for college costs. Less than half of Hispanic male immigrants who live in the United States complete high school.

So why has the gender gap stabilized among all of the other student populations? Jacqueline E. King, the assistant vice president of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and the author of the study, said in Inside Higher Ed that this was the "new normal," and that the stabilization was a good thing. She also warned that the data that will account for the 2008-2009 could be different, however, as the recession may have caused some effects to college enrollments. (Only time will tell, but anecdotal evidence suggests more men have been enrolling in college in the difficult economy, perhaps as a response to lay-offs or to sharpen their skills in a tough job market.)

Prior to the report, some organizations had suggested more attention be paid to the low numbers of men enrolling in higher education, proposing types of affirmative action programs to get more men onto college campuses. Since then, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights began an inquiry to determine whether men were in fact getting preferential treatment. The ongoing gender bias investigation has targeted 19 schools across the country.

Sure, some women now boast that they're the breadwinners of their households, but disparities remain once you look beyond those undergraduate figures. While men are less likely to go to college than women, and even return to college later in life, men still lead in the number of PhD and MD degrees awarded and pull in larger salaries, perhaps because they dominate high-paying fields like engineering and computer science. Inside Higher Ed also suggests the most attention should be paid to minority applicants, as many of the men who struggle academically or choose not to enroll in college come from minority backgrounds.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The University of California is planning to place some incoming freshmen on wait lists for the 2010 academic year to address uncertainties in the state's higher education budget. This would be the first time in history that the university system is considering a wait list, and more than 1,000 students may be affected by the change.

According to an article in The Daily Californian, the wait list would allow the school to be flexible in the number of students it enrolls for the upcoming school year. Enrollment numbers may change depending on state funding available; the decision to increase enrollments is dependent on the more than $51 million in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget. That $51 million would fund 5,121 out of around 14,000 currently unfunded enrollments. Last month, Schwarzenegger proposed restoring $370 million to the university in his budget, and also proposed a a constitutional amendment that would earmark at least 10 percent of the state's general fund to higher education.

Wait lists are typically more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students' decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher. An interview with Nina Robinson, the university’s director of student policy and external affairs, in the New York Times last week, looked at the unstable environment at schools across the state of California, and what a wait list could mean for students looking to attend colleges there.

Robinson said the wait lists would help the school hit their enrollment numbers without over-enrolling students, which has contributed to budget shortfalls. "It’s one thing to over-enroll 100 students if you’re going to get the funding for them anyway, but now if you’re adding 100 students and you‘re already over enrolled 1,000 students, that’s a serious problem," she said in the interview. Robinson also suggested a wait list may lead applicants to think space at the University of California is more scarce, allowing them to plan accordingly and apply to more "Plan B" schools.

Whether this would be a temporary change or a more permanent one is difficult to tell. California's financial woes go far deeper than over-enrollment at the University of California, and the lack of state support up to this point has made it difficult for the university system to avoid fee increases - the state's Board of Regents approved a fee increase that would raise costs by at least $2,500, or 32 percent - and turning away transfer students. Whether those students placed on a wait list face a good chance to eventually gain admission to the school is also difficult to tell, and largely dependent on the state's budget, something administrators won't know until well into the fall semester. Typically, a student’s odds of getting admitted off a wait list is about 1 in 3. If you're concerned about your chances, or if you intend to attend the University of California, it may not be a bad idea to expand that college search.


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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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