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The Evolution of College Admissions

Eight Changes Geared to Weeding Out the Wheelers

November 16, 2010

The Evolution of College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

You all remember Adam Wheeler, right? If not, he’s the kid who lied his way into Harvard and Stanford and made a mockery of the college admissions process along the way. Though his actions were definitely considered, what Wheeler did is just part of the reason why these two schools – and many others – are revising their admissions rules to ensure only the most honest and qualified candidates get in.

According to a U.S. News and World Report article, eight major changes are afoot, ranging from limiting the time admissions counselors spend reviewing each application and relying less on recommendations to setting earlier deadlines and placing more emphasis on the application essay. Each modification is twofold: It will expedite the process for admissions committees and separate the truly worthy applicants from the ones trying to game the system.

The more noteworthy changes include the diminished emphasis on high school class rank. Where a student stood amongst his or her peers used to be quite weighted but a survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) found that from 1993 to 2009, its importance dropped from a “considerable” 42 percent to 15 percent with admissions officers. Also changing in prominence is the emphasis on high-caliber coursework, even through senior year. The rationale? Students who take more rigorous courses in high school have a higher likelihood of collegiate success. Think you’re a shoo-in because you got all A’s in moderate classes while your best friend pulled B’s in her honors and AP courses? Hate to break it to you, but your buddy is the better candidate for admission. Senioritis is no longer tolerated, either: Last year, the University of Washington withdrew 27 offers of admission of students who goofed off too much during senior year. Lastly, quality control is through the roof thanks to Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism software that scans essays for similar or identical phrases found on millions of websites, articles and books. Sorry, Wheeler wannabes.

The full article is pretty interesting (view it here), as is the united front these schools have created to ward off scammers and slackers. If you’re just applying this year, do you think these changes will affect your chances? And if you are currently in college or have already graduated, would you be where you are now if these regulations existed when you applied?

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From Hogwarts to Harvard

How Would “Potter” Characters Fare in College Admissions?

November 19, 2010

From Hogwarts to Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

After you rub the sleep out of your eyes left over from the midnight “Deathly Hallows” showing, consider this: How well does Hogwarts prepare its students for college? Well, we Muggles would have some definite competition if our applications went head-to-head with Harry Potter's, Hermione Granger's and Ron Weasley's before They Which Shall Not Be Named (aka admissions committees).

First, there’s Harry. From losing many people he loved – parents, godfather, mentor and friends – to having the Dark Lord trying to kill him at every turn, his application essay would tug at the heartstrings but also reveal a young man able to succeed against all odds. He’s as skilled with a quill as he is with a wand and admissions committees would be impressed with his ability to work with others toward a common goal. He’d gain admission because he’d be an asset to any department (I’m thinking his major would be chemistry or political science), study group and, obviously, the Quidditch team.

Next, Hermione obviously has the brains and could dominate the SATs or ACTs just like she owned the O.W.L.s…but what about extracurriculars? In her case, wizarding and witchery definitely count as community service and her compassion for oppressed individuals (mudbloods, ogres, elves, etc.) hints at possible careers in social work, nursing or medicine. Maybe the actress portraying her can put in a good word with the dean at Brown, though Ms. Granger would surely gain admission on her own merit. She wouldn’t have it any other way!

Lastly, we have Ron. As one of seven Weasley kids, Ron knows a thing or two about standing out in a crowd…even if he does so while wearing his older brothers’ hand-me-downs. His athletic skills may garner a scholarship or two but admissions committees will be most impressed with his essay, which would detail his problem solving skills and loyalty demeanor. His innate investigative skills are top notch and could easily translate into aced journalism and criminal justice classes. And don’t worry, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley: Not only will Ron get in but he’s also going to get an excellent financial aid package!

Though Harry, Hermione and Ron won’t be applying for a spot at your dream school, other students possessing equally impressive skills and backgrounds will so it’s important to make your college application memorable. We’ve got plenty of tips on the college application process throughout our site as well as strategies for winning valuable scholarships. Hurry, though: Application deadlines are approaching faster than the Hogwarts Express!

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Scholarship of the Week: STOP Hunger Scholarships

January 31, 2011

Scholarship of the Week: STOP Hunger Scholarships

by Suada Kolovic

The Sodexo Foundation seeks applicants for the STOP Hunger Scholarships to recognize students in the fight against hunger in America. More than 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger and Sodexo, Inc. is committed to working toward a hunger-free nation. The STOP Hunger Scholarships recognize and reward students who have made a significant impact in the fight against hunger and its root causes in the United States.

Each national STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient receives a $5,000 scholarship and a matching $5,000 donation to their affiliated hunger relief organization. Added consideration is given to those students working to combat childhood hunger.

Applications are available to students from kindergarten through graduate school. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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How Much Is The Application Fee?!

Top 25 Highest Application Fees

January 21, 2011

by Suada Kolovic

Sure, we’ve discussed the skyrocketing cost of college tuition on a daily basis and considering every other add-on you’ll have to endure when it comes to paying for collegeroom and board, books and supplies – having to pay an outrageous application fee is downright cruel.

According to a U.S. News report, the average application fee to apply to colleges is $38.44 and $46.78 at universities, which is a steal compared to the fees charged by the institutions listed below. Of the 1,474 undergraduate programs that supplied application fee data, only 39 claimed to have no fee. And for those schools that did have fees, many waived them for students with financial need or for those who applied online, U.S. News also reported. Check out the list below and share your thoughts. Let us know if these hefty fees will ultimately decide where you’ll apply.

National University Application Fee
Stanford University $90
Columbia University $80
Boston University $75
Brown University $75
Duke University $75
Drexel University $75
George Mason University $75
Harvard University $75
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $75
University of Delaware $75
University of Pennsylvania $75
Yale University $75
Boston College $70
Carnegie Mellon University $70
Cornell University $70
Dartmouth College $70
Hofstra University $70
Johns Hopkins University $70
Lehigh University $70
North Carolina State University-Raleigh $70
Northeastern University $70
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute $70
Syracuse University $70
Tufts University $70
University of Connecticut $70


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The Far-Too-Common Application

Advocates Displeased with Rejection of New Questions

January 26, 2011

The Far-Too-Common Application

by Alexis Mattera

Can you remember the first time someone asked you to think outside the box? Whether it was for a homework assignment, a science fair project or college admissions essay, you probably noticed taking this creative approach was appreciated – and earned you an A, a medal or admission – but sometimes, unfortunately, the status quo wins.

This scenario was recently echoed by the Common Application’s board when it rejected a proposal to add optional questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization – which recently added a LGBT category in the activities section for students who participate in gay-straight alliances in high school – said the questions could "pose problems" now and though it left the possibility of addition open in the future, advocates are none too pleased with the message that’s being sent to the students applying to the 414 colleges that accept the Common App…especially Shane L. Windmeyer.

Windmeyer, the founder of Campus Pride, a national group that works on behalf of gay students and sponsors college fairs at which gay students can meet college representatives, believes the Common App organization is "acting like a parent of the 1950s" because the proposed questions would not be an issue: Since they would be optional, any applicant uncomfortable with them could elect not to answer; he also said a second gender question following birth certificate information would allow colleges to meet reporting requirements while accommodating all gender identities.

You can read more from both sides here but the fact of the matter is this: Many students go to college to find themselves but when they can’t even find a way to identify themselves on the application, is that school really where they want to be?

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Your Score’s in the Mail...or Not

One Hundred High School Seniors’ ACT Results Lost

February 3, 2011

Your Score’s in the Mail...or Not

by Suada Kolovic

What three letters can inspire fear and loathing in the hearts of high school juniors and seniors nationwide? Depending on the region you live in, the answer is either the SAT or ACT. After a tense afternoon of test-taking, the last thing students want to think about is having to take the test again but for a group of Oakland high school seniors, that was their only option because ACT lost 100 of their test scores. According to ABC Local News, the standardized test scores were lost in the mail. ACT informed the affected students of the mishap on part of the organization and said they’d waive the fee for the February test dates. The problem: Some admissions decisions are due by March, so it may be too late for these applicants to be considered by some schools.

A spokesperson for ACT told ABC that the affected students have been “urged to contact the college(s) and inform them of the situation. The students may provide the college a copy of the letter they received from ACT regarding the need for the retest.” The spokesperson added that colleges are usually flexible when such a mistakes occur…and this isn’t the first “mishap” on the part of ACT either: Back in August, a handful of students didn’t receive their marks for months due to postal slip ups and yet here we are once again.

Snail mail is beyond outdated; aren’t there better ways to receive your test scores? ACT, have you heard of e-mail? To those of you who just received your test scores, how would you feel if this happened to you?

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Want to Know the Likelihood a College Will Accept You? There’s an App for That!

February 9, 2011

Want to Know the Likelihood a College Will Accept You? There’s an App for That!

by Suada Kolovic

There’s an app for just about everything these days, so it’s about time that there’s one that will help students determine how likely they are to be admitted at their school of choice. The Facebook application, AdmissionSplash, asks students to submit a personal profile including quantitative and qualitative characteristics, such as test scores, grades and extra-curricular activities, which colleges consider when making admissions decisions. Then the program enters that information into a complex algorithm to predict the student’s chance of getting into any of the 1,500 colleges currently included.

According to tests conducted at UCLA and NYU, AdmissionSplash founders looked at three sets of students – 88 and 73 from UCLA and 75 from NYU – and found that the app was able to accurately predict admissions decisions for 85, 91 and 97 percent from each group, respectively. AdmissionSplash co-founder Allen Gannett views the application as a more-personalized college guide book, calling it “a really good tool for narrowing down your choices,” but is quick to point out that students should not rely on it as a sole indicator. Gannet believes the app will help students navigate through the stressful application process and hopes to develop a program that will predict admission chances for law, medical, business and grad school applicants.

High school seniors, are you downloading this app to help you with your application process? Let us know what you think.

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The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

Applications, Diversity and Competition are Up at Many Schools

February 14, 2011

The Pros and Cons of International Recruiting

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve found your dream college. The place where you’ll not only obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world but will make personal connections and precious memories to last a lifetime. As you take the appropriate standardized tests, schedule an interview with a member of the admissions committee and make sure your applications are in on time, you can’t help but begin counting the days until your acceptance letter arrives. The only problem is that you’re not the only one thinking these thoughts: Your competition has increased thanks to many colleges’ upping their marketing efforts abroad, specifically in China, to increase diversity on campus. And you thought finding a valentine was hard.

According to the New York Times, American institutions are seeing surges in applications from China, where a booming economy means more parents can turn their children’s dreams of American higher education into realities. At Grinnell College in rural Iowa, for example, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China. These applicants also display high test scores and exemplary grades but lack command of the English language (some families even hire agents to pen application essays) and access to Advanced Placement courses, making it difficult for the school’s 11-member admissions committee to determine who gets big envelopes and who doesn’t because they cannot be judged using the same standards as American applicants.

The confounding variables do not cease there – Grinnell is "need-blind" when considering American students but is "need aware" for international students, meaning an applicant could have an edge if he or she does not need financial aid and can pay full tuition – but the school does appear to be selecting the right applicants: About 84 percent of students who enroll graduate in four years and double major in subjects including math, science and economics. Do you think there should be different standards for U.S. and international students applying to college? Would you rather have greater diversity in your classes or a better chance of gaining admission to your first-choice school? Does this information impact the schools you'll put on wish list?

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DePaul Joins the Test Optional Club

University Says Standardized Testing is Out, Essays are In

February 18, 2011

DePaul Joins the Test Optional Club

by Alexis Mattera

Standardized testing is as much – if not more – a part of the college process as dancing when the fat envelope arrives, Facebooking your new roommate and shopping for extra-long twin sheets. That will no longer be the case for DePaul University applicants for the freshman class entering in 2012 because the Chicago school has announced its plans to make the reporting SAT and ACT scores optional.

But don’t start shredding your test prep materials into confetti just yet: Students choosing not to submit ACT or SAT scores will be required to write short responses to essay questions designed to measure "noncognitive" traits, such as leadership, commitment to service, and ability to meet long-term goals. These essays were introduced a few years ago and subsequent research convinced the admissions committee that the nontraditional measures did more than the ACT or SAT to predict the success of low-income and minority students at the university. Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management, said he wants to encourage applicants with high grade-point averages but relatively low standardized test scores to apply and believes the new method will allow his colleagues to better select applicants who are most likely to succeed and graduate.

DePaul is now the largest private university to join the FairTest list, joining Wake Forest as one of the most selective institutions to adopt test-optional policies. Do you think giving students the choice to report their scores will produce the results DePaul expects? What do you think is a better barometer of qualified applicants: test scores or essays?

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Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

Universities Take Wealth into Consideration When Selecting Students

February 23, 2011

Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

by Suada Kolovic

Is your dad a congressman or your mom a prominent surgeon? Do you have an uncle or aunt in the Senate? Well then, you’re in luck because the world is your oyster. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, more colleges, including Middlebury, Wake Forest, Williams and Tufts, are either taking applicants’ financial statuses into account or have been offering admission to wealthier students who can afford to pay tuition in full, while some public state universities are admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition rates.

Now this isn’t the shock of the century by any means – how do you think George W. Bush ended up at Yale? – but the truth of the matter is that universities, like the economy, are struggling financially. And how do they combat the financial strain? By granting admission to applicants who don’t need financial aid. What does this mean to you, future high school graduates? The more likely you’re willing to pay for your education in full, the more likely you’ll get in. Colleges stress that they're not lowering their admissions criteria and instead begin their admissions process as “need blind” – admitting students regardless of their ability to pay and suggest they only consider an applicant’s financial status later in the admissions process.

Let us know what you think. Is it fair for students to practically buy their way into college? Should schools be permitted to resort to such tactics when considering a student’s admission? Would you forgo applying for financial aid in hopes of boosting your chances of getting in?

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