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by Agnes Jasinski

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

While many students marked April 1 as the day they found out whether they were accepted or rejected to their first-choice colleges, many others were given a different response - placement to the waiting list. High school seniors are then faced with a tough decision. Should you take a risk and bank on placement at a school you're wait-listed at, even if you miss notification deadlines at schools you've been admitted to? Or should you cut your losses and inform the schools you've been wait-listed at that you'll be going elsewhere?

The waiting list generally benefits the colleges. The schools' administrators are able to wait until their own first-choice students make decisions on where they intend to attend, moving to those on the waiting list typically by May 1, once students' deadlines to notify the school of their choice have passed. The schools may also use the waiting list to fill gaps in their student population, according to The New York Times, offering eventual admittance to a student with a particular musical or athletic talent that the school had hoped to enroll in their first-choice pool.

Knowing this, it may seem like a risky endeavor to bet on a school choosing you out of the hundreds of other students on waiting lists. Still, many do choose to stay, especially at the most prestigious, private schools. At Yale University, for example, about two-thirds of students remain on the waiting list. (More than 900 were wait-listed at Yale this year.) Of those offered eventual admittance to Yale, a majority do choose to enroll there.

So what should you do? It really depends. Here are a few tips: 

     
  • If you know you won't be attending a school you're wait-listed at, notify them of your intentions right away. There's someone out there who does want that spot, and you may be keeping them from being placed at their top-choice school.
  •  
  • If you know you're sincerely interested in the school you're wait-listed at, let the school know that. Notify them immediately that you intend to wait for their decision, and send admissions staff a personal letter on why you want to go to that school. If they're your top choice, tell them. If you know any alumni from the school, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. This is the stage of the game where admissions officials are looking at every piece of information coming in on an applicant.
  •  
  • Ask for an interview. You wouldn't be wait-listed if you didn't have the academic credentials to attend their school, so the admissions office will now be looking at other factors - extracurricular activities, outside interests, and whether your personality is a good fit for their campus.
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 While waiting lists are 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, some schools have used the list as more of a strategy to deal with uncertainties in state budgets or over-enrollment. California's public university system is using waiting lists to deal with a record number of applicants this year and a state budget shortfall that has made it impossible for the school system to accept as many students as it had been admitting in year prior. This is the first time the state universities have used waiting lists, and students have until April 15 to remove their names from the lists or continue waiting until around the first week in June. Any new admittances will be determined by the outcome of the state's 2010-2011 budget negotiations.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, The Princeton Review has come up with a list of the 286 greenest colleges. The list is based on the notion that the environment has become so important to college students that some would base their college searches on whether or not a school is as concerned as they are about preserving the ecosystem.

The Princeton Review partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council to come up with the list, which gives colleges and universities a “Green Rating” based on their environmentally-related policies, practices, and academic offerings, according to the test prep company. The schools on the list include: Allegheny College, where 40 percent of the food budget is spent on local or organic food and 90 percent of the school grounds are maintained organically; Illinois State University, which opened a Center for Renewable Energy in 2008 and which holds an annual “Healthy You Healthy Earth” environmental fair; Lawrence University, which recently opened a new LEED-certified student center and campus garden that provides produce to the dining hall; and Mills College, which reuses or recycles more than 60 percent of its waste and is working to restore nearby Leona Creek and Lake Aliso as school-wide projects.

Each school that received a “Green Rating” in the 80s or 90s on a scale of 60-99 was included in the ranking, which explains the odd number of schools who made it on the list. While it’s difficult today to find a college that doesn’t feel some responsibility to preserve the environment through recycling or energy conservation programs (which can also save schools struggling to cope with budget shortfalls some money), the list went further than those basic safeguards to determine which schools included “green” thinking in their curricula and broad policies.

An article this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education was skeptical of the list, citing anecdotal evidence of student demands that are not all that “green.”Private rooms and bathrooms and well-equipped recreation and student centers, among other things that would in fact make a college less environmentally-friendly, often top students’ wish lists on what they need out of their college experience, according to the Chronicle article. What do you think? Do you agree that college students are more "green" these days? Would you base your decision on where you plan to go to college on a "Green Rating"?


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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

A recent survey of high school students found that students are not only ruling out certain schools based on “sticker price” alone, but that many also overestimate how much financial aid they will be receiving to attend the college of their choice.

According to the survey, the high school seniors who participated were starting their college searches with inaccurate information on financial aid basics, the net cost of college, and general comparison shopping. The findings came from “Student Poll,” an initiative from the College Board and the Art & Science Group marketing firm that polled more than 1,600 high school seniors between November 2009 and January 2010.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the survey suggested something needed to be done to address students’ perceptions on the costs of college. Although the federal government will soon require all schools to provide prospective students with net-tuition calculators that will offer those students a clearer picture on what they would pay in tuition after any scholarships and grants, many of the respondents in this survey said they were not using similar calculators already available. Of those who did use calculators, most came from wealthier families; students from low-income families were less likely to use them.

The survey also found the following:

  • Nearly 60 percent of students reported looking only at the sticker price of an institution before taking financial aid into account; 28 percent had considered the net tuition price of a school after taking into account what they might receive in financial aid.
  • Related to parents’ influence on college choice, 26 percent of students said their parents insisted they attend the most affordable option, 40 percent said their parents insisted they apply to a more affordable school, and 22 percent said their parents ruled out a school that was outside their budget.
  • About 64 percent of white students expect to receive merit aid; about 50 percent of Hispanic and 45 percent of African American students expect to receive merit aid.
  • About 60 percent of students who scored 1250 or higher on the SAT expect to receive merit aid.
  • Students expect grants and scholarships to cover 35 percent of their college education costs, loans to cover 21 percent, family or personal savings to cover 17 percent, and another 24 percent to come from their own or their parents’ earnings during college.

Despite the wealth of information out there, it seems that high school students are still unprepared and not equipped with realistic expectations when it comes to navigating the financial aid process. Are you nervous about where you should start? Check out the college cost calculators we provide, and cultivate relationships with financial aid administrators, as you can never be too prepared when it comes to determining how much your education will cost, and you’ll pay for it once you’ve got that information.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As the dust has settled and students have made their decisions on where they’ll be come fall, a number of news outlets have been taking a look at whether any trends have emerged among incoming freshmen.

A series this week from CNN and the resulting New York Times article about it are interested in whether students were particularly mindful this year in choosing the better value among their college options, rather than decisions based on reputation, prestige, and “name brand” alone. Whatever students’ reasoning for it—rising costs of tuition and fees, a struggling economy, future plans to attend graduate and professional school among them—anecdotal evidence points to “yes.”

The CNN series first takes a look at a student who chose a state school over Boston College when it came down to making his final choice. He did so because of his aspirations after he’s done with his undergraduate career; he wants to go to medical school. The series then looks at a recent graduate from New York University who finished his degree with more than $250,000 in debt. The same student turned down a full scholarship from another school considered less well-known than NYU.

We always caution about making your college decision based on name alone. You’re determining where you’ll be for the next four years, after all, and it’s important to think about things that will result in a better fit for you rather than the boasting you’ll be able to do if you go to a big name school. (Some things to consider may be whether your choice is strong in your intended field of study, location, and what kinds of things you need in a school outside of academics.) And, as the news pieces above describe, it may be a wise choice to consider how much student loan debt you’ll be in once you’re done with school. Sure, private colleges often make up a bit for their high tuition and fees by offering more in financial aid, but students still often find themselves faced with the decision of paying less for their education if they attend a public state school, a community college, or a school that may be closer to home than they’d like.

No matter what we say though, prestige will still top many students’ lists as their main priority in college choice, as many students have had the dream of attending an Ivy League school since they could walk. How about you? What were your main considerations when you were choosing where to go to school this fall? Did you have to choose between a school that was a better value over one with more prestige?


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by Agnes Jasinski

For-profit colleges have been the talk of the town in Washington over the last week, with legislators concerned by their rapid growth and what they consider a resulting lack of oversight. 

Yesterday, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for a federal review of for-profit colleges, their recruitment strategies, and the value of what they provide students. In the letter they sent to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers were especially concerned about the fact that the for-profit sector accounts for less than 10 percent of total enrollments but about 25 percent of federal financial aid disbursements. According to an article in The New York Times this week, for-profit colleges collected $26.5 billion in federal funding last year, compared to $4.6 billion in 2000.

The letter came just after the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal that for-profit colleges be more forthright about students’ potential loan debt relative to their incomes, even going so far as to propose limiting federal aid to those colleges with the most uneven debt-income ratios. The for-profit colleges themselves have said that they would be comfortable with disclosing graduation- and job-placement rates and median debt levels, but that limiting federal aid would certainly force many of them into insolvency.

One case in Illinois serves as a cautionary tale, and an example of what is so troubling to legislators. The Illinois State Board of Education has launched an investigation of the Illinois School of Health Careers’ patient care technician program in Chicago after a group of students decided to file a class-action lawsuit against the institution. The students say they were misled into thinking that they would be able to take the state’s certified nursing assistant exams upon completion of the program. In fact, the program lacks the proper approvals from the Illinois Department of Public Health, leaving students with student loan debt and instruction in a field they say offers few, if any, job prospects.

Supporters of for-profit colleges say the schools are important in serving a population looking to learn a particular trade or get out into the workforce more quickly. Republican lawmakers on the other side of the issue have said Congress should be more concerned about looking for ways to monitor the bad eggs among the bunch and not be so skeptical of an entire industry, according to The New York Times article. Representatives for the Career College Association have said accredited institutions that focus on career-preparedness are critical in meeting President Obama’s goal of getting the United States on top in terms of higher education by 2020.

Most for-profit schools don’t report the kinds of dissatisfaction felt by those students at the Chicago school described above and are a good option for many students, especially those seeking flexible alternatives. The key is quality control. If you’re interested in a career college or an online degree university, do your own research. Make sure your intended school is accredited, as this means it meets a set of standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. Make sure the college you’ll be paying for—and may be paying for years down the line, even after graduation—is not only legitimate but worth paying for.


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Study Lists Best Returns on Investments

MIT Provides Best Bang for Your Buck

June 30, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

You’ve seen lists ranking the “greenest” colleges, those who are the most neighborly, and the schools most concerned about the social good. The latest list released this week from PayScale Inc. ranks colleges based on their Return on Investment (ROI), a calculation they came up with by considering the cost of college against the estimated median salary of a graduate from a particular school, 30 years down the line.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) topped the list of schools that will give you the best return on your money, based on PayScale’s calculations. According to the ranking, you’ll get about a 12.6 percent return on your investment at MIT, or nearly $1.7 million over 30 years. In second place was the California Institute of Technology, with Harvard University coming in third. Private colleges dominated the list, with the first public university, the University of California-Berkeley, not appearing until number 16. The worst deal seemed to be public out-of-state colleges where students must pay higher tuition rates than those attending colleges in their home states. Attending a public college on in-state tuition would then be a pretty good deal.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took the list with a grain of salt, describing the limitations of the ranking. The ranking did not consider the fact that few students actually pay the sticker price of college, with a majority receiving some kind scholarship or grant support. The report also only considered those who would graduate to receive paid salaries or hourly wages, leaving out students who may be doing quite well for themselves as architects or entrepreneurs, two project-based career paths. Finally, the data used to rank the schools was limited in itself, as the information was self-reported and did not include every school.

Still, it isn’t surprising that technology schools topped the rankings this time around. Engineering degrees in particular are consistently ranked among the top 10 highest-paying college majors. Don’t be discouraged if your intended college isn’t on this list or any list, though, or if your intended major isn’t going to lead to the big bucks. Your interest in a school, program, and field of study should be considered above all else. And if you’re new to the process of narrowing down your list of college options, browse through the resources we have on choosing the right school. It’s never too early to start researching!


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by Agnes Jasinski

Each year the Princeton Review releases its comprehensive list of colleges ranked by the extracurricular and social offerings on their campuses, how happy their students are, and which schools are the most religious or LGBT-friendly, among a number of other categories. The distinction that gets the most attention year after year, however, is the school the review dubs as the top “party school,” an honor that may be lauded by students but dreaded by the chosen school’s administrators.

The title this year goes to the University of Georgia in Athens. The school has appeared on the list 10 times since the Princeton Review began ranking the colleges based on these criteria in 1992. Choosing the top “party school” may seem like a difficult task, but according to an Associated Press article, students at the Georgia college party from Thursday through Sunday at the nearly 100 drinking establishments surrounding the college.

Administrators at the school aren’t unhappy, obviously. President Bruce Benson questioned the research methods used as part of the survey, and highlighted the efforts the school has made to introduce student alcohol education programs. Ohio University, funnily enough also found in a town called Athens, was ranked second, followed by Pennsylvania State and West Virginia universities. The University of Mississippi rounded out the top five. On the other side of the spectrum, Brigham Young University was ranked as the first-place finisher among “Stone-Cold Sober Schools,” a distinction that college has held for the last 13 years.

The Princeton Review collects its data based on email surveys of 122,000 students across more than 370 college campuses. The “party school” ranking comes from responses on alcohol and drug use, hours spent studying, and how prevalent Greek life is on each campus, according to the Associated Press article. Among the Review’s other findings:

  • Students study the most at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology; they student the least at the University of North Dakota.
  • Harvard University has the best college library; Bradley University ranked highest in the “This is a Library?” category.
  • Brown University students are the happiest in the country; the unhappiest are at Fisk University.
  • Bowdoin College serves up the best campus food; the worst food is found at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
  • The most politically active students are found at American University; students are most apathetic when it comes to politics at Salisbury University.

Obviously, take all lists like this with a grain of salt. While it may be helpful to have information on student-faculty ratios or the financial aid help offered by campus, only you can determine where your best fit will be when it comes to less tangible criteria like how social a college is or which school offers the tastiest meal plan. Do your own research, starting with a college search based on the most important criteria to you.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Community colleges have gotten quite a bit of attention lately as legislators and even President Obama himself have billed the schools as an important bridge in improving higher education across the country. The traditionally two-year schools have also seen an influx of students as both a result of those efforts and the economy, with more adult students returning to college to pick up new skills and make themselves more competitive on the job market.

But it isn’t just associate’s degrees being awarded at community colleges anymore. As some of the schools have begun offering accelerated options, others are going the other way, expanding their four-year offerings with baccalaureate degrees in disciplines that had been typically found only at four-year universities.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed took a look at Florida, where the trend is most obvious. The state’s community colleges now offer more than 100 four-year degrees, and are on track to offer more. In 2008, 10 out of 28 community colleges offered 70 four-year degrees; today, 18 of the schools offer 111 of the degrees, according to the article. While many of the degrees cover nursing and education, the two disciplines even neighboring four-year colleges said they needed help with due to high demand, community colleges are also expanding into other fields of study, such as international business and interior design.

Some four-year colleges have been concerned that the trend will affect their own programs and enrollment at their campuses, as it is typically much less expensive to attend a community college over a traditional four-year school. But supporters say the two student populations remain very different. Those attending the community colleges are typically older, with many from those student groups who may be wary about doing well academically at a four-year campus. The demand is there, then, as it is at traditional four-year colleges, and the community colleges must receive state approval before adding any new baccalaureate programs as a further safeguard.

No matter where you go, make sure you choose your college based on what you feel would be the best fit for you across all areas—socially, financially, and academically, to start. Community colleges offer cost-savings and flexible schedules, but you may feel like you need more of a campus life at a larger state university. Or your chosen field of study may be better known at a local private college. Consider all of your options during the college search so that you're confident in your choice.


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