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Fairness in College Admissions

by Alexis Mattera

Accepted, rejected, deferred and waitlisted are all responses students can receive when tearing open a decision envelope or clicking on an admissions-related email. Some are obviously more favorable than others but are the practices that lead to these decisions as fair as they can be?

In its latest State of College Admission report, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights the impact of wait lists in the college admissions process. Data reveal 48 percent of institutions surveyed used wait lists in fall 2010 – up from 39 percent the previous year – but of the students who elected to remain on the lists, colleges admitted just 28 percent of wait-listed students, a figure six percentage points lower than 2009. “Colleges are leaning more heavily, and perhaps more ‘craftily,’ on the wait lists, which may be tipping the balance in ways that students and counselors are finding objectionable,” said NACAC’s public policy and research director David A. Hawkins.

There are multiple culprits contributing to admissions committees’ rationales – application inflation and yield predictability complications are both cited – but in terms of fairness, not all schools are leaving would-be students in admissions limbo as, on average, four-year institutions accept 65.5 percent of all applicants. It’s the report’s predictions that are most concerning: Prolonged economic decline and uncertainty could make it more difficult for all parties “to adhere to fair practices” in the admissions process.


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Banishing Bullying

October 21, 2011

Banishing Bullying

by Radha Jhatakia

From high schools to colleges to workplaces, bullying is a serious issue with serious consequences. There have been so many cases where students are bullied by their peers and the torment is so much that they commit suicide. When you bully someone, you not only hurt them but their family and friends as well.

I’m so glad that there is a rising awareness about bullying and laws are being passed to prevent it in school and online, an act also known as cyber-bullying. When I was in middle school, I was bullied quite often – many times based on my race – and I would come home crying but have no one to speak to about it. As bullying has become a more prominent issue, celebrities and politicians are speaking about it and counseling programs are being implemented in schools everywhere so students can have a place to hash out personal issues and raise awareness.

Remember, what may seem like a harmless joke, wall post or text message can potentially cause the people you’re bullying so much pain that they choose to end their lives rather than endure any more abuse. Also, if you are aware of bullying but do nothing to stop it, you are just as responsible as the bully if anything happens to person enduring the torment. It may seem difficult for someone to stop the bullying cycle but it’s far from impossible. All it takes is one person to stand up against bullying and lead others to do the same. Be that person and make a difference.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?


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SAT Cheating Scandal Prompts Security Review

by Suada Kolovic

Cheating is a serious allegation, no one would argue that. So, when seven students were suspected of cheating on the SATs – a deciding factor when it comes to college admissions – it comes to no surprise that the scandal prompted a review of security at test sites worldwide. And we’re not talking a run-of-the-mill review either: The College Board president has called in a security consulting firm founded by a former FBI director. (And you thought the test itself was serious.)

College Board President Gaston Caperton spoke at a hearing Tuesday morning held by New York State senators to discuss the cheating scandal in which several former high school students in Great Neck were arrested for allegedly hiring someone to pose as them and take the SAT for fees of up to $2,500 per person. Caperton said changes they’re considering include beefing up its checks of test takers’ ID and possibly photographing students when they arrive to take the SATs.

Though most were satisfied with this proposal, not everyone in attendance was pleased that it took a scandal like this to prompt a review. One critic of standardized testing, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, contended that more can be done to improve test security. "As the Great Neck scandal demonstrates, the current level of security is inadequate," he said. "Savvy students can circumvent these minimal protections with relative ease, particularly by using modern technologies to forge identity cards, covertly copy exam materials, or secretly transmit correct answers."

If you’ve already gone through the SAT (or ACT) process, what did you think of the security measures taken at your test site? Is it really that easy to cheat? What steps do you think should be taken to prevent another scandal?


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Students Continue Trend of Applying to More Colleges

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior, the daunting task of filling out college applications is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about applying to multiple institutions – we’re talking six or seven schools – then you’re not alone: According to a recent study, more prospective college students are applying to a large number schools than ever before.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that a quarter of freshmen who enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 applied to seven or more schools, while 77 percent applied to at least three. There are a number of factors that contribute to this trend, including the ease of applying to several schools with the Common Application and the Universal Application, but does this approach complicate the admissions process? The study notes that the uptick in applications challenges counselors to investigate students beyond their submitted materials. "The more activities a student has leading up to the application and beyond, the more we can understand if they're a real applicant," says Deb Stieffel, vice president for enrollment at Susquehanna University. "You can't just tell by the application anymore; you have to look deeper." (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think it’s problematic for students to apply to multiple schools just for the sake of applying?


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Why Can’t High School Be More Like College?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Did you ever wish you had more freedom to choose what classes you could take in high school? Students in Georgia share your pain and the Board of Education is considering implementing a plan which will allow students to take only the classes which are relevant to their future careers. Students will be required to take general courses before choosing their “career cluster” at the end of their sophomore year but depending on the “career cluster” they choose, some students may be able to get their dream jobs right out of high school!

While I know I would have liked more choices regarding the classes I took in high school, I'm still not sure I'm onboard with this idea. For one thing, not everyone knows what career they want when they're in high school – some students have trouble deciding what they want to do well into their college careers! – even me: When I was in high school, I was convinced I wanted to become a pharmacist before I realized my true calling as a writer.

The fact is that college is expensive and the idea of cutting down on the rising cost of college by taking some of the necessary courses in high school is very enticing indeed. Along those same lines, if this program is implemented and a student decides they don’t really like their course of study, they can switch between clusters until they find one that better suits their goals.

So, will Georgia become the first state to implement a more individualized high school experience? We'll have to wait and see next fall.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Tuition at Cooper Union?

November 1, 2011

Tuition at Cooper Union?

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a prospective college student considering a career in engineering, architecture or art, Cooper Union is probably on your radar. Not only is the school among the most selective in the nation but the tuition – zero – has been the best deal in higher ed for more than a century...or it was.

Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha recently announced that the weak economy has prompted the school to reevaluate its scholarship policy and possibly begin charging tuition for the first time since 1902. Bharucha stressed that lower-income students and many middle-income ones would continue to attend for free and that none of the 900 current undergraduates would be charged but the mere mention of tuition for degree-seeking students marks a serious cultural shift for the institution: Though a final decision has yet to be made, alumni are furious – “It’s a contradiction to everything we’ve learned about Cooper. It’s the last opportunity for free education on that level in the entire country,” said graphic designer, New York magazine co-founder and Cooper Union graduate Milton Glaser – and students are planning to walk out of classes in protest tomorrow.

Bharucha did say that implementing tuition would be a last resort but what do you think of his announcement and its corresponding reaction? What avenues should be explored to preserve free tuition and are there any ways students and alumni can support or contribute to the cause? Lastly, does a potential tuition bill have you reconsidering applying to Cooper Union?


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Calculating Your College Choices

by Angela Andaloro

It’s coming up on that time of year where high school seniors and college students are filling out college applications or beginning the transfer process, respectively. It’s a challenging time without a doubt and it doesn’t help that students are bombarded with college advice, statistics and rankings information from countless sources. How do you know what’s legitimate information and what’s not? Here are three factors you should definitely consider before submitting those applications.

Applying to college is a big step, as any of these institutions could be where you spend all or part of your college career. In the end, the most important factor is to pick the schools that you can picture yourself being happy. The decision is ultimately yours – it’s truly the first step in taking your future into your own hands.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Early Decision and Early Action Deadlines Extended

by Alexis Mattera

So you took the standardized tests, filled out the application, wrote the essay and secured the appropriate transcripts and letters of recommendation well in advance in order to apply to your first-choice school early. Nice work – it’s just too bad Mother Nature had other plans.

The late October storm that hit the Northeast knocked out electricity, Internet access and, for some students, hopes of getting their early decision and early action applications submitted on time. Thankfully, many institutions have extended these deadlines beyond the traditional November 1st cutoff and NACAC has posted those schools, administrative contacts and new early application dates on its website. Though most are in the Northeast, schools located as far west as California, Oregon and Arizona and as far south as Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky have joined the cause to ensure all interested students have time to apply.

NACAC does note that the list may not be comprehensive and is inviting colleges and universities to update their application dates if they have changed. Conversely, students should contact the schools they are interested in applying to for any admissions updates. Good luck, everyone!


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Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

Teachers Use Hip Hop References to Engage Students

November 8, 2011

Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a teacher, getting a classroom full of high schools students excited to learn about pretty much anything is a challenge. While some teachers have opted for open discussions and group projects in order to keep their class engaged, others have turned to hip hop.

Over the past few years, a growing number of teachers have implemented hip hop into their lesson plans. According to a report released by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University’s School of Culture, Education and Human Development, more than 300 middle schools, high schools and after-school programs have been jazzing up typical lessons with hip hop. Curious as to how to works? Kanene Holder, a staff member at the arts-integrated education nonprofit Urban Arts Partnership, breaks it down (pun totally intended) in a U.S. News and World Report article: During one class session, Holder compared the 1990s East Coast vs. West Coast hip hop turf wars between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls to the American Revolution. “It’s just like the Loyalists vs. the Patriots,” she says. “I would have the students do a rap battle – they’d formulate a rap in a group, formulate some main ideas, [and] then perform it in front of the class. It’s kind of like a town hall meeting, hip hop style.”

So, has implementing hip hop into the classroom been effective? According to Martha Diaz, co-author of the NYU report, they’re not sure…yet. She explains that the initial report was meant to just survey the number and types of hip hop education programs; subsequent studies to determine its effects on graduation rates and student achievement are on the way. Let us know what you think of hip hop in the classrooms. Should other teachers get on the hip hop grind?


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