College Admissions

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ivy League Crunch Brings New Cachet To Next Tier

New York Times
Published: May 16, 2007

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Lehigh University has never been as sought after as Stanford, Yale or Harvard. But this year, awash in applications, it churned out rejection letters and may break more hearts when it comes to its waiting list.
Call them second-tier colleges (a phrase some administrators despise) or call them the new Ivies (this, they can live with). Twenty-five to 40 universities like Lehigh, traditionally perceived as being a notch below the most elite, have seen their cachet climb because of the astonishing competitive crush at the top.
“It’s harder to get into Bowdoin now than it was to get into Princeton when I worked there,” said William M. Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., who worked at Princeton in the 1970s, which is one of those benefiting from the spillover as the country’s most prestigious colleges turn away nearly 9 out of 10 applicants.
At Lehigh, known for its strength in engineering and business, about 12,000 students applied this year. That is a whopping 50 percent increase in applications over seven years ago and more than 10 times the seats available in a freshman class of 1,150. The median SAT score of admitted students has climbed about 10 points a year in recent years, officials said.
Students have generally been quicker to adapt to the new realities than parents have been, many guidance counselors said.
Some students who might have readily won admission to Lehigh, Middlebury College, Colgate University, Pomona College, Emory University or New York University just a few years ago are now relegated to waiting lists, left to confront the long odds that an offer of admission might materialize over the next month.
John Dunham, a senior at the private Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., had trained his sights on Bucknell University and Lafayette College. He was rejected by Bucknell and put on the waiting list at Lafayette. His college counselor pushed him toward Kenyon College in Ohio, or as the counselor put it “the Williams of the Midwest.”
But Mr. Dunham, a solid student who played football and baseball in high school, decided to play baseball on an athletic scholarship at Central Connecticut State.
“People are definitely broadening their horizons, because it’s gotten so competitive,” Mr. Dunham said.
The logjam is the result of supply and demand. The number of students graduating from high school has been increasing, and the preoccupation with the top universities, once primarily a Northeastern phenomenon, has become a more national obsession. High-achieving students are also applying to more colleges than they used to, primarily because of uncertainty over where they will be admitted.
Supply, however, has remained constant. Most of the sought-after universities have not expanded their freshman classes. The result, said Jonathan Miller, a senior at Mamaroneck High School in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., is that many classmates perceive institutions like Tufts University, Bowdoin, the University of Rochester and Lehigh in a new light. “I would say that high school students are looking more and more at these schools,” he said, “the way they used to look at the Ivies.”
An A student with good SAT scores, Mr. Miller said that he considered applying to Brown University, among others, but that his guidance counselor discouraged him, emphasizing the tough odds. Mr. Miller decided instead to apply early admission to Tufts, and by December, had been accepted. He said he was delighted.
Some students who have accepted offers from these colleges were rejected by the most prestigious universities. Others, keenly aware of the extreme competition at the top, decided at the outset to focus on colleges more likely to admit them.
“I’m sure part of what we’re seeing is people are saying, ‘Well, if the Ivies and Duke are inaccessible, where do I go to get a similar academic experience?’ ” said Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at Rochester.
There are other reasons, too, why these colleges and universities find their stock climbing. To position themselves in the fiercely competitive market, they have hired stronger faculty; built new libraries, science complexes, dining halls, fitness centers and dormitories; and created international programs and interdisciplinary majors. Many have also sought to transform themselves from regional institutions to national ones, recruiting across the country.
At Middlebury, applications have increased by 1,000 in each of the last two years; nearly 7,200 students applied this year, compared with 5,200 in 2005. At Kenyon, about 4,600 students applied this year, while 2,000 did six years ago. Colgate received 8,752 applications this year, compared with 5,852 a decade ago.
And at the University of Vermont, a state institution, nearly 19,000 applications poured in this year, compared with 7,400 seven years ago. Many of the most prestigious public universities like Michigan and Virginia have also become much more selective, especially for out-of-state applicants.
The academic profile of students enrolling at these colleges is improving, based on average SAT scores and other data.
“We’re getting a remarkably gifted group of students,” said Gerard P. Lennon, associate dean in the college of engineering and applied sciences at Lehigh, who has taught at the university for 27 years. The median SAT score in the combined verbal and math parts of the test is now 1,320 out of 1,600. (That is not counting the writing section of the test.)
But the spillover at the second level has also created its own spillover; some students who not long ago would have won admission to these colleges no longer are.
The admission rate at Pomona, in Claremont, Calif., was about 15 percent this spring; it was 38 percent 20 years ago. Bowdoin’s rate was 18.5 percent this year and 32 percent eight years ago. At Lehigh, 31 percent were accepted this spring, compared with 47 percent in 2001.
High school guidance counselors have become the reality instructors, encouraging students and parents to think more broadly about colleges.
“Now a kid who is applying to Harvard, Yale, Princeton is also applying to the Lehighs and Lafayettes,” said Brett Levine, director of guidance at Madison High School in New Jersey. “It’s the same tier, basically.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007

In Support of Private College Consultants

In Support of Private College Consultants

by: Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.

What is an independent educational consultant?
“Independent educational consultants are skilled professionals who provide counseling to help student and family choose a college, university or other program that is a good personal match: one that will foster this particular student's academic and social growth. Educational consultants can provide a student and family with individual attention, first hand knowledge of hundreds of educational opportunities, and the time to explore all of the options. An independent counselor works one-on-one with students and parents to develop a thorough, carefully researched and appropriate school and/or college search, and guide the student through every step of the process.”

Many argue that independent college consulting is a luxury many cannot afford. Within the four professional organizations I currently belong, I have yet to meet a private counselor who doesn’t work on a sliding scale or in fact for free if it necessitates. After being in schools for twenty-five years, it’s obvious that the potpourri of jobs any counselor has doesn’t give students the focus and assistance they need in both understanding and filling out college applications. School counselors are often excellent and well qualified. It’s just that they are part of a system that has an average ration of 500 students to every counselor.

A recent Boston Globe article discusses the possibility of a potential check box where students would have to indicate to universities if they were receiving outside help to complete their college applications. I wholeheartedly disagree with this concept. Privacy issues are of ultimate concern everywhere in everything. What families and students choose to do is personal. Do universities tell the public what they are doing behind closed doors? I think not. Not to imply that anything is being done they wouldn’t publicize. However, it is the right of every admission officer to keep their information private. There is nothing unethical about keeping this information private. Qualified private counselors assist students and do not do work for them. I know that myself, along with many colleagues will answer questions for students with no charge.

“The Independent Educational Consultants Association has seen its membership triple since 1996, and expects continued growth in the coming years. There are now approximately 4,000 independent counselors nationwide. . . . ‘Of the 260,000 [high school] graduates last year who went to private colleges, 58,000 worked with consultants, representing 22 percent of the freshman class in these schools.”

The business of education is widely recognized and accepted. Qualified independent college consultants must be a respected option as are life coaches, psychologists and physical trainers to mention a few. After all, college consultants all have the same goals in mind – that of placing students in the best educational environment to meet their needs and have them gain knowledge and achieve happiness and success.

For Some College Hopefuls Wait Goes On and On

Some colleges have longer wait lists than in previous years, offering a chance of openings if enough accepted applicants don't enroll.

By Larry Gordon, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007

For most students, the drawn-out drama of college admissions decisions was finished last week. Choices were made, deposits mailed in, successes savored and wounds licked. Time to think about roommates and classes.But not for everyone.According to admissions experts, some popular colleges have compiled longer wait lists than in previous years, dangling the possibility, however small, that slots may open up if enough previously accepted applicants don't enroll.As a result, more students will remain in limbo, possibly through June. It's rather like the pains and joys of teen romance: They're happy to have found a match — in this case a college — but hope a dreamier one comes along at the last minute."My impression is it seems to be something of a trend, an interesting phenomenon," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.Compiling a wait list can be a softer way to reject otherwise well-qualified students during the current demographic bulge of high school seniors. But mainly the lists function, Nassirian said, as insurance for schools to hit their enrollment goals. It's becoming harder for colleges to predict how many possible freshmen will accept offers because the Internet makes it easy for ambitious students to apply to six or 10 or more colleges, quantities that were much rarer a generation ago. Whether more students will be accepted this year from wait lists remains to be seen, especially at competitive, elite schools. Meanwhile, waiting is tough.Bennett Duval, a senior at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, was accepted at five of the 10 colleges he applied to and chose UC Santa Barbara, his father's alma mater. UC Santa Barbara "seems to be the best fit for me," said Duval, who is an excellent student and captain of Loyola's volleyball team. "It's the right distance from home, not too far, not too close."But Duval, who wants to study economics, was placed last month on the wait list at Boston College. He likes its East Coast location, Jesuit tradition and more intimate scale. So he has kept his name on the list — with about 1,500 others — despite the uncertainty and the $100 deposit he already sent to UC Santa Barbara. "It's especially hard since you look around and your friends are sure where they are going to college," he said. "You've waited and you still have to wait some more."Joanna Lee, a senior at Marlborough School in Los Angeles, was accepted at seven colleges, rejected at two and wait-listed at five. She has sent a commitment letter to Brown University and has decided to stay on the wait list of another Ivy League school, Columbia University. If Columbia accepts her, her choice may depend on financial aid, said Lee, who has very good grades and plays softball and the flute.Her advice to high school juniors? Be flexible."I would say not to have your heart set on one school," said Joanna, who may major in pre-med or art. "If you do, it's likely you can be disappointed because the competition is so rigorous these days."Definitive statistics on wait lists are hard to come by, although a survey by the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling found that about two-thirds of highly selective colleges maintain wait lists, and about a third of all colleges and universities do. About half of those schools in recent years reported increasing the size of their lists.But successfully gaining admission off a wait list is difficult. Schools considered selective (those that take fewer than half of all applicants) admitted 12.5% of wait-listed students in fall 2006, the latest admission association figures.At the most highly sought-after schools, things can be grim. Princeton University, which reports 792 wait-list offers this year, admitted no one from its list in the last two years.With those odds, many high school counselors decry the nerve-racking effect on young people who should be enjoying their last weeks with classmates."It's terrible. It seems this process never ends," said Hector Martinez, director of college guidance at the Webb Schools in Claremont. He said he has seen more qualified students put on wait lists over the last few years. That seems to involve more girls as colleges seek to rebalance enrollments that tipped to female majorities.Partly driving the competition for slots at top-tier colleges and universities is the rising number of high school graduates — and the growing obsession with the rankings of schools by guidebooks and magazines.
After the population of high school graduates dropped a bit in the mid-'90s, their numbers have grown about 24% over the last decade to about 3.23-million graduates this year. The National Center for Education Statistics said the trend will continue until 2009 before dipping again for a few years.In general, here is how wait lists work: Colleges accept some students, reject others and ask still others whether they want to be wait-listed. Fewer than half say yes since they have been accepted by another school they love or don't want to delay a choice. But even those who remain on a wait list are urged to place a deposit at another school.Officials insist that students are not formally ranked on wait lists and that plucking them from the lists depends on a class' composition. At some campuses, a student who does not need financial aid may be given a leg up. At others, ethnic or geographic diversity might be important. Or whether the school needs another violinist or soccer player. Wait lists are so long because schools can't anticipate demographic gaps, said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke University in North Carolina. The school admitted about 20% of its 19,000 applicants and offered to wait-list about 1,900, a rise of about 5% over last year. Guttentag said he might need to add more engineering majors, or "I may need to fill liberal-arts students. I may want to enroll some from North Carolina, the West Coast or overseas," Guttentag said.A national trading up of enrollment happens in mid-May. If the Ivy League and other hot campuses take students from wait lists, schools in the next most-popular tier lose students and offer spots to people on their own lists, and on and on. During the waiting period, many schools pay more attention to students who express keen interest, according to David Hawkins, the admission association's director of public policy. Those who don't show a strong commitment to attend "will almost certainly not be accepted off of the wait list," he said.At Reed College in Oregon, some students on past wait lists campaigned mightily, sending the school cakes and daily postcards. Reed's admission dean, Paul Marthers, said such wooing could help but he won't encourage unusual effort because "it doesn't mean the student is going to get in." Marthers said he expects that colleges across the country this year will see a significant amount of last-minute enrollment shifts using wait lists. Some schools, like his, wound up with too many students last year and are now more conservative with acceptances, mindful that they can make up any gaps by drawing students from wait lists. Reed accepted about a third of its 3,363 applicants and compiled a wait list of 800 names, about 100 more than last year. Claremont McKenna College saw the number of applicants rise by about 15% this year to 4,140. It accepted 670 in hopes of enrolling about 270 freshmen, said Richard Vos, vice president and dean of admissions. To avoid over-enrollment, it reduced acceptances a bit but offered wait list status to 849, about 200 more than last year. In other years, it has taken as many as 29 from the list and as few as none, he said.Other campuses with substantially larger wait lists this year include Northwestern University in Illinois and the University of Pennsylvania. The wait lists tend to be used by such private schools, not public institutions like the University of California. But some prominent private schools, such as USC, eschew them. Katharine Harrington, USC's dean of admission and financial aid, said the school instead offers backup candidates a chance to enroll in the following spring semester rather than the fall. "We don't like the idea of saying, 'It's maybe, but maybe not.' We much prefer to say, 'We want you to come but in the spring,' " she said.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dozen College Presidents Urge Colleagues

Dozen College Presidents Urge Colleagues to Reject U.S. News Rankings
May 6, 2007 The Associated Press.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A dozen college presidents have pledged to boycott a key component of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings because they say the popular rankings mislead prospective students and encourage gamesmanship.
The presidents -- from a range of mostly smaller institutions including Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and Earlham College in Indiana -- outlined their complaints in a letter dated Saturday to colleagues at other schools.
The letter says the dozen colleges have pledged to stop filling out the part of the survey in which colleges rate each other, which accounts for 25 percent of a college's ranking. The colleges say they also will no longer use the rankings in their own promotions and ask other schools to do the same.
The letter is the latest step in a growing movement led by Lloyd Thacker, a veteran of the admissions field who has started an organization dedicated to toning down the competition in the admissions process.
Many colleges say they dislike the rankings and some already refuse to fill out that portion of the survey, but the letter represents what Thacker hopes will be the front end of a widespread movement. He is lobbying other colleges to sign on, and the topic will be on the agenda at a meeting of prominent liberal arts colleges next month.
"Other colleges are ready to join," said Thacker, who said his group will also work with colleges to develop alternatives to the rankings. "I'm very encouraged."
Robert Morse, research director for the magazine, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. But magazine officials have said that, while some college officials already decline to rank each other in the survey, the response rate is more than enough to make the survey valid.
Much of the other information used in the rankings is publicly available.
Also signing the letter were the presidents of Wheelock College, Marlboro College, Trinity University in Washington, D.C., St. John's College in Maryland, St. John's College in New Mexico, Heritage University, Southwestern University, Bethany College, Drew University and Lafayette College.