Nov 30, 2015

25 colleges with shockingly low acceptance rates

Stanford University

Experts agree there is a great deal wrong with the college admission system, and much of it relates directly to the interpretation and use of “numbers.”  

In an era where “big data” is king, expensive enrollment management software is routinely purchased by colleges to tease out meaning from numbers, in part by analyzing what they refer to as the “funnel” or the flow of admissions activity from marketing to matriculation. 

One particularly troublesome number sitting at the small end of the funnel equates institutional excellence with rejection and is defined as a college’s “selectivity.” 

It’s a number schools have found relatively easy to manipulate by aggressively marketing to large groups of students and simultaneously tightening admissions screws through policies like binding Early Decision, which virtually guarantee an admitted student’s matriculation. 

And for these schools, more applications and tight control translate into more rejections.  More rejections mean increased selectivity.  And with selectivity comes prestige.

These are the colleges Jon Boeckenstedt, DePaul University’s vice president for enrollment management, once described in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education,  as “waist-deep in the arms race to reach the ‘as close to zero as possible’ admit rate….”

And so in the backwards world of college admissions, schools proudly point to how few students they were able to accept in any given year as a badge of honor.

But reality is slightly more complicated. Some of the most “exclusive” colleges in terms of selectivity are there because they offer a specific kind of experience or have a corner on the education market. Others have low admission rates because tuition is free or extremely low.

So those who think the nation’s lowest admission rates are only found within the Ivy League might be surprised to discover that the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (4.8%) and Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky (7.1%) are close to the top of the list for the lowest admit rates in the nation.

In the Washington metropolitan area, the Naval Academy (7.9%) once again topped the list for low acceptance rates, with Georgetown University (17.4%), Washington & Lee (19.6%), and Johns Hopkins (15%) all coming in under 20 percent.  Liberty University (20.2%), the University of Virginia (29%), Hampton University (29.1%), the University of Richmond (31.8%), and the College of William and Mary (33%) also made it onto the US News top 100 list.

And for the record, here 25 colleges boasting of some of the nation’s lowest acceptance rates,* based on the fall 2014 entering class (the rest of the list may be found on the US News website):
  • Stanford University:  5.1% (previous year: 5.7%)
  • Harvard University:  5.8% (6%)
  • Yale University 6.3% (6.9%)
  • Columbia University:  7% (6.9%)
  • Alice Lloyd College:  7.1% (9.4%)
  • Princeton University:  7.4% (7.4%)
  • MIT:  7.9% (8.2%)
  • US Naval Academy:  7.9% (7.4%)
  • College of the Ozarks 8.3% (12.2%)
  • Brown University:  8.7% (9.2%)
  • California Institute of Technology:  8.8%
  • University of Chicago:  8.8% (9.8%)
  • U.S. Military Academy:  9.5% (9%)
  • University of Pennsylvania:  10.4% (12.2%)
  • Claremont McKenna College:  10.8% (1.7%)
  • Duke University:  11.4% (12.4%)
  • Dartmouth College:  11.5% (10.4%)
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering:  12%
  • Pomona College:  12.2% (13.9%)
  • Pitzer College:  13%
  • Northwestern University:  13.1% (14%)
  • Vanderbilt University:  13.1% (12.7%)
  • Amherst College:  13.8%
  • Cornell University:  14.2%
  • Harvey Mudd College:  14.3%
* Specialty art and music colleges not included

Nov 27, 2015

Lights! Camera! Scholarships!

New York Film Academy

Are you an aspiring filmmaker or a small-screen producer of YouTube hits? Do you spend spare moments creating storyboards or videotaping interviews with your friends?

If so, you might consider competing in any one of many video scholarship contests offered throughout the year.  In fact, with a little time and talent, you could turn a videography hobby into some serious money.

And videos can be fun to produce! Just follow the rules and be aware that no two contests are alike.

Some ask for a promotional video for a product (usually their product) or they might be looking for a public service announcement promoting an important idea or event.

For example, the Credit Union Foundation of MD & DC sponsors an annual college scholarship awards program supporting an essay component as well as a video challenge and a photo-based competition. This year, local college-bound credit union members are being asked to produce a 60-second video that “displays the importance of financial literacy,” with a deadline of March 31, 2016.

Similar to a scholarship essay, a scholarship video will take time and some effort to create. But keep in mind that a good scholarship video may make a cool addition to an arts portfolio if you are considering a film or video major.

Note that a number of colleges are now offering video scholarship competitions, like the Arizona State University ck Champions Scholarship, which is open to incoming freshmen who have completed their applications for admission and must be submitted no later than February 1, 2016.

And some of the more visible national competitions include the following ten opportunities for budding filmmakers:

  • Advocacy in Action.  Create a short 60 second “Public Service Announcement” video that explores the safety of your community from harmful chemicals.  Videos along with all required forms must be submitted by March 18, 2016.
  • C-SPAN’s Student Cam:  Students are asked to create a 5- to 7-minute video documentary on the issue “YOU most want candidates to discuss during the 2016 presidential campaign.”  All documentaries must contain a small amount of C-SPAN footage that relates to the chosen topic.  Submissions must be received by January 20, 2016.
  • Courageous Persuaders Video Scholarship Competition: Students are asked to create a 30-second commercial to warn middle school students against the dangers of underage drinking or the dangers of texting while driving. Open to all high school students, the Courageous Persuaders entry deadline is February 11, 2016. Note that production values in this contest are less important than “ideas.”
  • Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway:  Eligible students with a “one-of-a-kind story” are invited to upload a video explaining how they “want to make an impact” with their degree/education.  The video should include some reference to Dr. Pepper and must be no more than one minute in length. This contest is a little complicated, so check with the website for details. And to compete, you must have internet, email and Facebook accounts.
  • Groth Law Firm Scholarship.  Students are invited to create a 30-second video that creatively answers this question, “How can we make driving safer?” Video submissions will be accepted between September 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.
  • IP Video Contest.  Students must submit an original video answering one of for questions related to the importance of the patent system. Videos must be no more than 90 seconds in length and must be submitted before August 1, 2016.
  • Project Yellow Light Video Contest: High school students are asked to create a video designed to motivate, persuade and encourage teens to not drive distracted.  You can video yourself or a group or make a cartoon or a music video.  Just keep it to 25 or 55 seconds or less.  The top prize is $5,000.  Teams are welcome, and videos must be submitted by April 1, 2016.
  • Recycling is Bigger than the Bin.  Students are invited to choose an item that is “bigger than the bin” and find a way to recycle it. Then, create an original video, no more than 2 minutes that tells the story of how you recycled your chosen item. All entries must be submitted by December 18, 2015.
  • Toyota Teen Driver Video Challenge:  If your friends were going to watch ONE video that made them think twice about making bad decisions behind the wheel, what would that video be?  Create that 30 to 60 second video and submit your video as a YouTube link and win up to $15,000.  Entries are due no later than March 7, 2016.
  • World of 7 Video Contest:  Create a short video public service announcement (PSA) about human population growth that highlights one of three global challenges.  All high school students are eligible and all videos must be submitted by Thursday, February 25, 2016.

Nov 25, 2015

Some very good reasons your college freshman may be looking forward to Thanksgiving

A year ago, their lives were very different. Many were locked up in their rooms stressing over colleges and completing applications that would determine the direction of their lives for the next four years. Everything about the future seemed so uncertain and scary.

But what a difference a year makes! With two or three months of campus life behind them, college freshmen will be returning home in droves for Thanksgiving break with the family and sleeping in their own beds for the first time in as many months.

Not surprisingly, they may have more on their plates than turkey and mashed potatoes.

First, there's the sudden readjustment to house rules.  

It’s no secret that college freshmen tend to celebrate, if not take full advantage of, their newly-acquired independence.  Curfew may be a concept they no longer care to understand.

But now that the family is back together, Mom is really excited about reconnecting and continuing a dialogue that abruptly stopped several months ago.  And this is a dialogue the average freshman might prefer to forget, especially if it focuses on acting in mature and responsible ways.

Dad expects you to fall back into the rhythm of the household and re-assume your role in the family.  Remember you're still in charge of the trash and your sister continues to need a ride to her violin lesson.

There will be no less than a thousand questions about what you've been doing and who you've been doing it with.

And chances are that a failing long-distance relationship will end over Thanksgiving break.  

In fact, so many freshman couples split over Thanksgiving weekend that college administrators have dubbed the phenomenon “Turkey Drop” or more to the point, “Turkey Dump.”

But absent any pending romantic traumas, your college freshman may actually be a little homesick and welcome the tender loving care that comes with a few days at home.

And while Mom’s cooking and a clean bathroom rank high on the lists of reasons why freshmen look forward to the holiday, it might surprise prospective college students how much life changes and why home looks pretty good after a couple of months in a residence hall.

For those who wonder, here are some very reasons college freshmen look forward to coming home for Thanksgiving:
  1. A student ID will not be required to get in the house or gain access to your bedroom.
  2. As long as mom is in charge, you won’t run out of underwear.
  3. You don’t have to pole vault into a bed lofted 2 feet above your head.
  4. Dad is not likely to schedule a midnight fire drill or set off the smoke detector for fun.
  5. No one will want to borrow your class notes, calculus book, or iPad.
  6. The house won’t constantly smell like burnt popcorn or dirty feet.
  7. You won’t be sleeping on the common room sofa because your roommate is “entertaining.”
  8. There’s no need to wear flip flops in the shower or worry about who might have used your soap.
  9. You know what you’re eating again.
  10. No one will walk off with your shampoo.
  11. Your sheets will have been washed within the past two months.
  12. The kitchen won’t close earlier on Fridays and weekends.
  13. You won’t be expected to carry on a conversation with a person in the next stall.
  14. Laundry facilities may be available other than between 3 and 4 am; quarters or other forms of payment should not be required.
  15. There’s not much possibility of locking yourself out of your room.
  16. Access to a car could be within the realm of possibility.
  17. You don’t have to put on a coat and trek across the lawn in the freezing cold for breakfast.
  18. The party down the hall probably won’t go on all night.
  19. The furry creature under your bed is most likely the family cat and not a 3-month accumulation of dust bunnies.
  20. It’s unlikely that anyone in your family will bang on your door after midnight and want to “talk.”
  21. Earplugs won’t be necessary to block out your roommate’s loud music, snoring, and/or video games.
  22. There’s no pretense—your family knows who you are.
And for better or worse, Thanksgiving dinner will not be served on a slightly damp green plastic plate.

Welcome home to all those who are fortunate enough to get there!

Image from Jelene's Photostream on Flickr