Jul 31, 2010

Registration is Now Open for All 2010-11 SAT/ACT Test Dates

Now that we’ve turned the page on another school year, it's time to mark key dates for college admissions testing during the 2010-11 academic year. In fact, the first deadine (August 6 for the September ACT) is fast approaching.

For scheduling purposes, high school seniors have plenty of SAT and ACT options between now and the dates by which most college and scholarship applications are due. Juniors should generally look more toward dates after the first of next year to begin testing.

Because the tests are entirely interchangeable for college admissions, it's become increasingly popular for college-bound students to take both. One strategy is to take each in the spring of junior year and repeat the stronger in the fall of senior year. Obviously the second test isn't necessary if you hit the ball out of the park the first time.

Signing up online is faster and costs the same as registering by mail. With online registration, you will know immediately if your favorite test center has space and you can print your admission ticket.

Wherever you happen to be in the process, take note of registration deadlines and try to schedule tests as soon as possible to ensure getting your preferred test venue and avoid pesky late test fees:


October 9, 2010—SAT and 7 subject tests plus French and Spanish. Registration deadline: 9-10-10.
November 6, 2010—SAT and 7 subject tests plus 6 “language with listening” subject tests. Registration deadline: 10-8-10.
December 4, 2010—SAT and 7 subject tests plus World History, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Registration deadline: 11-5-10.
January 22, 2011—SAT and 7 subject tests plus French and Spanish. Registration deadline: 12-23-10.
March 12, 2011—SAT only. Registration deadline: 2-11-11.
May 7, 2011—SAT and 7 subject tests plus French and Spanish. Registration deadline: 4-8-11.
June 4, 2011—SAT and 7 subject tests plus World History, Latin, Modern Hebrew, French, German, and Spanish. Registration deadline: 5-6-11.

SAT’s are administered at high schools in every corner of the DC metropolitan area, but note that test center availability varies by administration date. Also, be aware that students needing to apply for "accommodations," must do so well in advance of the posted registration deadline. For more information or to register for a specific test date, go to the College Board website.


September 11, 2010 (only within the 50 states; no test centers in DC)—Registration deadline: August 6, 2010
October 23, 2010—Registration deadline: September 17, 2010
December 11, 2010—Registration deadline: November 5, 2010
February 12, 2011 (no test centers in New York)—Registration deadline: January 7, 2011
April 9, 2011—Registration deadline: March 4, 2011
June 11, 2011—Registration deadline: May 6, 2011

In general, requests for special accommodations must be postmarked by the registration deadline for any test date. As of the 2010-2011 testing year, the ACT has added online options for students with disabilities who can test at national test centers and for students who wish to test standby. Visit the ACT website for additional information or to register for a specific test date.

Jul 30, 2010

Getting Ahead of the Advanced Placement Curve

If you’ve signed up for an Advanced Placement (AP) class, and you know it’s going to be freakin’ hard, why not take a little time to get ahead and prepare during the summer?

Why wait until midway through first quarter to hire an AP calculus tutor after you’ve flunked the first quiz and you’re totally stressed, when you could start working for an hour or two each week with the same tutor in the weeks before school starts? Get the book even.

The government thinks this is such a good idea that Uncle Sam is investing thousands of dollars in inner city AP prep programs. And a few local high schools have caught on and created inexpensive workshops such as the Wakefield Summer Bridge Program or the Langley AP Boot Camp to help students make the transition to Advanced Placement classes.

For college-bound high school students, AP-level coursework is hard to escape. In fact, colleges are shifting from using AP scores as de facto admissions criteria (yes they might just sneak a peek) to allowing these scores to be substituted for other standardized tests.

For example, NYU allows specific AP test scores to substitute for the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the two SAT Subject tests previously required for admission. Bryn Mawr College, Hamilton College, Furman University and a growing number of other schools are taking similar steps by adopting “test flexible” policies using AP scores in place of SAT’s or ACT’s.

So short of taking a prep class or hiring a tutor, at least try to get textbooks and course reading packets from your high school or from another student who took the class last year. So what if it changes a little. Reading source material—any source material—is good for you. It even helps with college entrance exams.

And here’s a tip for those who can’t talk anyone into handing over reading lists or other AP materials: the College Board provides comprehensive course descriptions and syllabi online. Here are sample readings from one AP English Literature syllabus (students select two novels):

All the King’s Men, Angle of Repose, Atonement, The Bluest Eye, Brave New World, Catch 22, Einstein’s Dreams, Frankenstein, Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kite Runner, Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Poisonwood Bible, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Snow Falling on Cedars, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Looks great to me! Then again, I was an English major in the last century.

OK, it’s your vacation and you want to unwind and relax. But if you can read and get ahead of the game with your toes still in the sand, why not?

Jul 28, 2010

Great Colleges to Work For (and Attend?)

It doesn’t take a business degree to know that organizations experiencing high levels of employee job satisfaction tend to produce superior results. If staff is disgruntled or work climate impaired, you can bet on a diminished work product.

In the world of postsecondary education, the end user is the student. If teaching or administrative staff experience ongoing workplace issues, students are likely to at least sense a problem. The worst case scenario is one in which these issues actually affect the quality of the education offered.

For this reason, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s third annual Great Colleges to Work For survey offers interesting insight into the overall happiness quotient of staff and administrators at some of the nation’s most recognizable postsecondary institutions.

To get a fuller understanding of workplace satisfaction, about 43,000 staff members on 275 campuses were surveyed. In general, findings suggest that “colleges continue to do well at creating work that makes a difference, providing jobs that fit the individual, and fostering a high degree of institutional pride.”

But the survey also found that as colleges are operating in a slumping economy, tight budgets appear to be “eroding confidence in college leadership.” So it’s no surprise that among the 97 colleges whose employee ratings and institutional policies earned them recognitions as “great places to work,” communication seems to be a major distinguishing factor.

Approximately 20,000 of the college employees who responded to the survey were faculty members, more than 14,800 were professional staff members, and 8,100 were administrators. The survey was based on an assessment used in 55 Best Places to Work programs, with a panel of higher-education experts customizing questions to reflect issues unique to colleges.

Survey responses helped form 12 Great College recognition categories. High ratings in those categories were considered core attributes of a great academic workplace, with thirty four-year and nine two-year colleges earning places on a Great Colleges to Work For “Honor Roll.”

Locally, George Mason University, Georgetown, Salisbury, UMBC, UVA-Wise, and Washington and Lee University were cited as great colleges to work for. Only GMU received a spot on the “Honor Roll,” earning recognition for collaborative governance, professional/career-development programs, job satisfaction, work/life balance, confidence in senior leadership, as well as respect and appreciation.

For the complete report and an interactive chart showcasing the 97 Great Colleges to Work For, visit The Chronicle website (subscription may be required).

Jul 26, 2010

NSSE Revises ‘Pocket Guide to Choosing a College’

For a number of years, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has produced a handy “Pocket Guide to Choosing a College,” which suggests important questions for parents and students in the college decision-making process to ask.

Literally thousands of these pocket-sized green pamphlets have been made available to school guidance offices, college career centers, and other organizations engaged in the business of offering advice on college selection. And just as many have arrived on college campuses stashed in back pockets, ready for quick reference during tours and information sessions.

Now, in time for summer college visits, the little green booklet has undergone a slight facelift. The size is the same, but the front cover and some of the format and questions have changed.

Moving away from tones of green, the new guide features colorful pictures of several participating NSSE colleges and universities. The authors rearranged the order of questions starting with those dealing with “supportive campus environment” and ending with those concerning “academics.” Category explanations are fuller, and wasted space has been eliminated.

A few questions were deleted and others added or clarified with the goal of helping students get a sense of how much they are likely “to learn, grow, and develop at a given institution.” The questions are designed to ask people met during college visits—the tour guide, admissions staff, and currently enrolled students. But they are equally useful for other kinds of encounters such as college fairs, local group sessions, or high school presentations.

Each year, NSSE analyzes and reports on student surveys conducted at participating campuses. Responses to the survey provide “valuable information about what is actually going on in the lives of students and the quality of their college experiences.” In fact, a quick scan of the list of participating colleges and how frequently they conduct the survey gives an idea of the level of importance of student “engagement” to some colleges.

By the way, many colleges make survey results available on their websites. For example, you can find the results of the George Mason University 2009 survey on the Office of Institutional Assessment webpage. Catholic University also provides a detailed analysis of their student surveys, as does the Towson University Assessment Office.

Before going on tour, check to see if the college you are considering participates in NSSE. Take the time to review the information provided by admissions or the institutional research office. Then tuck a copy of “A Pocket Guide to Choosing a College” into your purse or back pocket and ask a few questions.

Copies of the guide may be found in many college advising offices. Or, you can download a copy (English or Spanish) from the NSSE website. But then, it probably won’t fit in your pocket.

Jul 24, 2010

Why Two Universities Chose the Universal College Application

Counselors touring with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey (AICUNJ) were recently introduced to two AICUNJ members using the Universal College Application (UCA) instead of the more familiar Common Application for their admissions processes.

For very different reasons, Monmouth University, in West Long Branch (site of Woodrow Wilson’s summer beach home and gardens) and Fairleigh Dickinson University, with campuses in Madison and Teaneck, chose the UCA over the Common App for first-year and transfer applicants.

“We went with the Universal Application because we felt that students who completed it were more likely to be seriously interested in Monmouth,” said Lauren Vento Cifelli, Monmouth’s assistant vice president of enrollment management. “We want to be able to differentiate between students who are applying simply because it’s easy and those who would really like to attend.”

This year, institutional membership in the Common Application Association grew to 416 colleges and universities. A relative new-comer, the UCA includes about 80 participating institutions. Although most of the colleges using the UCA also accept the Common App, Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson University are exceptions. Both only accept the Universal College Application.

“We have two very different campuses and wanted customized applications for each,” said Joseph Paris, Fairleigh Dickinson’s assistant director of undergraduate admission. “The Common Application was not as flexible and could not accommodate our needs.”

Admissions representatives from both schools pointed to the quality of service from UCA as important factors in their decisions. And both like the UCA upload function which allows students to transmit digital content along with their applications.

For Monmouth, the ability to link to online content fits nicely with their new optional video statement. Students can protect their video confidentiality by using either the official Monmouth University Facebook page or the Universal Common Application.

Similarly, Fairleigh Dickinson encourages students to send audition or other performance videos in support of applications. Using the UCA, students can easily link to online videos, websites, portfolios, musical compositions, or newspaper articles they feel enhance their candidacy.

Other AICUNJ member institutions have signed on with the UCA. Drew University, in Madison, and St. Peter’s College, in Jersey City, accept both the UCA and the Common Application for the coming year.

Locally, Towson University is an “exclusive” user of the Universal College Application. Other area colleges using the UCA and the Common Application include Hampden-Sydney College, Johns Hopkins, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, and Stevenson University.

For early birds, the Universal College Application went live for 2010-11 on July 1st, while the Common App remains off-line until August 1st. The applications are similar in content, and applicants can feel free to use whichever offers the best opportunity to showcase qualifications or talents.

"Counselors on Tour" photo courtesy of Monmouth University and Blaze Nowara.

Jul 22, 2010

American University Expands Test-Optional Admissions

American University recently announced that the test-optional pilot program begun last year will be expanded to include those regular admissions applicants organized enough to meet a November 1st filing deadline.

Last year, test-optional was restricted to early decision applicants only. This year, the university is encouraging students to apply early by allowing them to skip submitting ACT or SAT scores—but only if they can get their application completed and sent by no later than November 1.

“The priority deadline date of November 1 for our test-optional pilot program will provide our staff with more time to review the applications submitted without standardized testing,” explained Greg Grauman, AU’s director of admissions. “We learned from the first year of our pilot program that it takes twice the amount of time to review an applicant who has not submitted standardized testing.”

Students who wish to take advantage of American’s test-optional plan may do so provided they submit all of the following paperwork by the November 1 deadline

  • the test-optional form (available on the AU website beginning October 1, 2010);
  • a completed application; and
  • all supporting documents, including the application fee, counselor recommendation, teacher recommendation, and essay.

Once the test-optional form is submitted, American promises that under no circumstances will an applicant’s test scores be considered—even if a student has already arranged to have test reports forwarded to AU.

And the best part of all is that applying under the test-optional program will not affect consideration for merit awards or admission to the University Honors Program.

According to the AU website, the decision to expand its test-optional pilot program arose from the belief that academic performance is the single most important consideration in a “holistic” review of applicants. But anyone in the admissions business knows these reviews are extremely time-consuming.

In the second year of the pilot program, the AU admissions office will evaluate whether a test-optional policy that invites this level of detailed review would be desirable to implement for all undergraduate applicants.

More information on the pilot test-optional program may be found on the AU website.

Jul 21, 2010

Lazy Rivers Trump Instructional Expenses

According to a report recently released by the Delta Cost Project, colleges and universities are increasingly more likely to spend money on recreational amenities such as lazy rivers and climbing walls than they are on expenses related to the instruction of students.

In the escalating amenities wars, the number of lazy rivers found on college campuses has zoomed into the double digits. Facilities like the east coast’s tallest climbing wall at the University of Maryland, Christopher Newport’s $55 million Ferguson Center for the Arts, or Boston University’s 180,000 square foot Gerald Tsai Jr. Fitness Center (and lazy river) are deemed critical in the recruitment of college-bound high school students. And these are just a few examples of the kinds of student pampering projects found on today’s campuses.

In its report entitled, “Trends in College Spending 1998-2008,” the Delta Cost Project confirmed what any frequent visitor to colleges already knows. Postsecondary institutions are spending increased amounts of money in nonacademic areas, such as public relations and student recruitment and on other more visible monuments such as state-of-the art gyms and student centers.

“This is the country-clubization of the American university,” said Richard K. Vedder, an Ohio University professor studying the economics of higher education, in the New York Times. “A lot of it is for great athletic centers and spectacular student union buildings.”

While tuition and average sending on instruction increased 22 percent from 1998 to 2008, at private research universities, spending on student services increased by 36 percent as did spending on institutional support, a category including general administration, legal services, and public relations.

At public research universities, spending for student services went up by 20 percent over the same time period, compared with 10 percent for instruction. Even community colleges, with far smaller overall budgets increased spending on student services by 9.5 percent, as opposed to 3.4 percent for instruction.

Over the past decade, undergraduate and graduate enrollments have grown to 18.6 million from 14.8 million in 1998. Average tuition rose by 45 percent at public research universities and about 21 percent at private research universities, enabling the average private university to spend an average of $35,000 per year per student as compared to $19,000 nationally and $8400 in other developed countries.

“The funding models we’ve created in higher ed are not sustainable,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Cost Project. “We ran up spending in the ‘90’s and early 2000s to levels we can’t maintain, and this is true not only in the elite privates, put in many of the public institutions, too.”

Could it be that we’ve seen the last of the lazy rivers? Not likely, as long as they continue to attract students and families willing to foot the bill.

Jul 19, 2010

CICV Extends the Fee Waiver Program to Include College Consultants and Guidance Counselors

The Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia (CICV) voted last week to invite educational consultants and guidance counselors to earn FREE application fee waivers by participating in Private College Week—July 26-31. For the first time, counselors visiting campuses during 2010 CICV Private College Week events may be eligible to receive up to three waivers, good for any of 25 participating colleges and universities across the state.

“The deans of the private colleges have voted—with enthusiasm—to allow guidance counselors to take advantage of the ‘three visits to Virginia Private Colleges equals three application fee waivers’ during Virginia Private College week,” explained Anita Garland, Hampden-Sydney College dean of admissions. “If the counselor visits three colleges, he or she will receive three waivers that can be given to the student of the counselor’s choice.”

The program for counselors will work the same as it has for students and families:

1. Decide which schools to visit. There are 25 from which to choose, and they are located in every corner of Virginia.
2. Register in advance. Sessions are generally scheduled for 9 am and 2 pm during the week, with some schools offering special 9 am sessions on Saturday, July 31.
3. Pick up a “passport” at the first college.
4. At the conclusion of the visit, get the passport stamped.
5. Once the passport has at least three stamps, mail it to CICV (118 East Main Street, Bedford, VA 24523) and receive three fee waivers for any Virginia private college or university—not necessarily the ones visited.

The application fee waiver program has been a very successful promotion for the CICV, as hundreds of families travel each summer to visit member colleges and universities during Private College Week. Posted application fees at member institutions generally range from $30 to $50. This means that three waivers could be worth as much as $150.

Virginia private colleges offer students a friendly academic community where teaching comes first and students receive personal attention and mentoring. For more information, visit the CICV website.

See you on tour!

Jul 17, 2010

Princeton Will Not be Following U.Va. in Switch to Early Action

Princeton will not be following U.Va.’s lead by making available a nonbinding early action application alternative any time in the foreseeable future. In comments before an audience of college counselors traveling with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey (AICUNJ), associate dean of admission Robyn Kent emphatically restated Princeton’s commitment to a “single review” of all applications.

“It works for us,” said Ms. Kent. “President Tilghman is very committed to single review, and we have no plans to change our current application procedures.”

Most colleges offer students the opportunity to submit applications for some kind of early admission notification. The more flexible program is early action (EA), which is a nonbinding decision. Early decision (ED) is binding and commits the student to attend the institution to which he or she applied.

In the fall of 2006, UVa announced plans to eliminate the University’s long-standing ED program in an effort “to remove an identified barrier to qualified low-income students and their families.” The move followed similar announcements by Harvard and Princeton and was considered “key” to the success of AccessUVa, an innovative financial aid program designed to make UVa more accessible to low-income applicants.

The University of Virginia surprised Princeton officials and others by recently submitting a proposal to the UVa Board of Visitors that would appear to go back on the policy, which was implemented in the fall of 2007. Arguing that nonbinding early action would give students “more flexibility and freedom,” UVa dean of admission Greg Roberts reported that he and his staff have done a “great deal of research” on the issue and assured the Board that he would not be making the new proposal if it would hurt low-income students’ applications.

Since joining with Harvard and Princeton in the elimination of all early admission programs, UVa has traveled with both colleges in an "accessibility" recruitment tour which typically takes place later in the application cycle. This year, UVa proposes to use the fall months to communicate the new EA plan to sophomores and juniors who will be among the first applicants affected by the change, as it would go into effect fall of 2011.

For now, Princeton admissions officials report plans to go forward with the tour and UVa will be included in the previously-scheduled program of visits. “It’s been a great experience,” explained Janet Rapelye, Princeton’s dean of admission. “We plan to continue to travel together for this year at least.”

Jul 15, 2010

Understanding the College Selection Process

Each year, the staff of the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University (CSB/SJU) surveys incoming freshmen and their families to identify what college characteristics or attributes were most important in their college decision.

“Their responses provide us with insights about differences between parents and students, but also about differences between women [CSB] students and men [SJU],” said Jon McGee, vice president for planning and public affairs, at the recent Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA) conference held on the College of Saint Benedict campus.

Students and parents were presented with a list of 27 factors and asked to indicate how important each was in the college selection process. Factors range from “academic reputation” and “accessible professors” to “selectivity of the college” and “quality of career services and guidance.”

The findings, while specific to the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, offer a fascinating view of what it is that drives college selection. Interestingly, while the vast majority of new students describe the college choice as their own, most parents describe the choice as a “shared” family decision. When given the opportunity to comment about the recruitment and choice experience, parents “frequently use the word ‘we’ to describe both how the choice was made and their college expectations.”

With regard to specific college characteristics, parents are more likely than students to describe “academic reputation” as very important in the selection process. Students are looking for “friendly” people, with men most interested in academic reputation and accessible professors, and women concerned with safety and sense of community. Parents of women are also concerned with safety while parents of men placed “college emphasis on values” high on their list.

Not surprisingly, cost after financial aid was important to everyone. “Jobs of grads” was equally important and topped the list for the students in the SJU incoming class.

“Our research indicates that, on average, parents most value developmental attributes and outcomes: will my child become a functional, independent, successful, self-confident adult?” explained McGee. “Students, on the other hand, value more highly ‘fit’ and feel (emotional) attributes: are the people friendly, what kind of community is this to live in, will I like it here?”

The take-away from this research suggests that as counselors advise students, they must be mindful of the expectations of all parties to the decision, including parents. And not surprisingly, their expectations are not always the same.

Jul 14, 2010

USNWR Gets It Wrong—DC Is Most Definitely a Great College Town

"A lot goes into making a great college town,” solemnly claims US News & World Report (USNWR), in a commentary accompanying a recent article entitled, “10 Great College Towns." “It can be the scenery, a fun [sic] community, a big sports culture—or all of those, in some cases.”

Reasonable enough. But what doesn’t quite seem right is how a list of ten “great” college towns could leave off one of the all-time best college towns, which happens to be our nation’s capital and home of ten world-class colleges and universities—Washington DC.

Nothing against Amherst, but how can the rural Massachusetts community heading the USNWR list compare with everything DC has to offer the average college student? The weekly farmers’ market on the town green is fun, but it’s not where most students go to look for internships, cultural experiences, or big time scorts. The very bright and capable students at Amherst College no doubt make their own fun on weekends, but if they want a meaningful or educational summer experience, they are likely to head south to DC.

And DC is where they will find all the resources of the Executive Branch of government, the Congress, and the highest courts in the land. Nations around the world have set up shop in embassies located throughout the city and some of the most powerful corporations and businesses are within walking distance of many of the District’s colleges and universities.

But it’s not just about opportunities and jobs. DC is a beautiful place to be. The architecture, cherry blossoms, and broad thoroughfares connecting the Capitol with the Washington Monument and beyond are among the distinctive physical features that set the District apart from an average college town.

For culture, college students have access to the Kennedy Center, the National Zoo, Folger Theater, and the Smithsonian. The National Archives, Library of Congress, and the many other local research facilities are almost too much for college students to absorb or take advantage of in four years. DC also has nightlife and some really hot sports provided by teams ranging from the Georgetown Hoyas to the Washington Capitals.

USNWR specializes in list-making, and despite continuing complaints, the magazine has managed to create a cottage industry of rating and ranking colleges and universities. Unfortunately, the most recent list of “great” college towns is like all the rest—not terrifically accurate or useful.

Jul 13, 2010

U.Va. Considers Returning to Early Admission

In a proposal under consideration by the U.Va. Board of Visitors, the University of Virginia would return to a modified form of nonbinding “Early Action” (EA) admission in the fall of 2011.

According to a report from the Charlottesville Daily Progress, U.Va.’s dean of admission, Greg Roberts is proposing a retreat from the University’s earlier commitment to doing away with all forms of early application in favor of a plan that would allow students the option of receiving an earlier admissions decision they would be free to accept or reject.

U.Va. dropped binding Early Decision (ED) in the fall of 2007, and made a highly publicized move to join with Harvard and Princeton over concerns that all forms of early admission disadvantaged low-income students. The deans of all three schools have since traveled together in recruitment tours promoting "accessibility."

Under the proposal, EA applications would be due November 1st, and the university would make offers of admission by mid-December. Students would be under no obligation to accept the offers and would have until May 1st to make up their minds. Staff anticipates between 12,000 and 15,000 students would take advantage of the new plan.

“Clearly, this gives students more flexibility and freedom,” said Dean Roberts to board members attending an annual retreat in Virginia Beach.

The return to early application would also help admissions staff by encouraging students to begin the process sooner and not clogging the system by waiting until late in December to send applications.

Jul 12, 2010

Grow Your Vocabulary and Feed the Hungry

The story is simple. A guy named John Breen came up with an idea for getting sponsors with deep pockets to contribute money toward feeding the hungry while simultaneously imparting a few good words on a vocabulary starved world. FreeRice.com was born and billions of grains of rice later, poor people in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Uganda are being fed while kids in other parts of the world develop basic skills.

And it’s wicked fun. There’s no log-in, no personal information is collected, and you’re not bombarded with advertising. You simply decide now is a good time to work on vocabulary or on one of several subjects, and visit the site. Each time you choose a correct answer, you earn 10 grains of rice paid for by one of the sponsors listed at the foot of the page.

Without being too dramatic, it’s fair to say an Oakton High School student can invest an hour of time working on vocabulary and easily send enough rice across the world to feed a family for an entire day. What could be more rewarding?

Anyone prepping for college entrance exams knows that basic vocabulary is a key to bringing home top scores. FreeRice starts you out with easy words and automatically builds to a level on which the program feels you need work. Or you can manually set the vocabulary level.

College consultants testing the game agree that basic ACT/SAT vocabulary may be found on levels 30 and 40. Much higher levels begin to get into specialized vocabulary that while helpful isn’t necessary until you’ve mastered the basics.

But it’s not just vocabulary. The English grammar tests are well worth exploring, particularly if your Critical Reading or Writing scores were not has high as hoped. At levels 4 and 5, the game tests the kind of tricky grammar the College Board loves to use.

You can also work on vocabulary development in other languages. FreeRice has games in French, Spanish, Italian, and German. Or you can get ready for AP Art History, by taking the famous paintings quiz. Chemistry, geography, and very basic math round out the subject areas presented on the site.

To date, visitors to FreeRice.com have generated funding for over 80 billion grains of rice. The United Nations World Food Programme and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society are partners along with dozens of sponsors.

For more information or to begin learning and earning, visit FreeRice and start filling the little wooden bowl.

Jul 9, 2010

Learn More about the Virginia Private College Experience

Virginia’s private colleges are putting the final touches on plans to host hundreds of college-bound high school students for Virginia Private College Week, beginning Monday, July 26 and running through Saturday, July 31. With most events scheduled for 9:00 am and 2:00 pm each weekday and some 9 am Saturday sessions, true road warriors can visit up to 11 of the 25 participating private colleges and universities.

And there’s a special incentive. Students visiting three or more colleges during the week will receive three FREE application fee waivers. That means no application fees for up to three Virginia private colleges of choice—not just those visited. Sweet!

According to the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), Virginia's private colleges differ from big-name state schools because of emphasis on smaller classes and the personal attention students receive from faculty. “Our students are engaged in the classroom, involved on campus, mentored by their professors, and prepared for a career or graduate school.”

In addition to the educational benefits of a private college, the CICV wants to remind parents that Virginia 529 accounts can be used at any of Virginia’s private institutions. And then there’s the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG), which essentially translates into free money for any Virginia resident attending one of the Commonwealth’s private colleges as a full time student.

Although one of the first, Virginia Private College Week is not the only state-wide program of organized private college tours. Wisconsin (July 12-17), Minnesota (June 21-25), Iowa (August 2-6), and Kentucky (June 14-18) are among the other state groups offering students the opportunity to tour private colleges during a special week set aside to welcome families on college road trips.

For a list of Virginia's participating schools and the schedule of events, check the Private College Week web page or visit the CICV website.
See you on tour!

Public School Enrollment to Increase in Virginia

Enrollments in Virginia’s public schools are expected to grow by 4 percent over the next five years. Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties will account for 85 percent of the growth, which will be countered by enrollment losses in 53 school districts mostly in Southside and southwest Virginia.

According to a University of Virginia study, a record 1.21 million students attended the Commonwealth’s public schools in 2009-10. Projections for the next five years show that about 50,000 more students will be enrolled by 2014-15, with elementary grades shouldering two-thirds of the increase.

The report from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service also included high school graduation projections. Not surprisingly, increasing total enrollment has resulted in higher numbers of students finishing high school throughout the state.

In fact, an all-time record of 88,624 graduated from Virginia's public high schools this year. School divisions with particularly large numbers of graduates are located in the state’s three largest metropolitan areas—northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.

Future graduating classes will continue to grow and set new records through 2011-12, when 89,219 students are projected to finish high school. After that, the number of graduates will begin to decline and fall to 86,101 in 2014-15.

“The large K-5 grade enrollment growth between now and 2014-12, along with the relatively small increase in grades 9-12, sets the stage for this anticipated decline, which will be gradual and temporary,” said U.Va. demographer Michael Spar.

Virginia’s public high schools will get a breather between 2012 and 15. But after that, all those elementary school kids, particularly in the northern part of the state, will make their way through the system and reach college age.

Jul 7, 2010

Augsburg Makes Recovery Part of the Mission

Augsburg College, located in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota, made a commitment in 1997 that few other post-secondary institutions have been willing to make. Taking a cue from its founding as an ELCA liberal arts college, Augsburg expanded its educational mission to include recovery support for a handful of undergrads enrolled in what has become known as the StepUP® Program.

“StepUP is designed to help recovering students flourish in their college experience by furthering their growth in recovery, finding academic success, and thriving in a community of accountability and support,” explains Scott Washburn, the program’s assistant director. “It’s really all about living and growing and discovering life direction, meaning, and purpose.”

For 13 years, StepUP has provided a safe, supportive community for the well over 400 students entering the program. The success rate is unparalleled. To date, enrolled students have maintained an 87 percent abstinence rate and earned a collective 3.2 GPA in their classes. During the 2009-10 academic year, StepUP boasted an astonishing 96 percent abstinence rate while serving 90 students.

StepUP is one of only 15 college members of the Association of Recovery Schools, an organization advocating the “promotion, strengthening, and expansion of secondary and post-secondary programs designed for students and families committed to achieving success both in education and recovery.” Locally, the Hoos in Recovery Program at the University of Virginia and Loyola’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services are also members.

But the key difference between most ARS members and the Augsburg StepUP Program is the availability of year-round chemical-free housing offered in a collegiate recovery community that includes mandatory counseling as well as attendance at two 12-step meetings per week. Students must also participate in a weekly community meeting where they hear from outside speakers, participate in the business of running the program, and celebrate even the smallest of victories.

“The community is a safe place where you feel supported,” says Washburn. “The students guard and protect the safety of the community by holding each other accountable.”

And they succeed. “I didn’t have any goals when I was using,” according to Emily A, a recent honors graduate interviewed by Augsburg Now. “But StepUP has taught me that I have amazing drive and potential.”

Currently serving about 80 students from every corner of the country, StepUP requires a separate application for admissions. Applicants must
  • Be accepted by the Augsburg Office of Undergraduate Admissions;

  • Be within the ages of 17 and 26;

  • Have six months of continuous sobriety by move-in;

  • Be committed to a 12-step abstinence-based recovery program;

  • Interview with a StepUP Program counselor;

  • Submit a recommendation from a recent treatment counselor, after-care counselor or therapist;

  • Agree to reside in StepUP on-campus housing and sign a program contract to abide by StepUP policies

Transfers are more than welcome.

For more information, visit the StepUP web pages or call the Augsburg Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 1-800-788-5678.

Jul 6, 2010

Your AP Scores are Ready When You Are

In case you’re dying to know, Advanced Placement (AP) scores have been available since July 1st. For a measly $8, you can hear your 2010 exam scores by using the automated Scores by Phone service. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-308-0013 (toll free in the US, US territories, and Canada). You will need to have your AP number (found in the Student Pack), social security number, date of birth, and a credit card.

Hey it’s a bargain relative to some of the other charges you can rack up with the College Board.

But if you can wait, scores will arrive in your mailbox some time in the next couple of weeks. Reports will also be sent to the college or university designated on your answer sheet (for graduates only) and to your high school. Each report is cumulative and includes scores for all the AP exams you have ever taken, unless you requested that one or more scores be withheld or canceled.

Although most score reports are sent by mid-July, some take longer to process because of problems with identification information or test administration. Contact Score Reporting Services if you haven’t received scores by September 1.

And what do the scores mean? AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5:

• 5: Extremely well qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement
• 4: Well qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement
• 3: Qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement
• 2: Possibly qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement
• 1: No recommendation to receive college credit or advanced placement

The five-point scale can also be thought of in terms of letter grades with 5 equating to an “A” and 1—well, you get the picture.

And what are they worth? The awarding of credit and placement status is determined by individual colleges or universities. You can check directly with the school or on the College Board website to research this information. In most cases, a student who scores a 4 or 5 will receive college credit. In rare cases, a school may require a 5, and almost no colleges will accept a score of 2. In fact, the most selective schools will not accept a 3 for credit.

For example, George Mason University will accept a 4 or 5 for credit in specified courses, but will go as low as a 3 for languages, Music Theory, Human Geography, and Computer Science. Georgetown University will award no credit for any score below a 4.

AP exam scores may also be used to meet standardized test requirements in the admissions processes of several colleges. Fair Test keeps track of this evolving trend on its Test Score Optional List and includes Furman, Colby, Middlebury, and NYU among those colleges and universities allowing AP’s to be submitted in place of ACT/SAT scores.

So you can call or wait—your choice. It doesn’t make a bit of difference.

Jul 4, 2010

Happy Holiday!

Jul 2, 2010

UMW Named One of Fiske’s ‘Best Buys of 2011’

The University of Mary Washington (UMW), located in Fredericksburg VA, is one of 45 public and private colleges and universities recognized as Fiske’s “Best Buys of 2011.” Selected based on quality of academic offerings in relation to cost of attendance, Mary Washington is the only school in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region earning this distinction.

“Mary Washington could easily be mistaken for one of Virginia’s elite private colleges,” according to the Fiske Guide, which has been compiled annually for more than 25 years under the direction of Edward B. Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times. “[UMW] offers just as much history and tradition—for a much lower price.”

The bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges continues as one of the most popular “print” resources used by counselors, students and parents. At a recent gathering of college consultants at the annual Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) conference in Minneapolis, Fiske explained that the Guide’s popularity is due in part to its ability to capture “institutional personality and culture” in reviews of more than 300 of the nation’s “best and most interesting” colleges and universities.

A key reference contained in the guide is Fiske’s “Index by Price,” in which colleges are classified into four groups ranging from inexpensive ($) to very expensive ($$$$) based on estimated tuition and fees for the academic year. Among public colleges and universities, UMW is rated as “moderate” in cost.

Falling within either the inexpensive or moderate categories, Fiske’s “Best Buys” are colleges or universities with either four- or five-star academic ratings. For the 2010-11 academic year, 21 public and 24 private institutions rose to the top of the list by offering “outstanding academics with relatively modest prices.”

In addition to UMW, public colleges and universities listed as “Best Buys” include Georgia Tech, McGill, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Universities of Florida, Iowa, Oregon, Toronto, and Washington. Private institutions include Baylor, Brigham Young, Drexel, Elon, Juniata, Marquette, Millsaps, and Spelman—among others.

The 2011 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges is hot off the presses. Although not yet available on the Fiske website, copies are available from other online vendors.