Feb 28, 2012

Princeton Review's College Hopes and Worries Survey 2012

The Princeton Review wants to know what it is about the college admissions process that keeps you up at night. And they’re offering the possibility of winning a $1,000 scholarship as an incentive for completing a very simple survey that I promise will take no more than three minutes to complete.

Since 2003, the Princeton Review has annually asked college-bound students and their parents to answer a series of questions related to the application process and what they hope—or are afraid—will happen as the process draws to a close.

And the answers not only receive lots of national publicity but they usually add something to what we know are the hot spots in the college admissions process.

For example, the survey probes basic concerns like not getting into a first-choice college and how the economy has affected decisions about applying to or attending college. It also asks about the toughest parts of the application process and for an assessment of personal stress-level.

And in the survey’s only open-ended question, “What college would you most like to attend (or see your child attend) if chance of being accepted or cost were not an issue,” you have the opportunity to honestly reflect on what defines a dream college. Last year’s respondents came up with more than 545 different institutions.

The survey is thought-provoking and easy to complete. Simply go to the Princeton Review website and follow the link to the online form.

You can be anonymous, but if you want a chance to win the $1,000 scholarship, you’ll have to provide some basic contact information and submit the survey by no later than March 5, 2012.

GMU turns 40

With a number of events in planning stages, George Mason University is getting ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

Although GMU originally opened in the early 1960’s as a northern Virginia affiliate of the University of Virginia, the anniversary marks action by the General Assembly in 1972 resulting in the creation of a stand-alone institution.

In August 1964, George Mason College moved to its current location in Fairfax. From an original graduating class of 52 students located on a 150-acre campus donated by the City of Fairfax, Mason has expanded the main campus to 677 acres and opened additional locations in Arlington as well as Prince William and Loudon Counties. GMU currently enrolls over 32,500 students, making it the largest university by “head count” in the Commonwealth.

To kick off the celebration, GMU has produced an “animated scrapbook” looking back at the university’s history. It can be found at www.vimeo.com/34041573.

Highlights of the video include the establishment of the GMU School of Law (1979), the opening of the Patriot Center (1985), university professors winning the Nobel Prize in Economics (1986 and 2002), the opening of the Center for the Arts (1990, and the amazing success of the men’s basketball team in 2006.

GMU’s reclassification as a residential campus last year also marked a turning point in the school’s history. For those who haven’t visited lately, the stunning new construction and campus reconfiguration are nothing short of spectacular.

In fact, close to one-third of Mason’s undergrads now live on campus reinforcing the development of a “neighborhood” atmosphere within the GMU community.

“We have the benefit of having a relatively young campus that has made a conscious decision to go in the direction of expanding our residential offerings,” said Jana Hurley, executive director of housing and residence life. “We’ve designed facilities and created an overall program that addresses the needs of today’s students, as well as anticipates the needs of future students 10 and 20 years from now.”

Happy Birthday GMU!

Feb 27, 2012

Don’t Forget Midyear Reports

Officials at the Common Application recently issued a Facebook reminder to students and counselors that midyear reports need to be submitted as soon as first semester/trimester grades are available.

Not all colleges require these documents. But for those that do, midyear reports can sometimes tip the scales in admissions.

With the huge surge in numbers of applications filed this year and the relative comparability of credentials among applicants, the midyear report is taking on greater importance. It’s no longer a “pro forma” document simply to be filed after admissions decisions are made.

For example, a student whose grades at the end of junior year fell just shy of what a college expects can show improvement or document an extension of an upward incline begun earlier in the high school career. An added boost in GPA might also help with scholarship dollars for schools using a grade factor for allocating merit money.

Most midyear reports also provide counselors with the opportunity to bring colleges up-to-date on additional achievements or awards since the original application was filed. Be sure to let your counselor know if there’s anything worth reporting to the schools receiving these reports and ask that the information be included along with grades on the document forwarded to your colleges.

The midyear report can be an important “marketing” opportunity for your counselor to support your candidacy. Incomplete or late documents add little or nothing.

On the downside, students who have dropped classes or succumbed to a mean case of senioritis risk being revealed on the midyear report. It’s no secret that colleges take a dim view of students who slip during their senior year, and major changes in academic performance or behavior can have unfortunate results.

Neither the Common App nor the Universal College Application (UCA) sends reminders about midyear reports. Counselors do not receive invitations to submit as they do with the school report. It is the student’s responsibility to keep track of this requirement and ensure that the counselor is aware of it.

For Common App colleges, you can check to see if a midyear report is required by clicking the name of the institution in the online requirements grid. Specifically review the “School Forms Required” section for an indication of whether the report is required.

The UCA specifies which schools require a midyear report in several places. You can go directly to the UCA Checklist for an “expanded” requirements spreadsheet or you can go to the general “College Info” page and access the information by clicking on the school name.

For colleges using neither the Common App nor the UCA, you will have to research the requirement on individual websites. Georgetown, for example, required its own midyear report to be submitted no later than February 10, 2012.Link

Among other local colleges, American, George Washington, Howard, UVa, the College of William & Mary, Mary Washington, and Johns Hopkins require midyear reports. Towson, UMBC, Salisbury, and Christopher Newport do not.

Note that many high schools have policies in place requiring that midyear reports be sent to all colleges receiving transcripts in the admissions process—whether you (or the institution) want them to or not

Feb 25, 2012

Which Virginia Public Colleges Enroll the Most Out-of-State Students

This is a trick question. Or at least the answer may not be intuitive.

Ask most local parents which of the Commonwealth’s public institutions enrolled the highest percentage of out-of-state students in the fall of 2011, and the answer will usually be “UVa.”

But according to the
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the University of Virginia was not guilty of enrolling the highest percentage of students from outside the Commonwealth. The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) once again holds that distinction, posting 40.9 percent out-of-state students. The College of William & Mary moved up to second at 33.4 percent, and the University of Virginia came in third at 32.8 percent.

Looking at numbers instead of percentages,
Virginia Tech enrolled the most nonresidents in the fall of 2011 with 6262 students coming from other states. UVa came in second with 5170 out-of-state students, and James Madison University came in third with 4896 students from outside of Virginia.

In total, Virginia public institutions enrolled 164,460 students (up 2 percent from last year), with 18.4 coming from other states, no doubt to take advantage of Virginia’s reputation for excellence in postsecondary education.

In fact, four Virginia public institutions (UVa, College of William & Mary,
University of Mary Washington, and James Madison University) are among the top twenty public colleges and universities with the best four-year graduation rates in the country based on data generated using a search tool provided on the IPEDS website.

While the state legislature engages in a
perennial battle with UVa and William & Mary over enrollment caps for nonresidents, it’s interesting to look at which of Virginia’s public institutions are actually most friendly to out-of state students:

Feb 24, 2012

Maryland and Virginia Score High on AP's

Once again, Maryland and Virginia claimed two of the top three spots in performance on Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered to students graduating from public high schools, according to the College Board’s 8th annual AP Report to the Nation.

For the fourth consecutive year, Maryland had the nation’s highest percentage (27.9 percent) of seniors scoring a passing mark on at least one AP exam—up 1.5 percentage points over last year. Virginia placed third at 25.6 percent, just behind New York (26.5) and above Massachusetts (25.5). Nationwide, 18.1 percent of public high school students from the class of 2011 completed high school with at least one successful AP experience

Maryland also earned honors for being among the states with the greatest ten-year percentage increase (13.1) of seniors scoring 3 or higher on an at least one exam. Virginia came in lower on the list with a 9.1 percent increase in successful test-takers over ten years.

Well over a half a million public school students from the class of 2011 earned a passing score (3 or higher out of a possible 5) on at least one AP exam during high school—nearly doubling the number of successful students from the class of 2001 and far exceeding the total number of students from the class of 2001 who took AP exams.

In Maryland, half of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Class of 2011 received a college-ready score on at least on AP exam—nearly twice the rate posted by the state as a whole and nearly triple the national rate. In addition the percentage of MCPS 2011 grads taking at least one AP exam hit an all-time high of 66.1 percent.

“I am very proud of how MCPS students are performing on AP exams and the role they have played in making Maryland a national leader in AP,” said Superintendent Joshua P. Starr. “I am also extremely pleased to see significant improvement in AP participation and performance by our African American and Hispanic students.”

Across the Potomac in Fairfax County, the number of students taking AP tests rose by 5.4 percent. The highest achievement rates (score of 3 or better) were in AP Calculus BC (86 percent) AP Chinese Language and Culture (95 percent), and AP Studio Art: 2-D Design (88 percent). AP English Language, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Literature, and AP World History all posted 78 percent pass rates.

According to the College Board, research shows that students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams “typically experience stronger college outcomes than otherwise comparable non-AP peers.” As the AP report clearly demonstrates, area high schools have responded by increasing the availability of AP courses and encouraging more students to take AP exams.

A complete copy of the 2012 AP Report to the Nation is available on the College Board website.