Jun 29, 2009

BYU Lifts Ban on YouTube

Here we were all worried about China and the filters they are insisting be put on computers sold to Chinese citizens, when lo and behold it turns out that Brigham Young University (BYU) has been blocking student access to YouTube almost since it went online in 2005. Concerned about the lusty nature and bad language of some of the videos shared, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints originally condemned YouTube because it allowed “inappropriate sexual media throughout its URL’s,” and school filters could not clean things up enough for student viewing. Google Video was not subject to the campus-wide ban because BYU officials could selectively block videos containing offensive material. Unlike the Chinese who want control over all social networking sites, however, BYU curiously chose not to block Facebook and MySpace. I guess they never checked out the “30 Reasons Girls Should Call It a Night” group.

But that is all history; a new day has dawned. Effective last Friday, the BYU ban on YouTube is lifted. Evidently Church Elders had a change of heart and decided that the value of the website’s educational content outweighed the sinful. It turns out that certain BYU classes were already using a secret password to get around the ban to broadcast approved YouTube videos. You can bet they weren’t looking at anything irreverent, violent, or pornographic, and that's fine. But now, all students may access Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” or Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma. In fact, the Church has launched a YouTube channel and posted public affairs videos showing Elders explaining church beliefs. And if you have any lingering questions about the appropriateness of website content, BYU has opened a new site called BeSafe Online, which covers spam and phishing, viruses and malware, web content, social networking, and gaming.

BYU’s honor code requires all students and faculty to avoid internet content that is not “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy." Unless I missed something, YouTube hasn’t changed much since last Friday and there is plenty that is not praiseworthy. At least the school administration has backed off, and students have the choice whether or not to use good judgment in their viewing. Sounds like growing up to me.

Jun 27, 2009

Tour Guides Unite!

One of the indisputable perks of the college advising business is being obligated to visit college campuses--lots of college campuses. It's almost the best part of the job. In fact, I love walking the grounds, admiring beautiful architecture, noting regional differences, watching students engage in scholarly pursuits, and I really enjoy hearing all the self-promoting propaganda colleges so earnestly put forth in their quest to recruit applicants. Propaganda? The Cold War era term may be a little harsh, but what else would you call the shameless marketing that goes on during information sessions and student-led tours?

The Daily Beast recently provided commentary on the college tour industry in an article entitled, "How Colleges Dupe Students." In her introduction, Kathleen Kingsbury characterizes the campus tour as “…the biggest fleecing attempt in the college admissions process…." While I might not agree with the global nature of the statement, I have to confess that the tour is one element of a neatly devised marketing plan targeted to high school students and their parents. Not all tour guides try to score marijuana from tour groups and not all are as inarticulate as the Yale guide who responded with the college equivalent of “recess” to a question about his favorite part of school. Sadly, most are scripted affairs with little of the humor or unexpected twists that would make the experience more entertaining.

Defending the integrity of the college tour and associated marketing endeavors, Angela Kornman, of Rhodes College in Tennessee, agrees that the tours “like viewbooks and open houses, do not perfectly reflect the day-to-day reality of campus life." Really? She goes on to say,

“…if (the tour guide) is presenting her institution in the best light, mitigating the negative factors, and truthfully serving as a model student, though not necessarily the ‘average student’ then she is doing honest work.”

Well, I suppose. But going back to the Cold War, I have to advise families weighing the value of information imparted during campus tours and/or information sessions to “Trust, but verify.” Students should engage themselves in these events by being armed with a variety of questions and a strategy for getting answers. For example, it’s worth knowing if tour guides are being paid to offer their glowing reviews of the education and campus, or if they happen to be student volunteers who might offer slightly more candid reviews. It might be useful to know the terms under which the guide is allowed to provide answers to questions. One admissions office advises that they tell guides never to give numbers, as they are invariably wrong. In truth, I’ve found this to be the case. During one tour, a guide was asked what percent of students who started at the university actually graduated. Without missing a beat, she responded, “One-hundred percent. I mean who wouldn’t graduate?" A quick look at the fine print of published materials revealed that only about 65% of the entering class managed to graduate in six years.

Not long ago, I was at a presentation during which the president of a very highly respected university felt compelled to address some negative remarks made by a tour guide to a group of prospective applicants. He sighed and said, “You know, tour guides are probably among our most valuable staff members. They can make or break you. Maybe we should pay them more.”

Jun 25, 2009

Summer Test Prep

It’s amazing to me how thoroughly the test prep industry has saturated its market. Outside of obvious admissions process questions, test prep is the single most frequently voiced concern among parents of high school students starting down the road to college. When to begin? What company to use? What tests should be prepped? Are tutors worth the investment? The list goes on and on.

For background on standardized tests, I would refer back to comments I made in April. More recently published research indicates that most students experience only minimal gains as a result of formal test preparation classes. I would argue (with support from other researchers in the field) that even minimal improvements in scores are worth some effort. Fortunately, this effort doesn’t necessarily mean going out and purchasing the most expensive package from the most prestigious company in the area. There are other options, many of which can be explored during the summer months. While I don’t want to ruin vacation plans, I suggest looking at some of these ideas and trying to see where they might fit into time at the shore or evenings during which you’d either be Facebooking or watching fireflies do their thing in the backyard:

SAT Question of the Day: Since I know you’re on the computer, why not take advantage of this free service and register. You can “passively” prep for the SAT by simply answering the question that sweetly pops up on your screen every day. Check your answer and compare how you did versus the thousands of other high school students and college admissions counselors (like me) who take the quiz like vitamins every morning.

Free Online Prep: Keeping in mind that even though the SAT and ACT are paper-and-pencil tests, you can benefit from working with online test prep programs. Number2.com and 4Tests.com offer sample tests and loads of test-taking tips (as do the College Board and the ACT). While I prefer you take sample tests that simulate the real thing (see below), I know my audience and have a feeling you might be more likely to try computerized versions.

SAT and ACT Preparation Booklets: Remember those little paperback booklets your guidance counselor tried to hand you every time you walked in the office? I’ve got a secret for you: they each contain a full-length sample test complete with answer grids. Admissions junkies, such as myself, collect them over the years so as to amass several free full-length tests to administer as practice exams. Go back over to school (or ask me) and get a booklet or two. Get up early one Saturday morning, assign a designated timer from among household members, and take a complete test. The truly dedicated among you will actually score the thing and go over your results.

Official SAT Study Guide: As much as I hate promoting the College Board and their publications, this is really the only study guide to use. It contains 10 official practice tests (saving you the trouble of collecting old booklets) and lots of advice. Buy it on Amazon and save about $7.00. Again, because these tests involve sitting at a desk and working with a No. 2 pencil, I might not be bothered with all the software promoted by the College Board. It’s expensive and you’ll never use it. Instead, make an effort to take several of the 10 published practice tests over the course of the summer. Try to simulate test-taking conditions to the extent possible (see above).

Read: If you don’t do anything else to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, please make time to read over the summer. By this, I don’t mean Teen Cosmo or Sports Illustrated. Try to get reading lists for the fall in key classes like AP history, literature, or language. If you’re not taking AP classes, still try to find out what you’ll be expected to read next year. You can ask friends who’ve already taken the classes or maybe even contact the school. Regardless, reading ahead can really help. If you don’t want to be seen lugging around great works of literature, try magazines. But be sure your reading material is written at a level commensurate with the tests you will be taking. Look for source documents in geography or scientific journals or read popular culture articles in The New Yorker. Remember that magazines as well as books are available at your neighborhood library.

Write: I don’t care what you write, but write. And I mean write in complete sentences. Paragraphs are good too. Just don’t limit your written communications to texting or IM-speak. These habits are actually harmful insofar as you begin to lose your “ear” for correct grammar and syntax. Start a blog, write grandma, bother your Congressperson, or begin drafting your college essays—it really doesn’t matter. If you’re reading some good books, enroll in an online literary group like Ning or Shelfari. Not only will you be able to share ideas, but you may find the writing experience very useful particularly if you succumb to intellectual peer pressure and actually clean-up your sentences or check your spelling.

Find a Buddy: Lots of your friends are going through the same test prep anxiety. Gather a few together and form a support group to take practice tests or otherwise kvetch about college admission. The wise high school student learns about the value of study groups early. They work as long as you don’t spend the entire time socializing. Even then, you might be surprised how much you learn simply by getting together united in a common cause. You could even treat yourself to a showing of the Scarsdale High movie on college admissions. It’s best seen with a group of your peers.

So the good news is that there are ways to prepare for standardized tests without ruining the summer. It may take a little self-discipline, but whatever.

Jun 24, 2009

Cheering for the Fighting Squirrels

Any college counselor worth his or her salt will tell advisees that selecting a college is all about the “fit.” We don’t focus on rankings or prestige. Instead, we look at the individual and try to find solid matches from among the thousands of colleges to which high school students could theoretically apply. Without giving away too many trade secrets, I can tell you that we use a huge variety of institutional characteristics, personal preferences, and academic qualities to make these matches.

One cornerstone of the college experience I think may be overlooked in our carefully crafted searches could very well be the school mascot. It occurs to me that after taking months to go over schools, develop lists, and painstakingly prepare applications, it might come as a surprise to learn you have just signed on to be a Banana Slug, a Fighting Anteater, or a Humpback Whale. Spending four years in high school as one form of cat or other (Lions, Tigers, or Cougars…oh my), students assume that colleges follow similar unwritten rules for mascot assignments and stick to the dignified or predictable like something in the bird family—Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, or Cardinals for example. Sorry, but that isn’t necessarily so. If you think cheering for a Tree or a Stormy Petrel (you’ll have to ask Oglethorpe University) or standing tall for the Zips or the Fighting Poets could diminish your college experience, I suggest taking a few minutes to go the extra mile and do the homework.

To facilitate your review of college mascots, I recommend a very direct, no frills website maintained by the Society for Sports Uniforms Research (SSUR). Based on 25 years of data collection, the SSUR provides a database of virtually every college or university I can think of. Included is an alphabetical listing of schools with such basic information as location, founding date, enrollment, school type, and religious affiliation. In addition, the listings include athletic affiliation, colors, and nicknames (the all-important mascot). A live link puts you right on to the school’s website where you can continue your research. Without comment and minimal advertisement, the SSUR opens a door to the world of Razorbacks, Super Bees (and Queen Bees), Polar Bears, Lord Jeffs, Terriers, Muleridders, Camels, Keelhaulers, Roadrunners, Hardrockers, and Sea Otters. One word of warning however, the historical information provided may not be entirely correct as Stanford’s inglorious past as the Indians is mysteriously left off. Nevertheless, the SSUR has undertaken a huge assignment, and we can cut them a little slack if some details aren't exact.

We tell students that there's much to consider when evaluating post-secondary institutions. This has the potential of being among the weirder of the considerations.

Jun 22, 2009

Colleges for Surfing

Today’s undergraduates expect a much richer experience than those of us whose idea of extracurricular activity was limited to sitting out on the quad in good weather. They come equipped with an array of interests, hobbies, and the all-important “passions” that have been carefully nurtured through 12 or more years of lessons, teams, mentors or other hired guns employed by parents to keep kids competitive.

In a post-secondary universe where schools compete on a variety of attributes other than academics, it comes as no surprise that lists starting with “Best For….” or “Strong In .…” are generated and feverishly exchanged among college counselors anxious to stay ahead in the advising game. One such list recently grabbed my undivided attention: Top Schools for Surfing. And by this, I do not mean the internet. These are schools that have earned bragging rights for their easy access to waves by students hoping to “hang ten” either competitively or as a weekend diversion from studies.

As is true with all such lists, there is some controversy as to which criteria to use in judging schools strong in surfing. Transworld Surf lists academics, surf proximity, life experiences, costs, and partying. Surfline takes a slightly different approach and adds surf classes, surfing professors (!), and male/female ratio to the mix. The result is as follows:



1. UC San Diego

1. UC Santa Cruz

2. UC Santa Cruz

2. UC Santa Barbara

3. California Polytechnic State U

3. UC San Diego

4. UC Santa Barbara

4. Pepperdine University

5. U of Hawaii Manoa

5. Point Loma Nazarene University

6. UNC Wilmington

6. U of Hawaii Manoa

7. U of Rhode Island

7. Flagler College

8. Pepperdine University

8. Monmouth University

9. Humbolt State

9. UNC Wilmington

10. Florida Institute of Technology

10. Salve Regina University

For Virginians not interested in traveling far to pursue surfing interests, Surfer Magazine lists the top 5 east coast surf schools as Flagler, UNC Wilmington, U of Rhode Island, U of North Florida, and Monmouth. A few more schools may be found by searching "surfing" on FindurU, a quirkly but useful little college search engine. While not providing a ranking, The College Finder adds a few more east coast schools including the University of Central Florida, College of Charleston, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (engineers who surf!), Jacksonville University, the University of West Florida, Ringling College of Art & Design, Stetson University, and Old Dominion University in Virginia. Who knew?

Jun 20, 2009

Stanford's Pilot Alumni Interview Program: Where Are We?

Stanford University recently announced an expansion of its pilot alumni interview program. During the 2008-09 application cycle, interviews were offered to candidates from Atlanta, Denver, London, New York City, Philadelphia, and Portland. In its second year of operation, the program will expand to offer interviews in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Raleigh/Durham, and the entire state of Massachusetts. Notice something missing? How about the entire Washington metropolitan area? I don't meant to sound petty, but it looks like the Stanford Office of Undergraduate Admission is leaving one big interview hole on the eastern seaboard. And, don't ask which Portland we're talking about (ME or OR). I figure if I can't find the answer in 10 minutes of searching on the Stanford admissions web pages, I don't really need to know.

After reading this, I suppose a number of you are thinking, "Well I'll just hop the AMTRAK and get myself to Philly or NYC
for an interview." Forget about it. Stanford clearly states:

Interviews will be offered only to applicants who attend high school in selected zip codes within these [above-listed] areas. You may not travel to a pilot area to have an interview. If you are eligible to be a part of the pilot interview program, an alumnus or alumna will contact you after you have submitted your application. You do not need to do anything – if an interview is available to you, you will hear from us.

Whatever you do, do not (my emphasis) call or email the Stanford Office of Undergraduate Admission to request an interview and/or to determine if you are even eligible for an interview by virtue of your zip code. Although if you're having the same problem I am and you live in Portland, you might hazard a call. And how many zip codes does New York City have?

In his statement concerning the expansion, Dean Richard Shaw (formerly of Yale University) described the pilot program as "successful." I guess that begs the question of, "Successful for whom?" Certainly not for anyone in the 22124 zip code. But don't worry. We are told that the program is under evaluation and we may learn more about the success and/or possible further expansion of the program in the spring of 2010. Maybe Miami or Dallas will get the nod by then.

To get an idea of how the pilot functioned over the past year, I scanned the minutes of a February Faculty Senate meeting
for some clues as to how Stanford uses the interviews. It appears that the program has been controversial from the start and that several high-ranking Stanford officials strongly opposed reinstating interviews of any kind. I learned that the six cities covered in the pilot represented about 5% of all applicants to Stanford and that practically all of the applicants in those areas opted for alumni interviews. Someone must consider them valuable, although administrators stress that they don't have a "huge impact" on admissions decisions. When all is said and done, the interviews are cynically characterized as recruitment tools and methods of engaging alumni.

None of this is particularly surprising except for the DC oversight. College interviews typically come in two forms: evaluative (intended to help the school assess the applicant) and informational (intended to market the school to the applicant). Stanford tells alumni applying to be interviewers that they will be expected to "share the Stanford experience with prospective students" and "convey their impressions of these candidates to the admissions committee." From this, I guess we are left to assume that candidates in our area either don't need to know more about Stanford or don't need a closer look in the admissions process.

Jun 19, 2009

Tempest in a Teapot?

The University of Illinois admissions scandal continues to draw considerable national attention as the Chicago Tribune recently filed suit against university officials who refused to turn over high school grade point averages and standardized test scores to investigators looking into abnormalities in a handful of admissions decisions. Last month the Tribune broke a story uncovering the existence of a list of applicants who most likely received special consideration by the University as candidates for various undergraduate and graduate programs. These students allegedly asked for and got preferential treatment in the admissions process despite gloomy grades and substandard test scores. The scandal took a new turn as university officials refused to provide additional information requested by the paper under the Freedom of Information Act. Citing FERPA (which protects student privacy against release of personal information), the university stood its ground in the face of mounting pressure from the legislature, parents, and students. Presumably, the Tribune wants the data to reinforce allegations of wrong doing among admissions officers and further embarrass the University which is beginning to look pretty bad. For what it's worth, the paper claims that only students and not applicants are covered under FERPA. Interesting distinction.

Over the past month, this story has generated a whole lot of ink and furious discussion in the blogosphere. There's indignity at the unfairness of giving preference to VIP's (of sorts) and/or their children in the admissions process. I, for one, can't get too worked up about any of it. My children have variously gone to school with a president's daughter, the son of a famous talk show host, the daughter of an academy award winning director, several governors' children, superman's daughter, the voice of "Tick Tock," as well as any number of children of the rich and famous. Heck, I went to college with Charlie McCarthy's sister who eventually grew up to be Shirley Schmidt, of Boston Legal's Crane, Pool & Schmidt. My husband had a former president's grandson in his class who was dating the daughter of a sitting president. She attended a nearby women's college. Some of these VIP's got in on their smarts; others didn't. So what's new? With the exception of those needing secret service protection, they were fairly anonymous. They may or may not have asked for special consideration, but you can be pretty sure they received it. But wait, the VIP's at the University of Illinois appear to be lesser lights--the sons and daughters of friends, neighbors, and relatives of legislators. One was even related to...a housekeeper.

In 5 years, 800 applications for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus were set aside for special consideration as "Category 1" applicants. Not all of these VIP's won admission. In fact, about 77% were accepted as opposed to the running 69% acceptance rate enjoyed by ordinary applicants. At a school that annually enrolls almost 30,400 degree-seeking undergraduates plus another nearly 11,000 graduate students, the numbers are hardly compelling. In his own defense, the Chancellor at the center of the controversy plaintively asked what he was supposed to do if President Obama happened to call on behalf of a nephew? Was that OK? Or is there some kind of distinction between VIP's? Also, please note that athletes, large donors, and others with "clout" haven't been brought into the picture. They represent a whole other category of special consideration.

Lots of the smoke generated around this issue is probably coming from people who feel they or their children were unfairly treated at some time in some college admissions process. Truthfully, college admissions really isn't all that precise or fair at any school I know of. Also, I can't think of any school which doesn't give some kind of preference whether to amazing quarterbacks, daughters of politicians, or friends of politicians for that matter. The only mistake Illinois seems to have made is writing the list down on a piece of paper and keeping it where it could be found.

Jun 18, 2009

The Common App Adds 49

Early in its history, the Common Application had to persuade colleges and universities that a single form could cover the application needs of many different post-secondary institutions. Although big names, like Harvard University and Amherst College, were on-board relatively early, it took conversion to a streamline electronic system to begin the stampede of schools signing on to take advantage of a service that appears to have some interesting recruitment benefits in addition to its obvious advantages as an application tool. This year, the Common Application announces the addition of 49 new schools to its growing roster of member institutions, bringing the total number of colleges and universities using some or part of its system to 392. A complete list of participating institutions is contained on the Common App website:


Note that the Common App is not the only electronic application in town. The Universal College Application went online two years ago with 13 member institutions. It now boasts of 80 participating schools, some of which use both applications.

The trend toward form sharing among colleges has come with a few interesting twists and turns. When the University of Chicago announced its conversion to the Common App a year ago, it seemed that the end of quirky college applications could not be far behind. But Chicago did not entirely abandon the annual competition among undergraduates to submit weird and daunting essay questions. Following the lead of many other schools wishing to retain some degree of individuality, these little gems may now be found in the Chicago supplement which is required of all undergraduate applicants in addition to the standard Common Application forms and essay. Similarly, it's most likely that Stanford still will ask its famous "roommate" short answer question and Penn will continue to want to know, "Why Penn?" as supplements to the Common Application.

This year, students submitted more than 1.6 applications, 1.3 million of those pesky supplements, and 1 million E-payments via the web-based Common Application. In addition, over 1.2 million teachers and counselors submitted materials using the online school forms system.

For the moment, the Common App Online is temporarily shut down (so is the Universal College Application). But look out. On July 1st it reappears in its 2009-2010 format. And, we're off to the races!

Jun 17, 2009

Do or Die: The College Admissions Process

The language is a little rough and the humor is distinctly adolescent, but the message of Do or Die: The College Admissions Process is right on target. Probing the absurd lengths parents and students will go to get into "first tier" colleges, three students from Scarsdale High, in New York, have produced a truly laugh-out-loud "mocumentary" satirizing the absurdity of senior year among the college-bound:

Do or Die: The College Admissions Process

Whether completely finished with the process or just beginning to think about developing that all-important high school portfolio, you're sure to find something familiar in the 65-minute story of two high school seniors competing for acceptance to Harvard University. Totally consumed with Harvard, Nelson sleeps with his SAT review books and studies vocabulary words in the shower and on the toilet. Totally consumed with basketball, Ivan bubbles his name in a clever horizontal pattern on the SAT answer sheet and has difficulty sounding out the words in his communications from the Ivy League. The classic showdown between geek and athlete culminates in a crescendo of Latin as decision letters are torn open by members of the Scarsdale graduating class.

With wit no doubt honed by personal experience, the Scarsdale seniors provide viewers with truly hilarious college admissions advice. For extracurriculars, take up the fife and avoid viola at the conservatory. Don't write about dead grandparents on your college essay, as admissions officers are so over that. Establish a foundation in an obscure South American country and then heartlessly abandon it once admission to college is assured. Do whatever you must, but don't settle for anything less than the first tier or as one parent put it, "The college of my dreams."

Filmed over 3 months as a senior "options" project, the video contains a little bad language and is a little fuzzy in parts because of issues uploading the file on the internet. If you want a good laugh, check out Do or Die: The College Admissions Process as soon as possible--there's no telling how long the link will work.

Jun 14, 2009

College Snuggies Are Coming!

I am about to give you an amazing heads-up: College Snuggies© launches on June 20th. Haven’t heard of Snuggies? Neither had I before I started reviewing college trends in my quest to find the perfect high school graduation present. Promoted as "The Blanket with Sleeves," Snuggies were the hottest fad since hula-hoops among undergraduates this year. Boosted by a singularly annoying internet ad and an equally annoying inappropriate YouTube parody (you’ll have to find it on your own), Snuggies took off in a fit of viral marketing that left competitors in the dust and spawned clones in fashion designs and kids’ sizes .

While I haven’t gotten over the the fact that my daughter wore pajamas to class during her undergraduate years, the image of Snuggie-clothed students in large lecture halls busily taking notes by virtue of Snuggie’s unique sleeve design REALLY cracks me up. In fact, the internet is plastered with pictures of students wearing their Snuggies in dorm rooms or roaming around campus like medieval monks.

And now, they can get their Snuggies with college logos—54 different designs. What will those savvy marketers think of next?

Snuggie does have some competitors which would make equally practical graduation presents. There is the Slanket or the much more costly and sophisticated Nuddle. Both of these products function exactly the same as the Snuggie and will keep your favorite undergraduate warm in a drafty dorm room.

While any of these altered blankets may be ordered over the internet, be aware that some involve fairly hefty handling and shipping charges. You might be able to avoid these expenses at local retailers. In fact, Snuggies have been spotted lingering on shelves at Walgreens as well as Bed, Bath, and Beyond. To get the official college logos, however, I suspect you’re initially going to have to order on line. Rumor has it that College Snuggies will eventually be available in campus stores. There's no word yet if they'll include the reading light, but considering the market, they probably should.

Beats a Cross Pen!

Jun 13, 2009

Thirsty Thursday

Over the course of a week, I read hundreds of documents on issues related to college and college admissions. I scan newspaper articles, blogs, and scholarly research papers. Usually the effort pays off, and I pick up odd kernels of information as I go along. Every now and again, however, I experience a "DUH" moment where I think, "Gee, who would spend time researching and writing about that?"

A report on undergraduate drinking habits summarized in a recent edition of Inside Higher Ed certainly produced this response. Without going into gory details, the report lays out statistics supporting the finding that students without Friday classes tend to drink more on Thursday nights than those with Friday classes. In other words, students who don't have to get out of bed on Friday, feel free to treat Thursday night as the start of the weekend. Duh! But there's more to it, and colleges worrying about excessive binge drinking are looking for ways to curb the trend among undergraduates who devise ways of avoiding Friday classes:


This led me to a little research of my own and much to my surprise I found Thirsty Thursday is a term-of-art with up to six separate definitions in The Urban Dictionary. While some of these definitions are most definitely not repeatable, the most acceptable reads:

"A term normally found on college campuses, the title became popular when many people did not have early morning classes on Fridays, allowing them to drink and party on Thursday night. Every Thursday of every week durring [sic] the semester is Thirsty Thursday; there is no specific or special date for it."

Not offering a definition, Wikipedia lists a number of historic bar promotions each of which claims to be the inventor of Thirsty Thursday and suggests some song lyrics lauding the phenomenon. Clearly, the term has found a place in our popular culture.

So, what does this have to do with the business of college admissions? I suppose it comes down to preparing high school seniors for the transition from secondary school to the challenges of college life. Drinking is a college fact of life, and I find that households treat the issue very differently. Some allow drinking to begin at home; others ban it entirely. Recent research suggests that the former may not be as sound a strategy as the latter:


Wherever you stand on the issue, I strongly recommend taking a moment to look at materials developed by the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) before sending your college freshman off to school:


This is one among several transitional issues I plan to address in my communications to seniors and their parents. Unfortunately, it may be about the most important.

Jun 12, 2009

Major Developments

It's not your classic major, but Golf Course Management has become a surprisingly popular line of studies at a number of colleges and universities, many of which just happen to be located in warmer climates. In fact, the PGA now offers accreditation to a select few schools meeting their exacting requirements:

PGA of America Golf Management University Program

In its comprehensive listing of majors, the College Board stresses that these programs aren't "all fun and games" and seriously warns that "Golf greens don't stay green all by themselves." While the Bureau of Labor Statistics has yet to provide a separate listing for the profession, their publications acknowledge the field and suggest the possibility of a growth industry, so to speak.

Why am I suddenly interested in Golf Course Management? Because at least one of my clients has expressed an interest and because it is one of a number of majors that simply weren't available in the Dark Ages, when I went to college. Not surprisingly, some of these 21st century majors recently came to the attention of the Wall Street Journal:


This sent me running to Steven Antonoff's wonderful collection of lists compiled and updated regularly in The College Finder. Some of the more interesting majors I found include:

Carnegie Mellon: Bag-Piping
University of Connecticut: Puppetry
Flagler College: Deaf Education
Florida Southern College: Citrus Studies
Gannon University: Mortuary Science
Mississippi State University: Broadcast Meteorology
University of Nevada at Reno: Basque Studies
SUNY: Motorsports Technology
Rochester Institute of Technology: Biomedical Photography and Medical Illustration
Temple University: Sports Ministry
Warren Wilson College: Blacksmith Crew
University of West Virginia: Petroleum Engineering

More locally, you can find an Historic Preservation major at the University of Mary Washington or a course in Wedding Planning and Management (part of the Tourism and Events Management major) at George Mason University. The University of Richmond offers a unique and highly-respected major in Leadership Studies, which BTW, is very difficult to get into.

When all is said and done, my boring degree in English Literature seems less than glamorous if not nearly as useful as some of these more creative ventures. Dream on. There's something out there for everyone!

Jun 11, 2009

Tour Schools and Save

I don't know many people who won't jump at the opportunity to save money. For this reason, I'm always on the lookout for cost-saving opportunities to pass on. And this is a good one!

Several months ago I wrote about a partnership between AMTRAK and Campus Visit offering reduced-price train fares for students and their families touring colleges (April 22, 2009). Taking this a step further, the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) has launched a program designed to provide students with an opportunity to earn application fee waivers for up to three member institutions by simply taking the time to visit any three private colleges in Virginia, during the week of July 27 through August 1, 2009. It works this way:

1. Decide which schools you want to visit. There are up to 27 to choose from, and they are located in virtually every corner of Virginia. Make a vacation of it!
2. Register for tours at each of the schools you plan to visit. Yes, register. I know it's commitment, but it really helps the schools plan for materials and tour guides.
3. Pick up a passport at the first college. It's cute--a little like Disney's EPCOT.
4. At the conclusion of your tour, get the passport stamped.
5. Once you have accumulated at least three stamps, mail the passport to CICV, 118 East Main Street, Bedford, VA 24523.

BINGO! You've won three application fee waivers to any of the 27 Virginia private schools, and not necessarily the ones you visited. If you have questions, you can call 540.586.0606 or visit the Private College Week website:


BTW, Virginia's private schools often get overshadowed by our strong public institutions. I encourage you to take a closer look, as these schools offer wonderful opportunities for students with a variety of college criteria and interests. Much more information, including a very useful listing by majors, can be found at:


Finally, I want to remind you about the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG). Open to Virginia residents only, this amazing program offers financial awards to students attending any of Virginia's private colleges or universities. The only eligibility requirement is that you live in Virginia! Although the grant may vary from year to year, the award for the 2009-2010 academic year is $3,000 or approximately $12,000 over four years. That's FREE MONEY, which when combined with the generous merit scholarships offered by these schools can amount to some real savings. If you don't believe me, check it out:


I really hope you take advantage of these terrific incentives to visit a few of Virginia's private schools. You may be surprised at all you will learn!