Mar 30, 2011

Most Freshmen Continue to be admitted to ‘First-Choice’ Colleges

An interesting trend is emerging in college admissions. While most students report being admitted to first choice colleges, far fewer actually attend them.

According to the CIRP Freshman Survey, UCLA’s annual report on first-year students, of nearly 202,000 freshmen surveyed, 79 percent reported being accepted while only 60.5 percent are attending colleges labeled as "first-choice" among those to which they applied.

Possible explanations for the lower number of students attending first-choice colleges may be found in answers to questions related to finances.

For top reasons described as “very important” in selecting the college attended, 45.5 percent reported being offered being offered financial assistance. And, 62% strongly or somewhat agreed that the current economic situation significantly affected college choice.

One local mom whose son turned down an invitation to attend an expensive private university in favor of a far less pricey in-state option remarked, “Even with the scholarship, we just couldn’t justify the additional expense and we wondered if it was really worth it.”

As this year’s admissions decisions continue to come in, it might be interesting to look at some of the other facts UCLA collected about the current freshman class:

  • 53% are using loans to help pay for college

  • 4.9% reported that their fathers were unemployed—an all-time high for the survey

  • 73.4% reported receiving grants and scholarships—the highest level since 2001 and an increase of 3.4 percent over 2009

  • 16% applied to seven or more colleges

  • 52% attend colleges within 100 miles of home

  • 15.5% attend colleges more than 500 miles from home

  • 78% are living in a college dorm

  • 19% did NO household chores during a typical week as seniors

  • 48% reported having A- or higher grade point averages in high school

  • 71% rated their academic abilities as “above average” or in the highest 10%

For more information on this year’s freshman class or to order a copy of the report, visit UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute website.

Mar 28, 2011

Students’ Rights and Responsibilities in the Admissions Process

Since its founding in 1937, the Arlington-based National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has worked to create a code of ethics designed to encourage principled conduct among professionals in the “admission-counseling” profession.

One of the important ways in which NACAC supports students, colleges, and the counseling profession is in the Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).

Although NACAC member colleges and counselors are very much aware of the practices and policies to which they agree when joining the organization, sometimes students and families don’t know there exists a set of rules by which all parties agree to conduct the business of college admissions.

As the college drama intensifies, it might be useful to remind everyone of the ground rules or “rights and responsibilities” basic to offers of admission. Here are some of the fundamentals directly from the SPGP:

  • You have the right to receive factual and comprehensive information from colleges about their admission, financial costs, aid opportunities, practices and packaging policies, and housing policies.

  • Once admitted, you have the right to wait until May 1 to respond to an offer of admission and/or financial aid (applicants admitted under early decision programs are an exception).

  • Colleges requesting commitments to offers of admission and/or financial assistance prior to May 1 must clearly offer the opportunity to request (in writing) an extension until May 1 and they must grant these extensions without prejudice.

  • You must notify each college or university to which you have been admitted whether or not you are accepting or rejecting the offer by no later than May 1 (again the exception is for early decision).

  • You may confirm the intention to enroll, and, if required, submit a deposit to only one college or university (the exception to this arises with the student is placed on a wait list and is later admitted).

  • If you are placed on a wait list, the letter notifying you of that placement should provide a history that describes the number of students on the wait list, the number usually offered admission, and the availability of financial aid and housing for wait listed students.

  • Colleges may not require a deposit or a written commitment as a condition of remaining on a wait list.

  • Colleges are expected to notify you of the resolution of your wait list status by August 1 at the latest.

  • You may accept an offer off the wait list and send a deposit even if you have already deposited elsewhere, but you must notify the college at which you previously indicated your intention to enroll.

More information and a downloadable version of the complete Statement of Principles of Good Practice are available on NACAC’s website.

Mar 25, 2011

UVa Acceptance Rate Rises Slightly to 32%

True to their word, the University of Virginia admissions office released decisions promptly at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon. After initial complaints about clogged servers, reactions began pouring into student discussion boards including College Confidential.

“My hard work paid off,” crowed one happy admit from Ohio.

But the news wasn’t universally good. “Don’t want to sound bitter,” remarked one disappointed applicant. “But I am kinda losing faith in the ‘holistic’ approach.’”

Without her usual commentary, Dean J simply posted preliminary numbers for this year and recommended that admissions junkies with a real “need to know” could research numbers as far back as 1977 on the webpage maintained by the UVa Office of Institutional Assessment.

But the simple comparison with 2010 is interesting enough. Last year at this time, UVa received 22,516 applications and made offers to 6,907 students. Including those pulled from the wait list, the total number of offers for the Class of 2014 was 7,212.

For this year’s class, the total number of applications went up to 24,005, but the number of in-state applicants actually decreased slightly from 7,964 in 2010 to 7,955. This means the additional applications came entirely from of out of state, perhaps the result of intensive recruitment efforts made by the admissions office.

To increase the size of the incoming class by 120 students, the admissions office made 7,750 offers, or 843 more than last year at this stage in the process. Of these offers, 3,562 went to Virginians and 4,183 went to out-of-state students. Overall, the initial admission rate went up slightly from 31 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2011.

There was no discussion on Dean J’s blog of the size of this year’s wait list. Last year, a decision was made to decrease the size of the wait list to a more realistic number than in previous years. It is unclear if that remained the policy.

In any event, here are all the preliminary numbers released by the UVa admissions office:

Total number of applications: 24,005 (up from 22,512 last year)
Total number of VA applications: 7,955 (down from 7,964 last year)
Total number of out-of-state applications: 16,045 (up from 14,652)

Overall offers: 7,750 (6,907 this time last year—7,212 including wait list offers)
Total VA offers: 3,562 or 45% of resident applications (3,380/42% last year)
Total out-of-state offers: 4,183 or 26% of nonresident applications (3,527/24% last year)

The offers for residents and nonresidents are similar because historic yield—or percent of students accepting offers—for nonresidents is generally lower.

Dean J reports that the middle 50% SAT scores among admitted students ranged from 1950-2210. And just over 94 percent of the students receiving offers of admission were in the top 10 percent of their class.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

McDonald’s Educates Scholarships

Separate from the national scholarships offered through Ronald McDonald House Charities, DC area McDonald’s franchisees are coming together to honor at least 53 outstanding local students with scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 each.

Qualified applicants must be high school seniors residing in the greater Washington, DC and outlying areas, including Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax, and Loudon Counties as well as the cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Falls Church (a complete list is provided online). By the way, student employees of McDonald’s are welcome to apply.

“McDonald’s franchisees have always placed a high value on education and are committed to helping further education within the communities in which they do business,” said Rachel Cooke, of the McDonald’s Educates Scholarship program. “For this reason, the McDonald’s Family Restaurants of Greater Washington, DC has decided to honor youth who are leaders in school and within their communities.

To be eligible, students must have participated in a variety of extracurricular community activities, demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, and achieved academic excellence. Requirements include a completed application, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor, or community service leader, and two short essays.

This year’s essays ask students to reflect on their community and how they plan to “give back” in the future. These short answers will be reviewed for content, creativity, and writing style.

Applications are available online and must be postmarked by no later than Friday, April 1, 2011.

While the McDonald's Educates Scholarships are limited to students in the DC area, other groups of McDonald's franchise owners across the country support educational opportunities through scholarships. To discover what's offered in your community, contact your local McDonald’s restaurant and ask about the availability of scholarship programs.

Mar 24, 2011

Parents and Students Differ Only Slightly on Top 10 Dream List

For the third consecutive year, Stanford University is No. 1 on the list of top 10 “dream schools” among college applicants, according to the Princeton Review’s 2011 College Hopes & Worries survey.

But parents disagree. For them, the No. 1 dream school is Harvard, with Stanford coming in second.

And with admission rates dropping low into the single digits, both schools are likely to stay just just that—dreams.

In a survey they’ve conducted annually since 2003, the Princeton Review asked 8,219 college-bound seniors and 3,966 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. The 15-question survey was contained in the Princeton Review’s Best 373 Colleges: 2011 Edition and attracted responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Answering the survey’s only open-ended question, “What ‘dream college’ do you wish you or your child could attend if acceptance or cost weren’t issues,” respondents filled in the names of more than 545 institutions. Yet when all the adding was complete, the results varied little from last year—or most previous years for that matter.

The schools most named by students as their “dream colleges” were (last year’s rankings in parentheses):
  1. Stanford (1)

  2. Harvard (2)

  3. New York University (3)

  4. Princeton (4)

  5. MIT (8)

  6. Yale (6)

  7. UCLA (7)

  8. University of Pennsylvania*

  9. University of Southern California (9)

  10. University of California—Berkeley*

The schools most named by parents as their “dream colleges” were:

  1. Harvard (3)

  2. Stanford (1)

  3. Princeton (2)

  4. MIT (4)

  5. Yale (5)

  6. Duke*

  7. Brown (8)

  8. New York University (10)

  9. University of Notre Dame (7)

  10. Northwestern*

*Not in the top 10 for 2010.

Mar 23, 2011

The Google Science Fair Experiment

Google is looking for the brightest, “best young scientists from around the world” to submit interesting, creative projects for a chance to win an amazing 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands and up to $50,000 in scholarship money.

Labeled an “experiment” by its sponsors, the Google Science Fair is not to be confused with local ISEF or JSHS sponsored science fairs several of which took place recently in Fairfax and Montgomery Counties.

Departing from more traditional formats, the Google Science Fair is initially web-based. In a truly unique international forum, students all over the world between the ages of 13 and 18 are invited to compete using a Google Site to showcase a science fair project.

To enter, students must
  1. Create a Google account.

  2. Complete the Google Science Fair sign up form and follow the assigned link to a Google project submission site.

  3. Plan a science fair project; conduct an experiment, and document results.

  4. Complete all sections of the of the project submission site.

  5. Create either a two-minute video or a 20-slide presentation giving an overview of the project and embed it on the summary page of the project submission.

  6. When the project site is complete, submit it no later than April 4, 2011.

All projects will be initially judged by a panel of teachers. In early May, 60 global semi-finalists will be narrowed down by Google’s panel of judges to 15 finalists, who will be announced later in May.

The 15 finalists will be flown to Google Headquarters in California for a celebratory science fair event and a final round of judging. Finalists will be expected to present their projects before a panel of acclaimed scientists including Nobel Laureates, “tech visionaries and household names.” A winner will be selected from each of the age categories: 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. And one lucky finalist will be named the Grand Prize Winner.

At this stage of the game, the Google Science Fair is best suited for students who already have a project “on the shelf.” And even if you were unsuccessful locally or at other large national competitions, this is your opportunity to give your work a second chance in a different forum.

By the way, if you’re a budding scientist looking for inspiration, check out the Google Science Fair Blog for reasons scientists do what they do.

Developed in partnership with CERN, Lego, National Geographic, and Scientific American, the science fair “experiment” is an impressive undertaking and a great deal of thought has gone into making it attractive to a large number of students. To learn more about what it takes to submit a project, visit the Google Science Fair website.

For the news behind the news, check out the College Explorations Facebook page.

Mar 22, 2011

Going the Community College Route at NOVA

More than 40 percent of US undergraduate students attend community college. Although community colleges certainly attract working adults and retirees, students between the ages of 18 and 24 make up the largest age group currently enrolled in programs around the nation.

The Washington metropolitan area is home to a number of truly excellent community colleges offering fantastic technical training opportunities as well as programs designed to prepare students for transfer to four-year undergraduate colleges and universities.

Answering an increasing demand among local high school students seeking alternatives to more expensive postsecondary options, the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) continues to grow and add programs relevant to today’s workforce.

Here are a few facts that may surprise you about NOVA:
  • NOVA is the largest college in Virginia with 78,000 students in credit classes.

  • 20 percent of local public high school graduates attend NOVA.

  • Of all the northern Virginia residents attending a college or university, 40 percent chose NOVA.

  • With 47 percent minority enrollment, NOVA is one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse institutions of higher education.

  • NOVA is the region’s largest producer of nurses, healthcare workers, and first responders.

  • More than 20,000 students annually participate in NOVA’s continuing education and workforce development programs.

  • Over 8,000 students annually enroll in NOVA’s distance learning programs making it one of the largest in the country.

  • NOVA now has six campuses and three “centers.”

  • Low tuition and generous financial aid ($77 million last year) make NOVA a highly affordable option.

Don't forget about the many advantages of going the community college route. To learn more about NOVA in specific, visit

Mar 21, 2011

March ‘College Admissions’ Madness Redux

Some advice bears repeating.

Once again, colleges have begun the process of rolling out admissions decisions. The time-honored tradition of waiting beside the mailbox for a "fat" envelope has largely been replaced by runs to the computer lab or a mad dash upstairs for a peek at results flashed on a computer screen.

This year remained a puzzle for college admissions prognosticators. Because no decision could be taken for granted, students hedged their bets by submitting increased numbers of applications.

Sadly, the ease of electronic applications may have facilitated the practice, but anxiety drove it.

Then there are the lingering issues of how colleges will view “full pay” candidates and what strategies will be used to distribute scarce financial aid resources as colleges establish priorities somewhere between merit and need.

Seniors may be experiencing the madness first hand, but underclassmen who are "on deck" should be taking note.

So here is some advice: the real key to surviving the next few weeks is to not let any admissions decision define you. The college admissions process for some schools has become nothing short of a crap shoot. No one, not even college admissions staff, has a clear rationale for why certain students are admitted and others are not.

Harvard’s dean of admission, William Fitzsimmons, regularly reminds high school students that his office could go through the application screening process, carefully select a class, chuck it all out, start all over again, and still have an equally competitive freshman class. It’s just that arbitrary sometimes.

And when all is said and done—does it really matter? Study after study has shown that it’s not where you go to college that counts as much as what you do once you get there. Success is all about hard work and perseverance and has very little to do with credentials or prestige.

As the trickle of decisions slowly becomes a flood over the next few weeks, it will become apparent that students who took the time to research colleges and determine which represented the best possible “fit” will realize the best results. Those who used the US News and World Report rankings as their primary guide to colleges probably will not do as well.

So, take joy in good news and don’t dwell on the bad. Offer support to friends and continue to weigh your decisions carefully before eventually settling on the offer you accept. Pursue waitlists if you want, but look carefully at what you’ve already got before spending too much emotional energy in that direction.

Between now and May 1st, you’re in the driver’s seat with schools that admitted you, and they will work hard to “earn your business.” Keep that in mind and enjoy the moment.

For the news behind the news, check out the College Explorations Facebook page.

Mar 19, 2011

Colleges Hit the Road for 2011 Spring Fairs

If daffodils are blooming, can the spring college fair season be far behind? No, in fact it’s well underway!

Once 2011 decisions are mailed, admissions staff will hardly have a moment to breathe before they’re expected to hit the road again for college fairs scheduled all over the country. Here are a few of the more popular local events:

  • Northern Virginia Regional College Fair
    Scheduled for Wednesday, April 6, this fair plans to have 200 colleges and universities exhibit from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the Patriot Center Arena on the campus of George Mason University. No registration is required and free parking is available in Lot K, across from the Patriot Center.

  • NACAC National College Fairs
    Free and open to the public, NACAC’s fairs annually attract more than 850,000 high school students to forums designed to encourage student and family interaction with representatives from a wide range of postsecondary institutions. This year, NACAC has scheduled two local fairs spanning several days. The Montgomery County fair will take place on April 13 and 14 at the Montgomery County Agricultural Center, in Gaithersburg. The Prince George’s County fair will immediately follow on April 15 and 16 at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

  • Colleges That Change Lives
    Since 1998, the Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL)—forty colleges and universities dedicated to the support of student-centered college search processes—have been traveling together to meet directly with students and families. This year, CTCL will visit the Washington DC area on Sunday, May 22, at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center. Plan to attend one of two programs scheduled (11:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m.). Each program begins with a 30-minute information session followed immediately by the college fair.

  • Diversity in Education College & Career Fair
    Organized by Loudon County Public Schools, this event provides opportunities to meet with college and other postsecondary school representatives as well as to interact with organizations and employers representing a variety of career options. The 2011 College & Career Fair will take place on Wednesday, March 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Dominion High School in Sterling VA.

Remember that some fairs offer pre-registration options, but most are walk-in events. You can prepare for the fair by reviewing a list of participating colleges and noting those in which you are interested. It’s a good idea to print out some “mailing” labels with your name, mailing address, phone number, month and year of high school graduation, and email address. These can be quickly applied to information request cards. And bring a backpack or something similar for carrying all the materials you will collect.

Here’s a tip: In addition to admissions information, exhibitors often come equipped with materials introducing summer enrichment opportunities. Be sure to ask about the availability of summer classes, camps, or other similar program.

For the news behind the news, check out the new College Explorations Facebook page.

Mar 18, 2011

Learn What It Takes to Prepare for Medical Careers at the NHMA Medical Recruitment Fair

It’s a little last minute, but if you’re a high school student interested in learning what it takes to prepare for medical school, you may want to attend the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) Medical Recruitment Fair, scheduled for Saturday, March 19, 2011, from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in Washington, DC.

Organized in partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the fair will include opportunities to meet with medical school representatives and admissions staff. In addition, you may attend workshops on how to get ready for the challenges of medical school, the application process, and how to finance a medical education.

Registration is not necessary. And counselors as well as parents are welcome to attend.

For more information, visit the NHMA website.

Discover the news behind the news on the College Explorations Facebook page.

Nordstom Doubles Its Commitment to College Scholarships

In spite of or perhaps because of the economy, Nordstrom recently announced a huge expansion of its generous scholarship program targeted to college-bound high school juniors.

Acknowledging that educational funding has become a “greater challenge than ever,” Nordstrom decided to fund an additional 40 scholarships this year, bringing the total to 80 deserving students in line to receive $10,000 each.

A chain of upscale department stores located in 28 states, Nordstrom is extraordinarily commited to the communities in which the company does business. “Helping students achieve their dreams of higher education is a meaningful way” to show this commitment.

Limited to students residing in specified states and the District of Columbia, these scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, awards/honors, leadership, school activities, community/volunteer activities, financial and employment history.

To qualify, students must:

  • Be a high school junior

  • Live and attend high school in an eligible state (including Maryland, Virginia, and DC)

  • Have participated in community or volunteer activities

  • Have and maintain a cumulative unweighted GPA of at least 2.7 (on a 4.0 scale) throughout high school

  • Plan to apply for financial assistance to attend college

  • Be eligible for and plan to attend an accredited four-year college or university in the US

  • Not have been convicted of any crime

Applications must be completed online, and an online recommendation from a current high school official will be required for applicants who become semifinalists. The recommender will be asked to discuss how the applicant meets the selection criteria.

Key to winning the scholarship will be a thoughtful, well-written essay on one of three topics as well as a personal statement addressing a character-defining moment, cultural awareness, or a personal hardship or barrier overcome.

The Nordstrom scholarship application may take a little time to complete, so try to get started as soon as possible. It will be great practice for completing college applications!

Applications must be submitted by no later then 5:00 p.m., CT, on May 16, 2011. And all applicants will receive an email by the end of May to elt them know if they are selected as a semifinalist.

This is an amazing opportunity for a student anticipating financial need, who has a proven track record of service to his or her community. More information and the complete application may be found on the Nordstrom website.

For the news behind the news, check out the new College Explorations Facebook page.

Mar 16, 2011

Civil Rights Commission Suspends Investigation into Discrimination in College Admissions

Education Week is reporting that the US Commission on Civil Rights quietly suspended an investigation begun into the possibility that some colleges may be discriminating against female applicants in college admissions.

Begun in 2009, the inquiry was initiated based on suggestions that colleges struggling to maintain male/female balance on campus might show preference to their male applicants in ways that are unfair to women.

According to Richard Whitmire, “disputes over the data” as well as conflicts over which colleges should be included and questions whether the study was too limited by only investigating schools within 100 miles of Washington DC led to the decision to shelve the inquiry.

But not all the Commissioners agreed. Commission member Gail Heriot, a law professor from the University of San Diego objected to concerns over data collection problems. “There are always difficulties in getting facts. And if this [investigation] is canceled when it is almost done on that basis, then we had better cancel every project we are ever going to do and might as well go home.”

And some of the colleges appeared not to be cooperating. As of last August, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that four of the 19 institutions under investigation had not yet complied with a subpoena requesting admissions data. Those included Georgetown University, Gettysburg College, Johns Hopkins, and Messiah College.

It’s no secret that women account for a disproportionate share of applicants and enrollments at most postsecondary institutions. According to numbers collected and published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the national applicant pool breaks down about 60/40 in favor of women and women account for about 57 percent of total undergraduate enrollment.

Although the US Civil Rights Commission appears to be having problems “collecting” data, a simple review of information readily available from NCES suggests that local colleges are “all over the place” in their male/female admissions for last year. Some seemed to favor male applicants, some favored female, and some were careful to admit precisely the same percent of each.

While the numbers don’t speak to relative qualifications of male/female applicants, here are a few statistics culled from College Navigator:
  • American University: 6830 male applicants (41% admitted) vs. 10,096 female applicants (45% admitted)

  • College of William & Mary: 4653 male applicants (39% admitted) vs. 7884 female applicants (27% admitted)

  • George Mason University: 7882 male applicants (52% admitted) vs. 9347 female applicants (51% admitted

  • George Washington University: 8326 male applicants (41% admitted) vs. 11,516 female applicants (34% admitted)

  • Georgetown University: 8008 male applicants (20% admitted) vs. 10,608 female applicants (20% admitted)

  • Goucher College: 1154 male applicants (67% admitted) vs. 2497 female applicants (76% admitted)

  • Johns Hopkins University: 9696 male applicants (22% admitted) vs. 9039 female applicants (22% admitted)

  • St. Mary’s College of Maryland: 885 male applicants (60% admitted) vs. 1528 female applicants (55% admitted)

  • Towson University: 5832 male applicants (51% admitted) vs. 9872 female applicants (60% admitted)

  • UMBC: 3370 male applicants (71% admitted) vs. 3317 female applicants (61% admitted)
    • UMD—College Park: 12,749 male applicants (45% admitted) vs. 13,398 female applicants (44% admitted)

  • University of Mary Washington: 1550 male applicants (72% admitted) vs. 3211 female applicants (75% admitted)

  • University of Richmond: 3601 male applicants (35% admitted) vs. 5060 female applicants (32% admitted)

  • University of Virginia: 10,487 male applicants (31% admitted) vs. 11,637 female applicants (34% admitted)

  • Virginia Commonwealth University: 5345 male applicants (72% admitted) vs. 7579 female applicants (71% admitted)

You can compare these numbers to a similar chart based on data collected in 2009 by clicking here.

Mar 14, 2011

4 Ways to Search for Colleges with Late Application Deadlines

Maybe you decided to postpone college applications to take advantage of higher senior year grades, or maybe you’re not too happy with admissions results so far and want to try again.

Don’t worry—lots of colleges and universities are still accepting applications for the fall of 2011.

Locally, Marymount University, Roanoke College, the Corcoran College of Art & Design, Mount St. Mary’s University, St. John’s College, Randolph College, Longwood University, and Hood College are among those schools still accepting applications.

In fact, several hundred colleges are ready and very willing to consider applications—sometimes as late as the last day of August.

If you’re still looking or thinking about submitting additional applications, here are a few insider tips to jumpstart your research:
  1. Common Application member institutions still open to new applicants may be found by going to the Common App website, scrolling down Member Colleges & Universities, and clicking College Search. Indicate that you’re looking for First Year and Fall 2011, and complete the deadline box according to your interest. If you’re looking for colleges with a deadline on or after March 14, 2011, you’ll be rewarded with a list of 136 institutions.

  2. For the Universal College Application, you’ll need to create an account indicating that you are applying as a “first year” student for the fall of 2011. Click on My Colleges and a list of the institutions still accepting applications will appear—46 UCA member institutions as of March 14th.

  3. Using the College Board’s Matchmaker search engine, select your preferences for size, location, majors, etc. At any point, click on “See Results.” Once results appear, go to the dropdown box labeled “Alphabetical," click on “Application Deadline,” and specify “Ascending.” Click on “Sort” and a complete list of colleges reflecting your preferences will appear according deadline.
    Caution: for some reason, the list starts with “01-Jan,” goes through the calendar year, and then re-starts with more colleges beginning “01-Jan.” Schools with “no deadline” are listed at the end.

  4. For slightly different information, check out Peterson’s Colleges with Late & Rolling Application Deadlines. In the search box, enter the terms “nonprofit” and “4 year” to receive a list of 26 colleges offering rolling admissions. Simply ignore the paid advertising to the right of the page.

Once you have a starter list of schools that may still be accepting applications, verify deadlines by going to individual websites.

Note that schools with “rolling admissions” accept applications until their classes are filled. If websites are unclear as to the current status of the process, contact admissions offices directly and simply ask the question. You might be surprised to find many are still happy to hear from you.

For the news behind the news, check out the new College Explorations Facebook page.

Mar 12, 2011

Colleges Claiming to Meet the 'Full Financial Need' of All Students

US News & World Report (USNWR) recently conducted a survey of 1700 colleges and universities and came up with a list of 63 schools claiming to meet 100 percent of financial need for all students.

Down by 2 from last year, the list shows how the economy may have affected the ability of some schools to meet the goal like Chapman, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and Lafayette—all of which dropped off the list.

Frankly, there aren’t many institutions wealthy enough to make a commitment to meet the full financial needs of all admitted students. Locally, Georgetown, UVa, the University of Richmond, and for the first time, Washington and Lee University appear on the list. Although close to the goal, Johns Hopkins University fell short by a few percentage points of meeting full need and was not included.

In comments provided to USNWR, WLU spokesman Jeff Hanna indicated that “the school made adjustments to its financial aid budget in order to meet the full need of its students via both grants and work opportunities.”

But here is where some strings are attached. Most of the colleges appearing on the USNWR list will only guarantee to meet the needs of students who are US citizens and who apply for financial aid before the school’s posted deadline. For many schools, all bets are off if you are foreign, late, or waitlisted.

And as always, the “Golden Rule” applies. In other words, “He who has the gold makes the rules,” so there are varying definitions of need—most of which will NOT match yours.

For example, some colleges provide enough grant money to make up the difference between a family’s federal Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the school’s total Cost of Attendance (COA). Others calculate their own EFC, using data collected from the CSS PROFILE or other school-based financial aid applications. These more “personalized” formulas may or may not count home equity or other elements of net worth. Under these rules, a student’s level of “need” can vary wildly from college to college.

And how do schools meet full need? That too varies significantly by institution. Some schools provide enough in grants and work-study income to meet a student’s entire need without throwing loans into the mix. Others will offer aid packages that include subsidized student loans.

So it becomes very important for families to review and analyze aid packages to determine the balance between free money or grants that don’t have to be repaid and loans which come due at graduation. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has a great worksheet for this purpose.

While the list of colleges claiming to be committed to meeting full financial aid might seem appealing, keep in mind that you could end up with lower tuition bills at other institutions. Nevertheless, according to US News and World Report, the following is the list of schools meeting full need:
  • California: California Institute of Technology, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Occidental, Pitzer, Pomona, Scripps, Stanford, Thomas Aquinas

  • Colorado: University of Northern Colorado*

  • Connecticut: Connecticut College*, Trinity, Wesleyan, Yale

  • DC: Georgetown University

  • Georgia: Emory University

  • Iowa: Grinnell College

  • Illinois: Northwestern, University of Chicago

  • Massachusetts: Amherst, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Franklin Olin*, Harvard, MIT, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Tufts, Wellesley, Williams

  • Maine: Bates, Bowdoin, Colby

  • Minnesota: Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf

  • Missouri: Washington University in St. Louis

  • North Carolina: Davidson, Duke, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

  • New Hampshire: Dartmouth College
  • New Jersey: Princeton

  • New York: Barnard, Colgate, Columbia University, Cornell, Hamilton, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Vassar

  • Ohio: Oberlin, University of Dayton*

  • Oregon: Reed College

  • Pennsylvania: Bryn Mawr, Gettysburg, Haverford, Swarthmore, University of Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island: Brown University

  • Texas: Rice University

  • Virginia: Richmond, University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University*

  • Vermont: Middlebury College

* Did not appear on last year’s list

Mar 11, 2011

The ‘Likely Letter’ Game

Neither of my children received “likely letters.” In fact, I never heard of a likely letter until my son entered the college admission sweepstakes several years ago. He didn’t pay much attention, but I sure was aware that classmates were receiving these “pre-admit” notices and he didn’t.

As it turned out, I need not have worried. He got into his top two colleges and received heavy recruitment from both. Nevertheless, I cannot lie. The very idea of a likely letter ratcheted up my anxiety and notched my competitive instincts one gear higher.

And I suspect I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not alone judging from the angst creeping in among the regular posters on College Confidential, many of whom are yearning for a likely letter.

So what is a likely letter? Most simply, it’s something akin to a “Golden Ticket” from colleges anxious to nail down candidates in advance of regular admissions notifications.

Coaches in the Ivy League—an athletic conference when all is said and done—introduced the likely (“heads up,” "courtesy,” or “early approval”) letter to get a leg up on schools recruiting from the same pool of athletes and to alert promising candidates of their interest. In fact, league rules specify that letters may go out any time after October 1st.

As time went on, others with a stake in the admissions game soon got wise to the advantages of early communications with highly sought after students, and the likely letter became a prized recruitment tool designed to lay claim to and protect turf.

But when Harvard and Princeton eliminated early admissions programs a couple of years back, the arms race really began. Likely letters began flying out to prospective physicists as well as linebackers—anyone colleges would especially like to "court" in the admissions process.

And so, likely letters have become a cornerstone of college admissions in the fast lane.

The simplest interpretation of the likely letter is, “We definitely plan to accept you so you can relax, but don’t screw up between now and when we send the official acceptance because this notification is something less than official.”

Some likely letters read suspiciously like flat out acceptance letters, but others are little more subtle and may not address the issue of admission at all. They might contain an invitation to attend a campus event that seems geared only to accepted applicants or make an offer to join a prestigious program.

For academic stand-outs, the idea is to send a little extra “love” to the candidate to make him or her think positively about the prospect of being admitted to the school.

Unfortunately, it’s not a terrifically organized process, and colleges confess that some very strong candidates slip through the cracks and don’t get likely letters simply because their applications are reviewed a little later in the process.

The Harvard Crimson reports that about 300 likely letters will be sent to applicants by the end of this year’s admissions cycle. Typically the breakdown is 200 letters to athletes and about 100 letters to students with other outstanding “attributes.” They have been going out since October 1st of last year and will continue to be sent until about 2 weeks before regular notifications go out.

Last year, the University of Pennsylvania sent out approximately 200 likely letters to top applicants—an increase from 120 the year before. Although Dean of Admissions Eric Furda declined to provide the Daily Pennsylvanian with an exact number for this year, he said there were “significantly more” than last.

Dean Furda also noted that the Penn admissions office sometimes uses likely letters to “target students in under-enrolled’ majors like physics and chemistry.”

In mid-February, Yale hosted 60 to 80 select applicants interested in science and engineering as part of a recruitment effort the University curiously dubbed the Yale Science and Engineering Weekend, or YES-W. Each of these students received likely letters.

And locally, the University of Virginia recently sent out a handful of the first “round” of likely letters, according to Dean J on her admissions blog.

“We don’t have a target number, but it’s safe to say that the number is comparatively small each year,” she commented. “I don’t have year by year statistics, but I’d say the percentage that gets these letters is in the single digits.”

So what’s the take away from all this?
  • Likely letters are sent by several selective schools to a very few applicants most of whom are athletes.

  • The vast majority of applicants—even some of the very strongest—will never get a likely letter.

  • Likely letters are not offers of admission, so don’t be lulled into bad behavior or a slip in grades.

  • Getting a likely letter should not necessarily be interpreted to mean automatic scholarship dollars or admission to exclusive programs like honors colleges.

  • Lucky recipients of likely letters are under no obligation to respond.

  • Colleges will never tell you who got one or why, so don’t bother to ask.

Bottom line? As Dean J says, “Do not read into the absence of a letter.”

It means something to those who get them but little to those who don’t.

Mar 10, 2011

Meet College Reps and Learn What It Takes To Become a Vet at the 2011 AAVMC Veterinary Medical Career Fair

If you’re a high school student considering pre-professional programs in veterinary medicine or if you’re simply curious about what it takes to become a veterinarian, consider attending the seventh annual Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Veterinary Medical Career Fair and Information Sessions scheduled for Sunday, March 13, from 2:30 to 5 p.m., at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria.

Representatives from national and international colleges of veterinary medicine will be on hand to offer advice and answer questions about veterinary medical careers and the credentials necessary to attend any of the 41 AAVMC member institutions.

“This continues to be the premier outreach event in the mid-Atlantic region for students interested in veterinary medicine,” explained Lisa Greenhill, AAVMC associate executive director for institutional research and diversity. “More than 300 students, parents, and advisors attend each year to make important connections to colleges. It’s a great event!”

Veterinary medical careers can range from companion animal care to military veterinary medicine, shelter practice or options in public health where there are shortages of veterinarians. And the choice of undergraduate school could possibly fast track acceptance to a veterinary medical college as opportunities exist for early admission to DVM programs by bypassing completion of the BS.

Four information sessions will take place simultaneously with the fair. These sessions will address how to select a pre-veterinary program, what undergrads need to know about getting into vet schools, federal careers in veterinary medicine, and a general overview of shelter medicine.

Colleges participating in this year’s fair include

Students are strongly encouraged to register in advance for the event. More information and the schedule of information sessions may be found on the AAVMC website.

By the way if you can't attend the fair, you can find some amazing information on how to become a veterinarian on the AAVMC website, including tips on how to finance a veterinary education. Check it out!

Photo of Virginia Tech courtesy of Wikipedia

Mar 9, 2011

Inside the UVa Admissions Office

As the days tick down toward release of admissions decisions, the University of Virginia is providing a few glimpses into the inner workings of the office that will decide the fates of nearly 24,000 applications for the UVa class of 2015.

“It’s a huge task that involves every member of the admission team,” said Dean of Admission Greg Roberts. “While we understand that we might not be able to make each applicant happy, this is a personal process for us.”

And here are the facts:

  • Thirty-three full time admissions staff members have logged a combined 354 years of service at the University—an average of more than 10 years per person.

  • Applications begin trickling in as early as August, but the most come at the end of December—one-third of the applications this year arrived between December 31 and January 1.

  • 99 percent of UVa’s applications are submitted electronically.

  • The reading process began in November.

  • Each staff person is expected to read 30 applications per day during “evaluation season” while simultaneously taking turns being “dean of the day,” which requires fielding calls, meeting with visitors, and conducting information sessions.

  • The admissions office receives about 500 phone calls per day.

  • To keep morale up from November through March, staff members organize “grazing” days where everyone brings food to share, attend exclusive movie nights in Newcomb Theater, and participate in monthly birthday celebrations.

  • Every application is read at least twice.

  • On occasion, a massage therapist is called in to give seated chair massages to the weary application readers.

  • Counselors and assistant deans make the first evaluations; Dean Roberts and his three senior associate deans do all of the second reads.

  • After initial reads are completed, the admissions committee meets to vote and select candidates “to add to those already accepted” into the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Nursing, and Architecture.

  • “Likely letters” are mailed to specially-recruited candidates two or three weeks in advance of official notifications.

  • Students can anticipate receiving electronic decisions some time on or before April 1st.

  • The busiest night of the year for Dean J’s admissions blog is the day notifications are released—last year she received 400 comments on her site.

  • When the incoming class has been chosen, the information posted and letters mailed, the admissions staff traditionally celebrates at the Mellow Mushroom.

With the University’s new “growth initiative,” the goal is to enroll 120 more first-year students this year bringing the incoming freshman class to a total of 3,360.

“We’ll send out admit notices by the end of March,” Roberts said. “Our review is holistic; we read every document a student submits. We are looking to build a class of interesting, smart, fun, honest, hard-working students who come from many different backgrounds.”

And what about the applicants and their amazing stories? “We open the files and fall in love,” explains Abby Self, a 2002 UVa alumna and admissions counselor.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mar 8, 2011

Which of Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities are Friendliest to Local Students

Northern Virginians like to complain that the state college system is unfairly biased against residents of communities located in the state’s most densely populated areas.

In fact, the issue is high on the list of complaints state representatives hear during reelection campaigns, as parents are increasingly vocal about how difficult it has become for some of the area’s most talented students to be admitted to Virginia's highly-regarded public institutions.

As thousands of local students wait for admissions decisions due to be released shortly, it might be interesting to look at what the State says about northern Virginia’s representation at each of the Commonwealth’s 4-year public colleges and universities. The following is based on information provided to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCEV) and reflects student residency classification as determined and reported by each institution:

  1. George Mason University: 84.7%

  2. University of Mary Washington: 65.5%

  3. College of William & Mary: 48.1%

  4. University of Virginia: 45.6%

  5. James Madison University: 43%

  6. Christopher Newport University: 40.7%

  7. Virginia Tech: 38.3%

  8. Radford University: 31.7%

  9. Virginia Military Institute: 30.6%

  10. Virginia Commonwealth University: 27.3%

  11. Longwood University: 23.8%

  12. Old Dominion University: 16%

  13. Virginia State University: 13.1%

  14. University of Virginia at Wise: 11.3%

  15. Norfolk State University: 7.4%

Mar 7, 2011

How Public Colleges and Universities are dealing with the Economic Downturn

A survey of college and university presidents released last week by Inside Higher Ed in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Council on Education confirms what seems fairly obvious—money is tight and colleges are working to bring budget deficits under control.

To probe these challenges, a total of 956 campus “chief executives,” representing postsecondary institutions of all kinds were asked to provide views on how their institutions have navigated the current economic downturn, the biggest problems they face, and the strategies they have used—effective or not.

The resulting report entitled, “Presidential Perspectives,” shows that among a list of “most important areas/challenges” facing public institutions, budget shortfalls (62 percent) and changes in state support (42.6 percent) far outweighed all other answers.

And the strategies employed to address these problems, while not particularly creative, fall along familiar lines and are similar to those in use at many local public institutions including the University of Virginia, where tuition went up, the size of the undergraduate student body is increasing, and additional fees are being tacked on.

According to the report, UVa appears fairly representative in its approach to closing the budget gap. In fact, the following are among the strategies found to be most frequently used by public colleges and universities to address the financial consequences of the economic downturn:
  • Budget cuts targeting selected administrative operations and services (63.6 percent)
  • Increased tuition by 5 percent or more for 2010-11 (48.8 percent)
  • Budget cuts targeting selected academic programs and activities (44.2 percent)
  • Increased proportion of part-time (vs. full-time) faculty (43.3 percent)
  • Raised student fees for campus resources and services (38 percent)
  • Hiring freeze for academic programs/departments (27.5 percent)
  • Budget cuts targeting selected student services (26.8 percent)
  • Budget cuts targeting varsity athletic programs (15.4 percent)

So what does all this mean? It means that before signing on, students shouldn’t hesitate to ask the hard questions concerning how budget cuts will affect the programs and services they care most about.

What’s here today could very easily be gone tomorrow.

Mar 5, 2011

The ‘Jesuit Excellence Tour’ Returns to the DC Area

Rounding out their year-long schedule of visits to various regions of the country, representatives from member colleges of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) will be hosting Jesuit Excellence Tour (JET) College Nights in DC and Baltimore during the coming week.

Twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities located in 19 states form the institutional membership of the AJCU. Although each institution is separately chartered and entirely autonomous, the schools are bonded by a common heritage, vision, and purpose.

Beginning in September, Jesuit Excellence Tours featuring any number and combination of the 28 schools are scheduled from California to DC. Although daytime activities mainly target parochial schools, JET College Nights are open to the public.

“These events are a great way for high school students to learn about all of the wonderful options for Jesuit education that are out there,” said Anna Follensbee, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission for Loyola University Maryland. “While we all share the same Jesuit values and philosophy, the group of schools has great diversity in terms of size, programs, location, and setting.”

This year’s fairs will feature 23 of the 28 schools at the College Night scheduled for Thursday, March 10 at Georgetown Preparatory School, and 20 of the colleges in Baltimore at Loyola Blakefield on Monday March 7:

* Georgetown Prep JET College Night Only

Both fairs will begin at 7:00 pm and end by 9:00 pm.

For students just beginning their college search or those seniors making final enrollment decisions, JET College Nights offer opportunities to connect directly with college admissions representatives and to learn what each school has to offer.

Note that JET College Nights are held in other parts of the country. In fact, the Texas JET just wrapped up last week. For more information, check directly with any of the 28 AJCU member colleges.

To see a related slide show, check out my corresponding column on the Examiner website. You might be surprised by who attended Jesuit colleges or universities. Hint: The list includes everyone from a US President to a professional wrestler!

Mar 4, 2011

The Hispanic Youth Institute Supports College Dreams

The Hispanic Youth Institute (HYI) is a national pre-college program designed to support the college and career goals of underserved high school students.

With help from the Hispanic College Fund and numerous community-based organizations, HYI serves youth in eight separate “regions” including Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, Central Valley CA, Dallas TX, Los Angeles CA, and Silicon Valley CA (DC students are invited to participate in the Virginia program).

The goal of the Hispanic Youth Institute is to increase college awareness among high school students through activities designed to improve self-confidence and reinforce the importance of a college education.

Toward this end, HYI annually sponsors university-based “Kick-Off” programs beginning with on-campus introductions to college for between 100 and 200 students selected in each region.

For Virginia students, the 2011 program will be held on the campus of Virginia State University, in Petersburg and will run from July 20 through July 23rd. Marylanders will go to Towson University, from June 21st through June 24th.

Students lucky enough to be chosen for HYI will participate in college and career workshops, connect with local Hispanic professionals, meet college admissions representatives, and compete for scholarships.

Once they have completed the HYI on-campus component, students are enrolled in a year-round program that reinforces the key themes of college, career, and community.

To qualify students must
  • Reside in targeted communities or regions

  • Be of Hispanic descent or identify with the Hispanic community

  • Have a GPA of 2.5 or above

  • Be a member of the high school class of 2013 or 2014

Students must apply electronically through the HYI website. Notifications of acceptance will go out between late April and early May 2011.

Note that the program has a registration fee of $10 per student. But fees will only be collected after an application has been submitted and the student has been accepted into the HYI Kick-Off.

For more information on HYI programs scheduled throughout the summer in different regions of the country, visit the Hispanic Youth Institute website.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mar 2, 2011

An Insider’s View of the College Admission Process

Applications are in, but the decisions are still weeks away.

“It’s reading season,” said Jenni Pfeiffer, on a short break from her responsibilities as Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at George Washington University. And college admissions offices all over the country are knee-deep in applications, transcripts, essays, and recommendations—all of which must be processed and reviewed in time for decisions to be mailed by the end of March.

So how do selective colleges decide who gets in and who gets left behind?

The admissions office at Grinnell College, a selective liberal arts school in Iowa, gave the Today Show a rare insider’s view of how an admissions committee operates. Cameras were allowed into the room while staff reviewed applications and voted on which students to admit.

“I would love to say the admission process is a very straightforward process where every student is considered on their own merits, but that simply isn’t true,” said Seth Allen, dean of admissions and financial aid. “The process is highly subjective.”

Here are some highlights:
  • Two admissions officers read each application

  • Grades, test scores and extracurricular activities are each considered as part of the applicant’s profile

  • Each applicant is put to a vote, with a majority determining who will get a coveted acceptance and who will be denied or waitlisted.

And it all takes place within the span of a few minutes.

“It’s little things in the process that surprise us, uncover something that we think, wow, this is someone who is different in our process, unusual, that we would like to include in the class,” Allen added. “That might come from a letter of recommendation from a teacher or a guidance counselor, it might come from an unusual perspective that we find out through the essay, it may come from an alumni interview and that person gives us a sense of how that student has succeeded in his or her local community that we otherwise wouldn’t have known about.”

In an interview with Meredith Vieira, Jacques Steinberg, moderator of the New York Times blog on college admissions, described Grinnell’s process as “typical of the template used at 50 or so high selective schools around the nation.”

At each school, the process is nothing short of subjective, Steinberg admitted. “Kids and parents should never read this process as a referendum on how they did as students or how they did as parents.”

He adds that the rigor of the student’s curriculum, involvement in extracurricular activities, and the quality of the essay are all important to the decision and are within a student’s control. Other factors such as gender, socioeconomic level and race are also important but beyond the applicant’s control.

With so much outside of the applicant’s ability to control, Steinberg has a little advice for high school juniors. “If you can’t control this process, and you can’t out-strategize it, can’t you relax a little bit and be yourself, and let the chips fall where they may?”

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mar 1, 2011

Most Students Expect to Cover Some Part of College Expense

According to the second annual How Youth Plan to Fund College survey conducted by the College Savings Foundation (CSF), most college-bound students expect to contribute to the cost of their education and are making more economical college choices as a result.

Similar to last year’s survey findings, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of high school students believe it’s their responsibility to help pay for their college education, and 65 percent are planning to use their own funds to help with some part of the overall expense.

This year, however, 58 percent of surveyed students indicated that they expect to cover more than a quarter of their college costs, compared to 52 percent last year. And nearly 20 percent plan to contribute more than half of their college expenses—up from 12 percent last year.

New survey questions for this year suggest that a majority of students are eager to learn how to deal with college costs. Although 43 percent of students had access to high school classes on planning for college, less than a third felt their high school had adequately prepared them.

And parents agree. In CSF’s annual survey of parents, The State of College Savings, 90 percent thought there was a need for financial literacy in the classroom.

“Today’s high school students are tackling the escalating costs of college by saving and becoming more educated about their costs and choices,” said CSF Chairman Roger Michaud. “There is a clear demand for greater financial literacy among students and their parents.”

In fact, local school systems in both Maryland and Virginia are responding to this demand by either considering or implementing programs to provide new financial literacy courses required for graduation.

Other CSF survey findings:
  • 79 percent said that the costs of school influenced their further education plans and 83 percent of those said costs are a factor in which college they plan to attend.

  • 51 percent are looking at public colleges—up from 44 percent last year.

  • 45 percent have already started saving: 19 percent have saved over $5000, 43 percent have saved $1000-$5000, and 35 percent have saved less than $1000.

  • 72 percent would rather receive money for education on special occasions than tangible gifts.