Jul 31, 2013

Brandeis pilots Test-Flexible Admissions Policy

Brandeis University

Brandeis University recently announced plans to pilot a “test-flexible” admissions policy for students applying for fall 2014 undergraduate admissions.   

Following similar policies in use by NYU, Bryn Mawr and Colby, Brandeis will give applicants the option of submitting a combination of advanced placement (AP), SAT Subject Tests, or International Baccalaureate exams or submitting an enhanced academic portfolio.

“Brandeis’ admissions team takes an individualized, holistic view when evaluating applicants for admission. Our experience shows that the rigor of a student’s program and overall academic performance are the best indicators of a student’s ability to take on challenges and excel academically,” said Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment.

Applicants choosing the combination of Subject Tests will be asked to submit scores in science or math English, history, languages, arts or social sciences and one test of the student’s choice from a discipline other than that of the first two chosen.

Alternatively, applicants may choose an academic portfolio option that includes one sample of analytical writing and an additional academic teacher evaluation.

As an ongoing part of the pilot program, Brandeis will collect standardized test scores from students choosing the test-flexible option (after they enroll) to support a study of student outcomes relative to those going the standardized test route.

After two years, the policy and its results will be reviewed and a decision to maintain, expand, narrow or discontinue the program will be considered by the Brandeis Faculty Senate.

“With competition for admission to Brandeis at an all-time high, we must do all we can to be sure we are admitting the most qualified possible class,” added Flagel.  “I am confident that this new model will continue our tradition of admitting academically gifted and motivated students with a passion for changing the world."

Jul 29, 2013

Summer Reading Selections set the Tone for Wonderful Things to Come

Catholic University Library
Periodically, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) updates its review of summer reading assignments
as popular vehicles for introducing the all-important freshman first year experience.
In fact, freshman reading programs provide interesting sneak previews of what colleges consider important, controversial, or just plain interesting.
And they often set the tone for wonderful things to come, as freshmen make life-changing transitions from high school to college.

Unlike traditional “required reading” assignments designed for students to get a little ahead or keep in the practice of reading over the summer, college programs are more targeted to helping “start the conversation” during freshman orientation.

“Common reading programs are extra-curricular and may seem peripheral to campus academic life, but the choice of a single book for this purpose is often … understood as emblematic of a college’s values,” suggests NAS researchers in their 2011 report. 

And even the most benign “first year experience” assignments can spark controversy.  

In April 2011, 60 Minutes ran an exposé on Greg Mortenson, whose books Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools had become wildly popular freshmen reading.  Shortly after, the books were quietly jettisoned from summer 2011 reading lists and invitations to speak were reconsidered.

So what did freshmen read instead? Based on an analysis of 245 programs, the NAS found the most frequently-selected book was the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (ethics in research) by Rebecca Skloot.  Other popular books that year included This I Believe, Zeitoun, The Other Wes Moore, and Outcasts United.
This year’s reading selections are a bit more eclectic:
  • Brown University:  Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press
  • Bucknell University:  Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers
  • Clemson University:  The Iguana Tree by Michael Stone
  • Columbia University:  The Illiad by Homer
  • Cornell University:  The Life Before Us by Romain Gary
  • Dartmouth College:  Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
  • North Carolina State University:  It Happened on the Way to War by Rye Barcott
  • Princeton University:  The Honor Code:  How Moral Revolutions Happen by Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • Purdue University:  No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
  •  Smith College:  My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayer
  • Tulane University:  The New Jim Crow by Elizabeth Alexander
  • UNC-Chapel Hill:  Home by Toni Morrison
  • University of Wisconsin:  A Tale for the Time Being  by Ruth Ozeki
And many local colleges and universities are incorporating summer reading into their 2013 freshman orientation activities.

For example, students at the University of Richmond will read The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman, while Georgetown University's summer reading program will feature Vaddey Ratner and her debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan. And for the second consecutive year, Longwood University will be reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

At American, freshmen will read Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays by Eula Biss. Not only will Biss will visit AU to discuss the book on September 3, but students will also have the opportunity to win $200 in an essay contest following the presentation.

Further to the east, freshmen at Salisbury University will read The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard, who will speak about her experiences and participate in a book signing on August 22nd at Salisbury.

Established in 1998, Virginia Tech’s Common Book Project is designed to enrich the first-year experience and create “sense of community for undergraduate students.”  This year, Tech students will be joining students at Elon, St. Cloud State, and Ball State universities in reading Little Princes by Conor Grennan.

Going in a slightly different direction, first year students at Virginia Commonwealth University have been assigned Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. 

At the University of Maryland, freshmen will read The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, and Goucher students will join freshmen at Duke in reading Let the Great World Spin, a radical social novel by Colum McCann.

George Washington University requires all incoming freshmen students to participate in a summer reading program, the book for which will be Reality is Broken:  Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal.  Miami of Ohio University is assigning the same book to freshmen.

But it's at Catholic University where the most innovative, multimedia summer reading program may be found.

Departing from traditional freshman assignments, Dr. Todd Lidh, director the CUA First Year Experience, devised In a Sense All things: A CUA Primer.  In this web-based assignment book, he links a wide range of authors, genres, time, periods, and media to exemplify the questions, themes, and ideas with which students will be presented in freshman classes. 

It’s a truly innovative summer-long project designed to provide students with an entertaining introduction to college in general and CUA in specific.

Jul 26, 2013

Mark your Calendars for Virginia Private College Week

Randolph College

Virginia’s private colleges are putting the finishing touches on plans to host hundreds of college-bound high school students for Virginia Private College Week, beginning Monday, July 29 and running through Saturday, August 3.

With most events scheduled for 9:00 am and 2:00 pm each weekday and some 9 am Saturday sessions, true road warriors can visit up to 11 of the 24 participating private colleges and universities.

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

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

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

Virginia Private College Week is not the only state-wide program of organized private college tours. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa (August 5-9), and Indiana (July 22-26) are among the other state groups offering students the opportunity to tour private colleges during a special week set aside to welcome families on college road trips.

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

Jul 22, 2013

On the Road to Michigan with the Illinois Association of College Admissions Counselors (IACAC)

Michigan State University
Facing weather conditions more typical of Louisiana than Michigan, the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) hit the road last week for its biannual “Bus O’Fun” tour of colleges.

Starting at the University of Illinois Springfield, the tour took 40 school-based and independent counselors on a week-long tour of 11 colleges, all of which opened their doors for up-close and personal reviews of facilities and programs.

While the campuses seemed relatively quiet, admissions offices were working behind the scenes to put finishing touches on student recruitment programs scheduled for the fall.  Many were finalizing admissions policies reflecting changes in the Common Application, which is due to be launched in a few short weeks.

Here is a little more of what the 40 counselors learned about each school:

The University of Illinois at Springfield offers a strong liberal arts core that emphasizes engagement in public affairs (supported by its location in the state capital) and dedication to community involvement.  In what might be a first in the nation, UIS has established an academic program called Liberty Studies, as one of many minors offered for the fall 2013.  Fun fact:  a set of stairs in Brookens Library leads directly to a brick wall--it's a stairway to nowhere!

As an independent Lutheran institution, Valparaiso University currently enrolls about 4,300 students (both undergrad and graduate) and plans to grow to about 6,000 in the coming years.  “Valpo” offers more than 70 areas of study across five colleges, including Engineering, which has experienced “spectacular growth” in recent years.  Part of the attraction of Valpo’s engineering program is the ability to study and work in France, Germany, Spain or China through the Valparaiso International Engineering Program.

Founded in 1819, the University of Michigan has a long and rich academic tradition based on a strong German model of education emphasizing math and science research.  One of the first in the country to admit women and minorities, Michigan looks for very accomplished students who are committed to learning and to the University—about 60% of the class is admitted through early action.  Fun fact:  Michigan has the largest living alumni population in the world.

Central Michigan University is proud to announce the opening of a new medical school in the fall of 2013.  Over 2000 students applied for 75 seats in the CMU College of Medicine, which was founded for the purpose of producing physicians for underserved rural and urban communities in the U.S. For prospective out-of-state undergrads, CMU generously offers in-state tuition to any applicant with a GPA of 2.75 or above.  And proud of its strong relationship with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, CMU is the only university in the country to offer courses in Ojibwa, the Chippewa language.

As a land grant institution, Michigan State University takes enormous pride in its ability to bring a small school experience to one of the largest campuses in the country.  In addition to a strong and well-established residential college system, MSU is pioneering campus “neighborhoods” based on student support services and living learning communities.  Each of the 5 neighborhoods has an Engagement Center where students find a variety of resources including tutors, academic advisors, and health services. For students with AP or other advance-standing credit, MSU subscribes to the “admit when ready” practice of admitting to specific colleges such as engineering.  This saves students both time and money and avoids needless repetition of coursework.  

“Unashamedly Christian,” Calvin College looks for students who “think deeply, act justly, and live widely.” One of Calvin’s signature programs, the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department offers a five-year Bachelor’s-to-Master’s Degree with a concentration in speech pathology.  Students may also enter the 4-year bachelor’s only degree program with the goal of attending a graduate program in audiology. Calvin also offers an ABET accredited BS in Engineering, a nursing program, and three specialties within the kinesiology major (exercise science, sports management, and physical/health education).

One of the Colleges That Change Lives, Hope College is a “small school with a big research program.”  Historically affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, Hope offers 87 majors and minors in liberal arts and pre-professional fields.  Home to the nation’s oldest college tradition, the Pull, Hope takes pride in collaborative faculty/student research and creative activity.  In fact, Hope is consistently awarded more National Science Foundation grants for undergraduate research than any other liberal arts college in the country.

With several locations around Michigan, Ferris State University offers the only BS in Nuclear Medicine as well as the only Forensics Biology program in the state.  But one of the more interesting programs offered at Ferris is the University’s nationally-recognized Welding Engineering Technology Program—the largest of its kind in the U.S.  In fact, there’s a two-year wait for entry into welding.  To lower costs for out-of-state students, Ferris offers the Great Lakes Scholarship to residents of 20 states (including Maryland and Virginia) and Ontario, Canada.  This program allows eligible out-of-state students to save about $5370 on the cost of tuition and is awarded automatically—no application required.  Ferris also offers a PGA-endorsed professional golf course management program as well as a comprehensive arts program through its affiliation with the Kendall College of Art and Design.

Grand Valley State University celebrated its 50th year by opening an amazing $65 million library. With seating for 1,500 students, shelf space for 150,000 books and an automated storage and retrieval system designed to handle an additional 600,000 volumes, the Mary Idema Pew Library was funded entirely by donations (no state money) and represents the best in state-of-the-art library science in an inspirational facility—worth the visit alone.  For undergrads, GVSU offers a number of generous scholarships including the Grand Finish which is an extra grant designed to ensure on-time completion made to juniors who have completed 90 credit hours. Students with a 3.5 GPA and an ACT score of 28, may apply for the GVSU Honors College and become eligible for the Niemeyer Learning and Living Center featuring private rooms in a lovely suite arrangement.

For more than 30 years, Kalamazoo College has offered a nationally-recognized curriculum nicknamed the K-Plan, which emphasizes an undergraduate experience of rigorous liberal arts combined with opportunities for “experiential” education in both domestic and international settings. At Kalamazoo, about 80 percent of all undergrads study abroad in a program that emphasizes immersion and requires at least a 3-month commitment. And very aware of its role in supporting work force development, Kalamaz 
oo has 3-full time career counselors who follow undergrads throughout their four years and after graduation. Prospective students should be aware that as of this visit, Kalamazoo had enrolled 463 students for the Class of 2017—far above its goal of 390 undergrads.

Western Michigan University boasts that the WMU College of Education and Human Development is among the nation’s top 10 producers of professional educators. Other popular WMU programs include Integrated Supply Management, Paper Engineering, Aviation Flight Science, and Food and Consumer Package Goods Marketing And to make it affordable for out-of-state students, WMU has established an easy road to Michigan residency after freshman year, which is a far better deal than any of the out-of-state scholarship programs offered.  Be aware, however, that WMU has a fairly aggressive “differential” tuition plan which kicks in after sophomore year for many of the most popular programs.