Feb 28, 2014

The Kohl’s Cares© Scholarship Program is looking for outstanding young volunteers

The Kohl’s Cares© Scholarship Program is looking for more than 2,300 outstanding young volunteers.  And they’re willing to reward commitment to community service by investing in generous scholarships and prizes totaling nearly $400,000.

Families are often surprised to find that outside of academics and athletics, dedication to community service is among the best sources of scholarship support for college.  But like academics and athletics, you can’t come into the game late.  You have to build a consistent track record of service that begins long before second semester senior year when most high school students begin thinking about scholarships.

Recognizing the value of starting early, Kohl’s sponsors one of few programs that reward students as young as six years-old.   But the real focus is on volunteers who have established programs and asked others to share their vision of service and caring. 

This year, Kohl’s Cares will award ten national winners $10,000 in scholarships along with an additional $1,000 donated to a nonprofit organization on each national winner’s behalf.

In 2013, Kohl’s honored 17-year old Paige Alenick, of Woodcliff, New Jersey, for launching an organization dedicated to providing toothbrushes to those without access or unable to afford them. Donate-A-Toothbrush has donated more than 38,000 toothbrushes to more than 20 Third World Countries, shelters for battered women and children, a nursery school in Kenya, and victims of Hurricane Sandy.

And recognizing a need within his immediate community, Garland Jones of Marietta, Georgia created a youth-led project to provide food for poor and distressed refugee families in Atlanta.  Since the project began in 20012, Back-N-Pack has collected more than 16,000 pounds of food and raised more than $4,500 for the cause.

Locally, Jason Cui of Great Falls, Virginia, earned a Kohl’s regional scholarship for his program to encourage teens to visit hospitalized peers.  Nine-year old Melia Gayaldo, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was also a regional winner for collecting more than 480 pairs of gloves, 100 pairs of socks, 50 scarves and hundreds of travel size toiletries all of which were donated to organizations serving those in need.

To be considered for a Kohl’s Cares scholarship, students must be nominated by adults familiar with their work.  Nominations will be accepted until March 14, 2014, and require a detailed description of activities taking place in the previous year.

And the prizes are wonderful.  Two nominees from each of the more than 1,100 Kohl’s stores nationwide will win $50 gift cards, and nearly 200 will win regional scholarships worth $1,000.  The ten national awards will be selected from among regional winners.

Since 2001, Kohl’s has recognized more than 19,500 kids with more than $3.9 million in scholarships and prizes.  For more information or to begin the nomination process visit the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship website.

Feb 27, 2014

Common App changes leadership

In an email circulated yesterday to member colleges and universities, Thyra Briggs, president of the Common Application board of directors and vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College, announced the departure of the Common App’s long-time executive director, Rob Killion.

“Based on the experience of the 2014 application, it is clear to the Board of Directors that changes need to be made in several areas of the organization in order to ensure a successful launch of next year’s application,” explained Ms. Briggs. “While it would have been ideal to have every piece of the transition process in order before we moved forward, we realize that doing so would have delayed action too long.”

Considered a visionary within the admissions industry, Killion led the Common Application for ten years. Starting with a handful of member colleges and a paper application, Killion managed the transition to a revolutionary online application serving 517 colleges and universities during the 2013-14 application cycle.

But he ran into serious management and technological issues introducing new application software in August of last year. As problems mounted, the Common App was initially slow to respond and lost the confidence of college administrators, with several defecting to the Universal College Application—the Common App’s main competitor. In addition, many colleges were forced to push back deadlines as applicants struggled with the new software and staff was forced to find work-arounds for missing data and incomplete applications.

At the same time he was dealing with faulty technology and an increasingly difficult relationship with Hobsons, the Common App’s technology subcontractor, Killion was attempting a major reorganization moving from several virtual offices located in different parts of the country to a single office housing all staff in northern Virginia.

In December, the Common App board hired Censeo, a third-party management consultant, to conduct an independent evaluation of the situation. While final results have yet to be released, it appears evident that questions were raised about the ability of the current leadership to effect a smooth transition to a new management structure.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Killion expressed frustration with the Board.

"The Common Application Board of Directors appears to be making me the scapegoat for their decisions to hire Hobsons to build the new online system while becoming independent from Hobsons at the same time," Killion said. "I will have much more to say publicly about this soon."

In the meantime, the Board will be conducting a search for a new executive director.

“Findings from Censeo’s report will be presented in the coming weeks and will be used as an important tool for the Board of Directors and leadership team moving forward into the 2014-15 application cycle,” said Ms. Briggs in her email to Common App members. “We remain committed to the values of reliability, access, equity and integrity stated in our mission, and we are confident that the changes we are putting in place will strengthen us an organization moving forward.”

For the immediate future, a leadership transition team composed of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, Chad Massie (vice president of technology), Lesley Hargreaves (vice president of operations), and Scott Anderson (senior director of policy) will take over leadership duties.

Feb 24, 2014

Colleges that do NOT superscore the SAT

The University of California system does NOT superscore the SAT
Calculating a “superscore” is the process by which a college considers a student’s best score from each individual SAT or ACT section, regardless of the date the test was taken. 

This means that if a student takes either test multiple times, the college promises to take only the highest individual section scores and use them for making admissions decisions.

Colleges that superscore the SAT only consider the highest Critical Reading, Math, and/or Writing scores across all test dates (for the ACT, the practice is less common and slightly more complicated involving four different subscores:  English, Math, Reading, and Science).

Colleges that superscore swear they never sneak a peek at lower test scores, even though they have been sent and are readily available in a student’s file.  In fact, some colleges use enrollment management software that deftly picks out the highest scores from among those submitted and only provides those scores to application readers.

“When I read, I’m looking at the two or three digit scores.  I don’t see how many times an applicant took the test and I don’t see all of their scores,” explains UVa Dean Jeannine Lalonde, in her admissions blog.  “The application system shows me the right mix of scores to get the best possible combination.”

For this reason, colleges strongly encourage students to send all scores and not risk missing deadlines or underreporting their scores by using Score Choice—a policy in permitting applicants to choose scores they send by seating.  Note that virtually all colleges allow Score Choice and only a very few relatively selective schools—Stanford, Yale, Rice, Penn, Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon for example—don’t let you choose which scores to submit.

While most colleges superscore the SAT, a handful are very clear that they do not.  A recent review by Cigus Vanni, school counselor at Cherry Hill High School West in New Jersey, uncovered almost 120 colleges and university systems that do not currently superscore.

The following is a sample of those schools that do not superscore the SAT:

Arizona State University
Auburn University
Augsburg College
Belmont University
Boise State Uniersity
Bowling Green State University
Calvin College
Carthage College
Coe College
Colorado State University
Hillsdale College
Kent State University
Lakeland College
Louisiana State University
Marquette University
Middle Tennessee State University
Missouri State University
Ohio State University
Oregon State University
Pennsylvania State University (all branches)
Ripon College
Rosemont College
Texas Woman’s University
University of Arizona
University of California university system
University of Houston
University of Minnesota (all branches)
University of Texas university system
University of the Ozarks
University of Utah
University of Wisconsin Madison
Valparaiso University
West Virginia University

To receive a copy of the entire list, feel free to email me (Nancy@CollegeExplorations.com) or Cigus Vanni (cigusvanni@verizon.net).  

And keep in mind that all admissions policies are subject to change each year.  You should always consult with an individual college website for the most accurate and complete statement of how test results will be treated in the admissions process.

Feb 22, 2014

NIH seeks high school students with a 'passion for science'

Summer programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offer hundreds of amazing opportunities for high school students to work side-by-side with some of the world's leading scientists in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.

“If you have a passion for science and an interest in gaining hands-on experience doing biomedical, behavioral, or social science research, the NIH Summer Internship Program may be perfect for you,” explained Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education.

As one of the premiere research facilities in the world, NIH consists of the 240-bed Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda and the surrounding area, as well as in Frederick and Baltimore, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI.  Note that the number of positions in Hamilton, Framingham, and Detroit is limited.

Program stipends cover a minimum of eight weeks, with students generally arriving at the NIH in May or June—start dates are negotiated individually by the applicant and the NIH investigator. And stipends are adjusted yearly with the amount depending on prior experience and educational level.

Be aware that this is not a commuter program; NIH does not provide housing to student interns. Every year, however, out-of-area students apply and make their own living arrangements for the summer. Nevertheless, students living in the DC metropolitan area or near one of the other locations have a clear advantage for many of the internships.

To support the program, the NIH Institutes and Office of Intramural Training & Education sponsor a wide range of summer activities including lectures featuring distinguished NIH investigators, career/professional development workshops, and Summer Poster Day. These are incomparable opportunities which can provide the basis for independent research and related science competitions such as the JSHS, Google Science Fair, Intel STS, Siemens, and ISEF.

Summer internships are available for students who will be 16 years of age or older at the time they begin the program and who are currently enrolled at least half-time in high school or an accredited US college or university. Students who have already been accepted to college may also apply.

Interested students must apply online by no later than March 1, 2014, and all letters of recommendation are due by March 15, 2014 or within two weeks of request. The application requires
  • contact information
  • a resume
  • a list of coursework and grades
  • a cover letter describing research interests and career goals (applicants are welcome to specify scientific methodologies or disease/organ systems that interest them), and
  • names and contact information for two references.
Individual investigators will be reviewing applications to find individuals who will fit most comfortably into their programs or groups and who are most likely to make significant contributions to ongoing projects.  They usually look for applicants who speak and write well, who have some prior successful research experience, who think about science in a mature way, who are creative, who take initiative and are self-motivated, and/or who work well in teams.

Because applications are reviewed on a rolling basis from November through April by NIH scientists, students are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible.  Only completed applications are available for review by NIH investigators and administrators. And be aware that in 2013, more than 6300 completed applications were submitted, and about 1000 interns were selected. 

For more information as well as tips on how to increase your chances of winning an internship, visit the NIH website

Feb 21, 2014

Common App announces ‘No Change’ for 2014-15 Essays

The Common App recently announced that there would be no change in essay topics for the 2014-15 application.  This came as no surprise to many, not so much because the topics were compelling or that they evoked inspired responses from applicants, but more because it confirmed a growing belief that Common App management would unilaterally make decisions about application content without much meaningful collaboration with admissions professionals.

A year ago, during the run-up to the ill-fated launch of the new online application (CA4), the Common App vetted various essay topics with 15 school counselors and elected to drop the hands-down favorite among high school students—“Topic of your choice.”   

This decision produced considerable push back from within the counseling community and ignited a contentious exchange of correspondence involving executive level staff annoyed with counselors questioning the process of determining essay topics.

To quell the controversy, the Common App promised an annual review of topics and suggested that feedback would be sought before decisions were made in the future.

It was also strongly hinted that changing essay prompts would help curb or at least put a damper on a growing cottage industry of essay consultants, websites, and handbooks.

But collaboration seems to have been put on the back burner as the Common App management and its Board of Directors began addressing larger flaws in a system that produced a series of mishaps and problems in application submission and data collection during the 2013-14 application cycle.

At an emergency meeting called in mid-December, the Board initiated an “independent” review of Common App technology and organization. 

Two surveys were subsequently devised by Censeo, a third-party management consulting firm with credentials in federal procurement,  and sent to all 517 Common Application members as well as 50,000 school counselors.  Independent educational consultants as well as student applicants were intentionally left out of the process.

Then again, the Common Application didn’t particularly want feedback on specific essay prompts, the use of direct entry text boxes, or the strictly-enforced 650-word limit.   Instead respondents were asked to simply agree or disagree with a single statement:  

The new essay topics provide students with an opportunity to express themselves in their own voice while demonstrating their writing ability.”

And according to the Common App, 70% of the responding member colleges and 90% of the school counselors agreed—although no indication was given as to how “strongly” they agreed.

“I love the new prompts—and not just because they are new,” commented Terry Cowdrey, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Colby College and former member of the Common Application Board of Directors. "I think we are learning more about students."

This feedback provided management with all the support needed to do what they intended to do anyway—retain last year’s essay prompts—much to the disappointment of many in the counseling community.

“I was hoping for a more thoughtful review of the topics and the reinstatement of topic of your choice to allow students a little more freedom in their essays,” said Wendie Lubic, a Maryland-based independent educational consultant.  “It seemed like repeating topics was a knee jerk reaction to save effort since they [the Common Application] have a long list of fixes.”

A retired Montgomery County Public School counselor with an independent consulting practice added, “I've been counseling since '82, so this is not the first time I've seen a repeat of essay prompts. In the future, however, I would recommend a more thorough assessment than what seems to have happened this year.”

So for better are worse, the essay prompts remain unchanged and for 2014-15 will be as follows:
  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.