Apr 30, 2014

23 reasons for choosing a college


UCLA’s CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Program) Freshman Survey is the largest and longest-running survey of American college students. Since 1966, more than 15 million first-time, first-year students have responded to an evolving list of questions designed to get at who they are and what they care about.

This year’s study reflects the attitudes and trends expressed by 165,743 freshmen entering 234 four-year colleges and universities of “varying levels of selectivity and type in the United States."

And not surprisingly, financial considerations are exerting more influence than ever on incoming freshmen, with college costs and financial aid playing an increasingly decisive role in school-selection.
Although more than three-quarters (75.5 percent) of those surveyed were admitted to their first choice college in 2013, only 56.9 percent enrolled—the lowest proportion since CIRP first measured the item in 1974.  At the same time, the percentage of students indicating that cost was a “very important” factor in their college-choice process skyrocketed to 45.9 percent—an increase of nearly 15 percentage points from 2004 and the highest in the 10 years CIRP has collected this information.

In addition, the percentage of students indicating financial aid was a “very important” factor in their selection was also at its highest point in the 42 years since the question was first asked.  Almost half (49 percent) reported that a financial aid offer was a “very important” factor in their decision to enroll at their current campus—up from 34 percent in 2004.
"The difficult financial decisions that students and their families have to make about college are becoming more evident," said Kevin Eagan, interim director of CIRP. "Over 62 percent of students who were admitted to but did not attend their first-choice college said they were offered aid by the institution they chose to attend."

Perhaps this is because almost 69 percent believed that current economic conditions significantly affected their college choice—up from 62 percent three years earlier when the question was first asked.  In fact, increasing numbers of first-year students (14.9 percent) reported they could not afford their first choice school in 2013.

As a result, students are looking for job-related benefits in their choice of college.  In fact, 86 percent of incoming freshmen cited “to be able to get a better job” as a very important reason for enrolling—considerably up from the reported low of 67.8 percent in 1976.

Although academic reputation still weighs heavily in college choice, it’s clear that financial realities may be having a very real effect on the final decision to attend.  And these considerations appear more important than the likelihood that they’ll ever graduate, as less than a third of the survey respondents even considered graduation rates an important factor in their choice of college.

In fact, the CIRP survey probed student awareness of time it takes to graduate.  Responses indicated that over 84 percent expect to graduate from the college they had just entered in four years.  This represents a major disconnect between expectations and reality, as the national four-year graduation rate currently hovers around 38 percent.

The following are the 23 reasons for choosing a college that students were offered in the UCLA survey. The percentages provided indicate what portion of students surveyed considered these factors "very important."
  1. College has a very good academic reputation (64 percent)↑
  2. This college’s graduates get good jobs (53.1 percent)↓
  3. I was offered financial assistance (48.7 percent)↑
  4. The cost of attending this college (45.9 percent)↑
  5. College has a good reputation for social activities (44.1 percent)↑
  6. A visit to the campus (42.9 percent)↑
  7. Wanted to go to a college about this size (37.6 percent)↓
  8. Grads get into good grad/professional schools (33 percent)↑
  9. Percent of students that graduate from this college (29.7 percent)↓
  10. Wanted to live near home (19.6 percent)↓
  11. Information from a website (18.3 percent)↓
  12. Rankings in national magazines (17.6 percent)↓
  13. Parents wanted me to go to this school (17.6 percent)↑
  14. Could not afford first choice (14.9 percent)↑
  15. Admitted early decision and/or early action (14.3 percent)↑
  16. Not offered aid by first choice (10.9 percent)↑
  17. High school counselor advised me (10.3 percent)
  18. Athletic department recruited me (9.4 percent)↑
  19. Attracted by religious affiliation/orientation of college (8.3 percent)↑
  20. My teacher advised me (6.8 percent)↑
  21. My relatives wanted me to come here (6.8 percent)↑
  22. Private college counselor advised me (4.5 percent)↑
  23. Ability to take online courses (3.8 percent)
Note that the cost of attending a college now outweighs a campus visit as “very important” in influencing final choice, and for the third consecutive year, the percentage of students describing the role of private college counselors as “very important” increased while the role of rankings in national magazines decreased.

For more information or to download a complete copy of the report, visit the HERI website.

Apr 28, 2014

Freshman migration patterns or where students enroll when they go out-of-state

JMU is a popular destination for Marylanders
When students decide to attend college out of state, where do they go?  The general sense, backed up by surveys, is that they don't go too far afield.  They look to the familiar and pretty much stay within their region.

In fact, the 2013 CIRP freshman survey—UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities—suggests that over 50% of last year’s freshmen stayed within 100 miles of home.

And according to data gathered by the ACT, 2012 grads attended college a median distance of 51 miles from home, with only 22 percent traveling out-of-state.

So while that’s all very interesting, college-based enrollment managers want more detailed information about freshman migration patterns and how they might affect enrollment at their institutions.

“It's a question with lots of answers, and the insight is not always easy to figure out, let alone communicate,” explains Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University.  

But Boeckenstedt, a self-described  “tableau dabbler,” with detailed knowledge of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the ability to make it yield incredibly interesting results, took “a stab” at documenting freshman travels based on 2012 IPEDS input.

The resulting charts, which he has generously posted on his blog, provide an easy-to-understand trail of where students from a particular state tend to enroll when they travel out of state.

And you don’t have to be particularly computer-savvy to see what enrollment managers see using the interactive tools Boeckenstedt has devised.  For  the chart titled, “When Freshmen Cross State Lines, Where Do They Go,” pick any freshman home state (the default view shows Michigan) and limit colleges filtering on college region or Carnegie Classification.

Selecting Virginia, all regions and any classification but “Other,” it’s fascinating to see that the top ten colleges and institutions for Commonwealth students were:
  1. West Virginia University
  2. University of South Carolina-Columbia
  3. East Carolina University
  4. Chowan University
  5. The University of Alabama
  6. Coastal Carolina University
  7. Carolina A&T University
  8. Pennsylvania State University
  9. Brigham Young University
  10. Clemson University
And for Marylanders, the top ten were:
  1. West Virginia University
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. James Madison University
  4. York College Pennsylvania
  5. University of Delaware
  6. University of South Carolina-Columbia
  7. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  8. Howard University
  9. Coastal Carolina University
  10. Shepherd University
On one level, these charts show which colleges actively recruit from or are open to students from particular states.  They also suggest a possible level of competitiveness.

But for students looking to buck trends, do a little trailblazing, or factor in a little “geographic diversity” to their college lists, this tool could provide some really useful information. 

In fact, it might give more adventurous applicants an idea of which colleges might be more inclined to take a second look simply because they get so few students from a particular state.

Nothing is predictive here, but if you’re interested in which out-of-state colleges and universities students from your state attend (or don’t attend), you might try cruising the interactive charts posted on Jon Boeckenstedt’s blog. 

Apr 25, 2014

Princeton Review releases 5th annual FREE guide to green colleges

American University made the 'Green Honor Roll'

Just in time for Earth Week, the Princeton Review recently released the fifth annual edition of its FREE downloadable guidebook honoring the nation’s most environmentally responsible “green colleges.”

“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges:  2014 Edition” profiles 330 schools in the US and two in Canada demonstrating “exemplary commitments to sustainability in their academics, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

Developed in collaboration with the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the 216-page book can be downloaded free of charge from either the Princeton Review or Center for Green Schools websites.

Although colleges are listed alphabetically and not by rank, the Princeton Review salutes 22 schools with Green Ratings of 99 on its “Green Honor Roll.”  This year, American University is the only local college to have earned this distinction.

In addition to detailed descriptions of environmental and sustainability initiatives, the guide provides statistics and facts on each school’s use of renewable energy sources, recycling and conservation programs, the availability of environmental studies programs, and career guidance for green jobs. For the uninitiated, a glossary of more than forty “green” terms and acronyms is also provided as well as lists of schools with LEED-certified buildings and advice for green living on campus.

Here's a fun fact:  Among the 332 colleges in the guide, 30 percent of their total food expenditures goes toward purchases of local and/or organic food.

Make no mistake—today’s undergrad really cares about the environment and sustainability.  And colleges are responding by reconfiguring priorities in virtually every area of campus life.

"Among 10,116 college applicants who participated in our 2014 'College Hopes & Worries Survey,' 61 percent said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school," commented Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s senior vice president for publishing.

The Princeton Review chose the 332 schools based on a survey of hundreds of colleges that asked about institutional sustainability-related policies, practices, and programs. Green Ratings were tallied for 832 institutions, and all those receiving a score of 83 or above were included in the guide.

For more information or to download a copy of the “Guide to 332 Green Colleges,” visit the Princeton Review website.

Disclosure: Nancy Griesemer is a member of the Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board, 2013-14.

Apr 23, 2014

Still available: 2014 summer internships and jobs for high school students

During the summer months, high school students have the opportunity to "test-drive" career interests, gain valuable work experience, and possibly earn a little money by signing up for one of many internship or paid positions made available by local industry or the nonprofit community.

And it’s no secret that colleges like to see you’ve done something other than work on a tan or beat the next level of Angry Birds with time allotted between June and August.

Although it’s getting late and many summer jobs and internships are already filled, there are still a few openings for high school students.  But you have to look a little harder and be persistent.  

Here are a few examples of positions that may still be available:

Environmental Protection Agency:  All internships paid by EPA appear in the government-wide USAJobs.gov portal (the best source of information for all federal summer positions). Most opportunities are advertised in March, April, and May. Note that positions typically open for 1 to 2 weeks only and many require at least 640 hours of work.

Fairfax County Democratic Committee:  Each summer the FCDC sponsors an internship program for dozens of high school students. They help by contacting voters, improving contact data, making campaign buttons, and working at events like rallies, parades, fairs, and festivals.  An online application is available on the FCDC website. 

Fairfax County Park Authority:  Looking for a great summer experience working with children?  The RecPac CIT program needs high school students who want to develop leadership and communication skills as well as gain experience in planning activities and instructing young children.  Applicants must be at least 14 and be available to work fixed hours daily during the week.  Applications will be accepted through June 13, 2014 and are available on line.

Fairfax County Republican Committee:  The Fairfax County Republican Committee is currently searching for students interested in learning more about campaigning and effective public communications. Student interns will gain valuable knowledge about the democratic process and work to become adept communicators through hands-on experience with Elected Officials, candidates, and the general public.  If you’re interested, contact 703-766-4467 or e-mail the Fairfax County Republican Committee at FairfaxCountyGOP@gmail.com.

Georgetown/Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center:  The Summer Volunteer Research Program is designed for outstanding high school and undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career in bio-medically related sciences. Particularly motivated students will benefit from the opportunity of hands-on laboratory research. No previous research experience is necessary, although AP Science is strongly encouraged. Students must be 16 years of age by June 30, 2014 and must be current juniors in high school.  Applications are due no later than May 1, 2014, at 5:00 p.m.

Library of Congress:  Internships may continue to be available in these areas: Work-study; American Folklife Center; LOC European Division; Hispanic Division.

Long Branch Plantation:  Located in Millwood, Virginia (a little over an hour from DC), Long Branch Plantation is still accepting internship applications from high school students.  Projects will provide hands-on opportunities and experiences in historic preservation, digital history, archival research, historic interpretation and programming.  Please send a resume and a brief email discussing your interest to Cassie Ward, Director of Public Relations (cward@visitlongbranch.org).

National Air and Space Museum:  The Explainers Program gives high school students an opportunity to work at the National Air and Space Museum.  Applicants must be at least 16 and available to work at least 16 hours per month.  Note that you will need to submit an application, an essay, an official high school transcript and two letters of recommendation.

National Park Service:  Some limited summer jobs and internships may be available at individual parks.  For the Youth Conservation Corps in specific, students between the ages of 15 and 18 must complete the YCC application and return it at the earliest possible date to the nearest unit of a National Park, National Forest, or national Fish and Wildlife Refuge or Hatchery. Note that additional positions throughout the country are currently being posted by the Corps Network—a partner of the National Park Service.  Hint:  regular park volunteers often get the first chance at paid summer positions.

Phoenix Bikes:  This nonprofit organization relies on volunteer support to maintain both the education and retail components of the shop.  Interns/volunteers must register with Arlington County’s Volunteer Department and agree to a criminal history check.  For specific information on current openings, visit the Phoenix Bikes website.

Smithsonian Institution:  The Smithsonian offers a variety of internships for individuals who are at least 16 years of age. A listing of fellowships and internships with application deadlines can be found at www.si.edu/ofg/intern.htm. Additional information can be found at www.smithsonian.org/interns. Note that there will definitely be volunteer opportunities for the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival.

TIC Summer Camp:  Staff members enjoy creative independence, a stimulating and spirited atmosphere, and the camaraderie of peers.  Apply online and be prepared to provide three references (past employers, teachers, or anyone who has seen you work with children—no relatives).  TIC runs three day camps in the DC area.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security:  The CBP Explorer program offers opportunities for students between the ages of 14 and 21.  Successful applicants must be in school, maintain at least a “C” grade average, and have an interest in law enforcement.  Applications are accepted throughout the year.

U.S. Secret Service:  The Student Intern Program provides unpaid academic study-related work assignments.  Applicants must be at least 16 years of age at the time of appointment, U.S. citizens, and able to obtain a Top Secret clearance.  If you have questions, please contact the Secret Service Recruitment Program at 202-406-5800.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation:  A number of summer seasonal positions are still available in various areas of the Commonwealth.  The will remain “open until filled.”  For a complete listing, visit the DCR website.