Dec 31, 2015

2015 in rap

Coalition members promoting their new 'locker'
Once again, the super smart rappers at Flocabulary have called off the regular Week in Rap to celebrate the preceding 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours and 525,600 minutes in rhyme. 

And another Year in Rap is born!
An online library of educational hip-hop songs and videos, Flocabulary currently serves over 35,000 schools and a community of educators who prove time and again that struggling students can be reached with rap songs covering everything from U.S. History to SAT vocabulary words. If you’re not familiar with the weekly current events program promoted and brilliantly executed by the hip-hop poets behind Flocabulary, check it out

And for the fifth consecutive year, the rappers are looking for a few good collaborators.

In partnership with the education page of The New York Times, Flocabulary is offering students, from 13 to 19 years old, an opportunity to get their rhymes published.

Creative rappers must choose from at least four important New York Times stories and write their own Year in Rap following NYT’s Learning Network commenting standards—no profanity or vulgar language.

They’re welcome to get ideas from the 2014 winners:

Ferguson police force showin’ no mercy
Eric Garner and Tamir all causin’ controversy
On the world stage Russia tries to reign supreme
While ISIS spills innocent blood by terrorist means
 Shoutout to Malala, brave enough to eschew
The whole sexist system; education will come through
It’s hard to Shake It Off with violence and find a balance
But we’ll pour all our worries in an ice bucket challenge

Or think about what’s been on your mind this past year:

College counselors were in for a shocker
As Coalition members promoted their new ‘locker’

Lyrics should be submitted to the Flocabulary-New York Times Learning Network Year in Rap contest as a comment to a blog post inviting Year in Rap submissions by 7 a.m. Eastern time on January 12, 2016.

Dec 30, 2015

Facing down a deferral

Notre Dame welcomes communication from deferred students

Harvard College deferred 4673 applicants to regular decision out of 6173 students who applied “single-choice” early action this fall. Brown deferred 63 percent of its 3030 binding early decision candidates, while MIT deferred 4776 of its 7767 early action applicants and Yale deferred 53 percent of its early applicants.  

Georgetown deferred all students not accepted to the early action program to the spring review.
Duke, on the other hand, deferred 663 students out of 3455 applicants to regular decision, Middlebury deferred 74 applicants out of 685, and Stanford  deferred only 701 students out of 7822 restricted early action candidates.

Although each of these schools has its own enrollment management strategy for dealing with deferred students,  it’s clear that way too many who applied early this fall are finding they’ve been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred to the regular admissions pool.

And if you find yourself in this position, please know that you’re not alone.

Because many colleges received record numbers of early applications, it stands to reason that unless acceptances increase, you have considerable company—mostly very disappointed.

But try to put the best face on your disappointment. Think of deferral as a kind of holding pattern. Colleges are sending a signal they need to know a little more about you before making a final decision. Often they want to see your application in the context of the entire applicant pool or they simply want to see how well you’re continuing to do senior year.

You can also interpret the message as an opportunity to regroup or reconsider your application strategy.  For some students, a deferral can be a wake-up call. Make sure you are applying to a solid mix of schools, including a sufficient number of colleges where there is a good or better likelihood you will be admitted.

If you continue committed to the college that deferred you, don’t despair. Although there are no guarantees, you can either respond to the challenge or wait for the next round of decisions to come out in the New Year.

I recommend responding. And here’s how:

1. Do not crash—finish those applications. There’s no question this is a setback. It’s normal to feel disappointment, but don’t allow it to be crippling. Most importantly, don’t let this relatively minor bump in the road delay completion of the rest of your applications. Finish those remaining essays as soon as possible and try to submit well in advance of due dates.

2.  Understand and follow the rules.  Before doing anything, be sure to review and understand deferral policies. Some colleges are quite clear that deferred applicants should not call, write, or send additional materials. Others will welcome communication.  Know the policy and form a plan of action to appropriately address the deferral.

3. Contact Admissions. Try calling or emailing the admissions representative for your area. He or she most likely read your application and possibly remembers you. It’s a busy time of year for admissions, but if you’re lucky you might get personal feedback and a sense of how your application stacked up against the rest of the early pool. You might also get ideas on how to strengthen your candidacy by clarifying misunderstandings or by submitting additional test results, information, or recommendations. But whatever you do, resist the temptation to complain or badger the staff.

4. Update your application. Although colleges require that official midyear grades be sent directly by your high school, take the initiative to forward a copy of your semester grade report with a cover letter firmly restating your commitment to attend if admitted—only if that’s truly the case of course—along with as succinct statement as to why you think the college is the best fit for you. Include reference to any new and improved standardized test scores, additional leadership positions, new memberships, recent events or community service activities in which you have been involved, and any special awards you received. Consider sending an additional writing sample or essay. And feel free to add relevant supplementary information such as links to videos or newspaper articles. Remember colleges really only want to know what’s happened since you submitted your original application, so don’t rehash the past. And don't snow them with paper. Be deliberate in what you send.

5. Consider a campus visit. If you haven’t already spoken with the area representative, try to make an appointment to meet sometime in January or February. This can be an opportunity to make your case for admission face-to-face. If the rep is not available, don’t be discouraged—it’s peak reading season and time is limited. Instead, visit a class, have lunch, and take a closer look at the campus. You may find subtle changes in your feelings about the school that open you to other possibilities.

6. Send another recommendation. If permitted, make arrangements to have another recommendation sent on your behalf. Look for someone who can speak to qualities other than those represented in recommendations the college already received. Consider asking a coach, your employer, a faculty sponsor for one of your membership organizations, or a senior year teacher who has gotten a chance to get to know you. Do not flood the admissions office with hundreds of additional recommendations. This won’t help.

7. Try retesting. If test scores appear to be a barrier to admission, try retaking either the SAT (January) or the ACT (February). Who knows? Your scores may improve significantly enough to make a difference in your admissions prospects.

8. Make academics your first priority. Now is the time to reveal your true character by working even harder to improve class standing. Don’t be lured into senioritis. Colleges on the fence about your candidacy will be impressed by a continued upward trend in grades.

9. Step-up community or school involvement. This is definitely NOT the time to quit participating in school- or community-based activities. Instead, you should seek out leadership opportunities and have a continued impact on your community. Colleges want to see a commitment to service that doesn’t just end because the paperwork was submitted.

10. Complete scholarship, financial aid and/or honors college applications. Don’t stop now. If the college has supplementary scholarship or honors college applications, make sure they are completed and submitted before deadline. This includes the CSS PROFILE.  Be aware that completing these documents—especially after a deferral—shows a significant level of continued interest.

11. Talk to your school counselor. Be sure to provide your counselor with the most up-to-date information on additional accomplishments that may be relevant to your application and ask for these accomplishments to be included along with mid-year grades. If the college remains your first choice, suggest your counselor make this point somewhere on the form or possibly in a cover letter. In some cases, a call from your counselor to the admissions office will help, particularly if he or she has a strong relationship with the college.

12. Move on. Consider your deferral an opportunity to explore other options. It’s hard not to be miserable over a less-than-positive response to all the hard work you’ve put into being the best possible candidate for admission. But once you have done everything possible to persuade the college to admit, turn your attention elsewhere and don’t dwell on the negative. Even with this small detour, remain confident in your prospects.

For a college perspective on deferral, read advice provided by the University of Notre Dame and Tulane University.

Dec 28, 2015

Top colleges for ‘packaging’ science or engineering

San Jose State University

Did you ever stop to wonder what great minds came up with the ideas for those devilishly difficult
packages children’s toys come in? Or who thought up the idea for department store boxes that pop into shape after a series of bends and folds only a student of origami could have designed?

Tamper proof, child resistant, recyclable, sturdy and attractive are some of many goals manufacturers impose on package designers.  And it’s only when packaging somehow intrudes on enjoyment that most consumers even notice what might go into designing the seemingly impenetrable plastic clamshell sheltering a product.

It turns out that packaging is big business.  According to the experts at Virginia Tech, packaging is the “third largest industry in the world” ($420 billion) and is growing at a rate of four percent per year. 

And colleges are beginning to catch on.  A pioneer in the industry, Michigan State University established one of the original programs in 1952—first as a discipline within the MSU Department of Forest Products and then in 1957 as an independent school within the university.  Virginia Tech locates its program within the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, while Rutgers claims to offer “the nation’s only packaging program in the nation housed in an engineering school.”

Other undergraduate programs are structured as minors or concentrations such as those found at Christian Brother University, University of Florida, or Cal Poly.

Although sustainability is one of the greatest driving factors in packaging, the field attracts students who are interested in design, materials science, food chemistry, nanotechnology, business and marketing, transportation and distribution.  

Programs typically work very closely with the packaging industry and offer hands-on experiences through internships. Scholarships and competitions for packaging students are also available.

So as you tear into holiday packages or decide how to dispose of accumulated packaging, be aware that academics are working on greater efficiency and sustainability in the industry.  And here (in alphabetical order) are eight colleges for degrees in packaging science or engineering (additional programs may be found on the Packaging World website):

Clemson University: “Packaging science majors first complete basic course work in science and math before delving into the intricacies of packaging design, materials, polymers and distribution.”

Indiana State University:  “Coursework includes study in technology, business, the sciences, and mathematics—plus a cooperative work experience.”

Michigan State University:  “More than half of all packaging graduates employed in the U.S. come from Michigan State. Our academic offerings include bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in packaging, as well as certificate programs and an on-line master’s degree aimed at mid-career professionals.”

Rochester Institute of Technology:  “The packaging science major prepares students for employment in areas such as package development, sales, purchasing, structural design, production, research, and marketing.”

Rutgers University:  “Packaging engineering is a multi-disciplinary field within the Applied Sciences in Engineering major at RU that draws on chemical, industrial, materials, and mechanical engineering in order to design and create boxes, cartons, bottles, and other packing materials that meet specific criteria.”

San Jose State University:  “With this degree you are eligible to apply for career positions of Packaging Engineer, Packaging Technologist or any other positions requiring a BS in Packaging.”

University of Wisconsin-Stout:  “Through laboratory and co-op work experiences, you will apply the principles of science, mathematics and communications skills.”

Virginia Tech:  “We work with packaging companies to provide internship and permanent employment opportunities for our students. Internships opportunities are available with food packaging, corrugated packaging, packaging graphics, and various plastic packaging companies.”

Dec 24, 2015

Top holiday videos for 2015

College of William and Mary

The College of William and Mary welcomes the holidays with a festive Yule Log Ceremony, while members of the McDaniel College faculty take turns reading Jack Frost by Gabriel Setoun.  

American University  celebrates the holidays  with an assortment of astonishingly ugly sweaters, and the University of Virginia shares the truly spectacular Lighting of the Lawn honoring the season in a ceremony similar to that staged by Christopher Newport University.

Colleges continue to make creative use of YouTube and other social media for extending warm holiday greetings.  Some provide an opportunity to see what the campus looks like during the winter months, and others introduce viewers to key administrative staff who just happen to play starring roles in the productions. 

The videos can be anything from earnest messages read by college presidents seated in front of brilliantly burning yule logs to humorous collages of campus and student life.  And many are thinly disguised marketing endeavors designed to generate interest in whatever it is the college is choosing to showcase.

After a thorough search through the internet and a little help from a few IECs and admissions offices, here are my candidates for the best of the 2015 holiday videos—ugly sweaters and dogs are huge this year:

Agnes Scott College.  Scottie takes a ride around campus on a magic sled and delivers presents.  Cute dog.

Arizona State University.  A magic box positioned in the middle of campus will grant holiday wishes, and everyone asks for something different.

Berklee College of Music.  Berklee shows off the enormous talent of an international group of students with their performance of “Winter Wonderland.”

Champlain College.  The Dance Team produces an NSYNC Christmas [Music Video]. The production was filmed at Champlain’s new sound stage.

Everett Community College.  EvCC News has received unconfirmed reports of a snowflake sighting near the Everett Community College campus.  Check it out!  This one is really funny.

Georgia Tech.  Students surprise a much-loved security guard with a huge gift for the holidays. 

Guilford College.  College President Jane K. Fernandes and her husband extend holiday greetings.  President Fernandes is Guilford’s ninth president and the first deaf woman to lead a college or university in the U.S.

Harvard College.  The Kuumba Singers come together for the 45th Annual Dr. S. Allen Counter Christmas Concert for an inspired performance of “Mary Did You Know?”

Holy Cross College, IN.  Basil, the Holy Cross mascot, makes his way to the manger and kneels. The story is based on a poem titled, “Basil at the Crib,” by Brother George Klawitter, CSC, Professor, English Literature and Writing.

Kenyon College.  This lovely black and white video features a very talented group of students riffing on “Let it Snow.”  If you’re looking for snow, here is your opportunity.

Landmark College.  College President Peter Eden comes up with a novel way to spread holiday cheer with the help of a canine friend and lots of holiday sweaters.

Meredith College.  President Allen’s dog, Bachelor, helps get the campus ready for the holidays and celebrates the College’s 125th anniversary.  Another cute dog.

Ohio Wesleyan University.  The admissions staff comes together as a family to open gifts under the tree.  But who is that sad-looking pink bunny?  And why is he there?

Thomas Aquinas College.  Nearly 150 Thomas Aquinas students descend on The Oaks shopping mall in Thousand Oaks, California, to stage a holiday “flash mob.”  This is a follow-up to last year’s flash mob at another area mall.

University Illinois.  The athletes are back. And this year’s video is no better than last year’s video—so BAD, it’s great!

University of Connecticut.  We’re all huskies at heart.  More totally adorable dogs.  But be sure to check out the blooper reel. And how about that cat!

University of Illinois Springfield. Two very special students find out what students, faculty and staff are looking forward to during the holiday season.  These girls are really funny!

University of Maryland College Park.  The Robert H. Smith School of Business auditions talented students, administrators and faculty in a local production of “Holiday Idol.”  And who will be the new Kelly Clarkson?  Don’t miss this one!!

University of North Dakota.  The ugly sweaters are back. “The cold never bothered me anyway.” 

Wheaton College, IL.  A cellist opens the production from a seat within the audience while the rest of the symphony orchestra files in playing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” The entire concert lasts over an hour and reflects the strong religious orientation of the college.

Williams College.  The Williams alma mater song “The Mountains” was recorded and filmed in the newly restored Chapin Hall.  And it’s a beautiful way to end the list.