Archive for January, 2009

The College Admissions Process – Objective Subjectivity?

Jan. 26th 2009 18:44

Last spring, we published our list of the top college admission myths. We offered one of the more common myths, “Your perfect GPA and SAT score will get you into an Ivy League school,” as well as one of the not so obvious, “There is one school out there that fits you perfectly.”

Of course, what makes the admissions process so difficult to understand is that the selection criteria being used are not entirely objective. In fact, to get a sense of just how subjective the process can be, one only need to take a peek at Kathleen Kingsbury’s Dirty Secrets of College Admissions over at The Daily Beast.

If you failed to get into your school of choice, reading her review of the process just might make your hair stand on end.

Key Objective Criteria

It is clear that there are several key components to the process that every student must be cognizant of. It certainly does matter what your GPA is though there is no magic number that guarantees you anything. And it does matter if you have been active in your school and community, but that activity is considered better when intensely focused on a couple of specific interests. In many cases, your SAT scores are critical, though again, you will not find hard and fast rules that dictate whether your score will get you in to a certain school or keep you out. Finally, there is the all-important essay, one of the best chances for you to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

GPA, Class Rank, Test Scores

The higher your Grade Point Average, Class Rank, and SAT or ACT scores, the better your chance of gaining acceptance to a respective school.

In regards to GPA, the key consideration is actually twofold. If you have good grades in challenging classes, then it will be clear to colleges that you can handle the workload associated at the post-secondary level. But the level of difficulty is actually more important than the grade itself.

Class rank is used by a large number of schools as it helps determine the validity of the grade received by a student. If you are one of many students in your school taking honors classes, your class rank is a way of determining your achievement levels versus your peer group.

kennedyyyyyHowever, because some high schools liberally provide students with A’s and B’s, most schools also examine standardized test scores such as those from the SAT or ACT to clarify a student’s overall ability. These exams, given under the same conditions all across America are a way of helping colleges understand whether or not a student has the ability to handle the rigors of higher education.

Co-Curricular Activities

According to experts, involvement in sports or outside activities is not as important as most students are readily led to believe. The site Guide to College Life indicates that about 50% of all colleges surveyed report co-curricular activities as not having much effect on successful college admissions.

While being involved may not be as important, that involvement can prove critical if you have significant accomplishments in one or more activities or if you have secured a leadership role within one or more of them. Therefore, when it comes to activities, being involved in fewer clubs can provide a student the opportunity for greater impact on those that they are involved with.

Perhaps most importantly, those outside activities will provide you to access to other adults who can speak on your behalf. Being able to provide a strong letter of recommendation from a coach, a club adviser, or an employer can certainly help round out your application packet in a positive manner.

The Essay

Without a doubt, many schools place great emphasis on the application essay. First and foremost, to be successful in college, you will need to be able to write and express yourself well. The essay gives recruiters a good sense of your ability to work with the written word.

Second, the essay is a chance to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Though it is essential to stick to the expectations set forth by the school, be sure to let your personality shine through – you want that admission’s officer to take notice of your skills with the written word.

If you are a good writer and distinguish yourself with your essay, you can climb several notches on the admissions acceptance ladder. For very selective schools it will not trump lousy grades, but it can elevate someone with strong grades to a position where his or her application can challenge that of someone with a higher GPA or SAT scores.


Surprisingly, one of the areas that tends to be overrated is teacher recommendations. The reason for that is quite simple, if you got an A in a teacher’s class, clearly you met his or her expectations. Adding a letter or recommendation from that teacher to your packet does little more than to reinforce your performance in the class, something the admissions officer is already able to determine by virtue of your grade.

At the same time, letters from other sources can certainly help distinguish your strengths. Getting three to four letters from various sources, including one or two from outside the classroom certainly can round out your packet. In those cases where a student is on the edge of being in or out, those letters certainly cannot hurt.

Stephen Friedfeld, private college admissions consultant in Princeton, New Jersey, tells Kingsbury that students should limit the number of letters to three or four. “A big mistake is sending too many letters of recommendation,” indicates Friedfield. He goes on to state that if you send too many, those admission officers “get the feeling you’re trying to justify something that’s bad or missing.”

The Interview

Lower on the list is the college interview. In fact, today most schools do not require an interview and those that do insist that the interview will neither make or break your chances.

That said, we would have to assume that the latter aspect might not be as straightforward as it sounds. It is hard to imagine that a student that interviews poorly or comes across as arrogant or indifferent is not somehow impacting his or her chances for admission.

To be safe, if your school requires or suggests an interview, take the time to prepare yourself by rehearsing with others. You do not want to have happen to you what happened in recent months to the likes of Sarah Palin or Caroline Kennedy, even if it is in private.

Key Subjective Criteria

While there are some real key determinants to the process, there are some that are far from being truly objective. In fact, in her piece, Kingsbury points to such issues as like-ability as holding key weight for some admission counselors.

Still, amidst the basic criteria set forth for admission, there are some situations where a student has a better chance of getting accepted using what some would still call objective criteria. It just doesn’t seem that way.

Special Cases

Kingsbury reports on at least one school seeking greater numbers of students from families where neither parent has attended college. She also points to a school looking to broaden its student body by accepting greater numbers of students from outside the Northeast (where the school is located). So a student applying to one of these schools may or may not have an added advantage irrespective of their GPA, SAT scores, etc.

In general, there are a number of ongoing special admission cases: athletes, minorities, low-income, and legacies. For these applicants, the school actually lowers the entrance criteria to ensure they accept students within these special categories.

To get a simple sense, we turn to Duke University, one of the more selective colleges, but compare admissions for non-athletes with athletes. For the Class of 2007, male non-athletes (768 in total) admitted to Duke had an average SAT score of 1,438. This gives the impression that to be considered at Duke, you need to be pushing or exceed 700 on your SAT verbal and math sections.

pursuethepassionHowever, the 42 recruited athletes accepted had an average of 1,172. To make matters worse, the five male athletes accepted that were basketball recruits had an average of 977, or 461 points below the average male score.

Beyond athletics, the concept goes further as other high profile schools look to round out their student body by looking at underrepresented groups. Simply stated, students with the same credentials do not necessarily have the same opportunity to be accepted.

Class Yield

One of the more challenging aspects for schools is to have a sense of the class yield. That term refers to the percentage of accepted students who in turn actually choose to attend the school.

In the case of a school like Harvard, the yield is the 75-80% range, meaning that three out of every four or more students accepted end up choosing to attend the school. For larger universities, the yield can be more towards 25%, meaning only one in four accepted students actually attends.

The yield of course correlates to class size. To ensure a freshman class of 400 students, a school with a typical 50% yield would need to accept 800 applicants. But if for some reason, the yield drops or increases substantially, the school would have either too few or too many students.

Therefore, admission officers have to take into account whether or not they think the applicant is truly likely to attend the school if he or she is accepted. It is for this reason that schools utilize the the Early Action/Early Decision aspect we recently discussed with MIT freshman Ahmed Hussain.

Ability to Pay

TracyOStatistically, the folks at Guide to College Life indicate that “82 percent of schools say that the ability to make tuition payments made no difference in whether or not a student would get in to that said school.”

But it is important to realize that most schools cannot fund all of the students who attend if all are in need of financial aid. The folks at Kaplan state, “In an ideal world, all colleges would be need-blind, considering a student’s academic and personal qualities and achievements, but not her ability to pay. Although some schools still operate under this credo, more common now is a need-aware, or need-conscious policy; few colleges now have the money to fund all of the students who qualify for need-based aid.”

The bottom line is that your ability to pay may in fact determine whether or not you get accepted to your school of choice.

Flickr photos courtesy of contrapositively, kennedyyyyy, lamusa, pursuethepassion, and TracyO.

Posted by Thomas | in Advice, Applying to College | No Comments »

Considering Early Action or Early Decision? MIT Freshman Explains His Choice

Jan. 21st 2009 18:54

Today we discuss the Early Action/Early Decision concept with Ahmed Hussain of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The college admissions process, while very exciting, can be one of the most stressful times of a teenager’s life. The most basic process of selecting a college or university can be truly an overwhelming one for students.

As if there were not enough different options to consider, at the time of application students learn there are different types of admission selection processes. Whether to choose the traditional application route or the Early Action or Early Decision option can make the entire application process seem truly daunting.

Ahmed HussainTo help students gain greater insight into this decision, we spent some time talking with Ahmed Hussain, MIT class of 2012. His tentative major is economics but Ahmed is on a premed track (as with many other schools, there is no pre-medicine major at MIT). The Houston, Texas native is exploring a number of minors including either brain and cognitive sciences, urban studies, or biology.

In our discussion, Ahmed explains why those admissions essays can be very helpful in the decision-making process, why MIT was not his first choice, and how non-binding Early Action decisions (as opposed to Early Decision) allow a student to even reverse course late in the process.

What application method (EA/ED/other) did you use when applying to MIT? What methods did you use with other schools and which schools did you consider?

I chose to apply to MIT through the early action process, which is nonbinding and nonrestrictive, meaning you can apply EA to any other school that also is nonrestrictive. I actually did consider applying to Brown University’s binding early decision. Applying early decision generally means you sign a contract stating that if accepted in the ED round of review, you promise to enroll in that school. All was good until I reached their essay question, “Why do you want to go to Brown?” I realized that I couldn’t answer that question. It dawned on me, so to speak, that my personality is incompatible with the atmosphere at Brown, and what I thought was cool about them suddenly wasn’t so much anymore (lack of a set curriculum, small town, these kinds of things which could definitely be pluses for others). So that essay question really forced me to consider if I actually did want to go to there. And really, I’m thankful that Brown had that question on their application. If I had gone through with the application and gotten in, I would have been bound to the school and I would be totally miserable right now.

I had the same experience with the University of Pennsylvania application. That question was simply a roadblock for those two schools. So I dropped Brown and UPenn from my list of applications and chose to do early action at MIT and the University of Chicago because these schools were both at the top of my list and they both had open EA policies. For comparison, I wrote my “Why Chicago?” essay in one sitting in something like 15 minutes; the words just flowed perfectly. I realized that I really was in love with the school, and this definitely showed through on the essay. I reckon this had a lot to do with why I got in–they could see that I truly wanted to be there.

Why did you choose that specific method?
I did early action to take advantage of the fact that I had my applications ready to go by the November deadlines. Applying EA, I figured, would give my application another chance to get reviewed–once for the early cycle and once again for the regular cycle if I got deferred. It was a matter of hedging my bets with what I had, not so much about wanting to know my fate before January.

Did you ever consider other forms of application and if so why did you ultimately reject that form?
I applied early to MIT and UChicago. I also applied regular decision to schools I was interested in but not crazy about: Dartmouth, Columbia, Duke, Washington in St Louis, NYU, Vanderbilt, and Williams, with Baylor, Tulane, and St Louis Universities as safeties. I was accepted in the early action round to the University of Chicago and deferred to regular decision by MIT. A few days later, I formally matriculated at Chicago. However, March came around and I was accepted to MIT and everywhere else except the Ivy League schools. Suddenly I had a huge variety of choices and I had a real decision to make. I quickly eliminated all schools except MIT, UC, and Vanderbilt. I thought about accepting Vanderbilt’s offer since it included an extremely generous scholarship, but after visiting all three schools (Vandy, UChicago, MIT) and talking the decision over with my parents, teachers, and counselors, I decided to rescind my matriculation to UChicago and attend MIT for many different reasons. I outline these in my blog admissions post.

I knew I wanted to do some sort of early program, and it just so happened that my top two schools, MIT and UC, had nonbinding EA policies. I never really considered the idea of doing early decision, since the only two schools that I had become enamored with did not have binding programs. This was convenient, too, since I definitely didn’t want to be bound to a school. I’m skeptical of the early decision philosophy. I have nothing wrong with early action, to be clear. It’s just the idea of being under contract to attend an institution. My mind changed even after matriculating to one school; I would not have been able to attend the institute of my best fit if that school’s policy had been more restricting. What ED basically does is force 16 and 17 year old kids to definitively decide where they want to be for the next four years before they fully know what their options are. It may seem trivial, but having gone through the process, the six months between November 1 and May 1 are invaluable to reanalyze your college preferences. You really need all the time you can get to make such an important choice, and I just feel like the early decision policies take that away from you. Take a step back, look at all the facets of every school. Try to visit them. Be objective for a bit. Look at some facts and statistics. Subjectivity (emotional attachment, the “feeling” you get at a school after visiting) is fine but you have to make sure that you see all sides of the choice.

Ahmed HussainLooking back, I probably would have made the mistake and did early decision at UChicago if their program was ED instead of EA. I ended up changing my mind after matriculating there, so it scares me that some people are attending schools that are not offering them the best experience for them. Early decision forces you to decide before you know what your options are. The problem is, even if you think you’re ready to commit to a school, there’s still the chance that you learn something new and decide maybe another university is a better fit. With ED, it’s much harder to fix that situation, if it’s even possible at all.

Many people insist that the ED concept only benefits the college? Do you agree with that assessment? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that early decision benefits only the colleges. There are many advantages to applying early action, and some of these advantages still hold true for ED: The chance to have your application reviewed twice (though I’m not sure if this actually provides a statistical advantage, but it definitely helps ease the mind) and having only two months of tension instead of five. But it’s a trade off. Take these advantages and resign yourself to being locked in, or forgo the benefits altogether. Early Decision benefits both the college and the student in a sort of imperfect compromise. The reason some colleges like ED is that it gives them concrete enrollment numbers for the upcoming class. They don’t have to worry about yield rates since ED admits are bound to matriculation, so it makes it easier for the admissions offices to draw a picture of the freshman class.

Having been through the whole admissions process, is there any piece of insight you could give other students who are applying that was unknown to you at the time you went through the process?
Get started on your essays as early as possible. Or don’t–that’s fine too, if you crank out the best work under pressure. This is completely acceptable and don’t let any adults dog you down about it too much. As long as you’re sure you can write quality material in time, work under the conditions that suit you best. That being said, make sure you allot yourself at least two days to revise your essays. It’s always good to wait a day or two and reread what you think was your final draft. You’ll find syntax or vocabulary that you can change to make the essay flow much better. In the interest of essay “flow,” be sure to read your applications aloud. This helps you identify awkward sentences and constructions that you may not have noticed proofreading your paper silently.

Ahmed HussainAnd don’t stress. If you work under the conditions that suit you best, you won’t have to go crazy over deadlines. If you are struggling to meet postmark or submission dates, you’re doing it wrong.

Make sure you have a strategy. Apply to safety schools. It could be an off year. Across the country, college admissions are being turned upside down with such an influx of applications. You can never be too sure. You don’t want to be the kid who applied only to reach schools and now has nowhere to go. Once you’ve applied to your safeties, and you’ve sent all your materials to every other school, RELAX. Seriously. Enjoy your senior year. It’s over. You’ve done all you can do. It’s in a higher power’s hands now–whether you believe that power is a deity or the admissions committees or both, it’s up to you. You did your best. No need to fret about it anymore. Hang out with your friends. Go outside. Roll down a hill. Take a mental health day! Go on a road trip! You deserve it! Be with your friends as much as possible–chances are, if you move far away you’ll see them only three times a year for the next for years. Maximize your enjoyment. Make sure to thank your teachers and parents for all their efforts. Mostly, put admissions as far back in your mind as possible. December 15 and March 15 will come when they come. No sense in moping around over the dates months in advance.

Of course don’t let your grades fall in school–universities reserve the right to rescind admissions offers. They’re not going to care if your eight As turn to six As and two Bs, but Cs, Ds, and Fs are worrisome…Senioritis can be fun, but don’t let it get too bad.

Editor’s Note: Ahmed is also a blogger for the MIT admissions page. , but he does not appear here as an official representative of their admissions office. Interested readers can find additional insights at ahmed ’12. Our thanks to Ahmed for contributing the accompanying photos.

Posted by Thomas | in Applying to College | 5 Comments »

Stressed? Turn to Humor, the Best Pressure Relief

Jan. 18th 2009 17:20

If those college demands have your stomach tied in knots, try one of these quick Monty Python stress reducers.

Facing a week with three prelims, a summary paper, and a class presentation? Then you are likely feeling a bit of stress.

Whereas once headbanging might have been the suggestion, now, thanks to the great world of YouTube, you are just a mouse click away from just the right stress reducer.

But be warned, these classics must be sipped slowly. Like fine wine, their sophistication means the taste may not emerge until the second or third glass from the same bottle.

A Silly Walk
The Monty Python crew was known for its clean mix of physical and intellectual comedy. One of the best is the sketch devoted to the Ministry of Silly Walks. If you have an upcoming important exam, take the few minutes to watch this gem. We even recommend you try one of these gaits as you walk to the test site so as to lighten the stressors. Of course, you really should find a partner to carry on the step, otherwise all the attention you draw might just be too much to bear.

Lumberjack Song
I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK also befits the crossdressing focus of Python. It is a catchy tune and the lyrics sung boisterously can certainly reduce anxiety. Of course, the beauty here is the creation of your own set of lyrics set to the tune, lyrics than you can return to time and again whenever it is time to calm those nerve ends.

Soccer Match
In one of the most brilliant of pieces, the Pythoners created this gem featuring the Germans and the Greeks. Using a taste of the old Steve Allen series where the writer would interview some historical figure in a talk show setting, this crafty video begs the question, who would be better at center-half, Aristotle or Socrates? Using a similar concept to help you remember any historical figures can make the mundane fun. We just prefer placing the subjects on the American football field where the thought becomes who plays quarterback and who in turn plays middle linebacker?

Argument Clinic
Of course, no Python review would be complete without visiting the Argument Clinic, with a quick early stop at Abuse. Here again a partner is critical. Either memorize the bit or simply wing it, just take ten minutes right before those exams are passed out to have an argument with your buddy. Score additional points if you can get beyond simple contradiction. We guarantee you will feel the butterflies emerging with every exchange.

Flickr photo courtesy of programwitch.

Choosing a College – Consider State University Value-Added Honors College

Jan. 11th 2009 18:47

In today’s tough economic times, state universities are receiving a more thorough look from students who are searching for a quality program at an affordable price.

If you are one of the individuals looking at this option, one concern could be the sheer physical size of the school and the equally large numbers of students on state campuses. However, even if you are thinking of a small liberal arts college option, you might be surprised to learn that such focused study is likely available at your state university in the form of an Honors College.

James Madison Honors College

Featuring numerous study abroad programs and dual major options, James Madison Honors College first year students follow a common curriculum including two Madison courses: a year-long Writing course and a yearlong introductory course on Public Affairs. Under the auspices of Michigan State University, Madison offers students courses with as few as eight students and major options such as International Relations, Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, Social Relations, and Comparative Cultures and Politics.

Michigan StateHowever, students attending James Madison utilize the same admissions procedures and pay the same costs as students attending Michigan State University. Still the school has featured a number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman and Fulbright Scholars and graduates seeking a higher degree at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Stanford, Georgetown, Cornell, Columbia, Duke, and the London School of Economics.

Lauren E. Youngdahl, a 2004 graduate of the James Madison Honors College, indicates that the choice of JM represented a chance to experience the best college atmosphere possible.

“The appeal of James Madison was it was a ‘small’ college within a ‘big’ university,” explains Youngdahl. “So I could have, in my opinion, the best of both worlds.”

Her desire for a strong liberal arts background, one that focused on analytical thinking and writing was a key factor in her selection of James Madison.

From the small class sizes to the highly esteemed faculty members who are experts in their fields (no TA’s), the program delivered. She also noted the impact of high expectations of the professors regarding student work. Adding to the challenges were highly-motivated classmates, individuals who also pushed the work standards.

“I quickly learned there was no ‘skating’ by,” states Youngdahl. “And hard work was given a new definition.”

For her studies, Youngdahl was able to pursue several interests.

“I had interest in the International Relations major,” she explains. “I paired that with a Marketing degree from the Eli Broad Business School, something that was not available in any other program at MSU.”

Two other critical components of the program, the field experience and senior thesis also were key for the graduate.

“I played golf at MSU, so the best way to accommodate both my academics and athletics was to work as the Assistant Tournament Director for the Golf Association of Michigan,” states Youngdahl of her field experience. “I would say a majority of my classmates did internships with legislators, attorneys, etc. – which many of them then became.”

James Madison“And, my senior year I had a class that was dedicated solely to writing a thesis. The subject was on the evolution of Asia as a world leader; and I did my paper on the Japanese automakers and their rise to success in the United States.”

The Honors College at the University of Maine

The Honors Program at the University of Maine is one of the oldest in the United States, having begun in the early 1930s within the College of Arts and Sciences. At that time, there were believed to be no more than a half a dozen such programs for undergraduates in the country.

Becoming a full-fledged college in 2002, The Honors College at the University of Maine is home to approximately 650 students. As with James Madison, its smallness is demonstrated by a fundamental commitment to investigate diverse academic areas and challenge students in a supportive intellectual environment, using a process that seeks always to engage fellow students and enthusiastic, distinguished faculty in thoughtful, provocative discussions.

The program features first- and second-year preceptorials, third-year tutorials, and like Madison culminates with a thesis. Its students also demonstrate a lengthy track record of success, being named Cooke Fellows along with Goldwater, Udall, and Smith Scholars.

Rachel Groenhout, now a graduate student in the Netherlands offers similar thoughts regarding her Honors College experience at the University of Maine in Orono right down to the reading and writing focus.

“I was invited to the Honors College at my University in the summer before freshman year,” explains the 2004 graduate. “I decided to give it a try because I would be able to take Honors Courses that would satisfy general education requirements that might otherwise be done through College English, Psychology, etc.

“The special Honors Sections featured a small class size (about 15 students) and a more active student experience: reading, discussing in class and weekly or monthly papers,” she adds. “This appealed to me far more than attending class in a lecture hall and only studying for a midterm and a final exam without doing anything in between.”

Similar expectations at Maine also had students completing some type of thesis senior year to earn their honors degree. The French major presented her research by authoring the work in that language.

“This was unquestionably the formative experience of my undergraduate career. For students going on to grad school, completing a first thesis with the supervision and the support of the Honors College staff is the ultimate preparation for more autonomous research work in graduate school.”

However, Groenhout insists those students with no initial interest in graduate study will also receive enormous benefit from the experiences.

“For those who don’t go on to graduate school, you’ll still have the satisfaction of having once written an academic publication. My master thesis is underway at the moment…and will probably be better than my Honors thesis…but I think no other thesis or dissertation will ever capture my heart and soul the way that the first one did.”

Groenhout offers one other caveat that students may well want to consider.

“In a time when more and more people are graduating from college, and grades are notoriously inflated, having completed an Honors degree gives your transcript and resume a little something extra,” she notes. “Whether you do it for personal satisfaction or to remain competitive on the job market, Honors is a win-win opportunity.”

The Economic Factor
Colvin-Thomson HallProfessor Charlie Slavin, the Dean of the Maine Honors College, indicates that interest is up in the college. However, he is not certain that all of the increase comes because of the fiscal issues facing students currently.

“As for now, it’s hard to say,” states Slavin. “We seem to have had a great deal of interest over the past year in the Honors College, but, again, there might be many reasons. We’ll probably know soon whether the current financial crisis causes precipitous changes in demand for or interest in the College.”

Still, there is little doubt that the Honors option is seen as a quality program that also carries with it great affordability. That concept is especially important to students who desire to continue on to graduate school.

“We always have anecdotal stories of students,” continues Slavin, “of those who enter with an eye already on professional schools (law, medicine). They want to be able to finish their undergraduate experience (more or less) debt-free while still having the credentials to compete well for graduate school acceptances. They know they will incur debt during that training.”

And as for why the experience of Honors College is so meaningful to so many students, Slavin offers his assessment.

“Our Honors Curriculum includes a major interdisciplinary core component that requires all of our students, regardless of their majors, to take intellectual risks,” states Slavin. “They are engaged in challenging academic inquiry outside their disciplines. I often refer to our engineers reading Plato and our artists studying the philosophy of quantum mechanics. This is the key to the honors concept.”

Honors Worthy of Consideration

In a Time magazine article from 2006, writer Nathan Thornburgh offered an assessment and rationale for considering state university honors colleges.

First, it may well be harder than ever to get into an Ivy League, but in presenting his eight strategies for kids and parents to use to find happiness beyond the ranks of the traditional elite schools, Thornburgh offers:

“Take the Honors Route – Big state schools trying to attract top students are increasingly establishing honors colleges. These schools within schools often feel like cloistered liberal-arts colleges but still have access to the superior resources of a large research university.”

For those who also love the athletic environment that a school can provide, Thornburgh adds:

“Another upside is that while you’re getting a more personalized education, you still have the chance to watch your school win a football game every once in a while.”

Slavin offers a similar assessment.

“It’s common in honors education to talk about ‘liberal arts college experience at a large university.’ I’m always a bit hesitant.

“It’s not the same, nor should it be,” insists Slavin. “Yes, there are some similarities: small classes, integrated curricula, closer personal attention. However, the real strength of our Honors College is the integration of those things with the cutting-edge research, and opportunities for students to be involved in this research, which takes place all across a major research University.”

Setting a New Trend

Cost-conscious students may want to think about bucking the elite trend, perhaps beginning a new pathway that represents a discerning consumer with a bent for both quality and value.

However, those who do so will definitely be in the minority at least for now.

“Our society still values name,” notes Slavin, a Princeton grad. “Regardless of education or credentials, there is an advantage to having a diploma with a certain name.”

Slavin notes the slow process of change.

“This is changing, more and more students from public institutions are winning major national fellowships (Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater, etc.) and getting acceptances to the most elite professional and graduate schools. But it’s hard to change people’s biases.”

Hard maybe, until you talk to students like Youngdahl and Groenhout. Listening to them, state university Honors Colleges appear to offer everything a student could want.

And most important for the cost-conscious student, they do so at a more affordable price.

Paper Resumes – Almost Time to Say Good-Bye to Traditional Format?

Jan. 8th 2009 8:03

Every spring, another group of college seniors, ready to set off on the quest for permanent employment, begins the process of creating that all important document, their resume. Working with campus career offices, students begin to polish up what turns out to be one of the most critical components of the job search process.

The Importance of the Resume

Lindsey Pollak, a Gen Y career and workplace expert, notes that resumes will always play a prominent role in the hiring process. First, such documents serve a very clear purpose.

“Having one relatively standard resume format allows recruiters to compare apples to apples,” states Pollak. The career advice blogger also notes the importance of a specific or traditional format.

“I’m a big fan of the one-page resume because it requires job seekers to be clear and concise in selling themselves. It’s just not realistic for people to submit huge notebooks of information or 20-page bios when applying for jobs.”

Greening of Society

Amazon.comThough resume creation will remain a right of passage for the foreseeable future, technology has begun rendering the long-standing traditional paper format less and less important. Pollak sees the traditional format as potentially giving way to its digital equivalent over the next ten years.

Part of the reason is the current concerns of global warming and a renewed emphasis on the environment.

“One reason I think resumes may become obsolete is because of the amount of paper it wastes,” states Pollak. “We are moving toward an all-digital society, so it makes sense that fancy-paper resumes will go the way of the cassette tape.”

However, the author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World sees the current social networking interests of students also being a key catalyst. The popularity of such networking has led more and more potential workers to pursue jobs through this environment.

Need for a Primary Format

However, the ‘apples to apples’ comparison aspect means that employers will likely want an agreed-upon format, one that will allow them to make distinctions between candidates. The need for one primary model has employers looking at the most popular and useful site created to date, LinkedIn.

“Already, recruiters are using LinkedIn to source talent,” states the frequent on-campus speaker. “It’s professional, but allows people more room to describe their accomplishments, post links to their work, demonstrate the depth of their professional network (very important for a sales position, for example) and include recommendations from past employers and colleagues.”

In other words, the site allows workers to collect meaningful info in one place, helping them become more than an SAT score or GPA.

Pollak, has shared her views on electronic resumes on her own blog site. Online formats will “allow job seekers to demonstrate their writing skills, the depth of their professional network, links to relevant work online, recommendations from employers and peers.”

While noting that LinkedIn leads the way, time could well change that as well.

“Employers seem to be happy with LinkedIn, and that site has certainly become the leader in the professional networking field,” states Pollak. “Of course in the future other sites might come along.”

Indeed, others are emerging, sites like and In the case of Emurse, you can create, share and store your resume online for free. Once created you can then share it with potential employers. lets you share different versions of your resume with various employees, coworkers, and friends. VisualCV also allows a person to include video samples of their best work.

New Recruitment Process Emerging

The premise of online resumes could well change the job recruitment process entirely. Instead of employers posting an opening on a job board, their human resource office personnel will likely be scouring the web for potential workers that they might like to invite in for an interview.

Pollak indicates that option is happening already.

“Headhunters and recruiters are well aware of many candidates and they scour LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google and other places all the time,” she notes. “My own husband got recruited for his last job on LinkedIn!”

What makes the online resume environment even more enticing is the way that job matches are occurring.

“Right now, job matches are happening in a wide variety of ways, so savvy job seekers should pursue them all,” adds Pollak. “There is never a ‘guaranteed’ way to find a job, but I think we are very fortunate that right now there are so many potential places to look.”

Career Office

So seniors, as you head down to the campus career office this spring for the annual rite of passage, be sure to ask about LinkedIn and other possible social networking sites affiliated with your college. Today’s resume construction process means far more than developing a one page document on some fancy paper.

According to Pollak, it also means “reaching out to companies and recruiters, using headhunters, talking to people on airplanes, etc.”

And in today’s technology-oriented world, it also means “building a presence on social networks.”

Posted by Thomas | in Advice, Career Planning | 2 Comments »

Test Preparation – Two More Options on the Market

Jan. 6th 2009 15:09

Students looking for additional test prep practice options can now turn to two additional venues, a video game from the Princeton Review and a free online site called VerbaLearn.

Another SAT Prep Game Option
Joining Kaplan’s FutureU on the video game market is Princeton Review’s My SAT Coach. As with the Kaplan version from Aspyr Media, the Princeton version seeks to bring SAT preparation to the video game market.

Amazon.comThe Princeton option features the gaming folks at Ubisoft. Designed to be an enjoyable way for test preparation, the game seeks to help students learn the key skills for tackling all of the different subsections of the SAT test. The game also provides feedback so students can see the overall progress they have made through game play.

The Princeton game also seeks to involve students in “a series of mini-games that will help you increase your level of judgment, confidence and time management. Learn about helpful methods and mental approaches to reduce stress and ensure you are physically and mentally prepared.”

Unfortunately, we could not find any reviews confirming the enjoyability aspect of the game. But with every piece of data indicating that practicing for the exam does in fact lead to better scores, you may want to give the game a go.

The new game from Ubisoft offers timed testing options but unlike FutureU which is also available for download to a PC or Mac computer, My SAT Coach is available only for Ninetendo DS (cost, $29.99).

A General Vocabulary Builder
Going one step better, at least in vocabulary preparation, is the new site VerbaLearn. Instead of focusing on SAT prep, this site is designed for “polishing your lexicon” and would be helpful in preparing for any of the nationally normed tests, the SAT, ACT, and/or GRE.

Most importantly, the game is free, meaning there is no reason not to give it a

The online site offers you the ability to customize your vocabulary list and customize MP3 options that feature the words on your list. That means that though the site is based online, you have the option to download podcasts to iTunes or any application of choice, and take them with you to review while on the subway or bus.

The site features a simple demonstration video that explains the basic workings of the site and a suggested feature called VerbaLearn2Earn to help create additional incentives for the vocabulary building process.

Posted by Thomas | in Miscellaneous | No Comments »