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NACACNet > Collaboration & Networking > Blogs and Communities > Admitted Blog
July 30
Pricey Pre-College Programs Don’t Guarantee Admission

Students_WalkingToClass_use.jpgPricey pre-college summer courses offered by several of the country’s top universities may not be the ticket to admission that many students believe them to be.

A recent news report by Public Radio International quotes two admission professionals — one current and one former — who say participation in such programs does not give students a leg up.
 
Brown University’s dean of admissions, Jim Miller, told a reporter that his institution gives “zero” additional weight to applicants who enroll in on-campus, pre-college courses.
 
“We actually don’t know who’s been to our summer school,” he said. “Some tell us. Some don’t. We have no idea what courses they’ve taken. We have no idea what their grades are.”

College counselor Beth Heaton, a NACAC member who previously worked in the admission office at the University of Pennsylvania, told a similar story.

“I did not place much value on them when I was at Penn and reading files,” she told Public Radio International. “What I really felt was, ‘Oh, great, more school…’ to me it didn’t help them stand out in any way.”

Tuition for pre-college courses, the majority of which do not confer academic credit, can cost thousands of dollars.

For that reason, Brown University is “very clear about drawing a pretty clear line” preventing participation from coloring admission decisions, said Miller, who is also a NACAC member. The university doesn’t want to favor students who have the resources to attend summer courses, he noted.

Residential pre-college programs still offer valuable experiences for high school students, according to Heaton, now a college admission consultant based in Watertown, Mass. Participants get the experience of living on a college campus and exploring their interests.

But she urges students — and their parents — to approach the experience with the right attitude.

“If you’re going into it with the idea that, ‘Well, I’m going to do this program and therefore I’m going to be a more competitive candidate,’ I think that can contribute to the mania,” Heaton said.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

July 29
Report: Partnerships Needed to Increase Access for Hispanic Students

Hispanic_Students_resized.jpgThe number of Latino students enrolled in US public colleges has doubled since 2000, yet Hispanics lag behind the national average when it comes to degree completion.  

A report released earlier this summer by New America proposes one potential solution: Expand partnerships between K-12 and higher education. 
 
“(I)mproving college retention and completion is about more than just the efforts that occur on the campus itself,” according to the study. “…The work has to start no later than high school.”
 
Researchers at New America — a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute based in Washington, DC — examined efforts to promote academic success among Hispanics students in Texas and California. Although report authors note there is no “clear consensus” on the elements needed to boost college enrollment and completion, schools that have been successful share some similarities.
 
In addition to developing partnerships, the institutions profiled were committed to data collection, analysis and program evaluation, according to report authors.
They also were willing to drop programs that didn’t work and, when appropriate, adjust internal policies to meet student needs.
 
Success strategies among high schools surveyed included mandating rigorous curriculum for all students, offering remediation services, and providing dual-credit or early-college opportunities.

Latino_Report_Cover65.pngOffering individualized counseling sessions to Latino students and their families increases college enrollment rates, according to a recent NACAC study. Read more.

Colleges hired additional tutors and student advisors “to simplify the complex process of charting a path to a degree.” One institution even created more on-campus jobs to reflect the fact that many college students need to work while in school.

Effectively serving Latino students could play a major role in the future academic growth, prosperity and ability of public colleges to “fulfill their mission of serving students around them,” report authors noted. “Failing to do so … would make it much harder to achieve our national college attainment goals.”
 
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.
July 28
Study: ‘Undermatching’ More Common Among Minority Students
undermatching_students_use.jpgAfrican American and Latino students are more likely than their white counterparts to be “undermatched” in the college selection process, according to a working paper released this month examining the application choices of Texas high school graduates.

The term refers to the phenomenon where students do not apply to the best colleges likely to admit them, instead opting for safer, less challenging schools.
 
Although the researchers were unable to determine why white and minority students differed in their approach to the college application process, they did notice trends within racial and ethnic groups.
 
In general, “college application decisions for minorities are responsive to more than just the average academic performance of students on a campus,” according to the report, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
 
“Black, Hispanic, and Asian students are more sensitive than whites to distance to college, and black, Hispanic, and Asian students are all influenced by the presence of same-race students on campus,” report authors concluded. “Black and Hispanic students are also influenced by the historical feeder pattern of their high school to a campus, including past successful degree completion of same-race students from their high school.”
 
The college choices of minority students may indicate an uneasiness navigating the college search and selection process, Lauren Sefton told Take Part — a website that posts news stories and serves as an online platform for social action.

Sefton is the associate director of admissions at Rhodes College (TN) and president of the Southern Association of College Admission Counseling.

“I think many of these students may be unfamiliar with the college search process, so they sometimes stick with what they know,” she said.
 
Study authors say they will continue to examine application choices, noting that the decision of where to apply is “a pivotal first step in college access.”
 
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.
July 27
Presidential Candidate Spurs Discussion About PLUS Loans

drowning_in_debt1.jpgStudent debt has become a presidential campaign issue in recent years.  

But this summer, one Democratic hopeful is trying to shift the narrative. Instead of focusing solely on the ramifications of student loans, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is bringing attention to the debt incurred by American parents on behalf of their children.
 
He knows of what he speaks: O’Malley and his family have accumulated more than $339,200 in college loans, the majority of which are parent PLUS loans.
 
“I don’t want to hold us up as a metaphor of every family,” O’Malley told The Washington Post’s money columnist, Michelle Singletary. “We are very lucky in that both of us are working and hopefully will continue to work. I think one thing that is true for all us Americans, it’s not good for our country or our economy to saddle (families) with the sort of debt that we have. A lot of families don’t have the ability to go into that sort of debt.”

Federal data shows that total outstanding debt for PLUS loans for parents has reached nearly $69 billion.

PLUS loans, which have much higher borrowing limits than traditional student loans and are also available to graduate students, raise “unique concerns” when used by parents, Consumers Union staff attorney Suzanne Martindale told the Post.

“Loans to graduate students are made on the promise that they will see an increase in their salary from their educational attainment that enables them to repay the loans they borrowed,” she said. “Parents, on the other hand, do not see an increase in their incomes from their children’s education…They have no guarantee that their children will help pay the loans back, or will even finish school.”

The O’Malleys used PLUS loans to help finance the college careers of their two eldest children. Grace, 24, attended Georgetown University (DC). Tara, 23, chose the College of Charleston (SC). The couple has two more children — William, 17, and Jack, 12 — who have yet to begin the college application process.

Singletary, whose columns are featured in more than 100 newspapers across the nation, hopes O’Malley’s story will spur further discussions about college affordability.

The summer Journal of College Admission highlights strategies to help families requiring financial aid navigate the college admission process. Learn more.

“(W)e do need some legislative intervention so that many people won’t be priced out of a college education,” she wrote.

However, Singletary also noted the need to “press upon parents and their children that dreams can come true without going to colleges that result in a heavy debt load.”
 
“When his daughters were choosing their colleges, (O’Malley) let them have their way,” Singletary wrote. “He didn’t want to crush their dreams, and he ended up with crushing debt.”
 
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.
July 24
Work Experience Program at Rutgers Promotes College Access

RUReadyforblog.jpgRU Ready for Work participants hail from some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Newark, NJ.

The teens attend schools with high dropout rates. Often, they carry the burden of adult responsibilities, such as supplementing their family’s income or helping care for younger siblings.

Yet despite those challenges, the program — led by Rutgers University, a NACAC member institution — has a proven track record of helping its participants enroll in college. Now in its eighth year, leaders with the initiative are working to share their model with communities across the country.

To date, 120 high school students have completed the program. In the last three years, 100 percent of RU Ready graduates pursued some sort of postsecondary training, with the majority entering two- or four-year colleges.

The teens — most of whom spend at least two years in the program — learn job skills, complete community service projects and receive academic tutoring. In return, they are awarded a $100 stipend each month and are placed in a paying summer internship. RU Ready staff also help participants navigate the college search and selection process.

The program’s educational and job training components prepare students for postsecondary success, said program coordinator Tiffany Walker. But it’s the individualized counseling sessions that are key in helping participants realize their dreams.

“One thing we’ve found is that there is really a lack of knowledge out there about the application process,” said Walker, echoing the findings of a recent NACAC report. “Preparing for college should really start in freshmen year, but a lot of kids aren’t aware of that. At RU Ready for Work, we make college a focus — not an afterthought.”

The program is financed through a grant distributed by the Newark Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training. Several on- and off-campus employers and organizations also lend support to the effort.

Accessandsuccess.jpgHaving a higher education institution like Rutgers take the lead helps demystify the college application process, the University of Pennsylvania’s Laura Perna told Youth Today, a national website covering developments in the youth service field.

Perna studies higher education and is the founding executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy.

“I think if we’re going to solve issues around increasing college attainment and closing gaps in attainment across groups, we really do need the involvement of a whole range of players,” she said. “Higher education institutions are one of those players, especially since higher education institutions set the rules in terms of what’s required in the application process, for financial aid (and) academic progress.”

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

July 23
​Study: Counselors Provide Critical Link to College for Latino Students

Latino_Report_Cover.PNGDespite impressive gains in recent years, Latino students continue to be underrepresented on the campuses of four-year colleges.

A recent NACAC report provides guidance to help high school counselors and administrators address that disparity.

The publication — College Counseling for Latino and Underrepresented Students — was produced in conjunction with Excelencia in Education. NACAC will provide shareable PowerPoint presentations later this year outlining the study’s topline findings and recommendations.

“(A)s student demographics change, the ways we help students research and apply to colleges must also change,” NACAC CEO Joyce Smith said when the report was released. “College admission counselors play a critical role in opening up the doors of higher education, particularly for first-generation students.”

Latino students are more likely than their white peers to be the first in their families to pursue postsecondary education, increasing the importance of school-based college counseling, according to the study.

“School counselors are uniquely positioned to combine their knowledge of students’ educational and personal experiences to provide high quality college readiness counseling,” report authors write. “…We believe the focus on schools is important, since that is where students are, and where a student’s academic path can most successfully be merged with his or her plans for life after high school.”

Researchers conducted a national survey and made visits to six US high schools to identify strategies to promote postsecondary access among Hispanic students.

In particular, offering individualized counseling sessions to students and their families proved effective in increasing college enrollment rates among students at majority non-white schools. 

Another key strategy? Study authors suggest that schools begin the college planning process early — preferably when children enter ninth grade — to allow Latino students plenty of time to factor in “academic, financial and family considerations on the path to college.”

Those recommendations, however, hinge upon the ability of schools to provide proper staffing for their counseling offices. Report authors note that recent “budget reductions have severely restricted the capacity of schools to provide meaningful college readiness counseling to students.”

Yet, as report data shows, high school counselors play a crucial role in expanding college access — particularly among underrepresented students.

“Additional counseling staff and smaller caseloads would be helpful in allowing counselors to appropriately prioritize tasks that are necessary to achieve high college enrollment rates,” study authors conclude.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

July 22
Appreciative Admission Counseling Helps Prepare Students for College 

college_counseling_session.jpgTaking steps to create a positive experience for students and families throughout the college search and selection process is more than good form.

Such efforts can aid institutional recruitment campaigns and improve interactions between college admission officers and students, John Gibson writes in the summer edition of the Journal of College Admission.
 
In his piece, Gibson — a doctoral student in educational psychology and recruitment specialist in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue University (IN) — urges admission officers to adopt an “appreciative counseling” model. The five-step process calls on counselors to work with students to create an individualized plan that gives each applicant his or her best shot at admission.
 
“It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not necessarily intuitive,” Amanda Cuevas, an official at Grand Valley State University (MI), told Gibson. “So you have to be conscious of it and make an effort to cultivate an appreciative mindset on a daily basis, to look for the best in all circumstances and situations.”
 
The steps of appreciative counseling are: disarm, discover, dream, design and call to action. During the process, admission officers talk with students about their interests and goals. If applicants are uncertain about their plans, counselors assure them they will have plenty of time to figure out the details.
 
JCA_summer_65.jpgThe Journal of College Admission is available online for a limited time. Check it out now.

Admission officers follow up with students after their campus visit, encouraging them to continue to ask questions and take the steps required for eventual college acceptance.

“The bottom line? Whether or not a student chooses your institution, if you ground your process in research — using the appreciative counseling model as your guide — you can play a critical role in cultivating thriving college students,” writes Gibson.
 
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

 

July 21
Study: 1 in 4 US Colleges Use Race-Based Admission Policies

LectureHall1USE.jpgRoughly a quarter of US colleges and universities consider a student’s race when making admission decisions, according to national survey data released today by the American Council on Education (ACE).

The finding is part of a larger report examining how legal challenges to race-based policies have affected admission practices at selective higher education institutions across the country.

The issue continues to make national headlines. The US Supreme Court announced in June that it would reconsider the high-profile case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Fisher, a white student, applied to UT-Austin and was rejected. She sued the university, arguing that its admission policies, which factors in an applicant's race, violated her rights under the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

In addition, a new wave of litigation related to admission policies is working its way through federal courts in several states.
 
The report from ACE — a Washington, DC-based association representing more than 1,700 US colleges and universities — is designed to “serve as a resource for institutional leaders working to fulfill the mission and purpose of their institutions while at the same time navigating a challenging legal terrain.”

“How American colleges and universities approach access and success for students from low-income families and communities of color will go a long way toward shaping this country’s future,” according to the report’s introduction. “…Yet beyond articulated diversity goals there remains a gap between an increasingly diverse society and the diversity of America’s selective institutions, which are looking less and less like the population at large in terms of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity.”

Some of the most widely used and effective diversity strategies are highlighted in study. They include targeted recruitment efforts, scholarships for underrepresented applicants, and bridge or summer enrichment programs for admitted students.

The report, which features survey data from 338 four-year institutions, is being presented today at a conference in Washington, DC. NACAC is an event partner with David Hawkins, the association's executive director of educational content and policy, moderating a discussion of the report's topline findings. 

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

July 20
(Overdue) Sign of the Times

 

​Today, some seven years after NACAC moved its offices to Arlington, Va., a neon sign was finally installed on the outside of the building to announce to the neighborhood that we are indeed here.
 

 


The sleepy street corner to which we had moved in 2008,which then included a small used car lot, a store that sold Little League trophies, and (really) a tombstone business, now features high-rise office structures and condos, upscale restaurants, and neighbors such as The Common Application.   The delays caused by the need to satisfy various zoning requirements, county ordinances, and the local historic preservation agency, as well as a series of issues with the building management company, are over, at last.
 
Sometime later today, the switch will be thrown to illuminate the new NACAC sign, and we hope our members join us in celebrating this long-awaited moment.  We finally have the NACAC sign “guiding the way” to our offices.
 
July 20
US Colleges Make Plans to Recruit Cuban Students

Cuba_Universityuse.jpgLoosened travel and trade restrictions are making it easier for US colleges to launch recruiting efforts and establish exchange programs on Cuban soil, according to a recent Associated News report.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially renewed this month after a standoff lasting more than five decades.

Obstacles still exist, but admission offices at US schools are already planning new outreach efforts aimed at Cuban students, according to Mauro Guillen, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Joseph H. Lauder Institute — a research-and-teaching program devoted to management and international relations.

“Cuba has probably the highest educational standards in all of Latin America,” Guillen told the AP. “They have a relatively well-educated population and it would be wonderful to attract all of those students to the United States in big numbers.”

The Test of English as a Foreign Language — an exam required for international students seeking admission to many US colleges — was offered to Cubans by ETS (Educational Testing Service) for the first time in June.

Only four students sat for the exam, but many anticipate that number will grow in coming years. Cuba is home to roughly 1.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

“We expect the progress to mirror US-Cuba relations," Eileen Tyson, an executive director with ETS, told Education Week.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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