I'm constantly searching for the latest news about the college world. Some major changes appear to be happening across the collegiate landscape these days. In fact, there are so many changes occurring, both big and small, that it's hard to keep up with all of them.
It takes time to sift through all the news items that come my way. If you're a parent of a high schooler who will be heading to college in the next year or two, you may want to keep your eyes focused on College Confidential (CC), which is the web's best source of free, comprehensive college information.
If you're a high school student, there's really no better place for you to get the facts -- and opinions -- about college than CC, with its enormous archive of articles, discussion forums and world-class advice about all things college. Everywhere I go, when I mention that I'm a contributor to CC, people rave about how much great information they have found on the site. That's very satisfying feedback.
In the spirit of keeping up with what's happening on the college front, I thought I would round up a few recent news items that may be of interest to you parents and high schoolers. I've posted an excerpt from each article's lead along with a link to the source, and added a few comments of my own. I encourage you to read the entire text of any article that intrigues you, in order to understand the full context.
So, let's take a look at four recent updates:
"As more students balk at the debt loads they face after graduation, some colleges are offering an alternative: We'll pay your tuition if you offer us a percentage of your future salary.
Norwich University [Vt.] announced Tuesday that it will become the latest school to offer this type of contract, known as an income share agreement. Norwich's program is starting out on a small scale, mainly for students who do not have access to other types of loans or those who are taking longer than the traditional eight semesters to finish their degrees..."
Readers of Admit This! certainly know where I stand on student loans. I'm constantly cautioning about the hazards of big college debt. Of course, I understand that the cost of a college education is exceedingly high, even at public universities. Accordingly, loans may be the only way students and families can afford to negotiate higher education. However, I'm very hesitant to endorse a deal like this because of the long-range implications and possible effects of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
A few posters on the College Confidential discussion forum expressed their views about Norwich University's plan:
- So they are betting on a student's potential future earnings. I guess learning for the sake of learning is out the window. They are going to offer loans to accounting majors, but not art history. Is that how it is going to work? I should have drawn up such contract with my kids -- a percentage of their future earnings.
- So an 18-year-old can sign away future earnings, but can't buy a beer. Nice!
- Harvard tried this over a decade ago. Maybe longer. It was probably two decades ago. If I recall correctly, the agreement was complete tuition remission for one percent of the student's annual earnings for life.
- Indentured servants?
While I understand the intent to limit loan debt, I think this is an effort headed for failure. The issues of contract law enter into the situation, I'm sure, but speaking as a parent of two college graduates who had student loans, I would have strongly counseled my children not to enter into an agreement like this. However, as they say, your mileage may vary.
"Like many financially-strained international students who look to the US for the best education, I had to think twice about applying for financial aid because doing so lowers the chance for admission.
Among more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the US, there are actually only five four-year colleges who are truly need-blind for international students: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and Amherst..."
The word “Truly" in that headline implies that some colleges claim to be need-blind for international students, but really aren't. I've worked with international students applying to American colleges and finances are the main issue. Unless the student is strong enough to acquire funding through merit aid (scholarships awarded due to the applicant's current superior academic profile and potential), then other means of payment must be located.
These five schools view internationals the same as any applicant, thus affording them access to the same level of need-based aid, which is money granted to meet the applicant's full demonstrated need. Of course, keep in mind that the number of international admissions per school is much smaller than that of domestic applicants. True need-blind aid for internationals is an outstanding benefit. The reality check, however, is the overall acceptance rate for most of these five institutions. Can you say “single digits?"
"If you're a rising senior and you ask any of your soon-to-be-college-freshmen friends for one piece of advice about college applications, I know what it would be.
They would tell you to NOT procrastinate and to do your best to get as many of your college essays done over the summer.
A few colleges, such as the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, have released their supplemental essay prompts. Many more colleges will begin releasing them over the next several weeks..."
Supplemental application essays are those that are required in addition to the big one required by the Common Application. Sometimes there is a series of smaller essays required in addition to the Common App essay. That's why, as this article suggests, you had better not wait until the last minute to figure out what you need to satisfy the application requirements for the colleges on your list this year.
Take, for example, the University of Chicago. Once you've struggled through that up-to-650-word Common App essay, you'll see U. Chicago asking you to write about supplemental topics like these:
- You're on a voyage in the thirteenth century, sailing across the tempestuous seas. What if, suddenly, you fell off the edge of the Earth?
- The word floccinaucinihilipilification is the act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant or of having no value. It originated in the mid-18th century from the Latin words "floccus," "naucum," "nihilum," and "pilus" — all words meaning “of little use." Coin your own word using parts from any language you choose, tell us its meaning and describe the plausible (if only to you) scenarios in which it would be most appropriately used.
- Lost your keys? Alohomora. Noisy roommate? Quietus. Feel the need to shatter windows for some reason? Finestra. Create your own spell, charm, jinx, or other means for magical mayhem. How is it enacted? Is there an incantation? Does it involve a potion or other magical object? If so, what's in it or what is it? What does it do?
Get the idea? If so, you had better get to work now!
"How do dentists feel when they are at the dentist? Is it as miserable as it is for the rest of us, or is it easier because they know the routine? I wonder about this phenomenon more generally, including my own profession, college admission counseling. What is it like to relinquish one's role as the expert — comfortable, or will I squirm like every other parent? Is it enlightening to see one's profession from another perspective or terrifying?
As a high school counselor with a teenage son, I will soon find out. What wisdom will I gain about both my career and my parenting as I brave college admission as a dad — will it be full of the angst and complexity that I often hear of, or will it simply make me better at my jobs? While time will tell, I asked admission deans who have recently parented a college applicant to reflect on what they have learned and to offer advice for fellow parents..."
This story was of special interest to me because I was an independent college admissions counselor when my daughter and son went through the admissions process. Granted, it's likely that you, as a parent, are not an admissions counselor, but this article can help you begin to think like one, thanks to the advice of the deans cited here.
If I might offer some of my own perspective about parenting a college applicant, perhaps the most important -- and most difficult to assume -- aspect might be embracing objective reality. In other words, eliminating or greatly reducing your conviction that your child is special. He or she is special, but mostly in your own view. When s/he enters the college applicant pool, the “specialness" factor becomes exceedingly competitive.
That's why you need to understand my term “objective reality." Take a close look at the profiles of the students accepted by the colleges your child is targeting. This information is available on the schools' admission data pages. Here's an example of that from Penn State University. When you see how your child stacks up against others, then you may be able to approach helping them apply with a greater sense of how they can compete with other applicants.
These four articles are just the tip of the college news iceberg. It's critical for parents and their aspiring college students to be aware of colleges' new policies, requirements and other updates. It's like painting your living room. The key is preparation: Getting things ready. The actual painting goes quickly; taping off the window trim, priming, cleaning, etc. is what takes time.
Therefore, filling out the actual application(s) (the “painting") can be the shortest part for the applicant. The real work lies in the lead-up: Becoming informed, making decisions, evaluating facts and data, etc. That's where resources such as College Confidential can be so valuable. One of my favorite slogans comes from a company I worked for a long time ago, a military contractor: “Intelligence is the best defense." News, like that above, is useful intelligence. Use it to “defend" your college process!