Stanford

Managing Test Stress

Managing Test Stress

For high school students the number of tests is relentless and steady. Sadly, depending on the professional course taken, the frequency and importance of these tests only intensifies over time. So, learning how to deal with test stress is a necessity whether one is planning to become an accountant, architect, or dentist.

Obviously, test stress can have severe ramifications, so gaining a raw familiarity with the key elements to control this stress is worthwhile.

Udacity and the Evolution of Nanodegrees

Udacity and the Evolution of Nanodegrees

The problems facing higher education today are legion: escalating tuition costs; spiraling student debt; political correctness; underachieving students; professorial emphasis on research to the detriment of undergraduate teaching; adjunct professors earning starvation wages, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

One company, however, within the MOOC (massive open online courses) ranks, Udacity, appears to have latched onto a solution that addresses many of the abovementioned ills: its nanodegree programs.

Interpreting a Survey of College Admissions Directors

Interpreting a Survey of College Admissions Directors

The life of an admissions director is not an easy one; a look through The 2014 Survey of College Admissions Directors confirms this reality.

The survey was conducted by Gallup (of political polling fame) using questions created by Inside Higher Education, a very useful online postsecondary news website.  A statistically significant response of admissions directors, only one per school, from a range of colleges and universities, addressed recruiting, standardized tests, financial aid and student debt among a number of issues.

 

Accessing your Admissions File: Fountain Hopper and FERPA

Accessing your Admissions File: Fountain Hopper and FERPA

An anonymous newsletter and website at Stanford named Fountain Hopper, has pulled together a five-step process for students to gain access to all their admissions records, including comments written by the admissions officers, under FERPA.  

When FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was enacted into law in 1974, its intent was to protect the privacy of students and ensure that students have the right to access their educational records and challenge the content, if necessary, while preventing the release of the records to unauthorized third parties.

The Importance of Timely College Intervention

The Importance of Timely College Intervention

One of the more devastating statistics in college admissions is the number of students who enroll and  never gain a degree.

Each student who fails to graduate is a tragedy in wasted time, money, and human resources. Worse, the psychological implications are devastating.  Fortunately, evidence is mounting that a timely intervention can circumvent many of these failures.

Getting Oriented—the First Year Transition

Getting Oriented—the First Year Transition

While attending orientation might seem insignificant, it can influence the friends you make, the classes you select, and, most importantly, your attitude when the classes begin in the fall.  

A lot of students get apprehensive about attending orientations; they especially fear the awkwardness of meeting future classmates, upper classmen, or faculty. It is better to think of orientation as a stress-free introduction to a new institution and its numerous departments, clubs, and resources.

The Importance of the College Essay Grows

The essay has always been an important factor in the admissions process: this year its import reached an even higher level.

This observation is a product of the sheer number of applicants plying their qualifications for spots in the most selective schools. The number of applications is staggering. If we just focus on the 10 most selective colleges in the US, the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford, they admit annually about 27,000 students, while they receive over 305,000 applications. To compound the competitive nature of the admissions process, 8,127 admits were given during the early round, with most of them being Early Decision, taking those admission spaces off the table.

Consequently, for regular decision across these 10 campuses there were 297,000 applicants seeking the remaining 19,000 spots, for a collective admissions rate of 6.4%. Now consider the top 10% of candidates from this application pool, the highly competitive 29,700 students. Let’s filter them through the NACAC  (National Association of College Admissions Counselors) top 5 factors affecting admissions: 1. grades in college prep courses, 2. strength of curriculum; 3. standardized test scores; 4. grades across all courses; 5. Essays

 It can almost be taken for granted that this top 10% has high grades in college prep courses, come from programs with strong curriculum, did well on the ACT or SAT, and have solid grades across all their courses. The key differentiator among the top five factors is the essays. These essays must almost perfectly capture the key elements of who you are. This is usually best done within a narrative essay where your actions create character. You’ll need to edit, proofread, revise, get second opinions and make these essays as flawless as possible, 

At the University of California the importance of the personal statement is equally critical. The University of California has few means of appraising a candidate: GPA, test scores, activity and academic honor lists, and the personal statements. Then consider just how many applications the UC System must review. Freshman applications numbered over 500,000. At UCLA alone the number was over 85,000 for the fall 2014 class. Assuming the UCLA admissions office is reading all these over four months, seven days a week, to finish they’ll have to read over 700 applications a day, every day, for the entire four month period. Be merciful. Don’t bore them.  

Think long and hard about a topic that will uniquely present who you are. You want to come off the screen in three dimensions. Steer clear of what the crowd writes about. One admissions officer recently bemoaned having to read one more essay about building or repairing a school, house, or park in a foreign country, or creating a micro-finance project with goat herders in Nepal. Also do not write about a personal tragedy unless you have an uncanny sense of how to present it in a positive form. Some students seek to treat the essay as a personal therapy session. Trust this is not the forum to discuss suicides, divorces, feelings of insecurity, or calamities. Think of the essay as if it were your chance to sit down with the admissions officer and unveil yourself.

The essays must be personal and revealing, giving a sense of the true, honest you. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Nothing good is produced when you play it safe. The essay demands risk, adventure and bold, stark honesty,

A set of essays that worked with the Johns Hopkins admissions office begin with the following first sentences: “A blue seventh place athletic ribbon hangs from my mantel.”; “One fundamental rule of reincarnation is that you do not know your past life.”; “I was born in the wrong century.”; “Two years ago, I was a spy.” Do any sound bold or adventurous?

Start early, start now, and revise until they’re burnished. They reflect who you are and every word is under your control.  

Enrolling in a MOOC

Enrolling in a MOOC

To add a unique activity to your college application and resume, enroll in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in subjects ranging from essay writing to nanotechnology.

A MOOC is simply an online course with the capability to serve a large number of students (for example Stanford’s initial MOOC in 2011, Introduction into AI, enrolled 160,000 students) with open access via the web. Supplementary learning materials may include videos, lectures, e-books, or problem sets.  

College Coop Programs

In Germany, the economic powerhouse of the European Union, its century old Apprenticeship program, also called the Dual System, is a critical component in its current economic prosperity. The program integrates apprenticeship with ‘vocational schooling,’ and involves the cooperation among businesses, government, and ‘chambers’ (employers’ organizations). This apprenticeship program transitions students, year after year, into world-class workers with real responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the US had something similar?

While the German apprenticeship program begins in the high schools, the US has ‘coop’ programs available in certain colleges. In a coop program, a student spends six months in class and then takes that classroom knowledge and works, either domestically or internationally, for a company the next six months. The benefits accrue to both companies and students.

Companies that sponsor coop programs enjoy having talented and motivated students work for them for 3-6 month periods. If these students perform, the company might then opt to hire them upon graduation, as studies show coop students often have high rates of productivity (after all they already know the company), and have a strong interest in the company (coop students focus their company search on those in their field of interest). Companies also gain a firsthand understanding of which colleges, and departments within these colleges, provide the best, most promising workers.  Such a relationship for a company can prove a goldmine.  

The students also benefit. As part of a company, students learn to apply classroom theory to work challenges. They can also begin to establish professional networks, gain valuable experience to add to their resumes and expand their job search options (should companies in which they’ve cooped not retain their services). Better, students earn wages as they work in coops. At Drexel (PA), RIT (NY), and the University of Cincinnati, six months of coop wages can add up to an average of $15,000. Better still, unlike earnings from a summer job, coop wages are not counted as student earnings by FAFSA, so whatever a student makes in a coop program will not affect his or her financial aid package. This is why many coop students gain their degrees with little to no debt.  

As mentioned, the coop experience can even be with an overseas company. The World Association for Cooperative Education (WACE), based in Lowell, Massachusetts, provides for global work opportunities, and contains over 50 US member institutions. Additionally, 80 of the Top Fortune 100 companies have coop programs both domestically and overseas, to attract talented students.

Northeastern University (NEU) in Boston, MA, which was founded as a YMCA educational program, today has one of the leading coop programs in the country. At NEU a student can elect to take two 4-6 month coops and graduate in 4 years, or three coops and finish with a degree in five years. NEU has coops in over 37 states and 60 countries. The way the program works, students are assigned a coop coordinator and are required to take a ‘coop preparation course’. The Coop course includes requirements of a job search: career exploration, writing resumes, interviewing, proper decorum at work. Students attain coop positions just like most job searchers, submitting resumes and going through the complete job search process. Employers make the final selection decisions. When in a coop, a student cannot combine it with studies- work is usually demanding enough by itself. NEU does not charge students tuition when they are involved in their coop efforts.  90% of NEU students participate in the coop program. 

Coop programs can also be found at Elon University (NC), NYU, USC, and Purdue, among the dozens of institutions.

The intent of Leland Stanford, and his wife Jane, when they bequeathed their 8,000 acres of farmland 35 miles south of San Francisco, to found a university in the name of his 15 year old son, Leland Junior, who died of typhoid fever, was “to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life.” The entrepreneurial spirit at Stanford, consequently, flourished. The coop programs equally aspire to this same end.   

 

The Ever Popular Computer Science Major

The Ever Popular Computer Science Major

The most popular major at Stanford is not biotechnology or communications, but computer science, a major that declined in numbers by 27% between 2005 and 2010: however, today Stanford counts over 220 students in its computer science major (CSBS). Of the Stanford undergraduates not taking the major, 90% will still take computer science courses prior to graduation, despite there being no requirements. Possibly the poor job market, the high pay (even without a graduate degree) for CSBS graduates or the possibility of changing the world by building a revolutionary iPhone app or tech product is driving this trend. In any case, according to a report from the Computing Research Association, enrollment in computer science programs across many universities has risen steadily over the last three years.