The University of Utah’s Bargain Honors Program

High-quality education in the form of Honors Colleges in Public Universities is becoming ever more common. Within the University of California system most have, including UCLA, UCI, and five of the six colleges of UCSD, special honors programs. The reason behind the growth of these honors programs is public universities want to keep their best students at home, in state, and challenged by a curriculum many believe can only be obtained from the most selective universities.

One of the eminent Honors programs was described in a previous column, the Barrett Honors program at Arizona State University. The column mentioned that the Public University Honors (PUH) organization has evaluated the top public honors programs in its book A Review of 50 Public University Honors Programs.

Like most rankings there is a bit of subjectivity, although the PUH rates programs by

  1. The number of honors classes necessary to fulfill graduation requirements (the more the better)
  2. The number of prestigious scholarships garnered by enrolled students (Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, Fulbright, Truman, etc.)
  3. Special honors housing and facilities
  4. Select honors study abroad programs
  5. Priority registration

Yet the best means of understanding what an honors program is all about is to look closely at one. A university with a top 50 Honor’s Program that might prove accessible and affordable to interested Californians who are willing to look beyond the state’s borders for opportunities is the Honor’s College Program at the University of Utah.

To take advantage of tuition savings, Californians should apply through the Western University Exchange (WUE). Their tuition will then be 150% of the residential tuition rate, which is approximately $11,000, well below UC’s $14,000. 

The University of Utah typically admits around 80% of its applicants. Most of the students admitted have unweighted GPAs of 3.6 to 3.9 with mean SAT scores of 1345/1600 or an ACT of 30. The Honor’s Program, in other words, is one of the most selective colleges in the country contained in large land-grant university.

Several of Utah’s departments are among the top 50 in the country including math (34), chemistry (35), computer science (40), earth sciences (42), and business (47). So if an Honor’s student were to major in any of these departments, she would be arguably getting a superior liberal arts education coupled with one of the best department curriculum in the country.   

Looking at the PUH honor’s criteria, to receive an Honors Bachelor’s Degree, a fifth of a student’s classes need to be honors classes.  This could breakdown to 4 honors core courses, 3 honors elective and one thesis preparation class. The Honors Program features an ‘Intellectual Tradition’ series of seminars showing how key ideas have shaped humanity. The program also offers Praxis Labs, project based solutions to key social problems. Finally there is the thesis as a capstone to the Honors Program.

Utah Honors graduates have won 31 Goldwater (STEM fields), 22 Rhodes, and 23 Truman Scholarships over the years; the program ranks 5th among all public universities in wining Truman Scholarships.

The Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHRC) houses 309 students with over 4/5s in suite-style rooms. Students can choose living in 8 learning themes, such as business or engineering. Each apartment suite has its own kitchen, and the community has an honors library, high speed internet, and a ski wax room. There is also the Hinkley Institute for gaining honors credit through HInkley internships; the UROP to obtain funding for research; the Marriott Library to get thesis and research advice from Honors librarians; and, 105 study abroad programs with intensive language programs in Kiel, Germany or Saratov, Russia.

The Honors Program at the University of Utah is not perfect, however: it doesn’t offer its students priority registration.

If you are an exceptional student in search of a place to help you excel on a budget, the Honor’s Program at the University of Utah is worth considering, and, to add icing on the honors, within 45 minutes of the campus is some of the best skiing in the country: all for a tuition price 20% lower than the UCs.  

Cooper Union: No Longer ‘Free as Water and Air’

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, located in Manhattan’s East Village with 1,000 students and an admission’s rate of 8%, was founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, a successful entrepreneur who had designed and built the first steam railroad engine.

Cooper wanted to create a college, ‘equal to the best’ yet ‘open and free to all’ regardless of sex, wealth, or social status. Cooper Union is comprised of three schools: Irwin Chanin School of Architecture, the School of Art, and Albert Nerkin School of Engineering.

The engineering school offers both bachelors and masters degrees in chemical, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering. Thomas Edison is a notable former student.

The architecture school, ranked among the five top architecture programs in the country, offers a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree.  Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, architects of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Redevelopment project, and the expansion of the Julliard School and the School of American Ballet, are Cooper graduates.

The School of Art’s 4-year BFA degree allows students to select courses from any of the school’s departments thereby creating their own program of study. Focus is on imagination and creativity. Milton Glaser is a famous alumnus whose graphic designs brand DC Comics, Target, and JetBlue.  

With the endowment of the land under the Chrysler Building in 1902, Cooper Union had sufficient funding to be tuition free through two world wars, a depression, and even the devastating crash of 2008; however, 2013 will put an end to its111 years of free tuition, leaving Cooper’s faculty, students, and future applicants shaking their heads in dismay— what happened?

What happened were miscalculations in managing its endowment. First, 84% of Cooper’s $667 million endowment is in one asset, the land under the Chrysler Building. John Michaelson, Chairman of Cooper’s investment committee stated having so much money in one asset, “is against everything I stand for”. Emory University in Atlanta, which in 2001 had over 60% of its endowment in Coca Cola stock, sold and diversified. Yet, Cooper’s board appears to have a sentimental attachment to the Chrysler Building, describing it as a ‘gift from the children of Peter Cooper.’ In 2006 the 666 Fifth Avenue Building, which doesn’t compare to the Chrysler building, sold for $1.8 billion; Cooper never explored the market.

When Cooper needed to upgrade the engineering facilities, instead of first arranging for a donor, Cooper built a $166 million building using the Chrysler Building as collateral, and then went searching for a donor—no one has come forward. In 2008, Cooper’s portfolio (excluding the Chrysler Building) was $169 million. By the end of 2012 it had sunk to $86 million and Cooper’s operations suffered a cash flow shortfall of $13 million.  

This left Cooper Union with two funding alternatives: donations (alumni contributions), and tuition. Cooper has not nurtured a charitable alumni base. It’s not easy to do. UCLA Anderson School of Management, to offset state funding declines is developing alumni giving; it takes time. This leaves raising tuition. Though Cooper’s consultants recommended charging a maximum 25% of posted tuition (listed at $38,500 a year) Mark Epstein and his Board of Directors elected to charge 50% (Olin School of Engineering transitioned from tuition free in 2010 to charging 50%-a precedent had already been set).

In April, Mark Epstein announced, “The time has come to set our institution on a path that will enable it to survive and thrive well into the future.” Cooper’s President, Jamshed Bharucha, asked faculty for advice on future revenue streams. When the Art School faculty refused to comply, early acceptance letters to art school applicants were not sent out. Mauricio Higuera, a senior art student, while protesting the tuition decision, told a group of about 200 students assembled at the Great Hall, where Lincoln had once given his Cooper Union Address: “For 150 years this building, these columns, has held a dream, a dream for free education for all. I propose we all join hands and give this institution a big hug, because it needs it.” The crowd encircled the building and complied.  

Communications Major Considered

Communications Major Considered

What is a ‘communications’ major, and what do you do with it? A good starting point is the College Board’s Majors and Career Central http://www.collegeboard.com/csearch/majors_careers/profile. There you will discover that Communications encompasses a range of subjects: advertising, digital media (anything from website design, ecommerce, to writing for web-based media), journalism (copyediting, magazine writing, broadcast news...), public relations, and radio and television.

The Perfect Portfolio: Applying to Art School

At the recent WACAC (Western Association of College and Admissions Counselors) Spring Conference, Kavin Buck and Laura Young, the director, and assistant director of UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture, along with Ed Schoenberg, VP of enrollment at Otis College of Art and Design, shared their extensive experiences and insights on how best to pull together a portfolio of artwork for review by leading art schools.

The Fall 2009 Admissions Update

  • Substantial increase in Early Action applications
  • Early Decision applications vary
  • Ivies up as special grant programs take effect
The number of students graduating from high school crested with the class of 2009. Competition was particularly keen for the early action and early decision rounds (at most schools). Yet, in the face of a troubled economy, many schools saw regular applications decline—though, not unsurprisingly, the most selective schools, with their large endowments and need-blind admissions, remained as popular as ever.  As the fat and skinny envelopes are beginning to course their way through the mails, it is a good time to look at what’s going on with the admissions process this year. Early action single choice (EASC) applications were uniformly up. This year, Stanford’s EASC applications increased 18%, MIT’s 25%, and Yale’s 10%. What declined were EASC acceptances at each school: Yale admitted 13.4% (742 of 5,557) of its EASC applicants, down from 18% last year, Stanford, 12.8%, down from 16.2%, and MIT, 10.1%, down from 13.3%.  EASC gives applicants an edge in the admissions process, at least statistically. That edge, however, is declining. Early decision (ED) application numbers varied. Wesleyan, in Middletown, Connecticut, is up 40%. Other campuses having double digit increases in ED applications include: Dartmouth and Middlebury, each up over 10%; Haverford up 14%; Northwestern up 15%; and Pomona up 20%.  Bowdoin, another small liberal arts school located in Maine, had an increase in ED applications by slightly less than 8%.  The US News and World Report top liberal colleges, Williams and Amherst, found their ED application numbers flat. ED applications, on the other hand, were down at Brown by 4.5%, a surprise as this year Brown adopted the Common Application, usually bringing an increase in applicants. Separately, for the second successive year, University of Pennsylvania ED applications declined: this year by 8%. The number of California ED applicants to Penn dropped by 12%, from 332 to 292. Regular applications to the highly selective schools, most of whom now supply grants rather than loans to offset their high costs (information on these programs at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and many others can be found at /wordpress/), had increases: Princeton received 21,859 ,up 2.3 % from last year; Harvard, exceeded 29,000, up 5%, with over 78% of applicants seeking financial aid; MIT up 17%; Dartmouth over 18,000, up 9%;  Stanford, over 30,000, up 20%; Yale up 13%; and Brown, despite a lackluster ED, more than 25,000, up over 20%. While the Ivies, for the most part, blew the lid off their regular application numbers, the liberal arts schools were either flat or down: Amherst down 1%; Carleton College (MN) down 3.5%; Bowdoin (MN), though a hot performer for ED applicants, was down for regular by 1.6%; Pomona College (Claremont CA.) down 2.2%; Williams College down 20%; Swarthmore down 10%; and Middlebury down 12%. Switching to the West Coast, USC saw regular applications remain flat, at around 35,000, as, ironically, did UCLA, which received about the same number of applications as last year, slightly over 55,000. USC, as well as Boston College, Colgate (New York), and the University of Santa Clara, are all raising the number of admissions by a few percentage points to offset the possible reduction of their yields (number of students accepted that elect to attend) in these difficult economic times. What had appeared to be a very competitive admissions process, especially among the early applications, seems to have cooled off by the time the regular applications were due (for the University of California, the end of November; for the private schools, early January). Not surprisingly, as the year ended, so the economy began to sink into recession—apparently this drove a certain number of applicants away from the “liberal arts” schools.  The Ivies, and the most selective schools, with their large endowments and generous tuition grants, surged. Grants and reputation tend to drive the action. They are this year as well. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -------------------------------------- 2009년도 입학사정 최신정보
  • 얼리 액션 원서의 증가
  • 다양한 얼리 디시젼의 추세
  • 아이비 대학들의 상승하는 인기
2009년도에 졸업하는 고등학생의 수가 늘어나면서, (대부분의 학교에서) 얼리 액션과 얼리 디시젼의 경쟁이 아주 높아졌다.  한편, 불안한 경제 국면에 직면하여, 많은 학교들이 정규 원서가 줄었지만, 대부분의 명문대에서는 자산을 바탕으로 재정형편과 관계없음으로 그 어느 때보다도 인기가 높았다.  큰 봉투와 얇은 봉투로 입학의 소식이 오는 이 때, 올 입시과정을 살펴보고자 한다. 얼리 (EASC) 응시원서가 일률적으로 올라갔다.  Stanford의 EASC 원서가 18% 올라갔으며, MIT는 25%, and Yale은 10% 올라갔다. 따라서, 합격률은 내려갔다: Yale은 작년의 18%에 비해 13.4% (742 of 5,557)이었으며, Stanford는 작년 16.2%에 비해 12.8%이었으며, MIT도 13.3%에서 10.1%로 내려갔다. 얼리는 입학사정에서 응시자에게 강점을 주는데, 합격률 비율이 내려간 것이다. 얼리 디시젼(ED)의 원서량은 다양했다Wesleyan과 Connecticut은 40% 올라갔다. 또 다른 대학에서는 2자리수로 올라갔다:  Dartmouth and Middlebury는 10%; Haverford up 14%; Northwestern up 15%; and Pomona up 20%.  메이주에 있는 작은 인문대학인 Bowdoin대학은 8%가까이 올랐다.  US News and World Report의 최고 인문대학인 Williams and Amherst대학의 얼리 디시젼은 같은 수 였다. 한편, 올해 처음으로 Common Application을 도입한 Bronw 대학은 ED 원서량이 4.5%까지 내려갔다(보통은 원서량이 더 올라감).  또한 2년째인 University of Pennsylvania의 ED원서도 8%까지로 감소했다.  올해 가주 응시자수는 12%(332명에서 292명으로)까지 감소했다. 높은 등록금에 대부가 아닌 그랜트를 제공하는 최고의 명문대의 정규 원서량은 올라갔다(http://ivycollegeprep.net/wordpress/).  Princeton은 작년보다 2.3%가 올라간 21,859원서를 받았으며, Harvard는 5% 올라간 29,000의 원서를 받았으며, 이중 78% 가 재정보조를 원하는 것이었다.  MIT는 17%, Dartmouth는 9%가 올라간18,000의 원서를 받았고, Stanford는 20%가 올라간 30,000의 원서를 Yale은 13%가 올랐으며, ED의 그늘에도 불구하고Brown은 20%가 올라간 25,000이 넘는 원서를 받았다. 대부분의 아이비 명문들이 정규 원서접수에서 넘치게 받은 반면, 인문대학들은 같거나 내려갔다.   Amherst down 1%; Carleton College (MN) down 3.5%; ED에서 인기가 있었던 Bowdoin (MN)도 1.6%내려갔으며, Pomona College (Claremont CA.) down 2.2%; Williams College down 20%; Swarthmore down 10%; and Middlebury down 12%로 내려갔다. 서부해안을 살펴보면, USC의 원서량은 예년과 비슷하며, 35,000정도 였다. UCLA의 경우 작년과 비슷한 55,000이 넘는 원서가 접수되었다.  USC, Boston College, Colgate (New York), and the University of Santa Clara대학은 경제난국으로 인해 등록률이 낮아질 것에 대비해 합격률을 높이려한다. 얼리 원서들이 매우 경쟁적인 입학사정 과정을 지켜보면서, 이제 정규 원서(UC는 11월말, 사립대학은 1월말마감) 결과를 지켜보면서 차분해질 시기이다.  사실 경제가 공항에 접어들면서 인문대학의 원서량은 두드러지게 감소되었다.  그러나 풍부한 자산과 너그러운 그랜트를 줄 수 있는 명문 아이비대학들은 원서량이 더 높아지고 있다.  그랜트와 명성이 더 부추기고 있는데, 올해도 변함이 없다.

Exploring University 'Special' and Honors Programs

Exploring University 'Special' and Honors Programs

The college admission process offers a lot of choices, possibly too many. Initially, you want a university that's a 'good fit'. Yet, even if the campus is a good fit, does the school offer special programs that might make the fit that much cozier? For example, should you gain admission to Yale, you might want to consider its Directed Studies program-if you have the academic prowess.

The Advantages of the Small College with the Resources of a Giant University

  • Enrolling in a school that is part of a Consortium
  • The Small community-feel of certain Big Universities
  • Don't be deceived by the size of the school
Sometimes when I recommend a small, liberal arts school to students, say a school like Pomona College, they're puzzled. Why in the world would they want to pay $45-50,000 a year for a school with 1,500 students (smaller than most high schools) and, in all likelihood, with limited resources? On the surface, such an objection makes sense. However, it doesn't account for the consortium of colleges to which Pomona belongs. This consortium opens a huge network of educational opportunities for all Pomona students, while maintaining Pomona's personal and intimate touch. Pomona is part of the Claremont College Consortium. There are a total of 5 undergraduate campuses: Claremont McKenna, which specializes in business and economics; Harvey Mudd, engineering; Pitzer, behavior sciences; Scripps, foreign language; and two graduate schools. None of these colleges is much bigger than a mid-sized dorm at UCLA, yet each has its own faculty, administration, admissions office, and curriculum. They also share a number of services and facilities among themselves: art studios, a biological field station, a 2,500-seat concert hall, interscholastic athletic teams, and the Claremont library that houses over 1.9 million volumes. Students at any of the member Claremont College Consortium can cross register for over 2,500 different courses given by its members. While the average class size at Pomona College is 14 students, a Pomona student has access to almost unlimited educational resources-and I haven't even touched on Pomona's exchange programs with Swarthmore and Colby (on the East Coast), or the Study Abroad Program, or the 3-2 engineering program with Cal Tech. The Claremont Consortium is by no means a rarity. A number of smaller schools band together to offer cross registration of courses, share study abroad programs, or their facilities. One of the best listings of consortia can be found on page 771 of "Fiske Guide to Colleges, 2009." It lists some of the "largest and oldest" of these programs:
  • The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (www.acm.edu ): 14 institutions including Carleton, Macalester, University of Chicago, Colorado College, and Grinnell (Iowa)
  • The Associated Colleges of the South (www.colleges.org): 16 institutions including  Davidson, University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee
  • Five College Consortium (www.fivecolleges.edu) : including Smith College, Amherst College and three others; allows any undergraduate at the member schools to cross register
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association (www.glca.org): joins together 12 liberal arts schools including DePauw, Kenyon (Ohio), and Kalamazoo, to offer study abroad programs.The listing above is by no means comprehensive. There are consortiums among Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania; the Colleges of Worcester Consortium (including Tufts, Holy Cross, and others); The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities...the list goes on.
On the flip side of small schools magnifying resources through joining a consortium, are big universities that gain the feel of a small school through special honors programs, residential colleges, and special programs. Honors programs in schools such as UCLA (http://www.ugeducation.ucla.edu/honors/hchome.html ), University of Michigan, or University of Wisconsin, emphasize small class size, select faculty, and "community atmosphere in a large university." Other schools build a sense of community through a residential college program, initiated by Oxbridge, and incorporated by Yale, Harvard, and Pennsylvania universities (among many). Then there are special programs, with very limited enrollment and very low student/faculty ratios. One example is Cornell University's College of Human Ecology and its Interior Design program. It has about 100 students and 14 faculty members, with access to a university of over 13,000 undergraduates. The moral to take from this is to not be deceived by the size of a school. In many cases, a small school can access the resources of a giant, while a giant school might very well have programs that make it feel like an intimate community. Uncovering these features requires research, questioning and, better still, a visit, if at all possible. There are no rules for what a school's size means, only potential opportunities that beckon investigation. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -------------------------------------- 대학의 자원을 접할 있는 작은 대학의 장점
  • Consortium 속하는 대학 연구
  • 대학 중에서 작은 이웃처럼 느끼기
  • 학교의 크기에 신경 쓰지 말라
필자가 학생들에게 Pomona college처럼 규모가 작은 인문과학대학을 추천하면,  그들은 고개를 갸우뚱한다.  학비 45-50,000불을 내고 학생수는 1,500 명(일반 공립고보다 작은 숫자)이고, 자원이 풍부하지 않는 학교를 다닐 것인가?  겉으로는 이러한 반대의견이 맞다.  그러나, 이는 Pomona 대학이 속해있는 consortium대학들을 고려하지 않은 탓이다.  이러한 consortium에서는 속한 대학의 학생들에게 엄청난 교육의 기회를 제공한다.  또한 Pomona의 가족적인 친밀한 관계도 유지할 수 있다. Pomona는 Claremont College Consortium에 속한다.  총 5개교가 참여하고 있다: Claremont McKenna는 경영과 경제를 전문으로 한다; Harvey Mudd는 공학전문; Pitzer는 행동과학전문; Scripps는 외국어 전문; 그리고 2개교의 대학원이 있다.  5개교 각각은 UCLA의 기숙사보다 크지 않지만, 자체 교수진과, 행정부, 입학사정실과 교과과정을 갖고 있다.  반면, 많은 서비스와 시설은 공유한다: art studios, 생물학 현장, 2500좌석의 음악당, 운동부, 190만권의 장서를 가진 Claremont 도서실.  이 대학들의 학생들은 2,500의 개설과목들을 어느 대학에서나 등록할 수 있다.  Pomona의 수업당 학생수는 평균 14명이며, 이 학생들은 거의 무한의 교육자원을 얻을 수 있다.  필자가 경험하지는 않았지만, 이대학은 East Coast에 있는 Swarthmore, Colby대학과 교환프로그램이 있으며, 해외유학 프로그램과 Cal Tech에서의 공학프로그램도 있다. Claremont Consortium만 특이한 것이 아니다.  많은 작은 대학들이 수강신청, 해외유학 프로그램과 시설을 공유하여 신청하도록 한다.  아래의 자료는 오래되고 유명한 프로그램들이다(Fiske Guide to Colleges, 2009, p. 771참고).
  • The Associated Colleges of the Midwest (www.acm.edu ): 14 institutions including Carleton, Macalester, University of Chicago, Colorado College, and Grinnell (Iowa)
  • The Associated Colleges of the South (www.colleges.org): 16 institutions including  Davidson, University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee
  • Five College Consortium (www.fivecolleges.edu) : including Smith College, Amherst College and three others; allows any undergraduate at the member schools to cross register
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association (www.glca.org): joins together 12 liberal arts schools including DePauw, Kenyon (Ohio), and Kalamazoo, to offer study abroad programs.
위 자료만이 전부가 아니다.  그 외에도 Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania; the Colleges of Worcester Consortium (including Tufts, Holy Cross, and others); The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities등 이상의 리스트가 있다. 작은 대학들이 consortium으로 자원을 극대화하는 반면, 큰 대학들은 honors programs를 제공하며 작은 대학의 환경을 만들어준다.  UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin의 honors programs은 소규모수업, 탁월한 교수진과 가족 같은 분위기를 내세운다.  Oxbridge대학은 residential college program을 만들어 가족 같은 분위기를 조성하며, Yale, Harvard, Pennsylvania 대학들도 시도하고 있다.  또한 적은 학생수에 교수비율의 특별 프로그램을 시행하는 대학도 있다.  Cornell대학의 College of Human Ecology와  Interior Design program은 13,000명의 재학생 중에서 100명의 학생과 14명의 교수진을 갖고 있다. 여기에서 배울 점은 대학의 크기에 좌우되지 말라는 점이다.  작은 대학들은 무한의 자원에 접할 수 있는 프로그램이 있으며, 큰 대학들은 친밀한 분위기를 가질 수 있는 프로그램을 갖고 있다.  이러한 자세한 특성들은 자료연구, 질문, 방문 등 여러 가지 방법으로 가능하다.  그러므로 학교의 크기가 의미하는 바보다는 심층조사로 잠재적 기회를 포착해야 한다.

Researching Colleges

The importance of researching colleges and how to do it.
  • Strategies essential in conducting research
  • Resources useful for the task
One part of the admissions process that is often a bit neglected, is doing the research on potential college fits. Many students, and their parents, pull together a preliminary list of colleges based mainly upon college ratings, rankings, reputations, and opinions; that's human nature. But there is more to the research process than graduating near the top of your class and immediately applying to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and then UCLA and UC Berkeley as your "safety schools". Today every applicant to a selective US college is facing stiff competition; most knowledgeable students and their families recognize this reality. Whether you believe it or not, even if you're the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, it's not a bad idea to research colleges of interest.  Furthermore, while you're going through the research process, it is critical to prepare a list of "reach" colleges-colleges that will be a challenge to gain entry, "target" colleges-colleges where you stand a good chance of acceptance, and "safety" colleges-colleges that will admit you, with very good assurance.  This coming admissions season will be the most competitive ever. The demographics confirm it. So, looking at a range of schools, and really getting to know your short list of the most promising and appealing is not just a good idea, but an essential strategy for dealing with what's ahead. Beyond these strategic necessities, there are some other reasons why research is now more important than ever before. Even if you're lucky enough to gain acceptance into your college picks, tuitions, fees, books, and room and board are becoming substantial expenses. Even if expenses are reduced through grants, or 'in state' status, the time a student invests to gain an education is not trivial: nowadays, in many institutions, taking 5-6 years to finish school is becoming less and less unusual. So, not knowing what you're getting into before you get there is plain foolish. To create a preliminary list of colleges upon which to research, some key questions need to be answered: location/setting-which regions of the country are of interest--; campus life-what school size is appealing, is it possible to live on-campus?; academic resources and requirements-does the student prefer a specialized program of study, e.g. pre-med, engineering, fine arts, or liberal arts?; extracurricular activities-study abroad programs, job internships through alumni networks, theater or intramural sports...Answering these types of questions is a good start. One standard college guide, Fiske Guide to Colleges 2008, has a "Sizing up the Survey," which you can use to guide you through this step. Assuming your preferences have led you to produce a preliminary list of schools, and remember, this is only a preliminary list, you can always make whatever changes you wish, now you are ready to get started. The first step is to grab a reliable, current guide, and read through, completely, a description of the university in question. The guide I mentioned above, The Fiske Guide, is a good source for a number of the leading selective schools. In addition, a very useful website, "College Navigator,"  mentioned previously in this column, will also give you a lot of the basic information you need to determine how well a school matches up with a student's needs. Here you'll find general information (including the school's mission statement), estimated expenses (that are pretty accurate, as this site is the government agency that gathers the FAFSA information), financial aid, enrollment, admissions, retention (what percentage of students actually graduate in 4, 5, or 6 years), programs and majors (and the number of students taking each major), and campus security. With this information, you a have a good foundation, but you still need to get more information to gain a better grasp of the school. Go to the school's website and take a general tour.  Let's assume that Dartmouth College is on your list. Then you'll want to go to Dartmouth's general information site, http://www.dartmouth.edu/apply/generalinfo/.  Here you'll find all the basic information, but there is a lot more that might give you a better feel of the campus and the students. There is a virtual tour, both video and still images, and blogs by current students, to gain an even better insight into the daily life of a student. If you have a specific interest in a department within Dartmouth, you can also go to its news site and sign up for a newsletter: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/sites/ .  There's even a site for Dartmouth experts, with biographies, one of whom, David Kang, is a noted expert on North Korea.  One other area to examine, if you're looking at a specific department, such as Physics or French, is the list of majors and their courses. This will give you a good idea of the course selection and major requirements. If you have specific information you're attempting to glean from a site, and it's not readily found, you can always enlist Google University: (http://www.google.com/options/universities.html), which allows a student to a search over whichever university website she wishes, using the Google Search engine. Sometimes, because the breadth of information available on colleges can seem virtually limitless, it’s not a bad idea to pull together a checklist with the specific information you want to find out about various schools, before you begin an extensive search. This will also allow you to customize your search to specific interests, and make the process that much more focused. Let’s assume you’re interested in MIT, and have a strong interest in studying physics. You can actually take a MIT Physics class on their website. MIT is part of OpenCourseWare, a group of universities that supplies complete courses, videos of lectures, booklists, tests, syllabi, all free, on-line. If you mention, on your application, should you decide to apply, that you have already worked through their 1999 class on Classical Physics, it tells the admissions office that you have done your homework and are more prepared to take advantage of the full scope of activities that MIT has to offer. By the way, the link to the physics class is: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8-01Physics-IFall1999/CourseHome/index.htm. Your aim is to arrive at a list of 7-8 colleges (with the state university systems counting as one) containing reaches, targets, and safeties. Your research will lead you to schools, regardless of selectivity, that you like a lot.  I have had students that were so taken with one of  their “safety” schools, that it became difficult for them to choose where to go, when they were accepted to all of their schools. More importantly, don’t think this is a useless exercise. Researching your future is an invaluable skill that will come into play throughout your life (e.g. graduate schools, job searches).  So, do it well and look beyond the famous colleges: there are over 2,000 four-year schools awaiting your investigation. You might just fine some gems if you venture off the beaten track. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -----------------------------------

It's Time to Get 'Engaged'

The 2008 college admissions season witnessed, yet again, just how tough and competitive it has become to get into highly-selective colleges. The bad news is that next year will be even tougher. However, for now, let's stick with the class from California entering college this fall.  480,000 students will graduate from California high schools this spring (with public high schools accounting for 90% of the number). We can assume that the top 10% submitted their applications to the University of California system; that would explain 48,000 applications. But, the numbers of actual applicants this year to the UC system are: 70,328, UCLA; 60,709, Berkeley; 57,116, San Diego; 55,871, Santa Barbara; 51,935, Irvine (3 March 2008, The Orange County Register). Assuming that UCLA accepted slightly more than 12,000 applicants, the number accepted last year-with the expectation that only about 4,500 will actually enroll-- then UCLA's admission's rate is 17%.  That's scary, but it gets scarier: Harvard, 7.1%, Yale, 8.2%, Princeton 9.3%, Stanford 9.6%. (Giving us these figures with decimals is supposed to make us feel it's not that bad; it's like finding the gas prices at $3.55.9)  We can safely conclude it's getting real hard to get in. That begs the question of once "in", what is it we're expecting the student to get? Sure getting in is tough, but in some colleges getting out is even tougher; and once out, what does the average student do with her life? As you attempt to determine which school you'll be attending come fall, a choice you'll need to make between now and May 1st, the acceptance deadline for many schools, you might want to ask about the quality of the education each offers. Right now, especially if you were lucky enough to get into one (or several) of these highly selective schools, is a good time to do some hard-core evaluations. For once in your life you're in complete control and the admission's office is doing the sweating.  The schools themselves are measured in such venues as US News and World Report, by how many of the applicants they accept actually matriculate (this is called the school's yield). So, if you've been accepted, the colleges really want you to attend.  Even simple questions such as how many students graduate in four years might provide some surprising responses: Cal Poly Pomona 10%; UCLA 59%; Stanford 76%; Yale 88%; Pomona College 92%. If you want to do your own research, go to the website "College Navigator," (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator), type in the college in question, and look at 'retention/graduation rate'; or, better still, call the school's admissions office and ask them directly. There are a lot of reasons for people taking more than four years to graduate, but with each year at a Stanford costing in excess of $50,000, it's not something to be taken lightly. A good reason that students do well in college is because they become 'engaged' with their studies. Somewhere along the line their curiosity is sparked (one hopes this happens in high school-but college might be the time of enlightenment), they pick majors of interest, and they work hard. There, of course, are strong students that naturally migrate to such a course. Nevertheless, a lot of students, even the most talented, need assistance. A quality college will provide the resources and, most importantly, the environment to drive student achievement. There are a number of questions you might ask to determine how a college engages its students. An article written by an eminent psychologist who specializes in student engagement, Joseph Cuseo of Marymount College, covers a number of the questions you might ask to do your own due diligence:
  1. What is the college mission? In other words, what is the school's objective: research, teaching?-and how does it design programs to achieve the stated mission?
  2. Teaching and faculty behavior: does the teacher lecture or become actively involved with the students in class?
  3. Academic advising: is a student personally assigned an advisor who meets regularly and tracks performance?
  4. Does the school support 1st Year students: Freshman year is one of the most difficult transitions for many students: What is the average class size for introductory and general education classes? How much writing is done by freshmen? Does the campus guarantee on-campus housing for 1st year students?
  5. Other areas worth inquiring about are the college's curriculum, extracurricular activities, and support of seniors in their final year of college (placement, graduate school, career counseling...)
If all this is too much to do, or too difficult to remember, ask the admission's office if it has a NSSE (National Study of School Evaluation) assessment of the school for your review. Most schools perform these assessments and distribute them to promising prospects upon request (unless the findings are a bit unflattering).  I can't think of a more promising prospect than someone, like you, who has been accepted and is contemplating attending. This is your time to be a tough consumer. Don't slack off -get some hard facts to support your college decision. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC