Friday, October 30, 2009

Ominous Traditions and Superstitions on College Campuses

It is Free Advice Friday! I have two tips to share.

Regarding Early Action / Early Decision Applications:
1) Make sure you get a certified delivery confirmation receipt on any items you send out to the colleges. 2) For electronic submission of your applications, print out the confirmation message. Do not rely on an e-mail confirmation only. Make sure it looks as perfect as possible before you press that SUBMIT button.

Get a confirmation from your high school registrar's office that your transcripts were sent out by the college's stated deadline. Things can fall through the cracks. True story: My college application never made it to the University of Michigan. Upon my Early Decision acceptance to Emory, I called the U of M's admissions office to withdrawal my application and was informed that they never received my transcript or application and only had my test scores on file. Ouch! (I know this was pre-electronic application time, but you can never be too cautious.)

So, now for some "FUN" information: Ominous Traditions and Superstitions on College Campuses

Duke University: To get free tickets to Duke basketball games, students camp out in tents complete with on-line access so they can continue studying and stay connected. Some unofficial graduation "requirements" decree that before they graduate, students must drive backwards around the traffic circle and climb Baldwin Auditorium. Several of Duke's gothic-style buildings feature gargoyles that are difficult to find. The Duke Chapel is haunted one night every year. (Durham, NC)

Emory University: The unofficial mascot of the university is Dooley, a skeleton figure dressed in black. In the spring during Dooley's Week, he wanders the campus, showing up in classrooms to let students out of class. Back in my day, Dooley's week was during the week of Halloween and the week culminated in a big costume ball the weekend before or after Halloween. It is an honor to be part of Dooley's Entourage. (Atlanta, GA)

Georgetown University: Ever since the film "The Exorcist" was shot in part on the campus, Halloween has been a major holiday at Georgetown. The film is shown after dark on Halloween, either outside on Copley lawn or in Gaston Hall. The film ends around midnight, the hour at which Georgetown students gather in the cemetery on campus for the "Healy Howl." In the cemetery at midnight, in the shadow of Healy Hall, Georgetown students literally howl at the moon. A statue of John Carroll, the founder of Georgetown, is located at the entrance of the campus. Before they graduate, students try to have their photo taken in Carroll's lap. This requires stealthy evasion of the Department of Public Safety patrols trying to end a tradition they believe to be harmful to the statue's longevity. The usual game plan is to leap into John Carroll's lap, have a friend snap the picture, and make a run for it. (Washington, DC)
Princeton University: At the commencement ceremony, new graduates pass through the Fitzrandolph Gates, the main entrance to the campus from Nassau Street, and enter the "real world." According to fairly recent tradition, undergraduates who use the gates to exit the campus before their own commencement put their chances of graduating at risk. (Princeton, NJ)

University of California -- Los Angeles: Midnight Yell is held during finals week. The Janss Steps, an 87-step expanse of stairs, served as the original entrance to the university. The land on which the university was built had been owned by the Janss brothers, and it was proposed that a structure be built in their honor. Edwin, the practical younger brother, lobbied for a parking garage, but Hans, the older brother, insisted on something more aesthetic: sloping lawns with majestic steps leading up to the main quad. Suspecting that after he died, his little brother would simply replace the steps with parking, Hans had himself buried under the sixth step. Tradition holds that students must never set foot on the sixth step from the bottom or they will spend an extra quarter (or longer) on campus. Fraternities sometimes hold seances on the step, easily identified by the drippings from their candles. A large statue of the UCLA mascot, the Bruin, stands near the student union. Students rub his right hind paw (the "Bruin Paw") for luck before exams. Before becoming a rock legend, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, briefly attended UCLA. Tour guides point out a locker in the math building purported to be Morrison's that is still plastered with brightly colored stickers and remains locked. (Los Angeles, CA)
University of Virginia: According to tradition, before they graduate, students must run naked from the Rotunda down the Lawn to the statue of Homer (which must be kissed on the buttocks) and then back to the Rotunda before retrieving their clothes. (Charlottesville, VA)

Ominous Traditions Source: Leads provided by Susan Solomon, Kehillah Jewish High School, Palo Alto, California.

It is not too late to jump start your college planning process. The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here

Monday, October 26, 2009

AcceptEdge Plus a Private College Consultant = The Perfect Combination

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Hi Y'all,

Although it is not Friday, I have some free advice for my readers. Have you heard of AcceptEdge? It is a powerful web tool that prospective college students can use to determine their possible chances of acceptance to a university. Of course, it is not fool proof, but it uses a better diagnostic formula than other search sites such as Peterson's, The College Board, and Naviance. While most alogorithms take into account standardized test scores, class ranking, and G.P.A., AcceptEdge goes one step further in its methodology and also includes a student's extra-curricular resume. They compile data from 15 publicly available data sources, including social networks.

AcceptEdge was founded by two collegians, Max Hodak and Jason Mueller and incubated at the Sand Hill Road venture firm NEA.  AcceptEdge augments the data with its own surveys and Facebook applications.
AcceptEdge co-founder Max Hodak, 20, says it evolved from a spreadsheet he put together at age 17 while attending a private prep school in New Jersey, comparing his own academic scores against university data provided by a guidance counselor at his school. His computations, he said, helped guide him from a likely rejection from Yale toward the warm embrace of Duke University, which had intrigued him with a vaunted biomedical engineering program. Once AcceptEdge gains traction, 'I'm definitely going back to that,' he said.
Hodak was still in high school when he first encountered co-founder Jason Mueller online, in a Facebook developers forum. Mueller, who has had paid internships at Sony Ericsson and Red Hat, is more focused on shaping AcceptEdge's business, while Hodak concentrates on technology (, 2009). 

AcceptEdge is still in Beta testing and does not have all of the kinks worked out. I think the next version will be a great improvement and will yield more promising results with more efficiency. I attempted to create a fake profile to test its features and accuracy, but was unable to add my extra-curriculars or my class grades. I also advice against their suggestion tool to connect your AcceptEdge profile to data from your Facebook account. Please keep your Facebook account separate from your college application experience. This is the verbiage to lure you into connecting your Facebook account with AcceptEdge.

DO NOT DO THIS: Research has shown that social graph data is predictive of path through college. We can extract this information from your friend connections on Facebook. Clicking the button above will allow us to analyze your social relationships and how they relate to your college choices.

To some, it may be disconcerting that such a service exists—another sign of how the college quest has become a pressure cooker. I've often encountered teenagers who stress over their grades, test scores and extra-curriculars, as well as the occasional overbearing parent.Students often spend their high school years grooming themselves for a particular university, selecting courses and extracurricular activities they hope will make them stand out. Parents pay for tutoring or expensive SAT preparation classes. I am an advocate of test prep tutoring for most students. Students can greatly receive increase their oral and written vocabulary, as well as their overall writing abilities with test prep help. There are classes offered at high schools that are reasonable, and also private college tutors that are not as exorbitant as the larger Test prep outfits out there. 

Van Buskirk, who has his own for-profit Web site called, said AcceptEdge's greatest value would be to enlighten students and encourage them to explore options beyond brand-name institutions to possibilities among some 3,800 colleges nationwide.

I fear, as some educational consultants and admissions officers do, that AcceptEdge's tool could actually exacerbate the pressure and increase a student's anxiety related to the college app process. If a high schooler's heart is truly, perilously set on Stanford, for example, AcceptEdge claims it can show how a student can best enhance his or her odds by taking, say, another Advanced Placement class, retaking the SAT or running for class president. Often times, it is not one minute factor that tips the scales for a student's admission. Colleges today are looking to complete a class filled with diversity and  what they need to complete their renaissance class can change slightly from year to year. For example, if a highly selective school is creating a new aeronautical engineering program, they might be more open to taking a student with a lower verbal score (550) and a significantly higher math score (760), because they want to build the program with students that are strong in math and science. This particular student might have been president of their Robotics Club chapter or invented a wind tunnel. In a previous admission's cycle, this student might not have been accepted to this university, but the university's objectives have changed and this student now fits the model for what they are seeking.

AcceptEdge also plans to direct students to a network of "qualified private college admission advisers" that can offer personal guidance and assistance to students. Many independent counselors offer worthy, ethical services, Jump and Van Buskirk agrees, but some are unethical and manipulative, making inflated promises and charging exorbitant fees. I agree with this statement and am happy to share my reasonable college planning fees with you. Please contact me via email or via phone at 512-294-6608.

It is not too late to jump start your college planning process. The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For Some Seniors, It's Crunch Time ! College Planning Tips

1. Be smart about your short list. While it might be tempting to pile on a few extra applications, don't do it. Don’t assume that the more applications you submit, the greater your likelihood of getting in. Focus on schools that are good fits and you’ll be fine. I recommend students apply between 8 to 10 schools unless they are applying to an extremely esoteric field.

2. Make sure you feel good about the schools to which you are applying. I can’t tell you how often, after the admission decisions have been revealed, a student says about a school on her list, “But I don’t want to go there.” Don’t apply to a school if you would not consider enrolling should you be accepted.

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3. Develop an application tracking document. List all of the schools that are on your preliminary list as well as the various forms and deadlines required by each. Post it on your refrigerator or someplace where you will see it every day. Make sure you also have all of your user IDs and passwords for your college applications in a spreadsheet. I recommend that you use the same password for all college applications. For security reasons, use a unique password that only pertains to your college applications, SAT / ACT registration, and scholarship / financial aid forms. This way you can share your password with your mom or dad and won't have to worry that your parents will break into your Facebook or My Space account.

4. Read the Supplemental Forms. Schools that use the Common Application or the Universal Application may require additional information and/or essays. Become familiar with the information requested on these forms sooner than later. Along those same lines, understand the application policies for the schools you are applying to. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) or Restrictive Early Action (REA) is the newest option, which limits you to applying early to only one school to get an answer in advance about acceptance. It’s not binding, but restricts you from applying anywhere else under an EA or ED application. You can apply elsewhere during regular admission and do not have to make a decision to enroll until the school’s regular deadline.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Cut College Costs ... A Sample List

Free advice Friday! The incredible costs of a college education have every parent and student concerned for their future plans. The following is a list of 3 out of 10 recommended methods to cut college costs. If you would like the rest of the list, email me directly and I will send you a PDF.

1. Get College Credit in High School: Students can take AP or IB college credited classes, with the help of a knowledgeable counselor, which will help to cut down on the number of courses needed to graduate from college. Most AP courses are paid for by the high schools so as not to deter students from enrolling. The tests are usually about $85 each and are far less than the cost of a college course, which is going to be a minimum of $500 at a university. Did you know? There are more than 30 AP courses and exams across multiple subject areas to choose from. Over 90% of 4-year colleges in the U.S. provide credit and/or advanced placement for qualifying scores. Dual college credit is another option. In Texas, ACC offers a program Early College Start ( offered through your high school.  AP - Advanced Placement IB - International Bacc

2. Community Colleges: If you can convince your student, spending the first year or two in college at a CC is a huge cost savings. In many cases, students have yet to declare a major. In these cases, general education requirements can be fulfilled at a CC. The cost savings in tuition, books, supplies, housing, food, and travel may give a student and parent a head start on costs for graduate tuitions. Get your general ed requirements completed at Austin Community College.

3. Cash in on Tax Credits: “What students need to know is that there’s the Hope and the Lifetime Learning tax credits (,” says Joseph M. Re, author of “Financial Aid Financer: Expert Answers to College Financing Questions.”

The Hope Credit is a tax credit for college students in their first two years of college. It provides a tax credit of up to $1,800 on the first $2,400 of college tuition and fees. You can claim the Hope Credit on your tax return if you, your spouse, or your dependent are a first-year or second-year college student, is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible education institution, and you are responsible for paying college expenses. (Only parents who claim the student as a dependent on their tax return would be eligible for the credit.) “The key to taking advantage of this credit,” Re says, “is to plan ahead and be aware of the stipulations.”
From the IRS government website, "Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more parents and students will qualify over the next two years for a tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, to pay for college expenses. The American Opportunity Credit is not available on the 2008 returns taxpayers are filing during 2009. The new credit modifies the existing Hope Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, making the Hope Credit available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. Many of those eligible will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. These income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits."

The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

College Admission and Ethical Implications of Uncertain Economic Times

Register Now for NACAC Webinars on the
State of College Admission and Ethical Implications of Uncertain Economic Times

NACAC State of College Admission Webinar
When: October 20
Time: 2:00 p.m. EDT
Cost: $25

On the release date of the annual State of College Admission report, NACAC will present a Webinar to provide a detailed overview of trends in college admission counseling. This year’s report also includes analysis from NACAC’s survey on the Effects of the Economy on the Admission Process.

With the influx of marketing propaganda out there for students, the high tuition costs, and the rising obstacles in gaining admission to the top universities, it is not surprising that some college admissions offices are facing public scrutiny for their questionable ethics. "Recognizing these ethical challenges and dilemmas and effectively dealing with them is a professional imperative for admissions officers and the academic institutions they represent," says Michael McCuddy of International Journal of Educational Management. McCuddy addresses three areas of admissions where ethical dilemmas are plaguing the current admissions climate. They occur in recruiting practices, personal biases in admissions decisions, and conflicts between personal ethical standards and institutional directives.
Example of an ethical dilemma: Athletics is dictating to admissions at a selective institution, they should admit a candidate based on their physical talents and leadership skills, but not their academic merits. It is a division III school and there are no athletic scholarships or special provisions provided for athletic admits. The star football athlete may potentially bring in more revenue to the school with increased ticket sales and national media hype, but the athlete is not near the school's average standards in regards to class ranking or test scores.* fictitious example
Should admissions offer this student a place at their university or risk the wrath of the athletic department and deny him? What are your thoughts? With every circumstance, you need to weigh the pros and cons of your decision. My professional opinion: I would really have to read the student's essays to determine their level of motivation and desire to attend the academic institution. I would also do a follow up phone interview as well.

As a former admissions officer for a private university, I understand the intense pressure placed upon admissions to convert qualified prospective students to matriculated students. There is a fine line between encouraging a student to apply to a university and telling them that they will be admitted based upon their credentials. Universities that are less selective run the risk of over enrollment if they accept too many students. This year Ithaca College had to be very creative in how they addressed their over enrollment problem. They are paying 31 students $10,000 each, to put off going to college for a year, a sort of mandatory GAP year. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Ithaca had hoped “to enroll 1,700 to 1,750 new freshmen but found itself with an incoming class of 2,027 for this fall.”
'It's an extreme case of what we're likely to see in other places,' said John C. Nelson, managing director of the division at Moody's Investors Service that rates colleges' debt. In addition to adding physical capacity, Ithaca's challenge is to 'manage the student services extremely well,' he said, particularly in light of the competitive and demographic challenges facing private colleges in the Northeast. - Chronicle of Higher Education
Ithaca College made a recruiting mistake that they will be paying for physically and monetarily over the next few years. Chronicle reports that Ithaca had suffered a decline in freshman enrollment in 2008, falling 11 percent below its budgeted target of 1,600. Many of the steps it took over the past year to enroll the entering class in 2009 were designed to compensate. The steps included lowering selectivity (Ithaca accepted 73 percent of its 2009 applicants, compared with 59 percent in 2008) changing its merit-aid policy so money could be spread among more applicants, and intensifying "yield" efforts to get more admitted students to attend. Other colleges did the same things, according to a survey released last month by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. But Ithaca lacked some of the levers colleges traditionally use to give themselves more control over admissions, most notably the early-decision option.
The ethical dilemma above: Is it ok to pay students to defer their college dreams? Your thoughts.

Ithaca will reinstitute their early decision application option this year to compensate for the over enrollment problem they encountered. Mr. Maguire, Ithaca's new enrollment-management chief, came from Franklin and Marshall College will work directly for the president. He said the college is reinstating early decision, two years after dropping it. Without it, he said, Ithaca didn't have a solid picture of its admissions situation until very late in the process. Freshman deposits came in with a "huge spike at the very end of April." He also plans to raise admissions standards, although he acknowledges that after lowering selectivity in 2009, Ithaca will face a challenge in getting that message out to applicants.

Ithaca College has over 100 bachelor degree options and is known for their emphasis on performing arts. They have reknowned masters programs in sports management and sports marketing. Visit Ithaca College for more information on the university.  

The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Easy Apps and Less Selective Admit Standards; Beyond the Ivies

Free Advice Friday! Here are a couple of suggestions for "fun and spirited" schools for the B/C student with relatively easy admission requirements and without the endless supplemental questions. (Coincidentally, the tiger is both LSU and Auburn University's mascot).

1) LSU -   Lousianna State University, located in historic Baton Rouge, offers an incomparable guaranteed admission program for the B/C student ready for the challenges of a big-school experience in a classic southern community. Here’s the deal: to claim automatic admission a student must have A GPA of 3.0 or higher (weighted or unweighted) ACT/SAT scores of 22/1030 (minimum Eng/CR 18/450 and M 19/460) 18 specific core high school credit units (American Sign Language fulfills the 2 units of foreign language) For as long as space remains in the class, the admissions office will provide a decision within 48 hours of application. No strings. No binding clauses.
  • Out-of-state Scholarships Galore! Students with SAT’s totaling 1250 and 3.0 GPA qualify for full exemption from nonresident fees; those nonresidents with SAT’s totaling 1330 and 3.0 GPA qualify for full exemption from all tuition and fees. And, those are just the beginning of the scholarships available at LSU!
  • The LSU campus is alive with school spirit and friendly faces. Anyone familiar with the college sports scene will recognize the LSU Tigers as perennial contenders. Team mascot Mike VI lion rules his den! Similiar to Baylor's "Lady" and "Joy" bears that live on campus, Mike VI lives in a tiger habitat right beside an over-sized football stadium that positively rocks the Richter scale on Saturdays during the fall months (Nancy Griesemer, College Explorations).
  • In addition to sports, LSU has plenty to offer in the way of academics and student life. Students major in everything from Cajun French to Petroleum Engineering. And, each year, LSU conducts more than 2,500 sponsored research projects funded by more than $140 million in external grants from an amazing assortment of funding sources including NIH, NASA, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, to name a few. The large but easy-to-navigate campus is beautifully landscaped with towering live oaks insured for millions gracing the walkways. Make no mistake. This is a big school. The largest classroom holds 1000 students and clickers are among the tools routinely used by professors to keep up with the numbers. For the right student, however, the welcome and value are there.
  • If you are a stellar high school student and find out that LSU is your dream college, there is also an honors college program for you to consider. Please note, the admission selection process is separate from your overall admission to LSU. You will not get the 48 hour admit or deny turn around time. 
Admission Requirements
1) Freshmen entering Louisiana State University are eligible to apply to the Honors College if they meet the following recommended admission criteria:
2) Academic high school GPA: 3.50 (weighted by LSU)
3) Recommended ACT: 30 Composite with 30 English, or 29 Composite with 31 English
4) Recommended SAT: 1320 Critical Reading + Mathematics (combined) with 660 Critical Reading
Completed SAT or ACT essay

LSU Honors College admission is very competitive. Selection for incoming first-year students is based on high school GPA, ACT or SAT scores, and the writing test of the ACT or SAT. The writing sample is weighed on an even scale with GPA and standardized exam scores, so special consideration should be given to this component of the application. The strength of courses taken in high school will be considered and is factored into the calculation of the high school GPA by the Office of Undergraduate Admission and Student Aid.

2) AU- Auburn University is located in Auburn, Alabama. It is a great spirit school, ranked 88th in the nation (out of 1800 college/university). They have more than ten different engineering programs and will admit students that may have had a rocky first year in high school. They reach out to the schools in the community and have a program called Engineering Outreach.  The technologies and workforce that are developed on Auburn's campus help fuel the engine that keeps our economy vital. Each year, Auburn has an entering class of about 4000 college/university students. Admission: 17,068 applied; 12,085 admitted; 3,984 enrolled. Average high school GPA: 3.69. This is an extremely skewed number however, because this takes into account weighted GPAs. The admit rate is close to 71%.
Admission Requirements: You need three things, plus the application fee of course. No long essay is required.
  • Activities and Interests Form (Short Answer Essays)
  • Official ACT and/or SAT scores (including the writing score)
  • Official High School Transcript
Students may begin applying for admission August 1, 2009 at  Applicants with excellent academic credentials can be admitted by Early Action beginning in October.  Early Action decisions are strictly academic, based on a combination of high school GPA and the ACT or SAT score of the applicant; other factors are not considered.  Students who meet the Early Action criteria will be accepted on a weekly basis from October 15 to February 15.  Decisions are made by October 15 for students who have completed an application by October 1. 

The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. 


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Obama on Economy, Student Loans; Rise in Community College Enrollment

President Barack Obama shows his legitimate concern and pledges to help students pursuing higher education during these trying economic times. On September 21st, he spoke in a town forum style to a group of Hudson Valley community college students in Michigan. I know that with the lack of support for universal health care and the war in Afghanistan, his approval ratings are not exactly stellar, but I endorse his dedication and methods to improve the quality of both secondary and post-secondary education.

Did you know Obama was actually a transfer college student during undergraduate school? Prior to the President enrolling and eventually graduating from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies, he attended Occidental College.

Yes, Obama attended Occidental College in California for two years as an undergraduate from 1979-81:Jim Tranquada, Occidental's Director of Communications, said: "Contemporary public documents, such as the 1979-80 freshman 'Lookbook' published at the beginning of President Obama's first year at Occidental, list him as Barack Obama. All of the Occidental alumni I have spoken to from that era (1979-81) who knew him, knew him as Barry Obama."

Although Obama did not attend community college, he is a huge advocate of the community college system. According to an article in the August issue of U.S. News and World Report, enrollment at public community colleges has grown by 30 percent since 2000. President Barrack Obama’s “American Graduation Initiative,” which would invest $12 billion in community colleges over 10 years, has created quite a buzz around two-year colleges.

Community College Fast Facts

Community College Students Constitute the Following Percentages of Undergraduates:
All U.S. undergraduates: 46%
First-time freshmen: 41%
Native American: 55%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 46%
Black: 46%
Hispanic: 55%

Employment Status:
Full-time students employed full time: 27%
Full-time students employed part time: 50%
Part-time students employed full time: 50%
Part-time students employed part time: 33%

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid:
Any aid: 47%
Federal grants: 23%
Federal loans: 11%
State aid: 12%

Percentage of Federal Aid Received by Community Colleges:
Pell grants: 34%
Campus-based aid: 9%

Average Annual Tuition and Fees:
Community colleges (public): $2,361
4-year colleges (public): $6,185

Degrees and Certificates Awarded Annually:
Associate degrees: 555,000
Certificates: 295,000
Baccalaureates: awarded by 29 public and 66 independent colleges

Revenue Sources (public colleges):
State funds: 37%
Tuition and fees: 17%
Local funds: 21%
Federal funds: 16%
Other: 9%

Obama on Economy, Student Loans (CNBC) Published: 09 Please click here to see CNBC's coverage of Obama's speech at Hudson Valley Community College in which he discusses the economy and student loans. Obama's Video on Education and Student Loans

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Common App Makes Accommodations to Deal with Score Choice™ issues

Common App Makes Accommodations to Deal with Score Choice™ issues 

In response to a few glitches in the system, the members of the Board of Directors of the Common Application have agreed to adopt a “temporary” policy to deal with problems arising from implementation of SAT Score Choice™. The New York Times and Inside Higher Ed are reporting that students will now be allowed to skip—without penalty—questions requesting test dates and scores. While colleges generally evaluate students based on official scores received from standardized test organizations, the Common App asks students to self-report SAT's and/or ACT's so admissions officers can have the information to begin processing applications. Evidently, students are delaying submitting materials—official test score reports and applications—in order to evaluate their options under the new reporting program. Many are waiting to complete all testing before deciding which scores to send. For students applying Early Decision or Early Action with November 1st submission deadlines, this is highly problematic, but can easily be addressed if colleges provide clear guidance to students on their websites or send e-mails to prospective applicants. Colleges should address their recommended Score Choice™ policies on their College Facebook pages as well. The more consistent information through multiple channels is provided, the more likely students are to abide by the school's policies. 

Unfortunately, the guidance provided by the Common App on its website is not nearly as clear as what is being suggested by either news source. In fact, nowhere on the website is there any indication that students will be given a complete pass on the test section of the form. The only reference to the issue appears deep within the Common App Support Center and simply addresses the mechanics of submission:

“We recognize that you may find yourself in a position where some of your colleges require you to report your full testing history while others permit you to report your scores selectively or withhold them entirely. While the Tests section does not offer you the ability to differentiate your score reporting to reflect conflicting requirements, leaving this section blank or incomplete will not prevent you from submitting your application. Please understand, however, that colleges and universities may use the information provided in the Tests section to assist in the processing of an application before official results arrive…”

The Common App Board of Directors, representing all member institutions, seems aware of a need to communicate reassurance to students that they may skip these questions without being penalized in the application process—to hurry things along. In fact, they have been working directly with the College Board to find some resolution, according to Brian O’Reilly, President of the SAT. How this is being communicated to colleges and universities and what it means exactly remain to be seen. Common App officials suggest that the wording of the Board’s guidance was much more “nuanced” than what was announced, and it appears that further clarification may be in order.

 It should be noted that both the Common App and the Universal College App permit students to create alternate application forms and send specially-tailored test information to specific colleges or universities for SAT and ACT. Please note, however that any uploads students create to the common application, such as a personal essay or additional information, they will not be automatically transferred to the alternative word form.  The student will need to upload these into any alternate version of the application they are creating.  For those students understanding the requirements of the schools to which they are applying, this is a reasonable way to address the problem of differing score report policies. Although this was not the original intention of the function, it works for this purpose.

If you are a student that is confused about which test scores to submit to colleges that you are applying, I highly recommend that you e-mail the school's admissions officer or contact their general admissions office to clarify their test reporting requirements, including what to include on the test score section of the Common App. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the student to conform to all score reporting policies. 

The information provided was written by Nancy Griesemer, College Explorations, and edited by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608.

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