Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 3 - Ohio Six Tour - Denison and Kenyon

Kenyon College
I apologize for the delay in getting this post up. Traveling home after a long day of tours and then returning to work resulted in things being a little behind schedule.

Our final day of the Ohio Six tour included visits to Denison University and Kenyon College.

Denison College
My impression of Denison is that it is a wonderful and vibrant place that is also nimble enough to make changes when they are needed. Case in point, they have launched 7 new majors recently, 5 within just the past year. These include relevant modern day interdisciplinary majors like: Data Analytics, Non Fiction Writing, and Financial Economics. They also just broke ground on a new performing arts center, a gift from Michael Eisner, of Disney fame (and also Denison Class of 1964). As part of our information session, a quote was shared that Andrew Delbanco made about the purpose of college being to help people become reflective citizen. Denison sees this as its mission and they seem to be doing a very nice job. For some context, the Robin Williams character in Dead Poets Society was based on a real life Denison professor.

Denison is small - the average class size is under 18 and the entire campus has about 2,250 students. It is a relationships based school, with strong career services, and an ideal location with a small town that is situated only about half an hour from a major metropolitan area (Columbus). Maybe more than any school in recent memory, Denison's President, Adam Weinberg, is fully integrated into campus life for both faculty and students. Our tour guide sends him texts. He has memorized the student body and can address most of them by first name. Another panelist emailed him to talk about his career path and a face to face meeting was arranged.

They admitted that the decisions garnered by Denison don't always make sense. They aren't solely driven by test scores or GPA. Instead, they say they are seeking the kind of students you'd want your own kids to date or be friends with. They do have Early Decision and the odds of admission are significantly higher through this path (as is true at many schools, so not a huge surprise there).

The physical campus is situated on a hill, so if you aren't a person who enjoys walking uphill, that might be a detractor. But otherwise, for students seeking a dynamic and friendly small liberal arts college, this is one to investigate.

Middle Path at Kenyon
Our final stop on the tour was Kenyon College. Kenyon is a good home for quirky kids who don't necessarily stick to just one 'subgroup' socially. Their fraternity brothers are also artists. Their athletes might also be in the orchestra. Those who are not intellectually curious need not apply and yet those who constantly obsess to get perfect grades will probably not be happy here either because grade grubbing isn't looked upon highly. This helps the applicant pool be self selecting and they are perfectly fine with that. Many of their overlap peer schools are located on the East Coast.  In fact, when I myself was walking around the campus physical plant reminded me very much of Middlebury in Vermont - expansive quads with mainly historic academic and residential buildings. There is also a dirt walkway called the middle path going down the center of campus connected the school to the nearby small town (with a post office, bookstore, and food establishments).

Only about 11-12% of students at Kenyon are from Ohio, so their is a national presence on campus. Their flagship program is often considered to be English/Writing but, as with most super high quality liberal arts schools, I'm not sure you can really go wrong in any discipline.

Thank you so much to the Ohio Six for hosting me (and my other school counselor colleagues). I learned so much and will now be able to better advise my students about this Ohio college options.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 2 - Ohio Six Counselor Tour - Oberlin and College of Wooster

Interior of the Library at College of Wooster.
Today we had the chance to see Oberlin College and the College of Wooster.

I was fortunate enough to already have had the chance to visit Oberlin this fall before NACAC, so you can read about that campus here. I can confirm that all the great things I saw in the fall were still there today and I was again reminded of why so many ElRo students have applied to Oberlin (the most of any schools that are a part of this tour). I did also get the chance to see the interior of the new music building, which was a lovely space.
College of Wooster
In the afternoon we made our way to the College of Wooster. I'll sum it up by saying: I was super impressed with this campus. The vibe is a unique combination of academic seriousness (warning-- if you aren't looking to grow as a student, don't look here) and a lighthearted point of view (students, faculty, and staff all shared a jovial sense of humor).

The tagline of College of Wooster is "America's Premier College for Mentored Undergraduate Research." Every student completes a senior Independent Study (I.S.) project prior to graduation. This is an opportunity to conduct research and work one on one with a professor on a long term project (this work lasts approximately 18 months). The seniors we met had fascinating projects. The fact that it is a universal shared experience at a school that admits a little over 50% of their applicants is a testament to the idea that with hard work and diligence a space for diverse learners can in fact be a place with a very high level of academic rigor.

About one third of students at Wooster are from Ohio (in contrast, Oberlin's Ohio representation is under 10%) but there is also a growing international population and I was struck by the racial and ethnic diversity that I saw on campus. It was my favorite kind of diversity where students were intermingling and it felt like students from multiple backgrounds could find a place on campus. I specifically asked our tour guide if she felt one type of student dominated the campus (theater kids, athletes, members of the Greek community, political protesters, etc) and she said that there really was room for everyone.

While I'm certainly no fan of rankings, a point of pride at Wooster is the fact that only two colleges have been ranked every year as a top school for both undergraduate research and a capstone project: Princeton and College of Wooster.

Located about one hour from Cleveland, Wooster has a lot to offer. For more information, I encourage you to read the chapter in Colleges That Change Lives. They also offer both merit and need based aid, so it is a great way to round out a list of liberal arts colleges and potentially get a fair financial aid package.

Our final day of the tour is tomorrow and I'm looking forward to our last two schools!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 1 - Ohio Six Counselor Tour - Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan

Yesterday, I arrived in Columbus, Ohio in advance of the three day Ohio Six Counselor Tour. (For those unfamiliar with the Midwest, Columbus is about a 90 minute direct flight from New York City. I've had longer commutes to work on days when the MTA is acting up.) Today was day one and we had the opportunity to visit Wittenberg University and Ohio Wesleyan University.

Wittenberg University is a small private college of a little under 2,000 students located a little under one hour away from Columbus. The three most popular majors are Biology, Education, and Business, though they offer a wide range of liberal arts degrees. The first session I attended gave us a closer look at the brand new COMPASS: Sweet Success Center. This is a new space that brings together Academic Services, Disability Services, Student Success and Leadership, and Student Employment. In what is definitely a campus event first for me, we had to dust off some dog hair from the chairs which was left over from a service dog training meeting the night before. I was VERY impressed with the level of attention given to supporting students. If you want to go someplace that can help you craft a truly integrated support system, this is your place. For example, students who are struggling to be accountable with their studying can opt into a swipe system at the library that will help them log their study hours (with said hours emailed to their coach/advisor/or any other person they are getting organizational help from on campus). I got the sense that there was a really intentional and personal approach to student support. On paper, I think the hardest pill for many New York City students to swallow might be the fact that this school is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. However, before even stepping foot on campus I could see their pride flags hanging from the light poles in the parking lot, so before you make assumptions about what kind of values or politics can be found on campus, evaluate if you might be the one who is closed minded. I experienced the campus, faculty, staff, and students to be welcoming to people of all faiths (or those with no faith at all). From an ElRo specific perspective, I think part of what might make Wittenberg most attractive is the fact that it would be a target or likely for most of our students. Plus, added bonus is that it is testing optional.

We then spent the afternoon at Ohio Wesleyan University, a Colleges That Change Lives school located about 30 minutes from Columbus. Right off the bat one thing was clear - this was one seriously energetic staff. They were a well oiled machine, right down to the red and black clothes they were wearing (the school colors, of course). At 175 years old, Ohio Wesleyan has three founding principles that it sticks to to this day: 1) A commitment to the liberal arts 2) A foundation with Methodist principles but being open to all 3) Emphasizing how important it is to consider the public good, seeking to have graduates that look to be positive global citizens. A huge portion of students (55%) earn at least one credit abroad, so this is a place looking to push students beyond the scope of small town Ohio. Ohio Wesleyan is also keenly aware of the ways students need to remain competitive and relevant in the career marketplace so they are rapidly adding new majors like Business Administration, Social Justice, and Data Analytics (all still rooted in a Liberal Arts foundation). This school has positioned itself as a place seeking big thinkers and idealists with lots of energy. We heard from a dynamic panel of current students and toured the length of the campus (situated as a long and skinny rectangle, with the town and basic amenities all within walking distance). Like Wittenberg, OWU is another potential fit for virtually every ElRo student - including the possibility of merit aid for many if not most applicants from our school. A theme for the day: it was also testing optional.

Tomorrow is another jam packed day with two more campuses. Thank you to the schools for putting together this great opportunity!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thanks SUNY Potsdam!

Earlier this week, I attended an info session at the SUNY office on 42nd street hosted by SUNY Potsdam. We have had a few ElRo students enroll at Potsdam in the past, but this was a wonderful re-introduction to the campus and offerings.

Let me start by saying that absolute best part of SUNY Potsdam: it is testing optional. Only one other 4-year school in the SUNY system (SUNY Delhi) can say the same. That means Potsdam understands that for some students, their academics are a better representation of their potential than their test scores. I'm eager for the day that more SUNY schools follow suit.

Despite being about 6.5 hours away, 40% of students are from New York City. A common criticism I've heard of schools upstate is how the campus culture is so different from what city kids are used to. Here, while the location is certainly not in a large city, at least your fellow classmates are likely to be able to relate to the adjustment required to small town life. Potsdam is also located near SUNY Canton, St. Lawrence University, and Clarkson so there are about 12,000 college age students in the immediate area. (There is also a cross registration agreement where students can take courses at these other campuses, all included as part of their Potsdam tuition).

Academically, some signature programs at Potsdam include: the Crane school of Music (audition required), theater and studio art, and the school of professional studies which includes both education and business.

The average GPA of an admitted student is an 88, but students with stronger numbers are offered scholarships. Considering the full price is only about $20,000 per year, this makes Potsdam one of the most generous and affordable campuses in the state for ElRo students. For students who do submit testing, the merit scholarship range starts at 24 ACT/1100 SAT. Again, we are talking about a very very high probability of merit aid for ElRo students.

Potsdam isn't just an awesome fit for top students. They also have fantastic options for students that might need additional support to be successful in college. They offer both a traditional EOP program and a Bridges program (without the same household income requirements) to allow for a pathway to college for students who might otherwise have a hard time finding a good fit.

I was pleased with all that we got to hear at the information session and if just made me more eager to make a trip up North. Thank you Potsdam!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

PSAT 2016

When you are bored during a standardized test this can happen
Yesterday, 11th grade students that took the PSAT in October got back a copy of their score along with their test booklet. This was the first year in recent memory where the PSAT was not paid for by the DOE and offered on a school day, so it was a little bit unique in that students had to actively sign up and come in on a Saturday to sit for the exam.

This PSAT is a redesigned PSAT (the second year of this new format) and it was out of 1520 points. As I shared with the students yesterday, no one at ElRo got a 1520 this year so everyone has room for improvement.

The mean score at ElRo this year for the PSAT was a 1220. For context, the mean score for all NYCDOE schools was a 986 and the mean score in New York State was a 1022. The College Board has not published a national mean at this time, but in general the 50th percentile looks to be about a 1030.

The exam has two sections - Evidence Based Reading and Writing and Math. Each section is out of 760 points.

No college can see the PSAT scores and they play no role in college admission. The only thing the score officially counts for is the National Merit Scholarship - a program we usually see 1 ElRo student per year qualify for.

The real use of the PSAT score is to help determine if the student is better in the SAT or the ACT. We are holding a mock ACT here at ElRo this weekend, but there are also online tests and alternative in person practice exams offered throughout the city. Use this concordance table to compare PSAT scores to ACT scores. 

The point is to take a snapshot of the student's raw ability and see if there is an advantage to using one test over the other. Many students are even on both, and for them you just pick the test you like better.

I recommend taking the 'real' SAT or ACT two times total. At least one of those times needs to be during junior year. But, some students like to study over the summer and take their second administration the first offering of senior year. Every student is unique and should follow the testing plan that works best for them.

Note: This year the DOE is paying for all students to take a real SAT in school on April 5th. This exam will not include the optional writing section. If you are an 'ACT Kid' don't worry, this exam is not sent to colleges unless you specifically want it to be-- your score will not impact your college applications unless you want it to be seen.

If you are a junior looking to take a Kaplan group class at ElRo in the spring in preparation for the March/April SAT or April ACT, use this link to register. Classes are dependent on meeting minimum enrollment, so sign up now if you are interested.

If you have additional questions about standardized testing, be sure to save the date for the 'Demystifying Standardized Testing' evening event on January 19 at 6:00 pm here at ElRo.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When you say 2 weeks, does that mean . . . .

The very first assemblies of the school year this year, I shared with seniors that our school policy is that you need to meet with me prior to submitting applications and that you should build in about two weeks of processing time for your school documents after you submit a transcript request form.

I gave this advanced notice and I include these instructions, in writing, on the transcript request form because I want to be crystal clear about what I'm able to guarantee to you as your college counselor.

Let's break it down:

Why do you want to meet first before I press submit?
  • I want to meet with you before you press submit for a few reasons. The most important one is I want to make sure that if there are any tips that I can share that will improve your application, you have time to make those changes prior to sending in the app. I also talk with you about things like if you are getting an Advanced Regents Diploma, if you press submit without touching base with me you might miss out in remembering to include things that will strengthen your application. 
  • I also want you to use your time and resources to maximize your college outcomes. I want you to be able to reflect on the advice I give during your meeting so that if you need to cut a school or add a different one you can without having paid for applications you end up not wanting. 
Why can't I give you a transcript request form before I have applied?
  • There are 146 of you and 1 of me. I encourage 10 apps or less, but some of you don't take that advice. Long story short, the amount of time I have does not correlate super well to the amount of tasks I need to do. In an average week in the fall, I'm working about 20 additional hours on top of the 40 that I get paid for, in order to make the college office run smoothly. This is not a complaint. I love my job. I share this so you can understand the context. It is because of this that I need to work efficiently. That means I need to know that if I send in a transcript for you, it is going to a real app that already exists. Teens have a habit of changing their minds, I don't have the ability to do work for apps that don't already have active files at the college. 
  • I also ask you to attach proof that you've applied because I'm trying to protect you. Even with this system, we once had a student who forgot to submit a supplement and didn't realize it until March. That meant that student's app was incomplete and they were not longer able to be considered for admission at that school. There are a lot of things to organize in this process, I want to force you to verify that you've applied so you can prevent silly mistakes (like forgetting to actually apply) from happening.  
  • The final reason I ask for the application to be submitted before requesting the transcript to be sent is that I'm trying to look out for you and your application file. I've worked at a college before. The number of documents looking to be matched with files is mind boggling. When you send a document for a student who doesn't have an application it has no where to go once it arrives at the college. It just floats around in the admissions office ether. However, when I send a transcript to a college for a student who has already applied, their computer system can automatically recognize the student's name and info and the document can be put directly into the appropriate file. 
Why do you need 2 weeks to process the request?
  • Let's first start by making sure you understand that I would NEVER intentionally hold on to documents for 2 weeks in order to start processing them. This 2 week window is not a minimum processing time, it is a maximum processing time. I put that on the form because I need you to understand that there are many many days where even when I put in a full school day and an additional 3 hours after school, I still can't always get to everything on my 'to do' list. 
  • But, I can confidently say that if you give me a transcript request form and then you contact that college 14 days later, your transcript will be there and be fully processed.
  • Believe it or not, this college application process is also about your becoming an adult and your building habits that you'll continue to use into adulthood. I'm trying to urge you to complete things in advance of deadlines because that is a good habit to be in for your life in general. Completing your taxes the day they are due is a bad idea. Waiting to renew your passport until right before an international trip is a bad idea. You see where I'm going with this . . .
Is it ok if I give you a transcript request form less than 2 weeks before a deadline?
  • The answer here depends on your personal comfort level. A lot of ElRo students do not like the idea of calling a college on the day of the deadline and hearing that their application is incomplete. If this is you, you need to give me 2 weeks processing time.
  • The good news though is that for 99% of colleges, deadlines are for the student portion of the application. They will happily accept (and actually expect to see) lots of supporting documents roll in after deadlines have passed. 
  •  Exceptions here are: University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and University of Texas at Austin. These three places are more strict about deadlines and really do want files completed by the deadline. 
  • The moral here is the longer you wait to submit and the closer to the deadline you request documents, the lower the chance of me being able to guarantee that your items will be processed by the college by the deadline date. 
A few additional requests:
  • Please don't invent additional document information on the transcript request form. You don't need to tell me on the form about final reports. Final reports are automatic for every student for the place they enroll. I don't ask about it on the form because I don't need to know about it right now. Just follow the instructions and respond to the prompts on the form. 
  • Please don't staple multiple colleges' forms together. The form is a coversheet and should be separate for every individual colleges. No binder clips. No envelopes. Every time you do this you slow down my processing because I need to manually remove each form and search for the proof and attach it.  
  • Please don't print proof of multiple schools on the same page. I love being green and I totally understand why you'd be motivated to do this, but I really need the proof attached individually and the coversheets to be individual. The only exception to this is CUNY and that is stated on the form. Because that is one app for 6 schools, you can do just one coversheet and one page of proof for CUNY schools. 
  • Please complete the forms with care. Every time you phone it in and don't actually read what you are filling out you slow down my processing. When you check the box for senior grades to Maryland, I know you are not taking care. Maryland doesn't allow senior grades. When you write two teachers instead of one for Indiana University, I know you aren't taking care. Indiana only allows a max of one teacher letter. It is your responsibility to know what each of your schools requires. If you don't know what is required, look it up on their website (or the Common App).
We are two members of the same team and that team is trying to get you admitted to college. If we work together on this we will get the best results.

If you don't see any hard copy blank transcript request forms in the guidance office, you can always print them from the College Office website


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Columbus NACAC Day 3!

For the closing day of NACAC I decided to go to two sessions: one about the national job outlook and one about the teenage brain.

The job outlook session was presented by the Department of Labor. While it was, admittedly, not the most lively of sessions, I did get to learn a lot about the careers that are projected to be growing rapidly in the coming years (along with those that are on the decline). Healthcare is the fastest growing sector and jobs in this field are the ones that are expanding at the fastest rates. This doesn't mean doctors though, it mostly means nurses (including nurse practitioners), home health aides, and other health support occupations. There are anticipated to be many job openings for people without formal education, but those jobs are expected to pay very very low wages. The earnings for a person with a bachelor's degree outpaces those without by more than double in terms of annual income. It is also projected that the sector of jobs with the most hiring will actually be careers that require a Master's degree - something to keep in mind for anyone concerned about the cost of college. One of the most useful things shared at the session was the website that will give state by state job predictions for different career paths. This can help show the landscape of how many openings there might be in New York in the next eight years.

For a national look at job trends, you can also look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook

The most interesting trivia is that the job with the fastest job growth in the nation is wind turbine technicians. It only represents about 4800 jobs nationally, but no other job is expanding more quickly.

The next session I went to was a talk by author and physician Dr. Frances Jensen. She presented a session called 'The Teenage (and Young Adult) Brain: Neuroscience You Can Use.' She shared that some of the behaviors that we marginalize (like risk taking and poor decision making) are actually neurologically appropriate behavior for teens. That isn't to say that unhealthy choices should be encouraged, but she encourages instead looking at it through a lens of normal human development. It turns out the brain is the last organ in the human body to fully develop. Research indicates that the brain is not fully connected and functioning until the mid to late twenties - far after college is complete. The parts to mature last are those connected with things like empathy, decision making, executive functioning, and impulse control (all located in the frontal lobe). The brain has connections within it called synapses and those synapses are insulated by a fatty substance called myelin. It takes years the the myelin to fully wrap around the connections and this it the reason teenagers can have a somewhat 'uneven' behavior and decision making. If this prognosis is feeling bleak though, it isn't. While these 'unfinished' teen brains might sometimes be thrill seeking or highly emotional, they are also at their peak in terms of learning new things, building new and strong connections faster, and being plastic. This means that the teenage years are actually a wonderful window within which one can build new (and very strong) habits. If teens can work on practicing positive behaviors, those behaviors can become second nature. 

In this same way, teens are also much more highly susceptible to addiction. Bad habits can become addiction in teens much faster and with much less exposure than adults. This is why exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years, while the brain is not yet fully mature, can lead to much more serious lingering issues (including not just addiction but also some mental illness.) Her comments on marijuana and alcohol were very interesting, but the one I found most enlightening is that marijuana has lingering results on synapses (aka brain connections) for about four days. So for a teen that is choosing to 'let loose' on the weekend can absolutely see lingering cognitive effects well into the school week. Her advice to help the teenage brain operate at peak function is to maximize quality sleep and minimize distraction (particularly from screens). 

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at NACAC. I got to visit three great (and very different) campuses, connect (and reconnect) with colleagues, and get essential updates on some of the things changing the most quickly within college admissions. I want to take this opportunity to thank the PTA for their generous support of my attending this conference (and the college office in general). Next year, Boston!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Columbus NACAC Day 2!

Today started bright and early with my first in-person meeting of the Coalition Counselor Committee. I shouldn't really call it a meeting, since it was more of a breakfast meet and greet, but it was the start of my day all the same. It was nice to finally put a face to the names on the emails that have come through my inbox during the past year. If nothing else, there certainly seemed to be less anxious buzz about the Coalition compared to last year. At ElRo, I've encouraged only students applying to the University of Florida to use the app this go around, but time will tell how the platform performs during this its first cycle.

My first session of the morning was the overview of Naviance. While they spent a little too much time talking about Naviance for elementary school (yes, that is apparently a thing), it was exciting to get a sneak peek at what is in store for the site. There look to be some pretty overdue cosmetic changes, along with other nice improvements like embedding net price estimates based on income band and letting students know about college open houses and local fairs. They are also working on some pretty powerful data analysis that will allow counselors to predict the relative 'risk' of a student's list (and thus know which students to reach out to first when it comes to troubleshooting).

Next Thursday evening, September 29, I will be sharing with students and families information about the 2017-2018 FAFSA. As such, I wanted to make sure to attend the Department of Educations FAFSA session at NACAC this year. I left the session feeling like the Dept of Ed actually has a pretty decent handle on this rollout and I hope, hope, hope I'm right! We got some nice resources to be able to share with students and I also got the impression that the new FAFSA will be far less complicated than it has ever been in the past. The key for any senior reading this post right now is that you should go ahead and get your FSA ID if you haven't already. Your FSA ID (one parent from the FAFSA will need one too) is your electronic signature and you'll need the ID before you can fully submit the FAFSA. Imagine how crowded that site is going to be on October 1 when the FAFSA goes live? Can you picture it? Ok, now go get your FSA ID right now. Here is the site:

My final session of the day was about working with students with learning disabilities. As we have more and more diverse learners at ElRo, I want to do my best to be prepared to work with them and serve their needs. The session covered a lot of ground but I'll leave a few of the more useful tips here:
  • Students who have been previously evaluated with a WISC probably should request a new evaluation once they are 18 because the C in WISC stand for 'children' that tool is not going to serve a student in adulthood. 
  • There is a big difference between a "support program" and a "students with disabilities tutoring center". Most colleges offer the latter, often in the form of peer tutors, but the ideal setting for a student with a learning difference is to have a professional special education in a formal support program. About 75 programs have been identified by the presenter and he directed us to the NACAC textbook to see that list. (*I had no idea there was something called a NACAC textbook!)
  • A great way to help students focus (especially if they have ADHD) is to have them stand in a 'power pose' for two minutes (recommended pose: hands in fists overhead). This helps release testosterone and combat cortisol - an ideal combination prior to giving a presentation or taking a test. 
The final portion of the day is the annual Counselor College Fair. This is about as overwhelming as you might imagine, with every college present and every high school counselor going from table to table picking up material. It is certainly a nice time to reconnect (and see who has moved schools!) but it is exhausting.

Tomorrow is the final day of the conference and I look forward to a few more sessions before leaving Ohio!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Columbus NACAC - Day 1

The NACAC conference is officially in session!

I spent the morning at a lecture sponsored by SMU where we got to hear from a wonderful SMU faculty member, Dr. Maria Dixon Hall. She spoke to us about a new initiative at SMU to try and shift the culture around race and culture on campus. The plan is to not just implement orientation trainings or hire faculty of color but to instead try to help all students increase their cultural intelligence. Her recommendations for how to do that in your every day life is to try and not just talk to a person from a different culture but to instead try and understand their culture through exposure. Perhaps her most interesting suggestion is to visit a grocery story -- a place to observe very nuanced cultural behaviors. It was a wonderful talk and a great way to start the day.
His head is a Buckeye! (Ohio State mascot, tree byproduct, and delicious peanut butter and chocolate treat)
For the afternoon, I checked off one more college visit by going to see The Ohio State University. As the third most affordable school in the Big 10 for out of state students, Ohio State should probably see more traffic from ElRo students than it does. In and out of state students are evaluated on the same 10 factors and preference is not given based on residency the way it might be at public land grant universities in other states. Letters of Recommendation are optional and OSU is on the Common App. Best of all, there is merit money available to students to the tune of full tuition. In order to qualify for merit aid, students must apply by no later than November 1. There are also some additional essays to complete in order to compete for some of these merit dollars. To learn more, look up the National Buckeye program and Morrill Scholarship on their website. Like other Big 10 schools, the benefits here include endless academic options, massive amounts of research, and serious school spirit.
The Oval
I also want to point out that when I try to explain to families that the cost of living in the Midwest will help pay back the cost of the plane ticket, here is what I mean:

This cost me $6.80. That salad had Kale and quinoa in it. KALE. Plus a drink and banana.

In an interesting stroke of luck, the Geology museum on campus has this gorgeous quartz found in the 1800s in Ellenville, NY -- home of the ElRo senior trip!
I finished out the day by attending the annual NYSACAC meeting and connecting with fellow New Yorkers here at the conference.

Tomorrow is always the hardest day with an early start and late finish, so I'm signing off for now.

OH-- IO!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thanks Oberlin!

Today I had the opportunity to visit Oberlin College and I can now understand why we have had five ElRo students in the past four years enroll at this school.

Oberlin is a small liberal arts college with two divisions: the college and the music conservatory. It is known as a place that is progressive, open-minded, expressive, and creative. I think the thing I was most struck by was the people. The students seemed genuinely happy to be there and the environment was accepting and warm.

Unique elements of Oberlin include the fact that they have 3 required January Terms (J-Term for short) for all students where they undertake a project or internship. These can range from doing science research to writing a screenplay to exploring their career interest. Many peer institutions might feel isolated or exclusionary (with literal gates around campus), but not Oberlin. They pride themselves on being well integrated into the town of Oberlin. The conservatory at Oberlin is unique for its focus on undergraduate students (many conservatory programs allot huge portions of the resources to graduate students, but Oberlin hardly has any graduate students in music). About one third of conservatory students earn a double degree in the Liberal Arts. I should also add that it is very unique to see an Admissions staff with so many veteran members. Almost everyone in the office has been there more than 5 years, with many people there over 15 years. That is not the status quo and is a sign that people really believe in the mission and are treated well by the administration.

Oberlin was the first college to graduate a person of color and the first to award a degree to a woman in a co-ed setting. This is a place that wants to break barriers, tackle difficult questions, and honor their own moral and ethical code. I don't get the impression that this is a campus where students spend energy on surface things like clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. The 'come as you are' vibe is palpable. It is the kind of place that cares about the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, and equal pay. If those are not the kind of conversations you want to hear in the dining hall, this school should not be on your list.

ElRo takes Oberlin!
A highlight of the visit was getting to connect with Caley W. - ElRo Class of 2013. She is a student athlete (soccer) and said that she has loved her experience at Oberlin. She is a fourth year majoring in Economics and told me that she feels like Oberlin helped her grow more than she ever expected. I am so proud of her!

I'm now in Columbus, eager to reconnect with colleagues and attend sessions at NACAC!