Friday, October 17, 2014

What To Expect From the College Process - Wrap Up

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the "What To Expect From the College Process" Q&A last night. I loved having the chance to answer questions and clarify how the college journey works. Many questions seemed to surround the issue of testing. If you want to read more about this topic, there are multiple blog posts about it, so feel free to peruse that at your leisure.

If you want more information about the new SAT (for current 10th graders and younger), click here

If you want more information about the ElRo College Office, click here

If you want more information about researching colleges, click here

If you want more information about Colleges That Change Lives, click here

If you want more information about Financial Aid, click here


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Indianapolis NACAC Day 3

       Because I didn't attend the College Board session about the redesigned SAT earlier in the conference, for today's first morning session I decided to go to "Strategic Sophomore/Junior Recruitment--Understanding the Impact of the Redesigned PSAT and SAT." Though designed for colleges, I find that attending post-secondary sessions can sometimes actually be more informative than sessions designed for high school counselors. As with the previously announced information about the new exam, some key changes on the new test include: a new focus on relevant words in context, command of evidence in reading, an essay that requires analyzing a source, math focused on 3 key areas, problems grounded in real world contexts, and some analysis of science and social sciences. There PSAT will also now be scored on the same scale as the SAT. The first redesigned exam will be offered in March of 2016 and the College Board warns there will most likely be delays in score delivery and concordance publication as the exam is carefully normed. In advance of the changes, colleges are encouraged to take an inventory of all places where SAT scores are used (beyond admission - places like course placement, financial aid, etc) and emphasize to all staff across these departments what the official stance of the college is going to be. Because decisions about what scores will be accepted are going to happen on a college by college basis, it will be essential for students and families to keep organized notes about each school's policies and procedures. This issue is of particular importance for current 10th grade students, who will be straddling the shift, having taken the current PSAT, the new PSAT (next fall) and the new SAT (Spring 2016). As a high school counselor, I am curious how student behavior will be impacted. Will 10th grade students opt to take the ACT because it has less of an 'unknown' factor. Will they instead take both versions, in the hopes of doing better on one exam compared to the other? As the panel pointed out, we can hypothesize that most colleges will continue to take whatever data makes the student look most favorable, but I'm sure plenty of people who are vulnerable to the pressure cooker machine will be fearful of picking the wrong test (old vs new). 

        My second session was possibly the best session I've attended this conference, mainly because the presentation was well organized and it made me ponder some philosophical questions about the industry, application process, and enrollment data. I like thinking big and this session was the type that makes your brain overflow. The session was called "Matching the Under Matched Student: Big Data and Small Colleges Offer Strategies for Success." The panel included representation from Franklin & Marshall, Carleton, and Third Coast Analytics. Anyone interested in seeing the powerpoint can download it from the Third Coast website. The session looked into how small colleges can use data to identify and recruit high achieving low income students (the ones that Hoxby and Avery identified in their study -- students who have the profile of what highly selective schools are looking for but who are not applying to highly selective colleges). Research shows that the most significant factor that prevent students in this group from going to college is family issues. Certainly this is something that colleges can't control, but if the recruitment process focuses on recruiting the family and not just the student the yield usually improves. I'm not going to regurgitate the entire session here - but the discussion got me thinking: if these small selective colleges do, in fact, find a way to yield a higher number of these low income high achieving students that were previously not applying to selective colleges, what will the trickle down effect be on the colleges they used to go to? Are we, as an industry, placing our own values (that highly selective colleges are better colleges) on these students and families when for some students the less selective school they were going to go to (where they were the most high achieving student in the pool) would have maybe been a better fit? Will we be creating a system that guarantees that the 'top' schools get better and the lower tier schools don't have a fighting chance of improving their academic profile. This isn't to say that I don't think low income students should not be actively recruited. Or that I don't encourage ElRo's own low income students to add highly selective schools to their lists. But, I fear that the study dismisses the possibility that for some students (of all ability and SES levels) a less selective school might be the right fit for them. 

        The final session of the conference this year was tough for me to pick. I was being very indesivie and honestly ended up just going in to the session that an admission counselor friend was also going into. The topic was similar, about the same low income high achieving students and their enrollment patterns. Though the topic was similar to the earlier session, the presentation and information was, in fact, different. The key takeaway was that even though we aim to have higher education act as a bridge to help level the playing field for low income students, trends indicate that barriers remain and there is still much work to be done. 

        As always, I thank the PTA for their generous support in sponsoring my trip to NACAC. As someone that works in an 'office of one' it is deeply meaningful for me to get to spend a few days per year in a large group of colleagues, peers, and friends. I think Indianapolis was a wonderful host city and I am already looking forward to next year in San Diego. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

Indianapolis NACAC Day 2

Day two got off to an early start with a public colleges of Virginia breakfast this morning. You might remember my experience visiting VCU two summers ago, and that helped push me over the edge to arrive early today to hear about the other public options in Virginia. As with most states, I think the attention gets placed on one or two (usually land grant) universities and it can be easy to forget just how diverse the public options are across the country. The breakfast was a good reminder that there are options beyond just the things you've heard of. Thanks to the public colleges of Virginia for hosting!

My first session this morning was the Common Application session - one that in year's past has been packed and fully of passionate debate. This year's session was surprisingly empty, perhaps a sign that the issues and apologies from last year are in the past. Admittedly, I would have preferred the presentation focus a bit more on showing us the inside of the application, particularly new updates, but there was an opportunity to share ideas with the CEO and other key CA players.

Second, I attended the "Closer Look at Early Action Admissions: Inside the College Admissions Office," an inside look at the Early programs at Boston College, University of Michigan, MIT, and Notre Dame. One theme seemed to be that highly selective schools are erring more and more on the side of caution, being cautious about filling too much of the class through Early Action. At two of the three schools that provided data, the yield was significantly higher (about 10 points) for EA applicants. But it was also stressed that while statistically odds of admission in early can be higher, the profile of admitted EA students is consistent with that of students admitted in the regular round. The issue of deferring EA students was defended as a necessary evil, as EA applicants are 'tightly bunched' making it near impossible to predict who will be admissible in the general pool. For all schools that provided data, there were students deferred and then later admitted, confirming that defer really does not automatically mean deny.

My last session of the day was actually a departure for me, instead of attending an educational session I attended a featured speaker presentation by Madeline Levine. Levine is an author and psychologist who specializes in issues facing students of affluent families. She wrote a book called "The Price of Privilege" and spoke about the increased chance of students from wealthy communities facing mental health issues. She is particularly interested in looking at the pressures that parents place on their children and a recent trend of pressures student place on themselves. The golden ticket is seen to be an Ivy League education, but 17% of Ivy League students are going back to their rooms and self injuring. How can we teach kids to have successful failures? How can we use the opportunities life provides to have kids cope with developmentally appropriate responses to stress? Only 7% of parents think that their children use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress - when asked 73% of kids reported using drugs and alcohol to cope with stress (with the largest stressor being academics). Instead of wanting kids who are perfect at everything, parents should embrace the natural strengths in their kids. A recent study suggests that to reach top executive corporate levels, individuals only need be experts in 3 out of 16 competencies. No one is perfect and no one needs to be. Levine says that affluent communities want to live in a world where average doesn’t exist. But that isn’t real life and, with thought, people will see that they are actually average at most things. And that is ok. Her final slide summarized it well in saying “While we all hope that our children will do well in school, we hope with even greater fervor that they will do well in life.” Levine was a lovely speaker and I plan to read her book after hearing her speak. 

I look forward to the final day tomorrow (and my final volunteer shift at the conference social).