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).