Archive | April, 2012

Please Choose Us

24 Apr

April is the time of year in the admissions calendar when colleges woo admitted students in the hopes of persuading them to accept the college. All month long, colleges around the country are holding open houses, inviting admitted students and their families to visit, to meet with current students, to stay overnight, and to sit in on classes. Some colleges arrange alumni regional receptions for students who cannot make it to the campus. All of these efforts are designed to give undecided students a chance to compare, contrast, and ask all the questions that are on their minds. It is now the colleges who are competing for a student’s affection.

Colleges and universities care about their enrollment yield but it is hardly an exact science and some years they get it wrong. One year the University of Pennsylvania had higher enrollment acceptances than expected and because it guarantees housing for all freshmen, the University scrambled to find housing and ended up renting rooms in a nearby hotel to accommodate everyone.

It may not surprise anyone that Harvard and Stanford boast the highest enrollment yields (over 70%). Other higher education institutions with similarly impressive enrollment yields include Brigham Young University, Yeshiva University, the three military service academies of West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy, Savannah State University, Berea College, and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

For seniors who are weighing their choices, they have one week left before they need to decide where they want to go and send in their tuition deposits by May 1. So this can be a stressful time for parents and students alike as discussions are held around the dinner table or in the car about the merits and drawbacks of each school, its cost, and other considerations. For those who would like to share their experiences as a parent or student, please feel free to post below.

The Most Popular Major

16 Apr

For the last three decades, a little over 20% of all American college students have opted to major in business, making it the most popular undergraduate field. Two weeks ago, Melissa Korn of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article that questioned the value of an undergraduate business degree. Last year the New York Times published an article by David Glenn that raised concerns about the rigor of business school curriculums. Both articles describe the problems and changes that are afoot in undergraduate business education. More undergraduate business schools are rethinking their curriculum to require students to take liberal arts courses that sharpen critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills.

This development seems to be a response to recruiters, who are looking for employees who, because of exposure to various academic disciplines, can think creatively and see the big picture. In fact, many companies look for non-business majors to diversify their workforce. It’s not unusual to see economics majors land jobs on Wall Street alongside finance majors.

When you think about it, a graduate business degree (M.B.A) takes two years to complete so it would make sense that liberal arts study can be incorporated into the curriculum. The Glenn article notes that the lack of rigor in an undergraduate business education is not applicable to institutions like the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania or those at the top of the business school pecking order.

This is not at all to say that an undergraduate business degree has little value. For high school students considering business school for undergraduate study, it’s a good idea to evaluate whether the curriculum is flexible enough to allow them to take other courses that interest them, courses that are not related to business. Not only will taking humanities, social science or science courses be a change from business classes, it will also expand one’s intellectual horizons. In the end, that is what a good education should achieve.

D-Day 1

1 Apr

April 1st is D-Day 1 in college admissions, the date by which all colleges will have notified their applicants as to whether they have been admitted, wait-listed, or rejected (I’ll get to D-Day 2 later). Last Thursday the 29th the Ivy League universities released their regular decision results. That evening, my daughter trolled Facebook to see who got admitted where. To her surprise, there were few postings on her news feed.

The next day she found out why. Someone in her class called it a Bloodless Massacre. Many of the students in the top 5% of the class were shut out of their top choices. The presumed valedictorian was rejected from Harvard (but no need to feel sorry for her because she got into Yale, MIT, and Princeton). According to my daughter, only one person was admitted into Columbia, one was admitted into Harvard, two got into Brown and two into Dartmouth. Between regular and early decisions, Penn and Cornell have each admitted at least half a dozen students. We will know more in June when the guidance office releases a list of where everyone will be attending college.

The initial impression is that it is more difficult than ever to get into the Ivies, even for those who rank in the top 5% of the class. According to Harvard’s website, there were 3,800 applicants who ranked number one in their class and there are only a little over 1,650 freshmen places. This is a reminder that at the most selective institutions, the colleges can fill their incoming classes at least twice over with qualified candidates.

Other than the low numbers of students from our high school getting into the Ivies, there were other shockers too, of students who got in somewhere that their classmates did not expect them to. In this sense, this year is no different than other years. In the end, we do not know the complete picture of what is in a student’s application and what goes on in the admissions committee. That’s why it makes for a confounding experience each year for everyone on this side of the admissions process.

To be sure, the disappointments will be deeply felt, but the reality is that here in America, we have more choices in quality higher education than in a lot of other countries. In my experience of talking to college students at different universities, most seem happy with where they eventually ended up. And that is no small consolation and hope that we can offer as parents.

Next D-Day is May 1st, when the colleges hear back from their accepted students as to whether they will enroll.

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