Tag Archives: admission rate

President Obama to Speak at Barnard College

7 Mar

This weekend we were excited to learn that President Obama will be giving the keynote address at Barnard College’s commencement this May. Whether you like the President or not, it’s a coup for the college to land him as speaker. The consensus opinion is that he will be using the occasion to appeal to women and youth voters, two groups that pundits say are necessary to his re-election. Tickets to the graduation have become sizzling hot. For the rest of us, we will have to watch the speech live on Barnard’s website.

The news about President Obama has also publicly exposed simmering tensions between Columbia University and Barnard. I noted in a post from 2010 that some Columbia students believe that Barnard students are inferior to them, either because Barnard ranks lower in national rankings or because Columbia is more difficult to get into (7% acceptance rate for Columbia vs. 25% for Barnard). In reaction to the President choosing to speak at Barnard over Columbia, students have taken to the blogosphere to vent, with many doing so behind the cloak of anonymity.

Some of the comments are downright mean-spirited and have distressed and embarrassed many Columbia and Barnard students and administrators alike. So much so that a Facebook page was formed, calling for all the Columbia schools to come together against the anonymous hurling of insults. The presidents of Barnard and Columbia issued a joint statement saying, “disrespectful comments are not representative of our community.”

It’s heartening to see the Columbia University community speaking out against the nastiness of the exchange and I hope change will occur that addresses the attitudes behind the comments. I always knew that my daughter would receive a fine education at Barnard as she heads there this fall. I just didn’t think that her education would begin right now, as she witnesses this controversy and thinks critically about it for herself.

Montclair State University – Public Option Part I

30 Nov

Monkey Mama is willing to risk an onslaught of vituperation from the Tea Party movement when she avers that the United States of America owes a great deal of its success to its early commitment to public education.  Montclair State University (MSU) began life as a “normal school,” in 1908, dedicated to training teachers.

Today MSU is a full fledged university located on 252 acres in Essex County, New Jersey, 14 miles west of New York City.  Those miles may be traversed aboard New Jersey Transit directly into New York Penn Station.  The original architects balked at the ivy-clad traditions of other northeastern colleges and opted in favor of whitewashed, Spanish Mission-style buildings.  Some newer buildings, including University Hall and the Student Recreation Center, mimic the older architecture, and even the imposing Alexander Kasser Theater, host to many concerts and performances by world-class artists, attempts to meld the Mission motifs with its modern design elements.

Although traditional pedagogical training is still prominent within the university, there are undergraduate colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, Business, the Arts, and Education and Human Services.  MSU is in the process of remodeling several dormitories and constructing a new residence hall.  The main campus is small and students can easily walk around.  There are many dining options, including a traditional-style diner with 24-hour service during the school year.  Tuition and fees for New Jersey residents in 2011-2012 is $10,646 with room rates ranging from $6,802 for a triple in the irresistibly-named Frank Sinatra Hall, to $10,140 for a single.  Meal plan options range from several hundred dollars to about $4,000.

Monkey Mama and Son had arranged for a personal meeting with a representative of the theater department following our campus tour.  She showed us the main theater, “black box,” and rehearsal spaces, and shared some insights regarding the audition and application process.  MSU’s overall acceptance rate is about 50%, with roughly one-third of its accepted students enrolling.  The average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1500 out of 2400, and the average unweighted G.P.A. was listed as 3.2.

The acting B.F.A. program, on the other hand, only accepts 14 to 16 students each year, and is considered highly desirable.  MSU holds some auditions on campus and also participates in the regional Unified Auditions.  The Unified Auditions give the university an opportunity to view a wider pool of the most talented candidates but as a state-funded college, it is not able to offer generous financial aid packages to out-of-state applicants, thus giving an advantage to private conservatories.

Alma Mater: Not Penn State

14 Nov

Ok, the title of this post is a cheap shot.  I admit it.  When I attended the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980’s, there was a popular T-shirt on campus that read: “Not Penn State.”  Apparently people often got my alma mater confused with Penn State, much to our annoyance.  Back then many Penn students like myself had an inferiority complex, having been shut out of the Ivy League Big Three (Harvard, Princeton, Yale).  So for people to think that we attended Penn State felt like they were pouring salt on wound.

Those days are long gone.  In fact, I probably can’t get admitted today.  As for that “Not Penn State” T-shirt, I didn’t see any on my recent visit to campus.  Judging from the early decision statistics, many students now make Penn their first choice and half the entering class is filled through early decision.  It’s no wonder our high school guidance department advises students to apply early if they want to go to Penn.  In 2011, the overall admission rate was 12% but 26% of early applicants were admitted.  (It will be interesting to see whether Harvard and Princeton’s re-institution of early action will siphon off candidates from Penn’s early decision pool).

Penn also likes to admit children and grandchildren of alumni.  Whether you believe legacy preference is fair or not, Penn wants to attract legacy students.  It created the Alumni Council on Admissions to help alumni families determine whether Penn is the right college, and to advise legacy applicants how best to present themselves.  In early decision, 38% to 42% of legacy applicants are admitted.  But the legacy advantage only seems to matter in early decision and is less of a factor in regular decision.  Penn is a popular choice at our high school and each year over two-dozen seniors apply.  Penn usually accepts about half a dozen students, almost all through early decision.

When we visited the campus, it was on a beautiful early spring day.  The lovely weather brought the students outside in full force and they thronged Locust Walk, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Penn’s campus.  Tables were set up along the Walk and students were loudly hawking tickets to dances, shows, and other campus happenings.  The atmosphere felt festive.  Maybe it was the bright sunshine but the buildings seemed spiffier than I remembered.  The Wharton undergraduate business school is housed in a new building, Huntsman Hall, named after its benefactor, Jon M. Huntsman, father of the Republican presidential candidate and former ambassador to China, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.  The building inside is gorgeous, with polished wood interiors and state-of-the-art teaching equipment.  Thanks to its many successful alumni, the Wharton School has always received out-sized alumni donations.

Penn has four undergraduate colleges – liberal arts, business, engineering and nursing – and is the second largest Ivy League university.  Total enrollment numbers around 9,700 undergraduates.  An interdisciplinary approach to academics is highly encouraged, reflecting founder Benjamin Franklin’s belief in an education that is strong in the professions and the liberal arts.  So regardless of which college students are enrolled in, they may take classes in any of the four schools.  There are more opportunities than in my day to pursue dual degrees such as international studies and business, management and technology, nursing and health care management, life sciences and management, computers and cognitive science.  Some unusual majors that I remember from thirty years ago, like history and sociology of science or biological basis of behavior, are still being offered.

As a heavily pre-professional university, many of my classmates went on to pursue graduate degrees in business, law, and medicine.  I suspect that this has not changed.  It is a university that has only gotten better with time.

The Coast Guard is Calling

30 Sep

The powerful beams of spotlight swept across the black churning water and revealed the yacht bobbing on the waves.  The sound of thumping helicopter rotors could be heard above the roar of the ocean waves.  A stentorian and authoritative voice boomed out over the loudspeaker, announcing clearly to all on board,

“This is the United States Coast Guard.  Do not attempt to move your vessel.  Repeat.  Do not…”

I smile at the memory.  When we first watched X-Men: First Class (out on DVD, highly recommended) in the movie theater, I had burst out laughing at this point, which was an incongruous response because the scene was tense and suspenseful.  I had nudged my daughter in the elbow and in the dark of the movie theater I could see her smile at our shared inside joke.  Meanwhile, the action on screen continued.  Were the bad guys going to escape?  Is this where Magneeto and Professor X finally meet?

Weeks before seeing X-Men, the Coast Guard had called.  The caller ID flashed “College Admissi” and I recognized the area code to be from the Philadelphia area.  My heart skipped a beat as I thought wildly, was it the University of Pennsylvania calling to recruit her?  Hey, I’m allowed to dream.  I was up to my elbows washing dishes and so I yelled for my husband to pick up.  My daughter was still eating her dinner.

“Yes…who shall I say is calling?” he asked.  After listening, he handed the phone over to her.

“It’s the Coast Guard,” he said.  He could have said that she was not available but it seemed bad form to lie to the Coast Guard.  My daughter shot us a quizzical frown and took the phone.

“Hello?” she tentatively inquired, her usual high pitch voice went up a higher notch.  After a brief pause, she said,

“I haven’t really thought about it.”  Meanwhile my husband and I started to giggle.

“Okay…you can…” she replied to another question and proceeded to give her email address.

“Okay, bye,” she said and hung up.  The three of us collapsed with mirth.

We laughed not at the idea of serving our country.  We laughed because we couldn’t imagine her going through the grueling physical training required at the Coast Guard Academy or other service academies.  My daughter is singularly athletically ungifted, having the misfortune of inheriting my lack of athletic ability (there are incriminating home movies of me coming in last in school races).  As a baby, she was perfectly content to sit and play with her toys while other babies were eagerly crawling, scooting, and exploring their surroundings.  She was also a late walker.  Why walk when you can be carried everywhere?

The Coast Guard Academy requires a recommendation from the gym teacher in addition to two academic recommendations (yes, she checked).  Admission is highly competitive with a low 17% admissions rate but unlike West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, or the Merchant Marine Academy, applicants do not need a nomination from their Senator.  Tuition for all four years of education and training is free, courtesy of the federal government and upon graduation cadets have to serve five years.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to obtain a first class education and to be assured of a job upon graduation.

Too bad she can’t take advantage of it.

“I Just Don’t Feel It”

4 Jun

“I just don’t feel it,” said my daughter.

“What do you mean?  Why?” I asked.

She shrugged and didn’t say anything else.  We were discussing a university that we had visited and I eagerly wanted to know what she thought of it.  It was a big name ivy-clad university with a beautiful campus and it offered the types of programs she was looking for.  Notoriously difficult to get into, it would be a “reach” school, but I was hoping she wanted to “reach” for it.  She didn’t.

The lack of specificity in her response left me feeling frustrated.  Sometimes she could explain her reasons: “Too small,” “Too much of a pressure cooker,” or “It’s in the middle of nowhere.”  So I wanted her to give me a thoughtful reason but none was forthcoming.  I tried a different approach.

“You know, this can be one of your “reach” schools.  You need one or two “reach” schools on your list,” I reminded her.

No reaction.

When we started visiting colleges, I quickly discovered that our reactions to colleges could differ greatly.  Some college campuses that seemed perfectly fine to me held no appeal for her.  Sometimes she knew why she didn’t like a place but just as often she would say, “I don’t know,” followed by a noncommittal shrug that communicated nothing else other than her lack of enthusiasm.

I have been told that sometimes kids are just not able to explain why they don’t like a particular school.  The standard advice from guidance counselors and admissions officers alike is for parents to accede to the child’s feeling and move on.  A part of me acknowledges the wisdom of this advice but another part of me questions whether 17-year-olds can know what’s best for them.

So I find myself unable to shake off my frustration and every so often, I will ask her again albeit with different questions all with the purpose of drawing a reasoned response:  “So…why did you not like that college again?”  “Are you put off by the low admissions rate?”  Call me persistent but of course she is equally persistent in giving me the same answers.  You would think that I would have learned by now to let it go.

And perhaps one day I will.

Trip review: American University

9 May

American University (AU) was the last college we visited in the Washington D.C. area in February.  Located off Massachusetts Avenue within walking distance of the Tenleytown metro stop on the red line, AU is similar in size to Georgetown with 6,300 undergraduates.  Most of its campus buildings are arrayed around a large green quadrangle and the buildings are an eclectic mix of modern and neoclassical architecture.

We were shut out of the information session (AU requires early registration to attend an information session) so we waited around for the campus tour to begin.  There were others who were also waiting for the tour and soon more and more people were coming in.  Seeing our growing numbers, an admissions officer decided to create an informal information session just for those of us waiting around.  She had extra chairs brought into a smaller room nearby and ushered us inside.  Even though we were packed cheek to jowl in the small room, it was considerate of them to accommodate us this way.

There are five undergraduate schools: arts and sciences (the largest school), business, communication, international service, and public affairs.  In addition to the standard majors, they offer some unusual ones, such as a major in business and music (good for those wishing to work in the music industry), an interdisciplinary major in communication, legal studies, economics and government, and audio production/technology.

There is an emphasis on languages across the schools.  For example, the Kogod business school offers a major in business, language and culture studies with tracks in Arabic, French, German, Russian, and Spanish (alas, not in Chinese).  The School of International Studies (the largest international relations school in the US) offers language and area studies in French/Europe, German/Europe, Russian/Area Studies, and Spanish/Latin America.  The School of Communication offers a major in Foreign Language and Communication Media.

The strength of the university lies in its international relations, political science and business programs much like other D.C. universities that benefit from Washington’s location as the nation’s capitol.  For prospective students who want to be in D.C. and wish to study those disciplines, AU is easier to get into.  This year’s admission rate is 41% and the number of applications grew 10%.  The freshman retention rate of 91% indicates that most students are happy with their education here.

The top 15% of admitted freshmen are eligible for the honors program.  Academic merit scholarships are also available.  Tuition is about $37,554 for the 2011-2012 academic year, and average room and board costs $13,648 a year.  By now we had gathered from our visits that living in D.C. is expensive but for those who are interested in politics, government, and international affairs, you cannot beat Washington D.C.’s location with its access to international organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and all the foreign embassies.  It would be an exciting place to spend four years.

The George Washington University – a trip report

24 Mar

The big, brightly lit hall was packed with prospective students and their parents and there were no more seats left since we had arrived late to the information session.  But the staff at George Washington University (GWU) kindly brought in chairs to accommodate us and other latecomers.  An admissions officer and a student were up front, already deep into their presentation about the university.

GWU is a stone’s throw away from the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. and its very location attracts students who are interested in all things political, regardless of what they are studying.  And there is a wide range of undergraduate academic programs to choose from, starting with the largest undergraduate school, liberal arts, to business to engineering to international affairs to media and public affairs to public health.  One student’s experience was that no matter the class subject, the conversation topic inevitably turns to a discussion of politics.  This can take some getting used to, if one is more apolitical.  The university also prides itself in hiring professors who have had work experience in government, industry, and international affairs and because of its location, attracts an impressive roster of guest speakers.

The main campus is located in Foggy Bottom, about four blocks from the White House.   GWU’s 9,500 undergraduates are spread between the Foggy Bottom campus and the Mount Vernon campus, acquired twelve years ago and located a few miles away.  Shuttles run regularly between the two campuses on a 24-hour basis.

The Foggy Bottom campus consists of buildings spread out over several city blocks and there is no discernible campus to speak of other than signs that identify the buildings as belonging to the university.  The buildings are modern looking structures and blend into the cityscape.  As such it is very urban and this will likely appeal to some students and not others.  Although we did not see Mount Vernon, word is that it more resembles a traditional campus with green spaces, trees, quads, and is set in a quiet suburban-like area.  Our tour guide told us the appeal of having both types of campuses was what attracted him to GWU.  In addition, the university is planning on erecting a brand new science building in the next few years as the existing science facilities are aging.

GWU offers a lot of flexibility in their academic programs.  Students can major and minor across undergraduate schools, double major across schools and even switch schools.  They also offer an honors program and combined bachelor/graduate degree programs.  In the thirty years since I applied to college, GWU has risen significantly in rankings and become more competitive.  Last year the admission rate was 31% and this year, the number of GWU’s early decision applicants swelled 18.5%, attesting to the university’s ever-increasing popularity.  This is not your grandfather’s GWU.

Like any big university, the bureaucracy can be frustrating, according to a former GWU parent.  It is not cheap either, with tuition costing $42,860 a year and room and board adding another $10,120.  GWU offers a fixed tuition plan where students pay the same tuition for four years.  Ten to fifteen percent of the students receive merit aid.

In a few days I’ll post some photos of the university.

 

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