Wednesday Weekly Reader: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

Student Union at Oklahoma State University - S...

Student Union at Oklahoma State University. Image via Wikipedia

Recent reports from the college search / admissions / finance front.

1.  Inside Higher Ed:  Beyond the Standard Essay.  Robert Sternberg, the new Provost of Oklahoma State University, brought with him clear ideas about the limitations of standardized testing (from his work in Psychology and as a Dean at Tufts University).  Sternberg has spent years trying to develop ways for colleges to find prospective students with talents and qualities that may not show up in standardized test scores.

…He has argued that the right kind of essay prompts or project-oriented questions can reveal creativity, commitment to community and other qualities that might well merit admission to college — even for applicants whose test scores might be a bit lower than those of others…

Three of the questions being tested are these:

  • “Music spans time and culture. Explain how the lyrics of one of your favorite songs define you or your cultural experience.”
  • “If you were able to open a local charity of your choice, what type of charity would it be, how would you draw people to your cause, and whom would it benefit?”
  • “Today’s movies often feature superheroes and the supernatural. If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it? Who would be your archenemy, and what would be his or her superpower?”

For the doubters of taking a new approach to admissions…

…he suggested thinking about the state of society. “Our society has made the serious mistake of overemphasizing analytical skills in creating social stratification, with the result that we end up with people in top positions who are very analytical but who may lack creative, practical, and most importantly, wisdom-based skills,” he said. “Look at our leaders in government and finance. How many of them would you call wise?”

2.  150 Very Important Words. Consultant Mark Montgomery offers advice on how to respond to the Common Application‘s prompt to elaborate on one extracurricular activity in 150 words. While acknowledging how tough it is to write something ‘personal, meaningful, and interesting’ with so few words, Montgomery offers ten tips to help. Here’s one:

Consider elaborating on an activity that is not on the activities list or resume.  For example, perhaps your extended family shares Sunday dinner together regularly, and this ritual has had a big influence on you and helped to shape your feelings about family.  Maybe you actually enjoy mowing your lawn every week, making it look nice by paying attention to details. Perhaps you ride your bike to school every morning, and you use that time to notice details on your route, and get your head together before and after your workday.

[Think 150 words sounds like plenty of space? The two paragraphs above this — the one beginning with the number 2 and the block quote — contain 148 words.]

Cover of

Courtesy of Amazon.

3.  Here’s an article from Smart Money about the unanticipated costs beyond tuition, room and board. One estimate suggests $4,000 above the quoted costs; another says to figure on 10% more than the quoted costs. Since the article is from 2010, shall we figure these estimates are low?

Colleges are trying to be creative, says Debbie Cochrane, program director for the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit that focuses on making college more affordable. Tuition has gotten so glaringly expensive that schools are trying to raise money in less obvious ways. Besides, once a student is enrolled, there s little a family can do to avoid these fees.

4.  Education Week quotes from Robyn Hadley’s book, Within View, Within Reach: Navigating the College-Bound Journey, to provide the top ten questions students can ask colleges to help differentiate between similar-sounding programs. My favorite question is number ten:

10. What percentage of the incoming freshmen actually graduate from the college?

5.  File this under:  You have got to be kidding me. The US News & World Report blog published four reasons to be grateful you have a student loan. No, that’s not the real title. Sorry, it’s “Student Loans Pack Surprising Benefits.” Here’s part of the intro:

Among college graduates in the 2007-2008 school year, about 65 percent finished a degree at a four-year school with debt, according to The average load shouldered by those students was $23,186—excluding any PLUS loans used to finance the degrees.

Read the benefits and let me know what you think. Please, if you do follow the link, don’t neglect the comments on this post, one of which includes:

…Interesting and informative article…I’ve heard that slave ships of 18th century were designed with exceptionally sleek hulls that afforded the passengers surprisingly smooth voyage…a feature that not all ships could boast of at the time…

I think the fine folks at the Institute for College Access and Success, who, by the way, sponsor The Project on Student Debt, might have a few arguments with those “benefits.”

What have you been reading? Let me know via comments, below.

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Filed under Getting In, Paying for College, Reports

2 responses to “Wednesday Weekly Reader: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

  1. Nice post! Thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated.

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