Wednesday Weekly Reader: the baseball edition

Recent news from the college search / admissions / finance front. Today’s Reader, coinciding with the first game of the World Series, provides a couple of baseball references.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Image via Wikipedia

1.  First at bat, two excellent articles applying the Moneyball analogy to baseball. Ryan Craig, writing for Insider Higher Ed, in Moneycollege, explains that colleges and universities have focused on what is easy to measure, the three Rs:  research, rankings, and real estate, all of which are quantifiable. However,

…A  university is not what its buildings look like, or what its reputation or rankings say, but what it has done. And by done, we don’t mean research. The link between research and instructional efficacy is unproven at best. We define instruction of students to mean producing measurable outcomes in terms of student learning and employment.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy, writing at The College Solution, in Evaluating Colleges the Moneyball Way, quotes Craig’s piece and agrees:

I think it’s only a matter of time before there will be a demand from the government, foundations, consumer advocates and elsewhere for meaningful statistics that will help families evaluate whether a particular college or university is worth the investment. With the right data, the higher-ed version of Billy Beane will be able to determine the on-base percentage equivalent for higher education. And frankly the day that schools can no longer hide behind their rankings, fancy buildings and research reputation can’t come soon enough!

2.  Next up, Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, responds to questions about the Net Cost Calculators. These calculators are required on every college admissions website by federal law as of the end of October. Each college has developed their own user interface and calculator. Here’s the “Ask Kantro” response to a question about their accuracy:

Net price is intended to be a measure of a college’s bottom-line cost, the difference between the college’s cost of attendance and the grants available to the student. In practice, however, the net price figures will be more of a ballpark estimate. For example, the net price figures might be based on cost data that is two years old. Net price figures might be suitable for determining whether a college is inside or outside the ballpark of affordability, but not good enough to distinguish between home plate and center field. The net price figures should not be used to compare and rank different colleges.

3.  For students working on essays or even just thinking about working on essays, My College Calendar offers an entire series of posts on writing essays, from preparation to formats, strategies, and guidelines. Here’s a clip from Essay Brainstorming and Writing:

Start brainstorming by making a list of topics you are passionate about, and events or experiences that have changed you in the past four years. Some questions that may help you generate topics for your essays are provided below:

How have you changed or been challenged in the past years?

What defines you as a student and person?

What do I care about?

What topic will emphasize my values and character?

What makes me special?

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses?

Why is_________more important to me than__________?

4.   Here’s advice on essays from the mother-daughter team blogging under Twice the College Advice for USNews.com. See 7 Tips for Parents and Students to Master College Essays.

4. Get the easy things right: Don’t give college admissions representatives reasons to disregard your essay. Stay within their word limit; turn everything in on time; and stick to the essay prompt.

5.  Ending on a more cautionary note, Nancy Griesemer, DC College Admissions Examiner, offers up 11 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin a College Essay. Here are just a few of those guaranteed-to-be-ruinous ways:

  • Not answering the question. Questions are crafted to elicit specific information the admissions office thinks is important to their decision. Yes, you can reuse essays. But be careful to edit or make appropriate adjustments along the way. And don’t be too quick or cute with the cut and paste function.
  • Failure to have a point. An essay should have a central idea or a thesis. It doesn’t have to be overly complex or deep. But whether by statement or inference, the point you’re trying to make should be obvious to the reader.
  • Ignoring the word limits. Word limits are sometimes suggested and sometimes imposed by the amount space or characters allowed before truncation occurs. Regardless of level of enforcement, respect the limits. Make the best use of the time you have to impress your reader—it’s limited.

What have you been reading? Tell me about in comments, below.

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