Tag Archives: Comic strip

Who writes the essay? Doonesbury weighs in.

In case you missed it in the Sunday papers, Garry Trudeau takes a look at college admissions essays and who is writing them.Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 3.27.14 PM

“It was an epifany. (Note: check spelling)” See the full strip here.

Not that that really happens. Right?

If your high school student needs help, rather than sitting at the keyboard, you might point them to a couple of key  resources:

  • Essay Hell — One of the few sites that our daughter, known here as Mod Squad Julie, dove into more deeply than I did, and then asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about this last summer?”
  • College Admission — That link will send you to a series of posts on writing essays, including how to respond to common prompts.
  • This post, from last summer when Julie was in the thick of it, provides a few more: How to write college essays.

Good luck (to the students) with the essays.



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How admissions officers work. Pearls Before Swine weighs in.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 11.00.34 PMIn case you missed it in last Sunday’s paper, Stephan Pastis illustrates what admissions officers are up to right now. Or not.

See the full strip here.

If you really want to see what admissions officers are up to, many of them will tell you via their blogs or tweets. Just a few examples:

Check any college’s admission website; many offer blogs written by the admission officers, and many others offer blogs written by current undergrads. In both cases, the colleges provide a wealth of information about the school and about the processes involved in admissions.
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Common App problems: she got it done [but it wasn’t easy]

Allow me to lead with the best part of this story:  Mod Squad Julie successfully submitted one early college application around midnight, October 26.

Getting ready to submit. The past couple of weeks had been stressful–Julie tried to complete final edits of multiple essays and short answer prompts, working around all the other stuff going on in her life. Around the 19th or 20th she thought she had completed all the writing. We spent part of a Sunday afternoon reading the app, page by page. Julie double-checked everything.

Just after she breathed a sigh of relief that the main part of the application was done, Julie ran into one more short answer prompt on the writing supplement, one that she had either missed or forgotten. We reacted like mother, like daughter: !%#&*@!

The Fusco Brothers by J. C. Duffy, via gocomics.com

The Fusco Brothers by J. C. Duffy, via gocomics.com

The prompt offered a great question, providing her an opportunity to write about another aspect of herself and her interests that hadn’t been covered elsewhere. But the timing was lousy.

While another few days flew by, drafting and editing that final one hundred and fifty word essay crawled. Nothing like thinking you’re done and finding out you aren’t.

Getting the app to work. By Saturday, the final essay was done–and Julie had re-checked the college requirements to avoid any new, nasty surprises. After a full day of gym workout, homework, soccer game, and work, she was ready to get this thing one.

The only part left:  copying and pasting the essays into the application interface.

We had both read a number of articles about the problems with this part and how to deal with them. And guess what:  it still was completely stupid and problematic.

We read this, by Nancy Griesemar, including:

Any formatting (italics, bold, underline only) should be done on the document and not in the box. Once you are satisfied with the document, then copy-and-paste it directly into the box. Don’t touch the box. Yes, it may look funny and a warning may appear. Simply hit continue and work toward producing a Print Preview.

And it didn’t work. The main common app essay, around 550 words, showed up on-screen and in the printed preview in one very long paragraph with no edits, no line breaks.

We read this, by Rebecca Joseph, including:

4. She copied it from TextEdit into the Common Application.

5. She fixed spacing issues but made no text or formatting changes.

6. When she went to the Preview page, it was double spaced between paragraphs as she wanted.

It that didn’t work, you unintentionally made a change in TextEdit. Go back and follow these steps again.

And it didn’t work. Oh, yes, Julie went back and followed those steps again. And again. She restarted the computer, she cleared the cache, she tried it on another computer.

Did I mention that, as much as I love Julie and wanted her to get this thing done, what I really wanted to be doing at 11 pm on that Saturday night was watching the World Series? In which my two favorite teams were battling it out?

And somewhere along then we read this by Zach Schonfeld, including:

Relax: if your application glitch is the fault of a Common Application error and not your own procrastinatory negligence, the office of admissions will almost certainly understand. They’ve dealt with this before, and you are clearly not the only one facing these hurdles. Just have your guidance counselor write a polite letter or email.

You don’t need to apply anywhere for Early Decision. In fact, for financial aid reasons, many (smart, successful) students don’t.

Safety schools are your friend. Find several you could actually see yourself attending.

If you are a parent, step away from the laptop. Let your student do the heavy lifting—they’re going to college, not you.

Oh, yes, that’s helpful. Effectively: “Chillax, dude! No big deal!”

Fortunately, when I was ready to give up and suggest submitting a 550-word block paragraph, Julie kept plugging away. What worked:  using Safari instead of Foxfire. The formatting provided in TextEdit didn’t show up on the screen, but it did show up in the print preview. Done.

Huge disclaimer: if you are reading this because you are having trouble with the Common App, I can only offer sympathy. Try the suggestions offered by Nancy Greisemar in the link cited above and here. Try restarting, clearing your cache, using a different computer, using a different browser. Keep trying.

"We've successfully processed your application payment." NOT your application.

“We’ve successfully processed your application payment.” NOT your application.

Not done yet. The actual submission requires a number of steps. The first, not surprisingly, is the credit card payment, which requires a second step to submit a signature (by typing your name into a window). [Note that it may take up to 24 hours for the signature request to appear. Meanwhile, the application is not yet submitted.] The third step: submit the Common Application. The fourth:  submit the college’s supplement.

When do you know you’re done? I would say when you receive an email from the college acknowledging receipt. Oh, and save that email, since that’s where the college explains the procedure for finding out their decision.

I wish it were easier. I wish it were less stressful, since every other part of applying to college is already stressful enough.

Good luck.

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College: non-profit or for-profit? Doonesbury weighs in.

In case you haven’t seen it in this week’s daily papers, Garry Trudeau reports on the astounding amount of revenue for-profit colleges take in, and how attractive that might look like to non-profit administrators.

See the first strip here. Tuesday. Wednesday.

Per usual, this Doonesbury topic coincides with real news about for-profit colleges. See Why the Harkin Report on For-Profit Colleges Really Matters. Some excerpts below:

…it’s important to acknowledge the report’s true significance: it puts thousands of pages of internal company documents into the permanent record, providing crucial evidence that fraud and abuse have run rampant throughout the sector, and especially at some of the country’s largest for-profit college companies.

Over the last decade, both publicly-traded and private-equity owned for-profit higher education companies have come under scrutiny from federal and state regulators, and have faced numerous lawsuits by former employees, students, and shareholders over allegations that they engaged in misleading recruitment and admissions tactics to inflate their enrollment numbers. Many of these companies have been accused of routinely recruiting and enrolling unqualified student and sticking them with huge amounts of debt for training from which these individuals were unlikely to benefit.

Yet, time and again, these actions have ended in settlements, in which the companies agree to pay a fine but do not admit to any wrongdoing. What’s more, as part of the terms of these agreements, evidence of abuses that has been unearthed is put under seal, hidden permanently from public view. (For examples, see here, here, here, and here.)

Trudeau cites $32 billion in taxpayer money going to these ‘failure-factories.’ Here’s the NYT article, which provides that number as well as the average $7 million paycheck for the CEOs:  Harkin Report Condemns For-Profit Colleges.

The Apollo Group, which operates the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit college, got $1.2 billion in Pell grants in 2010-11, up from $24 million a decade earlier. Apollo got $210 million more in benefits under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. And yet two-thirds of Apollo’s associate-degree students leave before earning their degree.

Meanwhile, an associate degree or professional certificate program costs about four times as much as those through community colleges or public universities.

The most expensive college education:  where you leave with debt and no degree.

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How long should college take? Doonesbury weighs in.

In case you missed it a week ago, Garry Trudeau takes his turn at quoting Mr. Jefferson, and asks the question never heard in these parts: “Who’s Thomas Jefferson?”

How many years do you think a degree should take? See the full strip here.

Of course, Doonesbury could be reflecting changes to student financial aid programs which became effective July 1st. See the Project on Student Debt website for their Consumer Guide to Changes in Federal Pell Grants and Student Loans for 2012-13.

Change to Pell Grant Eligibility

Pell Grants are need-based federal grants available to both full-time and part-time undergraduate students. They do not need to be repaid. For the 2012-13 award year, the maximum Pell Grant remains at $5,550.

  • The maximum number of equivalent full-time semesters a student is eligible to receive a Pell Grant will drop from 18 to 12 semesters for all students, including those close to completion.

Meanwhile, some colleges don’t want students to finish too quickly. Here’s a UPI wirefeed titled, University sues over early graduation:

ESSEN, Germany, July 3 (UPI) — A German university is suing a student for lost income because he finished his bachelors and masters degrees in only 20 months.
The School of Economics and Management in Essen is asking the court to make former student Marcel Pohl, 22, pay an extra $3,772 after he obtained his degrees in only three semesters instead of the usual 11, The Local.de reported Tuesday.
“When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn’t be true,” Pohl told the Bild newspaper. “Performance is supposed to be worth something.”
Pohl said school officials agreed in advance he and two friends could take their 60 required exams despite divvying up the lecture hours between them and sharing notes afterward.
“We didn’t get any freebies, and we agreed [to] our plans in advance with the school,” Pohl said.
A university spokesman said officials do not want to comment before the case reaches court.

Hmm, sounds like he used his coursework well.

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College laundry habits

In case you missed it a few days back, xkcd reports on college laundry habits for the first semester.

See the full strip here. And don’t miss using your mouse to rollover the full strip to read what happens second semester.

[Hat/tip to Robyn S for sending it my way.]

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How Much Do You Owe? Doonesbury weighs in.

In case you missed it in Sunday’s paper, Garry Trudeau reports on the student loan debt and what colleges may be doing about it, including emergency job fairs offering part-time internships.

See the full strip here.

Regarding that reference to full-freight parents? Reminds me of the mentions of full-freight ability helping students vault off the wait list; this from Buying Your Way into College by Jane Kim, via Smart Money in 2009:

Middlebury College and Wake Forest University began looking at wait-listed students’ financial status as a factor in admissions last year.

Meanwhile, more colleges are officially moving away from need-blind admission policies. This from Need Too Much by Kevin Kiley, writing in Inside Higher Ed about Wesleyan’s recent decision:

Sometimes good intentions can blind one to the realities that something might not be sustainable.

In the face of financial pressures, Wesleyan University is moving away from its blanket need-blind admissions policy. Instead, the college is planning to peg increases in the size of its financial aid budget to the size of its overall budget. As long as that money meets need, it will consider students irrespective of their ability to pay. Once the aid runs out, however, the college will start factoring in family income and ability to pay. This effectively means that, unless the college can raise enough money, the last students admitted to the class each year (possibly 10 percent of the class) will not include those who need aid.

More of this to come, I am certain.
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