Monday, June 10, 2019

Understanding College “Yield” Can Have Big Rewards

Virginia Tech, a highly regarded university most popular for its engineering programs, did an amazing job this year of successfully identifying which applicants would enroll if accepted.  It did too good of a job, in fact.  Virginia Tech is experiencing a historically high “yield rate” – which is the percent of accepted students who actually enroll.   About 8,000 students accepted offers to enroll for the fall of 2019 while the university was targeting an enrollment between 6,600 and 6,700 students. 

Virginia Tech addressed the situation by sending an email to the accepted students last week offering financial incentives to those who would agree to postpone their enrollment date.  It offered funding for community college classes, internships, gap years, and summer sessions at Virginia Tech to accepted students who would delay their arrival on campus by a semester or a year.

Monday, June 3, 2019

College Job Can Result in Long Term Financial Gain

Students who work during their college years earn, on average, $20,000 more each year for their first 15 years after graduation than do students who did not hold a job while attending college. That’s the findings of a study recently published by the Education and Employment Research Center at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.  It reportedly didn’t matter whether the student had worked part time or full time.  

There are several reasons for the wage premium, according to the report.  Some employers value on-the-job experience more than a student’s major or GPA. Also, a job in college can provide students with valuable references and networking connections.  And students who learn early to successfully balance academic and work responsibilities often have valuable time management skills to bring to their professional career.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Six Strategies for Filing Successful Applications

(Part 2 of Column Series)

In last week’s column, the first three strategies were enumerated on how to construct impressive college applications.  The advice was to write an impressive essay, personalize each application, and be sure to cover the basics (such as a solid GPA and notable SAT scores).  This week’s column continues with three additional strategies for increasing the likelihood of getting a “You’re Accepted” letter or email from your colleges of choice.

4) Start constructing a resume early in your high school years so you will have time to fill in the gaps that become evident when you put your life experiences in writing.  You’ll want to be sure to have a category for volunteer work.  Colleges offer limitless opportunities for students to engage in volunteer work, and they know that students who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to helping others during their high school years are much more likely to be altruists during their college years. It’s also ideal to have a “passion project” to highlight on your resume.  Have you launched a business, initiated a profitable charitable drive, written and published a book, hosted an art exhibition, or developed an impressive skill or talent?  Colleges are seeking a well-rounded student body comprised of students who have varying attributes.  Students who develop an impressive resume over the course of their high school years have a powerful tool to include on their college applications.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Six Strategies for Filing Successful Applications

(Part 1 of 2 Column Series)

It’s not a secret that it takes considerable time and effort to compose effective college applications, so there’s no better time than the present for college bound students to embark on the journey. Here are some tips to get started:

1) Write an impressive essay.  Most students start out with the Common Application, which is accepted by more than 700 colleges.  It requires one essay (that can be used for all of the college applications) between 250-650 words.  Students need to think of something they want to share with the college admission people that wouldn’t otherwise come across in their application.  The goal of an effective college essay is to show insight into one’s admirable character, a sense of direction for the future, and a thirst for knowledge and opportunities in the next stage of life. It has already been announced that the Common Application questions for 2019-20 will be the exact same as those offered for the current year.  So students can get to work early, writing and fine-tuning an essay that they are proud of.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Any Student Can Study with a Princeton Professor

Students who dream of taking courses with professors from the most elite universities around the world can make their dreams come true – at no cost.  The most prestigious universities in our country -- including M.I.T., Georgetown, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, and every Ivy League institution -- offer online courses for free.  So, too, do many prominent international institutions including the Sorbonne in France, Oxford in England, and the University of Hong Kong.

Two of the most notable sites for online education are edX and Coursera.  Seven years ago, was founded by Harvard University and M.I.T. as an online learning destination to offer high-quality courses from the world’s top universities. It now offers more than 1,300 courses, offered for free, and has students from every country in the world. Those seeking a certificate (to boost college applications or resumes) are charged a fee ranging from $40 to $160.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Still Time to Apply to College for Fall of 2019

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) releases a list, in early May of each year, of colleges that still have room for students seeking admission for the upcoming fall semester. May 1st is the national response deadline for most colleges in the U.S.  By that date, students must choose the college they will be attending in the fall and send in a deposit to reserve their seat (and room and board, if they are planning to live on campus).  Since most students apply to a multitude of colleges, it’s impossible for colleges to know for sure how many students will actually enroll until the reply deadline rolls around.  After May 1st, colleges that have not met their target enrollment are anxious to accept additional students in order to bring in the tuition money necessary to keep on budget. 

Often, even well-qualified students are not accepted to the colleges of their dreams.  Other times, students change their minds.  As the time to leave home for college approaches, students sometimes wish they had chosen a school closer to home.  For these reasons, and others (basic procrastination!), students may find themselves approaching high school graduation without a plan for the fall.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Summer is Ideal Time for Student Volunteerism

Volunteerism is alive and well among young people in New Jersey, which comes in very handy when it’s time to apply for college admission.  Students who have not yet become engaged in “giving back” have a perfect opportunity this summer to find an activity that suits their interests and provides a needed service. 

The Jersey Cares website features activities to suit almost any personality.  For example, “Earth Keepers” is seeking volunteers at Island Beach State Park, the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, and Liberty State Park. “NJ Seeds” offers tutoring opportunities in Martinsville, Madison, Livingston, West Orange and Morristown. Pet therapy volunteers are in need at “Care One” in Hamilton Township, Morristown, Hanover, and Wayne.

Students’ commitment to volunteerism is not only good for their communities, but it is also a great boost to their college applications.  Although SAT scores and G.P.A. are still the two most important criteria impacting college acceptances and scholarship awards, community service is of growing importance.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Valuable Role of a Private College Counselor

High school guidance counselors are the first resource of college bound students who need advice on so many topics:  how to prepare for the PSAT and SAT, when to take theses standardized tests, how to identify best-fit colleges, how to assess the likelihood of being accepted by a particular college, how to write an effective essay, and how to file successful college applications. 

While high school guidance counselors typically address all of these issues with college bound students, they are often stretched very thin. An article in this month’s “Education Week” cited that, in high schools nationwide, the average student-to-counselor ratio is 482 to 1. To make matters worse, public high school counselors, with a multitude of other responsibilities, reportedly spend only 23% of their time on college admission counseling.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The True Value of Advanced Placement (AP) Courses

High school students throughout New Jersey are preparing for the high-stakes Advanced Placement (AP) exams that will be offered from May 6th through May 17th.  These tests are offered at the culmination of AP courses – which are college level courses with curriculums written by The College Board – that often allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.

AP courses are offered in more than 30 subjects in Foreign Languages (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish), Math (including Computer Science), History & Social Sciences (including Macro and Micro Economics), Art (including Music Theory), and Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science). College Board statistics from 2017 cited that close to three million high school students took nearly five million AP exams, and the number reportedly rises each year.

Monday, April 8, 2019

How Many Times Should a Student Take the SAT exam?

By the time students reach high school they are tired of taking standardized tests. But this is just the time when students need to be most diligent.

Standardized tests in students’ earlier years are most important for their school and school district, to determine if educational goals are being met and to rank how the school/district compares to others in the state and nation.  But when it comes to the SAT exam, things get personal.  

The SAT is a standardized test that is marked on a curve, placing college bound students in competition with each other.  Students get two scores, each in the range of 200 to 800.  One is for “Evidence-based Reading and Writing,” and the other is for “Math.”  (There is also an optional essay, scored in the range of 6 to 24 points.)  In order to get a median score of 500 on either of the two main categories, a student needs to correctly answer approximately half of the questions.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Six Years is the New Four, Students Sadly Find Out

“What is your four-year graduation rate?” This may be one of the most important questions that college-bound students and their parents can ask when considering a potential college.  The failure to graduate students in four years has become so commonplace that even U.S. News & World Report, in its highly regarded 2019 “Best Colleges” guide, reports the six-year graduation rate of colleges throughout the country.

Sometimes there’s a good reason for students to take six years to earn a diploma.  Perhaps they switched majors and many of their credits did not carry over to their new course of study. On the other hand, perhaps it was out of their control.  Maybe some of their required courses were not readily available, requiring a longer than expected college stay in order to meet graduation requirements.  Either way, students and parents who are budgeting for a college diploma need to know, in advance, whether to multiply the annual cost of attendance (including tuition, room, board, books and fees) by four or by six!

Monday, March 25, 2019

What’s Most Important in Choosing Ideal College

With close to 4,000 colleges and universities throughout the United States, students and parents may wonder how to come up with a realistic list of schools to consider.  The key is to think about a student’s priorities. If the plan is to attend a four-year college, the number of options reduces to about 2,300 schools.  If a student wants to attend college within 300 miles of Central Jersey, as most local students do, then the number of options diminishes to 561.  If campus housing must be available for all freshmen, there are some 343 possibilities, while the number whittles down to 171 if campus housing must be available to students for all four years.

Monday, March 18, 2019

How to Get a “Your Accepted” Letter (or Email)

The best way to get a “Your Accepted” letter (or email) is to present yourself as an ideal candidate for each college to which you apply.  If you’re a legacy, let them know.  Many colleges favor applicants whose parents are alumni – especially if they’ve been donating over the years.  If you are the first in your family to seek a college education, let them know.  Most colleges favor students whose parents are not college educated.  If your family can afford to pay the full sticker price and not seek financial aid, let them know.  Some colleges are “need blind,” and admit students regardless of whether or not they are applying for financial aid.  Other colleges are “need-aware” or “need-sensitive,” and may consider financial need when deciding whether or not to admit an applicant.  This category includes American and George Washington universities in Washington D.C., Tufts, Boston, and Northeastern universities and Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges in Massachusetts, and many others.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Colleges To Consider If Your Goal is a High Salary

Students in search of the ideal college often consider a host of criteria: geographic location, average class size, academic reputation, school spirit, cost of tuition.  What they often overlook is the data indicating the likelihood that they will earn a high salary soon after graduation and later on in their career.

“Payscale,” a salary comparison site, analyzed more than 2,000 institutions granting bachelor degrees and identified ten colleges that produced students with the highest salaries, both five and ten years into their careers.

The college that ranked number one is a small, liberal arts school in California with a total enrollment of 844 students, shattering the myth that liberal arts graduates can’t earn big money.  Graduates of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont report an early career salary of $85,600 and a mid-career salary of $157,400.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Start Planning Now for a Productive Spring Break

Spring break is highly anticipated by all students. It’s an escape from the academic pressures of the school year.  It’s also the ideal time to visit colleges and start to identify which schools may, or may not, be potential “good fit” colleges.

Typically, colleges schedule their spring break in early-to-mid March.  With most high schools holding their spring break in mid-to-late April this year, college-bound students have the perfect opportunity to tour college campuses while classes, activities, and college life are in full swing.  By doing so, they can get a good feel for a college and assess whether it meets their academic, social, and lifestyle preferences.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Opportunities Abound To Have A Productive Summer

Students looking to have an academically productive summer have limitless opportunities.  They can apply to programs at any of the Ivy League colleges and universities, immerse themselves in educationally oriented volunteer programs worldwide, or attend courses at local colleges that focus on specific subjects that they may want to pursue in college.

Choosing to attend a New Jersey based program is often less costly for students, as travel costs are minimal and students can often live at home. The range of NJ colleges hosting academic programs is large, as is the choice of subject matter.

The College of New Jersey offers several summer programs, including “Create Your Business – Business Simulation Academy for Business and Entrepreneurship,” “Natural Science Investigations Academy for Science, Career and Research Exploration,” and “Vitalities: A Summer Academy for the Exploration of Health Professions.” Students interact with college faculty and explore a variety of career opportunities.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Networking at Upcoming New Jersey College Fairs

Where should students start the information gathering process in their search to find the perfect college? The answer may be very close to home. 

Hillsborough High School is hosting its 13th Annual College Fair on Wednesday, March 20th, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.  Representatives from over 100 colleges, universities, technical schools and the military will be hosting tables filled with materials, and will be available to answer individual questions on any college-related topic.  Preceding the College Fair will be a Financial Aid Presentation from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

Two weeks later, on Tuesday, April 2nd, Mercer County Community College will hold a similar fair from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The True Story about College Board’s SAT “Curve

On the national news this past summer, students were televised protesting their SAT scores. They didn’t feel they had been graded fairly on the June 2018 SAT exam and they called on everyone from Donald Trump to Ellen DeGeneres to intercede on their behalf. In looking back on their scores, in comparison to those of students who performed in a similar manner on other SAT exams, the power of the SAT curve is undeniable.

Twins who took different SAT exams reported that one sibling got five math questions wrong on the March 2018 exam and earned a score of 760.  Her sister missed six math questions on the June 2018 exam and earned a score of 670.  The question raised was, “How can one wrong answer result in a score 90 points lower?”

Monday, February 4, 2019

College Majors Prepare Students for Dream Careers

College-bound students, envisioning their future careers, might want to think beyond the traditional jobs of doctor, engineer, lawyer, teacher, and business executive.  A bit of research will reveal some college majors that students may truly find enticing.

“Computer Integrated Surgery,” offered at John Hopkins University, prepares students to utilize computer science to aid surgeons in meeting the growing demand for minimally invasive surgical procedures.

The nation’s first bachelor’s degree in “Artificial Intelligence” is in its very first year at Carnegie Mellon University and includes courses in computational biology, speech recognition and machine learning.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Colleges Know More About You Than You Can Imagine!

In the highly competitive race to get accepted to top colleges, local students know what they need to do: attain top grades, take a competitive course load (preferable full of AP courses) and earn impressive SAT scores.  But students often overlook a subtle, but significant factor that can make or break their likelihood of meeting with success.

High school students – masters of social media – probably have no idea that colleges and universities have turned the tables and are themselves utilizing social media to mine data on their applicants.  

“Enrollment officers at institutions including Seton Hall University, Quinnipiac University and Dickinson College know down to the second when prospective students opened an email from the school, how long they spent reading it and whether they clicked through to any links,” according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Be Sure To Ask The Questions You’re Wondering About

With more than 3,000 colleges across the country, the options are seemingly endless for students searching for their ideal school.  But by seeking the answers to key questions, it’s easy to start narrowing down the choices.

First of all, students who know what major they want to pursue should limit their college list to schools with a strong program in their desired field. College Board’s “Book of Majors” is a great resource for securing this information. For example, students seeking a major in Bioengineering/biomedical engineering would find a bachelors degree program available at four New Jersey schools: College of New Jersey, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Strategies to Score High on Upcoming March SAT Exam

Students planning to take the March 9th SAT – the first one of the 2019 calendar year – have just three weeks to register to take the exam (without incurring a late fee) and two months to prepare to earn an impressive score.  Many top public high schools in Central New Jersey report average SAT scores above 600 in both Evidence-based Reading & Writing and Math. These high schools include: Hillsborough, Montgomery, Princeton, Hopewell Valley Central, West Windsor/Plainsboro North and South, South Brunswick, East Brunswick, Watchung Hills, John P. Stevens, and North Hunterdon. A couple of high schools even reached or topped 1500 for combined scores. So the bar is set high for local students.

The latest SAT exam, introduced in March of 2016, focuses on three areas: critical reading, grammar and math. A key strategy, that is relevant on all areas of the test, is for students to answer each and every question (whether or not they know the correct answer) as there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Plan Ahead to Guarantee a Productive Spring Break

This is the time of year – with the winter holidays a fond memory and mid-term exams looming in the near future – that students start dreaming about spring break.  While spring break is a much-needed respite to escape the academic pressures of the school year, it’s also the ideal time to visit colleges and start to identify which schools may, or may not, be potential “good fit” colleges.

Typically, colleges schedule their spring breaks in early March, while high schools hold them a little later.  This year, most local high schools have scheduled their spring break for mid to late April to coincide with the Easter and Passover holidays.  High school students therefore have the perfect opportunity to tour college campuses while classes, activities, and college life are in full swing.  By doing so, college bound students can get a good feel for a college and assess whether it meets their academic, social, and lifestyle preferences.