Media madness

Seniors: Listen to Spock, Not the Scary Stories!



March Madness! No, not basketball! It's that time of year when the headlines and hallways are ablaze with scary stories of record numbers of college applications, 6% acceptance rates, and financial aid letters leaving students confused and misinformed.

Yes, more students are applying to more colleges, competition for seats at some colleges has increased and the cost of college continues to rise. But reality runs counter to most of what you read and hear in the media. The number of colleges that are highly selective is TINY! The vast majority of colleges accept two-thirds or more of their applicants. In UCLA’s most recent Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) annual survey of first-year students at four-year colleges and universities, 79 percent reported being accepted to their “first-choice” college.

We know it's hard to resist the onslaught of scary stories. But if you've done the proper research and applied to a balanced list of eight to ten colleges, taking into account both selectivity and affordability, you will do well. Really.

And here's a mantra for you: It's not where you go, it's what you do when you get there. Just ask the head of Disney/Pixar Ed Catmull who went to Utah State, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who went to Washington State, 30 Rock creator Tina Fey who went to University of Virginia…. And the list goes on.


Media Madness: More Panicky Reporting on College Borrowing

There was more panicky reporting on the subject of student debt last week in the New York Times article, A Generation Hobbled By the Soaring Cost of College, an installation in the newspaper’s Degrees of Debt series that purports to examine the implications of soaring college costs and the indebtedness of students and their families.

As Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson of the Chronicle of Higher Education reportThe New York Times made a huge statistical error in their overwrought article about higher education borrowing on Sunday. They reported that 94 percent of bachelor’s graduates leave college with educational debt. The correct number is around two-thirds. Few people will see the correction tucked into Wednesday’s Times – certainly not nearly the number who saw the lead sentence on the web version “Nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing money …”.

Losing Perspective on Student Debt?

File this one under "Media Madness." In a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson take on the latest thought contagion in college admission -- the level of concern surrounding student debt.  Baum is an independent higher-education-policy analyst and senior fellow at the George Washington University School of Education and Human Development, and McPherson is president of the Spencer Foundation, which is dedicated to education research.  Check out their debunking of this most recent example of urban myth and college admission.

Later this week, Jon Boeckenstedt, DePaul University Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing, will address the cost of a college education and how much is too much when it comes to loans.

If you applied early... Or not...

If you applied under an early decision, early action or restrictive early action plan, don't miss our series of posts on the next steps if you were accepted, deferred, or denied. And don't miss our advice on doing the right thing here.

And if you did not jump on the early bandwagon and opted for applying under a regular decision plan, don't miss our debunking of the media madness headlines that you're seeing lately. All the seats at the schools on your list have not been taken by early admits. No need to panic. We explain and do the math here.

In case you missed it...

We have three terrific experts featured here this month and we wanted to take one more opportunity to bring them to your attention! In case you missed them, take the time to read our Q & A's with Kenyon Dean of Admissions Jennifer Delahunty and Pine Crest School college counselor Marcia Hunt, as well as the post featuring Vanderbilt Admissions Dean Doug Christiansen on the role of volunteer work in an admission decision. These are  consummate experts with advice helpful to all students and families going through the application process.

Does Early Decision Fill Most of the Seats in the Freshman Class?

Does Early Decision Fill Most of the Seats in the Freshman Class? Get ready for a slew of headlines trumpeting the arrival of decisions for those who applied under early action or early decision plans. Some students have already begun to receive their decisions for this admission season and more will hear in the coming week. For students who opted to take advantage of the additional time afforded by applying regular decision, this time may nevertheless be worrisome as the media trumpet stories about the record numbers of early applicants. One of the most persistent storylines is that early decision fills most of the seats in the freshman class. NOT! Read on in this excerpt from the book to understand the real story: “The college you’re applying to has filled half its freshman class with early decision applicants!” You may have heard things like this and worried there won’t be enough room left if you apply under regular decision. But this is a case where the numbers are deceiving. Let’s do the math. The question is not how many seats are being taken up in the class by applicants who applied under early decision. The question is, what percentage of the school’s total admission offers is already gone? It sounds incredible, but it’s true that even when half the seats are filled with ED applicants, fewer than half the acceptances have been given out. Here’s how it works.

Media Madness

A recent Opinion piece in the New York Times titled Athletes Are The Problem, begins:  "Like it or not, 40 percent of the class at most top colleges are reserved for "hooked" kids…" This is the kind of media madness that students and parents find so discouraging. For example, we question much of the data in the piece. Regardless, the implicit message is that if you want your student to have a competitive advantage with athletes -- legacies, minorities, fill-in-the-blank -- then you had better find your own ace in the hole and hire a private counselor.  But applying to college is not about gaming the system. Instead, let's focus the public conversation where it can be most helpful -- on the best way for students to move through the process in a healthy and productive way.  One way to start? Ignore the hysterical headlines.

Media Madness

Headlines we hate: "Volunteering. A Secret Step to Make You Really Stand Out." First of all, there are no secrets in college admission. And, in fact, this particular canard has achieved the status of myth it's been around so long. The truth: NO ONE ACTIVITY is necessarily valued more than another by admission offices.