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Big Wins and Small Victories in the College Process

Next weekend, the Falcons and Patriots will compete in Super Bowl LI. As each team knows, getting Super Bowl experience is nothing compared with winning the whole prize. But as your student will likely find out, we come to value the small wins over time, and that includes finding out ways to navigate the college process.

Winning at STEM

Last week, I wrote about my trip to Santa Clara University (see post). Shortly thereafter, SCU announced a gift of $100 million for a new STEM facility, to be called the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation. The donor appreciated that SCU instilled in him not only knowledge but also a sense of ethics and compassion. The center, which will be dedicated only to undergraduate research, will combine a modern look along with some Spanish-style touches true to this attractive campus. Watch out for this West Coast university!

Winning at Football

Education Dive recently asked, “What if College Football Rankings Were Based on Academics?” When it compared metrics for top ten football colleges relating to cost of attendance, rate of graduation, and salary, the scorecard showed:

Cost of attendance: University of Washington lowest ($13,566); USC highest ($28,344)

Graduation rates: USC highest (91%); Alabama lowest (66%)

Salary post-graduation: USC highest ($67.700); Alabama lowest ($41,900)

I’ve been hoping that East Coast students will apply to the University of Washington, known for its solid academics and beautiful setting. Go, Huskies, and the College of Built Environments!

UW’s Husky Stadium

When Education Dive factored in the academic progress rate, which tracks student-athletes’ chances of graduating, none of the above institutions topped the list. Instead, the University of Michigan Wolverines were the winners.

A famous Wolverine? That would be Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, whose $41-million contract would certainly affect post-graduation statistics. The Pats have quite the collection of colleges represented on their roster. A star in last Sunday’s game, Chris Hogan, went to New Jersey’s own Monmouth University, while the squad includes three Rutgers alums: Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty, and Logan Ryan. The Patriots also have two Stanford grads, Cameron Fleming and Jordan Richards, and a Brown alum, James Develin (not your typical Brown placement).

The Falcons, meanwhile, are led by likely MVP Matt Ryan, an alumnus of Boston College. The roster includes Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper, both from Stanford, and Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers).

By the way, famed Patriots Coach Bill Belichick graduated from Wesleyan, where he played football and lacrosse.

Students at Elite Colleges: Who Wins?

Last week, the New York Times told us the obvious in a piece called “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.” Supporting its statements with an unattractive infographic, the Times wrote, “Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college—universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings . . . In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all.”

The Times added that “ . . . some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access.” Is that why these elite colleges are behind groundbreaking programs like QuestBridge and the Coalition for Access & Affordability? Thanks, TImes, for not reporting the whole story. It also fueled the use of the term “Ivy Plus” to indicate the eight Ivy League colleges along with Stanford, MIT, Duke and University of Chicago. I guess they didn’t hear that the Ivy League is a sports conference.

Early Action: Fewer Winners So Far This Year

In the Washington Post, opinion columnist Jeffrey Selingo argued, “Let’s End the Craziness of College Admissions.” Selingo cited the case of neighbor Georgetown, whose EA volume rose 11 percent, forcing its acceptance rate down to under 12 percent. Interestingly, Georgetown sticks with its own application rather than joining up the Common App, often blamed for such increases.

Georgetown’s Early Action volume was  up 11 percent.

While Selingo acknowledged that attending an elite college helps networking, he also stated:

“The ambition to get into the best colleges is driven in part by parents’ concern over job prospects after graduation. But in interviewing employers of all sizes in recent years, I found them increasingly less interested in where someone went to college, and more concerned about the hands-on learning experiences applicants get, including internships, undergraduate research, and other outside-the-classroom endeavors. And as more employers use their own data on the performance of their best employees to find out why they are thriving in the job, some are discovering that a worker’s alma mater or degree has little do with success on the job.”

Free Test Prep: A Way to Win

As I often advise students, a first resource for standardized-test prep consists of questions made by the test maker. Interestingly, College Board has released the latest full-length test on Khan Academy’s website rather than its own. Students can find six full exams the College Board site.

The people behind the ACT aren’t quite so kind as to release full-length tests, but they do offer some very nice resources.

Harvard: Not Winning the Investment Prize

Harvard’s endowment is the largest at $35.7 billion, but its annualized net returns are near the bottom. The Wall Street Journal reports that Harvard has moved to outsourcing the management of its huge funds because, relative to its peers, its returns aren’t where they should be. (The 5.4 percent of students accepted expect more!)

By the way, Princeton leads the pack with the highest one- and ten-year return on its $22.2 billion endowment.

Financial Aid Assistance: A Win!

The New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) and the New Jersey Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NJASFAA) want to remind families of seniors to complete the 2017-18 FAFSA, stating, “The earlier your seniors apply, the earlier they can make informed decisions about their college selection.” Look at the websites for a video on filing the FAFSA, information on creating a Federal Student Aid ID (FSAid) and “8 Steps to Apply for Federal and State Student Aid.”

This weekend, appreciate the small victories!


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