There is no way to completely eliminate stress during the college admissions process, but those who work with students say there are ways to help make it bearable for students and parents. The following is a list of some of those suggestions.
1. Start early. There is nothing that will create more stress than rushing at deadline to finish applications.
2. Create a timeline that allows all your applications to be complete before you hear back from a school or schools you applied to for early action. This prevents a rush to regroup under pressure if the news isn’t good.
3. Be organized. You can reduce your workload, and your stress if you take a few minutes to go over all your applications to see where they overlap and make an organized list of deadlines and what each school requires.
4. Create a list of schools that includes more than one you would be happy attending and will likely get into. Putting all your hopes into getting into a single “dream school” is not only stressful, but unrealistic in today’s unpredictable admissions climate.
5. Acknowledge that the process is difficult, take a deep breath, and put things into perspective. Remember that virtually every student who applies to a realistic range of colleges gets in somewhere.
6.Once that last send button in pressed, let the applications stand on their own. Don’t keep sending the school updates or pester admissions offices with questions.
7. Start enjoying yourself. It is important to keep grades up, but start enjoying the perks of being a senior. Try something you may have never had time to do. Cheer on your friends on the school basketball team, play intramural sports, take a yoga class.
8. Start getting excited about going to college and taking the next step in your life, rather than focusing on getting into a particular school.
9. Acknowledge that there will likely be some disappointments. That’s OK. It’s also OK to feel happy for a friend who got into their first choice school while feeling miserable that you didn’t.
10. Remember that this is just a step in your journey. Nothing is etched in stone. If a school you attend doesn’t work out, you can transfer and things will be fine.
1. Let your son or daughter drive the process. It’s their choice, not yours.
2. It is difficult, but be realistic about your expectations. The climate is different now than it may have been when you went to college, be careful not to burden your teen with unreasonable goals.
3. Keep the lines of communication open, but take your cues from your son or daughter. Sometimes the best thing is to not talk about the college applications.
4. It’s hard to see your son or daughter upset. Your first response has always been to fix things and make them better. This is one of those things you may not be able to fix. Ignore the urge to make a phone call to an admissions office.
5. This is the time to be proud of your son's or daughter’s accomplishments. Let them know it.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at email@example.com.
There is no getting around it, applying to college is stressful.
And right about now, when seniors who applied for early decisions are hearing from admissions offices, and others are finishing up applications due Jan. 1, the stress level hits a peak, according to those who work with students.
While it’s unrealistic to think a few magic steps will make the process stress-free for everyone, there are things that can be done to make it easier on students and their families.
First of all, according to guidance counselors, tutors and college coaches, it is important to recognize that the application process is hard, and not brush aside the stress involved in writing essays, keeping up grades, making choices about where to apply, dealing with rejection, and perhaps having to wait until Spring before making a final decision.
“We can’t control the waiting, or the disappointment, but we can control how we are affected,” said Alan Houghtaling, founder of Evolve Tutoring in Belmont who has worked with adolescents for nearly 20 years.
“Literally, take a deep breath,” he said. “We’re not talking deep meditation here, just take a breath, and half a step back to remember why you are doing all of this, put a little bit of perspective on the situation.”
For Patrick Manning, coordinator of the post secondary planning office at Hingham High School, the key to getting through is to help students understand that they are not alone, and that it’s OK to feel stressed, confused, angry, disappointed.FULL ENTRY
His students may not have been special (at least that’s what he told them once) but Wellesley residents sure think David McCullough Jr. is.
In McCullough’s first major public appearance in Wellesley since his “You Are Not Special” graduation speech went viral in 2012, the Wellesley High School English teacher last night treated an audience of over 150 eager fans at the town’s public library to his philosophies on education, stories of newfound fame, and passages from his book to be released in April titled “You Are Not Special… And Other Encouragements.”
McCullough, the son and namesake of the Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned historian, delivered heartwarmingly humble tales of his sudden media attention to a room as attentive as it was packed Thursday. As he laughingly recalled how a black limousine showed up unexpected in his driveway the summer after his speech went viral, an audience member asked who sent the limousine.
“It was a woman who wanted me on her show, I forget her name. I think it was Chelsea?” he said, as many gasped and called out, “Chelsea Lately! Chelsea Handler!”
“It’s been jarring,” he said of his unforeseen fame. “Pleasurable in some ways, but mostly jarring.”
The 2012 “You Are Not Special” speech McCullough delivered, where he used the surprising phrase as a catalyst to urge students to work hard and enjoy being in the moment, went viral within days. The oration earned him a total of over 2.1 million hits on YouTube to date, accolades from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, interviews with CNN and local news channels, and an analysis from Psychology Today magazine.
The speech also drew the attention of literary agents, leading to a “whirlwind tour of New York skyscrapers” and eventually landing him a book deal with HarperCollins, he said. His 352-page book, which expands upon the importance of adolescent education and general well-being themes made in his speech, is due out April 22, according to the publisher.
“I wrote the book specifically with teenagers, 16- and 17-year-olds, in mind,” he said, adding that he hoped his students – former and current – would read it.
After McCullough sealed his book deal, he took a year-long sabbatical from teaching. He holed himself up in his Sudbury home, where he would “wake up at the crack of dawn, start typing, write all day, go to bed, and do it all over again, every day,” he said after the event.
McCullough has sent his final manuscript to New York and returned to Wellesley High this fall to resume teaching English.
“I’m very happy where I am,” he said of teaching in Wellesley, noting that he has no plans currently to pursue another book or a career change. “I see no reason to make a change – besides, I have a mortgage to pay,” he added with a smile.
Wellesley residents will surely be glad to hear McCullough plans on staying put, especially as many sang McCullough’s praises after Thursday’s book-reading event.
Reading aloud various excerpts from his newly-drafted memoir, McCullough playfully described his horror with America’s fascination with standardized test data, lofty grades and individual school rankings.
“Learning, true learning, is about expanding comprehension and deepening wisdom,” he said. “It’s about joy, and exhilaration. It’s about discovering how little you know and trying to do something about it… GPAs and SAT scores can tell you little about any of that. Yet all the talk points, always it seems, at numbers.”
McCullough also lamented his students’ fascination with technology, noting that it has led to shortcuts in learning, as well as an ease and acceptance of cheating.
“Knowing how to spell, and mastering conventions of grammar and usage are no longer necessary,” he said. “In fact, knowing is no longer necessary. It’s an outdated concept – almost quaint, like churning butter or dial-up Internet service.”
After his lecture, dozens lined up to shake McCullough’s hand. Some people said they attended the reading just to hear more of the author’s ruminations; others were former students who said were deeply influenced by their sophomore year English teacher.
“He really had an impact on how I think about learning,” said Katie Buteau, 25, a former pupil of McCullough’s who is now studying to become a teacher. “His lessons had this impact on us that really transcended the classroom.”
Another previous pupil’s mother gifted McCullough a canvas painting she crafted herself.
“It’s delightful – I’m already trying to think of where I should hang it,” McCullough said afterwards, flashing a grin of genuine appreciation for the present.
As he graciously shook hands and exchanged smiles with strangers, McCullough’s wife, Janice, dutifully hung to the side of the room and chatted with attendees, watching her husband out of the corner of her eye.
“It’s gratifying for me that all these people now get to know what a wonderful person he is,” she said after the event, adding that she met her husband when she was 10 years old. “You can tell he means what he says. You don’t always see that in people.”
To her – and to most everybody in the room Thursday – it was quite clear that McCullough is, indeed, special.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The research group posted the numbers on a searchable online database Wednesday, when it released a report painting a picture of student debt that varied dramatically from school to school and region to region.
The amount students borrow ranges from less than $5,000 at some colleges to almost $50,000 at others, according to a New York Times story, with students in the East and Midwest borrowing far more than those in the West and South.
Even within Massachusetts, however, the debt picture is far from uniform, according to CollegeInSight's database:
At Anna Maria College in Paxton, 86 percent of graduates have student loans, and the average debt is $49,206. At Boston University, 59 percent graduate with loans, and the average debt is $36,150
At Emerson College, 64 percent graduate with loans, and the average debt is $22,844. At Harvard University, 25 percent of graduates have student loans, with the average debt at $13,098.
At UMass-Boston, 74 percent of graduates have student loans, with an average debt of $25,499. At UMass-Amherst, 71 percent of graduates have loans, with an average debt of $27,945.
Overall in Massachusetts, 60 percent of graduates from four-year private colleges have student loans, and the average debt is $29,093, according to CollegeInSight. Seventy-five percent of graduates from the state's four-year public colleges have student loans, with an average debt of $27,627.
The University of Massachusetts will seek $519 million in state funding for the next fiscal year, which would allow tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduate students to be frozen for a second consecutive year, UMass President Robert L. Caret announced Wednesday.
“With this request, we are asking the Commonwealth to maintain its position as a national leader in restoring funding for public higher education,” Caret said as the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Administration and Finance met in Boston, according to a press release.
“The additional funding we are seeking would bring about a second consecutive tuition-and-fee freeze, a remarkable achievement that would be welcomed by families across the Commonwealth,” Caret added.
Caret said that this year’s freeze has significantly improved the university’s standing on the measure of affordability.
The five-campus UMass system is seeking $519 million in state funding for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014, a $40 million increase over the University’s current $479 million appropriation.
UMass received a $40 million funding increase during the current fiscal year – the largest budget increase in the University’s history. In addition to allowing for the tuition-and-fee freeze, officials said, the additional funding is returning UMass to a posture where the state provides 50 percent of the funding for the University’s educational programs.
Gianna Hitsos is a student at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School who contributed an article to Autism Speaks, chronicling her college application process. She was featured in Michael Matrullo’s “Principal’s Notes” last week. This is part…
(c.2013 Houston Chronicle)
Selecting a college these days is a lot like buying a car. The sticker price parents and students see in the brochure often isn’t what they'll pay.
Many public and private colleges and universities use tuition discounts to woo students who are unable or unwilling to pay the full price. These discounts come in the form of institutional grants and scholarships that offset published tuition and fees. As a result, students at the same institution can end up paying different amounts depending on their financial situation, academic standing or athletic ability.
College affordability is just one of the motives behind discounting, which began with private schools in the 1970s. Depending on their mission, some institutions use it to attract specific students, to shape their incoming class in terms of demographics, or to boost enrollment.
''We discount because we have a commitment to affordability and to diversity in income and background,’’ said Kathy Collins, Rice’s vice president of finance. ‘‘Students may think we’re too expensive, when we’re less expensive than a state school because of how generous we are.’’
Private institutions like Rice generally are more generous with tuition discounts than public ones. Last year, the average tuition discount rate for full-time freshmen at private schools climbed to an all-time high of 45 percent, marking the sixth consecutive annual rate increase, according to a survey released earlier this year by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
The discount rate is slightly higher at private institutions in the Houston area. At Rice University, it’s about 48 percent, while the University of St. Thomas and Houston Baptist University are at roughly 50 percent. The rates represent slight increases over last year.
At Rice, for example, the sticker price this year is $38,941. When the average tuition discount is applied, a student would pay $18,691.
As institutional aid has grown over the past five years, increases in the average published tuition and fee rates at private institutions have slowed. This year, private institutions had the lowest published tuition and fee rate increase, 3.6 percent, in four decades, according to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
However, net prices at private schools have gone up about 8 percent this year, to an estimated $12,460 from $11,550 in 2011-12, according to the 2013 Trends in College Pricing study by the College Board.
Public institutions have experienced a similar trend. This year, public schools posted the smallest published price increase - 2.9 percent - in three decades, the College Board study said.
The net price, however, has increased by 60 percent - from $1,940 in 2009-10 to about $3,120 as federal aid has declined. The study used different time frames for public and private institutions.
Rice, a competitive school, awards institutional aid to 58 percent of its freshmen. The university has a need-blind admission policy, meaning it doesn’t consider an applicant’s financial situation for admission.
Rice officials determine what the family and student can contribute, then subtract that amount from the full cost of attendance to calculate the unmet need. The university covers 100 percent of the unmet need with a combination of institutional grant aid, federal and state aid, subsidized loans and work-study (loans and work study are not included in tuition discounts).
For families with incomes less than $80,000, the university provides institutional grants rather than loans. This year, about 80 percent of Rice freshmen with family incomes less than $80,000 received institutional aid.
But many independent institutions also see tuition discounts as a way to stay competitive, particularly with public universities, which have considerably lower tuition.
Houston Baptist University, for example, is a fairly diverse campus with a large number of first-generation and low-income students, many of whom might have chosen to attend a less expensive public school if the private university had not put its best offer on the table, said James Steen, vice president of enrollment management.
''We want to give them a chance to have the opportunity to come to (Houston Baptist University) to fulfill their desire to go to college,’’ Steen said. ‘‘We have to put a competitive offer out there.’’
The university offers discounts to students at all academic levels. Academic high-achievers receive the best discounts, while average students receive less generous packages. In addition, the students receive a percentage of institutional aid based on financial need. About 98 percent of its freshmen receive institutional aid based on need, merit or both.
At the University of St. Thomas, designated by the federal government as a Hispanic-serving institution, about 95 percent of this year’s freshman class received tuition discounts, said Vickie Alleman, vice president of enrollment management. The university uses discounts to help students afford college and to attract top students, she said.
Managing the tuition discount rate is complicated and includes variables including family income and enrollment. Since the recession, family incomes, including those at the top, haven’t kept pace with inflation, and enrollments have grown rapidly except for a slight decline between fall 2011 and 2012, said Kathy Payea, a policy analyst with the College Board.
At the same time, more parents and students are expecting a price break and are using tuition discounts to determine where they'll go to school, college officials said.
“It’s a precarious time for institutions,’’ Payea said.
Worried about paying for college? Consider applying to Antioch College.
The liberal arts college, which is based in Yellow Springs, Ohio, announced that it would offer its Horace Mann Fellowships to all students who enter the college during the 2014 academic year. This is the fourth and final year the fellowship will be offered; it was established as a mechanism to replenish the school's student body after a three-year closure.
Horace Mann Fellowships cover four years of tuition, an estimated value of at least $121,000.
"The scholarship that comes along with the fellowship's responsibility for action makes what could be an unaffordable education accessible," said Antioch College student Hannah Craig, in a statement. "I am able to focus on following my passions with my incredible education without the fear of being left extreme amounts of debt after graduation."
Antioch College said it expects to enroll between 75 and 85 students in the 2014 academic year. To date, the college has received more than 450 applications for those spots.
The school received more than 800 applications for fall 2013 admission of which 18 percent were accepted. According to the college's statement, accepted students for the fall of 2013 held an average unweighted GPA of 3.65 and an ACT score of 25.
“We've offered the Horace Mann Fellowship during these formative years to bring the most academically capable and gritty students to the college,” said Micah Canal, dean of admission at Antioch College, in a statement. “For the right kind of student, one with the drive to dig deeply at an academically rigorous private college and apply those learnings on full-time work placements, just as they take a significant role at a 160-year-old start-up and rethink what a higher education ought to be in this young century, it is an unparalleled opportunity.”
While the pairing of "160-year-old" and "start-up" seems contradictory, it is not inappropriate. Antioch College was shuttered in 2008 by its parent university. The college's alumni paid $6 million to buy its campus and assets in 2009, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the now independent liberal arts college reopened to 35 students in the fall of 2011.
Since then, with the help of the Horace Mann Fellowships, Antioch College has grown. While many of buildings on its campus that once housed 2,200 students remain dark, the number of incoming students has increased, with 99 admitted for the fall of 2013. Each of these students received the full-tuition fellowship.
The college has also launched renovation projects to update its aging campus. North Hall, a 160-year-old dormitory, received a $5.7 million facelift. The campus' Health and Wellness Center is currently being updated. The construction of a central geothermal plant, which began in earlier this month, seeks to reduce power use on campus.
To learn more about Antioch College, visit its website.
Nicole Foley dreams of going to college so she can take classes with other young students, stay in a dorm, and learn how to live and work on her own.
But the options are limited for the 19-year-old from North Andover, who despite having an intellectual disability attended mainstream classes in high school.
“It’s been very difficult,’’ said Gloria Foley, Nicole’s mother. “I found it really shocking that here in Massachusetts, where we have the best of the best in education talent, we have such limited options. We should be on the cutting edge and show other states how to do this.’’
Advocates say the state has made progress in primary and secondary education over the past few years for students with intellectual disabilities, but more needs to be done for college inclusion.
“The current options are very limited for young adults with intellectual disabilities as well as autism,’’ said Julia Landau, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children. “We know that going on to higher education is a critical requirement to get a job. The limited options in Massachusetts have direct implications on their ability to have paid employment and live as independently as possible.’’
An intellectual disability is characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, such as learning everyday social and practical skills.
To help explore additional options, the state created the Task Force on College Inclusion for Students with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities earlier this year. The task force has been holding hearings throughout the state this fall soliciting feedback from the public about how students with disabilities could be educated alongside non-disabled peers in college. Members include lawmakers, higher education officials, and disability advocates.
Supporters say inclusion helps students discern their own interests, needs, and strengths, become advocates for their own choices and decisions around academic, social, and work activities, acquire career and life skills, and participate in college life like their peers and siblings.
State Representative Tom Sannicandro, an Ashland Democrat who is heading the task force, said inclusion is the norm for kindergarten through high school so college should be no different. One of the biggest challenges, he said, is educating the public about why intellectually disabled students should have that access.
“When students hit 18, they hit a barrier that doesn’t exist for other kids,’’ Sannicandro said. “By creating barriers to higher education, we’re limiting their ability to get a job and be better equipped for life. I’m trying to change the dynamic and say higher education offers opportunities to everyone and we want to give that access to them. It’s time we gave these students the same access we give everyone else.’’
Sannicandro said some of the state universities and community colleges offer classes through the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant pilot program that was started about six years ago.
Colleges partner with local school districts, which are required to provide education until age 22, to offer classes and a campus experience to students between the age of 18 and 22 who have severe disabilities and have not passed the MCAS graduation test. He said there are between 2,000 and 3,000 students in Massachusetts that fit that profile.
In Massachusetts, Bridgewater State University, Westfield State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, and MassBay, Bunker Hill, Roxbury, and Holyoke community colleges participate.
Lesley University in Cambridge also offers a program for intellectually disabled students on campus. While the program has its own curriculum and students have their own housing to fit their needs, such as a large kitchen where they can learn to cook, officials say students take part in typical campus life, including athletics.
Lesley sees it as a way to provide college access to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity, said Lesley president Joe Moore. Lesley is renovating the four buildings it has for the 68 students, and then plans to invite institutions from around the country to see how it works.
“We can’t grow the program, yet we know from the families we serve that there needs to be more of these programs around and different variations,’’ Moore said.
Officials and advocates say the existing programs have been very successful but are limited, which is why they are looking to see what else can be done, not only at public but private universities.
“What we’re learning is that there is certainly a tremendous demand for these kinds of opportunities,’’ said Dana Mohler-Faria, president of Bridgewater State University and a task force member. “I’m hopeful the results of the task force and the results of what we’re doing on some of the campuses will demonstrate it makes a big difference and we’ll get the support for these students.’’
Bridgewater State has been participating in the inclusion program for two years and is already looking to expand from its 19 students, said Mohler-Faria. He also said the school will be starting a pilot program next year that will allow some students to live on campus.
“It’s our belief that everyone has the capacity to learn so we have to set expectations for that and allow them to go to their highest potential,’’ Mohler-Faria said.
Students participating in the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Program aren’t necessarily taking classes for college credit, but they are getting academic and social experience that will better prepare them for an independent life, Landau said.
Most of those who don’t go to college take part in segregated life skills classrooms or vocational training, Landau said.
“By opening the doors of higher education, these students are able to continue to be educated alongside peers and gain not the just the content skills but to learn self-advocacy skills, how to navigate public transportation and social skills needed to live on their own,’’ Landau said.
“Are you going to help prepare this population of our citizens to live and work in the community or do we stay with the status quo, which is living and working in a segregated way?’’
Gloria Foley said her daughter, Nicole, learned alongside mainstream students in high school and is eager to do the same in college. She would also like to live on campus. The problem is, they can’t find a program. She is taking classes at Cape Cod Community College now while finishing up at the Riverview School in Sandwich. She lives in an off-campus dorm in Hyannis.
Foley said they’ve traveled to Wisconsin, Vermont and all over Massachusetts, but nothing is close enough or fits her daughter’s desire for inclusion.
“My dream is to go to college and be a lifelong learner,’’ Nicole Foley wrote in an essay last year. “Many people have low expectations of individuals with an intellectual disability. I want to change that perception by setting my expectations high and overcoming all barriers that stand in my way of college! If I can’t get over the fence that is my barrier, then I will find a way around it.’’
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at email@example.com.
A recent study by the ACT found that high school students need -- and want -- more help planning for college and careers.
"College Choice Report Part 1" compared students' reported planned majors with their academic interests. It also surveyed their preparedness to make such decisions.
“It’s important for students to have the information they need to make the best decisions about their future,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions, in a statement. “They should be made aware that choosing a college major that reflects their interests will give them a better chance of succeeding and could also contribute to their satisfaction and happiness in school and on the job.”
Here are four key points from the study:
- While 79 percent of study respondents indicated a planned major, only 36 percent of them chose a major that was a "good fit" based on their interests. Conversely, 32 percent of students chose a "poor fit" for a planned major.
- Many students noted uncertainty in choosing a major, with 45 percent of respondents saying they were "fairly sure" and 15 percent "not sure" of their decision.
- The majority (62 percent) of students said they needed assistance with their academic plans, regardless of whether they indicated a planned major.
- About 50 percent of students said the availability of a college major was the most important factor in selecting a college.
Data used in the study was collected from the ACT Interest Inventory, which students complete when registering for the exam. More than half (54 percent) of the high school graduating class of 2013 nationwide took the ACT.
Once overlooked amid the higher education elite of Massachusetts, the state’s public universities and community colleges are stepping into the limelight with increased funding, state-of-the art facilities, honors programs, affordable prices, and higher graduation rates.
With the rising cost of a private school education, combined with the public system’s big push to improve its standing locally and nationally, students are flocking to campuses all over the state. Interest and enrollment is up not only at the system’s flagship, University of Massachusetts Amherst, but at institutions like UMass Lowell, Bridgewater State University, and local community colleges.
“We have been working very hard for the last five years to increase public understanding and recognition of the quality of what’s going on in public higher education and increasing support for it,’’ said Richard Freeland, commissioner of higher education in Massachusetts.
Freeland said the system has always played second fiddle to the world-class private universities that dot the state from Boston to the Berkshires, but that has started to change as lawmakers, business leaders, and the public better understand the role it plays in shaping the state’s workforce. One year after graduation, nine out of 10 Massachusetts public education graduates remain in the state either working or pursuing higher education.FULL ENTRY
Massachusetts offers public colleges and universities in all shapes and sizes. Each applicant should consider their campus and academic preferences when deciding on a campus.
Using data provided by the colleges and universities and the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, we created a quiz to match applicants with their ideal schools.
Thirty-three Massachusetts school districts were named to the College Board's 2013 AP District Honor Roll for expanding access to Advanced Placement curriculum and maintaining or improving the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher, state education officials announced Wednesday.
Massachusetts had the fifth most number of school districts earning a spot on the honor roll, according to the College Board. Pennsylvania had the most districts recognized with 40.
"Massachusetts teachers continue to help pave the way for the Commonwealth’s successes in education,” said Education Secretary Matthew Malone in a statement.
"Each of our districts honored today, along with many more across the Commonwealth, are providing students with a rigorous course of study that will prepare them for success in college and careers," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester.
The College Board bases inclusion on the AP District Honor Roll according to the following criteria:
1. Increased access to AP courses by at least 4 percent in large districts, 6 percent in medium districts and 11 precent in small districts
2. The percentage of African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students taking AP exams must not have decreased more than 5 percent for large and medium districts and 10 percent for small districts.
3. Performance levels were maintained or improved when comparing the percentage of exams scoring 3 or higher from 2011 to 2013.
The following Massachusetts school districts were named to the 2013 AP Honor Roll -- a (1) means the district has achieved the honor for multiple years, and a (2) means the district has 30 percent or greater enrollment of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch:
• Arlington Public Schools (1)
• Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District
• Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District (1)
• Diocese of Fall River
• Dudley-Charlton Regional School District
• Franklin Public Schools (1)
• Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District
• Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District (1)
• Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (1)
• Hampshire Regional School District
• Hanover Public Schools
• Hingham Public Schools
• Hopedale Public Schools
• King Philip Regional School District (1)
• Leominster Public Schools
• Ludlow Public Schools
• Medfield Public Schools (1)
• Medway Public Schools (1)
• Monomoy Regional School District
• Needham Public Schools (1)
• Newton Public Schools
• North Attleboro Public Schools (1)
• North Middlesex Public Schools (1)
• Northbridge Public Schools
• Norwood Public Schools
• Plymouth Public Schools
• Swampscott Public Schools
• Triton Public Schools
• Wachusett Regional School District (1)
• Waltham Public Schools (1)
• Webster Public Schools (2)
• Westford Public Schools
• Whitman-Hanson Regional School District
AP is a rigorous academic program that offers more than 30 courses in a wide range of subjects and college-level assessments. According to the College Board, a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam represents the score point that is predictive of college success and college graduation.
High school students who are the first in their families to go to college scored markedly lower on the ACT than their peers from families with members who have attended college, according to a new report. About half of the high school students who would…
Looking for the right college can be daunting, especially for students who don't have access to outside counseling or adequate college guidance at their high schools. That’s where services like Applyful and CollegeWeekLive, both based in the Boston area, step in.
Applyful, a new Boston company that has the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to address the needs of underserved high school students by simplifying the college application process.
“When they’re ready to make the decision to apply to a school, it shouldn’t be a daunting, intimidating process,” said Tony Zanders, the company’s CEO. “They should be more relieved and excited as opposed to stressed and anxious.”
In January this year, the Gates Foundation announced that Applyful had been selected to participate in its College Knowledge Challenge. When the program ended earlier this month with a demo day in Southern California, Applyful was voted into first place among the other contestants.
Applyful works by taking information about colleges that is publicly accessible through the Department of Education and making it available on its own website. It also uses application programming interfaces from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and features that information on each school’s page on its website.
“If everything works out, college applications will be able to be completed with one clip,” Zanders said.
The website takes an application process involving numerous forms, transcripts, letters, and revisions of various essays – a process that Zanders says takes place mostly offline – and integrates it all into a single place where students can store everything.
There are different roles on the site – student, parent and counselor or teacher – which ensures that a student’s experience won’t be the same as a counselor’s. And while Applyful does aim to streamline the application process, students will still have to submit a separate application to each school they apply to.
“Applyful will still be 12 separate applications,” Zanders said, discussing a hypothetical situation in which a student applies to 12 universities. “The student will still complete 12 essays, tell their story 12 times for 12 universities.”
Applyful currently has 1,609 users in the Boston area, and has been launched in 250 to 300 schools in the nation. Anyone can sign up to use the website, regardless of whether their high school is affiliated with Applyful or not.
CollegeWeekLive brings the experience of visiting college fairs and the colleges themselves to an interactive website that features text and video chats with college reps and college students.
Students who sign up to use the free website have access to online college fairs in addition to events specific to particular colleges. The Needham-based company also offers information on other college-related topics, such as prepping for tests, writing college applications and essays, financing and return on investment.
Video or text chats with representatives from various schools give prospective students a chance to see if they are a good fit for the school, while chats with students attending those schools allow prospective students to size up whether the school is a good fit for them.
After students are accepted, they can take part in pre-orientation and accepted student events
Among the next events planned on CollegeWeekLive are:
- Nov. 21, 2013 – All Access, when all member colleges will be available
- Dec. 12 – All Access
- Jan. 9 – Paying for College
Shandana Mufti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even as more are saving for higher education, 40 percent of Massachusetts families with college-bound children have not had critical discussions about the total cost of college, according to a report released today.
While teenagers may understand that tuition is expensive, considering the other costs of attending college can feel overwhelming. But having those conversations with parents pays dividends, according to a study by Fidelity Investments and the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA).
Though it may be difficult for parents to bring up financial conversations, the report said, 66 percent of families who have taken the time to talk to their teenagers aged 15 and over have made adjustments to their college plans.
“Parents have a natural partner when it comes to college planning – their children. Through a collaborative approach, families can discuss the impact college-related decisions may have on their child’s financial future,” Thomas Graf, MEFA's executive director, said in a press release.
“The earlier families establish college savings goals, the more time they will have to adjust strategies," Graf said. "As children mature, this involvement will help them be better prepared for financial decisions they will face after graduation.”
The report defines the “total cost of college” as more than the costs of tuition, room and board -- it factors in expenses related to selecting schools, choosing a major, and financing options.
It study found that 39 percent of parents who had these conversations explored additional funding (scholarships), 24 percent chose to send their kids to a cheaper school and 14 percent chose to rely more heavily on financial aid to pay college fees.
The study found that college savings can play a rule in reducing potential student loan debt – at present, 82 percent of parents with college-going kids anticipate that they will graduate owing an average $31,100 in debt.
According to the report, 33 percent of parents contributing to a 529 college savings plan have increased their regular contributions since opening the account, up from 23 percent last year.
A checklist to help parents broach the subject with their children was also included, and suggests the following conversation topics:
- Understanding the total amount families need to save
- Deciding how to involve the children in the saving process
- Evaluating how school choice may influence costs and potential post-graduation student debt
- Learning about the financial aid process
- Calculating a reasonable loan amount
In addition, MEFA and Fidelity offer guidance on how to manage college savings.
"As we think about the conversations and conversation starters, the idea varies by how old the child is," said Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college savings at Fidelity. "What we've seen is that parents can be talking with kids even at 10 years old - the idea that college does cost money. Set the idea of having a savings plan and a goal that it's good to put money aside."
Bernhardt also noted how the role children play in saving for college should evolve as they get older, and that involving them in the process teaches financial responsibility and literacy in addition to helping grow college funds.
Bernhardt recommended that parents not wait too long to start this conversation - don't wait until the students are in 12th grade and about to send off their applications to tell them that certain schools are out of the budget.
"It's a very emotional and stressful time to pop that type of information, Bernhardt said." It can lead to friction and less than ideal decisions."
Shandana Mufti can be reached at email@example.com.
Together they have more than 90 years experience reading, and judging college essays: John Mahoney, director of undergraduate admissions at Boston College, Jennifer Desjarlais, dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley College, and Gail Berson, vice president and dean of admissions at Wheaton College.
The following is a list of do's and don’ts taken from what all three of the admissions professionals had to say about the things that make a great college essay.
1. Tell a story about yourself that will give the admissions office a sense of who you are.
2. Keep it simple, and keep it short. There is no need to write a novel, and admissions people read thousands of essays,
3. Write it yourself.
4. Use your own voice. This is not the time to experiment with styles you never use - so writing in rhyme, using humor, or satire can be very difficult, and are probably not the best way to go.
5. Throw away the Thesaurus. Using big words doesn’t mean you’re smart. Use words you actually use in real life.
6. Don’t write about the Human Genome Project. Choose something you really know about. Admissions people want to learn something about you.
7. While it’s tempting to write about a hero, be careful. Sometimes you end up telling all about the hero, and nothing about yourself.
8. Don’t make simple mistakes. Typos, misspelled words, and grammar mistakes really do matter.
9. Boastful doesn’t mean smart.
10. You don’t need to have had adversity in your life to write a compelling essay.
11. You don’t need a big accomplishment to write about in your essay to impress the admissions office.
12.Small details added to the essay can be the most revealing.
13. Don’t sit down to write the night before the essay is due. It doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but it does have to be thoughtful.
14. Start looking at the questions well in advance. Thoughtfully answering the “why” or “how” of the questions is the most important.
15. Don’t over-worry it.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The college essay: It is daunting. It can cause sleepless nights and stomachs to churn. Countless hours are spent trying to find the perfect subject, the perfect description, the perfect words to portray the winning experience that will green-light an application.
And yes, it can be the tipping factor that either gets you into a top school, or gets you a rejection letter.
John Mahoney, director of undergraduate admissions at Boston College, has a few words of advice for high school seniors working on their essay: Keep it simple. Tell a story.
“Create an image for me so I get to know the person behind the transcript,” he said. “I want to feel the heartbeat.”
That is also the key for Jennifer Desjarlais, dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley College, and Gail Berson, vice president and dean of admissions at Wheaton College.FULL ENTRY
It's almost November, which means deadlines for early applications are quickly approaching. Before committing to the Nov. 1 or Nov. 15 due dates for your college applications, it's important to know what the different applications are and whether you should fill them out or not.
The different types of applications, according to the blog, are as follows:
- Early Action: Non-binding - if you get accepted, you don't have to attend that school - and you can apply to several schools
- Single Choice Early Action: Non-binding but you can only apply to one school
- Early Decision: Binding - if you get accepted, you have to attend that school - and you can only apply to one school
While early application rounds may have higher admissions rates than those for regular applications, that doesn't mean that it's easier to get in. You'll be vying for spots against highly qualified students who are equally committed to the schools, which makes the competition even tougher.
So, should you go ahead and turn in that early application? According to Signet's blog post, if you've got good grades and test scores, you've done well in AP or honors classes, and you are certain about the colleges you're applying to, go for it!
On the other hand, if you need to work on your test scores and application essay, improve grades, and get recommendations from teachers, it might be best to hold off applying until the regular cycle begins.
Either way, if you're still second-guessing yourself on your list of schools, holding onto your application is a good idea.
Shandana Mufti can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON — A cascade of glitches in a major online college application program has frustrated prospective students across the country and prompted several universities to push back their fall deadlines, exposing vulnerabilities in the nation’s college admissions system.
More than 515 colleges and universities, including the entire Ivy League, use the Common Application to help choose their incoming classes. The program, which handles millions of applications annually, was retooled this year in an attempt to make an inherently stressful teenage ritual a little easier. But the fourth online version of the Common App, which went live Aug. 1, has compounded the angst of many college-bound students.
Software troubles and other technical difficulties have left students staring at frozen screens or led them to pay multiple fees for a single application. Others reported being shut out of their accounts entirely.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON (AP) — Computer problems have plagued a popular online college application system, causing admissions delays. But operators of the program said Thursday that they had fixed a large chunk of the problem.
After a rocky roll-out of a new online computer program, the Common Application said it fixed two big snags that had left students across the country struggling to file applications before early admission deadlines.
The Common Application allows students to apply to multiple schools at once; more than 500 colleges and universities accept it, and it is run by a nonprofit with the same name.
It has been inundated with user complaints about technical glitches since a new online system was rolled out Aug. 1. Some students have complained about being unable to log in and to tell if their payment had been accepted. College admissions offices have had problems retrieving documents they need within the system.
In response, some colleges and universities such as Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., have delayed early admissions deadlines.
Scott Anderson, senior director for policy with College Application, said the organization made two major fixes to problems Wednesday night. One fix related to payment problems and the other to difficulty some students had using the system with a Chrome browser.
Anderson said they anticipate about 800,000 students will use the Common Application this year — about a 10 percent increase from last year — and already more students have successfully submitted applications this year than last year at this time.
‘‘For applicants going forward, I think we really have addressed the major issues that they are seeing,’’ he said.
Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which extended its early action deadline about a week to Monday, said the admissions staff already has noticed that things have been going better since Wednesday. She said they are having daily meetings to discuss the situation and could extend the deadline again if necessary, but they are hopeful they won’t need to.
‘‘We have noticed that things have been going smoother, and we have been able to upload about 10,000 applications into our system,’’ Memory said.
On Thursday, however, many students were still posting complaints on the organization’s Facebook site related to technical problems. Some were advising others to submit an application in the middle of the night to avoid problems.
Ruth Lohmeyer, a school counselor at Lincoln Northeast High in Lincoln, Neb., said she’s telling her students not to take any chances. She’s warning them to give themselves plenty of time to submit an application.
‘‘The process will take longer,’’ Lohmeyer said.
With the U.S. college application season in full swing, some universities are informing panicked high school seniors about alternate ways to apply as technical issues affect the system used by more than 500 institutions.
Glitches in the Common Application propelled Princeton University to offer the Universal College Application. Southern Methodist University emailed thousands of potential applicants about its own online form and another through a group of Texas schools. Gustavus Adolphus College is informing visitors that the Minnesota school has an online tool.
Students and colleges alike have experienced problems using the Common Application, with only weeks before the deadline for early applicants. The website, which lets students apply to multiple colleges with one form, rolled out new software on Aug. 1. The site has been down at various points and students may not know if their materials are being received. Colleges’ reliance on one application company has exposed a flaw, said Jeff McLaughlin, dean of admissions at St. Olaf College.
‘‘We do not have a strong Plan B,’’ McLaughlin said in an interview from the Northfield, Minn.-based school. ‘‘That’s not good planning on our part. We had gotten complacent because there had not been problems with the Common Application’’ in the past, he said.
St. Olaf has been encouraging students to fill out Part One of the application on the school’s website so it can at least communicate with them, even though they must still use the Common Application.
‘‘We’re not in a competitive position that lets me sleep well at night,’’ McLaughlin said.
The Common Application, a nonprofit membership organization based in Arlington, Va., has existed for more than 35 years. In the 2012-2013 school year, 723,576 applications were submitted, an increase of 75 percent from the 2008-2009 year, according to its website. Last year, almost 300,000 teachers submitted online recommendations.
The company has posted updates on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, saying it is investigating the glitches. In a statement Tuesday, it said the most frequently reported problems involved errors when attempting to log in, credit-card payments that take a day or more to register, and the resulting delay in submitting an application.
‘‘None of these issues impacts all users, but each introduces a level of frustration for students, which adds anxiety to an already stressful process,’’ the company said. ‘‘These issues also have the potential to impact processes and deadlines for our member colleges, and we are especially appreciative of colleges that have taken steps to reassure students and parents.’’
Colleges are looking for solutions. Princeton added the second application portal to offer another option to students, said Martin Mbugua, a spokesman for the Ivy League school in New Jersey.
‘‘It became necessary because the students and secondary schools have been facing challenges with the system, and we needed a functional online application,’’ he said in an e-mail.
Students visiting Gustavus Adolphus, in St. Peter, Minn., are being told they have another option, said Richard Aune, dean of admissions. The school has rolling, early admissions, and students don’t have to commit until May.
‘‘If you want to hear before Jan. 1, it would behoove you to use our application,’’ Aune said in an interview. The school last year received about 4,900 requests for admission.
Southern Methodist in Dallas e-mailed more than 37,000 students to say they can opt to use the school’s application, Wes Waggoner, dean of undergraduate admission, said in an interview. About half of last year’s 14,000 applications came from either the Texas application portal or the school’s website.
Rebecca Joseph, an associate professor of education at California State University in Los Angeles, who helps low-income students apply to college and counsels students privately, said she’s had clients use schools’ own websites, including SMU and Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
‘‘You can’t tell a 17-year-old whose future is riding on this to be patient,’’ Joseph said. ‘‘That’s why they are taking another route. It’s affecting parents, kids, high schools and colleges all at the same time.’’
Colleges are also posting information to let applicants know of difficulties they are having on the receiving end.
Chapman University in Orange, Calif., is telling applicants that because of processing delays with the Common Application, the admissions office is taking longer than usual, sometimes several weeks, to update students about the status of their application.
‘‘Please be assured that Chapman is aware of these issues and we will work with you to make sure your application materials are received and evaluated appropriately,’’ the school said on its website.
Some colleges with Oct. 15 deadlines for early applications have extended them, including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech University, according to their websites. Students who apply early typically hear whether they have been accepted before the end of the year. The regular decision application deadline for many schools is Jan. 1.
Max Duff, 17, of Louisville, Ky., hadn’t been able to submit an application from a print preview screen to Georgia Tech and feared missing the deadline before the announced postponement.
He finally succeeded at 6:45 a.m. on Monday.
‘‘It made me a little anxious,’’ said Duff, who plays basketball and wants to study electrical engineering or computer science. He said he feels for the technicians at the Common App. ‘‘They are trying to deal with it the best they can.’’
Christoph Guttentag, Duke University’s dean of undergraduate admissions, said while the process of applying will be more difficult than in years past, he’s confident the problems will be fixed. Duke’s early deadline is Nov. 1, and last year it took 44 percent of its class in the early pool, he said in an interview.
‘‘In the end, it will all work out,’’ Gutttentag said.
As the maker of The Common Application struggles to fix glitches in its new online version, the Washington Post reports that some schools have pushed back their deadlines for early action applications while others are taking a wait and see approach.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech have announced that they will push back their deadlines from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21, the Post reports, while Princeton University has offered students a different method of applying.
"We are aware that some users are experiencing problems with the PDF previews," said a Facebook post by the nonprofit organization Tuesday morning. "We are investigating the cause and will report as soon as we have information to share. As frustrating as this problem is for those who encounter it, please know that it is not systemic and does not impact all users."
Many students have had problems getting onto the Common App site, inputting information, requesting teacher recommendations and paying application fees, according to articles in both the Post and The New York Times.
"We are aware of the login issues users are experiencing," the Common App said on Facebook Monday. "The slowness is due to a spike in activity among recommenders, which is having an impact in system performance for all users. The result is a time-out issue, which presents itself to users as an unsuccessful login error. Unfortunately, the issue continues to persist. We are taking steps to address the problem as quickly as possible."
And earlier in the day: "We have implemented several instructional changes to clarify processes surrounding print preview, fee waivers, self-reported testing, and essay pasting. We will continue to incorporate your feedback into our support resources."
When Danvers High School guidance counselor Joy LeBlanc looks each spring to see where her students are accepted, the list includes many of the nation’s elite private colleges and universities.
But now more than ever, cost is dictating where students will end up as many families are choosing schools that offer the best value and not the most prestigious name.
“Today, it’s more of an issue than it has been in the past,’’ LeBlanc said. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of students selecting the state college system over private colleges because of the cost.’’
According to the College Board, the average published tuition, fees, room, and board for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities in 2012-13 was $17,860 compared to$39,518 at private nonprofit four-year institutions. The cost for in-state tuition, room, and board at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is $23,198 for 2013-14, up $31 from the previous year.
LeBlanc said she advises students to choose not just academic safety schools but financial safety schools.
“We encourage students to develop a list that covers them in what they qualify for but we always say make sure the list includes schools that are financially feasible,’’ LeBlanc said.
To help deal with the rising costs of education, LeBlanc and other college advisors encourage families to have frank conversations about finances early in the search process, and to take full advantage of all financial aid options.
Now more than ever, cost is dictating where students will attend college as many families are choosing schools that offer the best value and not the most prestigious name. But how exactly do you figure out that cost?
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), a nonprofit agency that helps students and families make their way through the financial aid process, suggests asking colleges these six questions:
1. What is the total cost of attendance?
2. What financial aid forms are required and when are they due?
3. Are there merit-based scholarships available and what is the application process?
4. Are the grants/scholarships renewable each year and are there conditions?
5. What does the college estimate the total student debt will be upon graduation?
6. What is the average percentage of financial need that is met by the college?
It also helps to understand the many types of financial aid that are available. This is how MEFA describes them:
Grants and scholarships:
Grants and scholarships are gift aid that does not have to be repaid, and are available through colleges, universities, and federal, state and private agencies. Public colleges and universities in Massachusetts also offer tuition and fee vouchers to residents that waive or reduce costs.
These programs allow students to work part-time on or near campus while in college. Earnings may be used for living expenses, books, supplies and other education-related expenses but is not automatically deducted from the college bill.
Loans are available to help families cover the cost of college. Some offer features such as subsidized interest, deferred repayment and low rates.
Outside scholarships from private, local and national sources:
These may be awarded based on a variety of factors including financial need, academic merit, artistic or musical talent or interest in a major.
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.