Maternity leave

The title basically says it all.

As a result, I will not be available to work with any new students (from any grade level) until the summer of 2020 at the earliest. I am so sorry for the inconvenience!

My blog will also be quiet during these next few months as I attempt to balance life with a newborn and toddler. Wish me luck!

-Heather

Campus Visit Notes: Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

RITCollege: Rochester Institute of Technology

Location: Rochester, NY

Type of Institution: Private university

Size: 15,000 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: RIT reads applications by major with a lot of variation in requirements and eligibility standards. Students should thoroughly research their top major(s) to ensure they meet the requirements before applying.

Most popular majors: Computer Science, Engineering, Film & Animation, Photography

Words to describe students I met: slightly nerdy, career-oriented, focused, casual dressers, unique

Unique academic aspects: RIT’s campus houses National Technical Institute of the Deaf, enrolling around 1,000 deaf students. This is a federally-funded option with a separate admissions process, though RIT students are able to take American Sign Language (ASL) classes or even serve as interpreters for those deaf students enrolling in RIT classes.

I was also incredibly impressed with the brand new MAGIC building on campus, which is the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity. This state-of-the-art building houses majors across these disciplines but also serves as a center for collaboration, entrepreneurship, and production. They also allow access to outside companies (producers, filmmakers, businesses) – it is becoming a hub of creative activity in the region.

Unique social/cultural aspects: RIT has one of the best Formula SAE clubs in the country. Students spend the entire year designing, building, and then racing a car in competitions across the United States and even abroad. This is a great opportunity for Mechanical Engineers in particular, though students from other majors are welcome to join.

RIT also offers a number of Division III athletics programs, one of the larger DIII universities out there. For student-athletes who want to continue at the DIII level but don’t want to attend a small college, RIT could be a great match! Ice hockey, however, is serious business here and competes in Division I.

Colleges that seem similar: Champlain College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northeastern University, Purdue University

Concerns about this college: Gender diversity continues to be a struggle for RIT. They currently have a university-wide goal of enrolling 40% female students. Though the imbalance isn’t as dramatic as it is at peer institutions or other technical universities, it was definitely something I noticed on campus and particularly when visiting the Computer Science and Engineering programs.

Overall impressions: I enjoyed my visit to Rochester Institute of Technology, a school which has been popular with my students for years due to their strengths in high-demand fields and focus on career preparation through their robust co-op program. The physical campus included a mix of different building styles and, though it wasn’t the most beautiful around, I was actually pleasantly surprised (and again especially impressed with the MAGIC building). RIT is a great match for students who know what they want to study and have career goals in mind, but who don’t want to attend a large and impersonal public university.

Colleges That Change Lives event

In a few weeks, Seattle will host dozens of amazing colleges for the Colleges That Change Lives Fair. This is a great opportunity for students and parents to learn about some lesser-known but incredible small colleges throughout the country. These colleges are student-centered and are known for providing transformative educational experiences, a great match for students looking for small classes, professors who care, and the opportunity to explore different majors and pathways.

If you want to learn more about the history behind the Colleges That Change Lives or individual member schools, this site provides some great information.

Higher Ed trend: college closures

closedSmall college closures, mergers, and the elimination of majors have been in the news quite a bit recently. This trend really hit home when one of the colleges I frequently recommend, Hampshire College, announced they are in financial trouble and are seeking a partnership with another institution. This has become an even bigger consideration for me as I build my student lists, particularly for those looking for those small hidden gem colleges in the Midwest and Northeast.

Why is this happening?

From my perspective, there are a few key reasons. Despite the fact that you routinely hear about record application numbers and lower-than-ever acceptance rates, that only applies to the most selective schools out there, those “top 100” brand-name universities. Demographic shifts actually mean fewer students are graduating from HS each year, and though the numbers are expected to increase slightly in the next few years, those increases will mostly occur in populations with lower college-going rates.

Additionally, many colleges are running a deficit because they are providing huge tuition discounts to incoming students. This is especially true for schools that are located in more rural areas, those that need to provide those incentives to get students to seriously consider them at the end of the process. These are also often schools that are investing heavily in sexy new facilities in the hopes of attracting students.

It’s no surprise the federal and state funding for higher education institutions has declined rapidly in recent years.

There are also some disruptive forces at play, such as the rise of online education, which I’d argue is a net positive.

And finally, students and parents are much more value-conscious than they were 10-15 years ago. The great recession increased the focus on “practical skills” and career preparation and a move away from the liberal arts.

Should I be worried?

The vast majority of colleges and universities should be fine in the next decade, but there are a few red flags to watch out for as you build a college list. “According to a 2016 report by Parthenon-EY titled “Strength in numbers,” 77% of colleges and universities—or 738 institutions—with fewer than 1,000 students exhibited at least three risk factors, such as a high discount rate, being dependent on tuition for more than 85 percent of revenue, or having an endowment that covers less than a third of expenses, that placed its survival in question.”*

Given that information, families might take a university’s endowment into consideration when deciding whether to apply or attend. Families can also consult this Forbes list which provides a grade for the financial health of colleges and universities. (Note: This is from 2017 and, in fact, many of the schools that received D or even C grades have closed, shuttered majors, or indicated they are struggling.) For those considering majors in the humanities and social sciences, it could be worth digging into enrollment numbers for those areas, faculty hiring trends, or college/program-specific budgets, if available. This last piece is true for larger public universities as places like our own public flagship have announced enrollment challenges.

Here are some additional links and resources if you’d like to read more:

Washington Post general overview

NY Times alternative colleges struggling

*Forbes article Dec 2018

Forbes financial health ranking

Class of 2019 results

I am so excited to share the list of college acceptances for my long-term students in the class of 2019! In red are colleges where at least one student will be enrolling in the fall.

Congratulations!

WEST COAST EAST COAST ROCKIES/MIDDLE/SOUTH
Pomona College Swarthmore College Colorado College
California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) Bowdoin College University of Colorado – Boulder
University of Southern California Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Colorado School of Mines
Seattle University (+Honors) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Purdue University
Gonzaga University Skidmore College University of Notre Dame
University of Washington (+Honors, +Comp Sci direct) St. Lawrence University Macalester College
Whitman College University of Rochester University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occidental College Goucher College Trinity University (Texas)
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Ithaca College Denison University
Santa Clara University Juniata College Kenyon College
University of Redlands Eckerd College Butler University
University of California – Davis Trinity College University of Cincinnati
University of California – Berkeley Syracuse University University of Denver
University of California – Los Angeles Lafayette College Texas A & M University
University of California – San Diego Northeastern University University of Minnesota
University of California – Santa Barbara Penn State University Arizona State University
University of California – Santa Cruz McDaniel College Indiana University
University of Puget Sound Sarah Lawrence University Montana State University
Reed College Wheaton College – MA Boise State University
Whitworth University Fordham University University of Arizona
Washington State University Connecticut College University of Idaho
Western Washington University Union College University of Montana
Oregon State University Tulane University (+Honors)
Lewis and Clark College DePaul University
University of San Francisco University of Dayton
Loyola Marymount University Rhodes College
Chapman University
University of San Diego
University of Oregon
University of Portland
Central Washington University
Willamette University
University of the Pacific
Whittier College

Thoughts on the admissions scandal

It has been an interesting couple of weeks to be an independent college counselor. And, unfortunately, I can’t say that I am particularly surprised to learn exactly what lengths parents and unethical consultants will go to in order to get kids into “brand-name” schools. The obsession with rankings is absurd and continues to cause so much unnecessary anxiety for parents and students in this process. The notion that one has to get into a certain tier of college in order to have a great experience and have prospects after graduation is just plain false.

As I always tell the families I work with, your college and career outcomes are determined by how you engage with the experience. Do you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you? Are you in a place where you feel supported and mentored? Are you able to connect with professors who care? Can you find your “people”, a friend group that shares your values? Are there opportunities to learn in a way that works for you? This is why “fit” is crucial and why I strongly encourage my students to take ownership of the process by completing surveys and activities, researching my college recommendations, engaging with colleges in the application process, and reflecting on their goals and dreams. It isn’t necessarily a perfect system, but it is a heckuva lot better than just focusing on the rankings or perceived prestige. And it doesn’t involve cheating or bribery.

In light of the recent scandal and negative press surrounding the independent college counseling business, I’d love to pass along my recommendations as you or others in your community consider hiring a college consultant.  As you are interviewing potential counselors, I would strongly recommend asking about the following:

  • Professional association memberships – There are two main organizations focused on independent college counselors: HECA or IECA. Counselors should also be a member of a more general college admissions or higher education association, such as NACAC or its regional affiliates. As you might suspect, Mr. Singer did not belong to these groups or any other professional association.
  • Regular college visits – Membership in most of the professional organizations above requires a certain number of evaluative college visits per year.
  • Conference attendance – There are numerous opportunities for professional development through conferences and events. This is the best way to stay up-to-date on college admissions trends and network with college representatives.

Though I am pessimistic that this admission scandal will lead to any real change in the admissions process or the role of rankings, I am hopeful that it will lead to increased awareness about the importance of ethics and standards when hiring outside help.

Campus Visit Notes: University of the Pacific

 

College: University of the Pacific

Location: Stockton, CA

Type of Institution: Private university

Size: 3,600 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: University of the Pacific uses a holistic admission process. They will recalculate GPAs to a weighted GPA (great news for my Washington state HS students) and will look at a range of other factors in the review process as well. Admission can vary by major, and many of the accelerated programs are incredibly competitive, such as Dental and Pharmacy.

Most popular majors: music, engineering, business, accelerated health professions (Dental, Pharmacy)

Words to describe students I met: diverse, social, goal-oriented, engaged, friendly

Unique academic aspects:  I was blown away by one of UoP’s newest majors, MediaX. This major is a great match for students interested in “the future of storytelling”, blending coursework in gaming and animation, writing, performance, technology, engineering, business, and more. The program aims to help students create content for multiple platforms and is doing a lot of cool stuff with virtual reality. I particularly loved seeing their motion capture equipment in action in their black box theater.

This university also has several smaller academic communities for highly motivated students, including: accelerated tracks into their own Dental and Pharmacy professional programs, a Legal Scholars program (with accelerated law school option), Humanities Scholars, and finally the Powell Scholars. This last program provides a big time merit scholarship of 40K+ per year for all four years and is given to the very top applicants to the university. I met a few Powell Scholars during my visit and was impressed with their backgrounds but also the ways in which they are engaging more deeply with their fellow scholars, faculty, and other UoP resources.

Unique social/cultural aspects: University of the Pacific is one of the smallest colleges to field Division I sports teams. Though they don’t have football, many other teams are well-supported and the campus was full of students in their Pacific gear. I also cannot believe how many major and pre-professional tracks this small university is able to support. Because of these factors as well as the active Greek system, you’d never guess UoP was under 4,000 undergraduates in total.

Colleges that seem similar: Honestly, UoP is a pretty unique place! But a few that have some social and academic similarities include: University of San Francisco, Gonzaga University, University of Portland, Chapman University.

Concerns about this college: My biggest concern continues to be the fact that over 80% of students attending UoP are native Californians, so it isn’t particularly geographically diverse (though it has incredible ethnic diversity). Though many students are coming from southern California, there is still a fairly large percentage from northern California meaning students do go home on the weekends. Greek life and a robust dorm system provide social opportunities on the weekends, but not as much as at a larger university or a college where a high percentage of students are coming from other states.

Overall impressions: I had the amazing opportunity to experience UoP for two full days by participating in a special event for counselors, so I leave the campus with a much more comprehensive set of impressions compared to my normal visits. This place really felt like a family and I know that students would have amazing support from faculty, staff, administration, and even their fellow students. It is also a beautiful campus, full of a brick buildings, a lovely chapel, and even a few palm trees. This university is a gem, particularly for students who are able to participate in their accelerated programs or special merit scholarship programs.