College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 3

The admissions personnel on the Higher Education Consultants Association college admissions panel answered the following questions on current trends and hot topics.
How do you know a student wrote the college essay? 
  • The prose style of a 17-year old is different than a 40-year old. 
  • Essays written by committee loose their force. 
  • The main essay and supplement essays are consistent.  If they are in doubt, they compare the essays to the SAT writing sample.

What gender issues are colleges facing?

  • Liberal arts colleges are becoming increasingly female.  Some liberal arts colleges are looking to keep the percent of men at greater than 40%.
  • There are too few women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

How should high school students spend their summer?

  • Do something constructive.
  • Test some idea, like “what is it like to work?” or “what is field x like?”

What is the role of the interview in the admissions decision?

  • The Muhlenberg College representative indicated that 75% of students are interviewed by their admissions staff on campus or off-site.  Their interview is both evaluative and informational.  The college wants to get at intangibles like what is the student hoping for and whether the student is kind and civil.
  • The Dartmouth College representative said that alumni conduct the interviews and score the prospective students on a 1 – 5 rating score.  41% of the students interviewed received a score of 4 or 5.  Dartmouth is interested in learning why the students want to attend their college.
  • At Rutgers University, students from the Pharmacy School and the Mason Gross School have interviews.

How are you using social media?

  • Rutgers University does not read the student’s Facebook page.
  • After students were accepted to Dartmouth College, they could participate in a Class of 2016 page.  High school students could video chat with current Dartmouth College students.

What’s happening with Spring admits?

  • Brandeis University has been accepting students who applied for the Fall term as Spring admits for seven or eight years.  This allows then to fill the space made available because students are studying abroad.  The students who are Spring admits have their own orientation, make a good transition to Brandeis University, and turn out well.
Do any of these answers surprise you?  Are there other questions that you wish they discussed?

College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 2

The panel of admissions personnel at the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference discussed “What intangible factors make a student stand out?”

Chris Hooker-Haring, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Muhlenberg College, valued energy, sustained commitment, intellectual curiosity, and authenticity.

Lou Hirsch, Director of Admissions at the University of Delaware, indicated that he didn’t expect applicants to be Olympic Gold Medalists.  He wanted to know who the student is and how did he get that way.  He wants to learn how the student’s activities shaped them.  When the letters of recommendation and student’s essays mesh, he found it compelling.

Mark Spencer, Director of Admissions  at Brandeis University, said that admissions officers sometimes have a bias.  If the admissions officer feels connected to the student because of their story, that student had an advantage.

Brian Estrada, Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College, talked about valuing students who are open to learning from others, as well as students who others can learn from.  Dartmouth College considers moral development and peer recommendations.

Courtney McAnuff, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Rutgers University, said the Rutgers admissions office does not see race, gender or high school when evaluating applications.  Rutgers University is concerned about how students work with diverse situations and want to have a well-rounded class. 

What intangible factors do you think make a student stand out?

College Trends and Hot Topics – Part 1

I attended the Higher Education Consultants Association Conference this week.  Here’s what’s happening in college admissions, according to key admissions personnel who participated in a panel entitled “College Trends and Hot Topics: Admissions 2012.”

Courtney McAnuff, Vice President of Enrollment Management for Rutgers University indicated that he was looking at a proposal to merge UMDNJ with Rutgers, which now seems likely. He was also looking into the merger of Rowan and Rutgers Camden. The size of the Rutgers freshmen class will be reduced for the next three years, because retention is up.

Brian Estrada, Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College said, with the April nomination of their college president to lead the World Bank, Dartmouth is looking for a new college president. This year Dartmouth had 23,000 applicants and accepted 2200 of them. 1104 students will be attending, and Dartmouth may accept 5 more students from the wait list.

Mark Spencer, Director of Admissions at Brandeis University said parents are becoming more concerned about college costs. This year a lower percent of students stayed on the wait list and a lower percent of students are accepting a spot off of the wait list.

Lou Hirsch, Director of Admissions at the University of Delaware indicated that his school had the same situation with the wait list as Brandeis. Parents seemed more concerned with college cost and “have gotten over if their child doesn’t get into their first choice school.”

Chris Hooker-Haring, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Muhlenberg College told the independent counselors that Muhlenberg had over 5000 applicants this year. They admitted about 50% of their incoming class through Early Decision. It took longer to get to their target class size this spring and there were more conversations with parents about money and value.

In a future blog post, I will cover the panel’s input on college essays, gender imbalance at college, how high school students should spend the summer, college interviews, college use of social media, and spring admits.

What’s new at college?

At the NJACAC meeting, the following colleges shared some “new” information:

  • Muhlenberg College is opening a new rehearsal hall for theatre arts, music, and dance. They will also be opening a new dining hall which will offer a kosher meal plan.
  • Columbia University went to the Common App
  • Duke University introduced a neuroscience major and a finance minor; they are building a new dorm on the west side of campus for upperclassmen.
  • Rutgers University had a record enrollment. Their experiment with students self-reporting their academic record on their college application was a success and some of the State University of New York (SUNY) colleges will adopt it. Many new dorms are in the works.

Muhlenberg College

In March, I visited Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, located in a residential area of one-family homes in Allentown, Pennsylvania. While the school has a religious affiliation, ecumenism is the order of the day. One third of the students are Catholic, one third are Jewish and twenty percent are Protestant. The school calls itself “the caring college” because they feel the students and staff are warm, friendly and compassionate. The college’s red doors are a Lutheran sign of welcome. Muhlenberg wants to “encourage students to live life to its fullest, do their best, be honest, deal openly with each other, and treat everyone as an individual.”
The 2180 undergraduate students hail primarily from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Women outnumber men, as is often the case at liberal arts colleges. Most of the students are from middle and upper-middle class suburban families.
The school sits on eighty acres. In addition there is a forty acre arboretum and a forty acre wildlife sanctuary. Ninety-five percent of the students live on campus and eighty per cent stay on weekends.
Muhlenberg has small classes with only one percent having more than fifty students. Each freshman gets a first year advising team of four students and a faculty member. The college is strong in business, drama, dance, pre-med/biology, pre-law, English/writing, psychology, science, accounting and media/communications. All freshmen take a writing-intensive, discussion-intensive seminar capped at fifteen students. More than half the students study abroad for one or two semesters in their Junior or Senior year; they can choose from 150 programs in 35 countries.
You may be wondering what Muhlenberg students do for fun. Almost a quarter join one of the four fraternities or four sororities. They participate in some of the over one hundred clubs, intramural and club sports, or Muhlenberg’s NCAA Division III Centennial Conference teams. Comedians perform every Thursday night. A capella groups and dance are popular. Students use the college shuttle to get to activities in Allentown including restaurants, bars, movies, bowling, ice-skating, and miniature golf.
Muhlenberg is selective and has a 37% acceptance rate with 60% of the students applying early decision. The college is SAT-optional; a graded paper and an interview can be used in place of the SAT.
Tuition plus room and board are $45,600. Sixty-five percent of students get some form of aid. Ninety four percent of need is met. Merit aid averaging $9,900, ranging from $1,000 to $16,000 per year is available for those scoring greater than 1600 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT.

There are additional photos of Muhlenberg College on my Web site. If you’ve visited Muhlenberg College recently or are a student there, share your thoughts on the college.