Category Archives: Choosing a College

FREE Upcoming College Essentials Workshops

Join us to learn little-known secrets of paying for college, college funding, and essential college information to skyrocket your student’s school year at several FREE upcoming events! 

Tuesday, Aug. 23, 7 – 8:30 pm 

First, I will join Michael Russell of the College Funding Coach to bring you an information-packed session designed to prepare you for what you need to know to plan your student’s college career.

This in-person session will be at The [email protected], 118 Academy St., Fort Mill, SC  29715.

You’ll learn:

• Why parents should start thinking about college when their students are in middle school.

• Why it’s essential to have a plan for every year of H.S. and what college admissions officers value.

• Advice on PSAT, SAT and ACT tests.

• How to make the college dream a reality…and still retire one day!

  The speakers and topics will be the same as for the July 12 webinar.

Register today! It’s FREE and the first 10 registrants will receive a copy of my book:  Book - College Admissions Simplified College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound!

There is plenty of free parking available at The [email protected]

Register today HERE.

Wednesday, Aug. 24, 12 – 1 p.m. Lunch & Learn

This is also In-person event at The [email protected], 118 Academy St., Fort Mill, SC  29715

At this Lunch & Learn I will discuss:

  • Why parents should start thinking about college when their students are in middle school.
  • Why it’s essential to have a plan for every year of H.S. and what college admissions officers value.
  • Advice on PSAT, SAT and ACT tests.
  • Insights on the FAFSA, grants & financial aid.
  • Register today! It’s FREE and the first 10 registrants will receive a copy of my above book.

Register today HERE.

For questions about any of these events, contact me  at [email protected] 803-487-9777.

I look forward to seeing you!

 

 

5 Things You Need to Know About College Planning Now!

College admissions today requires careful planning to improve your student’s admissionprospects and save your family thousands of dollars!

In this complimentary in-person Lunch and Learn about “5 Things You Need to KnowAbout College Planning Now!”  you’ll discover:

  1. Why it’s a good idea to start planning as early as middle school!
  2. How your student can become the kind of applicant colleges want: those who havechallenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum and great grades.
  3. The importance of school and community activities on a student’s resume (and why more isn’t better).
  4. Why keeping an open mind on selecting colleges can result in a successful college experience.
  5. Financial savvy – FAFSA, grants & financial aid.

When:  Wednesday, April 20, 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Where:  The [email protected], 118 Academy St., Ft. Mill SC  29715

This Lunch and Learn session is complimentary, and a light lunch and a beverage will be served.

Register Here!

The first 20 people to register will receive a free paperback copy of Dr. Klaar’s new book, “College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound!”  In this book I’ve taken the knowledge gained from working with hundreds of students since 1995 and put it all into an easy-to-read guide for students and parents!

Register Here!

College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.

“The college process today is marked by dramatically lower acceptance rates, obscure bases for those getting in over others with similar records, and tuition that rivals the cost of the average American home,” writes Mark Sklarow, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, in the Forward of my new book, “College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.”

It really does bother me that today’s students and parents have such angst over college admissions. Independent Educational Consultants like me, also called college consultants, can provide invaluable knowledge and experience in guiding students through admissions (although students must always own the process and do the actual work). But let’s face it – not everyone chooses to or can afford those services.

That’s why I wrote this book – to provide a step-by-step roadmap to walk students through every aspect of college admissions. I also provide important tips to help parents support their teens, but without taking over. It’s crucial that the whole process, from high school classes to grades, testing, researching and visiting colleges, filling out college applications, writing essays, and getting letters of recommendation, belongs to the STUDENTS.

My book also helps students think about aspects of today’s overall admissions process that are very important, but which that they may not be familiar with, such as creating a cohesive application so colleges will see them as a well-rounded person. Another purpose of the book is to help students realize that there is a college that’s a good fit for everyone, and that success means succeeding and thriving wherever you go. College is not about trophy-hunting. It’s about you, the student, and meeting your goals for this life-changing experience.

Here’s what “College Admissions Simplified” will teach you:

• How to Begin – Explore your goals, your character, your strengths, what kind of future life you want and more.

• Affording College – In-depth information on FAFSA and the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 and how it affects your situation. Plus, lots of information and resources on scholarships, grants, student loans and figuring out what your family can actually afford.

• Your Academic Record – an in-depth look at how college admissions officers look at your courses, your grades, your ranking and more. That process is a lot more complicated than you might think!

• Extracurricular Activities – It used to be the more the better. That’s no longer true; colleges are looking for more depth and activities that reflect who you are as a person.

• Your Personal Preferences – there are many subjective, non-academic factors that affect which colleges fit you best. These include geographic location, campus setting, student body size and profile, extracurricular opportunities, average class size, faculty involvement and much more.

• Campus Visits – a successful college visit requires planning, so this chapter gives you a guide to make your visits much more beneficial. By consistently following this guide, you’ll be better able to compare colleges, apples-to-apples.

• Your College List – the previous chapters cover topics that are fundamental to building your College List. Given this foundation, this chapter will teach you how to create a three-tiered College List of about 15 colleges that best fit you.

• Your Application—Strategy – because admission is competitive, most colleges have adopted a holistic approach to analyzing applicants. Admissions decisions rely not only on your academic record but on non-quantifiable factors as well. These may include interviews, essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities, among others. this chapter guides you in developing an effective admissions strategy to present your best possible self to colleges.

• Your Application—Theme and Hooks – the way you communicate your strategy to colleges is through your theme. This is a brief statement of the reasons why you’ll make an outstanding addition to a college’s freshman class. To make it more effective, your story should be subtly woven into your essays, college interviews and letters of recommendation. Ideally, an admissions officer will like your application so much that s/he will use it to advocate for you in committee!

Hooks are when you have a truly outstanding talent, aptitude, or skill. A strong hook may help you get admitted to colleges that might otherwise be just out of reach; it may also result in scholarship offers from colleges that highly value what you have to offer.

• Your Application—Letters of Recommendation – these present firsthand information about you that’s not available elsewhere in your application. They will have a positive effect on admissions if you treat them seriously rather than just items to be checked off your list of things to do. This book shows you how.

• Special Populations – This chapter is a guide for applicants who qualify for special considerations in selecting and applying to colleges, such as minority students, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and more.

• Resources for Your Research – this final chapter gives you comprehensive and accurate information about colleges and universities.

A final note from Dr. Klaar:

If I’ve introduced some concepts in this books that you’re unfamiliar with, such as themes and hooks, this whole college admissions process may sound intimidating. But rest easy! The reason I named my book College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound,” is that I break it all down for you in digestible-sized chunks that you can actually follow. Get it here today, and start your journey!

Read About Why Every Year in H.S. Counts!

Here are excerpts from an interesting and interactive conversation I had  with Jennifer Plym and Cheryl Taylor of Charlotte Smarty Pants about preparing for college admissions while yourCharlotte Smarty Pants logo student(s) is in high school:

We discussed when families should start thinking about college.  I advised that parents start thinking about college – or some other form of post-high school education – when their students are in middle school.  They should think about how they’re going to pay for college, and create a college mindset for their student.

Have a plan for every year

By high school, have a plan and let your child stretch academically.  If a student is talented in math, let her take an AP math class.  If it doesn’t work out, then she can step back.

Our conversation emphasized that every year in high school it important.  College Admissions officers are looking for trends.  They want to see that a kid is improving each year, and that they are challenging themselves with increasingly difficult courses.

I also gave advice on PSAT tests – they should be a guide for students to identify areas where they need more help and work.  Although about 2,000 colleges are test-optional (including Wake Forest), students should take both the ACT and SAT tests.  Some students do better on one or the other, and that’s the one they should submit.

We also discussed finding a college that’s a good fit, and how kids views of college size, how far they want to be from home, etc. change as they go through high school.

If you have questions, contact me at [email protected]

Insightful Podcasts About Getting into and Choosing the Right College for You!

I’ve started podcasting! This article contains important information on college admissions planning in high school from interviews with the Podcast Business News Network’s Jill Nicolini. Read on or skip to the podcasts at the bottom.

I suggest that parents of ninth-graders get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.  Let your kids explore, that’s how they learn.

At the same time, admissions officers are looking for in-depth experiences.  Showing commitment to a cause or organization is important. They’re also looking for volunteer service.  If a student only does the minimum required number of hours, the college will assume you just wanted to graduate!

Another topic I talk about in my interviews are  the importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a containedSummer college prep campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

Also, have a frank discussion about what your family can afford.  There’s nothing worse than discovering after the first year that you really can’t afford your student’s dream college!

Another important consideration – if your student has exceptional talent, private schools who really want him or her have the dollars to provide financial aid. Public schools, while less expensive on the surface, do not have the same amount of financial aid! 

Here’s my May 27 interview.

Here’s my June 3 interview.

 

Insights into the Top Engineering Schools

If you’re a high school student with the right aptitudes and interests, you should consider engineering as a college major. A degree in engineering is an excellent foundation for a financially and personally rewarding career. To succeed at an engineering school, however, you must be willing to work hard and to dedicate yourself to the engineering discipline you choose.

The starting salaries of engineers are among the highest of undergraduate majors. For example, in a recent year, the engineering graduates of MIT received an average of $95,000 asMIT starting salaries. Their employers were mostly blue chip companies in the technology and consulting sectors, including Google, Oracle, Amazon, McKinsey, Accenture, Apple, Boeing, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Boston Consulting, Morgan Stanley, Booz Allen, Goldman Sachs, and Intel.

Once you’ve decided to major in engineering, you should build a target list of those institutions that best fit your needs and preferences. Before developing your list,  determine which types of engineering appeal to you most. There is a wide range of engineering disciplines, and your preferences will be essential in the selection of colleges. No single institution offers degrees in all, or even most, of the engineering disciplines.

Engineering Specialties

The six main categories of engineering are civil, computer, electrical, scientific, mechanical, and environmental. Within these categories, there are many specialties, many of which are integrated with a science curriculum. The range of engineering degrees offered by American colleges is indicated below in Table A.

Table A: Engineering Specialties in American Colleges

Agricultural Bioengineering Architectural Aeronautical
Aerospace Civil Computer/Software Construction
Electrical Environmental Genetic Industrial
Manufacturing Marine Materials Mechanical
Metallurgical Mining Nuclear Geological
Hydraulics Chemical Automotive Electronics

Top Engineering Schools Ranked and Compared

MIT is first on almost everyone’s list of the best engineering schools, but other top-tier engineering schools are close behind. Column A in Table B is the top 20 National Universities according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings for 2021. Column B is the top 20 Engineering Universities for 2021. After each Engineering University in Column B  is the rank of that institution on the Column A National Universities list.

Table B: Top National Universities and Top Engineering Universities

Rank Best National Universities             Rank Best Engineering Universities
1 Princeton 1 MIT  (4)
2 Harvard 2 Stanford (6)
3 Columbia 2 UC Berkeley (22)
4 MIT 4 Georgia Tech (35)
4 Yale 5 Cal Tech (9)
6 Stanford 6 Carnegie Mellon (26)
6 Chicago 6 Illinois (47)
8 UPenn 9 Cornell (18)
9 Cal Tech 9 Purdue (53)
9 Johns Hopkins 11 Texas (42)
9 Northwestern 12 Princeton (1)
12 Duke 13 Columbia (3)
13 Dartmouth 13 Johns Hopkins (9)
14 Brown 13 Northwestern (9)
14 Vanderbilt 13 Texas A&M (66)
16 Rice 13 Wisconsin (42)
16 Washington U – St. Louis 13 Virginia Tech (74)
18 Cornell    19 Rice (16)
19 Notre Dame 19 UC Los Angeles (20)
20 UC Los Angeles 19 U. of Washington (58)

Source: U.S. News and World Report

Only half of the top 20 National Universities are also among the top 20 Engineering Universities. The other 10 range from #22 (UC Berkeley) to #66 (Texas A&M).  Only MIT is in the top five in both Columns.

There are many institutions with less selective admissions policies than those listed above that also provide first rate engineering educations. These include Bucknell, James Madison, North Carolina State, Rensselaer, Florida, Virginia, Clemson, Harvey Mudd, North Carolina, Penn State, Maryland, Ohio State, Cooper Union, and Florida State. All five of the U.S. military academies provide an excellent education in engineering.

Two of the best engineering schools in the country warrant special note for their innovative engineering programs. They are the Carnegie Mellon Institute of Technology and the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Students at Carnegie have the option to augment their engineering degree with one of 10 interdisciplinary majors, each conducted in conjunction with a specific science curriculum.  Undergraduates can complete an accelerated master’s degree within one year of earning their bachelor’s degree.

Students at Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering also have an extensive range of majors in which to specialize, from medical physics to aerospace engineering. Among the programs offered, the industrial and biomedical engineering programs are especially well regarded.

If you’d like more guidance on selecting an engineering school and’s a good match academically, socially and financially, contact me at [email protected] or 803-487-9777.  I work with students in-person and virtually throughout the nation and the Virgin Islands.

 

Yes, You Get What You Pay For

With independent educational consultants, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

If you were searching for an eye surgeon, would you go with the cheapest one you could find? Probably not. After all, these are your EYES!

You would likely ask for recommendations, research the professional background of the surgeon, find out how many surgeries he or she had performed, etc.

The same holds true for selecting an independent educational consultant or college planner.

Some private colleges can cost a family more than $250,000 over four years. In-state public colleges may be less expensive, but they may also not have the level of scholarships available and may not end up costing less than a private college who really wants your student.  For example, Loyola University Maryland offered one of my 2021 students a $30,000 scholarship, whereas the University of South Carolina-Columbia (a public school) only offered a third as much.

When you’re making a substantial investment in your student, you want to make sure you weigh all options and find the absolute best fit.

As a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I have an extensive knowledge of colleges, can broaden your student’s potential choices, and provide vital help in weighing factors such as your student’s passions, costs, location, and curriculum.

Here’s an example:

One student I worked with was Gabe, an intelligent young man with learning differences.

He had been attending a music preparatory program at a respected college in his home town.  The college wanted him as an undergraduate student, and he wanted to go there to be close to home.  He was concerned about moving out of his comfort zone. However, his parents wanted him to think bigger and grow musically.  I showed him other music programs and explained that they didn’t need to be too far away.

 “He didn’t want a large school or to be too far from home, she helped direct him to the right program. He ended up at Catholic University of America.  It wasn’t his first choice, but when he did the first piano audition, they called him, and got him scholarships,” said his Mom.

How did that work out for him?

college decisions

“Gabe graduated last year and is doing his Masters in Piano Performance, also at CUA, so she (Dr. Klaar) really helped him make the best choice for him (perfect school size, location, great piano teachers…). He felt comfortable enough to not apply for any support and found his own way of studying and made it through college successfully (Cum Laude and Dean’s list seven semesters out of eight!)” Gabe’s Mom later reported.

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes.  That’s why I’m passionate about what I do. I understand the importance of taking the time to get to know students and their families well enough to create a college career path for each student’s unique goals and strengths.

I use a friendly but no-nonsense, no-excuses style to work with students to help make the college search, application and essay process a delightful adventure of self-discovery and growth. Along the way, I help students learn to make more informed decisions and to own the process.

That’s why students trust me, respect my knowledge and experience, and work hard to meet their assignments and deadlines.

That knowledge and experience is hard-earned; I belong to all the top College Consultant professional organizations, and was the third college consultant to be honored with the Prestigious Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement by the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Before you make the important decision to select an independent college consultant for your family, ask these questions:

  1. Do you guarantee admission to a school, one of my top choices, or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships? (Do NOT trust any offer of guarantees.)
  2. How do you keep up with new trends, academic changes, and evolving campus cultures? How often do you get out and visit college, school, and program campuses and meet with admissions representatives? (The ONLY way to know about the best matches for you is to be out visiting schools regularly – post pandemic, of course.)
  3. Do you belong to any professional associations?  (The National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Higher Education Consultants Association along with the IECA are the primary associations for independent educational consultants with established and rigorous standards for membership.)
  4. Do you attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law? (This is a must!)
  5. Do you ever accept any form of compensation from a school, program, or company in exchange for placement or a referral? (They absolutely should not!)
  6. Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees? (Absolutely mandatory.)
  7. Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays, or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? (No, they should NOT; it is essential that the student be in charge of the process and all materials should be a product of the student’s own, best work.)
  8. How long have you been in business as an independent educational consultant (IEC)?  (A long tenure with documented professional accomplishments buys you expertise.)

Four more important questions…

While anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be an independent educational consultant or college counselor, it pays to go beyond price and ask the important questions.

If you’d like to learn more, contact me at [email protected] or call 1-803-487-9777.

Cliffs Notes to the Top Performing Arts Colleges

Anyone who has been on stage and experienced the thrill of performance can understand why students aspire to careers as performing artists. Success in the performing arts entails intensive training focused on the development of essential skills. Colleges that offer a performing arts education  usually integrate it within a liberal arts degree program. Although beneficial to a student’s education, this makes a degree in the performing arts more challenging than most other liberal arts majors.

There are institutions that offer programs in only one or two of the three principal performing arts and others that offer all three. Typically, arts curricula require several foundational courses before a student is permitted to concentrate on a specialty. Four-year undergraduate programs lead to a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or a Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) degree.

In this post, we’ll review a number of college programs for acting (drama) and related specialties. Students in these programs take courses in theater literature and history, methods of acting, costume design, playwriting, screenwriting, lighting, stage movement, voice, directing, theater/film technology, set design and related fields to learn different aspects of their art. They’re assigned diverse tasks, not just acting roles. They study all of the disciplines behind the mounting of a production.

After core requirements are met, students are offered a choice to focus primarily on acting or to concentrate on one of the related fields mentioned above. Dance and music majors undergo academic experiences similar to acting majors in order to achieve balance between the theory and practice of their art.

Among the many colleges with undergraduate programs in the performing arts, there are those that have earned exceptional reputations, which are described below. These colleges focus more on acting and dance than music, which has its own list of best colleges.

Brown University, Providence, RI

Brown’s School of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies is noted within the Ivy League for the excellence of its undergraduate BFA program. Brown places a high value on its students achieving a well-rounded understanding of drama as a discipline. Along with acting classes, students study theory and history. They then choose one of the program’s tracks, which include Theatre Arts, Performance Studies, or Writing for Performance. The program offers opportunities for crewing mainstage plays, participating in production workshops, taking part in Shakespeare on the Green performances, and viewing world premieres at the Trinity Repertory Company.

Among the more well-known graduates are John Krasinski, Emma Watson, Laura Linney, JoBeth Williams, Ira Glass, Joseph Bologna, and Bess Armstrong.

California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita, CA

CalArts is considered by many to be the best dance school on the West Coast as well as one of the top drama schools. The School of Dance offers a distinguished faculty and renowned guest artists. It provides numerous dance performance opportunities in its American College Dance Festival. The School of Drama is often chosen by students who wish to pursue a screen-acting career. All seniors must enroll in the Acting Studio for the Camera course, which trains them for auditioning and performing  for cinema and TV. In their final semester, students perform in industry showcases in Los Angeles and New York.

The School of Drama’s successful alumni include Don Cheadle, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Baker, Laraine Newman, Michael Richards, Alison Brie, and director Tim Burton.

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

The oldest acting conservatory in the country, the School of Drama strives to impart to students the ability to embody their characters thorough analysis of the roles in which they’re cast. The School’s faculty consists primarily of established actors. There are 20 shows per year that provide many performance opportunities to students.  The School enables students to perform their original works during a designated week when all classes are cancelled. Seniors have opportunities to perform before audiences of industry professionals in New York, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.

Well-known alumni include Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Albert Brooks, Ethan Hawke, Jack Klugman, George Peppard, Jeff Goldblum, Cherry Jones, Judith Light, Blair Underwood, James Cromwell, Sada Thompson, Joe Manganiello, Leslie Odom Jr., Howard DeSilva, and Rene Auberjonois.

Catholic University of America, Washington DC

CUA’s Department of Drama, offering a BFA in Acting and a BA in Drama, is one of the oldest and most well-established in the country. The curriculum for the BFA in Acting is comprehensive in that it develops actors for all three major media: theatre, film, and television. It’s oriented to conditions in the 2020’s in which actors, in order to succeed, must be prepared for all three media. Actors are trained to be comfortable in all environments so that they’ll have the skills to start working immediately upon graduation. Washington provides plenty of opportunities for CUA students, who have many opportunities to intern at area theatres, experience the dynamic local theatre milieu, and engage in mentorship programs with area professionals.

Notable actors include Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Helen Hayes, Laurence Luckinbill, Jon Voight, Jason Miller, Chris Sarandon, John Lescault, Ed McMahon, Siobhan Hogan, and Phil Bosco.

Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

The CCA Theatre Department offers four BFA concentrations: Acting, Musical Theatre, Physical Theatre, and Design & Production. It also offers a BA in Music with three  concentrations: Commercial & Jazz Music, Music General Studies, and Music Performance. BFA acting students study eight levels of acting centered on the foundational work of Stanislavski. They take courses in on-camera technique, vocal technique, movement studies, script analysis, history, and criticism. The program focuses on self-exploration, characterization, and insight into each student’s best personal working methods. Students develop not only technical and artistic competence but also a broad knowledge of the theatre.

Well-known alumni include Michael Kelly, Bailey Hanks, Elise Testone, and Madelyn Cline.

College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Student-centered learning is the focus of the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre + Dance. Students are partners in an artistic community formed in the classroom, in the studio, and in productions. They study with faculty in classroom settings as small as five students. All students engage in the creation and development of each production. Abundant opportunities to perform enable students to gain experience in all aspects of theatre and dance.

Well-known actors include Robert Downey Jr., Erick Avari, Thomas Gibson, Matt Czuchry, Lea Michele, Jennifer Ferrin, and Alison Munn.

Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Founded in 1973, the FSU School of Theatre enjoys a national reputation due largely to its faculty of nationally recognized artists and educators. The School has been providing outstanding programs in Florida and around the world for nearly half a century. Its London Theatre Studies program offers a chance to work side by side with guest artists and eminent scholars and to participate in showcase opportunities in major cities.

FSU’s actors, directors, and writers include Alan Ball, Montego Glover, Paul Gleason, Davis Gaines, Leslie Flesner, Cheryl Hines, John Papsidera, Darren Bagert, Richard Simmons, Burt Reynolds, Heather Provost, and Amanda Watkins.

Julliard School, New York, NY

 Often considered the best school in the country for drama and dance, the Juilliard School has a long list of notable alumni who have earned 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts. It’s an exclusive school that selects applicants with proven talent. It selects only a few outstanding students each year, none of whom are recent high school graduates. There are usually 20 students each in the BFA Acting Program, the MFA Acting Program, and the BFA Dance ProgramThe Dance Program conducts 15 public performances each year and the Drama Program produces several plays annually. There are annual showcases in both New York and Los Angeles.

Alumni include Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Adam Driver, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Robin Williams, Viola Davis, Andre Braugher, Val Kilmer, Kevin Spacey, Wendell Pierce, Patti LuPone, Christine Baranski, Marcia Cross, Sid Caesar, and William Hurt.

New York University, New York, NY

On acceptance into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, students are placed in one of eight primary studios where they receive intensive training leading to a strong foundation in their art. Students remain in their studio for two years. The eight studios are the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, Meisner Studio, New Studio on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons School, Production & Design Studio, and Lee Strasberg Institute. Once studio training is complete, students choose a specialty for advanced training.

Notable NYU actors include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Bell, Adam Sandler, Oliver Stone, Andy Samberg, Billy Crystal, Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), James Franco, Bryce Dallas Howard, and its directors include Spike Lee, M. Night Shyamalan, and Martin Scorcese.

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Northwestern is one of the few schools of drama in the country that don’t require an audition for admission. Nevertheless, admission is still highly competitive with an admit rate of 15%. Students have many opportunities to perform in school-sponsored, student-run shows that select from among all undergraduates in casting roles. Seniors are invited to participate in showcases in New York and Chicago before audiences of industry professionals.

The School has educated many notable actors including Warren Beatty, Zach Braff, Stephen Colbert, Charlton Heston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Orbach, Ann-Magret, Claude Akins, Patricia Neal, Richard Benjamin, Robert Conrad, David Schwimmer, William Daniels, Anna Gunn, Jennifer Jones, Cloris Leachman, Mamie Gummer, Zooey Deschanel, Kathryn Hahn, Shelley Long, and Tony Randall.

Smith College, Northampton, MA

Smith is one of the best small colleges in the country for theater majors. Students attending Smith aren’t limited to the resources of their college alone because it’s part of the Five Colleges Consortium. Theater and dance majors at Smith benefit from the combined resources of four other nearby colleges: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This collaborative program affords students at Smith all the advantages of an institution many times its size while maintaining the intimate atmosphere of a small liberal arts college.

Graduates of the Five Colleges Consortium who have earned a reputation in acting, screenwriting, or directing include Donna Kane, Bill Pullman, Richard Gere, Wendy Wasserstein, Ken Burns, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Wallace, Lupita Nyong’o, Ken Howard, Shelley Hack, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The home of the UF School of Theatre and Dance is the new state-of-the-art Nadine McGuire Pavilion. The School’s full-time faculty is complemented by a rotating guest faculty of accomplished professionals. It offers BFA programs in Acting, Musical Theatre, Set/Scene design, Lighting Design, and Costume Design as well as a BA in General Theatre. The School also offers BA and BFA programs in dance that have been designed to develop the talents and creativity of each individual dance artist.

Among well-known alumni are Faye Dunaway, Buddy Ebsen, Darrell Hammond, Bob Vila, Lyndon Smith, and Nick Green.

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

The UGA Department of Theatre & Film and the Department of Dance offer BA and BFA degrees within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The Theater Department began in 1893 when UGA students formed what is now the Thalian-Blackfriars Dramatic Club, one of the oldest in the country. It’s now the official theatrical club of the University of Georgia with its own playhouse — the Seney-Stovall Memorial Theatre. A Film Studies major was added to the Department in 2006.

Notable actors include Kyle Chandler, Kim Basinger, Ryan Seacrest, Tituss Burgess, Josh Holloway, Wayne Knight, Jessica Stroup, and Sonny Shroyer.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance has an outstanding reputation in the performing arts. While pursuing a BFA in acting, students are trained for the physical and mental demands of theater by a faculty of working professionals that includes actors, directors, designers, and technicians. The School’s core curriculum consists of courses in acting, voice, dialect, movement, and stage combat. Students have many opportunities to perform for local, national and international audiences.

Well-known actors from UM include Selma Blair, Christine Lahti, Lucy Liu, James Earl Jones, Madonna, Darren Criss, David Alan Grier, Ann Davis, Margo Martindale, Gilda Radnor, and the playwright Arthur Miller.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

The high quality of UNC’s School of the Arts dance program is affirmed its alumni who have  gone on to perform with the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Martha Graham Ensemble.  Drama and dance students have many performance opportunities including senior showcases for industry professionals in New York and Los Angeles.

Notable actors include Mary-Louise Parker, Andy Griffith, John Forsythe, Louise Fletcher, George Grizzard, Jack Palance, Billy Crudup, and Sharon Lawrence.

 Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

 Wesleyan’s undergraduate theater program is one of the most widely known and highly regarded in the country. The School has an impressive faculty and accomplished visiting artists. Wesleyan’s program also provides an honors track for top performing students as well as two esteemed awards for individuals, the Rachel Henderson Theater Prize and the Outreach and Community Service Prize.

Among its notable alumni are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Bay, Kim Weyans, Beanie Feldstein, Patricia Wettig, Elisabeth Harnois, Dana Delany, Mike White, Bradley Whitford, and Joss Whedon.

Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC

Winthrop has the only comprehensive collegiate arts program in South Carolina that is nationally accredited in all of the visual and performance arts. The Department of Theatre and Dance fosters aesthetic, intellectual, and creative development in the performing arts within the context of a liberal arts education. Through course work, coaching, mentoring, and performing, students explore the social, historical, and technological aspects of theatre or dance. The Department mounts four stage productions (three in theatre, one in dance), two choreography showcases, and six studio productions each year. The Department also regularly hosts arts festivals, and students join faculty in travel to professional conferences.

Notable actors from Winthrop include Andie McDowell, Shanola Hampton, and Leigh Chapman.

Majoring in the Humanities Keeps Your Options Open

“Follow your passion!” has long been the advice given to high school students in choosing a career. It still is, but in many cases this advice is countered by pressure to do otherwise. This pressure comes from the power of the STEM* movement in American higher education. However, this blog post explains why a major in the humanities is a viable solution for high school students who can’t select a career with sufficient confidence that it’s the right choice.

The bias in favor of STEM education can detract from the integrity of your College List, which is comprised of the colleges to which you’ll apply in senior year. The College List, when properly developed, is an important contributor to the success of your college admissions campaign. In building the list, you’ll be advised to set your educational goals beforehand, including your future career, so that you can select a major that will enable you to pursue that career. Then, knowing your major, it’s assumed that you’ll be better able to identify those schools that fit you best — the ones that belong on your College List.

The College List Conundrum

This sequence — “career-to-major-to-colleges” — is a sound, pragmatic protocol — if you can follow it! But it isn’t feasible for many students. As a high school student, identifying with confidence which career is best for you is a daunting task. The lucky few already know what they want to pursue as a career, but most do not. In addition, the pandemic has caused the outlook for many careers to be clouded by economic uncertainty. A career that you might consider attractive now may be much less so in five or six years. And some of the hottest careers that will be open to you in 2025 don’t even exist yet.

Because there are advantages in identifying your career while in high school, you may be pushed to choose one before you’re ready, especially a STEM career, due their perceived practicality. Resist this pressure. There’s an alternative that you should consider if you’re unsure which career may ultimately suit you best.

The Emphasis on STEM Disciplines as Majors

In order to maintain America’s edge in the STEM fields, the focus in academia has shifted toward those disciplines. Due to the needs of America’s high-tech workforce, emphasis has been placed on graduating STEM majors who can satisfy the demand for entry-level professionals in those fields. This objective is worthy in and of itself, but there has been an unfortunate side effect.

The proliferation of STEM-centric curricula has driven some students, often against their desire and best interests, away from majoring in the humanities. Moreover, many colleges have reduced the number of traditional required courses in the humanities to allow for more courses in STEM subjects. College administrators are concerned that requirements in the humanities, to the extent that they displace STEM courses, diminish the future employability of graduates.

What Are the Humanities?

The humanities, as the term implies, is the study of the human condition from a number of
different perspectives. They are a subset of the traditional Liberal Arts, which, since classical times, has included the sciences, arts, and humanities. In the United States, the most common majors in the humanities are:

Table A: Majors in the Humanities:
Anthropology      Classical Languages      History
Geography      Grammar, Linguistics, and Languages      Theology     Literature      Law, Government, and Political Science      Philosophy
Writing – Prose and Poetry        Economics

The Role of the Humanities in American Education

Historically, American colleges were not founded to train students for a specialized career in one field. Rather, their mission was to expose students to a broad intellectual tradition. This was considered essential to create effective leaders for the community, commerce, and public and private institutions. This philosophy may seem impractical in a modern society as complex as ours, but it remains a sound design for a robust education because it benefits students regardless of what profession they enter.

The humanities teach two vital abilities that are missing from a purely STEM curriculum: communication and critical thinking. In the humanities, students learn to fully engage with the material, consider it from all angles, solve problems creatively without bias, express themselves well, adapt to new situations, and work collaboratively.

The Humanities and the U.S. Job Market

In today’s fast-changing environment, large organizations, even those whose primary business is STEM-related, aren’t looking for leadership candidates who know only one subject, however thoroughly they may know it. They’re seeking promising leaders who are innovative, creative, and possess an expansive mind-set, characteristics that are more closely associated with humanities graduates than STEM graduates. A study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of senior executives agreed that, “A demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate major.” The humanities hone the skills that large organizations seek in leaders.

Students and their families are often drawn to STEM fields for financial reasons under the assumption that salaries are higher. However, according to the New York Times, “The top 25 percent of history and English majors earn more than the average major in science and math during their careers, and the bottom 25 percent of business majors make less than the average of those majoring in government and public policy.”

College graduates must compete with their peers to secure their first job in their profession, an undertaking that has become increasingly difficult. A delay in obtaining a starting job is a concern for students who, like you, must anticipate which careers will even be viable several years from now. Fear of underemployment is justified.

As you grapple with this puzzle, bear in mind that the number of jobs that require skills developed in the humanities, especially interpersonal communications and the ability to solve complex, multi-dimensional problems, will be greater than the number of jobs that require highly specialized knowledge. A broad-based exposure to ideas will continue to be valued in new management-track hires.

In the future, the best and most plentiful jobs will go to those who can collaborate widely, think broadly, and challenge conventional wisdom — precisely the capacities that an education in the humanities develops. Don’t let yourself be discouraged from pursuing a major in the humanities if that’s what you truly love.

If you’d like help determining your college and career choices, contact me at [email protected]!

*STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and math.

Is your target college in danger of going bust?

If you’re a rising senior, you’re probably looking forward to your upcoming college years with great anticipation. You’ve worked hard for the credentials that will qualify you for admission to College just aheadthe schools that fit you best. College is the prize!

But what happens to your aspirations if you enroll at a college that closes its doors when you’re a freshman? You’d be forced to transfer to another college –  one that might not suit you as well. It’s possible that the new one might fail too, forcing a second transfer in pursuit of your Bachelor’s degree. You’d end up spending most of your precious college years gaining and then losing friends, mentors, coaches, jobs, and some credits too. Not to mention the loss to your peace of mind.

Colleges fail

This is not a far-fetched scenario. Colleges fail. In fact, a surprisingly large number of them have failed or been struggling in recent years, even before Covid-19 struck. Experts predict that about 20% of colleges will close in the next few years due to a combination of the pandemic, changing demographics, state disinvestment, and unaffordable tuition. If you’re going to college in 2021, you should find out if your targeted colleges are likely to be among the 80% that will survive.

Top-tier private colleges with multi-billion dollar endowments were given millions in Federal pandemic relief (with many, but not all, returning the money). However, the most at-risk colleges were excluded from the relief legislation. This neglect, added to the problems noted above, will take a heavy toll on the ones most likely to fold, which are small, private colleges with small endowments. Some of them have been operating at break-even or a small deficit for years. Even a slight decline in enrollment can be ruinous because they don’t have large endowments to cushion the blow. The pandemic will be their death knell.

A number of small private colleges have already closed or have announced a closing date in the near future. Here are a few examples:

• MacMurray College, IL
• Urbana University, OH
• Holy Family College, WI
• Pine Manor College, MA
• Nebraska Christian College, NE
• Robert Morris University, IL
• Concordia University, OR
• School of Architecture at Taliesin, WI
• Watkins College, TN
• Marlboro College, MA

Colleges tightening their belts

Many small colleges are adopting severe austerity measures in an effort to avoid closing. Even if they succeed in surviving, you’ll want to assess the likely impact of these measures on you as a student.

Public institutions, even some large ones like Rutgers and Michigan, are also feeling the pinch. States are compelled to cut their education budgets due to the statewide expenses and loss of tax revenue wrought by the pandemic. Public colleges have never fully recovered from heavy cuts to their budgets in the wake of the Great Recession. Add the current budget crisis on top of that and it’s inevitable that some state campuses will be closed.

Even large public and private universities that are expected to survive the pandemic will need to tighten their belts. You should stay informed because your target universities may discontinue the degree programs, majors, and courses in which you’re most interested. There’ll be reductions in faculty that will change the faculty-to-student ratio and impair mentorship programs that may be important to you.

How to research a college’s financial health

You’ll encounter two problems when you search for financial information upon which to base your decisions. First, a private non-profit college is not obligated to make financial statements available to the public. Second, the financial condition of all individual public colleges will be aggregated within the entire state university system, so you won’t be able to discern the financial outlook for a particular campus. Obviously, you won’t find even a hint of the possibility of a college closing on its website. Websites are marketing tools that try to recruit you, not discourage you.

The best way to obtain the information you need to assess a college is to enter the college’s name in a web search engine. If a college is experiencing difficulties, this will be reported in the local press because colleges are important to a community’s well-being.

The Common Data Set (CDS) is another a valuable resource. CDS is an intermediary used by colleges to provide institutional data to interested parties. It’s a collaborative effort between colleges and publishers who report on them, including Peterson’s, the Thomson Corporation, U.S. News & World Report, and the College Board. The purpose of CDS is to improve the accuracy of the information that’s released to interested parties, including you. To find the CDS data set for a particular college, enter “Common Data Set “Name-of-College” into a web search engine.

COVID-19 has come and it will go, but the uncertainty plaguing students at certain colleges across the country will remain. Try not to share their predicament. Use available resources to assess the financial stability of colleges before you apply.