Category Archives: Choosing a College

Charlotte Smarty Pants Conversation with Charlotte Klaar on College Admissions

Here’s an interesting and interactive conversation I had earlier this year with Jennifer Plym and Charlotte Smarty Pants logo Cheryl Taylor of Charlotte Smarty Pants about College Admissions.

In this podcast we discuss when families should start thinking about college.  I advise 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.

By high school, have a plan, let your child stretch academically.  If a student has a facility 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 give advice on PSAT tests – they should be a guide for students to identify areas where they need more help and work.  Although there are about 1,000 colleges that are truly 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 discuss 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.

It’s well worth the time to listen to, and if you have questions, contact me at [email protected]!

Insightful podcasts about getting into and choosing the right college

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

Some college majors have been affected more than others by the measures taken to combat Covid-19. A good example is Performing Arts, which necessitates student-to-student  collaboration within confined spaces. The three performing arts — acting, dance, and music — are simply not amenable to online learning. But with herd immunity now foreseeable in the 2021-22 academic year, applications to the top performing arts programs are expected to rise, making admission to the best programs highly competitive once again.

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 an education in the arts 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.

COVID-19 Makes Difficult College Admissions Even Worse

 

This blog is about college admissions and the concerns of students in the admissions process, primarily rising seniors.  You need to understand how the pandemic affects you as an aspiring member of the college Class of 2025 — the students who will be freshmen in the fall of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened what was a slow-moving crisis. The 10% decline in college enrollment that Nathan Grawe, author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, predicted would happen between 2020 and 2030 is happening right now in 2020 as the pandemic continues to shock higher education in the U.S.

Lately, the media has focused on the plans of colleges for their re-opening in the fall. It appears that college operations will be variations of the following three basic options:

  1. All classes will be conducted online,
  2. Some classes will be conducted on campus and some online, and,
  3. All classes will be conducted on campus.

Option 1 is controversial because of the strong preference of students for campus life as a part of their college experience. Options 2 and 3 are controversial because they call for stringent policies to mitigate the spread of infection among students, faculty, employees, and their families. Criticisms center on the question, “Will even these policies be sufficient to prevent an outbreak?”

There’s wide variation in the policies of colleges concerning tuition, travel, PPE requirements, student access to the Internet, residential and dining hall operations, health facilities, Covid-19 testing protocols, quarantining, social distancing rules, and many other matters. This information is vital to a current student making the decision to re-enroll or not. Thus far, it appears that many will not, as evinced by the sharp rise in requests for gap years.

Let’s be optimistic and assume that a vaccine will be available in early 2021 and that everyone will have been vaccinated by mid-year. Colleges can then safely resume normal operations in the fall of 2021. But by then the admissions process will have undergone radical changes. Some of these changes will be permanent. You’d be wise to anticipate and accommodate them in your admissions strategy.

Major areas where permanent change is expected:

1. College Closings – Colleges occasionally fail, usually for financial reasons. A large number of colleges have been financially unstable since the Great Recession, so they were struggling before Covid-19 struck.

Experts such as Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma,  have predicted that from 25% to 50% of colleges will close in the next decade due to a combination of factors that include the pandemic, changing demographics, state disinvestment, and an increasing expense burden. You should investigate the ongoing viability of the colleges to which you plan to apply. Are they likely to be among the 75% that may survive?

2. SAT and ACT Exams – The exam organizations have been cancelling test dates since March. They’re having difficulty scheduling and keeping replacement dates due to the persistence of the virus. Both organizations have considered but rejected plans to conduct exams online. As a result, many more colleges have joined the ranks of test-optional schools, at least temporarily. The majority of colleges now don’t require SAT/ACT test scores for admission.

Given the controversy over the potential of the exams to discriminate against socio-economically disadvantaged students, it’s probable that most colleges will remain test-optional after the pandemic. It’s also likely that more colleges will adopt test-free policies, which means they won’t consider your test scores even if you submit them voluntarily. Depending upon your circumstances, this trend may have a great effect on your selection of colleges.

3. Visiting Campuses – It seems likely that on-campus tours for prospective students will not resume until after the deadline for applications has passed next winter. This is significant for those building a list of “best-fit” colleges. A campus visit has always been the best way to determine if a college is right for you. Many colleges have made it easier for you to become familiar with their campuses online. They have invested in innovative methodologies that combine virtual technology with communication tools to provide state-of-the-art virtual tours.

Some colleges who have been unable to re-architect their online tours now offer a simple but effective improvement. It involves a student guide on campus using a smartphone to be visually connected with you. He or she makes the usual tour stops and then shows you whatever you want to see that is of specific interest to you. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it can help you to assess colleges.

4. College Major and Career Choices – The choice of your “best-fit” colleges depends to a great extent on your choice of a major, which is based on what you see as the best career field for you. Since the pandemic has caused mass disruption to entire industries, resulting in job losses in many fields, there are likely to be fewer job opportunities in these fields when you graduate.

However, no one is sure which fields will be most affected long-term. Complicating matters is the fact that the economy appears headed for a recession of unknown duration. In a poor economy, many graduates experience problems in landing a first job in their chosen field.

In short, even if your course selections in high school were oriented toward a particular major, your plans for that major should be re-examined.

5. Fewer Scholarships Available – In the past, many partial scholarships were awarded by colleges after they had accepted an applicant for admission. These “tuition discounts” were offered as a recruiting tool to try to prevent you from enrolling at another school that had accepted you. Now, funding for this type of scholarship is declining as colleges seek to increase revenue to offset the losses suffered thus far due to the pandemic.

Many colleges have taken a huge hit to their endowments funds, the source of many of the needs-based scholarships awarded to students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, members of minority groups, or from rural areas. In addition, many wealthy individuals and foundations that fund private scholarships directly have pulled back from their regular sponsorships.

Summary

Getting into the colleges that fit you best is about to become even more difficult than it has been in the past. If the 10% enrollment decline that’s been forecast holds true and the number of colleges declines by somewhere between 25% to 50%, as forecasted, the competition for the freshman seats that remain can only intensify.

If you would like some help and advice in making your decisions, contact me at [email protected]  I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success!

 

 

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.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

The admissions results for the Class of 2024 may be the final snapshot of a passing era. The deadline for applications was the end of January. Decisions were announced in late March. By April 1, most colleges had ceased operation due to the pandemic. Therefore, admissions to the Class of 2024 were not affected by the pandemic, but next year’s certainly will be.

Since decisions were released, the pandemic has frustrated those admittees who must choose from multiple acceptance offers. For those who have made their choice, the pandemic is interfering with all that normally precedes the fall semester.

Exactly what the fall semester will entail is unclear. Most college administrations are undecided, Columbia Universibut some have announced that students will be on campus in the fall with social distancing rules in place. Others have determined that they’ll only offer online classes in the fall. Many students will need to weigh the health risk of the full campus experience against the safety of virtual classrooms. Understandably, a higher than usual percentage of students are considering taking a gap year.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

They will be severely tested by the decline in revenue that the pandemic is causing. Many will be forced to reduce their budgets, which may mean cuts to faculty, curricula, majors, residential and campus amenities, sports, recreational and cultural programs, and other features of a college’s value to students. This portends significant changes to the historical patterns of college admissions.

One positive result of this unpredictability is that waitlisted students are much more likely to be admitted. Concern over potentially low yield rates has motivated even the most elite colleges to go deeper into their waitlists than in the past. If you’re waitlisted, don’t hesitate to call an admissions office for an update on your status.

Although there were a few anomalies in the 2020 results, most colleges, especially the most highly selective ones, continued their pre-pandemic trend towards more applications and lower admissions rates. Table A shows the rates for a sampling of highly selective and popular regional institutions compared to their rates in 2019. Following Table A are comments about a few of the colleges.

 Table A: Admission Rates for the Class of 2024 (Fall 2020)

 

Institution

Class of 2024

Admission Rate (%)

    Class of 2023

Admission Rate (%)

American University 38              35
Amherst College 12              11
Barnard College 11              11
Boston College 24              27
Boston University 19              18
Bowdoin College 8                9
Brown University 7                7
CalTech 6                6
Carleton College 20             19
Clemson University 47             47
Colby College 9             10
Columbia Int’l University 34             33
Columbia University 6               5
Cornell University 11             11
Dartmouth College 9               8
Duke University 8               7
Emory University 20            27
Emory (Oxford) 23            20
Fordham 46            44
Furman College 61            61
Georgia Tech 20            19
Georgetown University 15            14
George Washington 39            41
Harvard University 5              5
Johns Hopkins University 9              9
Lander University 43           43
Limestone College 14           14
Macalester College 37           31
Middlebury College 24           16
MIT 7             7
New York University 15          16
Northeastern 19          18
Northwestern University 9            9
Princeton University 6            6
Rice University 10            9
Swarthmore College 9            9
Tufts University 15         15
University of Chicago 6           6
University of Georgia 46         45
University of Florida 29         34
University of Notre Dame 17         16
University of Pennsylvania 8           7
Univ. Southern California 16         11
Univ. of South Carolina 63         63
University of Virginia 21         24
Vanderbilt University 9           8
Washington University 13          14
Wellesley College 19          20
Wesleyan University 20          16
Wofford College 64          66
Yale University 6.5            5

Middlebury College: The admissions rate at Middlebury retreated sharply from 16% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. No explanation has been provided by the school’s press office.

Emory University: Emory’s admissions rate tightened from 27% in 2019 to 21% this year.

Brown University: Brown’s results for the Early Decision cycle saw applications up to an all-time high of 4,562. Its ED admissions rate was the lowest in the school’s history at 18%. However, the Regular Decision rate rose from 2019, bringing the overall admissions rate more in line with past results at 7%.

University of Southern California: USC’s acceptance rate increased to 16% for the Class of 2024, up from 11% in 2019. The University received 6,000 fewer applications in 2020 than in 2019. This is the first year that prospective students applied to the University after the Varsity Blues scandal, and the results are considered a reflection of that fact.

Wesleyan University: Wesleyan accepted 2,351 students to the Class of 2024 out of 12,752 applicants. While the University has experienced an upward trend in applications in the past, the applicant pool was smaller than usual this year. As a result, the admissions rate eased from 16% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Williams College: Williams admitted more students than usual this year in anticipation of a less predictable yield. Over the last five years, the College has accepted an average of 1,197 students for a target class size of 550. This year, Williams admitted 1,250, making it one of the few colleges that anticipated the potential ramifications of the pandemic in its early stages.

I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success, let me be your guide as well! Email me at [email protected]

Why you should stick to an early decision agreement

If you’ve been accepted by a college through its Early Decision (ED) plan you may consider yourself fortunate, as you should.  You’ve applied to a school that’s at or near the top of your target list because the likelihood of acceptance for ED applicants is higher than the overall rate Early decisionfor the college. You’ve been admitted before most of your fellow students have even submitted applications. You can rest easier than your classmates and enjoy the rest of your senior year without the stress of admissions hanging over your head!

And yet, some students who have been accepted through an ED plan want to renege on their agreement later because events have transpired that cause them to regret their commitment. At that point they want to know if their ED agreement is binding and if they can disregard it without consequences.

Consider the Early Decision agreement you’ve signed

The answer isn’t simple. You, your guidance counselor, and your parents signed an agreement that stipulates that you understand that you’re committing to attend the institution if admitted. So, yes, it’s binding. But an ED agreement isn’t a contract that, if breached, can subject you to civil liability.

Consider the agreement that you’re asked to sign. A majority of the colleges that offer ED options do so under the Statement of Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), which guides the institutional treatment of students. Section II of the NACAC document, titled “The Responsible Practice of College Admission”, includes this definition:

Restrictive early application plansEarly Decision (ED): Students commit to a first choice college and, if admitted, agree to enroll and withdraw their other college applications. This is the only application plan where students are required to accept a college’s offer of admission and submit a deposit prior to May 1.”

When you submit an ED application, what you’re agreeing to do is clear. While pursuing admission under an ED plan, students may apply to other institutions under an Early Action (EA) plan, but they may submit only one ED application. If an ED applicant is not admitted but is deferred to the Regular Decisions (RD) cycle, they’re immediately released from the ED agreement and are free to accept any other colleges’ offer of admission.

There are changes in a student’s circumstances that will induce a college to release him or her from their ED commitment. Before we review these circumstances, you should understand what may happen if you  simply ignore an ED agreement after having been admitted.

What can happen if you ignore an Early Decision agreement

You may wonder why a college administration even cares if you break your ED agreement, given that many of them admit only a small percentage of applicants. They can readily fill your slot with another well-qualified applicant. Administrators care because they use ED as a tool to improve the quality of their freshmen classes and raise their yield rate. Yield rate is the percentage of applicants who are offered admission, accept it, and go on to attend the college. It is an important variable in a college’s planning, and colleges strive to keep it high. If applicants admitted under an ED plan can renege with impunity, the purpose of an ED plan is defeated and its value to the institution is nullified.

At the same time, colleges are reluctant to compel students to attend their school if they don’t want to be there. So the college whose ED acceptance you turn down isn’t going to come after you with bloodhounds and a posse. “In some ways, early decision is a gentleman’s agreement”, according to Dave Tobias, vice president of enrollment for Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.

Backing out of an Early Decision raises questions about the student’s ethics

Most importantly, when a student backs out of ED agreement without cause, it raises questions about the student’s ethics that could impact decisions elsewhere. Some guidance counselors and colleges take steps to discourage reneging on ED agreements. For example:

  • If an admissions office finds out that a student has applied to their institution and another via ED, they’ll contact the other school. The student risks being denied consideration by both schools.
  • A cooperative ED plan is operated by five Ivy League schools: Brown, Penn, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth. If an ED applicant is admitted to one of them, they must honor Early decisions at Ivy league schoolstheir agreement or be ineligible for admission to any of the others. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton share a similar plan.
  • Many guidance counselors place a hold on sending transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other admissions materials on behalf of students who have applied via ED until the decision is known. This step is taken because a guidance counselor’s credibility with admissions officials is at stake.
  • A group of 30 liberal arts colleges share lists of students admitted to each of them via ED so that the others don’t unwittingly admit them. They also share the names of students who were admitted via ED but were released from their commitments.
  • Admissions officials sometimes discover from a guidance counselor that a student has submitted two or more ED applications. Counselors will warn students ahead of time of the impropriety of submitting multiple ED applications and, if the student persists, will contact the affected colleges, both of which will terminate consideration of the applicant.

Legitimate reasons for backing out of an Early Decision

As noted above, there are a number of legitimate reasons why a college will release an applicant from an ED commitment without any negative repercussions. Below are a few common examples:

  • Necessary financial aid from the college didn’t develop as originally planned,
  • A parent or other family member has died or fallen ill and enrollment at a college is no longer feasible or desirable,
  • A family business or a parent’s career has suffered a setback, and,
  • The student has suffered a serious health issue.

An ED agreement is a serious undertaking, often among the first formal commitments you’ll make in your lifetime. You should make a good faith effort to stick to it.  Klaar College Consulting can help you understand the commitment you’re making. More importantly, i your decision will be part of a sound admissions strategy that we co-develop with you to help ensure  the success of your college admissions campaign.