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The College Try

List of 10 news stories.

  • College Admission and Gratitude

    November is undeniably the crazy season in college admission. Early application deadlines, nervous high school seniors, often-frantic parents, and other demands of college admission all seem to come to roost. It was in the midst of this frenzy that I returned to my office, and on top of the clutter of paperwork, I discovered the following note....
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  • College Admission, Helplessness, and Choice

    If you shock a rat or dog enough times (please do not do this) without the animal having control over its circumstances, it is likely to give up hope, believing it has no other choice but to receive a shock. This is what psychologist Martin Seligman, and his colleagues at The University of Pennsylvania, discovered in the 1960’s and 70’s with their experiments on learned helplessness. While I do not support any kind of cruelty to animals—or humans—it is a phenomenon not dissimilar to what we often observe in college admission....
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  • Unpacking College Financial Aid

    A week after our second child was born, I heard an economist on the radio talking about saving for college. My heart sank and my pockets lightened as the guest broke down the numbers. Considering the rising costs of higher education, he explained that to save for a private college, starting at their children’s birth, parents would need to set aside $500 per child each month in an account with an interest rate that matched inflation. As two educators in our early 30’s with a household income of around $60,000 a year, $1,000 a month represented about a third of our post-tax earnings. My mind raced....
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  • College Admission Deans Tell Students #WhyApply

    Why apply to college? Ideally, it is a question that every high school student will ask, but the reality is much different. For some, attending college is a foregone conclusion—their parents went to college, they have been in a college preparatory curriculum, their friends and neighbors are going to college, the financial resources are available—it is just what is expected. These students often need to be reminded to pause, step off the high school hamster wheel, and examine why they plan to attend college, setting intentions for what they hope to gain from the experience...
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  • End College Rankings: An Open Letter

    An open letter to the owners and editors of U.S. News and World Report: I am writing to respectfully request that you cease and desist the publication of your destructive college and university rankings. These simplistic and misleading classifications of our educational institutions are jeopardizing the health and wellness of our young people, the unity of our families and the sanctity of educating for the common good....
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  • A Syllabus For College Transition

    Across the nation, first-year college students are arriving at their new campus homes and are engaged in orientation programs—essentially crash courses on life as a college student. They are settling in, registering for classes, and buying books on engineering, philosophy, foreign languages, and other rich subjects that will challenge them intellectually. Soon, they will begin to attend lectures and read literature that will expand their minds. All of this is the result of the significant time, energy, and resources that they dedicated throughout high school to “getting in” to college...
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  • College Applicants Reflect on Lessons Learned

    College admission is a rite of passage—an occasion for young people to pause and reflect on the first decade or so of their lives. Sadly for many adolescents, the competition, complexity, and anxiety surrounding selective college admission can be a toxin that taints an otherwise exciting time of transition. As high school ramps up and the treadmill spins faster and faster, teenagers soon lose sight of the lessons that their young lives have provided. Reflection is muted by reflex, as they respond to the presumed expectations and demands of applying to college. For many, the admission experience feels like a referendum on their accomplishments, strengths, and interests—a very public process that is layered with hope, fear and forced vulnerability....
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  • The College Admission Blind Taste Test

    I grew up in the 1970s and '80s in what was a war-torn America. Cola wars that is. I was from a Pepsi family and though I had friends from Coke families, that doesn’t mean I understood their misguided preferences. To be honest, I don’t know why we were a Pepsi family, it was just always how it had been. It was what we knew and we were loyal to our brand. Then came the Pepsi Challenge where representatives from the cola company would set up a table in a public location and administer a blind taste test to passers-by. After sampling both brands without the label, one was asked to choose the soda that tasted the best. Convinced that I was uninfluenced by marketing, tradition or peer pressure, I accepted the challenge....
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  • The Perfectionist's Guide to the College Essay

    The glow from the laptop reflects off his forehead as he stares at the screen, paralyzed by panicked perfectionism. The Common Application essay prompts are neatly copied onto the blank document, taunting him with possibility. His young mind races from topic to topic, each of which he dismisses immediately. The championship soccer game…cliché. His meaningful relationship with his deceased grandfather…overdone. The first time he received a grade below an “A” on an English paper...trite....
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  • Education's Opiates: Prescribing Selective Colleges

    Parents, high schools and colleges are feeding an addiction of sorts— abetting an epidemic of perfectionism and expectation while promoting a “high” of status and prestige. After two decades of working with young people in college admission, it is increasingly apparent that driven by fear and uncertainty, we are “overprescribing” achievement and ambition while jeopardizing the health and wellness of our children. The parallels between selective college admission and the drug crisis are frightening and though not as immediate or severe, the impact of resume building—doing more and being more—is serious all the same....
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