College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution

M.I.T.’s campus. Its graduates are high earners, but how much credit does M.I.T. deserve for that?

M.I.T.’s campus. Its graduates are high earners, but how much credit does M.I.T. deserve for that?

Students, parents and educators increasingly obsessed with college rankings have a new tool: the Obama administration’s College Scorecard. The new database focuses on a college’s graduation rate, graduates’ median earnings 10 years after graduation and the percentage of students paying back their college loans.

While Scorecard adds potentially valuable information to the dizzying array that is already available, it suffers from many of the same flaws that afflict nearly every other college ranking system: There is no way to know what, if any, impact a particular college has on its graduates’ earnings, or life for that matter.

“It’s a classic example of confusing causation and correlation,” said Frank Bruni, the author of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” a book about the college admissions process, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. “Anyone who has taken statistics should know better, but when it comes to colleges, that’s what people do. They throw common sense out the window.”

Of course graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (average postgraduate earnings $91,600, according to the Scorecard) and Harvard ($87,200) do well. That’s because the students they admit have some of the highest test scores and high school grade point averages in the country, reflecting high intelligence and a strong work ethic — two factors that cause high future earnings. That is generally true regardless of where such students attend college, as long as they go to a reputable four-year institution, various studies have shown.

“It’s absurd,” said Jerry Z. Muller, a professor of history at Catholic University of America and the author of “The Costs of Accountability,” a study of misplaced and misunderstood metrics. “Their graduates have high earnings because they’re incredibly selective about who they let in. And many of them come from privileged backgrounds, which also correlates with high earnings.”

The College Scorecard does not rank colleges, but anyone can use the data to do so. M.I.T. (No. 6 on Scorecard earnings) and Harvard (No. 8) are the only universities in the Scorecard’s top 10 that are also highly ranked by the influential U.S. News and World Report. The other schools have a narrow focus on highly paid skills. The No. 1 school on Scorecard is MCPHS University, whose graduates earn, on average, $116,400. (MCPHS stands for Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, which is not even ranked by U.S. News.)

But pay, of course, says nothing about the relative quality of different colleges. “If you go to M.I.T. and earn a degree in engineering, you’re going to make more than if you go to Oberlin and major in music performance,” Professor Muller said. “But you already know this. To rank the value of colleges based on the ultimate earnings of their graduates radically narrows the concept of what college is supposed to be for.”

Andrew Delbanco, a professor at Columbia University and author of the book “College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be,” agreed. “Holding colleges accountable for how well they prepare students for postcollege life is a good thing in principle,” he said. “But measuring that preparation in purely monetary terms raises many dangers. Should colleges be encouraged first and foremost to maximize the net worth of their graduates? I don’t think so.”

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A fourth of colleges say they're pressured to rig admissions

Twenty-five percent of college admissions officials said they are pressured to admit low-quality students because of their connections, according to a survey released. The poll asked officials at 400 U.S. colleges a question currently torturing scores of American parents and high schoolers: do connections matter more than a carefully curated résumé?

The college gatekeepers  acknowledged that they'd been nudged toward accepting "an applicant who didn’t meet [the] school’s admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to.” As for who got an edge, sixteen percent of officials said that they look particularly closely at the children or siblings of alumni from their school.

These figures are self reported, and just as with polls that ask people whether they have ever done drugs or cheated on their spouse, it's possible more people have lowered their standards in the interest of nepotism than are willing to admit it in a survey.

"The acceptance of applicants whose qualifications may take a back seat to their connections is an open secret," Seppy Basili, the vice president of college admissions at Kaplan, said in a statement. That secret may become public knowledge, Basili suggested, as a growing number of students are demanding to know why exactly they got into college. After a group of Stanford University students publicized an official method students can use to obtain their admissions files from schools in January, several schools reported an uptick in requests. At the University of Pennsylvania, there has been an "avalanche" of such demands, the Duke University registrar complained that a surge in such demands has put a strain on the office at "a very busy time," and Yale Law School dodged a "flood" of requests by simply deleting all of its records. 

29 College Majors You Didn’t Know Existed

College is a big deal and because of that it can be really stressful. One of the most stressful parts of the college experience is determining an appropriate major for study.

If you’re anything like me, you have obsessed for months over which major you should choose. You’ve called friends, you’ve surfed the internet, you’ve lived in the library for a few months doing research, and even when you’ve decided on something, the odds are, you will probably have second thoughts about your course of study at some point.

I remember reading at least five different books before I came to my final decision over which avenue to take. Some of the majors I found, however, seemed a bit odd!

During my browsing, I stumbled upon the majors below.

 

 

College Majors You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

1. Philology- University of Valencia

2. Forestry- Michigan State University

3. Water Management- University of Wisconsin- Madison

4. Scottish Literature- University of Glasgow

5. Metallurgy Engineering- University of Alabama

6. Equine Studies- University of Montana Western

7. Aquaculture- Florida Institute of Technology

8. Adventure Education- Plymouth State University

9. The Beatles, Popular Music and Society- Liverpool Hope University

10. Baking Technology Management- Valencia College

11. Decision Sciences- University of North Texas

12. Popular Culture- Bowling Green State University

13. Poultry Management- Pennsylvania State University

14. Turf and Golf Course Management- Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

15. Nannying - Norland College

16. Education Studies – Empire State College

17. Viking Studies – University of Nottingham

18. Bagpiping- Carnegie Mellon University

19. Citrus Studies- Florida Southern College

20. Farrier Science – Hocking College

21. Race Track Industry – University of Louisville

22. Enigmatology – Indiana University

23. Clownology/Miming - University of Missouri Kansas City

24. Sports Ministry – Liberty University

25. Oriental Medicine/Herbology – Pacific College

26. Global Governance – University of Oxford

27. Milling Science and Management – Kansas State University

28. Arctic Engineering- University of Alaska Fairbanks

29. David Beckham Studies – Staffordshire University

So there you have it, 29 majors you probably haven’t heard of. What do you think? Do any of these majors interest you?

I have yet to meet someone studying or having graduated from the David Beckham Studies program at Staffordshire University, and I highly doubt I will, but reading about these programs is fun nonetheless, even if they aren’t all exactly financially beneficial to study.

3 College Savings Trends to Consider in 2015

For many Americans, the beginning of the year is a time to set goals –goals that are often financial. And while getting out of debt, socking away cash for retirement and earning more income are all noble resolutions for 2015, for parents of children near college age and even younger, saving for college is likely at the top of the list.

There are certainly some tried-and-true options to help families save for college, but the new year brings an opportunity to consider some lesser known, but equally effective, strategies. Here are three that experts say more families are turning to. 


1. Roth IRAs: Traditionally, Roth IRAs have been used for retirement planning, but Thomas Scanlon, a CPA and certified financial planner based in Manchester, Connecticut, says he has seen parents begin to use those funds for college.

Unlike regular IRAs, contributions to the Roth can be withdrawn tax free. For parents over age 59 1/2, all distributions are tax free as long as the account has been open for at least five years. Meanwhile, parents younger than age 59 1/2 can receive tax-free deductions up to the amount they contributed, and anything above that is considered taxable income.

It’s an attractive option for parents who need to play catch-up on saving, but Scanlon avoids recommending it across the board. "The only possible benefit I could see is if they used the Roth IRA in lieu of borrowing money to pay for college," he says. "I personally don’t see using the Roth IRA to fund college as a smarter financial decision. The intent of the Roth IRA is that it be used for retirement. If is spent on college, it won’t be available for retirement." 

Sean Moore, a certified financial planner with SMART College Funding in Boca Raton, Florida, agrees that raiding a parent’s retirement account isn’t a wise plan, but he does advocate for the use of a Roth IRA in the right circumstances – particularly given it is not factored ino federal government's estimation of what a family can pay for college, known as the expected family contribution.

"Many clients don't think 'IRA' when planning for college, but the Roth can be a fantastic vehicle," he says. "For example, if a child is working, he or she can contribute to a Roth IRA. The money inside the Roth will grow tax deferred and will not count against the child for financial aid purposes – if it were in a savings account or regular investment account, 20 percent would count against their EFC. If the money is needed to help pay for college costs, it is available. If it is not needed for college, the child gets to keep the money in the Roth and has effectively started saving for retirement in their teens."

2. Third-party and multi-generational savings: Saving for college can be a daunting endeavor for many families, especially those with more than one child in school. And, as a result, more parents are turning to outside help.

"We are seeing a rise in the number of families whose college savings efforts go beyond the traditional nuclear family unit," says David Macauley, the college planning program manager for Thrivent Financial in Austin, Texas. "Often, this will include 529 plans or other savings vehicles funded by grandparents, non-custodial parents in blended families or divorce situations, as well as other family members that are not within the student’s household as defined on the FAFSA."

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA, is a form that is completed by students and their parents to determine a student's eligibility for federal financial aid.

In these cases, parents can suggest contributions to a 529 or other savings program in lieu of birthday or Christmas gifts, or offer to match any donation from outside the family. 529 plans are tax-advantaged educational savings accounts that anyone can contribute to, and, with multiple sources contributing, the college financing load will be much lighter all the way around. 

But in cases like these, Macauley warns, confusion could arise come tax time. "Parents may want to claim a tax credit, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit, while a grandparent may want to use the same expense to justify a tax-free distribution from a 529 plan," he says. "The same expense cannot be used to justify more than one tax break, so communication and coordination are necessary."

Macauley also says that any college-related funds that a college-age  student receives from someone other than a custodial parent could reduce the amount of eligible financial aid by as much as $.50 on the dollar the following school year. These funds, whether given directly, via cash or check, or disbursed from a 529 plan with third-party investments, count toward the student’s untaxed income.

Those funds must be noted on the FAFSA, and according to federal guidelines, any income above $6,310 will directly impact aid eligibility. Distributions from a custodial parent’s 529 plan are not treated as the student’s income, however, but the funds contained therein do count as part of the parent’s total assets.

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The 5 highest paying degrees of 2015

More and more people are earning college degrees. As of 2011, close to one out of every three people over 25 held a bachelor’s degree, according to a U.S. Census Bureau release. “As recently as 1998, fewer than one-quarter of people this age had this level of education.”

Because more of us are college-educated, this makes it so that “just any” degree will not necessarily suffice for some people anymore. People are starting to see that if they’re going to invest all of that hard-earned money, not to mention time and energy, into obtaining a degree, it should be into one that will likely lead to ample job opportunities and higher earnings power.

Related: 15 least expensive colleges to get your degree

The Census Bureau reports that a bachelor’s degree holder typically earns $2.4 million over his or her lifetime. Some degrees, like those in education, typically result in lower lifetime earnings than this benchmark. Other degrees, however, generally allow graduates to earn more than this lifetime benchmark.

This year’s 2015 graduates will earn a variety of different degrees, ranging from the old favorites like business, to degrees like biomedical engineering and software design, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Using Census data, coupled with an employer survey analysis by the National Association of Colleges and Employers(NACE), we’ve made a list of college majors that will likely lead to the highest earnings for 2015 grads.

1. Engineering

2015 projected average starting salary: $62,998
Average lifetime earnings of $3.4 million

You may be tired of hearing about how engineering is one of the “best college majors” or “most profitable college majors.” But the reason you see engineering on so many of these lists is because the data lead right to it. On average, engineering majors earn $3.5 million over the course of their lifetime, which is more than any other college major. This year is expected to be no different, as NACE estimates the average salary of 2015 engineering grads at just under $63,000.

Related: The top 10 engineering colleges in the U.S.

When it comes to specific disciplines within the engineering field, petroleum engineers are expected to have the highest starting salaries in 2015. NACE estimates that the average grad could pull in a cool $80,000.

2. Computer science

2015 projected average starting salary: $61,287
Average lifetime earnings of $3.1 million

Related: The top 10 computer science schools in the U.S.

Those who earn computer science degrees are also raking in the dough. And, this year’s grads can expect large starting salaries. Over the course of a lifetime, computer grads who work in management occupations earn the most — a whopping $3.7 million. Those computer science majors with a specific discipline or specialty also tend to earn higher wages.

3. Math and sciences

2015 projected average starting salary: $56,171
Average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million for science grads, and $3.1 million for math grads

Related: Top 10 colleges for a major in math 

This year’s math and sciences grads will earn average starting salaries that are higher than the typical household income. Among the math and sciences majors, physics majors are expected to earn the highest starting salaries this year, raking in average salaries of nearly $65,000.

Related: Behavioral Science tops list of fastest growing majors of the past 5 years

Generally speaking, management positions often pay math and science-type majors the most, bringing in lifetime earnings of between $3 million and $3.4 million. Service industries tend to pay these grads the least, with lifetime earnings of as little as $1.5 million.

4. Business

2015 projected average starting salary: $51,508
Average lifetime earnings of $2.6 million

Related: Top 10 business schools in the United States 

A dime a dozen or dozens of dimes? Business majors are still earning more cash than the typical grad, with this year’s grads earning average starting salaries of over $51,000.

Among business grads, sales workers earn slightly more than than the average for this grad group, with lifetime earnings of $2.7 million. The highest-paid of the business majors work in management occupations, earning $3.3 million over the course of their lifetimes. Service workers and office support workers are generally the lowest earners among the business majors, with lifetime earnings of $1.6 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

5. Agriculture and natural resources

2015 projected average starting salary: $51,220
Average lifetime earnings: $2.6 million

These grads can earn much more than the average grad, raking in an average starting salary of over $51,000. Again, those who work their way up to management positions generally earn the highest earnings over a lifetime — around $800,000 more than the typical college grad.

2015 salaries for other degrees

Didn’t see your major on the list? Check out a few more popular college degrees that didn’t make the top five list:

Healthcare: 2015 grads will earn average starting salaries of $50,839

Communications: This year’s grads will earn average starting salaries of $49,3951

Social sciences: 2015 grads can expect to start out earning an average salary of $49,0472

Humanities: This year’s grads will earn average salaries of $45,0421

This article originally appeared on USATODAY.com

The 10 best sites to look for scholarships

With a new semester upon us and our bank accounts drained from holiday shopping and much-needed nights out, scholarships of any amounts can certainly come in handy.

With a new semester upon us and our bank accounts drained from holiday shopping and much-needed nights out, scholarships of any amounts can certainly come in handy.

Here are the 10 best sites for searching for scholarship cash — along with one scholarship from each to get you started!

1. Zinch.com

Zinch is a college students one-stop-shop for scholarships that are creative, easy and fun to apply for and win. To apply for scholarships via Zinch, you’ll have to create a username and profile that will help the site find scholarships that are specifically relevant to you! One of Zinch’s most popular awards is the Weekly Three Sentence Essay Scholarship, where applicants must generate a 280-character essay (that’s only two tweets!) while vying for $1,000 of cold, hard cash.

Visit Zinch.com for more scholarships.

2. Fastweb.com

Fastweb is another terrific, free resource where you’ll find thousands of scholarships at your fingertips. Not only does Fastweb offer a massive database of monetary awards, but it also features helpful career planning services and learning tools for its registered users! One of Fastweb’s most recently featured scholarships is the “Natural Disaster” PSA Video Contest, a $3,000 scholarship offered to creative undergrads with an eye for cinematography and knowledge of the consequences of natural disasters.

Visit Fastweb.com for more scholarships.

3. ScholarshipPoints.com

You know how you always seem to receive a new, complimentary gift after so many purchases at that favorite beauty counter of yours? ScholarshipPoints works the same way! Well, kind of. The site’s users rack up points through a rewards system, making them eligible for different scholarships according to how many points they have earned. Members can earn points through fun, day-to-day activities like reading blogs, taking quizzes and playing online games. ScholarshipPoints offers a rolling, monthly $1,000 for its members and a quarterly $10,000 scholarship . Join today and start earning your points!

Visit ScholarshipPoints.com for more scholarships.

4. Cappex.com

You may remember being advised by your high school guidance counselor to make a Cappex account to help narrow down your college search, but don’t delete that online profile just yet! The site is still helpful during our undergrad years, offering ample scholarship opportunities and financial advice. Once we’re undergrads, Cappex graciously bumps us up to “College Pro” status, where we’ll be eligible to apply for a $2,500 College Pro exclusive scholarship! Don’t wait, and check out all of the fine print of the Cappex College Pro scholarship today.

Visit Cappex for more scholarships.

5. Scholarships.com

A no-brainer of a URL, are we right? Scholarships.com is a wonderful resource for college students who aspire to kill two birds with one stone—the site finds both scholarships and colleges that are perfect for you! If you’re looking to transfer to a school that is dying to recruit you and offer you scholarships, this is the site to visit. The site allows you to pinpoint specific scholarships by your major, year in school and location, increasing your chances for receiving awards and saving you tons of time. For meticulous proofreaders and aspiring editors, you may want to check out the Proof-Reading.com Scholarship Program featured on Scholarships.com! Although an essay is required, the $1,500 you could earn is definitely worth the time spent behind the keyboard.

Visit Scholarships.com for more scholarships.

For the next five sites, check out the rest of the story at HerCampus.

New SAT, New Problems

In his announcement last spring that a new version of the SAT would be launched in 2016, The College Board President David Coleman drew on a favorite buzzword: opportunity.

In his speech, Coleman finally acknowledged the common criticism that the current SAT has little to do with the work students do in high school and will do in college. He promised that the redesigned test would be more in tune with what happens in the classroom. "No longer will the SAT stand apart from the work of teachers in their classrooms," he said. The preview last week of 94 sample questions—half of which were previously released—from the redesigned test helps reveal whether the new SAT will deliver on its promise. Early indicators are not encouraging.

The new test will correspond with the Common Core Standards—the controversial math and reading benchmarks whose design and implementation Coleman happened to spearhead before taking over the College Board. That means the new SAT could have the opposite of its intended effect, at least in the near term, closing opportunities for students who aren’t yet well-versed in the standards. Kids who lack access to in-person test preparation from tutors like me—who are trained to analyze the new test material and develop strategies for raising scores—could also suffer. The most vulnerable students are those who live in low-income areas or don’t speak English as a first language.

The College Board's decision to eliminate the vocabulary component from the reading section and redesign the essay portion has garnered lots of attention. But it’s the revision of the math section that could have particularly egregious consequences.

The new SAT will focus on fewer types of math than the current version does, sacrificing breadth for depth and testing students on the material the College Board believes to be most essential to "college and career success." That might sound like good idea. But with this change in focus comes a change in question style. And that’s problematic.

The SAT has always been what essentially amounts to an IQ exam, testing no math beyond basic high-school geometry. The new version includes fewer questions that deal simply with figures and equations, giving more space to questions like this: 

The College Board

This question, ranked by the College Board as "easy," is very much a product of the Common Core Standards, which ask students to both link abstractions (like the graph of a line) with real-world phenomena (such as the link between a person’s height and the length of his or her metacarpal bone) and express such connections verbally. (The answer, by the way, is A.)

It is fine—good, even—to ask students to carry out these tasks, but in many cases these are skills that students unfortunately haven’t yet mastered. If they aren’t being taught to think about graphs that way, let alone articulate their reasoning in that matter, chances are only the smartest (or well-prepared) teens will be able to arrive at the correct answer under the time and emotional pressure of the test.

Even more concerning, few math teachers are ready and able to teach students these new skills. Mark Driscoll of the nonprofit Education Development Center, which in part develops K-12 math and science programs, was recently quoted in Education Week lamenting this shift: "Language hasn't traditionally played much of a role in the training of math teachers," he said. "In my experience, many teachers lack the guidance and tools to foster communication of mathematical reasoning [with] English-learners." The Common Core makes noble demands on teachers and students. But, at the end of the day, they are still demands, and it will take students and teachers time and effort to fulfill them.

One problem with tying the SAT to these new standards is that it will force students and schools to play a long game of catch-up. Most states will be gradually implementing the standards over the next few years—assuming it will only take that long and assuming that any student taking the exam attends a school that is successfully using standards. At last check, 42 states are in the process of implementing the Common Core standards—three of the original participants dropped out—but they are doing so at different rates.

The other consequence of (theoretically) basing the new SAT on what students are doing in their classrooms is that it threatens to makes success on the exam even more subject to socioeconomic background. Students at struggling schools—where teachers tend to have less experience and and support and where Common Core-related textbooks can be scarce—could be at a disadvantage. After all, they haven’t had exposure to the very materials and instruction integral to performing well on the test. This could all amount to an ironic twist: For all the faults of the SAT, one of its merits, at least in theory, is that it can identify students whose formal education might be lacking but who have the mental firepower to succeed given the opportunity.   

There are valid reasons, of course, for questioning the reality of that merit. But the new SAT could provide even more reasons for doubting the exam’s fairness. Students at good schools will have that much more of a leg up on this test because their teachers will be able to get them up to speed on the new SAT content. Because the current version of the test corresponds so poorly with real high school coursework, good teachers presently provide less of an advantage on the SAT than they might on the new version. Exposure to particular components of the Common Core standards will matter on the revised exam, and teachers who know the standards and know how to teach them will provide their students an advantage. Consider another "easy" question from the sample set:

The College Board

Identifying the answer to this question depends on fairly basic knowledge of statistics, which is part of the Common Core standardsbut very few students take statistics in high school. Though the number of students taking AP Statistics appears to be on the rise—in 2013 more people took the Advanced Placement course than ever before— the roughly 170,000 participants who took the course that year represented just 1 percent of the total number of students enrolled in high school in the U.S. then. When I asked Doug Pierce, a longtime SAT tutor in New York City who recently got his Ph.D. in political science, about the above statistics test question, he challenged the College Board’s "easy"ranking, dubbing it "intermediate" instead. Pierce, who’s taught statistics classes in college, emphasized that the question assumes the student knows margins of error are based on sample sizes—a rule that isn’t "necessarily intuitive."

On his blog about test-prep, Akil Bello, another veteran SAT instructor, pointed to a different problem altogether: The new test permits calculators for certain sections that include questions like the statistics one. The question’s appearance in a calculator-approved section, rather than one that prohibits the device, could easily mislead students, particularly ones who haven’t had SAT training, into thinking that the question requires a calculator.

And test-prep fails to address another unintended consequence of the new exam’s emphasis on real-world math: These kinds of questions require more context and thus more text. That could disproportionately hurt students who don’t speak English as a first language, slowing them down or even hampering their comprehension.

Consider the following "real-world" question (that is, if your "real world" involves international travel and regular visits to currency-exchange providers):

The College Board

(The correct answer turns out to be 7,212.)

Coleman and the College Board tout the SAT as a measure of what they define as "college readiness," but what this peek at some questions suggests is that the revised exam is being used as yet another assessment exam that shapes rather than reflects what kids learn in school. It’s a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

By James S. Murphy

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/01/new-sat-new-problems/384596/

University of California - Berkeley Among the Top 5 Most Expensive Room & Board

10 Colleges Where Students Pay the Most for Room and Board

Room and board at UCB can cost more than $15,000 per year.

Room and board at UCB can cost more than $15,000 per year.

Universities in New York City and the Boston area charge some of the highest room and board fees.

When it comes to the cost of college, families should look beyond tuition and fees

Room and board charges add an average $9,999 to students' university bills in 2014-2015, according to data reported by 1,109 ranked colleges in an annual survey by U.S. News. In this case, room and board is used to mean a shared room and either 19 meals per week or the maximum meal plan.

Students at the New School, based in New York City's Greenwich Village, paid the most for accommodations, which cost $18,190 this year. 

At the University of California—Berkeley, the sole public university on the list, room and board actually cost more than tuition and fees for in-state students. Lodging and meals cost $15,438; in-state tuition and fees run a more modest $13,844. 

For those hoping to dodge high living costs, steer clear of New York City, the Boston area and major cities in California. Instead, check out Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma, which are home to schools that charge some of the lowest lodging fees. 

Below is a list of the 10 schools with the most expensive room and board for 2014-2015. The five military academies, which charge no room and board fees, were excluded from this list. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School name (state)2014-2015 room and boardU.S. News rank and category

School name (state) 2014-2015 room and board U.S. News rank and category
New School (NY) $18,190 135 (tie), National Universities
New York University $16,782 32, National Universities
St. John's University (NY) $16,390 145 (tie), National Universities
Harvey Mudd College (CA) $15,833 15 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of California—Berkeley $15,438 20, National Universities
American Jewish University (CA) $15,102 RNP*, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Emerson College (MA) $15,096 14 (tie), Regional Universities (North)
Lesley University (MA) $15,000 111 (tie), Regional Universities (North)
Marymount Manhattan College (NY)
$15,000 RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Smith College (MA) $14,950 19 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find room and board fees, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

Find Your Match: Data Companies Transform College Applications

What if narrowing down your list of potential colleges was as simple as entering a few basic facts about yourself into a computer? Plug in your GPA, your SAT score, your ethnicity and a few extracurricular activities, and some websites say they can find your ideal match – including, in some cases, schools that are most likely to accept you.

Colleges for years have used predictive analytics to target admission offers to students they think will be most likely to enroll and succeed at their schools. And now, some data companies want to give students the same opportunity: Help them find colleges that best fit their desires and have a history of admitting students like them. 

"Even four years ago, these tools didn't really exist where you could go and find your statistical odds of being accepted to this school," says Matt Pittinsky, co-founder of education technology giant Blackboard and chief executive officer of Parchment, a technology company that allows students to electronically send transcripts and find college matches. "It is to a certain extent bringing symmetry to the tools universities have when recruiting students, relative to the tools students have when discovering universities." 

Pittinsky describes technological admissions tools in three buckets: those that help students manage the process and keep track of deadlines, those that help students discover and match up with certain schools and those that bring transparency to the admissions process, college costs and outcomes. 

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has said in its annual report on the state of college admissions that students are applying to more schools to lessen uncertainty in the admission process. That can be costly for students, give more work to admissions officials and make selective universities appear even pickier. 

Using a college matching tool, some might think, could deter students from applying to a school where they have a reportedly low chance of admission or even push them away from certain schools. But Pittinsky says that isn't the case.

"The concern that it somehow works to inhibit applications, we don’t see that in our data. Instead what we see is it helps students build a more balanced list," Pittinsky says. "It helps them understand the old advice of a safety, stretch and target. It brings some additional insight into how you bucket those three."

In April, Parchment launched its College Match tool – Pittinsky describes it as a sort of Netflix for college – which uses an algorithm based on students' GPA, SAT scores, state, race and other information to suggest schools they might be interested in. Students can also see their admissions probabilities for individual schools, or the likelihood that they'll be admitted to at least one school on their list. But unlike similar characteristics colleges post about admitted students, Parchment's data is student-reported; prospective students can see which schools similar students were interested in, where they applied and where they were accepted.

But these services do have their limits. Colleges consider many other factors during the admissions process, such as essays, extracurricular activities and in some cases, family ties to the university. 

"Teaching students to imagine that their chances of admission and graduation hinges on three factors is a poor substitute for actual conversation and thought, and comes across as an effort to oversimplify the conversation about choosing a college, getting in and being successful there," says Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon. "If it helps a few more students get the confidence to seek higher education versus not seeking it, I’m thrilled. But that needn’t come at the expense of helping them consider their options from a lot of different perspectives."

But advocates of using predictive analytics in the college search say it's not an end-all-be-all, but rather a way for students to come across schools that could be a good fit and they might not have considered otherwise. 

"The whole goal of our admissions tools are to expand people’s awareness of higher education options and to bring greater confidence to users that they can apply to a reasonable number of institutions and have a very good chance of being accepted to at least one institution on their list," Pittinsky says. "We're not building Parchment to be the one site that rules them all. I do believe there are different sites that have different strengths."

Some companies offering admissions tools – such as LinkedIn or Admittedly, an online college advisory company – use other information to match students to certain schools or programs. LinkedIn's University Finder asks users to provide their preferred field of study, companies they'd like to work for and where they would like to live, for example, to show users the schools "most attended by LinkedIn members already working in the career selected," wrote Christina Allen, director of product management, in a blog post.

Admittedly's tool works more like the OkCupid of the college world. Students answer questions about their preferences for school location, class size, weather and student activities before they're matched with certain schools.

The College Board's search tool filters institutions by factors such as selectivity, majors, housing, location, diversity and type of school. Another search tool developed by The Noble Network of Charter Schools – a charter school company in Chicago – focuses on low-income students who might not always consider applying to schools out of state. In addition to admissions probabilities, the tool provides students with the six-year graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students, as well as information on financial aid.

Lee Furbeck, director of undergraduate admissions at Cleveland State University, says using tools to help match students to colleges could also be a help to high school counselors, who in many cases are overloaded with work and don't always have time to meet with students. Counselors could use the results of different admissions tools as a conversation-starter, Furbeck says. 

"A nything that can help the student take a look at some schools they wouldn't have otherwise considered, I think that’s a good thing. It might get you to consider something you haven’t considered," Furbeck says. "W e do see many students that come from a school where maybe the counselor ... is busy with other issues besides helping students get into college, unfortunately."

Top 10 FAFSA Myths Debunked

Students who want to be eligible to receive financial aid from the government or their college have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. But many students fail to complete the complicated form, often because they are perplexed by it or don’t think they’ll get aid. Learn why some of the most common FAFSA myths shouldn’t hold you back from applying for financial aid for college.

Myth 1: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.

Fact: You won’t know until you try.

“Filing the FAFSA form is free, and you will never know your eligibility for aid, merit- or need-based, unless you apply,” says Nancy Hoover, director of financial aid at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and member of the executive board for the National Direct Student Loan Coalition.

It’s also important to know that the formula isn’t cut-and-dried. According to Steven A. Boorstein, a certified financial planner at RockCrest Financial in Franklinville, New Jersey, “The mathematical formula behind the calculation is based on parent and student income, age of the oldest parent, size of the family, ages of children in the family and several other factors,” he says.

The FAFSA also isn’t just about financial need. If you don’t complete the form, you also may not be able to qualify for merit scholarships for grades, SAT scores or athletics. “Some schools require the FAFSA form for their institutional scholarships, regardless of the income of the family; not filing eliminates an opportunity for gift aid,” Hoover says.

Myth 2: College is too expensive for me.

Fact: Financial aid through FAFSA can make it attainable.

“Colleges and universities across the country have never offered so much of their resources for financial aid,” says Tom Delahunt, vice president for admission and student financial planning at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “There are schools that on average are offering students grants and scholarships that reduce the cost of attendance by over 40%. The only catch is you have to apply for it!” Yes, that means completing the FAFSA.

Myth 3: The FAFSA is only for grant money and scholarships.

Fact: It’s also a requirement for loans, and it awards work-study programs.

Rosemary Ferrucci, associate dean of financial aid at New York Institute of Technology in New York City, says there’s a lot more to the FAFSA than just free grant money. “Financial aid actually includes utilizing federal money to pay part of an expense now (tuition) but not paying any interest while in school or even not having to pay that full amount of money back until after graduation,” she says, as is the case with Subsidized Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans. She adds that others are “awarded federal college work study — working at school, around your schedule and getting a paycheck for it.” If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you aren’t eligible for these types of aid, either.

Myth 4: I only have to fill out the FAFSA once.

Fact: You have to fill it out every year.

Why? “The school wants to know if you get a big raise, and conversely, you want them to know if you lose a job or take a big pay cut, so they’re watching your income and assets year over year to make sure what they’re giving you is still appropriate,” explains Charlie Donaldson, president of College Bound Coaching LLC in Newark, Delaware.

Don’t think of it as a pain, but something that can help you. “If the parents’ or student’s income goes down, they would qualify for more financial aid in the future years,” Donaldson says. “It’s to the student’s benefit to make sure they update their info every year.”

Myth 5: It doesn’t matter when I turn in FAFSA as long as I make the deadline.

Fact: You’re more likely to get aid if you submit it right away.

Donaldson says filling out the FAFSA is a bit like Black Friday; the first people to show up have the best chance of scoring the deals, and those who are late may miss out. “When you’re applying for financial aid, you want to be first in line,” he says. “The sooner you can get it in, the better.” Schools may run out of funding and not have any aid money left for stragglers.

Myth 6: I can fill out the FAFSA anywhere, and I may have to pay for it.

Fact: You should use the official site and never pay.

There is only one official FAFSA form online, and you should be completing it at fafsa.ed.gov, warns Kiara Smith, founder and consultant at Year O.N.E. College Consulting in Texas. “FAFSA stands for the FREE application for federal student aid,” she says. “You should never pay money to file this application.” Delahunt adds that many states also host free FAFSA completion sessions to guide you through the form.

Stay away from websites that aren’t official, especially if they request a payment. Not only are you unnecessarily spending money, but you could also risk your information being stolen if you use a site that isn’t reputable.

Myth 7: I won’t qualify for aid because I don’t have good grades.

Fact: It’s not about grades. 

The U.S. Department of Education has discovered that this is a common myth that prevents some students from filling out the FAFSA. According to Christopher Hanlon, director of financial aid at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, “While it is the case that you may not qualify for an institutionally based scholarship if you did not perform well in high school, if you have financial need, you will qualify for need-based aid from federal sources, state sources or college sources.”

Sarah Trausch, assistant director of financial aid at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, adds, “Need-based federal financial aid isn’t based on grades — it’s based on a family’s ability to pay.” But you do have to make decent grades to keep your aid. “Once a student is in college and receiving federal aid, he/she must maintain the minimum satisfactory academic progress guidelines set by his/her college or university to continue receiving federal financial aid,” Trausch says.

Myth 8: The estimated family contributionnumber is the exact amount I have to pay.

Fact: It’s just an estimate; you may owe less.

“The biggest misconception we see is about estimated family contribution,” says Joseph Trentacoste, assistant vice president of student services at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Although the EFC is based on dollar figures, it is not the exact amount you will have to pay for college, and it is only used as an index to determine your eligibility for federal awards. Other factors, the largest being the cost of your school, play in to the amount and type of aid you can receive,” he explains. Additionally, each school has its own formula for determining aid, so you may owe less than the EFC calculated on the FAFSA.

Myth 9: I can’t fill out the FAFSA until my parents file their taxes.

Fact: File it with an estimate based on last year; submit a correction later.

“Since taxes are often not completed until later, students and parents can complete the FAFSA based on estimations,” says Ferrucci of New York Institute of Technology. “Then, once the actual taxes are completed and submitted, a student or parent can go back and update the figures accurately.” Don’t forget to update the information once the taxes are filed. It’s free and easy to make a correction to your FAFSA online.

Myth 10: It doesn’t make a difference whether I fill it out online or on paper.

Fact: Online is faster and more accurate.

“There is a difference,” says Trentacoste. “Paper FAFSAs can be confusing to complete and have to travel through the mail and be entered into the Department of Education computer system, which can take up to three weeks for processing.”

Completing it online is easy and walks you through the process, only asking questions relevant to your situation. This increases the chances your school will receive accurate information, he says. “Plus, since you enter your data directly into the system, it can be processed within two or three days.”

Additionally, the FAFSA now has a tool that links to your parents’ IRS tax data, which automatically fills fields with their latest information. This not only makes the process much faster, but it also greatly increases accuracy, making it more likely you will receive the aid you need.

A Beginner’s Guide to Applying for College Financial Aid

You have many options when it comes to finding money for college. Whether you take out a loan, get a scholarship or grant, or participate in a work-study program, there's a lot you need to know. Here are the basics.

There are several types of financial aid you could be eligible for. A majority of aid falls into two categories: need-based or merit-based. You can receive aid from the government (both federal and state), your college, and from other organizations. Financial aid can be categorized into that which needs to be repaid and aid that doesn't need to be repaid. The Federal Student Aid website has detailed information on both types, including grants, several types of loans, and campus-based programs.

The Federal Student Aid site explains how your college's financial aid office calculates how much aid you'll get:

The financial aid staff starts by deciding upon your cost of attendance (COA) at that school. They then consider your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). They subtract your EFC from your COA to determine the amount of your financial need and therefore how much need-based aid you can get. To determine how much non-need-based aidyou can get, the school takes your cost of attendance and subtracts any financial aid you've already been awarded.

You need to apply for aid before the financial aid office can determine how much you'll get. Here's how to prepare.

Gather Your Paperwork and Information


Get together all relevant information and paperwork needed to complete your applications. What you need will vary by application, but this FAFSA checklist is a great start:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • A Federal Student Aid PIN to sign electronically. (If you do not already have one, visit www.pin.ed.gov to obtain one.)

If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s).

If you apply for grants or scholarships, you may also need:

  • Transcripts (for GPA proof)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Essays

Make it easier on yourself by gathering everything beforehand so you don't waste time searching for paperwork as you go through the application process.

Go Over Your Options


Now, figure out what you actually qualify for. This will save you time since you can focus on financial aid you're likely to receive. Some common sources of financial aid include FAFSA, scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study programs.

Even though you might not think you need to, you should always fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because that's the only way to know what you qualify for. Some resources you can use to search for other aid options are:

Once you figure out your options, decide which of them you want to pursue by prioritizing them.

READ MORE

A more "social" way to choose a college.

White Plains High School senior Samantha Standard wants to major in science, and she has her sights set on a few universities, including Columbia, Duke and Northeastern.

But she's taken others off her list, in part because they didn't pass the Yik Yak test.

"I don't know how many kids are using it for college searches, but I've definitely ruled out a few schools because their Yik Yak conversations are about nothing," said Standard, 17. "Social media is just another way to find out about the schools. It gives you information that's different from what's on the college websites and mailings."

"It's not the official stuff that they want you to see," she said.

Yik Yak, a digital bulletin board that allows users to "listen in" on chatter at campuses nationwide, is one of a growing number of social media tools that high-schoolers are turning to for help finding the right college.

A survey released this year by Zinch, a college-admissions portal that links students and colleges online, found that two-thirds of high school seniors use social media to research colleges — and nearly three-fourths say it influenced their decisions.

Nearly 85 percent of the 1,800 high school seniors and college freshmen surveyed said they used Facebook in their research. But other apps are catching up. According to Zinch, Twitter use for college research rose from 43 percent at the start of 2012 to 54 percent by the end of 2013. Over the same time span, Instagram use by students rose from 30 percent to 53 percent, tumblr from 30 percent to 40 percent, and Pinterest from 24 percent to 30 percent.

"I definitely have seen the changes in how students are actually engaging with admissions offices, how they're doing their research, whether they're using peer-review sites like Yik Yak or something like a College Prowler," said Bob Patterson, vice president of college outreach for Chegg, the online educational services company that owns Zinch.

Apps such as Yik Yak are quickly entering the fray. Designed for college students, Yik Yak has been controversial because it has been tied to cyberbullying and school threats. But Yik Yak's "peek" function also allows users to select a college campus nationwide and read student posts there to get a feel for the social climate.

"I think the opportunity to connect through mobile makes it somewhat easier, and it's just the way students interact," Patterson said. "They're going to use whatever services they can to connect with institutions."

Deborah Shames, a certified counselor helping about a dozen Rockland County students with college applications, said it's not just college hunters who use social media: College-bound students use it to begin the transition.

"They're already lining up roommates and reaching out to people attending the schools, to get a more personal view of what it's like to go there," Shames said. "They look for people they know, or people from their high schools who are now attending that particular college or university."

One of the newer apps targeting college students is Kampus, launched last year by two students at Lindenwood University in Missouri. Kampus is a free social networking app that connects college students with others in the same school. The app has recently been introduced at Manhattanville College in Purchase.

"I think that prospective students should get the most amount of information, regardless of where it comes from or in what way it's packaged," Kampus CEO Diego Kafie said. "However, several things, like counselor meetings and campus visits, should still be important for a student trying to make a very important decision."

College-bound students haven't abandoned more traditional resources. Zinch found that 54 percent still rated official school websites "extremely useful," while 48 percent chose college review and scholarship sites such as Zinch and College Prowler. Only 10 percent rated social media sites as extremely useful.

Standard, the White Plains High School senior, said social media "isn't a huge part of my application process, but it has made a difference in deciding where I want to go."

"Yik Yak tells you more about the social aspects of a school — what they do for fun, the kinds of things you might not see if you go on an official campus tour," she said. "It gives you a direct link to the kids going there."

"Yik Yak brings you into their world," Standard added. "The social factors do count."

Twitter: @jfitzgibbon


Students and social media

 68% of students surveyed said social media was influential in their choice of college.

 85% of students said they use Facebook, with 45% saying they use it multiple times a day.

 Instagram was the fastest rising site: 54% of students use it, up from 30% at the start of 2012.

 73% said colleges should have a presence on social media to reach students.

 Students said only 44% of posts on existing college websites were relevant to their searches.

 54% still found college and university websites extremely useful, compared to 10% for social media.

Source: Zinch 2014 Social Admissions Report

Incorporate Jobs, Hobbies Into College Applications

College applicants don't have to participate in common, school-sponsored activities – like the National Honor Society or school band – to catch the attention of admissions officials. 

Students who bypass extracurricular activities to work part-time jobs, start businesses or master hobbies can explain their out-of-school pastimes in their college applications. 

"Applying to a university is your time to brag about yourself. Talk about all the things that you've done, including jobs, including whether you've volunteered at your church or did community service," says Al Nunez, director of undergraduate admission at the Illinois Institute of Technology

Experts recommend that students take every available opportunity on an application to fill in details about who they are and how they spend their time. Talk about your Etsy shop, lawn mowing service or rock band, for example, if they highlight your individuality, personality and passion. 

[Avoid these big college application mistakes.] 

"In your essay you really want to talk about why this makes you, you and why this makes you passionate – and then definitely include why the university that you want to go to will help you get to where you want to go in the future," says Fabianna Pergolizzi. 

Pergolizzi – a law student at Temple University and graduate of Georgetown University – founded Project Anti-Bully as a sophomore in high school. The nonprofit started as an online club but grew into an international organization by the time she was a senior. 

Pergolizzi participated in several school-sponsored extracurriculars in high school, but she chose to highlight Project Anti-Bully in her applications because it was her passion. 

"I literally wrote in my essay, 'With Georgetown I can accomplish so much more with this ... you'll give me the exposure and the academic background for me to succeed in what I need to do,'" she says. 

"And at the same time, tying Georgetown University with my extracurricular activity would be good for Georgetown, too, because it shows that they're having students do different things for public interests." 

Explaining your hobbies in your college application can also help officials recognize valuable traits that aren't revealed in a high school transcript. For example, admissions officials say entrepreneurship in high school shows that you're a leader who takes action – a characteristic that colleges value. 

"In many ways starting a band or starting a business says a lot of about the student – it shows that they have initiative and those are the types of skills that we like to see in students and the types of students that we like to see on campus," IIT's Nunez says. 

Students who don't participate in school-sponsored extracurricular programs because they work to help support themselves or their families should explain their work responsibilities in detail, experts say. 

Admissions counselors want to hear about what you do on the job, any leadership positions that you hold, your job performance and if you were promoted in any way. 

"A lot of students tell us through their application or statement that they were working to help their families. We know that students who have done that really have drive, they want their education and they want to continue on, but they also have very strong commitment," says Kasey Urquidez, dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of Arizona

"It helps us to see the kind of person that they are and so we value that work experience as much as we do other things that they might be doing," she says. 

A great recommendation letter can also help students demonstrate the value of their activities. You don't necessarily need a recommendation letter from your teacher or school counselor. Ask someone in authority who knows you and your work or creative endeavors well, experts say. 

For example, if you spend most of your time working, Nunez says that a recommendation letter from your employer can help validate your influence and contributions as an employee. 

Read more

5 Tips For Getting College Recommendation Letters

CollegeLetter.jpg

Right now students across the country are putting together their college applications. For many students, especially those applying to private universities, having amazing college recommendation letters is essential. However, finding the best people to write these letters, and then asking them, can be a challenge.

We went out and found some amazing experts to share their top tips for getting the best college recommendation letters possible. Use these strategies now, so that you can be assured you’ll have great references on your college application.

Here are the tips:

Who To Ask (And Not To Ask)

We’ve seen a whole lot of questionable choices in our time working with applicants: letters from parents, friends, a teacher whose class the student frequently skipped, an administrator the student didn’t know… at all, a teacher the student didn’t like… It is more common than one would think.

So before we talk about who students SHOULD ask, it’s important to note what a bad choice looks like. Bad picks are people who would obviously be biased, who aren’t credible, who won’t write great stuff about you, or whose praise won’t seem genuine or relevant.

Good choices are people who know you well, who can speak with confidence and in detail about your strengths, skills, passions, and your integrity. The admissions committee is going to read thousands of recommendations and, let’s be honest, there are only so many adjectives to describe an applicant: dedicated, responsible, smart, etc…. After a while, the letters all start to sound the same! So it’s the details and the specific stories that will have the biggest impact, and really set you apart from the other applicants. The better your recommender knows you, the better that letter is going to be.

Examples of good choices: a teacher who you like and have a good relationship with, who can speak about your strengths and talents; employers who know how responsible you are; club advisors or coaches who can speak about your abilities. (A plus if any of these people attended the school you’re applying for!)

Lauren Herskovic, Chief Operating Officer, Admissionado

Start Early With Teachers Who Know You

Students should approach their “chosen” teachers as early as possible in the first semester of their senior year to avoid the stampede of last minute early action appliers and others, but the students’ real task of forming connections and building relationships with these teachers should start long before. Most students assume that they should ask for recommendation letters from the teachers who gave them the best grades, but these may or may not be the teachers who really “know” them. The best recommendation letters are going to come from teachers that truly know their students and the sincerity in their writing will positively shine through during the admissions process. Colleges want to see recommendation letters from teachers who know the student is a hard-worker and is someone who shows promise for continued academic success, but they also want to catch a glimpse of how the student acts socially inside and outside the classroom. They want to know what kind of person the student is and how they are going to make their college or university better, and this can’t always be communicated by the teacher who gave a student the A for passing exams, turning in homework on time, and answering some questions with a few canned responses.

 Ross Riskin, CPA and Certified College Planning Specialist at Riskin Advisory

Make Sure Recommendations Are Recent

Letters of recommendation are a student’s opportunity to show college admissions officers what their personality, strengths, attitude, character, level of maturity, and special interests are through the eyes of the people who know them best. As such, select teachers from your junior or senior year. Colleges like a recent impression of the student. At the same time, consider asking teachers whose subject may relate to a future area of study. For example, students who plan on studying engineering should ask a math or physical science teacher. A student interested in communications should ask an English teacher.

Christine Brown, executive director of K-12 and college admissions programs, for Kaplan Test Prep

Ensure That Recommendations Are Addressed To The Director Of Admissions

Letters of recommendation always look better when they are addressed properly. A simple way to remember is to sure they are addressed to the Director of Admissions. Here’s a sample template:

Date
[Name of College]
[Director's name you need to know it]
Director of Admissions
[Street or P.O. Box]
[City, State, Zip, Zip+4 if available]
RE: Student’s Name & High School
Dear Director ?: [You need to know their name!]

Reecy Aresty, author of How To Pay For College Without Going Broke

Students Should Prepare A “Resume”, But Not Really

I advise all of my students to provide their recommendation writers with a substantial amount of material that the writers can then use, in whole or in part, to bulk up the letters. It is also useful to provide electronic copies of such material, to make copying and pasting easy.

Rather than writing this information down in a traditional recommendation letter format, I ask students to think about what they want the writer to reference in the letter, and then turn in a document with questions and corresponding answers that are full of examples. 

For teacher recommendations, the questions should be specific to the student’s performance in that particular class – the questions should include ones such as “How did the student’s presence in class impact the learning experience for the rest of the students?” or “Explain instances where the student demonstrated intellectual curiosity in the classroom.” 

Counselor questions, on the other hand, should discuss the student as a whole and provide information to substantiate any challenges that the student may have faced along the way. 

The biggest mistake that a student can make is providing a teacher or counselor with a resume to aid in writing the letter. This is actually worse than giving the person no material at all! It becomes very tempting for the writer to compose a “blah” recommendation that simply lists off a bunch of clubs and provides no actual information that the student’s application itself does not already provide. 

Colleen Ganjian from DC College Counseling  

[Read the Article]

Who in the US makes the most because they studied the most?

It seems pretty clear.

A recent paper from the US Department of Labor spotlighted the diverse earnings dynamics among America’s racial and ethnic groups. This simple takeaway is that those who identify as Indian have earnings that are head and shoulders above the rest. In 2013, the median weekly earnings of Indians was nearly $1,300 a week, for those age 16 and above. That was more than 17% higher than the $1,100 in median weekly earnings reported by those who identify as Japanese.

The reason for this is no huge surprise. Education levels among those who identify as Indian are incredibly high: Roughly 76% of those above the age of 25 have graduated from college. “For these ethnic groups, education explains most of the wage differences, since on average Indian, Japanese, and Chinese workers have higher levels of education than the rest of the labor force (education explains half to three-quarters of the observed wage gaps),” Department of Labor analysts wrote in the report.

Of course, this simple answer also raises a whole bunch of complex questions. Why are levels of educational attainment so high among Indians? Where do the people who identify as Indian do their schooling? How much did it cost? How much of their outsized earnings potential is related to their pathway to the US?

After all, over 70% of people identifying as Indians, according to the Department of Labor’s report were foreign-born. (According to Pew Research, 87.2% of adult Indian-Americans were foreign born in 2010.) And the pathway of many Indian immigrants to the US is much more closely linked to high-skilled employment than other immigrant groups. For example in 2011 about half of the Indian immigrants who received permanent residency in the US with a “green card” had employee sponsorship, much higher than most other Asian groups—except Koreans—according to Pew Research. Indians also dominate among recipients of the US H1-B visa program(pdf), which lets companies hire workers trained for specialty jobs for up to six years.

To be sure, Indian-Americans can be justly proud of the success they’ve had in the states.

But it’s important to note that the structure of the Indian community in the US is also heavily tilted toward professionals who are already highly educated when they arrive. In other words, there’s something of a selection bias at work in these numbers. The story of Indian immigration to the US has been one of America cherry-picking India’s higher-earning professionals, making income comparison with America’s other ethnic groups somewhat problematic.

SAT Test Day Checklist

Taking the SAT soon?

Remember: What to bring — and not to bring — to the SAT!

Must Bring:

Your Admission Ticket

You must have your Admission Ticket on test day. Sign in to My SAT and click "Print Admission Ticket".

Two No. 2 pencils and a soft eraser

Photo identification

You must present acceptable photo identification (ID) for admission to the test center. You are responsible for understanding and following the SAT Test-Taker Identification Requirements and Policies.

You may be denied entrance to the test center or your scores may be withheld or canceled if you can't present acceptable ID, if the validity of the ID is in question, or if you fail to follow the Identification Requirements and Policies.

An Acceptable Calculator

Calculators permitted while testing are:

  • Graphing calculators
  • Scientific calculators
  • Four-function calculators (not recommended)

Not permitted as a calculator:

  • A laptop or a portable/handheld computer
  • Electronic writing pad or pen-input/stylus-driven device (e.g., Palm, PDAs, Casio ClassPad 300) Note: The Sharp EL-9600 may be used without the stylus.
  • Pocket organizer
  • Cell phone calculator
  • Calculator that has QWERTY (keyboard-like) keypad (e.g., TI-92 Plus, Voyage 200)
  • Calculator that uses an electrical outlet, makes noise or has a paper tape

Read the Calculator Policy

[read more]