OSU Buckeye’s Losing Human Touch

One of the key ingredients needed in a very large school environment is a sense of community and connectedness. We sometimes refer to this as “being known by the name” as opposed to a number. Particularly for freshmen who attend large universities, being known by your name or having a sense of connectedness with others on your campus can make or break the decision to return for the sophomore year. Your freshman roommate plays a critical role in how you transition to college and whether you feel connected.

Role of the Freshman roommate

Given the importance that the freshman roommate plays in the quality of life freshman year of college, I was disappointed to learn that Ohio State University is moving toward an automated system for roommate matching. In the past, the 9,900 students who lived on campus were matched by the experienced hand of the housing administration director. The director mentioned in a local campus newspaper that it would take her about five weeks to match new students with their roommate. The students were matched based on their responses to a questionnaire.

A great quote from the assistant director for Housing Services was that, “Not always will the outcome be perfect or anything, but it makes the students feel like a person instead of just a number on campus.” That’s just the message you want to send to the thousands of new students coming to a campus which is equivalent to the population of a city!

After 27 years of the current housing administration director matching students by hand, OSU will now have computerized roommate matching beginning this summer. In the past, the housing department would receive less than 0.2 percent request for roommate changes. Do you think the campus will be able to maintain this strong satisfaction with the computer-generated matches?

Parenting for College readiness

Today and tomorrow, I’m attending an ACT conference and it’s patently clear that parent involvement is a critical element in college-readiness and success. College admissions staff are getting more savvy in their efforts to reach parents early in the college search process and stay in touch with parents during the college years.

In a session today led by a former Dean of Admissions, admissions officers in the audience shared that they are introducing parent newsletters, parent pages on their websites, and parent-only sessions during campus visits. Two of the colleges recognized for their parent pages were Baylor University in Texas and Elmira College in New York. The colleges are recognizing that college selection is the number one way that parents are engaged with their child. It is very common for parents of this millenial generation to research college websites, visit campuses, and contact the admissions office.

There was a point in the discussion where it seemed that the presenter suggested that admissions staff should accept that parents will attend admissions interviews. I strongly disagreed with any hint of such a practice. It’s OK for the admission staff to make some accomodations. However, it’s the student who will be attending the university and not the parent. The admissions interview should be an opportunity for the admissions staff to get to know the student and learn more about what he/she will bring to the campus and how the campus may support their success. If the student has to co-interview with a parent, then how can they ever be able to thrive independently in college.

Parents, would you really want to attend the interview with your child? What about a job interview?

Girls and easy campus romance

But the authors of a new book, “Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying,” say all this success has come at a great cost to women’s sexual bargaining power. When it comes to relationships, they say men are calling all the shots — which means less commitment and more sex.

via The sexual cost of female success – Sex News, Sex Talk – Salon.com.

Quidditch and NCAA. . . really?

A few weeks ago, I attended a boarding school’s information session for prospective students. It was interesting to hear how their questions differed markedly from those at the parent session, happening simultaneously. One student asked if the school offered a quidditch club. The quick-witted admissions officer promptly stated, “We don’t but you could start one!” Nice . . .

Later that afternoon, I overheard some boys chuckling about the quidditch question. Well, who would have ever thunk that a Harry Potter-inspired sport that started a short three years ago, is now an NCAA sport? Quidditch is played at the high school and college level. Check out the story here at npr.org!

Your state has a drop-out problem!

Many of us have heard about the high number of students who drop out from high school. It’s a growing, shameful trend in our country. Did you know that that we also have a college dropout problem? When I mention this data to people, they are often surprised.

If you attended college 20+ years ago, you were keenly aware that college was a 4-year endeavor. Even for students who transferred, the plan was to attend one school for 2 years, then move on to another campus for the latter 2 years. Today, we often hear the college years discussed as a 6-year cycle. I don’t know about you . . . but the thought of paying for 6 years of college sounds even more daunting than paying for four. That’s a deep-pocket investment. A protracted college experience can be expensive for families and fellow taxpayers.

In too many cases though, students are dropping out of college, particularly after freshman year. A new study by American Institutes for Research finds that states are losing millions of dollars due to college dropouts. The table below, adapted from www.collegemeasures.org shows the rankings for all states.

Some critics of “college for all” policies argue that these low graduation rates prove their case. There’s some merit in their proposition. The other issue that we don’t acknowledge enough is that the breakdown in college graduation begins in the application process. Students are not spending enough time and consideration in the college selection process. There are far too many instances of students choosing colleges for these reasons:

  • Location – For no other reasons, it’s either near home (within comfort zone) or far enough that parents can’t drop-in.
  • Friends – An over-reliance on opinions of peers cloud ability to compare campuses fairly.
  • Parents – Parents often choose the colleges for the student. (Risky for parents and often leads to resentment by the student.)

The college selection process, instead, should start with students considering those schools that will be a good fit for their own needs, whatever those may be. There are over 3,800 colleges and universities in the US. Some campuses are very rural while others are in the heart of major urban centers. Other campuses may offer tremendous support for students with learning differences while others do not even acknowledge students outside whatever is considered the norm. Several campuses offer unique scheduling options. There are college campuses that are defined by their Greek life participation or perhaps their great food. For any college being considered, students should ask, “Is this a place where I can thrive?”

Freshman year of college is a challenging year and many colleges do their best to assist students with their transition. In some cases, though, students may need more that 2-3 months in between senior year of high school and college. Taking a year after high school to pursue other interests, mature, or travel can make all the difference that a student needs to be able to fully engage in college the following year. Many colleges will support a request for deferred admissions. In hindsight, I could have had a richer college experience if I had deferred a year. Back then, the support wasn’t there. Today, however, there are numerous structured programs that offer meaningful year-long experiences for students to pursue.

Freshman retention rate College Graduation rate Cost to taxpayers (in Millions)
Alabama (AL) 76.40% 47.40% $69.90
Alaska (AK) 70.70% 25.00% $11.90
Arizona (AZ) 77.70% 54.70% $54.30
Arkansas (AR) 69.60% 41.20% $34.40
California (CA) 84.30% 62.00% $228.80
Colorado (CO) 76.30% 53.40% $79.00
Connecticut (CT) 83.70% 56.20% $24.80
Delaware (DE) 85.10% 70.70% $14.80
District of Columbia (DC) 39.50% 17.20% $6.70
Florida (FL) 85.60% 59.20% $57.30
Georgia (GA) 80.80% 51.00% $60.00
Hawaii (HI) 75.10% 50.90% $11.10
Idaho (ID) 63.50% 32.70% $24.50
Illinois (IL) 80.20% 59.50% $78.90
Indiana (IN) 77.10% 52.50% $110.30
Iowa (IA) 83.30% 65.70% $25.70
Kansas (KS) 74.90% 54.80% $38.20
Kentucky (KY) 72.30% 46.30% $64.20
Louisiana (LA) 71.50% 39.80% $71.80
Maine (ME) 72.40% 50.60% $14.90
Maryland (MD) 82.30% 63.00% $46.80
Massachusetts (MA) 79.00% 52.70% $50.00
Michigan (MI) 80.30% 59.10% $124.50
Minnesota (MN) 78.50% 53.20% $57.40
Mississippi (MS) 75.20% 49.30% $25.50
Missouri (MO) 76.00% 53.80% $56.50
Montana (MT) 69.30% 41.10% $17.00
Nebraska (NE) 77.10% 54.30% $20.00
Nevada (NV) 75.10% 43.10% $20.60
New Hampshire (NH) 83.90% 65.40% $10.40
New Jersey (NJ) 84.70% 63.60% $43.80
New Mexico (NM) 71.30% 41.00% $19.80
New York (NY) 82.50% 56.80% $117.40
North Carolina (NC) 81.20% 58.80% $102.80
North Dakota (ND) 77.00% 47.00% $14.20
Ohio (OH) 79.20% 56.10% $123.50
Oklahoma (OK) 70.60% 46.10% $42.50
Oregon (OR) 76.70% 54.10% $27.30
Pennsylvania (PA) 81.10% 61.70% $133.40
Puerto Rico (PR) 83.50% 42.70% $29.30
Rhode Island (RI) 79.20% 53.60% $10.90
South Carolina (SC) 78.80% 59.50% $47.30
South Dakota (SD) 73.90% 46.40% $11.60
Tennessee (TN) 72.00% 44.20% $79.60
Texas (TX) 74.40% 48.90% $238.00
Utah (UT) 73.40% 47.70% $24.50
Vermont (VT) 86.00% 71.60% $7.80
Virgin Islands (VI) 72.80% 29.20% $1.70
Virginia (VA) 86.10% 67.30% $60.20
Washington (WA) 83.50% 66.40% $50.00
West Virginia (WV) 72.30% 45.10% $29.00
Wisconsin (WI) 79.30% 58.60% $65.20
Wyoming (WY) 72.50% 56.90% $7.70

Job openings and the impact on your Child

When was the last time you checked the openings in your district? You may not be looking for a job opening for yourself. However, the available employment opportunities in your district (or a college that you’re interested in applying to) can give a clue to the cultural climate of that campus.

I am registered on several list services that post current job openings. For a listing that I received today, there were “multiple faculty openings” at a university in an adjoining state. Some questions raised for me after seeing 15+ openings . . . What’s going on in these departments? Is the campus going through a growth spurt? Have faculty recently retired or been denied tenure? What will be the average class sizes while the search is being conducted? How will students be involved in the hiring the new faculty members? How long are these searches expected to last?

As part of the research that K-12 parents do each year when they’re looking into schools, it is a great idea to look at the  job openings. Similar questions can be asked at the district level, such as How will my child’s schedule change while a position is being filled? How will substitute teachers be supported? How will the course offerings change? How will parents be notified when new prospective administrators are being considered? How long is the search anticipated to take? What input will be taken from parents/community in the hiring process, particularly for a high-profile role such as chief academic officer or superintendent?

These series of questions can be used to help families manage expectations for their child’s academic experience. The answers to these questions may also provide clues to the climate of an educational setting. In short, if there is a lot of craziness going on with the adults in teaching or administrative roles, it will impact your child at the classroom level.