Why the College of William & Mary is known as a “Public Ivy”

college of william and mary public ivy

William & Mary is the second oldest college in the country with a long history of liberal arts education and a growing research and science program. Undergrads at William & Mary have numerous research opportunities. A student majoring in government described William & Mary with these three words,  “Tradition. Community. Unique.” For those prospective students seeking this type of college environment, William & Mary has a lot to offer. Although the academic climate is rigorous, students say that cooperation among peers is the norm.

Here are a few quick facts about College of William and Mary:william and mary has active social life

Acceptance: 36%

Freshmen from out of state: 31% (keep in mind . . . it’s a public college, not private)

Most popular majors: biology, government, economics

Housing: Guaranteed housing through junior year

4-year Graduation rate: 84%

Academics: The College of William & Mary is dedicated to a philosophy of personalized education as shown through small class size and extensive student-faculty collaboration. “Classes are difficult and the workload is heavy, but lectures are small and generally engaging,” says one junior. Their joint degree program allows students to spend two years in Williamsburg and two in St Andrews in Scotland and end up with degrees from both institutions.  In addition, 70% of students participate in faculty-mentored research and William & Mary boasts some of the highest numbers for alums with PhDs in STEM.

william and mary for premedSocial:  There’s always something to do on campus, but the town itself can be somewhat “hit or miss”. Popular campus events include Homecoming Weekend, with its tailgate and concert. In their senior year, students can apply to live in a downtown dorm where they put on academic programming for the town. With over 400 clubs and organizations, a student would be hard-pressed not to find something to join!

Financial: College of William and Mary offers university grants and need-based financial aid, with 78% of need is fully met.

What do you think about this college? What else would you like to learn about it? Please post your comments below.


Brandeis U for the intellectual and unconventional college-bound teen

Graduation rate: 89.1%

Brandeis University, located just outside of Boston, has about 5,000 students, both undergraduate and graduate. It’s a fairly young university, founded in 1948, by Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonard Bernstein, Abraham Maslov, and its namesake Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. The social justice mission that it was founded on still exists today. Love their motto . . .  “Where intellectual meets unconventional.”

Some interesting facts about Brandeis:

  • The average student does 2 to 3 internships during undergrad
  • High placement rates into medical school (75%), law school (91%), dental school (88%), and arts and sciences graduate programs (100%)
  • Offers Division 1 Fencing
  • Over 260 clubs and most popular is a community service club
  • 2/3 of students are involved in some form of athletics

Do you think this college could be a fit for you?

If you think Brandeis may be a fit, I highly recommend a campus visit. Brandeis even offers an optional interview. Certainly, if you feel that you can present yourself better in person, than in writing, that interview could help your application portfolio. Either way, the campus visit can tell you a lot about whether it truly is a place where you want to spend 4 years.

Interesting story behind how this castle got built on the Brandeis U campus!
Interesting story behind how this castle got built on the Brandeis U campus!

Anonymity not allowed at Austin College


“We admit more students than we deny!” rang like music to the ears of high school seniors visiting Austin College. As one of the 40 colleges featured in Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College likely gets a lot of visitors throughout the year who decide to apply. When students self-select into the Austin College application process, it’s likely that they may have read about the special features of this liberal arts college in north Texas.

There are 3 features that bring a unique flavor to Austin College:

  1. Faculty mentors – Each student is matched with a faculty mentor that remains with them for their four years. The faculty mentor supports the student through all aspects of navigating the academic and social life of college. In order to register each term, the student must meet with faculty. This ensures that you speak with your mentor each term, but many students are meeting with their mentors much more frequently than that.These strong faculty-student relationships then support the high rates of graduate school admissions for Austin undergraduates. Despite its small student body of 1,300, each year Austin ranks highly for its number of Fulbright scholars.
  2. International experiences – A majority of Austin students study abroad for at least one term during college. Austin makes these opportunities available to its students through an office dedicated to international study and the January Term. During the month of January, students devote their studies to 1 course which can be offered anywhere in the world. The faculty designs this intensive course which is only taught during January Term.Recent January term courses have included a “Kilts and Castles” tour of Scotland, environmental research in Brazil, plus volunteerism and non-profits in South Africa. What exciting opportunities for Austin students!
  3. Career services – The career service offerings begin in freshman year for Austin College students. You may be surprised that many colleges do not start this process until Junior or Senior year. The admissions officer noted that “Starting early is key to figuring out what you want to do!”Starting early with internships also positions Austin College students to get engaged with its community and strong alumni network during this exploratory phase.

The Austin College community has a lot to offer for the right student. In fact, here are the students who would NOT fit well here:

  • Students who want to be anonymous – the strong faculty-student-peer-administrator relationships will out you! There are no auditorium classrooms, either.
  • Students who want do class only – you’re limited to 4 classes per semester and there are numerous activities for expanded involvement
  • Students who want a 24/7 “big city” life  – the Sherman community is approximately 40K and about 118K with surrounding community. Dallas is about an hour away so you’re not far!

As another sign of the campus community, my information session and tour actually started a few minutes later so that we could wait on another family to arrive. That’s never happened during any visit I’ve joined. Cheers to Austin College hospitality!


What Applicants to Brown University Must Know

Brown University Graduation Rate: 94.3%

For students applying to Brown University, it’s worth taking note that the current president, Ruth Simmons, is retiring at the end of this academic year, after being in that role for 10 years. It’s worth taking note because the president shapes the campus culture in numerous ways. Although, as a student, I rarely saw Stanford’s then-president, Donald Kennedy, his leadership left an indelible mark on the research agenda, faculty focus, and even student life.

Ruth Simmons had a successful tenure at Brown. In this excerpt from NPR’s Talk of the Nation, she discusses her proud legacy:


CONAN: We’re talking with Ruth Simmons, the president at Brown, at least until the end of this academic year. You’re listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let’s get Payton on the line. Payton with us from Fayetteville in Arkansas.

PAYTON: Yes. Hi. My question was about – actually, I heard on NPR today a report about the rising cost of tuition. And my question that I want to pose is just how the cost has change since you started as president at Brown and what you see is the future for making college more affordable across the board for everyone.

SIMMONS: Well, this is a huge national issue, as you know, and one that we obviously are struggling to address. The fact is the internal rate of inflation within the higher education is very costly because of all the things that we’re trying to do, the laboratories that we have to build, the resources that students need for highly technical fields today. All of these things create costs that must be met.

At Brown, we are very fortunate to be in a position to be need-blind. This is a change that I implemented after I came to Brown, and it’s probably the thing that I’m proudest of in my time at Brown. That is to say, to make sure that no student, no matter their economic circumstances is prevented from coming to Brown because of their family circumstances. We guarantee enough financial aid for them to come to Brown. They are admitted without our knowing their actual financial need, so that’s why it’s called need-blind. And once we admit the student, we discover what need – the financial need they have, and then we meet that need.

So we are obviously proponents of raising funds to support financial aid so that no student will be denied matriculating because they happen to be poor. That’s not a solution for all institutions, and so obviously we need to moderate the rate of increase of tuition, to reduce the costs internally to make sure that college education will be affordable in the future.

CONAN: Ruth Simmons, thanks so much for your time, and, again, congratulations on highly successful term as the president of Brown University.

via Brown University President Simmons Steps Down : NPR.

Applicants take heed

The new class of students who attend Brown in the Fall of 2012 will have new experiences that may not necessarily match with their interests. As students are visiting the campus, they should be sure to ask about how students will be involved in selecting the next president of Brown University and what measures of student participation will figure into the new president’s transition. If a student is admitted, I highly urge them to visit Brown again in the spring, either for an Admit weekend or alternative period in April to learn more about the next President. Prospective students should learn as much as they can about the leadership before hand to inform their decision. Keep in mind that the next president will have an enormous influence of the campus culture.

Can’t forget Admissions

The other campus administrative role that plays a huge role in campus culture is the admissions director. In my own undergraduate experience, Dean Fred Hargeddon admitted a class of students that was markedly different from the subsequent classes admitted by Dean Jean Fetter. Quite frankly, I’m not so sure that the students who were admitted under Dean Fred would have been admitted under the admissions leadership of Dean Jean. The cohorts of students admitted by Dean Jean’s leadership brought a new level of intensity, deepened specialties.

If you attended college during an administrative leadership change, please let us know what differences you noticed.

University of Michigan: Big campus, small feel

University of Michigan

Given all the big numbers for the University of Michigan, such as

  • 26,000 undergraduates
  • 3,300 courses
  • 19 schools and colleges
  • 4 campuses

reviewing Michigan online may be intimidating. Everything about my campus visit actually felt much more intimate and personalized. The admissions director stated it well in saying that Michigan is both a small liberal arts college and a major research university.

In describing the features that make Michigan a special place, the information session presenter highlighted these not-so-obvious factors:

  • Classroom support – Did you know that 80% of classes have 50 or fewer students?
  • Academic support – There are countless ways that students can get extra academic help outside of class, through writing labs, math labs, advising and more.
  • Undergraduate research – I could hardly believe my ears when the presenter mentioned that Michigan offers opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research (even with all the graduate students there!) During the 2009-10 academic year, Michigan spent $1B in research. An undergraduate research office makes it possible to get involved as early as freshman year
  • 1,300+ student organizations – Wow! A Quidditch Club was recently formed and there’s even a “Squirrel Feeding Club.” Our tour guide demonstrated just how close a squirrel will come towards humans for food.

For the college-bound student who is seriously considering a particular college, it makes such a difference to visit the campus and feel the energy. In all of my visits to Michigan, I did know that it’s a highly spirited campus with unbounded opportunities. I learned through this most recent visit, however, that it is a smaller place than the big numbers suggest. GO BLUE! Here are some more quick facts.

Acceptance: 28%

Freshmen from out of state: 49.7%

Most popular majors: economics, biology, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing freshman year

4-year Graduation rate: 76%

University of Michigan



BU knows Community, even on a major urban campus

Kudos to Boston University for recognizing that college is about community! I loved this article which highlighted that BU is in its second year of reaching out personally to all of its freshman and transfer students.

With new students wrapping up their first month on campus, school staff and administrators, including the provost and dean of students, spent the week calling all 4,300 first-year and transfer students, an ambitious gesture designed to make them feel at home.“It’s about community,’’ said Kenneth Elmore, the university’s dean of students. “We want students to know we’re here to help.’’

via At BU, a checkup call from the top – Boston.com.

Imagine getting a phone call or email from the dean’s office in your first week of college, just to ask “How are you doing?” Given that this feeling of connectedness can improve retention, my hope is that more colleges will take the initiative to make such a strong impression in the first year.

Boston University Graduation Rate: 80%

The Backlash and Appeal of Forbes Top 200 College Rankings

Forbes Top 200 College

Another brouhaha has been stirring about the most recent college rankings from Forbes. Frankly, I hadn’t even noticed these rankings until I read about Northeastern University’s (#534) objections. Northeastern is taking issue with the inclusion of points for the graduation rate (their’s is 69.9%). According to the Forbes analysis, the 4-year graduation rate counts for 17.5% of the score. Much of the remaining points related to student satisfaction and alumni success. It seems that even if their graduation rate was 100%, they would still be ranked in the triple digits.

The biggest issue for Northeastern may be recruiting. Although countless “experts” discount the use of these rankings in the admissions process, countless rising seniors and their families rely on these reports to determine where to visit and ultimately, where to apply. Thus, there are many more students who may not even consider Northeastern because it’s so far down on the list. This may translate into increased resources for them to get their message out to prospective students and be competitive with all the other top colleges in Massachusetts that are ranked in the single and double digits:

For the second year in a row, Williams College, a small, western-Massachusetts liberal arts school, has been named as the best undergraduate institution in America. With total annual costs adding up to nearly $55,000, a Williams education is certainly not cheap, but the 2,000 undergraduates here have among the highest four-year graduation rates in the country, win loads of prestigious national awards like Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, and are often rewarded with high-paying careers.

In second place? Princeton University, which boasts nearly nonexistent student debt rates due to one of the most generous financial aid programs in the nation. Outside of Princeton and Harvard (#6), Ivy League schools fare relatively poorly, suggesting that their reputations might be a bit overblown. Yale (#14), Brown (#21) and Dartmouth (#30) crack the top 5%, but the other Ivies – Columbia (#42), Cornell (#51) University of Pennsylvania (#52) — do not.

Because of our emphasis on financial prudence, the zero-cost military service academies rank highly. West Point, which topped the list two years ago, ranks third this time, thanks to outstanding teaching (#3) and high alumni salaries (#8), while the Air Force Academy (#10) and the Naval Academy (#17) glide easily into the top 20. Even the less prestigious academies – the Coast Guard (#97) and the Merchant Marine (#158) — score well.

Outside of the academies, the highest ranked public school is the University of Virginia (#46) followed closely by the College of William and Mary (#49) and UCLA (#55).

via America’s Top Colleges – Michael Noer – Backslash – Forbes.

I actually applaud the efforts of these recent rankings because they do take into account affordability and college graduation rates. Studies have shown that the breakdown in graduation occurs in the application process. This ranking helps in leading students toward a more informed selection of colleges.

Additional interesting posts to check out:

How to get into the University of Chicago

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Get into University of Chicago with these 4 Tips!

University of Chicago

Last year, the University of Chicago received far more applications beyond its admitted class size of 1,400. Even if it is somewhat of a reach to be admitted, potential applicants should still consider UChicago if it is a good match. The best way to get a feel for whether it’s a fit is through visiting. Although I lived on the campus of UChicago years ago, I visited recently to learn about the campus through the lens of my students.

The admissions presenter and the student guide emphasized the academic structure. This emphasis couldn’t have been more different from the presentation and tour at the University of Cincinnati, as noted in my recent posting. Thus, potential applicants to UChicago should be familiar with the important role of the Common Core and how it shapes the culture of UChicago.

I learned also through my recent visit to the campus that potential applicants may improve their chances of admissions by paying attention to these tips:

  • Complete the Chicago Supplement, even if you use the Common Application
  • Do not make lists, as your essay. All essays should be written in a paragraphed format
  • Re-take the SAT/ACT, if you think you will do better on a re-take . . . UChicago super scores!
  • Express yourself in the essay, so that the readers get to know who you are. The application review considers all aspects of your submission, not just your transcript or test scores.

University of Chicago

In addition to its urban campus and high-quality academics, I was impressed to learn that UChicago students have so many options to build community and enjoy the college experience. There are over 400 student organizations, and my personal favorite is the Zombie Readiness Task Force. Although there is no quidditch team (you can always create one!), there is “broomball” instead!

Dean Julie of Stanford University shares How to get the most of Freshman Year

Dean Julie of Stanford

If you’ve listened to one of our prior Education Doctor radio shows or been a client family of my firm, then you’ve heard me preach about the college graduation rate.  I’m passionate about our country’s need to improve the college graduate rate. College graduation overall in our country today is about 55%. Shocking, isn’t it for a global leader?

Another interesting data point is that 79.5% of our freshman are retained. In short, if students are going to drop-out from college, many of them do so after freshman year. And you know something else . . . it costs us nationally over $4.14 billion dollars to educate those students who drop-out after freshman year. Wow. . . I’m blown away by these numbers and they keep me going every day. . .

Our show last Thursday, July 14 focused on Freshman year and what both students and parents can do to get the most out of this important year of their college road to graduation.

My guest was Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims, who is the Dean of Freshman and Undergraduate Advising and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. I’ve known Dean Julie since she was an undergraduate Freshman at Stanford. Here’s a small world story for you . . . I was a Freshman Orientation Leader for her entering class and had memorized all the names of students in my cohort so that they would feel welcomed when they arrived. She was among my cohort of students for the class of 1989. Then when I returned to Stanford for my doctorate, I learned that Dean Julie would be the then-Dean of Freshman and Transfer Students. I had heard about her distinguished career after undergraduate and excited to see her return to the Farm. She’s an inspiration for many and shared some great advice and tips to share for students and parents on our show.


Here is the audio of Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims of Stanford University discussing what students and parents should know about Freshman year of college!


After our show, I saw a question posted on blogtalkradio by Benjamin Ezeokoli, who asked:

How should a [Stanford] freshman balance his or her time in specificity to taking courses and engaging in extracurricular activities?

Dean Julie responded:

Knowing that college presents both a different pace and different expectations than high school, I would encourage all incoming students to assume they will not be able to jump right in to the same number of extra-curriculars in college, at least not at the outset, or not to the same extent.  I think it makes good sense to spend the first term getting one’s academic bearings (i.e. what does xx number of units require of me outside of class?; what kind of success/accomplishments am I able to achieve
academically with xx units).  With that information in hand, the student can then think about adding extra-curriculars in a way that complements what they already know to be the time available in the space outside of academics.  I’m not saying don’t do extra-curriculars at the outset, in fact one or two small things might be a nice balance with academics.  I’m really speaking to the urge to get involved in five extra-curriculars, some of which are major, right away, which I think is not wise.

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