UT Austin will graduate more students in 4 years

UT Austin

Applause! Applause to The University of Texas at Austin for taking bold moves to graduate more students in four years. Recent reports show that UT Austin graduates over half its students in 4 years and its six-year graduation rate is 77.8%. Graduating in four years saves money for families and enhances the university offerings for its underclassmen.

President Bill Powers has set a goal of graduating 70 percent of our students within four years and appointed the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates to develop strategies to achieve this goal.


The task force believes that by 2016 the university can reach this ambitious goal by enhancing the first-year and freshman orientation experience and by improving advising and student tracking. The task force has made more than 60 specific recommendations to get this accomplished.

via UT Grad Rates.

The UT Austin campus can be intimidating – the freshman dorm houses thousands of students and has the feel of a major urban mall. Imagine if students are attending UT Austin without a prior campus visit. . . . overwhelming! Enhancements in the freshman orientation program may improve the overall freshman year experience, as well as lead to an even stronger freshman-sophomore retention at UT Austin. (Freshman-sophomore retention: 92.4%)

UT Austin

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!


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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Top 3 Concerns when applying to a Party School

Ohio University

When I recently visited Ohio University in Athens Ohio, I had no idea that it would be named this week as the #1 party school by

Princeton Review! The town of Athens was quite charming, filled with restaurants and shops. Even though I visited during the summer, there were many students on campus, current undergraduates as well as high schoolers. The campus and curriculum seemed to have a lot to offer.

Certainly, with this new ranking, it begs the question . . .

Should college-bound students still apply to a college that has a Party School reputation??

That’s a serious question. While I don’t encourage selecting a college solely on rankings, this particular one is a bit unnerving. According to the Princeton Review, the ranking is based on a “combination of survey questions concerning the use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day, and the popularity of the Greek system.” Oooh!

Before adding a “party school” to your list of arbitrarily removing from your list, here are 3 critical questions that a family should answer:

  • How grounded and self-aware is my teen?
  • Does my teenager typically make their own decisions or follow the crowd?
  • What campus resources will be available for my teen if the academic load is too easy or social influences are negative?

And these questions are part of a whole range of questions that every college applicant must ask as part of their due diligence. There are other questions related to the student’s social well being, academic expectations, and financial support that will determine whether a party school still remains on the list.

In considering these questions, here is a list of the top 20 party schools of 2011 by Princeton Review, along with their rate of admissions and graduation rates. There are only two private colleges among this list and the number of enrolled students ranges from 2,000 at Depauw to 56,000 at Arizona State. These campuses are located in varied settings with 3 in rural communities, 7 suburban, and 10 urban communities!


2012 Party Schools* Graduation Rates Admit Rates
Ohio University 69.7% 77.8%
U Georgia, Athens 77.9% 54.8%
U Mississippi 55.7% 83.4%
University of Iowa n/a 82.3%
U California Santa Barbara 81.5% 54.4%
West Virginia University 55.9% 34.7%
Penn State, University Park n/a n/a
Florida State University 69.5% 46.7%
U Florida 81.6% 41.5%
U Texas Austin 77.8% 43.5%
U Illinois Urbana-Champaign 82.0% 69.0%
Syracuse University 80.1% 52.5%
Louisiana State, Baton Rouge 58.9% 72.8%
U Wisconsin Madison 81.3% 62.8%
DePauw University 85.3% 64.8%
Indiana U Bloomington 72.9% 70.7%
Arizona State 56.0% 82.1%
U Maryland College Park 81.8% 38.8%
U Vermont 71.2% 64.8%
U South Carolina Columbia 66.7% 59.4%


Additional interesting posts to check out:

How to get into the University of Chicago

Please sign up for our Newsletter so you are ready for College!