Is Bard Early College right for you?

If you’ve taken a standardized test earlier than 10th grade or perhaps been identified as “gifted and talented,” then you may have received a mailing from Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College. I learned on a recent visit that the majority of students typically found out about this special college through a direct mailing. (Before this visit, I didn’t know that direct mail was that effective!)

What is Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College?

Students apply to Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College after their 10th or 11thgrade of high school. Unlike the “early college” programs offered in some public high schools in the US, students at Bard are directly enrolled in college, not high school. One of the slogans on campus is “High school dropout, College graduate.” Students at Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College have foregone the traditional rites of high school, such as prom and the senior skip-day.

3 Types of Students that may be a fit for Bard

There are three types of students that may find this Bard experience appealing:

  1. A student who has already exhausted the curriculum at his current high school – this student may have already taken all the available AP courses or the highest levels of math and science courses in high school. If your senior year schedule is likely to be overfilled with study halls, then Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College may be a fit.
  2. A student who is unchallenged in high school – this is a dangerous place to be, for sure. We all know though that there are far too many students who claim that they’re “bored” or “unchallenged” in high school. Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College may be a fit but the next option must be met . . . .
  3. A student who is “ready” for college – Being ready for college requires maturity, independence, a healthy dose of curiosity, and more. Students who apply to Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College must have the academic and social-emotional wherewithal to excel in such a program. The admissions officers mentioned that they may communicate with a student for a year before the student applies for admissions. This kind of attention and care is important with the transformational experience of college. In other words . . . college ain’t for punks! 🙂

Bard at Simon’s Rock Early College is a separate campus from its sister, Bard College. The 400 students at the Early College campus reflect a diverse, global community of students where the innovative, independent thinkers (aka smart kids) are really cool.

University of Virginia President Resignation and Freshman Class of 2016

Two years in office for a district superintendent may be acceptable. When it comes to a University President, however, two years is really no time at all. The last president of University of Virginia-Charlottesville held that office for 20 years. Dr. Teresa Sullivan, the new female president who came into office in 2010 with such high hopes, an impressive resume, and a scholarly research record will only hold office for two years when she leaves on August 15, 2012:

The announcement Sunday shocked the university community and signaled potential hard times ahead for the flagship university, an institution founded by Thomas Jefferson and unaccustomed to instability. The previous president, John T. Casteen, stayed for 20 years. When she exits on Aug. 15, Sullivan will have served two years and two weeks, the shortest presidential tenure in the school’s history. Helen Dragas’s handling of Teresa Sullivan’s ouster confounds many who know her. Sullivan attributed her departure to “a philosophical difference of opinion” between herself and U-Va.’s governing board of visitors. It was unclear when the rift began, but its existence surprised the Charlottesville community.

via University of Virginia president to step down – The Washington Post.

This will be an awkward time for entering Freshman Class of 2016 who will arrive on campus in August to greet new roommates as many of them embark on their first experience away from home in the “adult” world of college life. Freshmen and

upperclassmen at UVA can’t possibly know what to expect this 2012-2013 school year. Will there be any faculty or administrative backlash as a result of the president’s resignation? With a new president comes many changes to a university’s academic, fiscal, and social culture.

The transition to a new environment for the Freshman Class of 2014 will be felt in the dorm room, classroom, and every nook and cranny of the Charlottesville campus. The university may have a look and feel that’s quite different from what Freshmen experienced in the admissions process.

My urging to Freshmen Class of 2016 is to get involved with the hiring of the next president however they can. The role of the university President is too important to the success of students’ next four years to be a bystander.

UVA President at 2012 graduation with Katie Couric. -from Washington Post
UVA President at 2012 graduation with Katie Couric. -from Washington Post

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

College-bound seniors are concerned about class size

More and more, my college-bound students are questioning the class sizes of colleges where they’re applying.

This is especially true for my high school seniors who have conducted campus visits. During junior year, many of them were eyeing the large, spirited colleges. Somewhere between their summer experience, a handful of campus visits, and starting their college essays, the big, rah-rah campuses became less appealing.

I encourage students to visit a classroom during their campus visit. Can you imagine how this might feel?

At Virginia Tech, classes of 100-plus students are “almost commonplace,”  . . . And each semester, 10-15 classes enroll more than 500 students each — with one freshman course in geography enrolling about 2,700. . . . Virginia Tech calls the 500-plus sections “ultra-large” while others prefer the term “super-sized section.”

via Educators hear advice on how to teach large courses | Inside Higher Ed.

Even if you’re coming from a large urban high school, a college course with 100+ students may feel overwhelming. Comparatively, a “large” high school class would be about 30-40 students.

College-bound students should question the class size throughout their application process. Take advantage of “Admitted Student Visits” to visit classrooms. If the freshman classes are too large for your taste, it is OK to consider enrolling at another institution. The freshman year sets the tone for your college experience, so make it the best it can be. Class size matters.

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.

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 –

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%

Myers-Briggs, UPenn, Brown and You!

When I worked in the private sector, there were a number of inventories, assessments, and other instruments to determine career choices. I actually used those tools to inform my positions within a company as well as consider career transitions.  Much of my firm’s research interests have evolved around educational transitions, whether it’s middle school to high school or high school to college.

For students in middle school and high school, there are inventories, assessments, and the like to determine educational options. Interestingly, a tool that I used in the corporate setting is available has been adapted for teenagers to use. That instrument is the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. My firm administers the MBTI to students in my practice because it is reliable, well-researched, and has applications to professional careers as well as education. So my students may learn at age 16 that they’re an ENTJ and that can help them with the colleges they select or the careers they later pursue after college. It’s an instrument with long-term relevance.

Our guest today on The Education Doctor Radio show was Claire Law, author of Find the Perfect College for You, Claire Law. She joined us to discuss her research on Meyers-Briggs and how students can use this tool to inform the range of colleges they have on their list. Our discussion is so timely because many high school seniors are now refining and finalizing the list of colleges where they will apply. Claire gave us her insight and practical tips that students can apply immediately to their list.

During the show, we discussed the four scales of MBTI

  • Extrovert – Introvert (where you get your energy)
  • Sensing – Intuition (how you take in information)
  • Thinking – Feeling (how you make decisions)
  • Judging – Perceiving (how you relate to the outer world)
Brown’s curriculum is more open than that of other Ivies.

In the second half of the show, we discussed the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University and the reasons that, as Claire states, there is a “predominance of sensing learners at Penn.” The mission and curriculum of Penn lie in its history, founded by Benjamin Franklin. Although Penn and Brown are both Ivy League institutions, their curriculum, culture, and, therefore, the students that would fit well with the respective colleges are different.