Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Brag Colleges and More: The Year in Review

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

I don’t always write a summary column, but there were more than enough nuggets of newness this year to put together a list that makes you remember, consider, and prepare for next year.

Test optional Many colleges have decided it’s time to go back to requiring the SAT or ACT simply because—well, they can. It’s frustrating that the test-no-test debate is based on intuition, and not data—if a college has evidence it needs a test, fine with me; otherwise, forget it. MIT (yes) and Bates (no) seem to be the only ones leading in this category. Here’s hoping other colleges will follow suit.

Self-reporting grades Like test-optional policies, self-reporting transcripts were supposed to take the burden off the college-bound student, and, largely, neither one has. Without a common transcript form, students find themselves filling out several self-reporting transcripts, making college applications more time consuming. How about if every high school gives each student a PDF of their transcript in July, and colleges let students upload that?

Admit rates It still drives me crazy that there are two headlines for schools with record applications: “College X has record applications”, and, next week, “College X admits lowest percentage of students ever.” This is the same story, but we somehow get twice the panic out of it—like we really need that.

Highly Rejective Colleges This term was originated in rebellion to the use of the phrase Highly Selective Colleges, and it really caught on this year. From what I can tell, this phrase emphasizes that the number of students the college rejects is high, as opposed to the idea that the quality of the few students selected for admission is high.

I’m not fond of either phrase, but Highly Rejective Colleges suggests the college can actually do something about this--like admit more students, even though they don’t have room for them, or be less aggressive in recruiting students, which would risk them missing applicants who would do well at their colleges.

If there are objections to the students these colleges are admitting (not enough Pell students, too many legacies), folks should say that. If they’re jealous of the college’s recruiting success, say that. But don’t blame them because they’re good at what every college wants to be good at—recruiting students. In the old days, this would be the kind of disparaging remark that would be an ethics violation with NACAC. The rule may be gone, but the need for decorum is still with us. I like “brag” colleges (or, when speaking only with colleagues, “cocktail party” colleges). Try those.

Student Aid Report Colleges continue to produce their own financial aid reports to students, each with its own idiosyncrasies that makes comparing offers impossible.

How about this? Nearly every college gets federal funding for something. Uncle Sam needs to say “Look, keep your forms if you need them. All you have to do is put this sheet—our sheet—on top of yours. It explains grants, loans, and work study very succinctly, and gives families a common form to compare with other colleges, who have to use the same form. We give the summary, and you give the details.”

There’s more to discuss, but sweet cherries are at the market, announcing the start of summer. Most of Michigan is heading to the north end of the state, home of big trees, incredibly cold water, fudge, and other great things Henry Ford didn’t invent. No matter where you spend the summer, I hope it celebrates you, salutes you, and thanks you.

Heaven knows I do, every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment