Friday, July 8, 2016

College Degrees Abroad

Everyone has heard of studying abroad, which gives college students the opportunity to study in another country for a semester or a year. But what about earning your degree abroad? Growing numbers of American students are choosing to go overseas for their undergraduate educations, and while it isn't for everyone, the benefits might surprise you.

For one thing, it's cost effective. While the average tuition at a US college is currently $9,139 for in-state tuition at a public university, $22,958 for out-of-state tuition at a public university, and $31,231 at a private university, the average cost of an undergraduate degree in Europe is around $8,000. Add to that the fact that many students can complete a degree in less than four years, which further reduces costs. At some public universities, some universities are tuition free, even for international students.

But what is you don't speak a foreign language? Even in non-English-speaking countries, hundreds of European universities offer degree programs in English. They welcome American students who can enrich their student bodies and bring unique perspectives to the classrooms.

Even better, they don't all expect you to be a 4.8 student with a perfect SAT score. While you may have to meet specific requirements for admissions that differ somewhat from those of American universities, their requirements are often not as stringent, with many European universities not even requiring standardized test scores. In countries where education is considered a right, not a privilege, there is room for all types of students.

Of course, there are trade-offs, such as distance from family and the possible challenges of adapting to a new culture, but when you look at the pros (not to mention the opportunity to finally perfect another language!), earning a degree abroad might just be the smart college choice.

Want to learn more about college degree options overseas? Get in touch. 

Beyond APs

Like it or not, Advanced Placement high school classes are the new norm for college-bound students. Many believe that without a majority of AP classes on their transcript, they won't be competitive for highly selective colleges. Whether or not this is true, each year more and more kids take on more and more AP classes, often assuming workloads that cost them sleep and sanity.

AP classes are awesome. The offer academic rigor and the opportunity to study with a highly trained teacher alongside highly motivated and sharp peers. If you score a 3 or above on the AP test at the culmination of the course, you can earn college credit and, assuming a score of 5, demonstrate that you are more prepared the 80-90% of your classmates. When everyone is taking APs, are they still the best way to distinguish yourself and demonstrate that you are exceptionally well prepared to take on the challenges of college? What are the alternatives?

Community college courses are often overlooked by students, but they can be an excellent way to deepen your learning, demonstrate your initiative and intellectual curiosity, earn transferable college credit, and show that you have the skills and maturity to succeed in a college environment rather than just a high school classroom. With the approval of a high school administrator, almost every high school kid is able to register and take community college classes either to explore a personal interest or to get a head start on fulfilling lower-division college requirements. They are also a great option for kids who can't fit all of the high school classes they want to take into their schedule, who want to spread out their workload by taking courses over the summer, or who need to make up high school classes where they earned low grades or fulfill requirements they missed.

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are also an exciting opportunity for kids to learn new subjects beyond those offered by a traditional high school and to experience firsthand an actual course at Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, and many other universities. Designed to provide unlimited participation and open access to learning via the Web, MOOCs provide the chance to explore a vast array of subjects. In some cases, they can be taken for credit or a student can receive a certificate acknowledging course completion. But simply enrolling in and completing a course in a subject like Data Science (Johns Hopkins), Buddhism and Modern Psychology (Princeton), or Social Media Marketing (Northwestern) can show colleges that you are intellectually curious, self-motivated,and capable of taking on the rigors of a top university (in the often even more challenging virtual environment). You can check out the possibilities at Coursera, edX, and Udacity.

With so many ways to take your learning beyond the high school classroom, there's no reason to limit your learning to the AP curriculum. Take advantage of the AP classes that are right for you, but open your mind to the world of opportunities that are there for the taking.

Need help finding enriching learning experiences that don't involve an AP exam? Get in touch. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Understanding the New Coalition Application

The Coalition Application is the brainchild of over 90 colleges and universities (including many elite and top-tier schools) who want to improve access to education for all students. This application, which encourages kids to be working on their colleges applications throughout grades 9 - 12, offers tools you won't find on the two existing private school applications, The Common Application and the Universal Application, such as the opportunity to collect classwork, art and music samples, and other materials to support future applications in an online "locker." Though all of the features of the application are still rolling out, the "locker" and essay prompts are now available.

It's likely that over 100 colleges will accept the Coalition Application as an option in the Fall of 2016, and some, including the University of Washington, will use it exclusively.

What are the pros and cons for students?
For some kids, the Coalition application process will be an opportunity to highlight their unique talents and educational accomplishments. It also might encourage the planning process throughout high school and enable them to demonstrate their interest in particular colleges earlier and with more detail.

On the downside, for kids who already feel like their entire high school experience is nothing but a breakneck race to college, the Coalition application might just be one more task to manage and one more thing to stress about. This might be especially true for kids in grades 10 and 11, who could feel like the game board they were beginning to understand was just upended beneath them: Should I use the Common Application or the Coalition Application? Do colleges (as they say) really have no preference? What if I don't have work saved from grades 9 and 10 to add to my locker? Will not doing it mean I can't get into (fill in the blank)?

There also seems to be no real plan for training high school counselors in using the Coalition application. Many of them are already busy trying to support students and families in using Naviance, another college planning tool which many high school have purchased to help families navigate the college process. And speaking of Naviance, will the new application interface with Naviance features like storing and uploading teacher recommendations (as it does with the Common Application), or will kids and teachers need to go though yet another process to add recommendations for Coalition schools?

It's early days and there are still many unanswered questions. Our hope is that the new application truly will improve access for underrepresented students and support all students in having a kinder, gentler application process that lets them truly show colleges who they are and what they have to offer. But at least for the near future, his new application will raise questions and, no doubt, stress levels, for students and the parents, teachers and counselors who are working to support them.