December 11, 2009
Yes, the weather outside is frightful for many of you, and some of you really do have no place to go in the wake of the first big snowstorm of the winter season.
For the first time in 45 years, the University of Wisconsin at Madison canceled a full day of classes following a declared snow emergency that kept all but emergency services indoors during the worst of the blizzard Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service, more than 19 inches of snow fell in Madison earlier this week. The last time Madison saw that much snow was in 1990, when the school's chancellor offered the students a half day after realizing that it was improbable students would arrive in class on time - and in one piece. The last time a full day of classes was canceled was in 1965. The snow total was just under 7 inches that day, but it fell on top of freezing rain that made things that much more dangerous for Madison students and residents.
Des Moines was also hit hard this week, with a number of college closures, including at Grand View University and all Des Moines Area Community College campuses. And it isn't just mounds of snow that's causing problems, either. Montgomery County Instructional Center of Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette closed this week due to power outages following a bout with winter weather.
While we shouldn't be surprised at all by winter's arrival, especially in Midwestern states that get heavy snowfalls on an annual basis, it has been interesting to see the range of ways administrations are notifying students of school closures. The University of Wisconsin notified students and staff using not only mass emails and website announcements, but through Twitter, a social networking tool that has grown in popularity among not only college students, but college classrooms.
So what does a college student do on a snow day? If you're in Madison, you may have taken one look at the weather inside and stayed indoors with a mug of hot chocolate. Or you were a little more adventurous and you're like the students who went sledding on "borrowed" cafeteria trays this week. Either way, don't feel guilty about a break from your day-to-day. Madison students' snow revelry was short-lived. They were back in class Thursday and studying hard for final exam week.
December 23, 2009
For the first time in history - or in admissions officials' memories - Yale University has offered admission to a set of quadruplets. Ray, Kenny, Carol, and Martina Crouch of Danbury High School in Connecticut haven't yet decided whether they'll be attending the Ivy League school, but they've already made history just by receiving those acceptance letters.
In an article in The New York Times recently, the quadruplets describe being shocked by the news. While they were all hoping for that best-case-scenario of all being admitted to Yale, they were ready for at most one of their brothers or sisters being admitted, and the awkward scenarios that would follow. Jeffrey Benzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, called the quadruplets' applications "terrific," and that the school hoped they would attend.
The quadruplets have all also applied to the University of Connecticut and a number of other institutions separately. In the New York Times article, they describe the pros and cons of all attending the same school. “It might be fun to go somewhere where I’m not ‘one of the quads,'" said Kenny, who has also applied to Princeton University, Williams College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania. The cost of attending an elite private university is also a large factor. The kinds of financial aid the quadruplets receive from each school they've applied to could very well make their decisions for them.
The New York Times' education blog The Choice revisited the quadruplets' story this week after a number of comments from readers over the weekend suggested that the siblings only gained admission to Yale based on their minority status. (Their mother is Nigerian, and their father is white and from Connecticut.) Their applications, however, were solid. According to the New York Times article, their class ranks ranged from 13 out of a class of 632 (Kenny) to 46 (Martina). They also had impressive standardized test scores. Carol scored a perfect 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT.
January 4, 2010
Michigan's ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been capitalizing on out-of-work career-changers with classes in training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border. Unemployment rates remain significant in Ohio, the site of the future casinos, despite a more positive economic outlook for 2010, and those looking for jobs with earning potential - casino dealers may make up to $60,000 a year - and a change of pace are learning to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, at the casino school.
Many at the school hope to leave the school prepared for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune says nearly 200 Ohio residents have come through the school's doors over the last two years. Students pay the base price of $1,000 to get through nearly 300 hours of training for a dealer certification, spending about 40 hours a week with current and former professional dealers. (The tuition increases if the students wish to learn more beyond properly counting chips, managing a game and dealing blackjack and basic poker.)
While the certification isn't a requirement of casino jobs, the students at the school feel their participation in the program could give them a leg up in a hiring process that will be undoubtedly competitive no matter the state's job outlook. The college has been so successful that it plans to open locations in Cleveland and Columbus next spring. In the Tribune article, John Pifer, who directs the Sacramento, Calif.-based Casino College, described the gaming industry as a field that "survives all economies."
The schools are good examples of certificate programs tailored to prepare residents of a community or state for local employment options. The Midwest has a number of technical schools specializing in automotive fields that have both suffered and thrived depending on changed in the auto industry. Other places offer certificates for those, like many of the students at the casino school, who have lost their jobs or are looking to build up their resumes. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers a horticultural therapy certificate program through a partnership with Oakton Community College. The focus of that program is on-site education with hands-on training in the field of horticultural therapy. Northern Essex Community College offers a certificate in sleep technology, a program that focuses on teaching students how to diagnose sleep disorders.
Many community colleges offer certificates in accredited programs that could help you land a job in even the toughest market, or to specialize a degree you may already have in your chosen field of study. If you're interested in adult programs or returning back to school to learn a new skill, consider your local options, as they may cost you less and even have ongoing relationships with local employers that hire a large number of applicants from those schools.
January 15, 2010
Peter Backus had been single for about three years when he decided not to exactly do something about it, but to find out why he had been so unlucky in love. The result was a paper called "Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK."
Backus, a 30-year-old doctoral student in economics at Britain's University of Warwick, found that the reason was in the odds. Using the Drake Equation, typically applied to determine the odds of extraterrestrial life in the universe, he found that his odds of finding that woman of his dreams on any given night to be 1 in 285,00, or a 0.0000034 percent chance.
The equation assumed the following: only half of the women Backus would be interested in are single themselves, and Backus would only get along with 1 in 10 of those. (Backus only considered women in London.) Just 1 in 20 women were considered attractive by his standards, and the same number considered him attractive as well, something Backus joked in his paper was "depressingly low." Also included were the traits Backus looked for in a woman - a university education, an age between 24-34, and physical attractiveness. Based on those criteria and results, finding a girlfriend was fortunately about 100 times easier than finding an alien. (The Drake formula was originally used to determine that there could potentially be up to 10,000 civilizations in our galaxy.) Still, the odds weren't that good - only 26 women in London, where Backus lived, fit the profile of a woman Backus would date, and vice versa.
He ends his paper with this: "Make of this what you will. It might cheer you up, it might depress you. I guess it depends on what you thought your chances were before reading this." Single college students, don't panic yet. Despite the odds, Backus has found a girlfriend in London since, and one who meets all of his named criteria. Consider also that those numbers were specific to Backus. You may have a better chance wherever you are, your criteria may differ, or you may just be more attractive to the opposite sex than Backus. Or you may just consider this "data" for its entertainment value.
January 20, 2010
Yale University is playing on the popularity of the tween classic "High School Musical" with a new spot from its admissions - a peppy, somewhat cheesy music video that offers would-be applicants the answer to "That's Why I Chose Yale."
The video, which clocks in at around 15 minutes, starts off safe, with an admissions official discussing what makes Yale stand out above the rest as potential students and their parents look on. That same admissions official, while thinking of an answer to a prospective student's question with a wry smile, breaks out into song. What follows is campy, but it does make the Ivy League institution seem a little less stuffy. There's choreographed dancing in addition to the singing, along with a cameo from NBC news anchor Brian Williams, whose daughter attends Yale. The administrators love it, saying that an effort by students (only current students and alums participated in the making of the video) captures the spirit of the school better than any marketing professional could do. Many students love it, saying that the cheesiness of it makes it cool.
Not everyone has had a positive response to the video. One blogger described the video as "That's Why I Chose to Ram a Soldering Iron into My Ears" instead, calling the effort too earnest. The Yale Herald, while it admitted that the musical romp was fun to watch, especially for those currently at Yale who may recognize familiar faces, suggested the video may do little to entice new applicants not already interesting in the school. Comments on the story about the video on the Yale Daily News range from "this is so embarrassing" to this: "Next year's class is going to be devoid of any serious academic talent. What a huge sap on our prestige."
What do you think? Are there any Yale students out there who like or dislike the video? Most would agree it's at least better than the effort from Harvard University last year, "Harvard by the Numbers." Let us know what you think, and whether these kinds of efforts hurt or help admissions.
January 22, 2010
A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, hopes to lure out-of-work art students by offering a two-week intensive program that promises to teach them a new skill—body art.
The school, Bette Baron's Art of Body Coloring School, opened earlier this month, and faced little opposition from the town, which saw it as another opportunity for students seeking vocational schools. An article in the Chicago Tribune today describes how Bette Baron, the owner and a tattoo artist for the last 16 years, opened the school to take her mind off the death of her son, Brian. Her son's face and "Love You Forever Brian" decorate her left arm. "Even housewives are getting tattoos now," Baron said in the article. Students pay $900 tuition fee and $750 for a tattooing kit at the school, and can expect to make up to $100 once they become licensed body artists.
According to the Tribune article and a 2008 poll by Harris Interactive, 32 percent of adults ages 25 to 29 have tattoos. Do tattoos have a place in academia? Sure, ink and piercings been linked to all sorts of things, including deviant behavior, as Texas Tech University's school of sociology reported recently. (They say the more tattoos and piercings you have, the more likely you are to binge drink, fall into promiscuous behavior, get arrested, and use drugs.) Career counselors also usually suggest you keep your body art from public display when interviewing for a new job, especially if there's a dress code and a fairly conservative office staff.
But tattoos are also becoming the way academics express themselves. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently featured a series of scholars' photo submissions that displayed tattoos scholars got to commemorate their work, research, and theses. The tattoos in the series weren't considered taboo, but representative of the spirit and creativity of those academics. They included scholars who got inked with the symbol for the general formula of an ester linkage, coral fish, a double helix, and the phrase "read books" that came down the calves of an adjunct English instructor in Memphis. Lawrence K. Fulbeck, a professor of art who is the author of "Permanence: Tattoo Portraits," even went to Japan to have some tattoos done the old fashioned way—through an hours-long process using needles rather than an electric tattooing drill.
What do you think? Is body art so mainstream that you wouldn't be shocked to see your professor sporting a tattooed sleeve down his arm? Would any of you consider a permanent reminder of your academic work inked on your body?
February 11, 2010
Hobart and William Smith Colleges is looking to give juniors narrowing down their college search choices a more unique brochure experience. More than 20,000 of them will receive 3-D glasses to go along with the school's brochures, a strategy the school describes as both a gimmick and symbolic of what the school is all about.
Viewing things in 3-D has only become more popular thanks to the success of James Cameron's "Avatar." But looking at a brochure is undoubtedly a different experience than sitting in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn in your lap. The New York Times talked to the school's director of communications, Cathy Williams, this week. She sees it this way: Hobart is looking to change the way students "see the world." The 3-D glasses are symbolic of that idea, and the brochures ask potential applicants to "open your eyes to new possibilities at HWS."
Nearly 10,000 of the recipients requested the catalogs; another 12,000 or so were identified through a College Board search program. (Institutions of higher education are able to purchase lists of students who have scored above a certain level on standardized tests or who have expressed interest in a particular field of study.) Those who receive the brochures don't only get the 3-D experience on paper. They're also then able to view videos of professors explaining the science behind the concept of 3-D.
Colleges have been working extra hard lately to entice potential applicants. Some have revamped their college application packets to resemble credit card offers, now speeding up processing times, waiving application fees, and using language typically used by credit card companies: Advantage Application, Distinctive Candidate Application, and the Candidate’s Choice Application, to name a few. More than 100 colleges and universities paid the same marketing company to send out variations of these applications last fall. Some spent more than $1 million on these application campaigns, according to the New York Times.
While their applicant pools have indeed increased thanks to the marketing campaigns, it makes one wonder how colleges find advertising dollars in their budges while tuition and fees continue to increase, schools shutter their "no loans" programs, and colleges struggle with budget deficits. What do you think? Would 3-D glasses included in your college brochure spark your interest in a school more than the glossy materials you usually receive? What other gimmicks have you seen colleges use to get students to apply to those schools?
February 26, 2010
As more states continue passing medical-marijuana laws (14 and counting), it was only a matter of time before higher education would take notice. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, Calif., institution that provides "quality training for the cannabis industry."
Oaksterdam (named after Oakland and Amsterdam) has been offering weekend seminars and semester-long courses since November of 2007, when a group of marijuana-legalization activists their burgeoning movement deserved a trade school. The main school exists in a 30,000-square-foot converted office building, with satellite campuses in Los Angeles, Sebastopol, Calif., and Flint, Mich. Its academic departments, which admittedly began as a "political stunt," according to the article, now include coursework in biology, political science, horticulture, and "methods of ingestion," a class that teaches the benefits and history of extracted medicine, the chemistry behind it, and the different extraction methods and equipment used.
Although classes at the school aren't transferable - Oaksterdam isn't an accredited institution - that fact hasn't seemed to hurt enrollment. The "campus tour" described in the Chronicle article included an out-of-work engineer looking for a new career and a teenager who decided against majoring in horticulture at the University of California at Davis in favor of Oaksterdam. "I was convinced it was the best road for me to go down," he said in the article.
MedGrow Michigan Cannabis College is the Midwest's version. Students there take one class a night for six weeks, and take a cooking and concentrates lab, a history of cannabis class, and several horticulture lectures. The school's site boasts that more schools outside of its current Southfield, Mich., location are coming, and the faculty there include attorneys, professors in botany, and a professor of history who was one of the first 500 patients in the state of Michigan to obtain his patient ID card for medical marijuana use.
Cannabis colleges aren't the only kind of school taking advantage of career changers looking to pick up new skills and improve their job outlooks. Michigan’s ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border in Ohio. Students at the casino school learn how to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, to prepare for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, Bette Baron’s Art of Body Coloring School, offers a two-week intensive program in body art.
March 17, 2010
If you've had classes since 2001, the year the (in)famous online, user-edited encyclopedia was launched, chances are you're guilty of using Wikipedia as a source of information while completing your coursework. A new report from First Monday, an online peer-reviewed journal, took a look at just how prevalent the site has become on college campuses in particular (although high school students are probably just as bad offenders), and how students have begun to rely on Wikipedia as a resource.
According to the study, more than half of all respondents use Wikipedia frequently or always for course-related research. Students in architecture, engineering, or the sciences were more likely to use the site in their courses than other majors. (This could have something to do with the fact that students in social sciences like psychology or history must provide reference lists more often for papers they turn in, and citing Wikipedia simply won't fly on a college level essay.) The study surveyed 2,318 students, and took qualitative data from 86 of those students who participated in focus groups.
Other major findings of the study include the following:
Whether you're writing a college essay or applying for an essay scholarship, here's a good rule of thumb on citing Wikipedia as a reference—don't do it. While the site can be an excellent tool for you to kick off your search, as the study above suggests, it simply isn't reliable enough to be taken seriously by academia. Anyone can add to and edit entries on the site, so it's always best to do some fact-checking after you get your Wikipedia summary prior to the start of the rest of your research. (Stephen Colbert proved this point when he edited Wikipedia articles on his own show, George Washington, and elephants, all while viewers watched. He also coined the term "wikiality," which refers to the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you.)
March 19, 2010
Not too long ago, the furnishings in a typical college dorm room included things like posters of your favorite band, boxes of ramen noodles for late-night snacks, and a land-line phone. The rogue mini-fridge that you covered with a bed sheet to avoid a fine (as mini-fridges were on the "banned" list, along with candles and stolen street signs) was probably the most controversial item in your shared room.
Dorm living today seems to have undergone a makeover. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune took a look at what college students at the University of Illinois bring with them as part of their dorm experience, including flat-screen televisions (on which they immediately install cable, often in HD), sleek laptops, and cell phones to replace land-lines. In fact, the school no longer even offers connections for land-line phones to students, as it became clear to administrators students just didn't need them anymore. In that article, a school spokeswoman said students didn't even notice they removed phone lines in the rooms; students are now able to get everything they need on their cell phones, including emergency text messages when the school is under a weather advisory or another safety-related incident. In one dorm, according to the Tribune, students are able to get a text message or e-mail when their laundry is done, or when there's an available washer or dryer.
Elsewhere, dorms are changing in different ways, unrelated to changing technologies. Mixed-gender dorms are becoming less taboo, with members of the opposite sex not only sharing bathrooms (taboo enough as recently as the 1970s), but rooms, as well. Students at Pitzer College have the option of choosing a roommate of the opposite sex to dorm with, one of about 50 schools across the country that offer incoming freshmen that choice. Still, few students take advantage of the option, with only about 1 to 3 percent choosing to do so at schools where they are allowed room with the opposite sex.
Dorm cafeterias have also been changing dramatically. Some have begun offering healthier fare in the dining halls, or catering to incoming students' food allergies. Others look more like the local Flat Top, with stir fry stations where students are able to pick and choose exactly what they'd like grilled up for them that day, or brick oven pizza days where students choose their favorite toppings.
What changes have you noticed at your dorm? If you've been away from college for a while and are not returning as an adult student, what do you remember about dorm living from your first year on campus?
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