Saturday, May 31, 2014

Conservatory Considerations

While many high school students transitioning to college follow the traditional four-year path, many have a passion in the performing arts or music realm and choose to follow the more unique conservatory experience.

When considering pursuing a conservatory education experience, it is prudent to consider the following:

1. Admission is competitive! The better schools have more difficult audition requirements as well as more applicants per available position.

2. A student who did not perform well in a particular high school class can avoid these subjects at the conservatory. Having said this, if the conservatory requires any liberal arts credits be taken, these courses can be taken at a local college with the additional benefit of not being forced into, for example, a math or science class to fulfill requirements.

3. You are surrounded by an exceptional talent pool of people who are like-minded.  Leave your ego at home. There is a lot to learn from them as you grow in your craft.

4. Your alumni network will be strong. Conservatories are proud to promote the names of famous individuals that graduated from their programs. Checking the list to see what names you recognize and admire gives you a sense of the kind of contacts one would gain after graduating - not to mention an automatic incentive to succeed.

5. A big draw-back is that if your 'Plan A' does not pan out, there is no 'Plan B'. A traditional four-year college allows one to double major or change majors, provided you can coordinate schedules. It is not uncommon for people who do not "make it" in their craft to return to a more traditional college education in order to get a degree that transitions in the business world.

6. "Expensive" is the best term to describe conservatory educations. They rank among the schools with the highest PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) loan debt in the U.S. Generally speaking, the endowments at conservatory schools are smaller, so scholarships are negligible at best.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

College Graduation Rates - Pick Wisely!

It is important to compare apples to apples when considering graduation rates. In an article by NPR Ed, it was noted that a school's graduation rate is an important criteria to consider. Additionally, the quality of entrants or level of resources are two notable contributing factors to graduation rates. When considering schools and comparing data, remember that a cash-strapped public university is likely to have a lower graduation rate than a private college with large endowment backing. As the article suggests, make sure to compare college graduation rates from schools within a similar category. Read more here NPR Ed.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You Are Special!

Throughout the academic year, high school students receive unsolicited mailings from organizations informing them of a nomination for inclusion in a special honor society or an invitation to attend summer leadership and community service programs. I’d like to offer the following tips for consideration as you review any options: 

1. You should never have to pay for a credential. True honors are earned and will rightfully be bestowed upon you.

2. Community service is not only personally rewarding but generally highly valued by colleges in the admission process. Remember that true community service involves selfless activity as opposed to programs where the benefit is a self-fulfilled agenda. Choose community service opportunities that stretch the comfort zone and challenge learning and growth. 

3. There is not an admissions advantage when attending summer programs at a specific college or university. College is a business and filling spots on campus over the summer helps the college's overall bottom line. If you do choose a program, do so because it has particular meaning to you. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Gap Year

The concept of deferring college admission enrollment by a year (called a Gap year), after graduating from high school and being admitted to a prospective college, has long been popular abroad but there are signs of an increasing trend for taking a gap year in the U.S.

Some students feel burnt-out from the academic treadmill they have been on for 4 years and see the benefits in taking a year off to explore other options. It takes maturity to understand ones self enough to make what is perceived to be a somewhat radical decision and to recognize that maturity for college comes more slowly to some than others. Also, a gap year offers a student the benefit of getting to learn more about themselves so that when they enter college they have a increased sense of general direction including specifics driving major interest.

The gap year's purpose is not to provide down-time, chilling in front of the TV or playing video games.  In fact, college gap year policies often require a thoroughly organized plan be submitted prior to being granted gap year leave permission. The year one takes off is an opportunity to explore the world and learn more about yourself before entering college. Research shows that students that have taken a gap year return to college academic life invigorated and better prepared to tackle challenges.

Most colleges are supportive of a gap year decision. As a student is researching prospective colleges for application, it is recommended to consider all gap year options available in addition to any requirements needed to defer enrollment. The American Gap Association maintains a list of colleges and the descriptions of individual policies. Check it out here. American Gap Association