Undergraduate Research Opportunities at The College of Wooster

The College of Wooster is one of many first-rate private liberal arts colleges in the Midwestern U.S.  Located in Wooster, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland, it boasts an attractive campus, and solid educational outcomes for students. On average two thousand students attend Wooster, and they get a lot of close faculty attention with the 11 to 1 student-faculty ratio.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of academics at the school is the Independent Study Program that requires each student to submit a major research paper or project during senior year. The program, which is in its sixth decade, is widely known and esteemed. U.S. News and World Report has cited the school’s outstanding undergraduate research opportunities and stellar senior capstone projects each year for 10 years (along with Princeton, the only other school named in both categories all ten years). Fiske commends Wooster’s focus on teaching students how, rather than what to think, and Wooster was prominently featured in Lauren Pope’s book Colleges That Change Lives.

The total cost of attendance for 2011-12 is $45,668, but 95% of students receive some form of financial aid, with an average award of $24,820. My client Emma and I toured the campus one day in early October, and we both thought it would be a great place to attend: small enough to have a tight community and large enough to have many academic options and opportunities. See my photo above of Emma and our tour guide Brenna in the library.

College Preparation, Year By Month

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is an independent educational consultant and college counselor who helps students and their families stay on top of college planning. Lisa’s practice is grounded in 28 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration. She constantly tours, reads, and does professional development in order to give clients the most up-to-date info.

Bodleian Library, Oxford

I have blogged about this important topic before, but just came upon a great series of guidelines for high school students on how to best plan for college: year by year and month by month. The guidelines are published by NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  Here is a nugget for each year of high school from the piece:

Freshmen: Investigate what high school courses are required by colleges and plan your enrollment accordingly.

Sophomores: Prepare for and take the PSAT in October. This test prepares you for the SAT next year, and can be repeated next fall to try for National Merit Scholarships, a significant source of scholarship money.

Juniors: Begin a preliminary list of colleges of interest, and make contact with them, either by visiting or by requesting literature.

Seniors: Keep grades strong and attend to college application deadlines. Don’t take rolling admission policies for granted at colleges that don’t specify a specific date. These schools will close down admissions once their incoming class is full.

For the full set of suggestions for each year and month, see NACAC site: http://www.nacacnet.org/studentinfo/CollegePrep/Pages/default.aspx

I also see they have a Preparing for College newsletter for high school students and families, which is also likely a good source of info.

 

Recently Visited: Dartmouth College

In early June I spent a very enjoyable day at Dartmouth, smallest of the Ivies with an undergraduate enrollment of 4196. Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth is located is green, leafy, small and seemingly quiet (at least when I was there, which was during summer term, and possibly uncharacteristic).

Besides the power and cachet of its Ivy League membership, Dartmouth has many progressive and attractive features.  Foremost among academic innovations is the D-Plan, which gives students incredible latitude to plan the sequencing of much of their enrollment. Built around Dartmouth’s four ten-week terms, the plan requires students to be present on campus for 12 of 16 terms, including during fall, winter, and spring terms of freshman year; summer term of sophomore year; and fall, winter, and spring terms of senior year. Apart from this, provided that requirements have been met, students are free to participate extensively in study abroad, pursue internships, and engage in other pursuits that enhance their educational experience. The Dartmouth website showcases multiple ways that students have taken advantage of the D-Plan: www.dartmouth.edu. I also really appreciated learning about the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric (so cool to address writing AND speaking in an academic enhancement center), and the Big Green (vegetable oil-powered) Bus, a student-run sustainability initiative. According to the website, the BGB is currently spreading the word in Las Vegas, of all places.

Campus buildings are lovely and impressive, especially the libraries. In the main library I sneaked away from the tour group in order to see the “Hogwarts Room” on an upper floor once I learned that it wasn’t a part of the tour. It would make an inspiring study site. I also slipped into the Rauner Special Collections Library, also not on the tour, and was impressed by its precious holdings, including the papers of Daniel Webster, an 1801 grad, and oversized first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America.

Dartmouth isn’t cheap, with a tuition charge for the class of ’14 of $40, 437, and is ultra selective as are all Ivies. Just 11.7% of applicants were accepted in the last season. In addition to its undergraduate programs in the arts & sciences and engineering, Dartmouth has noteworthy graduate programs: the Thayer School of Engineering, the Dartmouth Medical School, and the Tuck School of Business. The photo is of my Denison friend Seth, then just a week away from graduating with his MBA from Tuck, and his dog Harry.

 

Battling the High Cost of College

I’ve seen several pieces in educational media recently that suggest that a backlash may be brewing among middle class families in reaction to the exorbitant cost of many selective colleges. This nascent movement isn’t necessarily forming in reaction to the Ivy League tier of schools, which will always attract applicants no matter their cost, but more in response to the next tier of private institutions across the U.S.

A small subset of the schools now costing upwards of $50K for the total yearly cost of attendance include Bates, Carleton, Colorado College, Hamilton, Johns Hopkins, Pomona, Stanford, Swarthmore, Vassar, Washington University (SL), Williams, and many, many more….

There are many wonderful colleges across the U.S. that offer an excellent education at reasonable prices, as well as those that are consistently generous with aid and discounting offers.  Independent educational consultants can help families identify schools and enrollment arrangements that can significantly reduce the cost of attendance, and equally important, student debt after graduation. As a consultant from a working class background who was a first generation college student I am especially sensitive to such concerns, and I strive to keep my own fees at a reasonable levels, with special group discounts, pro bono clients, and offers to assist local high schools with college planning for free. My own summer college planning clinic is just such an effort, with dramatically reduced rates for students participating in an eight week, 16-hour college coaching class: http://pinnaclecollegeplanning.com/ (click on the “summer clinic” page).

Click here to see a pretty cool viral video out of Canada (apparently similar problems abound there) that gets to the heart of the student debt lament: the Student Poverty Song.  It’s pretty catchy and has great visuals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr2LiQGrC7A