Are Alternative Colleges a Solution for All Students who Don’t Quite Fit the Mold - Student Research Foundation

Are Alternative Colleges a Solution for All Students who Don’t Quite Fit the Mold?

If you’re a high school college guidance counselor, chances are you are thinking that a certain number of your counselees should apply to non-traditional, alternative colleges. You might already be an expert on those colleges and what they offer. If you are not, you are probably thinking that when you have the time, you will investigate non-traditional colleges and make some recommendations about where your students should apply.

That is all well and good. After all, a guidance counselor’s job is to help students refine the lists of colleges where they will apply. However, doing just a little research into colleges makes it abundantly clear that . . .

There are dozens of kinds of “alternative” schools

In fact, the entire concept of an “alternative” college is almost certainly flawed, because there are so many different kinds. For just a quick overview of how different they are, consider the fact that a so-called alternative college could be any of these things . . .

  • Nurturing of independent study like Evergreen College, where students can design their own programs of study.
  • Focused on creativity like Bennington College where students can focus on writing, dance or other arts.
  • Environmentally committed, like Oberlin College.
  • Rooted in one educational philosophy like Deep Springs College, where students learn through a rigorous program of academic study combined with physical labor.
  • Supportive and humanistic like Wayfinding College, which is dedicated to developing the whole person and not treating students as “numbers.”
  • Dedicated to innovation like Olin College, a unique engineering school with an emphasis on developing innovative and creative products with the potential to succeed.
  • Supportive of students with special learning needs like Daemen College, which has a special emphasis on educating students who have autism.

There Are Many Kinds of Alternative Students Too

A high school guidance counselor we know reports that among her counselees is one ”late bloomer” who has no idea what she wants to do with her life and will need a college that can help her define her career options. But that same counselor is also counseling a student who is already completing advanced engineering projects and who needs a tech school that will let him dig in and learn more about the career path he has already chosen. And she is also counseling students who want to explore pursuing careers in modern dance, screenwriting, culinary arts, and automotive design.

Are all those students in need of an alternative college? In a sense, yes. But they are very different, and the colleges they attend should be very different too.

To Learn More about How Students Plan Careers

We invite all students to explore their career options by participating in our career and college studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

If Your Kid is about to Start College, You Should Buy these Two Books Now - Student Research Foundation

You Should Buy these Two Books Now

If Your Kid is about to Start College, You Should Buy these Two Books Now

If your son or daughter is getting ready for freshman year of college, we have two book recommendations for you. One is for your kid, the other is for you – because both first-year college students and their parents have a lot of adjusting to do.

Book for College Freshman:
The Naked Roommate and 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen (Sourcebooks, 2017)

This anxiety-busting book could be just the thing that your soon-to-be college freshman needs to read right now. In a positive and humorous way, the author tackles lots of issues that first-year students need to navigate in college. Some of the topics are non-life-threatening (finding friends, doing the laundry, finding food); others are moderately threatening (drinking, having sex, navigating gay life on campus); and others are just plain threatening (becoming depressed, getting sexually assaulted, using drugs, getting pregnant). But because the author treats all those issues in a uniform way, often with checklists, the student comes away with a confident feeling that he or she can handle whatever lies ahead.

Book for Parents of Freshman:
The Naked Roommate For Parents Only: Calling, Not Calling, Roommates, Relationships, Friends, Finances, and Everything Else That Really Matters when Your Child Goes to College by Harlan Cohen (Sourcebooks, 2012)

All parents can be grateful that Harlan Cohen remembered to write a book for them – one that offers advice on navigating both the emotional and practical challenges of sending a kid off to college. With the same kind of humor that he used in his book for students, Cohen tackles practical issues (helping your child pack, allowing enough autonomy during moving-in day, budgeting), special topics (community colleges, helping your kid get through homesickness) and personal issues (deciding how much to call, coming to terms with a child’s new sexual activity). Rather than holding parents’ hands, Cohen focuses on keeping a kid happy during the transition period to college, which is the right approach.

Buy a Printed Book or a Kindle Edition

The good news is that both these books are available as Kindle editions. That’s right, you and your kid can be reading them only a few minutes after you finish reading this blog post. If you are anxious about what is about to happen after college starts, help is at hand.

To Learn More about How Students Pick Colleges

We invite all students to explore their career options by participating in our career and college studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

 

We explore the topic of College Admissions Discrimination and what can be done about it - Student Research Foundation

Life Lesson: Colleges and Universities Can Accept or Reject Whomever They Choose

Harvard University made the news recently because it first accepted a student named Kyle Kashuv, and then canceled his acceptance offer after it was discovered that he had posted scathingly racist comments online two years ago, when he was 16.

While Kashuv was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, he survived the school shootings there by hiding. Apparently, he posted his racist comments online before the shootings at his school had occurred.

Since his offer of acceptance was taken away, all kinds of opinions about Kashuv have been flying around online. Some commentators seem to think his acceptance was rejected because, despite his harrowing experience at his school, he was a vocal advocate of gunowners’ rights. Others believe his rejection was a bow to “political correctness,” an example of colleges’ purported bias against conservative students. Still other commentators are griping because different standards were applied to Kashuv than were applied to other students. (Apparently, two other students who survived the Parkland shootings are still going to Harvard; they are students who support new and more stringent gun laws.)

No Fairness Required

Many vocal critics of Harvard’s actions seem to miss the fact that colleges are not required by law (or custom, or anything else) to apply fair and equitable decision-making processes when they select their incoming classes.

If you are a college counselor, that reality is worth mentioning to your students. They should do their best in school and when taking standardized tests, but realize that students who did not do as well as they did will almost certainly be accepted at selective schools. Also, it is worth pointing out that your students will probably be accepted at schools where stronger candidates from their schools will be rejected.

Why do anomalies like those occur in the college admissions process? It is because schools weigh many factors when creating an incoming class, not just the numbers. When students and their families cry “unfair” when they are rejected and “weaker” students are admitted, they are missing the reality that colleges are not required to be fair. Also, colleges are not required to admit and reject in ways that can be proven defensible in courts of law. Colleges never signed an agreement stating that they will treat everyone fairly; they are making internal decisions and weighing many factors that they are under no obligation to explain or make public.

Harvard rescinded Kashuv’s offer of admission because of his lapses in “maturity and moral character.” It is hard to refute that. Plus, it is worth remembering that both conservative and liberal people oppose racism. Kashuv is a kid who made reprehensibly racist statements online, which were brought to Harvard’s attention after his initial offer of acceptance had been made.

Why should Harvard, or any other school, be told that they have to admit a student who did that? This is an unpleasant story on many levels. But it is one worth discussing with students, who should be aware that things that they post online could live forever and damage their educational opportunities and lives. And that in college admissions, character still counts.

To Learn More about How Students Pick Colleges

We invite all students to explore their career options by participating in our career and college studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

The Critical Gap Between Students’ First and Second-Choice Colleges - Student Research Foundation

The Critical Gap Between Students’ First and Second-Choice Colleges

When students have been accepted to colleges and have selected the college they will attend, they are focused entirely on their top pick – the college they are committed to and hope to call their home for four years.

The thing is, there is a number-two choice too. It is the college that didn’t quite make the cut. The thinking that differentiated the number-one from the number-two is interesting. While those top two colleges are adjacent on the student’s final list of desirable colleges, there is a vast difference between them. A binary decision has been made; the student will attend just the first choice, and not the second. So in a very real sense, the fact that a school made it into second place on a student’s list has no meaning at all. Because the student will not be going there, that school might just as well have not made the student’s list at all.

Differentiators between Students’ First and Second Choice Colleges

In 2017, Eduventures conducted a survey of more than 90,000 American students. Among other things, the survey explored how students view the differences between their number-one and number-two college choices.

The differences are fascinating.

  • Regarding the quality of core academics, 95% of students rated their number-one college choice as good or excellent; only 78% of those students rated their number-two choice as good or excellent in this area.
  • Regarding the quality of career preparation, 93% of students rated their number-one college choice as good or excellent; only 80% rated their number-two choice as good or excellent in this area.
  • Regarding the quality of the school’s social environment, 90% of students rated their number-one college choice as good or excellent; only 75% rated their number-two choice as good or excellent in this area.
  • Regarding the quality of the school’s physical environment, 89% of students rated their number-one college choice as good or excellent; only 72% rated their number-two choice as good or excellent in this area.
  • Regarding affordability, 61% of students rated their number-one college choice as good or excellent; only 50% rated their number-two choice as good or excellent in this area.

What these Findings Mean for College Counselors

The findings imply that students overrate the virtues of their first-choice colleges and underrate the virtues of their second choices. Perhaps that is a natural thing for students to do. After all, they tend to frame their decision as the better choice between two colleges that were, in all likelihood, competitive in many ways.

But since your job as a college counselor is to help students make the wisest college choice they can, it could be helpful to ask students whether they have made a fair and realistic comparison of their first and second-choice colleges in the areas that the Eduventures survey exposed. How do their top two choices really compare in academic quality, career preparation, social and physical environments, and cost?  Given those considerations, are your counselees certain they have made the wisest choice between the two?

And what about cost? The survey indicates that students generally see both their first and second-choice schools as expensive. That shows that in the area of cost, students and their families are being realistic. It also explains why many college picks are made after students learn about the financial aid they will receive.

To Learn More about How Students Pick Colleges

We invite all students to explore their career options by participating in our career and college studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

Summer Activities that Provide the Highest Value for High School Students - ideas from the Student Research Foundation

Summer Activities that Provide the Highest Value for High School Students

With the last day of school coming up soon for high school students, there are still some out there who are wondering, “What can I do this summer that will improve my chances of getting into college?” Read more

Talk to Your High School Students about Completing College - Student Research Foundation

Talk to Your High School Students about Completing College

. . . Not Only about Getting In

What is the purpose of attending high school?

There are many possible answers to that question. People go to high school to learn, to define their interests and career paths, to take part in sports and extracurricular activities . . . and even to spend four years having fun, making friends, and building memories.

Yes, students attend high school for those reasons. But in recent years, one reason for attending high school has begun to outweigh all the others . . . Read more

How Guidance Counselors’ Ethical Decisions Could Hurt Students - Student Research Foundation

How Guidance Counselors’ Ethical Decisions Could Hurt Students

As we are writing this post, the college admissions scandal took a new turn. You can read about it in “Students Receive `Target Letters’ in College Admissions Scandal, Lawyer Says,” an article by Jennifer Medina and Anemonia Hartocollos that was published in The New York Times on April 16, 2019. It reports that children whose parents paid bribes to get them into college could now be charged in criminal cases. Read more

Benefits of Attending an Elite Institution - Student Research Foundation

Are there Benefits to Attending an Elite Institution?

Since news broke about the college admissions cheating scandal, I have been reading a lot of articles about it, and watching a lot of news programs. It has been encouraging to see that most people are truly indignant about all the harm that has been done by parents who have attempted to get their children into elite colleges through bribery and lying. Those parents have done untold harm to their own children and to students who have been denied admission to top-tier colleges. How will those students ever recover from this scandal in the years ahead? Read more

Trip to UC Berkeley to help students picture their College Futures - Student Research Foundation

How a Trip to UC Berkeley Helps Students Picture Their College Futures

Ms. Place’s Ninth-Grade Students Visit UC Berkeley to Picture their College Futures

Only three years ago, students at Mt Diablo High School in Concord, CA had only a vague idea of what they wanted to achieve in their lives. When asked, many simply replied that they wanted to make their parents proud. Read more

Tuition-Free Colleges Really Do Exist - Student Research Foundation

Tuition-Free Colleges Really Do Exist

…But Be Sure to Read the Fine Print

Do you know a student who just plain cannot afford to pay any money at all for college?

Well, there is no shame in that. And the good news is, tuition-free colleges really can be found. The issue is that even though they really do exist (unlike leprechauns and unicorns), they usually only offer free tuition to students who meet certain requirements. Read more