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Wall Street Journal Asks "Who Got Into College?"

In the wake of last year’s college admissions season, The The Wall Street Journal published a cogent question in its headlines: “Who Got Into College?” The ensuing article echoed the concerns and gripes of thousands of parents following one of the most competitive admissions seasons ever. “Facing an applicant pool of unprecedented strength as well as size, admissions officers sorted through the applications with a more critical eye than ever. That extra something—a passion or commitment communicated in a clear voice—is what many admissions counselors at top schools say they are looking for.”

Writing Neglected In Schools

In a recent report entitled "The Neglected R," The National Commission on Writing called for a "revolution" in writing instruction in U.S. schools. According to the report, nearly all elementary school students spend 3 hours or less a week on writing assignments, or about 15 percent of the time they spend watching television. In addition, seventy-five percent of high school seniors never get a writing assignment from their history or social studies teachers. Only half of the nation’s 12th graders are regularly assigned papers of three or more pages in English class.

Acceptance Rates

For the class of 2022, NYU received more than 75,000 applications for undergraduate admission—the most applications received by any private college or university in the United States. Of this pool, 6,500 students will enroll at one of NYU’s three degree-granting campuses (NYC, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai). It was the 11th consecutive year that NYU experienced record-setting application numbers. The number of applications doubled during this span of time.

This trend of record numbers of applications continues at other top colleges and universities, including Dartmouth (22,000+), Duke (37,000+), Harvard (42,000+), Yale (35,000+), Princeton (35,000+), and Tufts (21,000+), among others.

Focusing on the Boston region, here are some other intriguing colleges and stats:

Boston College (BC) received 28,454 applications for 2,412 seats. It’s the most diverse class in BC history with 31% AHANA (African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American) students and 8% international students making up the freshman class. Students in the middle 50% (the average) of the class scored in the 1310-1450 range on their SAT; the middle 50% of students scored 31-33 on the ACT.

Boston University (BU) received 64,470 applications for the available 3,400 slots. The average GPA for admitted students was 3.66, average SAT score was 1350, and the average ACT score was 30. BU experienced a dramatic rise in the number of students applying Early Decision (ED). It was BU’s most select class ever, with just 25% of applicants admitted.

Harvard College received 42,749 applications and admitted 1,962 students. Almost half of the admitted class (964 students) applied Early Action. It was the lowest acceptance rate (4.5%) in the history of the college—the fourth consecutive year in which the percentage of students accepted decreased. Incredibly (and importantly) 17% of students admitted are 1st generation college students. The estimated average SAT composite score for admitted students is 1540.

Tufts received 21,101 applications and accepted 3,127 students—an acceptance rate of 14.8%. The average SAT score was Reading (700-760) and Math (710-780). The average ACT score was 31-34. Of the 1,413 enrolled students, 1,214 will attend Arts & Sciences and 199 Engineering. 56% of the enrolled students attended public school, 35% private school, and 9% religious/parochial school.

Northeastern University (NEU) receives 60,000(+) applications for 2,800 undergraduate seats. In recent years, the acceptance rate has hovered around 29%, but that rate is likely to drop as NEU continues to attract and retain students with impressive grades, scores and extra-curriculars. The middle 50% of admitted students carried a GPA in the range of 4.0-4.4, scored 1400-1500 on the SAT, and 32-34 on the ACT. 20% of undergraduates at NEU are International students, 16% are Asian American, and 10% are Hispanic.

Little efforts can spark big advancements in learning


Special to the Naples Daily News

In light of the news that America’s public-school students are showing little or no improvement in reading skills since the federal No Child Left Behind law took effect in 2002 (with reading achievement scores actually declining among eighth-graders, according to nationwide testing results), I’ve come up with a “Good Books Etcetera” learning strategy for families eager to go beyond the No. 2 pencils and multiple-choice bubbles in order to improve the basic reading comprehension and writing skills of their children. Motivation is a good place to start to alleviate some of the fears and pressures kids associate with reading and writing. For starters, tell your child that “big words” are fancy ways of saying simple things. Next, assign one simple reading exercise per day that incorporates some of these fancy words. It can be a short newspaper or magazine article. After your child gets into a groove reading a single article on a daily basis, tell him or her to keep a pen and pad handy. I tell my students to first, write down words they don’t understand, and second, guess the definitions of these words based on their context in the sentences. In time, students will try holding back their smiles as their “homemade” definitions increasingly match or resemble the dictionary’s definitions. Watch in awe as your child becomes an “active reader,” less likely to shy away from challenging writing he’s shied away from in the past. With these exercises, I’m simply trying to locate the spark that resides in the minds and stomachs of all students. As a tutor, it is top priority to win the battle between the mighty spark and the soporific status-quo style of teaching that has inspired staring contests between kids and trees outside classroom windows for centuries. With this in mind, I explain to students that language and reading is more than simply homework and grades. In time, students begin to see how an eloquent and powerful sentence or idea can define and distinguish them on a much deeper level than the mass-produced slogans printed across Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts. Some of the best books, movies and hip-hop songs illuminate this point. Take Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a stalwart in the pantheon of required reading material for middle-school students. For more than half a century, teachers have taught this novel as a glimpse in time of segregation in the Deep South and the seemingly insurmountable odds a white man and his family face in exposing and changing the ignorance and injustice that ultimately kills an innocent black man. And yet, Lee’s masterpiece can also be used today as a source of encouragement, not only for lonely students who feel ostracized by their peers, but for compassionate students seeking the courage to stand up for peers outside of their direct circle of friends. Rappers such as Ludacris and alternative bands such as Pearl Jam sing about kids in similar situations. Movies such as “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Superbad” articulate similar emotions for kids. So, why not assign “Superbad” for homework? Essay prompt: In the movie “Superbad,” three underage friends make it their mission to buy beer in order to improve their “cool” status at school, but the mission proves disastrous. Have you ever tried something super-cool that turned out to be super-bad? In a world of X-Box and ravenous text messaging, books are increasingly a chore for our attention-deficit kids. But if we market Good Books Etcetera as more than simply “required reading” or stockpiles of intellectual weaponry for Ivy League-credentialed arsenals, and we view the music, movies and video games not as deterrents but learning opportunities, we can get the little breakthroughs good people like Great Books founder Mortimer J. Adler were seeking. Start simple. Great or good, kids need to read — anything! Encourage your kids to read the instructions to video games as well as the reviews of games published in magazines and posted online. For athletes and sports fans, there’s not much better scholarship out there than Sports Illustrated and The New York Times’ sports section. Some kids prefer the arts section of the newspaper. Others show religious devotion to the styles section. Simply pick up the Sunday New York Times and you’ll have yourself 25 pounds worth of newspaper to work with for a while. All it takes is one article each day and a student is well on his or her way. And don’t forget the iPod and Blockbuster. Watch out for the sparks! - - Luke Fronefield is a co-founding tutor for First Class Prep, a personalized SAT tutoring and college prep service with offices in Naples and Coral Gables.