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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 2010, Boston College received 26,500 applications for 2,250 places in its four undergraduate divisions. SAT scores for the middle 50 percent of accepted students ranged from 1900 to 2100.

Tufts University admitted 4,311 students out of 15,525 applicants for its class of 2010—a 28% acceptance rate. The average SAT score for accepted students was 710 on the Verbal section and 718 on Math. Accepted students were on average in the top 6% of their class (85% of students accepted were in the top 10% of their class). The majority of students enrolled come from Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

For its class of 2010, Georgetown University received 15,285 applications and admitted 3,281 students—a 22% acceptance rate. 90% of admitted students scored at least 600 on the Verbal and Math sections. 42% of admitted students scored between a 750 and 800 on the Verbal section; 39% of admitted students scored between a 750 and 800 on the Math section. 18 percent of admitted students scored between 650 and 699 on the Verbal section; 19% scored between 650 and 699 on the Math section.

Dickinson College admitted 2,276 students out of 5,294 applicants for its class of 2010—a 43% acceptance rate. Admitted students averaged a 664 on the Verbal section of the SAT and a 660 on the Math section. 79% of admitted students ranked in the top 20% of their class.

For the class of 2010, Bucknell University received 9,021 applications and offered admission to 2,985 students—a 33% admittance rate. 82% of accepted students ranked in the top 10% of their class; 95% of accepted students ranked in the top 20%. The middle 50% of students accepted scored 620-720 on the Verbal section and 650-740 on the Math section. Thus, an average SAT score for an accepted student would be 670 on the Verbal section and 695 on the Math section.

Little efforts can spark big advancements in learning

Special to the Naples Daily News
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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!

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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.