Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review - How to Prepare a Standout College Application

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

About the Book
Demystifying the process of completing a college application is what How to Prepare a Standout College Application is all about.

Written by two former admissions officers at top universities and current admissions coaches this book is a must-have for preparing a winning college application. The authors reveal the mystery behind what college admissions officers are looking for and show applicants how to leverage their credentials, stand out in the over-crowded applicants' pool, and make a genuine, memorable impression. This is the book that will help the college-bound get off the "like many others" pile and onto the acceptance list.

Includes instructions and examples for every component of the college application, from writing the essay to answering questions like "Why do you want to go to College X?"
Shows how to avoid underestimating the importance of critical features on any application
Includes the latest information on the Common Application 4.0 and corrects outdated, holdover advice still stressed in many other books

This book is filled with step-by-step advice that students and parents can use immediately and will refer to again and again.

About the Authors
Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the  college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education. You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.


My Take on the Book
I have worked in college admissions and higher education for the past 15 years and I am always looking for great books that demystify the process of entering college, as I too wrote my own book on this too. This book takes a little different tact and makes the reader consider the application and what helps to make them stand out from other applicants. As a past College Admissions Officer, I have to say that I know that for many colleges this is important, as colleges are more and more utilizing a holistic approach to admissions. What this means is that there is not just one way in which they are admitting students (GPA or test scores alone), but instead they are looking to have a diverse group of students with a diverse group of experiences that are coming into their academic institution. Thus, it becomes very important to consider these issues as a student as you enter high school and start to make choices that will follow you to your college search and application process.

This book is written in such a way that it makes it easy to set yourself up well to do just that. The book is clear and to-the-point and filled with practical advice that will assist all students with making the right decisions for their future.

The book also is a complete resource and you can tell that it is filled with amazing information that has been collected over time as the authors easily show their ease and expertise in the field itself.

All-in-all this was a great book that shares intimate knowledge of the college admission process and is definitely a book that any high school student or parent should check out today!

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review - What You Don't Know Can Keep You Out of College

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

About the Book
In the tradition of The Gatekeepers, a veteran counselor provides the missing key to the college admissions door with insider wisdom about how admissions committees think, and the thirteen fatal mistakes that can ruin an application.

When Don Dunbar was a college counselor for Phillips Academy, Andover, in the 1980s, he got to sit in on the meetings where the nation’s top colleges decided whether to admit his students. Prep school counselors no longer get this kind of astonishing access, but in those meetings, Don discovered a little-known key to college admissions that still holds true today. Many applicants look alike, based on their grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, so colleges want something more: They want applicants with character.

Most of us know what character means, but not in the way that admissions officers define it. Admissions officers have tremendous integrity, and to them, character equals what a student will contribute to his or her community, good or bad, over the next four years. Don explains the concept of character in terms that high school students can understand, using examples from his thirty years of working with kids. He shows readers how to avoid the thirteen fatal character mistakes that even the brightest students make when applying to college and democratizes the admissions process, making his advice available to all students.

My Take on the Book
This was a book that was filled with a ton of advice particularly on how to write essays and how to do your best in the college interview process. Being someone that works in higher education, I found the advice to be sound. I will say that fewer campuses are using the on-campus interview lately, but that being said, the information shared is still good.

The author also talks about some of the mistakes that many students make in their applications and this information is also accurate from what I have seen in applications in the past and currently.

The book is written in such a way that all readers can understand and it is practical enough that you can see what needs to be done to prepare yourself well for the college application process.

Much of the information that is shared is done so through prose and not lists as you may find in other books. While I do not think this is negative, with today's generation of college bound students reading this, some lists would probably have helped to streamline the most important information.

Overall, the book gives the reader some great insights into the selective admissions processes at some institutions. From what I can tell through reading this and knowing colleges out there, the person that will most benefit from this is probably going to be considering a liberal arts institution - as these are the ones that I know that are still heavily using essays and interviews.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review - Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parents Operational Manual

About the Book
In the current shaky economy, where prices for everything are going up, yet income and available financial aid are going down, it is more important than ever that we make the most of the college years.

While the focus is usually on making sure the student is prepared for the big transition to college, there is also a lot that parents need to do, learn and know before they wave goodbye at the airport or dorm.

Thankfully, Marie Carr kept careful track of everything she learned the hard way as her three daughters went off to college. In Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent's Operational Manual, Carr has assembled an amazing amount of important information in an easy-to-use format. All parents of a college-bound student (whether this is their first year or their fourth) will want to have this handbook -- both for the "getting ready" phase and for quick reference later.

It became clear how hungry parents are for this information after Carr talked with hundreds of parents of incoming students for Emory University and during 3 trips to Boston University to participate in orientation programs for the parents at the request of the college. Both college's previous parent handouts paled in comparison with Carr's helpful guides that she created with her daughters to give to these parents.

In Sending Your Child to College, there is information on safety, greening, privacy laws, paying tuition bills, managing a sick child no longer at home; as well as health care proxies, dorm insurance, identity theft, hidden costs and budgeting. The clear, concise instructions, organization charts and forms, tips and shopping lists allow parent and student to plan ahead, be eco-friendly, save time and money, and make the most of these exciting years.

To make sure the information was up-to-date and accurate, Carr enlisted the help of her three college daughters: Katharine, who received her BS from Emory University (2006) and a BRN from Georgetown University (2007); Ann, a senior entomology major at Texas A & M University; and Elizabeth, who is a junior at Boston University majoring in hospitality management. Their input was invaluable because they have been there and done that.

In fact, the issue about managing a sick child no longer at home, was added after Carr got a call from an EMT who was treating her daughter Ann for a severe reaction to a bee sting. Mom learned the hard way that the old, commonly used "Blanket" medical permission is no longer accepted, permission needs to be granted each and every time the student wants the attending physician to discuss their medical care with their parents or guardian.

The section on paying tuition and attention to "due dates" is the result of Texas A & M receiving by Fed/Ex Ann's tuition check prior to the "due date" but not early enough to allow sufficient time to "open the envelope and process the check." The end result was Carr having to pay the tuition a second time so Ann could register for classes. Subsequently, both checks were cashed and the first one refunded 10 days later. 

Carr begins the book with this letter to parents: "I wish I knew then what I know now. How many times have we all heard this? So much has changed since we were in college both in laws, rules, regulations, and in the resources that colleges make available to help." With Sending Your Child to College, parent's responses in the future won't sound like this.

This handbook will help parents deal with the nitty-gritty details of sending their child off to college. Getting ready emotionally is a whole different matter.

 My Take on the Book
As a person who works in higher education administration I found this book to be a great resource to aid first time (and beyond) parents with the step-by-step process that parents go through as they are helping their children transition to college. Many parents do not have the experiences or background to know what they need to do to help their child as they go off to college. This book does a great job at helping parents see what one other family went through as they stumbled and learned (sometimes the hard way) about what they needed to do to assist their daughters.  I can say that I know that there are numerous parents that I have met in the past that would truly have benefited from this book, and it would have made their and their childrens' lives that much easier. The book is well laid out and offers a systematic approach to how a family should plan for college. Thus in Chapter 1 parents are given resources to consider before the college process begins while Chapters 2-8 examine the summer months prior to college. Chapters 9-13 reflects the moving in and first few weeks of college and the final two student related Chapters (14 and 15) are things that all parents need to share with their kids before college even begins. Chapters 16-20 are geared directly toward parents and gives them helpful hints and resources that will aid them in making the separation as pain-free as possible. This book was so easy to follow and provided great hands-on tips that all parents can follow. I believe that this book definitely is one that any parent would gain valuable insight from as they prepare to send their child off to college. If this book sounds like one that you would like for your own library you can find it on Amazon!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions. 

Book Review - College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

About the Book
What is the value of a college degree?

The four-year college experience is as American as apple pie. So is the belief that education offers a ticket to a better life. But with student-loan debt surpassing the $1 trillion mark and unemployment on the rise, people are beginning to question that value. Is a college diploma still worth pursuing at any price?

In College (Un)bound, Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large for The Chronicle for Higher Education, argues that America’s higher education system is broken. The great credential race has turned universities into big business and fostered an environment where middle tier colleges can command elite university-level tuition while concealing staggeringly low graduation rates and churning out students with few hard skills into the job market.

Selingo not only turns a critical eye to the current state of affairs in higher education, but he also predicts how technology will transform it for the better. Free massive online open courses (MOOCs) and hybrid classes, adaptive learning software, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits will increase access to high quality education regardless of budget or location and tailor lesson plans to individual needs. One thing is certain—the Class of 2020 will have a radically different college experience than their parents.

Incisive, urgent, and controversial, College (Un)bound is a must-read for prospective students, parents, and anyone concerned with the future of American higher education.

About the Author
Jeffrey J. Selingo is a leading authority on higher education worldwide and editor at large for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He frequently speaks before national higher-education groups and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.

My Take on the Book
As a college administrator I was skeptical going into this book, as I still hold fast that higher education is important, not because it is where I work for a living, but also for the benefits that I see that it provides for the students that I interact with on a daily basis. 

Saying this I do not want to misconstrue that the author is saying that Higher Education is not valuable, far from it. Instead he is stating that based on the trends that are prevalent today that the system of Higher Education in the United States is broken in many ways. 
The author criticizes Higher Education for the costs that it sets for students and how much debt that students come out of college with. The challenge though in my perspective is that even those of us working in higher education are extremely cognizant of the debt ratio that our students are leaving with and we spend much time trying to work with students on fiscal management, but the problem is that many students do not want to hear or change the lifestyle that they either come to college with, or have become accustomed to in college, so they continue to take out the maximum amounts of loans available and live a lifestyle much higher than they should. 

The author does provide a glimpse of positive trends though in his perspective. In examining the idea of online education, the author spends much time talking about how this could change the costs within higher education and could expand the reach of higher education even further. The one thing I would warn about the move to more online education is that without advising and support students may be doomed to fail, especially if they more of a structured learning environment which online classrooms may not provide. 

The book itself was well written and he provides well written arguments to support his claims. While I may not completely agree with his overall sentiments, I will say that it does provide good rhetoric for all to consider as the dialogue about where higher education should go in the future continues. 

I have to agree that Higher Education needs to find solutions for many of the problems that the author brings up and there is no easy answer to this. This book will allow all who read it to better consider all of the debate at this time and where some stand on the issues themselves. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review - Is College Worth It

About the Book
Explores the answer to a critical question: Should we keep sending our kids to college?

The American system of higher education comprises some of the best universities, teachers, and students the world has ever seen. Millions of students around the globe want nothing more in their life than to attend an American university. However, many of America’s colleges and universities today have serious academic, institutional, and other performance problems, and it is quickly approaching a crisis point, if it’s not there already. Despite some excellent colleges and quality programs at many colleges, too much of higher education is wildly expensive. Students often graduate having learned little, or don’t graduate at all. They are indoctrinated with liberal politics and subjected to all types of non-academic distractions. For these reasons, many students would be better served exploring other educational alternatives.

In Is College Worth It?, William J. Bennett and David Wilezol assess the problems of American higher education at various levels, from runaway costs to inferior academics to poor graduation rates to political indoctrination, and propose serious reforms and alternative methods for improving higher education so that it better serves our students.

About the Authors
Dr. William J. Bennett is one of America’s most influential and respected voices on cultural, political, and educational issues. Host of the top-ten nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, he is also the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute. He is the author and editor of more than twenty-five books.

David Wilezol is the associate producer for Bill Bennett's Morning in America. He is also a 2012 Publius Fellow of the Claremont Institute and currently a graduate student in Greek and Latin at Catholic University in Washington DC.

My Take on the Book
As someone who works in higher education I am a proponent for continuing one's education whether it be in a four year undergraduate setting or in some other alternative setting. I went into this book wondering if it would be a diatribe of reasons for not going to college. Especially with the name of the book, and with the media hype recently about a supposed lack of jobs out there. I was pleased to find that the book however was a well laid out argument to truly explore all of the options that may be available to you based on what you might want to study as well as the costs attributed to that dream as well. The book provides some practical advice for anyone thinking of continuing their education, and while some of the data that they present in my view could be looked at in various ways, the information provided within is still invaluable, and the idea of being a savvy consumer is even more relevant in today's higher education race. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone looking at continuing their education after high school as it will make you think about your options in a very different way!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

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