The Grunion

Jeffrey Selingo — author of "There is Life after College" and former editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education — questioned the benefit of a business degree for undergraduates his January 28 Washington Post article, "Business is the most popular major, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice."

Recently, I reviewed an application essay with an ambitious senior who had written about a water project in Africa that had produced a safe source of clean water for a rural village. I had written in the margin that he must have gotten gratification by improving the lives of those in the vil…

While psychology is reportedly, by Princeton Review, the seventh most popular major for undergraduates, neuroscience has an allure to those students interested in studying the workings, on multiple levels, of the brain mind relationship.

College websites can be frustrating. Many are designed by professional web and marketing firms using unusual fonts or straw-like shapes that morph into a picture about the latest theatre arts production. Such flash might prove more a distraction than an aid when seeking necessary information.

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Many applicants are so consumed with the SAT, ACT, AP and IB exams that they’re not sure whether the SAT Subject Tests exist or why. Once aware, however, they often want to know whether they should take them, which ones they should take and when it’s best to take them.

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Discounting Carnegie Mellon has proven unwise. On Nov. 28, 1926, Knute Rockne decided not to join his nationally ranked Notre Dame football team that was playing against the tiny Carnegie Institute of Technology; instead, he headed to Chicago to scout the Army Navy Game. Carnegie Institute went on to one of the major upsets of the 20th Century by shutting out Notre Dame 19-0.

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Discounting Carnegie Mellon has proven unwise. On Nov. 28, 1926, Knute Rockne decided not to join his nationally ranked Notre Dame football team that was playing against the tiny Carnegie Institute of Technology; instead, he headed to Chicago to scout the Army Navy Game. Carnegie Institute went on to one of the major upsets of the 20th Century by shutting out Notre Dame 19-0.

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Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center and Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center published a survey of responses from technologists, scholars, strategic thinkers and educational leaders in the post-secondary world to the following question:

“In the next 10 years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future?”

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Straight-A students from some of the best high schools in the country become unhinged at the thought of crafting a 650-word essay in response to “Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?” (2017-2018 Common Application, Question #3). It’s not surprising — very few students are comfortable writing essays, especially when a lot of responses are best made with a story: narrative essays are rarely written within the high school curriculum.

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In the heat of a job search, one uses resumes, cover letters, elevator pitches, references and interviews to reveal who one is, what type of work one can perform and, most importantly, how one will add value to a prospective company.

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Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, the two founders of KIPP high-performing charter schools, discovered that their students who went on to do well in college were not necessarily the most academically gifted, but those who exhibited certain characteristics such as optimism, resilience, and social adaptability.

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The PISA, the triennial testing of 15-year-old students among 72 countries, revealed, once again in 2015, that students from the United States are among the worst performing in reading comprehension and applying math and science concepts. (Sample questions from recent PISAs can be found here.)

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Right after all the University of California (UC) and California State (Cal State) applications have been submitted, there is a brief lull before the January 1st deadlines. Many applicants contemplate, with a touch of apprehension, how their application will fare among the UCs and the more competitive Cal State programs.

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Most of us want to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible with as little tedious study as possible. While this might sound subversive, it is not. What we need to do is drive some of the embedded myths of learning out and make way for some of the new discoveries within the science of learning.

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In 2004, approximately 34,000 California high school students took credit bearing community college courses. This year, nearly 50,000 high school students took at least one college course, a 47% increase. This number is set to explode in the years ahead.

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Imagine going to college without sitting in a 500-seat lecture hall, or working on problem sets alone in the library until the wee hours, or writing mind-numbing papers after a couple of meetings with a marginally engaged professor.

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Back in 1968, about 13% of Bachelor degrees awarded were in business, making it the third most popular major at the time. Today, about one out of every five Bachelor degrees awarded are in business, far outstripping the next most popular major (health sciences, which includes nursing).

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The liberal arts and humanities have been declared insignificant, inconsequential, irrelevant, and by some, dead. Any undergraduates with their wits functioning are coding, considering engineering or figuring out what other areas within STEM warrant exploration.

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There are no guarantees when it comes to admission into MIT, Caltech, Harvey Mudd, Olin School of Engineering — to name but a handful of the most selective engineering programs. A number of students have applied to these programs with perfect GPAs, SAT scores, and a satchel of extracurricular activities and found inexplicable rejection.

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There are over 27,000 high schools in the United States. Each graduates a valedictorian and a salutatorian: both of whom probably feel adequately qualified to apply to some of the most selective colleges in the country. Add to this the 25,000 students with SAT Critical Reading scores over 750 and the 30,000 with Math scores over 750, and the 14,000 who score a 34 composite or better on the ACT. These students alone, though the universe likely shrinks when you consider some students cut across multiple categories, comprise a sizable population of applicants seeking admission to the most selective schools in the US.

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Making Harvard undergraduate education tuition free while making the Harvard admissions process transparent, so that all applicants are on a level playing field, is the quest of a group of five Harvard alumni.

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For high school students the number of tests is relentless and steady. Sadly, depending on the professional course taken, the frequency and importance of these tests only intensifies over time. So, learning how to deal with test stress is a necessity whether one is planning to become an accountant, architect, or dentist.

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An NPR story from a year ago featured a student, Allison Hughes, who elected to forgo a standard 4-year college education and instead attend Bunker Hill Community College while apprenticing with NStar, a Massachusetts utility company.

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An essay prompt found often on applications is, ‘Why us?’ Why do you want to come here and what will you do once you arrive? A taste of this year’s crop include: 

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