Universitas Blog

Making a Great College List

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="520"]Image Just like Santa Claus at Christmas, you have to make a well researched college list. Which colleges will make your "nice" list?[/caption] At some point,  you will need to sit down and make a list of about eight to ten colleges that will have the pleasure of receiving and considering your admission application.  There are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the US and though the Common Application makes it very easy (albeit very expensive) to apply to several hundred colleges, the number of recommendations that must be written for you and the number of supplements you have to fill out for each college makes a list of more than 10 impractical.  At this point, someone in the back of the audience will raise his hand and ask, "Why only ten?  With the intense competition for admissions these days, you should be applying to at least twelve (or fifteen, or twenty) schools MINIMUM." Well, if you do your homework and research your list carefully, you shouldn't need to apply to much more than eight or ten CAREFULLY selected choices.  And again, if you make your list carefully enough, you will be ASSURED admission into at least one, if not several, excellent colleges. At International School Manila, students are not allowed to apply to more than 10 colleges total (exception:  5 UK colleges are considered only one college for the purposes of this rule).    Xavier School is also putting a similar rule in place. The "ten maximum" rule also helps you because it demands that you do your college research.   This is very important.  Remember, you are looking for a school that will fit YOU.  Don't just apply to a college just because of its name or because of perceived prestige.  Don't apply to a school just  because your uncle who lives in the States swears it's a great school.   Don't get me wrong, your uncle's recommendation is a great place to start...to start your research.   In an earlier post (Where Do I Begin) I talked about using online college databases to cut down your choices.  You can search by your major,  your interests, or even your non-interests!  For example, if the fraternity/sorority scene (college publications call this the "Greek" scene.  They're called that because fraternities and sororities use Greek letters in their name) is not your cup of tea then you can specifically eliminate them in your search parameters.    When you've come to about ten or twenty schools, then you want to look at each more carefully through their website and by specifically asking for information about the college.  Go to a college fair, meet the representatives and make sure you get on their mailing list.  This also helps your admission chances because you have demonstrated interest in their school.  Visit the schools during summer vacation, if you can.  We here in the Philippines are at a distinct advantage because our summer coincides with spring in the US.  Classes are still in session and you can actually talk to students and possibly visit classes and talk to professors. Hopefully by the start of your senior year, you will have, or be close to having, your Final Ten (or fewer) so that by August 1, when the new Common Application comes online, you are ready to apply.  But how to choose your Final Ten? A time honored college application strategy is to spread your applications among college within a spectrum of admission chances.  This means you should have about three or four colleges on your list which your chances of admission are fairly certain.  These are sometimes called your "safety" schools.  If you can't get in anywhere else, you should be able to get into these.  Then you have your medium shots or your "possibles" where your chances of being admitted range from fairly likely to 50-50 to not too likely.  Finally, you can allocate two or three slots to your long shot colleges where your chances of admission are not likely but not impossible.  You can think of  it like a pyramid where you have more schools at the bottom and maybe one or two really long shots. A lot of people make the mistake of  applying to many long shot schools and very few safety schools which are usually afterthoughts.  Don't make that mistake!  There's a commandment in the college application game:  Thou shalt love thy safeties because you might end up going to one of them.  People end up with too many long shots usually because of shoddy research.   You're not trying hard enough to find colleges that you might not have heard of but are nonetheless excellent.  For example, let's say you want to study international relations.  Well, when you talk international relations, the first school that pops into my head is Georgetown University, the Jesuit university in Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, Georgetown is pretty competitive.  In the last application season (2013), Georgetown admitted only about 20% of its applicants.  Clearly, this is a long shot university for most students.  A little digging around will show you that even in just the Washington DC area, you have a number of excellent, less competitive alternatives:  George Washington University,  American University, Goucher College (in Baltimore).  Beloit in Wisconsin is excellent as is Brandeis University in Massachusetts.  My favorite college, Reed, also has a noted international studies program.  (Fiske Guide to the Colleges 2013 edition)  A knowledgeable guidance counselor is an excellent source of information regarding what colleges to look at or consider.  Unfortunately, for most Filipino students (the ones who don't study in the very expensive international schools), their guidance counselors know little or nothing about US colleges.  This is where an independent US college guidance counselor might come in handy. But how will you know what's a safety for you and what's a possible and what's a long shot?  The answers vary from individual to individual.  Depending on the strength of your academic record, one student's safety is another student's possible.  There is one very important rule though:  no matter who you are and how strong your record is the Ivies and their clones are ALL long shots.  Just because you have straight A's and perfect SAT scores, it does not mean you are a shoo in for Harvard or Stanford.  Those two schools turn away more than 90% of their applicants. They see--and reject--straight A, perfect SAT students all the time.  Besides, if you are a straight A, perfect SAT score student, don't you deserve a better undergraduate education than Harvard or Stanford? For a school to qualify as a safety, your grade point average (GPA) should be on the high end if not exceed the median GPA of the students they admitted last year.  Your total SAT score should significantly exceed (100 points?) the midrange of that school's SAT range.  Where do you find all this information?  It can usually be found on the college's website or simply Google it (What was the median SAT for freshmen applicants to Santa Clara University? Answer: 600-690 Math,  570 to 680 Critical Reading)  It will also be a good safety candidate if the college accepted at least half of its applicants.  For a possible or medium shot college, you should be in the middle of the range.  Note that these are all estimates and just because you have a 780 in your math SAT, it doesn't mean you're getting into Santa Clara automatically. Finally, let's look at my son's (Tyler's) college list in the recently concluded 2013 college application season.  He applied to six places:  Toronto, Waterloo, Reed, NYU, Santa Clara, and Harvey Mudd.  He researched and visited (except for Reed) all these colleges.  He liked all these schools and even if  he had a clear favorite (Waterloo) he would not have objected to attending any one of the six.   We evaluated Toronto and Santa Clara as safeties, Waterloo was a moderate safety, NYU was a medium, Reed was a medium long and Harvey Mudd was the long shot. 1.  Note that  he applied to only six schools, there was no point in applying to the big name schools that he didn't like anyway.  We were able to get a reasonable spread of admission chances across the board. 2.  His favorite, Waterloo, was a moderate safety, not a very competitive school admissions-wise.  Your favorite school doesn't always have to be the long shot.  Your favorite school should be just that...your favorite. In the end, he got into his first choice college and was also admitted to a good choice of alternatives besides.  Had he simply shotgunned his applications to the Ivies and other big names, he may not have had the pleasure of being admitted to his first choice and would have had to settle for second best.  But he didn't because he worked carefully to develop a well balanced college list which assured him of some admissions but also the possibility of getting into one or two long shots, all at schools he would have been happy to attend. So do your homework and do the research.  That way, at the end of the process, you will find yourself with several positive choices to make. Good luck.  Comments urgently solicited.

Don't Just Visit the Big Name Schools

Monday, July 15, 2013
I wasn't really planning on writing on this topic but a friend inspired me.  He and his family are presently in the US, bring their daughter to a student leadership conference at Northwestern University.  They are taking advantage of this time to visit some prospective colleges for that daughter.  Wonderful!  This child is going to be an arm and a leg up next year when her college search season kicks off (she's a rising high school junior).  Given the support she is receiving from her family, I can already see that this child is going to have a successful and enjoyable college search process. But there's something interesting about the schools they are visiting:  they are all big name schools.  So far, in the  San Francisco Bay Area, they visited Stanford and Santa Clara while in Chicago, they visited University of [caption id="attachment_1089" align="aligncenter" width="300"]college-pennant-pillow-1 When we visit US colleges, we tend to go to the famous or popular ones. I think you should spread it out a bit more.[/caption]

Chicago and of course, Northwestern.  Don't get me wrong, they're great places to visit but I think if you go only to big name colleges, you'll miss an important aspect of your college visits: variety.

If there is one thing that the US does well, it's the variety of their colleges and universities.  They have tiny ones (enrollment: 26) to huge ones (enrollment: 60,000), technical institutes, art schools, performance schools, liberal arts colleges, co-op institutions,  work colleges, and research universities.  If you visit only the big or famous schools, you won't see the small Catholic college or that famous liberal arts institution.  If you concentrate only on the Ivies, you'll miss out on the plethora of liberal arts colleges that outperform them when it comes to undergraduate education.  Ideally, you want to get a flavor of different kinds of schools even if you have no intention of attending them.   Well...ok, I guess if you have absolutely no intention of going into performance, you can skip Juilliard or if science, engineering or math fields aren't your cup of tea, forget Caltech.   There are many diamonds in the rough out there and sometimes they get overpowered by their famous neighbors.  I won't pretend to give you a list of all the places to go in each city but if in

[caption id="attachment_1087" align="aligncenter" width="256"]Stanford pennant You would be wrong to begin and end your college tour of the Bay Area at Stanford. Look at Menlo, Santa Clara, St. Mary's, etc.[/caption] SAN FRANCISCO Visit Stanford,  UC Berkeley and Santa Clara but also: Menlo, St. Mary's and maybe San Jose and San Francisco State   [caption id="attachment_1090" align="aligncenter" width="300"]oxy pennant Obama attended Oxy...so you should at least look at it.[/caption] LOS ANGELES Visit UCLA and USC but also: Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Scripps, Pomona (The Claremont Colleges), Cal Poly Pomona, Occidental, Loyola Marymount, UC Irvine and if you're going further afield-- UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and maybe Cal Poly San Luis Obispo SEATTLE Visit University of Washington but also: Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Gonzaga (in Spokane), Evergreen State (in Olympia), Washington State (in Pullman),  Whitman (in Walla Walla) and Reed (in Portland, OR) CHICAGO Visit University of Chicago and Northwestern but also Beloit College (Beloit, WI), Knox College (Galesburg), DePaul, Marquette (Milwaukee, WI) and Hope College (Holland, MI) NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY Visit Columbia, New York University, and Princeton but also Fordham, Cooper Union, Rutgers, Vassar, and Marist. PHILADELPHIA Visit University of Pennsylvania but also Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr(women's college),  and Villanova BOSTON Visit Harvard and MIT but also Boston College, Amherst, Hampshire, Wellesley (women's college), Holy Cross, Marlboro College (in Vermont), Bates, Bowdoin, Colby (all in Maine) [caption id="attachment_1088" align="aligncenter" width="300"]BC pennant President Kennedy once called Boston College the Jesuit Ivy.[/caption] Wow!  That's a lot of schools.  I am not saying that you should visit all of them but you should try to mix in a few of them and maybe drop a big name or two.  I mean....once you've seen a big UC, how many more do you have to see?  Once you've seen one Ivy you've seen them all.  So take advantage of your summer break and go visit a variety of colleges and since our Philippine summers run during the American spring semester, you'll be able to catch students and catch a class or two. Comments urgently solicited. (Personal anecdote:  Tyler and I did our college trip in the summer of 2012.  In the space of seven weeks, we visited 15 campuses in the US and Canada:  U of British Columbia, Simon Fraser, U of Waterloo, U of Toronto, (McGill got canceled), NYU, Fordham, Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, Harvey Mudd, Caltech, UC Irvine, Stanford, Santa Clara, and UC Berkeley.  If you noticed we didn't take our own advice. :)  )

florida pennant

Monday, July 15, 2013

oxy pennant

Monday, July 15, 2013

college-pennant-pillow-1

Monday, July 15, 2013

BC pennant

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stanford pennant

Monday, July 15, 2013

oxy pennant

Monday, July 15, 2013

College Profile: St. John's College

Thursday, July 11, 2013
[caption id="attachment_1069" align="aligncenter" width="300"]St._John's_College,_Annapolis,_MD One college...two campuses. St. John's has a campus in Annapolis, MD and another in Santa Fe, NM. This is a view of the Annapolis campus[/caption] If you're a graduating high school student and have no idea what you want to study in college, you should give St. John's College a serious look.  Even if you *think* you know what you want to study (my previous post talks about what I think about freshman majors), give St. John's a serious look.  Why?  Because at St. John's, you don't have to decide on a major--ever--because they don't have any!  What a radical, hippy idea...St. John's is probably a new school founded in the anti-Establishment heyday of the 60s.  You would be wrong.  St. John's (Annapolis) has been around for almost 320 years.  Founded in 1696 as King William's School, it's spent the last 300 years championing a very simple idea...that a liberal arts education is all you really need to thrive in society.  True in the 1700s and still true today, St. John's doesn't train you for a job or a career, it trains you for life.  You would also be wrong to confuse it with a myriad other St. Johns, like St. John's University in Jamaica, NY (the Big East basketball power which spawned Ron Artest and Chris Mullins) or single sex St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.   Accept no imitations. [caption id="attachment_1067" align="aligncenter" width="300"]St johns as king william St. John's College in Annapolis was founded in 1696 as King William's School. Despite its name, St. John's is not religiously affiliated.[/caption] St. John's is what is known in academic circles as a Great Books school.  It subscribes to the notion that the best way of educating tomorrow's citizens is to connect them intimately to the great thinkers of the past.  The Great Books are taught in a lot of other colleges too (Ateneo for one has, or at least had, a Great Books course in the English department taught by the late Fr. Galdon) but St. John's pushes it to a four year program.   Everybody reads Homer, Euclid,Chaucer, Einstein, Austen, Newton, Tolstoy, Descartes, Freud, Darwin, among many others.  You can't deviate, there are no electives, and you either love it here or you hate it here.  Those who stick around, obviously, love it, and the BA degree in Liberal Arts that they receive after four years seems almost an afterthought. [caption id="attachment_1065" align="aligncenter" width="300"]st johns santa fe entrance The Santa Fe entrance. One college--two campuses, Annapolis and Santa Fe. Students can transfer from one campus to another easily. Just let them know one semester in advance.[/caption] At St. John's, all the classes are discussion based.  There are no lectures, no teaching assistants, no place to hide.  With a total enrollment of just under 500 students, it's easy to see why even the intro classes only have 12 or 15 students in them.   In these seminars, there are no professors because no one "professes" his or her knowledge.  The entire room, professor (tutors in what they're called here) and student struggle with the text together.  While the faculty is recruited from many fields of expertise, the tutor leading the Homer seminar could be a PhD in physics  (Sheldon Coopers need not apply to teach here).  The education philosophy here is that by struggling through the writings of Newton or Einstein, you learn physics from the mind of the actual scientist.  You recreate the actual experiments performed by these great geniuses.  You learn Homer by studying the original text (you study ancient Greek your first two years here and French your last two) and not by relying on what someone else THINKS Homer said.   You not only learn mathematics, you do mathematics with Newton, Euclid, and Lobachevsky whispering in your ear.  In sophomore year, you take a one year music tutorial where you develop an understanding of musical theory and analyze the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Palestrina, Schoenberg, and others. More formally, a Johnnie (that's what they call their students--absolutely no marks for originality here) takes four years of math (Euclid and Ptolemy all the way up to Einstein and Lobachevsky), four years of language (see notes above regarding French and ancient Greek), three years of laboratory science in biology, chemistry, physics,  and atomic theory, two years of music (all freshmen sing in the Freshman Chorus along with the sophomore music tutorial) and four years of seminar, the heart of the St. John's experience where students read the ancient texts of Homer, and the Greek philosophers and playwrights their first year, Renaissance writers in their second year, Enlightenment thinkers in the third and finally, modernism in the final year. [caption id="attachment_1066" align="aligncenter" width="300"]St. john's College, Santa Fe, NM A first year student studies with Euclid. You can't transfer to St. John's in the traditional way. If you transfer from another university, you start all over from freshman year to get the full Johnnie experience.[/caption] As you can easily imagine, the relationship between student and tutor is quite close.   There is a "take your tutor to lunch" program funded by the college dean to foster camaraderie between students and faculty.  All faculty go by their first names except in the seminar room where everyone is addressed Mr. This or Ms. That to preserve the dignity of those partaking in the discussion the ideas being foisted.  At the end of the semester in their first two years, all students go through the "Don Rag" where students meet with their tutors to undergo a frank assessment of their work and whether or not the student should stay on.  This kind of intense evaluation from one's instructors can be humbling...and life changing.  And it's only at St. John's. It's pretty obvious to this point that St. John's is very different from most other colleges.  It is intellectually demanding and rigorous and its all required no electives curriculum will turn many people off.    St. John's is not especially selective (they admit over 80% of their applicants) but it is selected.  This means that the kids who apply here (usually) know what they're getting into and the kind of education they'll be getting and it turns them on to no end.   If you're a thinker and you're looking for an education and not just career preparation, you would be well advised to consider spending four years at St. John's. I'll let Mr. Michael Peters, the president of St. John's Santa Fe, have the last word:

St. John’s is a true alternative in American higher education. It doesn’t train you for your first job—it provides the foundation and wherewithal for whatever you decide to pursue in your life.

[caption id="attachment_1068" align="aligncenter" width="265"]St johns A true liberal arts institution. I have to think it's the kind of undergraduate education Ateneo wishes it could provide but can't.[/caption]

St._John's_College,_Annapolis,_MD

Thursday, July 11, 2013

John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com
+63 (917) 833-3825


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John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com

+63 (917) 833-3825

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