大学申请: 挑选大学

大学申请: 挑选大学

“大学申请咨询”课第三周主题“如何选大学?”从不同的角度教育了我。原来我一直简单地认为选好自己喜欢的专业是挑大学的唯一任务,因为在历届高中毕业生中常看到本科大学不起眼但因为热爱专业而最终学有所成的(<<名校情节>>中有举例)。上周接到一位忧心如焚的母亲的电话,更从反面验证了专业的重要性。这位母亲的独生女儿三年半前是高中的佼佼者,成绩全A不说,还在家在校都特有礼貌,深受老师喜爱。当年她最热爱的是新闻专业,也被西北大学新闻系录取,但父母觉得 U Penn 名气更大,经济专业也更响亮,所以让她割爱。孩子是从小听话的乖乖女,犹豫了几天也就顺从了。上学后成绩一直都不错,但今年毕业在即,女儿如梦初醒,找不到人生的方向。同学们都热火朝天地寻找工作单位之际,她却每晚在电话上和妈妈哭到天明,精神近乎崩溃。母亲追悔莫及,放下面子等一切身外之物,为女儿保证: 休学,转学等等都可以,只要她平安快乐。可惜孩子现在骑虎难下,完全放弃又太可惜,目前正在咨询中,寻找最好的解决方式。

两本教科书让我了解到: 专业虽然重要却也不是一切,挑选大学的过程是高中生去深入了解自己的历程,有许多其它因素要考虑, 比如大学的地理位置,天气;校园气氛;学生族裔比例;有无去国外大学交流学习的机会;有无做研究或实习的机会。还有,自己适合公立大学动辄几百人的大课(今年伯克利大学某公共课甚至已经破记录超过一千学生坐在一个课堂上)还是私立大学师生比例小于50的小课;喜欢和老师有更多的切磋,还是更愿意和同学讨论;等等。College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You 一书中更提醒学生去检测自己求知的热情,来决定是选择对课业要求严格,为将来研究生院更高深的求学打基础的大学,还是实用性强,毕业后可以帮自己顺利进入职场的。所以,选大学之前要先通过问卷量表来确认自己全面的喜好,最好的大学是最适合自己的 (Best Match)。

老师在电话会议上强调,亲自去心仪的学校走访,参加招生办定期组织的带解说还负责回答问题的“校园游”,是很有必要的。多听听各院校毕业生的经验也很有帮助。这个“挑选”的概念对我们这些当年只知道按自己高中成绩去预估高考水平来填报大学志愿的一辈人真是新奇。绝大多数的我们在入学前是连大学的门朝哪儿开都不知道的。美国的绝大多数高中都会在9年级为所有学生提供网上问卷调查,从人格特点,能力曲线到职业倾向,喜好等,为每位学生的选择提供参考意见。我工作的 Fremont 联合校区用 Family Connection: Naviance。这个综合性教育网站不止在九年级时根据学生 personality and career assessments的结果为每一位列出相关的专业和大学,还计划四年的课程,储存成绩,提醒申请期限,奖学金等相关信息,方便家长和学生管理大学申请的过程。

就算暂时不清楚自己的专业取向也没问题,因为绝大多数美国本科大学的前两年是修公共课,给学生留了时间去探索不同的课业来决定后两年的学习方向。专业可以随时换,只须填张表格。近60%的美国本科生会至少转一次专业,但每个专业都有自己的的必修课,修满才能毕业,所以常换专业会影响毕业时间。这也是为什么美国的本科大学统计毕业率时虽然会列出来四年毕业的比例但所有研究都以六年内的毕业率为准。

课本中讲解,“成功的大学生活”不是以学校的名气来定,而是取决于自己在那四到六年中有无发挥自己能力的学习和锻炼机会。修这门课前,我和各位家长一样,以为美国新闻周刊 US News and World Report 每年出的“Best College”排行榜是最科学的总结。老师推荐的两篇文章打破了自己的误解。耶鲁大学教授 Ronald G. Ehrenberg 针针见血地分析了为什么美国新闻周刊给大学排名时用的七个标准中有六个和大学的教学质量没有直接相关,还鼓励了各院校间不健康的竞争。美国大学申请顾问协会 (National Association for College Admission Counseling) 2010年的普查结果也让人大跌眼镜,原来我们这么信宠的排行榜,绝大多数 (about 97%) 高中咨询老师和大学招生办认为并不准确。普查结果证明每年那本杂志上有很多关于大学申请更有用的信息,比如关于申请助学金等。杂志本身也反复写明: “排名只是参考,请不要把它当做唯一选学校的标准”。但家长往往只盯着那几页排名,买椟还珠,而忽略了更重要的内容。(详情请参考所附文章)

A View of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings of Undergraduate Institutions

from the College Admission Counseling Perspective

(Survey report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling Ad Hoc Committee on U.S. News & World Report Rankings)

In 2010, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) convened a group of members to form an Ad Hoc Committee on U.S. News & World Report Rankings. The Committee was convened to conduct discussions with U.S. News staff for the purpose of offering an organizational conduit through which to exchange ideas, convey concerns, and respond to questions about each organization’s respective constituency.

To help inform the Ad Hoc Committee, NACAC conducted a survey of association members in May 2010 to gauge attitudes of college admission counseling professionals toward the U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings publication. Major findings from the survey research include:

A majority of college admission counseling professionals hold negative opinions of the U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings. On a scale of 1 (strenuously object to rankings) to 100 (strongly support the rankings), high school counselors rated the U.S. News rankings a twenty nine and college admission officers rated the rankings a thirty nine. A majority of respondents believe that the rankings have increased in prominence over the past five years.

Public schools and institutions tended to view the rankings slightly more favorably than private schools and institutions. In many cases, public high school counselors were more charitable toward the rankings than private school counselors. In a few cases, public college admission officers were more charitable toward the rankings than private college admission officers.

College admission counseling professionals believe the title “America’s Best Colleges” (or “Best Colleges” as of August 2010) is not an accurate representation of the information in the publication. Only 2.9 percent of respondents believe that “America’s Best Colleges” accurately represents the information contained in the rankings publication. Many respondents posed the question, “Best for whom?” to emphasize the lack of objective measures of the fit between student and college. A large majority of respondents believe that the rankings offer misleading conclusions about institutional quality.

College admission counseling professionals find useful resources in the publications aside from the rankings. Articles on preparing for and narrowing the college search, as well as articles about paying for college, are well-received by respondents. Rankings of colleges are perceived as the least helpful feature in the publication.

Colleges use rankings to market themselves. A majority of colleges that are ranked in the U.S. News publication promote their ranking as part of their marketing strategy.

College admission officers believe rankings encourage counter- productive behavior among colleges, though they are less likely to believe that such behavior takes place on their campus. More than 90 percent of colleges believe the rankings put pressure on institutions to invest in strategies to maintain their rankings, though only 46 percent believe that their institution makes programmatic changes because of their rankings.

College admission counseling professionals find the rankings methodology problematic. A majority of respondents believe that several core elements of the U.S. News rankings methodology are either “poor” or “not at all” predictors of college quality, including the peer assessments, student selectivity, and alumni giving. A majority of respondents also believe that graduation/retention rates, faculty resources, financial resources, and graduation rate performance are “fair” or “good” indicators of college quality.

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