I saw the headline and LOVED it! As an advocate of ensuring that the admissions process assesses whole human beings – all that individuals have to offer and ways to create the most complete “pictures” of candidates – I was thrilled to read the article in USA Today. WPI is the first nationally ranked engineering institute to adopt a test-optional admission policy for candidates applying for entrance in fall 2008… Wow! In their own words, “This policy is designed to encourage a broader range of students to pursue degrees in science and engineering-related fields. It also acknowledges that standardized testing is not the most accurate assessment of academic potential for many students. Demonstrated academic achievement, coupled with strong motivation and creativity, are often the best indicators of a student’s future success at WPI.” I think the whole idea of success at college is often lost in the craziness that surrounds the college search, selection, and admission process. “Getting in” is just one the steps in attending college. Making sure that you can succeed in the setting – that the academic and social environments are a match for who you are and will grow to be – is critical!

WPI has joined over 740 colleges and universities that de-emphasize the use of standardized tests. Think of the implications and what that means to you personally… No doubt in applying to a half dozen schools, some of them will rely heavily on standardized test scores… and so good/great scores will only add to the multifaceted description of who you are… Conversely, if you feel that your scores don’t really reflect your abilities then thinking in terms of discovering which schools particularly attend to the quality of research papers, projects, portfolios, and personal characteristics such as leadership and initiative may help you. (Visit www.fairtest.org for a list of those of colleges. ) Now I’m not making a ringing endorsement of these schools – in fact some of my favorite places aren’t listed there and I know that they are seeking to understand each individual candidate. I am applauding the concept and its implementation… considering whole humans/the entire student and what s/he brings to the school. I believe that Kristen Tichenor, from WPI is on the right track when she says that the new policy may “lower the flame” on the hysteria surrounding the admissions process.

What’s your take on this?


Wow! I am so excited! I am knee-deep in the University of Michigan’s website – following-up, as promised, on being a detective and sussing out various college websites to discover what they are really saying… and suddenly I am reading these words…

“What are you interested in? With over 200 undergraduate majors, and many minors, all taught by world-renowned faculty in wonderful academic facilities, if you’ve thought about it, we probably have it!
If you think you know right now, great, check out our specific programs, visit campus, and talk to our faculty and students. If you’re not sure, that’s fine too. We often say that “undecided” is a good major to enter Michigan as a freshman with, because with so many wonderful options, you can really explore. You can even design your own interdisciplinary major through the Individual Concentration Program.
The great thing about Michigan is that even if you change your mind once you enroll, you’ll have so many top-rated programs to choose from, you can be confident of your preparation for a career, graduate school or professional school.”

This quote is a part of the Areas of Study page, and the words could have been my own! I was just saying those very words to groups of teens over the weekend when I delivered a workshop on Finding the College That ‘s the Right Fit for You. I know that students crowded into the session (standing room only) in large part because they thought I was going to give them “the answers.” So no doubt they were surprised when I began by telling them that they had a lot of the answers they needed – I think it was both a welcome surprise and a point of contention. As we worked together throughout the workshop – with me asking the questions:
What do you already know?
What do you have yet to learn?
What are your worries?
What’s your plan?

… and with them answering and asking questions, the students began to realize:
~ Wow! I know my strengths (and I gave them a way to begin to recognize and talk about those strengths)
~ I do have a sense of what I want – for some students it was crystal clear, for others, they had a general sense of what appealed to them academically
~ There are specific types of environments that will support me in doing my best work (large, medium, small campus; urban, suburban, rural; small to large classes; specific schools or departments within a college or university; really diverse to more homogenous environments… the list goes on and on!)
~ Lots of other students have the same questions and concerns as I do (worries about choosing the wrong major, being homesick, doing poorly, managing time… more on all this in another post)
~ There are some quick and simple answers, and some will take time, research, and energy to get handled (from “Are all schools looking at all three parts of the SAT/the 2400 points?” to “What type of school will be best for me? Do I want a liberal arts education, would a research institution provide more of the types of opportunities I seek, or is a comprehensive college best for me?”

All in all students left the session feeling that they had some answers – and that they had even more questions… which is GREAT! That’s probably how you will feel after visiting each school’s website – and that’s perfect! Questions will form the foundation for planning your visits to campuses – taking tours and doing interviews. Being prepared with questions that matter to you will get your needs met and show admissions personnel that you have done your homework.

Early next

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