Prep Talk Blog > September 2011

The Berkeley College Republicans have planned an “Increase Diversity” Bake Sale to raise awareness of SB 185, legislation in California that would allow state schools to consider race, gender, ethnicity and other relevant factors in college admissions decisions.

The bake sale will have different pricing based on some of these factors the legislation would allow colleges to consider. For example, cupcakes will be $2 for white men, $1 for Latinos and 25 cents off all the prices for women.

According to the event’s Facebook page, “The Berkeley College Republicans firmly believe measuring any admit's merit based on race is intrinsically racist. Our bake sale will be at the same time and location of a phone bank which will be making calls to urge Gov. Brown to sign the bill. The purpose of the event is to offer another view to this policy of considering race in university admissions. The pricing structure of the baked goods is meant to be satirical, while urging students to think more critically about the implications of this policy.”

Responses to the event range from posts further poking fun at the pricing to enraged political debate.

What do you think? Does an event like this spur debate around an important college admissions issue, or is this organization going about it the wrong way?

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When the U.S. News College Rankings came out last week, folks had a lot to say about it. Whether you think the rankings are helpful or not, they certainly play a role in some high school students’ college searches. See what experts, journalists and bloggers had to say about this year’s best-known college rankings.

The Christian Science Monitor: “College Rankings: Princeton, Harvard Best Colleges

The Washington Post’s Campus Overload blog: “Has Anyone Come Up with a Ranking of College Rankings?

The Huffington Post: “U.S. News College Rankings: The Top National Universities

Los Angeles Times: “Deciphering U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 Best-College Rankings

The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet blog: “The Problem with the U.S. News College Rankings"

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"Those persons, whom nature has endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens; and…they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance."

In addition to being a spectacularly well-loved professor of theater, my good friend and dear colleague, Rick Davis, also blogs about the liberal arts for the American Association of Colleges and Universities. He cited the above quotation by Thomas Jefferson in a recent post, and it reminded me of our many conversations regarding the virtue -- and obligation -- of a rigorous liberal arts education. Having spent the past decade in Virginia, for me, quoting Thomas Jefferson can become an occupational hazard. The quotation, however, seems particularly relevant as I begin a new position at Brandeis University, one of the most competitive institutions in the nation.

Unfortunately, in a sweeping and potentially inaccurate generalization, our society has not recently been over-supportive of the liberal arts. Apart from a visceral fear of the term "liberal," the public and, by extension, many parents and students, appear largely focused on careers and income.

I am not, of course, disputing the importance of either income or career success, and I wish tremendous helpings of both for all of you. I find it confounding, confusing and altogether discombobulating, however, when families openly accept a false dichotomy between these values and a liberal arts education.

The reality is that most employers -- certainly those that hire in the most lucrative, engaging and expanding fields -- tend to look less at preparation for specific vocational tasks and seek more to hire individuals who demonstrate mastery of vital skills: communication, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and synthesis, just to name a few. Conveniently, these are, to one degree or another, the results of a great liberal arts education.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Brandeis is one of the rare institutions that offers the depth and breadth of a research university in a true liberal arts college setting, so you should probably check it out.

I wrote recently of how misleading it can be for students to get overly concerned about a particular major. It is just as important for success to place as much emphasis on courses outside your major, especially those that challenge you.

Having now moved to New England, it seems only right that I shift to quoting a more local founding father, John Adams: "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.... Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.... Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people."

College is about more than just your major, and education is about more than just getting prepared for a starting level position. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a really good time.

Be seeing you.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Brandeis student paper, The Justice.

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Establishing some new rules for yourself during the first few weeks of college can help you create a strong foundation for your entire freshman year. Try these tips for starting college off right.

Get Organized

In your first classes, you will receive a lot of information, both as handouts and electronically. You need a system for filing both types of documents. You’ll also need to develop a good method for taking notes and keeping those organized. For example, some people maintain one notebook for the day’s notes and then copy them over into subject-specific notebooks. Not only will this help you stay organized, but it can also serve as a valuable study tool.

Get Sleep

Every time you’re tempted to cram and pull an all-nighter, remember that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis will help you remember what you learned all day. Your brain needs the sleep to strengthen your short-term memory.

Get Connected

Many new freshmen feel isolated when they first get to college. You need to reach out and connect to your new community. Join some sort of group or intramural sport. Many activities might even be related to your major, so you can get some related experience while making new friends. Talk to your professors and get to know them better – you do not need to be intimidated by them. And be sure to call home and talk to your family and old friends. They’ll all be excited to stay a part of your life and to hear about the great new things you’re doing.

Get Healthy Food

Of course you have heard of the Freshman 15 – it’s common because college students have access to a lot of late-night food and junk food. Remember, you need vegetables too! Try to make the late-night indulgences more of a splurge than something you do every day, and try to keep a balanced diet. You have a lot of work ahead of you, and staying healthy is an important aspect to keep you meeting the demands.

Get Exercise

Exercise is not only great for your physical health, but it can really help with stress. Plus, starting an exercise routine now will help pave the path for your future beyond college. Your school likely has a gym you can use for free or at a very low cost.

Get a Job

Whether a work-study award was part of your financial aid package or you could just enjoy some extra cash, a job is a great way to meet people and gain experience. Even if the job is not related to your major, you will be building your resume and gaining transferable skills. Dependability and attention to detail are great traits that will do you well in any line of work. And the paycheck will help you avoid additional money-related stress

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