Prep Talk Blog > April 2010

Many current high school students are interested in pursuing sports management careers after college. So, as you begin your college search, what should you be thinking about? Are sports management degrees the only way to go? Or even the best?

According to, “Three of the best sports management programs are UMass [Amherst], Bowling Green State University and Ohio University.”

Additionally, the website cautions that some college and university sports management degrees may not be the best choice. The program could be poor, so be sure to do your due diligence in researching schools and the curriculum. Also, you do not specifically need to go into college as a sports management major in order to come out with a job in the field. “You may be better off majoring (in) business, law or marketing as long as you continue to stay involved in the career path of your choice,” advises the site. 

So once you get to college, never underestimate the power of elective courses, student internships and collegiate extracurricular activities.

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Being able to win scholarships can be as easy as pulling out your birth certificate -- or legally changing your name. There are a number of wacky scholarships offering money for college based on your last name. Get the details on some of these below, and use our college scholarship search to find other sources to help you pay for college.

Charles Downer Scholarship Fund

Award: not specified, to be used at Harvard University

Having the last name Downer isn’t necessarily a downer. It could help you pay for your education at Harvard University. While preference is given to descendants of Joseph or Robert Downer of Wiltshire, England, you have a chance just by carrying the surname.

John Gatling Grant Program

Award: $9,000 for North Carolina residents; $18,000 for out-of-state students to be used at NC State University

John Gatling, a NC State University alum and successful Raleigh businessman, established this grant for undergrads born with the surname Gatlin or Gatling. This grant is also needs-based and considers information from your FAFSA application. 

The Leavenworth Scholarship

Award: not specified, to be used at Hamilton College

Elias W. Leavenworth established this scholarship in 1882. It’s awarded to students bearing the name Leavenworth.

The Scarpinato Scholarship

Award: $12,000 to fund a full ride at Texas A&M

According to this New York Times article, this scholarship is available to anyone born with or married into the last name Scarpinato. Endowed by Lee Scarpinato, class of ’34, this scholarship has only been awarded to five people so far.

The Lambert and Annetje Van Valkenburg Memorial Scholarship Competition

Award: $1,000 to be used at any accredited institution

This scholarship is awarded every two years to someone who can be defined as a descendant of Lambert and Annetje Van Valkenburg, who came to America from the Netherlands back in 1643. If your surname is similar but not exact, be aware that they do account for variations in the spelling. For example, Van Valkenburgh, Van Volkinburg, Van Falkenburg, Valkenburg, Vollick and Van Velkinburgh may all be acceptable. You must be able to prove the family lineage and write a 500-word essay.

Zolp Scholarships

Award: varies based upon funding and eligible recipients, to be used at Loyola University 

Are you Catholic with the last name Zolp? Add attending Loyola University, and you could win this scholarship. You must be able to produce a birth certificate with the name as well as a confirmation certificate. Learn more about this and other scholarships at Loyola University.

And this list is not exhaustive. Start your college scholarship search here.

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Successfully working in college admissions requires living with contradictions. For instance, the job’s two main responsibilities:

Get prospective students as excited as possible so they apply to your institution.
Tell a bunch of them “no.”

As a result, admissions officers spend a lot of energy and time thinking about how to let applicants know about college admissions decisions.

The old model is to let all applicants know at once, usually around April 1st.  That allows admissions officers to go through every application and pull out the ones they want most and deny (or waitlist) everyone else.

At some point, a group of admissions officers realized: 

  1. They already knew which students were CLEARLY going to be admitted or denied without going through the entire applicant pool, and
  2. The sooner they told applicants they were admitted, the better the chances of recruiting them.

Enter Rolling Admissions

This led to a weird competition to see who could get admission letters out first.  Many schools have gone to rolling admissions, making decisions as applications are received. Some of the schools doing this are very competitive institutions, and in those cases, rolling means they make the clear decisions. Meanwhile, they ask a bunch of other applicants for more information, like full first-semester or third-quarter grades, to give the schools more time to decide what to do.

In some states and regions, rolling-admissions schools are considered less competitive. This is utter nonsense -- when and how a college releases decisions has nothing to do with who gets in.  Many schools vehemently deny they have rolling admissions and outline specific times when they will release admission decisions. But then, in a wee quiet voice, they may on occasion go ahead and admit the best applicants as they are received.  So they work the same as rolling admissions institutions, just without calling it that.

Of course, a handful of schools stick strictly to the traditional notification dates, but even these can get kind of sketchy.  A few years ago, we started seeing a lot of “pre-admission” letters from some of the country’s best known and most competitive schools.  These letters go out long before April notification dates and say things like, “You are SO the kind of student we want and we are SO going to admit you, but we can’t tell anyone yet so we’re just saying…you know…we like you and you should be really happy about what you will get from us and, like, you are SO awesome and will look great in our school colors. So I’m NOT telling you that you’re admitted but you SO are going to get a nice letter from us in April.” The wording may be a wee bit more official, but you get the idea.

My award for the best excuse EVER by a highly competitive institution to let applicants know about their decision early goes to: MIT.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology released its decisions early this year -- on March 14th.  Their reason? It was Pi day (Pi=3.141592653)!  So on 3/14 at 1:59 p.m., MIT launched its decisions about two weeks before most of its competitors.  Brilliant! Of course, that will make so much more sense in the year 2653.  

College Admission Letters Over Snail Mail or Email?

The big controversy circulating now is whether to mail admissions decisions at all.  Hundreds of institutions have gone to electronic decision notification.  A recent survey surprised me: Most high school students said they would rather get their admission decisions online if they were admitted. However, they would rather get denial decisions on paper.  My theory is that if you get an electronic decision, you’ll probably be able to access it during the day with all your friends around (and not your family).  That’s great if you get a positive response, but miserable for a negative one.  Most of the guidance counselors I’ve spoken to really want admissions officers to keep the decisions at home. But what do you think?

By the way, the whole thick versus thin envelope thing is now pretty much a myth that just causes stress.  Since so many decisions are online, there may be no envelope, and when there is an envelope it may be just a letter directing you to all your other information online.  No telling until you open it.

Regardless of when you find out, most schools should give you until May 1st to commit. I hope you all get in everywhere you apply and you get every scholarship you want.

Be seeing you! 

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When it comes to college applications, colleges and universities make their decisions based on your records and essays with little opportunity to get to know you personally.

While for some of us this is a good thing -- I doubt my personality would have been an asset in my college admissions process -- others of you would prefer admissions officers knew you better, believing if they knew you, they would really LIKE you. Some schools have looked to remedy this by increasing the availability of interviews, and a few of us are trying something new (sort of): Including videos as part of the admissions process.

I wrote about videos as part of the college application process back in September. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. After all, even when I started in admissions (just after the invention of fire), we accepted videos if the students submitted them. They would come on these ancient devices called “Betamax Tapes.” (For those interested, I believe they unearthed a few samples from a dig in South America.) So imagine my surprise to find that some of my most illustrious colleagues have grave concerns about college application videos now.

The Boston Globe quoted Harvard’s Dean of Admissions, Bill Fitzsimmons, as saying, “Students from families with substantial financial resources are in a better position to provide such materials, so that’s something we have to be very careful with.”

Really? Harvard is worried that VIDEOS are causing a financial disparity in admissions? No mention of the correlation between income and SAT scores, the prevalence of admissions coaches drafting essays for their clients or the advantage legacies have in the process?

On the other hand, this got me thinking about Dean Fitzsimmons’ level of familiarity with YouTube. I have a hard time getting my mind around the image of the venerable and distinguished Dean giggling at the latest clip of a cat playing the piano.

But Fitzsimmons is not alone. In a US News & World Report article, in which I was also quoted, the President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling noted: “If accepting videos becomes commonplace, it will increase the divide between haves and have-nots."

I have enormous respect for both of these fine professionals and know them to be two of the most thoughtful, dedicated and committed individuals in the field of admissions. I would question them about this directly, but I’m not sure the rotary phones in their offices can connect with 2010. Just kidding! Although I’m not entirely sure they’re up to date on the accessibility of technology and how easy it is for most students to make these videos.

So, should we restrict students to written essays, easily plagarized, often written by coaches and limited to 500 words? 

In 20 years in admissions, I have reviewed some wonderful, but far more truly awful, written essays. However, the handful of videos I have reviewed have been thoughtful and insightful. I doubt video essays will degrade the college application process, and in fact it is reasonably possible this medium may, just possibly not bring about the end of civilization as we know it.

But what do you think? Do you see including a video in your college application as a way to add another dimension that could seal the deal for you, or do you think it adds additional stress to an already stressful process? Tell us in the comments below.

Be seeing you.

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An introductionMost of the advice on college admissions is, to use the vernacular, a huge steaming pile. That’s largely because most of the people who spend time offering advice about admissions either a) have no idea what they’re talking about or b) lie.  Another group, maybe the largest, is best served by keeping you in the dark as to how the process works, so they use a bunch of jargon and flowery language to avoid answering your questions. 

I often make fun of admissions blogs in my speeches, especially the ones written by admissions deans and directors.  I mock how little information they contain and how they try to sneak in promoting their schools and how they almost entirely lack any entertainment value whatsoever.

One of my staff members suggested I start my own.  Actually, he said I was a huge jerk (he didn’t use a word quite that nice however), but he felt that would be a great asset for creating a more interesting blog, particularly if I was willing to be entirely, one might say brutally, honest about the process.  I tried it out, vowing to provide accurate insight into the process, while being totally upfront, one might say shameless, about plugging George Mason University.

A few years into this, I met the fine folks at My College Options®.  They seem to have roughly the same idea of supplying students and their families with straightforward, honest, and frank information about the process. 

But they get more traffic than my blog.  A lot more traffic.

So we made a deal.  Even though my primary job is admissions dean, I’ll periodically share a post trying to cut through all the hypocrisy and misleading information available on other sites.  In return, they promise to be tolerant of my writing style/personality.  We’ll see.

Of course, you may disagree with some of the things I post.  You’re welcome to your opinions, as wrong as they may be.  Fortunately, through the miracle of the internet, a vast array of incredibly talented people can share what they’re thinking about what I write. Unfortunately, the rest of you probably will as well. 

Looking forward to getting to know you and also shamelessly plugging George Mason University every chance I get – which won’t be hard since it is the best university.  Ever. 

Be seeing you.

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Don Munce