Prep Talk Blog > July 2010

In a recent blog post on, green business blogger Melissa Hincha-Ownby wrote about the top 10 environmental studies undergrad programs as outlined in The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2011 edition.  

Here is the list, with links to learn more about each institution: 

Colby College

College of the Atlantic

University of California, Davis

University of Colorado at Boulder

Dartmouth College

Eckerd College

Evergreen State College

University of North Carolina at Asheville

Tulane University

University of Washington 

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A Closer Look at the Mission Behind College AdmissionsDo you trust college admissions officers? Do you view us as dedicated public servants working tirelessly to help you achieve your dreams in the most time- and cost-efficient manner? Or do you, perhaps, consider us the aggressive sales force behind education, about as welcome as those people in the mall who NEED you to stop and try their face cream/hair extension/perfume combinations?

I trust that most of my colleagues fall closer to the former than the latter. The reality is, however, that a massive portion of our jobs is to convince a particular group of students that they should enroll at our schools – and in many cases, enroll for a particular price. 

For numerous years, the federal government has been concerned that college admissions officers’ motivation to enroll students surpasses their duty to appropriately guide prospective students. As a result, there is a set of laws and policies that precludes colleges and universities from paying bonuses or incentives to recruiters based on numbers of students recruited or basing salaries on enrollment numbers.

Since recruiting is a big part of the admissions job, it is not surprising these laws are nearly impossible to enforce. While few institutions, if any, will officially say their admissions officers’ salaries or jobs are based on enrollment, there are any number of incidents where admissions officers have been “exited” when targets weren’t achieved. At the other end of the spectrum, those of us who have enjoyed remarkable enrollments tend to be offered jobs at other institutions that are coincidentally packed with raises and promotions.

At the moment, there is a noisy discussion about the use of enrollment incentives at for-profit institutions. Traditional nonprofit universities play the part of innocent angels, saying they are shocked at the blatant conflict of interest created by the clear bonuses and incentives that some for-profit institutions use to try to motivate their “sales force.”

Of course, unethical marketing doesn’t require incentives. Many college admissions officers are hyper-competitive regardless of how they are rewarded. Often alumni of the institutions, college admissions officers have enormous passion for their school’s successes. While there is no doubting the sincerity of their loyalty, there is also little doubt that some go over the top in claims of student financial support, academic quality, and graduate job availability.

How Does the Business of College Admissions Impact You?

When the system leans so far towards awarding incentives for enrollment success, many admissions officers reach a point of saying ANYTHING to get you to enroll. 

While I am not a fan of the direct, overt, and excessive incentives and bonuses some institutions use, I’m also a realist. My job is, in no small part, to make sure that Mason has an amazing incoming class of students that reaches targets of quantity, quality, and diversity. At some level, no matter how ethical, honest and just generally wonderful my conduct, I am still a partisan for my institution, which, if I haven’t mentioned lately, is clearly the BEST UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD. 

See what I mean? It all comes down to being a smart consumer. Regardless of the great information, propaganda, and shameless plugs you may get from any college admissions officer, you should also do your own research on each institution. On the other hand, you are certainly welcome to just take MY word for it. 

Be seeing you. 

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Since the economy took a nosedive, American families have been trying to figure out how their children can pursue the American dream, which now often begins with a college education. More often, college students are deciding to begin their journeys at community colleges and then transfer in to bachelor programs at four-year colleges and universities. The first two years at a community college -- even with tuition on the rise -- allows students and their families to save some money while still finishing up their bachelor’s degrees at pricier institutions. 

Here are some of the recent news stories and blogs focused on this trend: 

Detroit Free Press: “Community College Tuition -- and Enrollment -- Go Up” 
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network: “Maine’s Community Colleges Experience Big Enrollment Hike
BuzzTab: “Oakland Community College Increases Tuition by 11%
Michigan Education Report: “Tuition Up, But So Is Enrollment

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The folks over at BusinessWeek recently identified the top 10 apps for college and MBA students. So grab your smartphone and take a look at the best downloads for incoming college freshmen: 

Bump for the iPhone and Android 

Why just bump into all the new people you’ll meet at college when you can bump phones. Bump will let you and your new friends share contact information, like your phone numbers and addresses, quickly just by bumping your phones. 

MyPocketProf for the iPhone 

The academic part of this app focus around being able to sync your course notes so they can be viewed whether you are online or off. It also allows you to share your notes with (or sell them to) your fellow students. Additional capabilities around test questions allow you to take your study group virtual. And if that is not enough, you can also search and post classified ads between you and other college students. 

Stanza for the iPhone 

Cliffs Notes are going mobile! Well, not exactly, but this app allows you to read sections from a variety of books and periodicals. Plus, you can customize some of the display elements to make the text easier to read. 

Wi-Fi Finder for the iPhone and Android 

As you have probably guessed, this app will help you find the wireless hotspots so you and your fellow students can find out where you can hop online for free. 

MyHomework for the iPhone 

Writing down assignments is so five years ago. Now you can use this app to color code assignments and get alerts regarding your different deadlines. 

Evernote for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry 

This app is almost like a virtual Fairy Godmother. You can store notes containing your thoughts, to-dos, web pages, pics and more -- all at your fingertips and fully searchable by text, date and location where you first entered the nugget. 

Additionally, a number of colleges and universities have launched their own apps to keep in touch with students like you. Be sure to find out what your school may have available. 

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When the Kindle came out, many expected it to replace the average student’s pile of textbooks. Who wouldn’t rather carry a sleek piece of technology, not to mention the relief for so many college students’ backs? But even with the introduction of the Nook and the iPad, these machines just couldn’t stack up against the original form when it came to highlighting and finding the necessary relevant passages quickly. 

But Barnes & Noble is trying to make up for any of e-readers’ previous shortcomings with the new NOOKstudy. See what the blogs and industry publications have to say so far: 

PCWorld: “Will Tablets Be BMOC (Big Machine on Campus) This Fall?
CNet: “Barnes & Noble Makes Nook More Student-Friendly
Mobile Magazine: “NOOKstudy App to Change Textbooks Forever
The Next Web: “Will NOOKstudy Be Barnes & Noble’s Trojan Horse to Beat Kindle?
CrunchGear: “NOOKstudy: Barnes & Noble’s Free Digital Foray into the Education Market Lets Student Read e-Textbooks, Take Fully Searchable Notes & Highlights

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Don Munce