Prep Talk Blog > June 2010

This year, more and more high school students across the country are enrolling in AP classes for the coming year. In Allegany, Maryland, fall enrollment in AP courses is up about 12% over last year. Livingstondaily.com, a site covering Howell, Michigan, also reports that enrollment is on the rise across the county and country. 

So if you are a high school student, why should you join the ranks and enroll in advanced placement courses? 

About.com Provides 6 Reasons Why You Should Take AP Courses 

1. College admissions 

2. Develop the skills needed for college-level coursework

3. With enough AP credits, you can potentially graduate early and save money

4. You may be able to choose your major sooner

5. The ability to take more electives, because you’ll have core classes out of the way already

6. You’ll more easily be able to add a minor or second major 

If you’re already enrolled in AP classes for the next school year, the 2011 AP exam schedule has been announced. So if you’re going to be a senior, don’t let senioritis set in until closer to graduation.

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Public colleges and universities across the country are surprisingly more crowded than normal this summer as enrollment in summer courses are up this year. A USA Today article looks to the current economy as the source: “High unemployment drives nontraditional students to enroll in college at all times of the year, but a tough economy makes it more difficult for traditional-age students to find jobs and internships, or gives them greater awareness of the need to complete a degree as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” But the piece also acknowledges that there is not one reason behind all students’ actions.

Take a look at some of the buzz about summer course enrollment around the web:

KPBS in San Diego reports that California Community College Chancellor Jack Scott estimates more than 140,000 students have been turned away from summer classes this year. He credits a “perfect storm” situation due to cuts in the classes offered, people who want to retrain for work, students who want to transfer to other schools and first-time students who want to get a leg up. He says this last group has been especially affected since they receive no priority.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a Craigslist posting brought to light that students at Columbia Basin College may be selling their spots for in-demand summer courses. Since the school has done away with waiting lists for classes that fill up, any student who knows when someone has dropped the class can try to quickly scoop the spot up.
ClintonNews.com, covering Clinton, Mississippi, reports that summer enrollment at Hinds Community College is up nearly 60% over last year. In addition to crediting the soft economy, this article also says the changes in Pell Grants are to blame – students can now use such money toward summer classes, and many hope to save money on classes during their summer at home or to have an earlier graduation date. The most in-demand courses are “the traditional college transfer courses such as English composition, music appreciation and biology… [as well as] courses needed by aspiring nursing and allied health students -- human anatomy and physiology, introduction to sociology and human growth and development.”

For those taking summer courses in hopes of an early graduation, this NorthJersey.com article addresses some of the trade-offs, like a summer job or internship that give you practical experience and exposure to your career field of choice.

So what do you think? Are summer classes in your future (or present)?

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Hurry Up and Wait on the WaitlistA long time ago, when the admissions process was young, colleges and universities realized that the sooner they could get a student to commit to absolutely, positively coming to their schools, the sooner they could:

Help the student make a smooth academic and social transition into the community of scholars, and
Begin spending that student’s tuition.

There was a time, or so I’m told, when institutions would try to get students to commit earlier and earlier, sometimes using positive incentives (“commit now, and you’ll get the best housing, the best classes and we’ll give you a puppy”) or even threats (“commit now or we’ll stick you in the worst housing on campus, give you the worst class schedule and we’ll kick this puppy”). This led to the GREAT TREATY OF ADMISSIONS, in which all the colleges and universities agreed to give students until May 1 to make their decisions and not use incentives or threats -- except in cases where they can be sneaky enough to get away with it.

Apart from there not actually being any such treaty*, giving admitted students time to make up their minds about which schools to attend seems like a very reasonable and prudent thing for colleges and universities to do. That all goes out the window, however, for students on the waitlist.

A high school counselor launched a heated online debate recently when she complained about a college admitting one of her students from the waitlist and then requiring an IMMEDIATE commitment. Factions quickly formed on the subject.

Team A (motto: college would be a lot more fun for us if it weren’t for all these pesky students) noted that most colleges and universities require students to respond to waitlist offers with an agreement that, should the applicant be admitted from the waitlist, he or she will celebrate joyously and immediately commit, so the requirement for immediate response shouldn’t be a surprise.

Team B (motto: students rule, colleges drool) argued that even students with the best of intentions have to do some soul searching once admissions offers are received and that teenagers may have trouble making up their minds quickly. Later, more savvy members of team B noted that most waitlisted students go ahead and confirm somewhere else while waiting to hear from any school that waitlisted them and might be waitlisted by more than one school. As a result, a well-meaning student can find him or herself committed to one school when admitted from the waitlist at one (or two or three) others.

From my seat, this is a tough call. On the one hand, if I’m going to make offers to students on our waitlist, I need to know about their commitments as soon as possible so I can decide whether to offer the opportunity to others. On the other hand, it seems terribly unrealistic to encourage students to commit to other institutions by only offering them the waitlist, give them time to accept that decision and even get excited about it, and then give them only hours or days to shift gears when I make my offer.

While we’re on the subject, the growth of waitlists themselves is particularly troubling, with many schools keeping more than a thousand applicants on the hook until well into summer -- more on that soon.

Be seeing you.

*Note: The May 1 deadline, however it was decided, is part of the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Principals of Good Practice. This bears many similarities to modern treaties, as it is really complicated and, since it’s pretty much unenforceable, relies on the goodwill of the member colleges and universities for compliance.

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After surviving her own first year of higher education, college blogger Hannah Holmes offers tips for the high school graduating class of 2010:

Well, it’s finally over. I officially completed my first year of college at 11:30 one Thursday night in May when I turned in my last paper. I did very little but sleep in the days following.

If any of you graduating high school students who are preparing for college in the fall are anything like I was last year at this time, my first piece of advice for you is to relax. Whatever horrors you’re imagining, college is not that bad. My friends and I were actually just discussing the other night how much easier college is than adults will tell you. The infamous “transition” is really not that hard. Chances are, by the time you go to college, you’ll be ready. I also found that my fears of not making any friends were unfounded. I think it’s really probably harder to avoid making friends then to develop meaningful relationships. I mean, whether you go to a small or large school, there are a lot of you trapped on that campus in the exact same situation.

However, it does of course take some effort to make that first year of college a successful spring board for the rest of your time as an undergraduate. I think getting involved quickly was one of the most important and valuable decisions I made. The best way to meet people and have a good, productive time is by joining an on-campus organization about something you’re passionate about. For me, and pretty much everyone I knew, involvement was a major factor in making the first year of college an enjoyable one.

It’s also important to prioritize and schedule while getting involved and working hard in school. I have found using a planner to be another key to success. Planning ahead will help you avoid those awful nights of studying until 3 a.m. for a test in your 8 a.m. class -- at least sometimes. It also may help you in finding the all-important but ever elusive downtime. It does exist. I found it important to take at least a few minutes every day to hang out with friends, take a walk, watch TV or take a 20-minute power nap (something I highly recommend).

Finally, keeping a good perspective is one of the most important things you can do throughout your first year of college, and probably through all four years of being an undergrad. It’s amazing how big an impact the way you view the world around you can have on your day.

Like in anything in life, it’s crucial to focus on the good things that happen, rather than bad. If you keep thinking about how insanely busy you are, how it’s been weeks since you’ve been able to sleep in, how that homework is actually due a week earlier than you thought and how you have to make a poster for an event this weekend, in all likelihood you’re going to lose your mind quickly. I know from personal experience. However, if you dwell on the beautiful weather as you walk to class, how early your lab ended, how good your bed will feel when you finally make it there and how nice it was to catch up with a friend while you made that poster, things won’t look nearly as dismal.

Trust me: Nothing you could possibly do in the first year of college will cause the world to end, no matter how much you think turning an English paper in late might mean the beginning of the apocalypse.
At my orientation, a speaker told a story of a girl who wrote to her parents, telling them how a fire in her dorm caused her to jump from a fifth story window and obtain a concussion, so then she moved in with an older man who so he could care for her, and she was now pregnant with this man’s child and they were going to be married soon. At the end of the letter, the girl wrote, “None of this really happened, but I wanted to make sure you had a proper perspective when I told you about the two C’s and one D I’m getting this semester.”

So work hard in your first year of college, but take time to smell the roses, listen to your iPod and smile. Good luck!   

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High school blogger Olivia Duell talks about her last days of high school and her plans for the future:

Graduation is inching closer and closer, and I can feel the anticipation amongst the other seniors as I walk through the halls of my high school. Ever since April break ended, students (and even a few teachers) began flipping through their calendars and tallying up how many days we have left to endure. And now, I realize that the end of high school is here.

I have managed not to fail any classes second semester due to laziness, and I have surpassed the stressful month of April where college acceptances temporarily threw my future up in the air. Somehow, I was able to make a college decision -- Cornell University, in a surprising turn of events -- and I’m pretty excited. The us limore I flip through Cornell’s information packets on housing, meal plans and campfe, and the more I scour Cornell’s website for course information, the quicker I want August to come. I’ve been to visit on two recent occasions, and both times I was awed by the beauty of the campus. And even though it’s rather close to home (a drive from my house to Cornell takes no more than 25 minutes), the atmosphere at Cornell feels immeasurably different than the atmosphere I feel at my current school, which is a good thing. Cornell is huge and incredibly diverse, while my current high school is neither. Truthfully, that change will be nice.

Though I’ve never been quite so attached to my high school as other classmates of mine seem to be, I did find myself becoming a little melancholy and sentimental the other day. All the talk of caps and gowns, graduation parties, senior picnics, college deposits and so on has caused me to reminisce about years past. Senior year is a funny thing; honestly, you can tell that everyone is growing sick of each other, but at the same time, we all know we’re in the same situation. Everybody seems more relaxed than ever, which is why I feel that issues between seniors have become quite rare. Basically, in these last few weeks, everybody is definitely aiming to pack in as much fun with their friends as possible.

Though for me, in my last days of high school, I’ll be relishing my fairly easy workload compared to what I’ll get next year. From talking to a variety of Cornell students, I have deduced that Cornell’s workload will be monstrous. At this point next year, when I’m stressing about finals, I probably will be longing for easier times from the past. But I’m sure that will only be one of the very few cons I’ll experience next year -- did I mention I’m really excited?

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