Free College!!

by WCE

A starter for Education Thursday.    Long form college/SAT/middle-high school updates and complaints welcomed.

Interesting article on the history of Berea College
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/10/how-berea-college-makes-tuition-free-with-its-endowment/572644/

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67 thoughts on “Free College!!

  1. Tying in yesterday’s topic a little with today’s, last night I randomly watched most of an episode of American Reframed on PBS.

    Personal Statement
    Season 6 Episode 14 | 56m 59s

    Follow three high school seniors from Brooklyn intent on defying the odds for themselves and their classmates by becoming the very resource they don’t have for themselves: peer college counselors. PERSONAL STATEMENT weaves together their individual struggles, family life, and highs and lows of their respective college application processes.

    It was a moving story about kids who are in situations that are the polar opposite of totebag kids — almost no parental or school support. I’ve volunteered a little with kids like these, but sometimes I think I should have caught them earlier. It’s not easy.

    https://www.pbssocal.org/programs/america-reframed/arf-personal-statement-trailer/

  2. Question: DS (9th grade) is taking Biology this year. It’s an honors-level course, but nothing super advanced. Should he plan to take the SAT subject test in Bio at the end of the school year? The teacher says some kids take the test as 9th graders, but many kids wait until they’ve had another class like AP Bio or Anatomy. Is there any downside to having DS take it at the end of this year, with the idea that he could re-take it later if he wasn’t happy with his score? Do you have to report all your scores to colleges, or can you just report your best ones?

    I’m totally new to the current world of college prep, so all advice is welcome!

  3. L- Do your kids speak German? Assuming Brexit goes forward, would schools in the UK (or at least England) be out of the mix of possible schools for your kids? Just curious.

  4. German colleges are very bare bones. Just check them out before you go down this path, to make sure its a good fit with your family.

  5. NoB, we are making the same decision about the SAT2.

    Our honors bio class teacher encouraged the parents to buy the SAT2 prep book in Sept.

    He explained that one challenge for ninth graders is that most don’t have the test taking skills by the end of 9th. He thinks they know the material well enough due to honors bio, but he said they’re not used to the format. I think it’s 80 or 90 questions in 60 minutes. All multiple choice and he said it’s the format of the multiple choice that gets confusing for some 9th graders. They might know the answer, but they’re wading through the muck of A and C, B, or none of the above.

    DD just got one of her lowest test scores in his class because he used the format from the SAT2. I think she was upset because she felt like she knew the material, but she got tricked by the question format.

    I bought the book and she never looked at the guide to study for the test. I don’t think she will make that mistake again.

    I think it’s also a personal decision based on knowing your kid etc. you can look at how he is doing in the class and make a decision next year. Also, my DD teacher prepares them to take the SAT2 if they want to take the exam so his class instruction covers all of the material. You can check with your son’s teacher to see if this is true in your school. NY state requires a Regents exam on more of the environmental portion of the course so that’s a whole other test that my DD would have to prep for at the same time.

    My DD might wait until AP year, but she wants to see if her grades start to improve.

    There is a list of colleges that require SAT2s and it is shrinking!

  6. German universities are a very different kind of institution from American ones, so it could be a difficult transition. There are typically no dorms, and courses are based on large lectures, with a final exam at the end. It is not uncommon for that exam to be the sole determiner of the grade. Students don’t have the tons of hands-on small assignments that are common here. Also, in the German system, students don’t take lots of “breadth” courses – the assumption is that those subjects were studied in high school. Students spend more time in courses in their major. Professors are very distant and don’t interact too much with the students. I don’t know if is still true, but when I was doing summer research over there, the full professors were always addressed by full honorifics. The lab I was attached to there was run by a professor who had been at EPFL in Switzerland before (that is where I had met him first) and he told me he was shocked by all the formalities of the German system.

  7. Both my kids took the SAT Bio right after finishing honors Bio, and both did well on the test.

  8. Lauren — The Bio teacher was saying that the Massachusetts standards don’t align perfectly with the material that is on the SAT2. So, high-school Bio will (or should) fully prepare them for the MCAS state test (which they need to graduate from HS), but wouldn’t fully prepare them for the SAT.

  9. Well, my daughter took the PSAT yesterday and ended up doing so with no calculator – so both the calculator and no-calculator math sections were no-calculator for her! She’d figured her regular calculator didn’t qualify since she didn’t see it on the list, didn’t want to dig through her desk for her graphing calculator from last year, figured she’d take her brothers that was sitting out on his desk.

    PSA for test takers: Check the calculator you’re taking BEFORE you leave for the test to make sure it will actually power on. And bring spare batteries!

    She found there were only a few questions where the lack of calculator meant she more or less had to guess. But still, that’s probably enough of a handicap to sink her chances at NMSF. Oh well.

  10. But if DS takes the SAT Bio this year and bombs, would he have to report that score to colleges? Or could he basically ignore it and never report it to anyone?

  11. In some testing news, I just got the email that DS was approved for the alternate entry for NM qualifying. He just needs to get the form signed by his counselor and then have his SAT score sent to them.

  12. NoB – in our school, the regular Bio course is a Regents course (i.e. aligns with the state standards) but the honors Bio is both Regents and prepares for the SAT. We have a third option for 9th grade too – AP Environmental – which is pushed as being better than honors Bio, but I don’t think prepares them as well. My oldest wasn’t allowed to take AP Environmental anyway (he had to get special dispensation to be allowed into honors Bio, where he got an A and a perfect 800 on the SAT), but my second kid decided to take honors because of the better preparation.

  13. “Should he plan to take the SAT subject test in Bio at the end of the school year?”

    IME yes. I would have preferred for DD to have taken it after AP Bio, but the problem is that in our system, she doesn’t take that until senior year, and you have to take the SAT2 by fall of your senior year at the latest. She did take it last month completely cold, and she didn’t do well — but she still did better on bio after two years away than physics when she took it right at the end of that school year. So for us, it was a real miss not having taken it at the end of 9th grade (and maybe do some specific SAT test prep to manage that part of it).

    OTOH, if your kid is very strong in other subjects, like chem or physics, you can probably get away with skipping it and then relying on one of those other subjects (the schools that do require it tend to require only one science, so you can choose the best one). Unfortunately for us, bio is her favorite science, so again, we missed the boat on that one.

    We are just not reporting those scores to anyone and choosing not to apply to the schools that require them (which, luckily, she didn’t really love anyway).

  14. “Should he plan to take the SAT subject test in Bio at the end of the school year?”

    Definitive answer: It depends.

    Is he planning to take another bio class before his senior year? Is he considering applying to colleges that will require SAT subject tests?

    Generally, you want him to have his subject tests taken by the end of junior year. Taking the subject tests suggests he will be applying to HSS, which typically have Dec 31 or Jan 1 regular application deadlines, and October 31 or November 1 early application deadlines, so for many schools the November sitting would be too late.

    It also makes sense to take subject tests at the end of the last school year, other than senior year, when he takes that subject.

  15. No German for any of us – DH thinks it would be a good idea to get it just in case. (No one knows!)

  16. DH thinks it would be a good idea to get it just in case.

    Seems like it can’t hurt, although I hear through the grapevine that it’s hella complicated.

  17. Since it is education Thursday…please humor me on my school obsession.

    For those that have kids who tested into exam HS – did you pay for test prep?

    I am torn.

    On the one hand, the school system is very, very tight lipped about the format of the test, so it’s not like studying for the ACT or SAT where the format is known. So it’s more “general” test prep against multiple types of standardized tests rather than something more focused. The time commitment seems a bit excessive too (2 hours/week for 8 weeks). I’ve also heard from some parents/students that the actual exam is not exceptionally difficult/straightforward and that their kids got higher scores on the entrance exam than the MAP test that is taken to qualify. DS’s MAP test scores are well above where he needs them to be to be accepted to his 1st choice school & he’s a good test-taker in general. If he doesn’t get in at the 7th grade level, his chances of getting in at the 9th grade level are good.

    On the other hand, I don’t know if it could hurt, and the classes aren’t particularly expensive. And this isn’t like college where there are hundreds of options – there are only a few good schools and competition is fierce. And I don’t love our private options for HS either.

  18. Ivy, my niece and nephew wanted to move from one private school to other top ranked private schools in your city. The older one who was in 7th grade had test prep, the younger one not sure. I think it was better to move after the 7th as it gave the kids time to settle in before high school.

  19. Ivy – no. All of them, even the 2 non-academics, scored very well. Your kid will probably do fine.

  20. Ivy, can you get some more specifics from the other parents about the test format?

    I know I’m in the minority here, and I know July will be along shortly with studies that show that test prep doesn’t work, but private instruction and test prep always helped me. Private clarinet lessons, GRE prep lessons, outside coaching in gymnastics — everything I ever took outside of school really boosted my achievement. So there’s my n=1 opinion.

  21. “Is he planning to take another bio class before his senior year? Is he considering applying to colleges that will require SAT subject tests?”

    I have no idea on either of these. (I wasn’t even aware that some schools don’t require SAT subject tests). I just figured that maybe it’s a good idea to take these tests right after you’ve completed the class, when the material is fresh in your mind, just in case you need the test score down the road when you apply to a particular college.

  22. @Louise – I would really like him to move in 7th grade vs. 9th grade for a variety of reasons. The biggest one being adjustment. The 7th grade program only has ~120 kids, and a great number of them will be the only kid accepted from their grade school. So there is a small number of kids – all new – starting together. DS’ grade school is small, and I think this would be a much easier adjustment for him. If he starts in 9th grade, he would be starting with a class that is most likely 5x bigger, with more kids from each grade school. (most grade schools here at K-8) I think he’d be more overwhelmed, especially at first.

    The other reason is, of course, not paying for 2 more years of private school for 7-8th grade.

    Of course, if he starts in 7th grade, he can also get on the tippy-top advanced math track as well. ;)

    The 7th grade program is much harder to get into because of the size though, hence my angst over test prep. Kids need to be in the top 2% vs. the top 10%, or something along those lines. I am not particularly worried about him getting into the 9th grade program unless he really bombs the entrance exam.

    Entrance score is 3 equal parts – 1/3 grades (5th grade for 7th grade entry, 7th grade for 9th grade entry – he should be fine there), 1/3 MAP test scores (he’s in range there) and 1/3 entrance exam.

  23. @RMS – I have scoured the message boards and talked to neighborhood parents, but I don’t know. It is pretty locked down. We are going to have him sit for the 6th grade entrance exam this year to practice. This was the advice of his current teacher – have him sit for that cold & see how he does. Also to ease any anxiety about it. Although, TBH, I have never sensed any anxiety from DS about test taking – mostly he says it is “boring” although this would be the first test that means something to him personally as he does want to go to a particular school for 7-12.

  24. As long as you can afford it, and have the time….why not try the test prep? I don’t think it can hurt, and it might build confidence.

    This is one of the sites that lists the schools that still require or look at SAT subject tests.
    Our guidance counselor stressed that the number of schools that require the SAT2 is dropping, but many schools that we discuss on the Totebag are still on this list.

  25. My oldest took SAT subject tests in bio, chem, and physics. He was trying to show that his grades did not reflect his true ability in STEM, and since he was applying mainly to STEM focused programs, I think the tests helped. It could be really different for a kid who is applying to say liberal arts colleges or business programs.

  26. “We are going to have him sit for the 6th grade entrance exam this year to practice. This was the advice of his current teacher – have him sit for that cold & see how he does. ”

    I would do this. My observation has been that high-scoring kids usually just need a bit of practice with the test. Then if he’s marginal I would go for test prep. Students who typically score in the top 1-2% already don’t seem to gain much from test prep, at leas for SAT/ACT. But I’m not familiar with the high school entrance tests.

  27. Ivy,

    Pay for the prep class. If your budget is tight, cut out the extras such as eating out. Why not give your kid the best shot possible?

  28. I never took any test prep and always got high scores, but YMMV. The most I did was to buy a couple of Princeton Review books for the LSAT. I think this was in the infancy of test prep (late 90s) – all the kids applying to med school took Kaplan for the MCAT but that was it.

  29. Ivy, I suggest you have him take the test prep class. IMO, that will maximize his options.

    “The time commitment seems a bit excessive too (2 hours/week for 8 weeks).”

    That doesn’t seem excessive to me.

    Given his age, I guess you’re not talking about testing for the NYC exam schools, e.g., Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech. I’ve read that for those schools, students with a really high score in one of the tests are preferred over students who do very well on both tests, so for that test it might make sense to focus on his strong suit in test preparation.

  30. ““Is he planning to take another bio class before his senior year? Is he considering applying to colleges that will require SAT subject tests?”

    I have no idea on either of these.”

    You or your DS haven’t yet mapped out all the classes he will take in HS yet? And he’s already in HS?

    My kids’ school has all 8th graders do that, although they’re not locked in, and most kids make some changes over their HS years. But doing so makes them think about college entry and application requirements, e.g., how many years of lab science or foreign language are required by which schools.

    I suggest that now is a good time to take a look at both of these with your DS and DH.

    In the meantime, I suggest planning for taking the subject test in May or June. One of the things you will need to do is to educate yourself on the two different Bio subject tests so you and he can decide on which, or both, tests he will prepare for. Better to start preparing now, and later deciding not to take it, then to wait until the end of the year to decide to take it and start preparing.

    https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-subject-tests/subjects/science/biology-em

  31. “You or your DS haven’t yet mapped out all the classes he will take in HS yet? And he’s already in HS?”

    Um…no. No we haven’t.

    All I know in this regard is that he isn’t on the calculus track.

    I will now go hang my head in Totebag shame.

  32. NoB, no need to be ashamed, but I think it’s a good idea for you to at least roughly map out your DS’ courses, and compare against application requirements for schools to which he’d likely consider applying.

  33. Our middle school did have the 8th graders map out a proposed hs schedule, but it seems to be mainly just for the purpose of getting them thinking — this is the same class in which they did resumes, had to plan a budget, and so on. There’s no particular push to actually follow it. The crazy teacher my youngest used to spar with, who of course had that class (it seems like the life skills /advisory ones always go to the weird teachers), has made herself notable to the high school faculty by buttonholing them to complain that they’re not making the kids follow their proposed high school course maps from 8th grade.

  34. Finn — In all seriousness, I have no idea what kind of schools DS will likely apply to, or what he’s likely to study. He doesn’t either. He’s sort of all over the place in terms of his interests right now. The other day, he was talking about doubling up on math classes next year to get back onto the calculus track (which I know is an option at his school), but I think the jury is still out as to whether he is a disciplined enough math student to do that successfully. He might be, but he might not be. He really likes Bio this year, but he also really likes Social Studies. He likes engineering-type projects (and even won a prize in that area last year in 8th grade), but he also loves policy-making, and somehow figured out a way to get himself onto the “School Council” this year as a freshman (which is the board, largely made up of adults, that sets policies and goals for the High School). So maybe he’ll want to major in some sort of engineering, but maybe he’ll want to major in government instead. I really have no idea what direction he will go in, which makes it hard to think about what kind of college might suit him best.

  35. “There’s no particular push to actually follow it.”

    Not quite the case at my kids’ school. A big focus of that exercise in 8th grade is to make sure they don’t lock themselves out of options by the choices they make for freshman year.

  36. “I have no idea what kind of schools DS will likely apply to, or what he’s likely to study. He doesn’t either. He’s sort of all over the place in terms of his interests right now.”

    In which case you probably want to keep as many doors open as possible. So along those lines, I suggest he prepare to take at least one of the SAT subject tests for biology at the end of this school year.

    Preparing for and taking the test may also provide him with some direction.

  37. “You or your DS haven’t yet mapped out all the classes he will take in HS yet? And he’s already in HS?”

    Um…no. No we haven’t.

    All I know in this regard is that he isn’t on the calculus track.

    I will now go hang my head in Totebag shame.

    NoB, my kids have no idea they are going to take next year aside from a couple of classes (and they are a junior and sophomore). So I’m right there with you in the corner.

    But doing so makes them think about college entry and application requirements, e.g., how many years of lab science or foreign language are required by which schools.

    Unless you think they will really have a shot at a HSS (and the interest in going to one), as long as they take the basic group of core courses (4 years of math and English, 3 years of science and social studies/history, 2 years of a foreign language) they’ll be fine.

  38. Different states have different graduation requirements, so the HS classes in schools are geared towards those graduation requirements. If you go to a private school here, there are no state tests at the end of the year, so no teaching towards those tests. The only standardized tests you would prep for are PSAT/SAT/ACT (most take SAT) and AP exams if necessary. I learnt that the public schools here don’t require their students to take AP exams, if in AP classes. Same with IB.

  39. “I will now go hang my head in Totebag shame.”

    NOB, I join you in the corner and second DD’s comment. None of my kids took a single SAT subject test. Even the kid who could have gotten into an HSS, but to do so, he would have, you know, had to take an SAT subject test, and that would be a pain.

    I actually have a son who Had to Take Calculus in College (the shame!!). And he graduated in four years and has no student debt and a job with a future at a company where hiring is extremely competitive.

    There’s hope, my friends. There really is.

  40. I just learned something interesting this morning. Evidently most college business majors require calculus. Granted, it is usually a calculus course offered within the business school, so it may not have the same rigor as engineering or physics calculus, but still…. I always had the stereotype that business majors, outside of finance and accounting, were totally mathematics-averse.
    This factoid actually came from an online blog discussion on whether business programs should require programming courses.

  41. HFN, most engineering programs are structured with the expectation that students will be taking calculus in college. I don’t think it is that unusual to take your calculus in college. At the school where my kid is going, most of the CS majors take calculus their freshman year, which means they have to then take their physics requirement as sophomores, since calculus is a prereq for physics.

  42. MM, I agree with you, and that has played out in my kids’ experience. But one would not get that impression here, where being on the calculus track in 7th axe is so important. so I wanted to throw some encouragement NOB’s way. Frankly, her kid sounds like the total package. He could do engineering, or maybe politics, that’s not a common combo.

  43. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/10/25/michigan-state-study-job-outlook-bright-college-graduates/1762231002/?elqTrackId=47c2c3eeaaf04cb59259fcd321b23d93&elq=f16a019f7bcf40d08e6f9b6b4bcfc82f&elqaid=21146&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=10052

    The job outlook for college graduates is roaring, with its highest level of optimism in the labor market since the late 1990s, according to findings of the nation’s largest survey of employers, released Thursday.

    Conducted by Michigan State University, the survey, Recruiting Trends, showed expanding opportunities in the job market for the ninth consecutive year.

    “We’ve never witnessed such a stretch in the 48 years of this report,” said Phil Gardner, survey author and director of MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. “The good news is the pace of growth has slowed down so we can sustain it.”

    Growth is strongest, according to the report, in construction; professional, business and scientific services; real estate and leasing; transportation; retail trade; educational services; and health services. It’s weakest in manufacturing and wholesale trade.

  44. RMS,

    It makes me feel bad for the kids who graduated 10 years ago. The data says they will never really recover in terms of career and earnings. I heard of an example where a brother who graduated in 2009 was able to get a job as an insurance adjuster. The one who graduated last year got a job as an insurance underwriter. It’s a whole different career path with a large salary gap and it all comes down to how the economy is doing 22 years after you were born.

  45. This. I graduated 6 months before my BF, now DH. The economy was starting to tank in the region right as I was graduating, and so 6 months later DH had a heck of a time finding a job. He was lucky to have found something, most of his friends ended up going to grad school because they had no offers.

  46. @Finn – No, we are in Chicago, but the set up in similar. A few very good selective enrollment (aka test-in schools), some which have a 7-8th grade program as well as 9-12. He would be applying to the 7th grade program this time next year for the following year. It seems like the scoring is different from NYC though as it is equally balanced between the entrance exam, grades (unweighted) and another standardized test (NWEA MAP). Also, the competition is between people in your own socioeconomic tier as determined by your address/census tract.

    “So they don’t get in over their head?”

    Not so much – I believe he is 100% capable of doing the work. Because I’d prefer for him to spend the summer playing baseball with his friends rather than sitting in a classroom drilling for 8 different types of standardized tests if he doesn’t really need the practice. It’s not really about the $$. (the class is affordable enough – this isn’t a 4-figure tutoring situation) I believe the classes will only help him with taking tests, not with actually learning/schoolwork.

    “Evidently most college business majors require calculus.”

    Yes, I believe that is true. Also stats. General business majors usually have to take Managerial Economics or some other similar class that requires calculus based-modeling. I think Calc was a prerequisite for my Financial Markets class too. (I was an Econ major, but the first course sequence was pretty similar to those with a “Management” concentration.) At smaller LAS, I believe that the social science departments tend to teach their own stats, but not necessarily their own calc. The math department may have 2 calc tracks – for non-majors and for majors though.

    When I was in HS, I pretty much knew which classes I was going to take throughout except for electives, but there weren’t many options. There was a college prep track that was pretty clear – not multiple versions of AP vs. non-AP vs. Honors.

  47. It is the rare 15-year old who has discerned his likely college major, and even rarer are those who know at that age what kind of work they want to do, because they have no way of knowing the astounding diversity of occupational paths in the world. The Calculus Track can be a useful objective metric, but failing to get on the ramp before 8th grade does not have lifetime consequences.

  48. I believe he is 100% capable of doing the work.

    There is an ocean between capable of and actually doing.

  49. I graduated into a terrible recession, and like everyone else I knew, ended up going to grad school. I guess it hurt me because I lost earnings during those grad school years, but I wouldn’t have given it up for anything.

  50. “Frankly, her kid sounds like the total package.”

    +1. IMO “somehow figured out a way to get himself onto the ‘School Council’ this year as a freshman” = “will do just fine in life.”

    I am reminded of my SIL, who was complaining about her son (then maybe 10), in the “he’s just so lazy” way. Her anecdote: he and a friend decided to create and sell some comic strips, and he somehow persuaded his friend to do ALL THE WORK on the strips, which took days and weeks; then he spent a couple hours selling them to friends and got half the profit. All I could say was “that’s effing brilliant — you do realize he’s going to rule the world, right?” I mean, that’s Business 101 right there, and that kid had it from day 1.

  51. Anecdotally I’ve seen recent college graduates happily changing jobs with new opportunities. It certainly seems like a change from even a year ago.

  52. “IMO “somehow figured out a way to get himself onto the ‘School Council’ this year as a freshman” = “will do just fine in life.””

    Totally.

  53. “Because I’d prefer for him to spend the summer playing baseball with his friends rather than sitting in a classroom drilling for 8 different types of standardized tests if he doesn’t really need the practice.”

    I don’t think that 16 hours spread over the summer will preclude him from playing baseball with his friends.

    “I believe the classes will only help him with taking tests, not with actually learning/schoolwork.”

    Test taking skills will serve him well, at least through his college days. And a good test taking class that helps him understand the rationale for the test taking techniques could be invaluable in helping him learn how to approach any problems he has to solve.

  54. “It is the rare 15-year old who has discerned his likely college major, and even rarer are those who know at that age what kind of work they want to do”

    Tying back to a recent discussion on signs of impending dementia, I’ll repeat a story I’ve shared here before.

    The summer after his freshman year in HS, DS took Chem Honors in summer school, and twice a week they went from 8 to 3. During the lunch break on one of those days, the kids discussed their future plans, and all but 2 of the kids were planning to go to med school, and some had planned specialties. Of the remaining 2, one planned to be an engineer (his parents are both engineers, and last I heard he’s still in the CoE).

  55. “most engineering programs are structured with the expectation that students will be taking calculus in college. I don’t think it is that unusual to take your calculus in college. At the school where my kid is going, most of the CS majors take calculus their freshman year, which means they have to then take their physics requirement as sophomores, since calculus is a prereq for physics.”

    BITD, the standard engineering curriculum had us taking differential calculus our first semester, and not starting physics until the 2nd semester, making it possible for someone who hadn’t taken any calculus in HS to graduate in 4 years.

  56. On German universities – they sound a lot like what I went through for my undergrad in Eastern Europe. Then I did a masters in the US. The final exam only format is terrible in my opinion. You have 4-6 weeks to cram for 6 classes. You end up memorizing a lot and not really understanding much. I had a 4.0 GPA in the best university in my country out of undergrad and I was pretty unprepared. My masters in the US was totally different. Professors liked interaction, there were consistent assignments and I learned gradually, this able to really understand and apply the material in my future job. Completely different approach.

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