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How My Marijuana Arrest Impacted My Admissions Journey

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I am someone who always knew I wanted to go away to college, even from a young age. I liked the idea of leaving home, living in a dorm and even eating in the cafeteria. With three older siblings who went to college before me, I saw firsthand the independence they had when they left home, and how happy they seemed on campus. Even when they came home to visit, they were different in a good way. I liked everything about their new outlook after they headed to college, and I definitely expected I would follow in their footsteps.


So I was really excited when I got accepted to my dream school in Chicago, far from my home in North Carolina, but one that was my first choice for a lot of reasons. It had my major, the classes were the right size, I liked that they had a great basketball following and I felt really at home when I visited the campus. I also got some merit scholarships there because I had always been a straight A student and I had a 33 ACT score.

I headed to Chicago in the fall of 2016 and moved into the dorm with a roommate who I’d met on the online admitted students group. He and I got along really well right from the beginning, and our schedules were similar as well (important!) so we got up and went to bed around the same time every day. I liked my classes and my grades were good. Basically, everything was going really well.

When I got back to campus after winter break my freshman year, I went to a small party in someone’s dorm room on campus. There were some kids drinking beer there and some other people smoking pot. I was one of the kids smoking weed near the window of the room. About an hour after the party started, the RA knocked on the door, and we were all busted. Long story short, I had a first infraction on my record, and the school was taking it pretty seriously. I didn’t get kicked out, but I knew I’d have to stay in line with all of the school’s policies if I wanted to stay there (and I did want to stay!)

Continuing My Bad Decisions

Fast forward to a few months later, when I was headed to an off-campus party with some friends at the end of the spring semester. It was a BYOB party and since it was off campus, we didn’t think much of the fact that we picked up some beer and pot on the way there, which we shared with people at the off-campus party. The problem was that when we returned to campus a few hours later, my friend was still holding a cooler that had some beer in it and I still had some weed in my pocket. Just before we walked into my dorm, a security guard came over and asked my friend what was in the cooler. I was asked if I had anything on me and just came clean with the bag of pot in my pocket. I didn’t want to say “nothing” and then get caught during a search.

The amount of pot I was caught with this second time was such that the school thought police should be involved, and at that point, the court became involved as well. Since I was pretty much done with freshman year at that point, I didn’t lose any credits, but I was asked not to return to the university at that point. In other words, I was kicked out. Considering that I had gotten straight A grades while I was there, it was incredibly stupid that I had to leave due to something that was completely in my control, and obviously I have a ton of regrets.

Moving Home

I went back to North Carolina incredibly embarrassed about what happened. My parents weren’t happy and neither was I. I had no one to blame but myself for these stupid issues but I was mad at the world in some ways. My parents reminded me that sending me to my dream school created sacrifices for the whole family, and that I blew it. For the first month or so, I dealt with the legal aspects of my court case back in Illinois (which was much more involved than you’d expect). Without getting into too much detail, I had to spend the next year doing a series of things on a list to get the charges off my record, while also working full time at a local oil change place. I paid many big fines and fees (in the thousands) which essentially wiped out the amount of money I made working during my year at home. Eventually my record was clean and I could go back to college, but this time there were conditions.

My parents wanted me to stay in state, which I understood. Not only would it save them money, but they didn’t want me too far away for other reasons also. However, just because my record was clean didn’t mean I could keep the charges a secret when I applied to college the second time around. My previous college record said why I had to leave the school, and some of the colleges where I was applying to transfer asked if I’d ever been “arrested” — not if I had a record. So with the help of a local college admissions counselor, I wrote a letter explaining what happened, what I learned from it and how I spent my year away from college. I was sincere when I said I did a lot of stupid things during my first stint at college and I don’t want to repeat them (because it’s true).

I was accepted at four of the seven schools where I applied, but I have decided to go to UNC Greensboro as a transfer student because I liked the size and feel of the campus, as well as the opportunities in my major. I am very grateful that this school put the trust in me and believes that I can do better this time around, and I firmly believe I will.

If I have any advice for upcoming college students, it would be to take college more seriously than I did. I’m someone who worked incredibly hard on my grades and then messed up with something so stupid that I still can’t believe it happened. If you think something like this can’t happen to you, maybe you’re right. But if you’re not, it’s a really big price to pay.

About the writer: Alex Taylor is not the writer’s real name, but is a pseudonym he chose to protect his identity. He plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro this fall as a transfer student.

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By: Alex Taylor
Title: How My Marijuana Arrest Impacted My Admissions Journey
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/how-my-marijuana-arrest-impacted-my-admissions-journey
Published Date: Thu, 07 May 2020 15:31:51 +0000

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Will Your College Open This Fall?

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It’s the middle of April. While there may be an isolated exception or two, colleges are now finishing up their spring semesters/terms using online technology. Students are allegedly following hastily revised course outlines from the privacy and comfort of their homes. Granted, some students do not have the resources to do this, since they lack access to the internet or even physical computers at home, but colleges have made wide-ranging efforts to see that as many students as possible can participate in distance learning.


Grading, in most cases, has moved to the pass/fail mode (more gently referred to as “pass/not pass”) and some professors have even suggested simply ending classes and giving everyone an A! I’ve written about this extreme approach before.

If you’ve been following the news this past week or so, the main topic, other than COVID-19 rates, has centered on “reopening” the economy and what it may take to get back to normal in America. I don’t think things will ever be completely “normal” again, but that’s a subject for another article or two. What is directly related to reopening is the issue of fall semester 2020 for colleges across the land.

On-Campus Classes in Question

What got me thinking about this question is an interesting article: Universities Begin Considering Canceling In-Person Classes Until 2021, which begins with, “A number of universities are beginning to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021.”

This is dramatic news and, in my view, portends more than just a delayed start to the new academic year (more about that later). Here are a few highlights from The Epoch Times coverage:

Boston University (BU) has already canceled all “in-person summer activities” on its primary campus. But the school’s … recovery plan includes protocols should officials deem it not safe to return in-person for the fall semester. If so, classes would continue to be held remotely through the fall semester.

“The Recovery Plan recognizes that if, in the unlikely event that public health officials deem it unsafe to open in the fall of 2020, then the University’s contingency plan envisions the need to consider a later in-person return, perhaps in January 2021,” the university said in an online statement.

The school will “offer remote learning courses this summer,” and it plans to “continue providing the minimal housing and dining services that are currently available.”

President Robert A. Brown sounded hopeful that Boston University would allow students to return in the fall — a “best-case scenario” — and until then would focus its efforts on finding “the best and safest way” to do that. Jean Morrison, the provost and the chief academic officer, told NBC10 Boston that while suspending the fall semester is a possibility, it’s not the one they’re aiming for. “We’re focusing our planning on a fall return to campus,” she said.

The news underscores just how upending the coronavirus has been to the reliable beats of higher education, where schools are facing once-unimaginable changes to their ways of life

Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, noted last week, “One of the issues is that at some point decisions will have to be made and there will still be a tremendous amount of uncertainty with regard to the virus.” Part of the uncertainty centers around what some experts are predicting as an autumn resurgence of COVID-19 infections, for both previously uninfected individuals and those deemed to have been “recovered” from infection.

Other schools questioning a fall restart include Oregon State (OSU):

As for the fall semester, OSU spokesman Steve Clark told The Oregonian, “Only the novel coronavirus will determine what happens. We can hope for a full return in fall 2020, but hope is not a strategy. So that is why we are going to prepare as best we can for every possible contingency.”

Well said. Hope is definitely not a strategy. The University of Arizona is banking on optimism:

“We are cautiously optimistic that the fall semester will be able to launch with the normal face-to-face campus experience, but of course we will prioritize the health and well-being of our community in making that decision,” the university said in a statement to the Arizona Daily Star.

Intermittent Closings, Reopenings a Possibility

Other experts proffer that things could get even more chaotic. According to Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

“I think colleges should all definitely make plans for delaying start dates and for intermittent closings and reopenings because epidemiology modeling suggests we may have to go into open and close waves until potentially even 2022,” he said.

Researchers from the Chan school said Tuesday [April 14] that the United States may have to endure social distancing measures, such as stay-at-home orders and school closures, until 2022

That’s a grim outlook, although the first quarter of 2020 has already shown that some expert predictions, especially “models,” have been grossly inaccurate and excessively doom-oriented. Colleges, no doubt, are hoping that this is the case here, where such sensational phrases as “school closures until 2022” appear in print.

This unprecedented situation involves much more than just delays of person-to-person classroom time. It cuts straight to the core of the entire higher education enterprise: students. One long article that addresses a reality obscured by high-profile health-related COVID-19 headlines warns that ‘We’re on the edge of the precipice’: How the pandemic could shatter college dreams. “Some high school seniors are dropping their first-choice schools in favor of colleges that are cheaper. Others are taking a year off so they can help bail out their families. The pandemic and the nation’s brutal economic collapse are combining to crush the college hopes of low-income and first-generation students.”

In a past article, well before the emergence of virus-induced disruption, I noted that a “sea change” could spread across higher education. I believe the term “precipice” is a harbinger of that change. From the article:

Some high school seniors are dropping their first-choice schools in favor of colleges that are cheaper and closer to home, early surveys have found. Others are thinking about going part-time, or taking a gap year so they can work and bail out families whose breadwinners are suddenly out of work. Those who work with low-income students worry freshmen from poor families who were sent home this semester may never return and high school seniors won’t get the hands-on help they need with their financial aid applications

“We’re on the edge of the precipice,” said Bridgette Davis, a researcher and doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago who is studying 31 low-income students navigating their first year of college. Many have told Davis they are now less confident that they will successfully finish their current college semester, let alone re-enroll in the fall.”

… [Financial] Difficulties could hit millions of students — about 6.8 million low-income college students received Pell Grants in 2018-19, according to The College Board. Pell Grants, unlike loans, don’t have to be repaid and are aimed at people with the greatest financial need. The maximum is $6,345 for the 2020-21 year.

Early national surveys of high school seniors are showing those who initially were bound for four-year colleges changing their first-choice schools for something less expensive. Some of those surveyed say they are thinking of giving up on going to college in the fall entirely.” …

Tamara Hiler, Third Way education director: “We know already that there are these education deserts,” she said. “Given the risk of the financial instability that is likely going to lead to additional school closures in the coming year or in the coming years, I’m concerned that there’s going to be even fewer options for low-income students when it comes to making a postsecondary choice.”

The sea change, as I see it, is already in progress. COVID-19 has caused a high tide, if not a tsunami, of financial consequences for both colleges and economically disadvantaged students and families. How higher educational institutions will deal with this remains to be seen. As financial resources (alumni giving, endowments, financial aid reserves, tuition, etc.) dwindle and an economic downturn (some say depression) diminishes certain schools’ enrollment numbers, colleges are going to have to make significant changes to stay pertinent and solvent.

The Ivies and other so-called “elites” will always be able to fill their dorms, but smaller, less financially stable institutions will suffer. My title’s question might be better stated as, “Will your college open this fall … or still be in business?”

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By: Dave Berry
Title: Will Your College Open This Fall?
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/will-your-college-open-this-fall
Published Date: Wed, 15 Apr 2020 19:47:52 +0000

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New Study Reveals 1,000 Students’ Opinions on Returning to College

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The decisions that college students and university administrators have to make about returning to campus this fall are rooted in complicated feelings about online education, COVID-19 and cost, among other issues. But many students aren’t confident that their classmates will follow the appropriate social distancing and mask-wearing protocols required to keep everyone safe, a new report reveals.


The study from Real Estate Witch (REW) includes “new research … on how 1,000 students feel about going back to school and how 100 US universities are handling the COVID-19 pandemic,” REW says. When I initially saw the study, I was intrigued by the combined keywords “students,” “universities” and “COVID-19,” all of which occupy a place of honor in my column’s wheelhouse these days, so I dug deeper.

What I found was, essentially, a comprehensive snapshot of student attitudes about what’s happening right now, on the cusp of the 2020-2021 academic year. The study found that 72 percent of college students want to return to campus this fall, but 86 percent are concerned about their health as a result of going back to school.

This has led many students to consider online classes, but 81 percent believe in-person classes provide a better education than online courses. As a result, 90 percent think online courses should cost less than in-person classes. Just three percent of the college administrators surveyed, however, say their colleges plan to reduce tuition this fall. No wonder students are distressed.

Students Worry About Quality of Online Classes

One of the first things I do when scanning a study is to check the methodology to get some perspective on how the numbers were generated and where they came from. This is how REW did it:

We surveyed 1,000 undergraduate students in the U.S. who were enrolled in college courses during the spring/summer 2020 semesters and have enrolled for the fall 2020 semester using an online survey platform between July 23 and 26, 2020.

University data were collected by searching 100 randomly selected university sites. The colleges were all four-year establishments, split evenly between public and private and split evenly among the four major Census regions in the United States (West, Midwest, Northeast and South). These data were collected between July 23 and 28, 2020.

You can view the numerical study results here and the university data here.

Here are the main areas covered:

  • Students Are Stuck in Rental Agreements
  • Students Are Missing Out on Resume-Building Opportunities
  • Students Struggle to Keep or Find Jobs to Pay for School
  • Parents Are Losing Their Jobs, Impacting Students’ Finances
  • Job Losses Lead to Steep Increase in Debt
  • Students Are Worried About Online Education Quality
  • Students Are Unsure Colleges Can Ensure Student Health
  • Students Trust Themselves, Not Peers, to Socially Distance

I’ll highlight portions of only the last three areas, so if you’re interested in finding out what a thousand students think about all of this, please read the entire report.

As more and more colleges — that as recently as June touted their in-person teaching plans for Fall semester — shift to online classes (Goucher College is a good example), students and their families are becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of their education, and those attitudes are reflected in the REW study:

In order to afford continued education, colleges are making significant changes to their campuses, classrooms and course formats come fall. Although nearly 30 percent of college students enrolled in at least one online course each semester before COVID-19, students are wary of shifting to all or mostly online courses …

… Only 34 percent of students said they’re moderately or extremely confident that their college can provide the same quality of education as they had in previous years. Part of that lack of confidence stems from their beliefs about online courses: 74 percent think online courses are more difficult and provide a subpar education (81 percent) compared to in-person courses.

Nearly 90 percent of students agreed that online courses should cost less than traditional, in-person classes. But our investigation into 100 colleges across the US indicated very few (about three percent) plan to reduce tuition in the fall despite the fact that most are introducing more online and hybrid courses to their catalogs.

Contrary to students’ desires, more colleges (four percent) are planning to increase tuition this year as a result of COVID-19 than are planning to decrease

That last sentence will cause some severe heartburn for those affected. Speaking of health issues, student concerns are critical:

31 percent of students said they’re extremely concerned about their health as a result of going back to school, while only about 14 percent said they weren’t concerned at all.

Health concerns have students questioning whether they should return to school: 39 percent said they only want to return if their college plans to take precautionary measures, while 28 percent said they want to only take online courses in lieu of returning to campus

Beyond limiting time in the classroom, colleges are also taking additional measures to ensure students aren’t inadvertently spreading the virus:

  • 78 percent of colleges mentioned required mask-wearing on campus
  • 33 percent said students will be required to be tested before entering campus and/or regularly throughout the year
  • 29 percent have required symptom checks/monitoring to enter campus
  • 19 percent are participating in contact tracing
  • 9 percent are requiring students to quarantine before returning to campus or if they test positive.
  • Other common measures include additional cleaning, social distancing throughout campus and in classrooms, and take-out food only (i.e., closed cafeterias for in-person dining)

Despite these precautionary plans, 17 percent of students aren’t confident at all in their colleges’ ability to enforce the measures, and 12 percent said they’re not at all confident that their university will take responsibility for ensuring student safety

Students are just about as confident in their peers’ willingness to participate in social distancing measures as they are in their college’s ability to enforce them.

About 18 percent said they’re not confident at all in other students’ participation in social distancing and mask-wearing measures on campus — only 17 percent were extremely confident.

In contrast, the students we surveyed are confident in their own compliance: 44 percent reported they’re extremely likely to avoid social gatherings if campus resumes in-person classes

These are important insights, in my view. The big-picture takeaway, at least from this study’s sampling, should be that students are seriously concerned about the quality and cost of online classes, although their specific resentment of hiked tuition was left unqueried. Most importantly, they’re quite anxious about their health in on-campus situations. Their lack of confidence about classmates’ safety practices is not reassuring.

Obviously, colleges have been thrown a huge curveball for 2020, but students and their families have been thrown a bigger one because of the financial (value) implications of all this. My past higher education “sea change” prediction is now in full bloom, and all it took to start the devolution was a 125-nanometer-sized particle called COVID-19.

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By: Dave Berry
Title: New Study Reveals 1,000 Students’ Opinions on Returning to College
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/new-study-reveals-1-000-students-opinions-on-returning-to-college
Published Date: Thu, 06 Aug 2020 13:23:10 +0000

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New Tool Helps Simplify Merit Aid Search

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When it comes to paying for college, most families are looking for as much financial assistance as possible, but it can be challenging to determine which schools are more likely to offer merit aid. Thanks to a new free tool, that may be easier for students and their parents to investigate.


Neeta Vallab founded MeritMore after going through the admissions process with her own daughter. “Everywhere we looked, we heard ‘Don’t worry about the sticker price, most families don’t pay that,’ but when we realized we wouldn’t qualify for need-based aid, it started looking like we might have to pay the full sticker price, which was daunting” she said.

Then she discovered the option of attending a college that offers merit aid, which consists of funds that colleges disburse at their own discretion to attract students who are high performers, have particular talents, or meet other institutional needs that the college may be seeking. “Merit aid includes about $8 billion to $10 billion that colleges use to attract the type of students they want,” Vallab said. “This is a bigger pool than private scholarships, and the money doesn’t have to be paid back.”

In addition, she adds, merit aid is typically renewable, so students can usually get it for all four years of college if they meet the guidelines, which may include requirements like maintaining a particular GPA. “In this way, merit aid is also better than private scholarships, which are generally one-shot awards,” Vallab notes. “There are exceptions of course, but those tend to be rare.”

The problem, she found, was that the process of finding a school where her daughter’s stats might qualify her for merit aid was cumbersome. “I sat in on a workshop where someone showed us a process of which schools are likely to offer your child merit aid and there were eight steps involved, including creating a variety of spreadsheets. I’m a software engineer so inherently I wanted to simplify that. I built myself a quick tool that we could use and share with friends and family, which cut the steps down significantly.” That tool later became MeritMore, she said.

Enter Stats, Get Merit Estimates

To use the tool, students will visit the site and enter their unweighted GPA and SAT or ACT score, as well as the geographic area where they’d like to attend college. Then the platform automatically returns results showing which schools are likely to offer merit money, as well as the average amount. The photo below shows the results that were returned after plugging in an ACT score of 33 and an unweighted GPA of 3.9, using the New England and Rocky Mountain regions as potential locations.

Merit scholarship search
MeritMore

She designed the tool using the formula that many schools utilize when calculating merit aid, which typically involves offering merit money to students whose stats are in the top quartile of applicants. “The whole idea is to guide parents to better financial fit decision,” she said.

College is one of the most expensive investments you make in a lifetime outside of buying your home,” she said. “So I thought about incorporating some of the tools you’d find on the better real estate search sites so users of MeritMore can slice and dice the data to find those financial fit gems.”

Site Also Offers Real-World Data

In addition to using institutional data, MeritMore offers a separate tool where families can compare the aid they are offered with those of other families. “So far, we have about 2,000 records of actual offer data and that’s all free to access and is based on what parents enter,” Vallab says. Students and their families can compare their expected family contribution and stats to other students who have similar numbers and see what offers they received. “We’re trying to bring more transparency to the black box of how aid is disbursed by colleges,” Vallab said.

In addition, MeritMore offers a third free tool that helps families stay on top of all the tasks and deadlines required during the admissions process. “We have an application task manager and on one screen it has all the tasks and deadlines for all the schools you enter,” Vallab notes. “You can remove or add tasks and it tracks everything as you complete it and gives you a status of how far along you are.”

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By: Torrey Kim
Title: New Tool Helps Simplify Merit Aid Search
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/new-tool-helps-simplify-merit-aid-search
Published Date: Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:10:47 +0000

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