Tag: college admissions

Johns Hopkins Gets Even More Competitive

Photo via the Hopkins Hub
Photo via the Hopkins Hub

There was a time not so long ago when Johns Hopkins was widely considered a place where you might want to go to grad school, but not necessarily undergrad, because it had a reputation of favoring its high-level researchers over its lowly freshmen. But those days are long over, and Hopkins has been increasingly popular with high school seniors in recent years… this year in particular. Regular decision applications to the Class of 2018 were up 16.2 percent over the year before, making this the eleventh year in a row that Hopkins has had a record-breaking number of applicants.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “A 16 percent increase sure does sound like a lot, but maybe that’s just a symptom of kids applying to more schools, or of population growth, or something like that.” Nope: Harvard has been seeing its application numbers decline by 1 or 2 percent in recent years; Princeton saw its applicant numbers remain essentially the same; and the current high school population is actually starting to decline slightly.

Congratulations! Nevermind! Goucher Accidentally Accepts 60 Rejected Students


rejected and accepted stamps

Several dozen high school students had a very good day turn very bad this week, when Goucher College announced that 60 of its “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted!” emails were sent in error.

Friends School Head Weighs in on AP Classes in Letter to The Sun


The Baltimore Sun has published today on its website a letter to the editor from the head of Friends School of Baltimore, Matthew Micciche. In it he responds to The Sun’s story on the value of AP courses in high school. Micciche gives the reasons Friends does not offer AP courses and why the private Quaker school has no intention of doing so. – The Eds.

I read The Sun’s investigative report on Advanced Placement courses (“Some parents, educators are rethinking role of AP,” Jan. 18) with great interest, in part because our school, on principle, has never offered AP classes. Our rationale is simple: We believe the AP program and its heavy weighting toward the memorization and recitation of facts inhibits the development of critical thinking skills and deeper conceptual understanding.

It is heartening to see that the College Board has begun to acknowledge and address this significant pedagogical shortcoming. In a 2011 New York Times article, Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president, said “the new AP needs to be anchored in a curriculum that focuses on what students need to be able to do with their knowledge.” We concur wholeheartedly with this assessment and have acted on this conviction by continually adapting and evolving our curriculum to develop students who are highly engaged creators of their own understanding, rather than passive recipients of a static body of knowledge.

As reporter Liz Bowie noted in the article, over the past decade a growing number of highly regarded public and private high schools have made the decision to drop AP from their curriculum for precisely these reasons. (Anecdotally, I can tell you that when colleagues at other schools learn that we have never offered AP, they often express the wish that this were the case at their own schools.)

One Baltimore Principal Saw Her Students Getting Over-Stressed. So She Took Dramatic Action



It’s no secret that today’s high school students are under massive amounts of pressure to perform. While everyone agrees that stress levels are awful — and that they contribute to things like cheating and other bad behavior — no one seems to be able to agree on what we should do about it. Faced with an increasingly anxious student body, one Baltimore County principal decided to take matters into her own hands.

John is on the Grid


More from our writer, Elizabeth Frederick, who takes us on her third journey through the college application process in her column Getting In. This time she chronicles the experience with her son, a sophomore at a local all-boys school. Names have been changed to prevent her kids from killing her protect her children’s privacy. -The Eds.

Our high school sophomore son, John, is officially on the college admissions grid.  He has taken his first set of PSATs, and has a score report to compare with all other 10th graders in the country who have taken the PSAT.  In addition to being a predictor of SAT performance, a tool for rising juniors who will be thinking more seriously about college admissions, the PSAT is combined with the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  The NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) offers scholarship programs for qualifying juniors in the very top percentiles.

How Smart Do You Have to Be to Get in To Johns Hopkins These Days?



It’s that time of year again, when anxious students nationwide start to hear back from colleges — at least the ones they applied early to. Looking at these stats about the 526 students who were accepted for early admission to Johns’ Hopkins Class of 2018, all I can say is I’m impressed–and I’m sure glad I don’t have to apply to college again.

Give Yourself an Early Holiday Present: Make Your Teachers and Counselors Your Best Advocates


student at christmas

Some consider teacher and counselor recommendations to be the icing on the cake of a stellar college application, but they serve an integral role in the college application process.

Most understand that the strongest recommendations don’t succumb to platitudes like, “Johnny is a great, hardworking student,” or “Sarah always goes the extra mile in class,” but use anecdotes and examples to illustrate a student’s unique brand of excellence.

The best recommendations, however, also accomplish even more, like corroborating the writing ability in Johnny’s essays or explaining the extenuating circumstances that had an impact on Sarah’s grades.  Recommendations provide context to the many intangible aspects of a college application.

On the Common Application’s recommendation form, for example, teachers are required to rate each student according to 15 qualities that don’t necessarily factor into a student’s GPA (see below).  In my opinion,


it’s no coincidence that academic achievement, intellectual promise, quality of writing, creative thought, and productive class discussion feature at the top of the list.  After all, what college professor wouldn’t want a class full of students who excel in those five categories?

College counselors, on the other hand, fill out a form called the Secondary School Report in which, among other things, they rate the level of challenge of a student’s course selection.  Colleges take this evaluation very seriously: it helps them measure the quality of an applicant’s GPA.  All else being equal, a class schedule filled with honors and AP classes will always trump one without in the admissions process.

Is the Ivy League Out of Reach for Most Baltimore Students?




Last year, Baltimore Fishbowl writer Rachel Monroe reported on the parental angst incited by the low acceptance rates of Baltimore students at elite colleges.  Since then, not much has changed: acceptance rates remain relatively low at area high schools while  New England’s best prep schools still send students by the dozens to top colleges.  Why is this so?  Myths abound claiming either children of billionaires or impoverished students who have overcome impossible circumstances have the advantage, but, in truth, these applicants remain the exception.

Well, what’s the difference?  Do the most competitive colleges have a prejudice against Baltimore?  Not at all.  The difference lies in a simple reality: Baltimore is situated in one of the most competitive geographic regions in the nation.  Colleges first evaluate applicants on a regional basis, and the vast majority of admissions offices group Baltimore with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Savvy D.C. parents—like those in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston—understand the level of competition and realize that, in college admissions, doing well at a good school is only half the battle.  That’s why those aforementioned markets are saturated with excellent SAT tutors, subject tutors, and private admissions consultants.

In this respect, Baltimore lags behind.  Indeed, many Baltimore parents might balk at the rates that the best SAT tutors and private college counselors charge in hyper-competitive markets.  But in New York, $150 an hour for a private SAT tutor is considered on the low end.  Similarly, private counselors offer packages that range from $4,000 to $15,000.  That might sound pricey, too, but these counselors get results.  The best test prep consultants help students achieve an average 300-350 point increase on the SAT, which can make a significant difference in an applicant’s chances for admission.

Proof of a Happy Childhood


Happy child with red paper heart. Image shot 03/2012. Exact date unknown.

How is it over?  I don’t think I looked away, but somehow I didn’t see it happening right now.  Her childhood is over.  Grace has grown up.  And Monday, she leaves.  I am stunned by the truth I have always known, and at this minute it is raw, and painful.  I will miss my little girl.

I spent the evening putting together a collage of Grace’s childhood – proof for her future roommates that it was a happy one, and that she comes from a loving family.  I dug through boxes of old photos – remember when we had boxes and envelopes of photos?  Duplicates of everything so we could send them to grandparents?  Well, all the old photos are in the basement, in dusty under-the-bed storage containers.  I sat on the floor, sifting through the years, staggered by the speed of life.

There are almost two decades of sheer beauty in there.  A life time, our life times.  Birthday parties with homemade Barbie cakes, pony rides, Halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, so many summers at the beach and lake, years when she lived in dress ups.  Pictures of family trips, and of the everyday – baking cookies with big-girl aprons and baker’s hats, and flour all over the kitchen.  How is that all in our past?

Notice to Waitlisted College Students: Don’t Be a Psycho


Our dear Baltimore Fishbowl readers are an eminently sane, eminently reasonable group. But the college admissions process can turn even the most level-headed person into a maniac, so we thought we’d offer up this word of advice just in case:  If you (or your child) is wait-listed at your college of choice, you want to make sure the school knows you’re interested. But you definitely don’t want to do anything that will make the admissions team describe you as crazy to the New York Times.