Degrees via Coursera? Yes!!!

Any student who works with me knows that I love Coursera and edX. I love the content on both platforms, and I love that it is FREE. I encourage high school students to sign up for classes on both sites; it’s an excellent way to learn more about a specific school and what classes/faculty are like there, as well as take a deeper dive into potential fields of study/majors.

Given my love of MOOCs, I was excited to read about some big news today from Coursera:  it’s championing degree programs!!!

Read the full article on Inside Higher Ed here, and some highlights below:

If you dig through the ancient (circa 2011) archives of everything written about the high-octane brand of massive open online courses, you actually won’t find the founders of Coursera doubting the value of traditional degrees or the colleges and universities that created them (unlike some of their peers — yes, you, Sebastian Thrun). That would have been foolhardy since Coursera worked closely with and depended on universities to produce the content that the technology platform spread far and wide.

But plenty of prognosticators, futurists and journalists who should have known better disparaged higher education by trumpeting Coursera and the other MOOC providers, saying that by making course material freely available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, the platforms heralded the beginning of the end of higher education’s stranglehold over credentialing and, in due time, the institutions themselves.

Coursera is linked closely enough to the deepening meme about the digital “disruption” of traditional higher education that the company’s pivot back to higher education — underscored by today’s announcement that it is more than doubling, to 10, the number of degree programs it is creating with university partners, including its first bachelor’s degree — may seem surprising.

The company has its hands in many parts of the learning landscape, working closely with companies that want to train their workers and continuing to provide individual learners with thousands of courses they can take freely (or at low cost if they want to prove they completed successfully).

But Coursera is now putting much of its energy into — and staking much of its future on — academic programs launched in conjunction with some of the world’s leading universities, with Arizona State University, Imperial College London and the Universities of London and Michigan joining its degree-program ranks today.

The company and its campus partners believe these new credentials can take advantage of the platform’s extensive reach of 31 million users to drive down the costs of recruiting students (and hence the tuitions they charge) and help the universities begin to slice their degree programs into shorter-term credentials.

“We are squarely betting on universities — and on the continued relevance, even dominance, of the degree as the master credential,” says Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera’s CEO since June.

At the same time, he says, the company and its university partners are focused on “redesigning the degree to make it extremely compelling to learners around the world, and a formidable answer to any emerging credentials that might challenge the degree.”

Coursera’s Soon-to-Be 10 Degree Programs

Current Programs

New Programs:

  • Bachelor of computer science, University of London
  • Master of applied data science, University of Michigan
  • Master of computer science, Arizona State University
  • Master of computer science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Master of public health, Imperial College London
  • Master of public health, University of Michigan

 

TUTORIAL: COMPLETING THE TESTING SECTION OF THE COMMON APPLICATION

 

Video number four just posted on filling out the Testing section of the Common Application. If you have specific questions as you watch it/fill out your Common App, feel free to shoot me an email or reach out via the link at the end of the video.

I also suggest joining our new Facebook group, Conquer the Common Application!!! We hope this group becomes a place where students, parents, and counselors can ask questions, share advice, and ultimately, get filling out the Common App right. Not everyone’s Testing section will look the same because not everyone takes the same tests or reports test scores at all, but it can be nice to see a sample. If you join the group, you can also access a PDF of a completed Testing section.

Please share this post with students or that helps students fill out the Common Application. Enjoy!

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Reflections on taking a gap year

New York Times readers who’ve taken a year off from their education, what many now call a gap year, were asked what they learned and what tips they have for those who are considering the same. Some of the responses included in this Education Life article were edited for length and clarity, and I’m posting some below. I do not think a gap year is right for everyone, but students who it is right for know how to conceptualize the time, outline their goals for it, plan it (for the most part) themselves, and have indicated a way to measure their success. Gap years are not years off. In fact, they are very much the opposite. Here’s what some gap-year-takers had to say about it:

By taking a gap year, you are making the brave decision to slow down. I deferred my admission to Claremont McKenna College for a year. I made a few plans, but ultimately left my gap year full of gaps. I worked as a salesperson. I took a class at a community college. I road-tripped with my best friend. The one thing I scheduled was a three-month-long trip to the South Pacific, a gift from my parents that I combined with some of the money I made in the fall.

For my gap year I lived with my parents and siblings. I worked a variety of jobs: for a land surveyor, nights at a convenience store and as an inventory checker. I hated them all, but they got me out of the house and put some money in my pocket. I felt lost. My friends were gone and I didn’t fit in with my family dynamic. The highlights of my months were my military service weekends. I made close connections with my fellow soldiers and looked forward to the challenges and camaraderie of our training time. Recognize that the gap year is a time of transition. When you feel alone and like your life is stuck while your friends are away on their own adventures, remember you are experiencing a challenge few accept. You will learn more about yourself during your gap year than most of your friends will learn during their first year of college. In addition, you’ll develop skills that will serve you in life: resilience, self-reliance, courage and patience. Your gap year will be the furnace that will temper your steely resolve to achieve when you arrive at college.

I decided a gap year would be the best choice for me because I felt exhausted after going through high school. Even though I come from a low-income family, there are programs like Global Citizen Year that provide scholarships for students of all backgrounds. (I paid $5,000 through outside scholarships and my own fund-raising.) Though there are many struggles at times with limited resources to take care of mental and physical health, the experience over all has been very meaningful. I am learning three languages here: French, Pulaar and Malinke. I even decided on what I want to study in college: linguistics. For work, I teach English at the local high school two days a week, and on the other days I work at my host family’s community garden. Since my host father works for the Peace Corps and Trees for the Future, I get to learn a lot about sustainability and foreign aid. Mostly, the trip is worthwhile because I got to meet my host family, who have guided me through Senegalese life as a Vietnamese kid who doesn’t know a lot about what he’s doing.

My experience with a gap year was not without its challenges. I went to northern Thailand, taught in a rural school and did community work with a monastery. The school, community and people were amazing. It was the other students in the gap year program that made it especially challenging. The majority of the people I was with picked Thailand so they could party. My weekends became party central, which was not what I signed up for. But all in all, I learned much more than I would in first-year university, about myself, rural education, public health and other cultures. I was forced out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, and it served me well in the long run. I recommend doing your research. I fell for the company with the great promotional videos and website, and I paid for that, and my experience wasn’t as great, as far as gap years go.

If you are considering a gap year, we can help walk you through planning considerations. Feel free to reach out to us!

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MOOCs for Potential Psychology Majors

MOOCs are a no-brainer for high school students who want to explore their academics interests and possible college majors. And for those of you who have not started exploring your interests outside of school, you should; it is not terribly time-consuming, I promise 🙂

The two below are via edX and both available to audit, for free. I’ll be checking out the first one myself since I am all about leading a happy and meaningful life.

The Science of Happiness

The first MOOC to teach positive psychology. Learn science-based principles and practices for a happy, meaningful life.

AP® Psychology – Course 5: Health and Behavior

Learn about the relationship between stress and physical and mental health and the treatment of abnormal behavior, including psychological disorders.

Using the Modern Love Podcast to Teach Narrative Writing

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, but applicable all year ’round, here is an idea from Kinana Qaddour for using the popular Times podcast to encourage narrative writing.

Modern Love is a series of weekly reader-submitted essays that explore the joys and tribulations of love. Each week, an actor also reads one of the essays in a podcast. Though the stories are often about romantic love, they also take on love of family, friends, and even pets. This teacher finds their themes universal and the range of essays engaging models to help her students find their own voices.

In my work, I have found that most students have little or no experience writing personal narratives, which they need to write for the personal statement/Common Application essay requirement when applying to college. Naturally, I love this idea—so give it a read and share with a teacher who may find it useful!

You Just Took the PSAT—Now What?

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PSAT scores are now available online for counselors and will open to students on Monday. Compass Prep has prepared a number of resources that can help with interpretation, provide context, and illuminate where to go from here. I suggest checking them out!

Understanding Your Score Report

Using PSAT Scores to Compare SAT and ACT

National Merit Semifinalist Preview: Class of 2018

PSAT National Merit FAQ: The Road to Becoming a Finalist

 

 

College Board Simplifies Request Process For Test Accommodations

College Board Announces New SAT® Testing Supports for English Language Learners

NEW YORK—The College Board has overhauled its request process for testing accommodations, making it easier for eligible students to receive the support they need on College Board assessments.

Beginning January 1, 2017, the vast majority of students who are approved for and using testing accommodations at their school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved for taking the SAT®, PSAT10, PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT Subject Tests, and AP® Exams. Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams. This streamlined process builds on the College Board’s August 2016 expansion of testing accommodations that can be approved directly by schools without the need for additional documentation.

Read full release here: https://www.collegeboard.org/releases/2016/college-board-simplifies-request-process-for-test-ccommodations?ep_ch=PR&ep_mid=11326140&ep_rid=163330058

How to Interpret New ACT Score Reports

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The redesigned ACT student score reports aim to contextualize students’ scores and offer details about students’ individual strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, these goals are impeded by the overwhelming volume of information included on score reports.

This excellent post from Compass breaks down the exact contents of the student score report and explores how both students and parents can benefit from the information.

College Admissions Summer Reading

Summer Reading Logo

Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling at The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, annually asks college admissions deans and high school counselors to send him recommendations of books that are “great” summer reads. You can see last year’s list here; the 2014 list here, the 2013 list here in the New York Times, and the 2016 list, below. Some solid reads on this list, and many that I have read!

For Parents:

“Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour
Recommended by: Sally Diehl, Director of College Counseling, Roland Park Country School, MD

“Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Andrew Solomon
Recommended by: Suzi Nam Director of College Counseling, Germantown Friends School, PA

“Pressured Parents, Stressed Out Kids” by Wendy S. Grolnick, Ph.D. and Kathy Seal
Recommended by: Beth Ann Burkmar, The Hun School of Princeton, NJ

“Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert D. Putnam
Recommended by: Carrie Brodsky, Associate Director of College Counseling, Westtown School, PA

“Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence” by Laurence Steinberg
Recommended by: Amelia Johnson, Assoc. Dir. of College Counseling, Baylor School, TN

“American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers” by Nancy Jo Sales
Recommended by: Meg Scott, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Agnes Irwin School, PA

“The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Frances E. Jensen
Recommended by: Peter Jennings, Director of College Counseling, Concord Academy, MA

“How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Haims
Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission, Smith College, MA

“The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence” by Rachel Simmons
Recommended by: Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission, Smith College, MA

“The End of American Childhood” by Paula S. Fass
Recommended by: Susan Zarwell, Director of College Counseling. University School of Milwaukee, WI

“The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey
Recommended by: Jed Stuart, Associate Director of Admissions, The Gunnery, CT

“Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour, Ph.D.
Recommended by: Scott Orvis, Director of College Counseling, Saint Mary’s School, NC

 

Education-related Reads:

“Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney
Recommended by: Mike Sexton, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Santa Clara University, CA

“The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” by Harlan Cohen
Recommended by: Bruce Berk, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Derryfield School, NH

“The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way” by Bill Bryson
Recommended by: Michael Stefanowicz, Assistant Director of Admission, Saint Michael’s College, VT

“Class and Campus Life” by Elizabeth M. Lee
Recommended by: Jenni Pfeiffer, Associate Director of College Counseling, Rye Country Day School, NY

“Creating a Class” by Mitchell Stevens
Recommended by: Jenni Pfeiffer, Associate Director of College Counseling, Rye Country Day School, NY

“Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America’s Black Colleges and Culture” by Ron Stodghill
Recommended by: Jennifer Beros, Director of College Counseling, University School, OH

“The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” by Barry Schwartz
Recommended by: Carrie Horsey, Associate Director of College Counseling, Head-Royce School, CA

“U Chic, The College Girl’s Guide to Everything” by Christie Garton
Recommended by: Barbara Conner, Director of College Counseling, Foxcroft School, VA

“Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined: The truth about talent, practice, creativity, and the many paths to greatness” by Scott Barry Kaufman
Recommended by: Susan Tree, Director of College Counseling, Westtown School, PA

“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown
Recommended by: Alice Cotti, Director of College Counseling and 11th/12th Grade Dean, Polytechnic School, CA

“There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow” by Jeffrey J. Selingo
Recommended by: Bernadette Condesso, Director of College Counseling, Poughkeepsie Day School, NY

“Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” by Lisa Delpit
Recommended by: Liz Pleshette, Director of College Counseling, Latin School of Chicago, IL

“Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts” by Edited by: Rebecca Chopp, Susan Frost, Daniel H. Weiss
Recommended by: Karen Bartlett, Assistant Director of Admissions, Middlebury College

 

For Fun and Thought:

“The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach
Recommended by: Eric Ahlstrand, Assistant Director of Admission, Furman University, SC

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Recommended by: Chemeli Kipkorir, Director of University Guidance, African Leadership Academy

“Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals” by Mark Edmundson
Recommended by: Matt Struckmeyer, Director of College Counseling, Laguna Blanca School, CA

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Recommended by: Elizabeth Jamett, Director of College Guidance, University Liggett School, MI

“Where Am I Wearing?” by Kelsey Timmerman
Recommended by: Tracy Stockard, Director of College Counseling Gilmour Academy, OH

“Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Andres Ericson and Robert Pool
Recommended by: David Bonner, Dean, King Low Heywood Thomas School, CT

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
Recommended by: Moira McKinnon, Director of College Counseling, Berwick Academy, ME

“Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything” by Victor J. Strecher
Recommended by: Mr. Nicholas Kourabas, Director of College Counseling, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, NY

“Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
Recommended by: Stephanie Balmer, Head of School, Harpeth Hall School, TN

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah
Recommended by: Jody Sanford Sweeney, Associate Director of College Counseling, William Penn Charter School, PA

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Recommended by: Scott Herrmann-Keeling, Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School, MO

“Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
Recommended by: Chadwick Fulton, Associate Director of College Counseling, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, TX

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson
Recommended by: Janelle Holmboe, Vice-President for Enrollment, Warren Wilson College, NC

“Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End” by Atul Gawande
Recommended by: Matthew DeGreeff, Director of College Counseling, Middlesex School, MA

“David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended by: Ivar Moller, Director of North American Admissions, The University of St. Andrews, Scotland

“Creativity, Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull
Recommended by: Rhody Davis, Director of College Counseling, Viewpoint School, CA

“Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work (A StoryCorps Book)” by Dave Isay
Recommended by: Mindy H. Rose, Director of College Counseling, Peddie School, NJ

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
Recommended by: Bruce Barton, Director of College Counseling, Holderness School, NH

“Straight Man” by Richard Russo
Recommended by: Corie McDermott-Fazzino, Director of College Counseling, Portsmouth Abbey School, RI

“City on Fire” by Garth Risk Hallberg
Recommended by: Carl Ahlgren, Director of College Counseling, Gilman School, MD

“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough
Recommended by: J. Carey Thompson, Vice President for Enrollment and Communications/Dean of Admission, Rhodes College, TN

 

Full article by Valerie Strauss/Washington Post here.

College Planning Tips – Counselor Connection

I opted in to receive emails from the College Board via their Counselor Connection listserv. The newsletters (emails) typically include links to upcoming webinars and other online resources for high school counselors. Right now, I am in China, so only had time to skim the most recent email, but I saved it because the College Planning Tips section caught my attention. I was a bit surprised that the first set of tips was for students grades 6-8. I was also surprised to see them promoting both volunteer and summer enrichment activities, in addition to the use of Khan Academy.

I honestly wonder how many high school counselors are pushing any of these activities (service, summer enrichment, and pre-college planning) in grades 6-8. I fear many of my students (even those at elite private high schools in NYC) are not hearing much of this messaging or at least consistent messaging of this nature this early on (middle school). Some come to me with little or no summer enrichment activities related to academic interests, very light service history, and no knowledge of Khan Academy (a resource I am a fan of, but have no formal affiliation with). I guess they could be hearing it and just not acting on it?

I would love for more students to place an emphasis on service early on in their high school careers, as well as begin exploring their academic interests via summer enrichment programs and modules via Khan Academy. So, I support this message from the College Board and hope more high school counselors pass these resources along to their students and their student’s families.