Category Archives: Director’s Desk

New college and career initiatives coming to Ohio high schools

DSC_0927

Perhaps you’ve heard: beginning this school year, the State of Ohio will roll out great new initiatives to impact the postsecondary success of our high school graduates.  When this year’s HS freshmen are juniors, for starters, they’ll be able to take the ACT or SAT for free.

While test waivers existed before for the neediest students, this effort, I think, sets expectations for all students to evaluate college as an option, and reduces barriers to college access. What’s more is that the OGT is also going away, and students who score at a college-readiness benchmark on the ACT or SAT (or) earn passing scores on new exams offered at the end of 7 major core courses (or) complete an approved licensure program and job assessment for career readiness will qualify for graduation in this state.

Read More

Letter from the Editor

editing photoAs this time of year is often associated with making personal and professional renovations, I am excited to announce that Ursuline’s blog platform has developed into an online edition of the College’s magazine, VOICES. Having been published since 2008, VOICES is the main news source for everything Ursuline. The online edition will feature all the great things that Ursuline fans have grown accustomed to reading about in the printed version plus online stories added weekly, providing an interactive and relevant experience for our readers.

Below is my editor’s letter from the printed edition of VOICES (out February 1). The theme of this issue is community, how strong Ursuline values have carried the institution even through difficult times. We also showcase the great things that individuals in the Ursuline Community are doing and the lives they continue to touch. I hope you feel a sense of hope in how a small, Catholic, women-focused College in Ohio can work together to make a positive difference in the world.

Read More

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 4.03.44 PM

Math Angels

When this awesome GoldieBlox ad went viral this fall, it was playing on all of the office computers in the Admission Office. If you haven’t watched it, you MUST treat yourself before you read on.

I was like so many girls who honestly thought I needed a natural math aptitude (which I knew I DID NOT have) to be successful in the subject. Quick story: senior year in high school, my math teacher offered us extra credit if we brought in a math-themed ornament for the classroom Christmas tree. I stayed up nearly all night outdoing my classmates making a math themed angel tree topper with streaming trails of math symbols and white feather wings. Did I ever once invest that many hours to learn a math concept? Of course not. Opportunity to score math points via arts & crafts? Naturally. I laugh now at the choice of an angel for my project – as if only by a gift from God could I actually excel in math.

Recently I read this study, which I really appreciate. It shows that GoldieBlox is right on track to empower girls to enjoy math and science, and that I was wrong to think I simply couldn’t do it. My problem, in reality, was that I simply didn’t work hard enough at it. I didn’t *like* math enough to work hard at it. I’m here to say that like most things in life, you’ll get out of math what you put into it.

In college admission, math matters. When students build math work ethic from an early age they are likely to be tracked into advanced math courses or honors/AP options. The best predictor of success on ACT/SAT math sections? Strong curriculum. Most colleges and universities tie scholarship eligibility to test scores (and GPA, and often other factors). Working through a fear of math or attitudes about math can pay off in real dollars.

And it’s just not at the outset of college; it’s in the professional world too.

I recently had a great conversation with two members of the Ursuline math faculty. Because an aptitude for math can lead to high skill, high pay jobs in a number of fields, it’s a solid option for an undergraduate major. In fact, those two faculty members have Ph.D’s not in math, but in Economics and Chemical Engineering respectively. They love the reaction from students who often come to college with attitudes or misconceptions about their ability to do math then discover that with teaching customized to their skill level, they can get the hang of it. Perhaps they’d spent years in a classroom where the pace was too fast, where they were embarrassed to speak up if they didn’t understand, if they hadn’t mastered the fundamentals before the instructor moved on. Ursuline’s small classes enable them to work at the board one-on-one with a faculty member who can inspire a new interpretation of a once confounding subject. And the fact that most of us (and all the math faculty) are women, shows them an environment where they are not the minority, where there is no gender bias about their ability to master the subject, and where role models overcame the same gender dynamics in the field. It’s no wonder that women’s college graduates show stronger rates of persistence into male dominated fields. It’s our faculty who are the real “math angels”.

We have something special here, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Carolyn Noll Sorg is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Ursuline College. Follow Carolyn on Twitter @UCAdmission

Student Paths_banner_080113_1

Behind-the-Scenes: The College’s Brand

I have the privilege of serving as the Marketing Director at Ursuline College. It is a job I find both challenging and fulfilling as I use my creative and strategic abilities to help move the College forward. I have served in this role for five years and one of the aspects of the job I enjoy the most is serving as Ursuline’s brand manager (although folks on campus might refer to my team as the “brand police”). Branding is illustrating various aspects unique to Ursuline and communicating those differentiators to all audiences.

There are many great qualities about Ursuline that are distinctive, such as the personal attention we provide our students or the rich history of educating women who are challenged to change the world in both big and small ways. The marketing department strives to maintain the legacy of the College while moving ahead with the College’s mission. The goal is to let the outside audience know what Ursuline stands for through several communication vehicles. Building a strong brand has been an essential part of creating quality awareness for the College.

ursuline_ohiomag_102113

Representing an authentic, values-based education is carried throughout everything the marketing department produces, whether it be a printed piece, messaging on the website or a promotional video. Additionally, Ursuline’s design elements reflect the College genuinely through authentic photos of students, faculty and alumnae in real-world situations. Using design elements such as the fleur de lis creates something recognizable at a glance to our external audiences.

When I first came on board as the marketing director, just about every area of the College was using different messaging and design elements to promote Ursuline. According to best practices, consistency is key in creating a strong brand. As with any change, there was resistance at first. But with the support of the administration, the College has come a long way in terms of creating a uniform message and solid brand.

On campus, I don’t mind being known as the chief of the brand police because I know it will help move the College forward. The marketing department will continue to explain that PMS 286 (Ursuline blue) is not our favorite color, but rather the color that was chosen based on elements within the College’s mission. For us, creating the brand goes beyond personal preference and holds true to the guidelines that have been established. It has been a challenging but worthwhile experience to help build Ursuline’s brand. Click here to learn more about Ursuline’s brand.

Angela DelPrete is Ursuline College’s Marketing Director. As an alum she strives to maintain the Ursuline’s heritage and mission while helping to build a brand relevant to key audiences.

Photo Credit: Google Images

College Application Mythbusting

When I was a new Admission Counselor in my first job right out of grad school, I remember my Admission Director mentioning that as many of her friends’ children approached high school age, her job suddenly seemed to make her more popular at parties. There is a perception, I think, among parents and students that the college admission process is so elusive and complex that understanding it, and more importantly influencing it, is becoming increasingly difficult. This is probably true for students applying to the most selective institutions where many more qualified students are turned away than admitted. But for students applying to the vast majority of institutions in the US, this process is not nearly as much of a game as they think.

A recent blog entry on the Huffington Post called 6 College Admission Myths: Busted is a good start to bringing more transparency to students and families, but many of these myths and much of the advice on college planning and admission out there only applies to traditional students vying for coveted seats at highly selective schools. We know that more and more college students today do not fit this typical student mold, and that the overwhelming majority will enroll at institutions that WILL accept them if they are academically qualified. Here are the myths busted on HuffPost, and my own thoughts on how we address each myth at an institution that prides itself on providing access to all students who demonstrate an ability to be academically successful:

Myth #1: “A college sent me information, so they are likely to accept me if I apply.” At a highly selective school, this post suggests, applications will be encouraged of students who are unlikely to get in to shrink the acceptance rate, and thus improve rankings. (PS, I have a lot to say on the topic of rankings — I’ll talk about this in an upcoming post). While admission is never a given because we don’t have complete information about a student’s academic background until we receive an application, most of us are making a well-educated guess (based on what we DO know about you) that you’d be a great fit at our school and we’re honestly hoping to add YOU to our student body. We get most of our student data from College Board and ACT, so we have self reported GPA and PSAT/SAT/AP/ACT/PLAN or other scores to work from. However, test scores are only part of the picture for most of us reviewing applications. Leading us to Myth #2…

Myth #2: “High scores on the SAT/ACT are all I need to gain acceptance into a selective school.” Highly selective schools and the rest of us look at this topic in a similar way, though our median scores of admitted students differ. They are only part of the overall assessment of preparation for college. Many colleges and universities even choose to be test-optional, recognizing that test scores do not always accurately reflect a student’s potential. (see www.fairtest.org).  At Ursuline, we use testing to assess college readiness but also factor in curriculum, grades, grade trends, writing ability, recommendations from teachers/counselors, and personal experience/qualities to make admission decisions. We don’t require test scores at all from transfer students with 30 or more credits earned at community colleges or other colleges/universities — so there are pathways to great colleges without these tests.

Myth #3: “The application process begins when I start my senior year.” In fact, for applicants to highly selective colleges and universities, and those with more generous admission policies, the process starts in 9th grade, and some might even contend that it begins even earlier than that. We always use cumulative GPA in the admission process, and though we look at grade trends (upward trajectory since that really awful 9th grade year?) the cumulative GPA is what we’ll use for scholarship consideration. Similarly, the depth and breadth of leadership, service, and other activities is generally preferred to involvement in a large number of activities in which there is no time to make a real contribution to any of them. The simple truth: a student who goes into HS with a strong work ethic and academic foundation, and then works hard in a college preparatory curriculum, particularly pursuing the most challenging math and English classes from 9th grade on will find better success on the ACT/SAT, in the classroom, and thus, with applications to 4-year colleges.

Myth #4: “The listed tuition price is what I must pay.” Of course not. For most students at most colleges, we offer financial need-based aid and merit aid (scholarships) to help students afford our institutions. There are now scholarship calculators and net-price calculators on college and university websites to help you set expectations for what the unique cost will be for your family.

Myth #5: “My social media activities aren’t being monitored by admissions officers.” While most of us don’t make a habit of regularly monitoring the social media output of our applicants (hey, we’re pretty busy doing other things), students should be aware that anything they put out on social media enters a public forum. If I couldn’t read your handwriting when you gave me your address, I might google it to get the right zip code. If you told me you were playing in the state championship for volleyball last weekend, I’ll probably google that too to see if your team won so that I can congratulate you! If you invite me to connect on Facebook, I’ll accept your request. Keep in mind that all of these harmless activities can lead a college admission officer to your social content. We always encourage students to keep it clean. 99% of the time, something we happen upon via Facebook or Twitter won’t effect your admission or scholarships at all, but it can certainly be embarrassing. It’s also good practice for the professional world.

Myth #6: “All I have to do is complete and submit an application.” Highly selective schools and the rest of us are trying to be more saavy with our resources, and thus, we track your demonstrated interest in our school, whether you visit, how often you call, etc. While this may weigh into admission and scholarship decisions at some highly selective schools, for most of us, it simply influences how frequently we communicate with you and through what channels. At Ursuline, when you tell us we’re a great fit for you based on your interaction with us, we’re going to spend more time contacting you too to help you through the process of enrolling with us!

On this blog, I’ll keep weighing in on topics that bring more transparency to the college application process for families and students!

To those currently applying to college, I hope you’ll apply to Ursuline!

Carolyn Noll Sorg is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Ursuline College. Follow Carolyn on Twitter @UCAdmission

110509121817

Getting a Return on Your College Investment

Yesterday I visited with students in the “Journey to College” class at Stow-Munroe Falls High School. We chatted about college planning and the endless opportunities here at Ursuline. At Stow, this class is an elective, taught first thing in the morning. The goal of the class is to position students to make the best possible choices when it comes to the complex decision in front of them: what comes after high school?

The college decision, of course, is complicated by the rising cost of attendance at all types of institutions. Along with purchases of homes and cars, it is one of the most significant investments most people make in their lives. On my drive back to campus from Stow, I caught a great discussion on Cleveland’s NPR station, WCPN, about paying for college. You can listen to the broadcast here:

Paying for College

The contributors to this piece are on-point. There’s discussion about a cost-benefit analysis of choosing a college and choosing a major. They contemplate how much debt is too much. They weigh, from a parent’s perspective, the investment in college for dependent children vs. retirement savings. If you are in the midst of planning for college, either for yourself or a family member, this segment is absolutely worth a listen.

What it comes down to, always, is ensuring that you have a return on your investment in college. At Ursuline, our average indebtedness among graduates is just below the national average across graduates of all types of institutions. The financial planners in the WCPN story suggest accruing no more debt than the amount a student expects to earn their first year working after college. With a job placement rate 3X higher than the national average and an average reported starting salary much higher than their average debt, Ursuline grads are more likely than average to successfully manage this debt. The amount the average Ursuline graduate pays towards student loans each month is similar to a modest car payment. Given the choice between the new car and the college education, which increases earning potential over the course of a working lifetime by about 65% (see Education Pays), most college grads would pick their degree. There are always exceptions to these rules, and each family should evaluate their situation individually, but overwhelmingly, the data tells us that a private education can be affordable and an excellent value.

We also know that graduates of an institution like Ursuline are earning much more than just a credential. College can be a transformative experience, and it certainly is here at Ursuline with an emphasis on values, liberal arts learning, leadership, and more. This makes students more likely to succeed in the workplace, and in life.

Here are a few tips on making sure that you (or your student) make the most of the college investment, and see the best possible returns:

1) Graduate. Nationally only 57% of students who start college actually finish in six years (cited in the WCPN broadcast, and many other places). Nothing wastes your money more than not completing your degree.

2) Find mentors. At a school like Ursuline with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, you’ll find mentoring and coaching constantly.

3) Get out there and build a strong co-curricular resume. In a marketplace increasingly saturated with Bachelors degrees, in most fields, what you do in addition to earning your college degree is just as important as earning the degree itself. So take on a leadership role, an internship, a research project, a part-time job alongside class. It will help you with your time management skills, too!

4) Become part of the community. My college experience continues to add value to my life years after graduating. Friends and mentors continue to be sounding boards, professional references, confidants… Being part of a campus community extends far beyond the four years it takes you to earn your degree. Invest your time here, soaking up the culture and building relationships during those four years, and it will pay dividends over time.

What else would you add to this list?

Carolyn Noll Sorg is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Ursuline College.