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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Christopher Newport University

On September 23rd, 2016 I attended a Christopher Newport University counselor luncheon in NJ and here’s what I heard:

General: Christopher Newport is a public university in Newport News, Va. of about 5000 students which focuses on undergraduates. Leadership, service and honor are valued and there is an honor code. Students must live on campus through their Junior year. The CNU motto is “Leading a life of consequence” and the four pillars are undergraduate research, study abroad, internships and service.  The campus is beautiful.

Special programs/features:

All freshmen are in a learning community where they share two to four classes with the people they live with.

There is an honors program and the Presidents Leadership Program.

About four hundred freshmen join the leadership program each year.  This four year program involves a 21 credit leadership minor, required community service, attending a speaker series three times a year, and mentorship of freshmen by seniors.

Academics: Classes are small so professors get to know the students. Students are required to take a rigorous core curriculum including three semesters of language. CNU is a liberal arts school with an accredited business program and an electrical engineering major.

Social: There are over 200 clubs.  Thirty per cent of the students join Greek life and can “rush” in their second semester.  There are 24 Division III teams, including football.  Sailing, dancing and cheer are varsity sports and compete on an intercollegiate level.  CNU has the winningest athletics in Virginia with 12 national championships and more than 600 All Americans.  They are ranked among the top 10% of NCAA Division 3 teams.  Watching football, basketball and volleyball are popular activities.  More than 3000 students participate in club and intramural sports.  Ferguson Center for the Arts houses CNU’s theatre and concert hall. This is a dry campus so there isn’t a big party scene.

Admissions: One third of the class applies Early Decision and the bulk of the remainder is filled by Early Action (which is due 12/1).  An interview by 12/15 is encouraged; interviews can be via Skype. CNU is test optional for students with a grade point above 3.5.  The school cares about demonstrated interest.

Internship: Students have an opportunity to intern with NASA and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seven College Safety Concerns

If you are concerned about campus safety, what should you know or ask?  Most colleges will tell you about their “blue light” system, their security staff, how they keep out people who don’t belong in your student’s dorm, and their campus-wide alert system.  Here are seven other safety concerns to consider:
  • Does the college allow concealed carry of firearms?  
  • Is the college being investigated by the government under Title IX for their inappropriate handling of sexual assault on campus?
  • Does the campus rely on its own campus police or outside local police?
  • What are the crime statistics at the college?
  • Does the college have a cross-functional threat assessment team? This team assesses whether individuals on campus are dangerous to themselves and others and makes recommendations to address the issue.
  • Does the college have a speedy evacuation plan in the case of natural disaster or terrorism, while your student studies abroad?
  • Are students prepared for possible security issues before they study or intern abroad?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY

I visited Manhattan College, a co-ed Catholic College in the Riverdale section of the Bronx with about 3500 undergraduate students. 

Campus: Manhattan College has a campus of 22 acres, near Van Cortlandt Park (1146 acres) and near the last stop on the 1 Subway, which goes into Manhattan.  The campus is spread out over several blocks.  There are brick buildings arranged in a square around a grassy quad and a relatively new student union building which opened in 2014 across the street from the quad.  Leaving from the back door of the student union, students pass a sports field on the left and then come to two buildings on the right which include the engineering classrooms.  The campus has steps and hills.

Academics: The most popular majors are Engineering (31%), Business (22%), Communications/Journalism (11%), Education (11%), Psychology (7%) and Biology (5%).  Classes are small with only 0.1% of classes having more than 50 students. The library is open 24/7.  Internships and study abroad are available.  Three religion classes are required of all students, but they do not have to be about Catholicism.

Student body:  Most students come from NY, NJ and CT and they appear to be racially diverse.

Housing and Dining: Freshman housing includes traditional style and suite style buildings.  There are freshman living and learning communities in the suite style building.  Students in the living and learning community take three classes with the people they live with, as well as having opportunities for social activities and community service together.  There are also apartments for upper classmen.  Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. There are several dining opportunities including an all you can eat dining hall and a Starbucks.  The all you can eat dining hall had a separate frig and counter space for gluten free students, as well as a vegetarian/vegan station.

Athletics: There are 19 Division I Sports.  There is a large indoor track around the basketball courts.  There is a large outdoor sports field.  The swim team and the baseball team practice off-campus.

Applying: Manhattan College accepts the Common Application. 67% of their applicants were accepted to the college. The mid-50% SAT scores (old SAT) were CR: 490-580, MA: 500-610, and WR: 480-590.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Some of my favorite college references

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?

Figuring out what makes a college right for you: College Match

College Majors: Book of Majors

College Guides:
·         The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
·         Fiske Guide to Colleges
·         America’s Best Colleges for B Students
·         Colleges That Change Lives
·         Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
·         The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
·         Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges

College Search Sites:

Chance for acceptance: Naviance scattergrams from your high school

Financial Aid:
·         Financial Aid information-
·         FAFSA Web site -
·         CSS Financial Aid PROFILE -
·         Federal Student Aid -
·         Some legitimate college scholarship search sites:
Net Price Calculator – on each college’s website
College Visits:
·         “A Pocket Guide To Choosing a College: Questions to Ask on Your College Visits” by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) -
·         On-line visit –

Common Application:

College Essay: Conquering the College Admissions Essay on 10 Steps

Going to College Advice Guide:  The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College

Expected Pay when you Graduate:

For students with Learning Differences:
·         “K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” by Marybeth Kravets and Imy Wax.
·          Information on SAT and ACT accommodations – and

·         “Questions for the Office of Disability Support” by Rana Slosberg on

Friday, July 8, 2016

Six Unusual Colleges

New College of Florida
Here are six unusual colleges and what makes them different:
  1. Colorado College – Students take one course at a time.
  2. Deep Springs College – With a total enrollment of no more than 30 men, this elite college is a working ranch in the Nevada desert that awards associate’s degrees and charges no tuition.
  3. Landmark College – This Vermont college is just for bright students with learning disabilities, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.  
  4. New College of Florida – New College, Florida’s public honors college, has no grades or GPAs. Students develop a contract with their adviser each semester and get a written evaluation, instead of grades. Students do individual research and/or group projects.
  5. St. John’s College – With campuses in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico, all students read and discuss the Great Books, about 150 of them.
  6. Webb Institute – Webb is a tuition-free engineering college on Long Island with 100% job placement. Students can get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
      Landmark College

What's your favorite unusual college and what makes it different?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FAFSA Changes for the High School Class of 2017

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form families need to fill out to get financial aid for college, including grants, loans and money for work-study.   Additionally, some colleges, states and scholarship programs also use the FAFSA. Historically, families with high school seniors filed the FAFSA starting on January 1 of their senior year using the federal tax data due on April 15 of the senior year (known as Prior Year). 
Starting with high school graduating class of June 2017, the timetable and tax year associated with the FAFSA will be changing.  The high school class of 2017 will be eligible to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st, 2016, three months earlier than in previous years.  They will use 2015 Federal income tax returns (known as Prior-Prior Year (PPY)). 
I am hoping this change will be positive for families, because: 
  1. Filling out the FAFSA should be a little easier. Families:
    1. Should be able to use the software (i.e., the IRS data-retrieval tool) to fill out much of the FAFSA, reducing the time to fill out the form. 
    2. Families won’t need to estimate their income or correct it later as was often the case in previous years. 
  2. They will potentially find out about their financial aid earlier in their senior year, giving them more time to consider their options.
There is still some uncertainty for the high school class of 2017.  For example:
  1. The deadlines for institutional aid may change at some colleges. 
  2. Students may initially receive estimated financial aid packages, because college costs for the coming year may not be finalized and/or because state grant data may not be available.  If this is the case, the families will subsequently receive confirmed financial aid packages. 
On the whole, I am expecting these FAFSA changes to be positive.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Iona College

Iona College Main Entrance
At the end of April, I visited Iona College, a Catholic college in New Rochelle, NY with about 3300 undergraduates from 35 states and 30 countries.  Iona has a compact campus of mostly red brick buildings on about 43 acres in Westchester County, about 30 minutes by train from NYC.  A new dormitory will be opening in the Fall 2016.
New Iona dorm under construction

Popular majors at Iona include business, speech pathology, education, social work and mass communication.  Academically, Iona can support all kinds of students. It has an Honors program, as well as a comprehensive Learning Disabilities program.  91 percent of applicants are admitted.  The mid-50% of SAT scores are 450 – 550 for Critical Reading and 440-550 for Math.

In addition to studying, the students can join in Greek life, participate in or watch NCAA Division I sports in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, including Iona’s winning men’s and women’s basketball teams, join in over 80 clubs, do community service, study abroad, and have internships.  The school has performing arts opportunities, and a TV and radio station. 

Some of the April programs at Iona were “The Government Inspector” by the Iona College Theatre Ensemble, a performance by the Iona College Instrumental and Vocal Ensembles, a town hall meeting with Republican candidate John Kasich, a Relay for Life event, a panel on issues in the presidential race, a black light pool party, a Paint Party, Kid Ink in Concert, and a student Fashion Show. 

Iona offers both need-based and merit aid, with merit aid up to the full price of tuition.  98 percent of freshmen receive financial aid.