High school juniors: Consider a college that will change your life

October 27, 2010

Here’s what I told my U.S. history students on the class blog; a few other people may find my views informative:

Okay, juniors!  You should be thinking hard about what you want to do, what you should do, and what you can do, after you graduate.

College?

Choosing a college can bring on all sorts of angst.

You worry about choosing the right college — the one that will advance you toward your dreams, the one where you’ll fit in (yeah, we all worry about that), the one that you and your family can afford, the one where you can cut it, and the one where you can shine.

I urge you to consider a group of colleges known collectively as Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL).

Several years an education guru, Loren Pope, wrote a book profiling 40 colleges that have reputations of making much better people out of the already good students they take in.  You’ve probably heard of some of these schools:  Reed College, in Portland, Oregon; St. Olaf’s College, especially for choir-minded people who don’t mind Minnesota weather; Austin College, in Sherman, Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; and a lot of others.  The book was titled Colleges That Change Lives.

The colleges had the good sense to see that they were in league with each other, as well as in competition with each other — and so they banded together to create a one-application process (though each has slightly different essay requirements).

Go to their website and take a look.  See especially whether they are having an open-house sort of get-together somewhere in Texas (we had to drive to Austin for our younger son — it was a great trip, and it helped him pick a school he hadn’t thought of before — we urged them to come back to Dallas).  (Oh — I checked.   They held these events in August — plan to be there next August; note that these events were before school started, so you’ll have to keep your own calendar over the summer to get there on time.)

These colleges mostly present just great places to get a good education, regardless the field you want to pursue (our son, James, did end up in one of the nation’s top physics programs, something he had previously thought he’d have to go to a giant university to get; there are happy endings, you know).  Which one is right for you?

I’ll wager that you’d be happy at more than a dozen of these schools. By the time you graduate from one, you’ll be convinced that you could not have made a better choice anywhere.

You’re not too late to start the process of college consideration; but you do need to get going soon.  College application deadlines for early decision come quickly when you’re a senior, and the schools want your apps before December 1 (or November, or October!).  Plus, next summer would be a great time to visit some of these schools.

I did not attend any of these schools, though I was heavily recruited by Lawrence University (then College), in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our younger son is now (they offered me a chance to play football, in a Division II school, which was awfully attractive).  I also would be happy to discuss my undergraduate school, the University of Utah, with you, or my graduate schools and their undergraduate programs, the University of Arizona and George Washington University.

I’ll be happy to tell you what I know about other schools I know a little about, too — the University of Texas-Dallas, where our older son graduated, or Georgetown, or American,  or Howard, in Washington, D.C., or what little I know of the ivies, or California schools like the Claremont Colleges — all excellent places to study, and get a great life from.

Take a look at the CTCL program.

It’s time you started thinking about what’s out there in the world, and how you’re going to prepare to live a great life.


Beloit College’s list: E-mail already passé to freshmen

August 18, 2010

If they knew what “old hat” meant, they might say that e-mail is old hat — but today’s entering college class of 2014 doesn’t regard e-mail as modern enough, nor much of other technology as fast enough.

Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, began to publish its profile of the cultural world of entering college freshmen in 1998.  The Mindset List originally aimed to help Beloit professors understand the views of incoming freshmen, with some hopes of bridging the ever-widening Generation Gaps between faculty and students.

Among other things, the Mindset List highlights the importance of teaching patient scholarship methods to students who have astonishing access to electronic information, though not necessarily better access to real knowledge; students need to learn the difference between data and information, information and knowledge, and knowledge and wisdom.

The newest Mindset List comes as one of the list’s creators will retire, an interesting footnote in historic attempts to understand rates of cultural change affecting college-bound kids.  Beloit’s public relations chief Ron Nief created the list with Prof. Tom McBride, who teaches modern students about Milton and Shakespeare.  It is unclear whether Nief will be able to retire from compiling or interpreting the annual Mindset List.  O tempora o mores!

We might assume that Nief had a hand in writing the Beloit College press release on the 2014 list:

Beloit, Wis. – Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.  A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

Here is the list of 75 touchstones of cultural change guaranteed to give you twinges of your own aging, even if you were in the class of 2010:

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992.

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. “Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51.  Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

63. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. The Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Beloit College ranks among the best small, liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  Beloit College is part of a consortium our family has some fondness for, the 40 colleges in the group Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL).  Every high school student should be aware of this group, and the methods developed to make application to several of these colleges easier (our son chose Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin).

This list highlights areas of potential ignorance teachers need to consider.  Notice there is little on the list about the Cold War, Vietnam, nor popular books.  The skew to technology includes an implicit skew away from some of the traditional ways we have transmitted culture to our children:  Newspapers, magazines, books, Broadway plays and musicals.  Even broadcast television is notable for the pop culture icons, and great changes in television viewing methods and habits.

The class of 2014 graduates a complete century away from the outbreak of World War I.  Their parents may not have known the administrations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson — Richard Nixon and Watergate may have been learned only from history books, by their parents.

How much more distant is the class of 2018, who enter high school as freshmen this year — next Monday, in Texas?

More:


Looking for a great college to launch your life?

August 19, 2008

High school seniors should be firming up their choices for colleges to apply to in the next couple of months — early decision applications will be due in November for some schools.

Students looking for a great college should consider looking at one or more of the 40 outstanding small colleges and universities that have banded together in a group known as Colleges that Change Lives. Each is an outstanding institution that has a reputation for taking good kids and helping them transform into great people.

There are more than a dozen events planned around the nation where a score or more of the colleges will show up in one location to talk to high school students and their parents. You really should consider attending one of these events if one is close by.

We attended an event in Houston last year. Our younger son, James, eventually chose Lawrence University, a school he knew almost nothing about before that afternoon.  (It appears Lawrence recovered its sanity after recruiting me to play football back in, uh, a few years ago.  I didn’t attend Lawrence, and I’m greatly amused that my son will.)

Here, stolen directly from CTCL’s website, is the list of cities where events are scheduled this fall, and an interactive map. Clicking on the hot links will take you to CTCL’s site with details about the meet ups.

Colleges That Change Lives, 2008 events

LOCATION INDEX:

Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL [2]
Columbus, OH
Denver, CO
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Kansas City, KS
Latin America
Los Angeles, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Nashville, TN
New York, NY [2]
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, OR
Raleigh-Durham, NC
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA [2]
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO
Tulsa, OK
Washington, D.C. [2]


Beloit College Mindset list: No caller ID? No GPS?

August 19, 2008

Beloit College’s Mindset list is an annual event, now. The college puts together a list of things entering college freshman have never done without, trying to help faculty understand what freshman are thinking, and not thinking.

This year’s list, for the entering class of 2012, holds a few jolts for anyone over the age of 30. One last minute change was required, however, when Bret Favre left the Green Bay Packers for the New York Jets.

Here’s the list, and it continues below the fold:

Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.

  1. For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
  2. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
  3. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
  4. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
  5. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  6. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  7. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
  8. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
  9. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.”
  10. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  11. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
  12. All have had a relative — or known about a friend’s relative — who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
  13. As a precursor to “whatever,” they have recognized that some people “just don’t get it.”
  14. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
  15. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
  16. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
  17. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
  18. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
  19. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
  20. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  21. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents. Read the rest of this entry »

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