Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making the Best College Choice for Your Life

As another school year begins, juniors and seniors become increasingly focused on college. With today’s costs, more and more students and families are looking to insure that their money is well-spent. They want to feel that those tuition dollars help lead to a satisfying experience as well as to the ability to be employed following graduation.

To insure this, it is more critical than ever that students make a good match for themselves, both academically and financially. Failure to take either of these into account could involve additional expense and lead to unfullfillment and frustration.

In the early ‘70s, a NY Times reporter, Loren Pope, began writing about colleges and the disastrous choices and high dropout rates he was seeing. His research led him to publish “Colleges That Change Lives”, a book about 40 colleges across the country that do an outstanding job of educating students and preparing them for future success.

This perspective on what constitutes a “good” college turns the concept of “rankings”, as fostered by other national publications, upside-down. Over the past half dozen years, a group of the colleges described in his book have been traveling the country presenting information sessions and fairs at events call “The Colleges that Change Lives Fair”. Though these colleges are presenting themselves as excellent options and opportunities, their over-arching theme and message of what makes for a quality college education is universal.

This concept has been borne out in research studies through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Center for Inquiry Study in the Liberal Arts, and has been heralded by the Educational Conservancy. All of these groups point to the fact that it is the engagement between students and faculty that is at the crux of an effective and worthwhile college education. It is not name, ranking, size, or any other “popular” factor that makes for an outstanding college education and success in life; it is instead the quality of the teaching-learning experience.

The “College That Change Lives Fair” is one of the best opportunities for students and parents to get a good picture of what educational quality can look and feel like. I encourage all students, whether they are considering one of these specific colleges or not, to attend this fair and get a fresh perspective on what makes for a great college experience.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The ‘Tour d’Admission’: Guidance Counselors Seeing Colleges by Bicycle - The Choice Blog -

Here is a blog article written by a reporter from the NY Times about the College Bike Tour:
The ‘Tour d’Admission’: Guidance Counselors Seeing Colleges by Bicycle - The Choice Blog -
I had spoken with Jacques Steinberg, author of "The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Office of a Premier College" (, about two weeks ago on another topic and was sorry I could be there for to ride this leg with him! By the way, he's been to Greenville and thinks it is a great city -- That's pretty good praise coming from someone from NYC!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Tour Goes On

Our visit to the U.S. Naval Academy began at exactly 0800 and reinforced the concept of this being a very special place. Not only is it an outstanding engineering program (there are liberal arts majors as well) but it a place with a real sense of caring for its students. The idea of hazing and weeding out is gone. The Academy believes that it has admitted some of the best individuals in the country and it is committed to seeing those individuals succeed, not only at the Academy but in the Navy and later in life. And their record proves it -- numerous notable officers, astronauts, Rhodes Scholars, and even a President of the United States. My great-great-great grandfather -- Rear Admiral C.K. Stribling who was the first Superintendent of the USNA, would be proud. "On Stribling" refers to the main walkway through the grounds and means that a plebe is "on-campus". (For those from S.C. who may recognize the name Stribling, he was from Pendleton and left home at the age of 15 in the mid-1800s to join the Navy -- note the US Navy cycling jersey I found on sale just before I left Greenville!)

We were in Annapolis during "plebe summer", the time when the new students come to the Academy and begin their training. They were out at 9 PM marching around, and then back again the next morning in formation. It might be tough, but 85% go on to graduate in 4 years; a record surpassed by only a handful of colleges in the country.

The Academy is definitely in the modern age technologically and it has excellent facilities. All that combined with career training that is easily transferable to the civilian world makes this a great option!

posted by William "Stribling" Dingledine, Jr.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Goucher College & Johns Hopkins University

Stage 1 of the Tour de Mid-Atlantic is over and great weather and wonderful visits prevailed! A beautiful summer morning of about 60 degrees greeted us as we pedaled from Oldfields School to Goucher College -- I thought everyone was taking July 6th off since July 4th was on the weekend but you couldn't tell that by some of the early traffic! The eight of us from the following: Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, Stoneleigh-Burham in western MA, Tenafly HS in NJ, Christ School in Arden, NC, St. Luke's School in Westport, CT, and Scarsdale HS in NY, and Oldfields in MD, all set out in various bike set-ups. Several of us had the traditional panniers, one pair was on a tandem (that had traveled much of Europe!), and a couple had "trailers" towing their belongs behind. We talked and laughed most of the ride today through local neighborhoods.

Goucher was excited about its new (long-awaited) students center and library about to open this fall with a big "green" focus in its construction. Not only are their science programs strong -- great pre-med tradition and psychology is considered a "science", thus requiring significant research, but their dance (best facilities for any college this size I have ever seen -- conservatory quality!) is great along with education and creative writing. Though not a college associate with any religion, the student body has a strong spiritual component ranging from Christian to Jewish to Muslim, and alternative; the non-denominational chapel is widely used. Also, Goucher is Test-optional and really places a strong emphasis on high school preparation and writing ability (as shown on the essays -- they require 500 words as opposed to the 250 regularly requested on the Commmon App).

Our ride to JHU was led by their Vice-President for Enrollment and he took us through some of the prettiest old neighborhoods of Baltimore City -- not the usual route for visiting Hopkins -- and this certainly dispelled any notion of the neighborhoods around the University being questionable. Nevertheless, it is true that Hopkins is in the city, so usual cautions are advised that one would employ in any city. As expected, Hopkins presented itself as a powerful "research" institution. Though class sizes might average 11-12, intro classes in the major courses (biology, chemistry, organic chem, psych, etc) are 250+. Students are driven by internal desire to succeed and that lends itself to the notion that it is a very competitive school; yet there is a good amount of collaborative and collegial learning and studying that occurs. More and more housing is being made available to students -- very important this year because they accepted a few more students expecting a lower yield, only to have more of them deposit -- counterintuitive in this economic climate! They emphasized that Hopkins is not just a "science" school but is quite strong in many areas of the liberal arts -- creative writing, economics, international relations, and art history. The student body is diverse and it is sometimes hard to find a unifying theme or aspect, except for lacrosse -- this is the mecca for the sport -- but there is no doubt that these students come with strong academic and extracurricular backgrounds. The admission office pointed out that they consider all factors of a student's academic and non-academic profile when making decisions.

Time to go rest up for tomorrow's ride to Annapolis and St. John's College, one of the nation's oldest and most unique colleges. Hopefully I'll have good computer access tomorrow and can post some thoughts to digest about the "Jonnies"!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tour de Mid-Atlantic

Well, after over 17 years and more than 50,000 miles of serious cycling, I am fnally doing my first Tour! Not the Tour de France which does begin today (and I will be following closely), but I will be embarking on my first multi-day bicycle tour, visiting colleges in Maryland and Delaware. I will be joining about a dozen colleagues and friends from across the country on what has become an annual event and though I have wanted to go for the past several years, this year will be my first. In addition, the idea of getting oneself cross country by bicycle has always had an attraction to me --the independence and sustainablity aspects are especially appealing.

In the past, time and money were the obstacles, but this year’s event allowed me to drive and not have to pay the exorbitant fees for taking a bicycle on the plane (almost as much as a roundtrip fare!). I was all set! Or so I thought until I went to purchase some panniers (French for bags that hang off the sides of bicycles to carry your belongings -- or big sticks of French bread if you truly are French!).

My first "pothole" on the road to preparing was that I have the wrong kind of bicycle for touring. After so many years of riding bicycles, I found that ALL of my bikes were racing bikes – none of them had the little eyelets necessary to attach the rack needed to hold the panniers. Thanks to Scott and Nathaniel McCrary at TTR Bikes (Tandem, Touring, and Recumbent Bikes – here in Greenville, I found a neat, sleek rack designed just for racing frames! They had some spacious panniers and that was all I needed to get packed and be ready to ride.

I am leaving today to meet one of my fellow riders in Charlotte and then we are driving to Baltimore (via my brother's house in VA) in order to be ready to leave on Monday to visit Johns Hopkins University and Goucher College. Then we head to Annapolis to see St. John’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy. Following a crossing of the Chesapeake Bay, we visit Washington College on the Eastern Shore of MD and then head to the University of Delaware with a stop at St. Andrews School (film location of “Dead Poets Society”) before returning to Baltimore. Accommodations will be in college dorms and most meals will also be at the colleges along the way; in total, we will cover over 200 miles. A bit more than I average in a normal week of riding, but certainly manageable. (For those who are skeptical, one really does get comfortable on a thin, bicycle seat!)

I hope to post updates on the College Directions blog but it will depend on internet availability along the way; I am not yet sure if I can manage my laptop in the panniers or what access will be open to us on the college campuses. I will also be sending messages to Twitter (wsdingle) from my cellphone -- so follow along!

Happy Fourth to all! More to come!