Category: Urban Ed Written by Reid Kanaley, LA Times
College acceptance letters are starting to arrive, and families now must figure out how to pay the tuition. Here are some sites that offer guidance to the world of financial aid:
•The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A relatively new federal agency, the bureau has a beta site on college finances. One of the bureau's goals is to make students' borrowing costs clearer. Near the top of the page is a college-prep timeline showing the steps from researching schools to repaying college debt. Along the way, one presumably gets an education.
•Federal student aid. The first step in requesting federal aid for school is to fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid. You have to do it only once a year, no matter how many colleges you apply to. And the earlier the better. As soon as you file the electronic form, you'll see what is likely to be a shocking ballpark number for the education expenses you're expected to pay out of pocket.
•U.S. News & World Report college roundup. The section on paying for an education is meant to explain some of the terminology and procedures that students and families will encounter. Take note of the "overlooked ways to pay for college," which include getting an early start on college savings accounts called 529 plans and digging around for otherwise-overlooked community sources of scholarship money.
•College Board. This group, which runs the SAT college-entrance examination system, also offers advice on financing your higher education. This page includes a link to the board's scholarship-search service. Many scholarships have obscure criteria, so how would you even find all the ones that might fit you? Fill out a questionnaire that can help match students to what the board says is $6 billion available in scholarships through 2,200 programs.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 01:59
Category: Urban Ed Written by Annie Murphy Paul, Time
In a world as fast-changing and full of information as our own, every one of us — from schoolchildren to college students to working adults — needs to know how to learn well. Yet evidence suggests that most of us don’t use the learning techniques that science has proved most effective. Worse, research finds that learning strategies we do commonly employ, like rereading and highlighting, are among the least effective.
The scientific literature evaluating these techniques stretches back decades and across thousands of articles. It’s far too extensive and complex for the average parent, teacher or employer to sift through. Fortunately, a team of five leading psychologists have now done the job for us. In a comprehensive report released on Jan. 9 by the Association for Psychological Science, the authors, led by Kent State University professor John Dunlosky, closely examine 10 learning tactics and rate each from high to low utility on the basis of the evidence they’ve amassed. Here is a quick guide to the report’s conclusions:
Highlighting and underlining led the authors’ list of ineffective learning strategies. Although they are common practices, studies show they offer no benefit beyond simply reading the text. Some research even indicates that highlighting can get in the way of learning; because it draws attention to individual facts, it may hamper the process of making connections and drawing inferences. Nearly as bad is the practice of rereading, a common exercise that is much less effective than some of the better techniques you can use. Lastly, summarizing, or writing down the main points contained in a text, can be helpful for those who are skilled at it, but again, there are far better ways to spend your study time. Highlighting, underlining, rereading and summarizing were all rated by the authors as being of “low utility.”
In contrast to familiar practices like highlighting and rereading, the learning strategies with the most evidence to support them aren’t well known outside the psych lab. Take distributed practice, for example. This tactic involves spreading out your study sessions, rather than engaging in one marathon. Cramming information at the last minute may allow you to get through that test or meeting, but the material will quickly disappear from memory. It’s much more effective to dip into the material at intervals over time. And the longer you want to remember the information, whether it’s two weeks or two years, the longer the intervals should be.
The second learning strategy that is highly recommended by the report’s authors is practice testing. Yes, more tests — but these are not for a grade. Research shows that the mere act of calling information to mind strengthens that knowledge and aids in future retrieval. While practice testing is not a common strategy — despite the robust evidence supporting it — there is one familiar approach that captures its benefits: using flash cards. And now flash cards can be presented in digital form, via apps like Quizlet, StudyBlue and FlashCardMachine. Both spaced-out learning, or distributed practice, and practice tests were rated as having “high utility” by the authors.
The remainder of the techniques evaluated by Dunlosky and his colleagues fell into the middle ground — not useless, but not especially effective either. These include mental imagery, or coming up with pictures that help you remember text (which is time-consuming and only works with text that lends itself to images); elaborative interrogation, or asking yourself “why” as you read (which is kind of annoying, like having a 4-year-old tugging at your sleeve); self-explanation, or forcing yourself to explain the text in detail instead of passively reading it over (its effectiveness depends on how complete and accurate your explanations are); interleaved practice, or mixing up different types of problems (there is not much evidence to show that this is helpful, outside of learning motor tasks); and lastly the keyword mnemonic, or associating new vocabulary words, usually in a foreign language, with an English word that sounds similar — so, for example, learning the French word for key, la clef, by imagining a key on top of a cliff (which is a lot of work to remember a single word).
All these techniques were rated of “moderate” to “low” utility by Dunlosky et al because either there isn’t enough evidence yet to be able to recommend them or they’re just not a very good use of your time. Much better, say the authors, to spread out your learning, ditch your highlighter and get busy with your flash cards.
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 January 2013 18:39
Category: Urban Ed Written by Brian Kelly, USNews
Online education is becoming an essential part of the higher education landscape. Students and employers are increasingly finding value in the way subjects can be mastered in a digital environment.
Schools are responding with a proliferation of course offerings. And U.S. News is responding with data and rankings to help our readers sort out the best options for them.
Although this is still a new field for us—and everyone else—in our second year of collecting data from distance education programs, we've been able to greatly expand the range and depth of our information. Because so little information is publicly available about online programs, we rely on individual schools to report key metrics such as graduation rates and debt levels.
We're gratified by the growing number of responses above last year's good start—we surveyed nearly 860 programs, up more than 20 percent from the 2012 list. That reflects the trust that schools have in us to publish useful information that will help guide students to their programs.
We've been working with the schools and other experts to develop metrics that matter. And we'll continue to refine the data sets and expand the categories.
Some schools argue that you can't compare online programs using traditional measures. We agree. But we also know that at some point there will have to be more tangible and reliable ways of evaluating these programs, or else what's the point of considering an online education?
Online education lends itself to output measures that are more rigorous than what we see from traditional brick-and-mortar programs. Educators specializing in the online space have been eager to help develop and publish those output measures.
That enhanced data allowed us to rank programs in some of the most popular areas, such as general bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in nursing and computer information technology.
It's important to remember that we're ranking programs, not schools. As the methodology makes clear, these are degree-granting programs offering classes that are 100 percent online—the federal government standard for qualifying as distance learning programs.
And while orientations, testing, and support services may have in-person requirements, we're not dealing with the blended learning programs that combine classroom and online education. We're also making no distinction between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.
Programs at some nontraditional schools do quite well, which should probably be expected as they've been at this for a while. Many of the usual high-flyers on our Best Colleges list are only just now jumping into online programs with enthusiasm. And of course there may be some programs that are quite good but simply did not supply us with data.
As with all our rankings, our goal is to provide accurate information that allows consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons. We don't pick favorites—the numbers do.
But we also stress that numerical lists might not be the right way for some people to decide. The point is to find what works best for you.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 10:27
Category: Urban Ed Written by Emily Driscoll, FOXBusiness
Getting accepted to college is an achievement in itself, but a degree doesn’t automatically equal success in the long run.
According to data from the federal government ,the overall four-year graduation rate for 2012 was 31% for public colleges and 52% for private colleges, so students should take note they need to establish good habits to stay on track and keep debt to a minimum.
“Going to college is not the same as being successful in college and completing a college degree – it’s very important that students who ‘get in’ and ‘go’ have a very good idea from the start of what will be expected of them and what steps they will need to take to persist and complete,” says Lori Grandstaff, vice president of product management and operations at WiseChoice.
Here are six expert tips that rising freshmen and current college students can institute now to be successful throughout their college experience.
Tip 1: Know and use on-campus resources
Colleges offer extensive resources to help students succeed at academics, extracurricular activities and career growth.
By the end of their first semester, students should be familiar with three key campus places: the library, the academic support center, and the career services center.
“Find out what sort of resources are available and what kind of support is provided by real people,” says Sally Rubenstone, senior advisor at College Confidential.
“Reference librarians, writing counselors, and career advisors can be key players when it comes to turning a so-so college experience into a successful one.”
Tip 2: Create a system to establish priorities
Students accustomed to their structured high school experience may struggle to balance college’s new-found independence to juggle classes, study time and extracurricular activities.
Grandstaff suggest students—especially freshmen—set priorities and stick to a schedule to manage their workload, schedule and reduce stress.
“Talking about these competing roles and planning where to spend time/effort is important for college students, and the sooner these conversations [with parents, faculty advisors, peers, etc.]take place, the better equipped students will be for succeeding in all areas of their lives.”
Tip 3: Don’t just show up to class--get involved
Large lecture halls can be intimidating, but experts say students get a better grasp on the material and can potentially increase their GPA if they are actively engaged rather than just going through the motions.
Rubenstone recommends sitting at the front of the room or close to the professor to feel more present and to participate in discussions when possible.
“Don’t dominate discussions or speak out when you have nothing to add just because you think it will help your grade…but you’re more likely to feel engaged when you actually are engaged.”
Tip 4: Foster relationships with professors and TAs
A common misperception about college faculty members is that they don’t want to be bothered by students, but most professors encourage interaction outside of class, says Dr. Christopher Duncan, Wittenberg University Provost and Professor of Political Science
“A close mentoring relationship with a few select faculty members is one of the most important parts of a good college education,” he says.
Demonstrating dedication and persistence to professors and teaching assistants (TAs) can also help students excel in a particular course they’re struggling with, says Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of McGraw Hill’s College and Career Readiness Center.
“It is very important to do things like signing up for office hours with a professor, making sure that you have a relationship with your TA where if you have to call them with an emergency, the TA knows who you are.”
Tip 5: Build a portfolio
Students should pick classes and activities that will advance their knowledge and experience toward their career path that they can use on a resume or during an interview, suggests Tamryn Hennessy, Rasmussen College's National Director of Career Services.
“Save great pieces of your coursework or great project work that you might save as PDF to show how you work in team [or] an extensive research paper that shows your ability to think and write,” she says.
“These are pieces you could offer to future employer evidence of your soft skills--this is so important, as employers know they can’t train this.”
Tip 6: Look ahead now
Students who delay thinking about the future until they have their diploma in hand may regret lack of foresight during their time in school.
To avoid getting stuck in a post-graduation rut or becoming unemployed, Livingston suggests that students check in with their goals every few months to make sure they are still on track by asking themselves questions: where they will be living, where they will be working, and how they will support themselves three years after graduation.
“You’d be amazed at how often that internal conversation actually helps--if you force yourself to say I’m going to complete this statement, it forces you to begin to imagine what that future is and subconsciously starts to help you [achieve that].”
Last Updated on Monday, 07 January 2013 11:40
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