Happy New Year!
This post marks the end of 2015 and provides us with an opportunity to thank you for your readership.
We have a lot in store for you in 2016 and can't wait to get started.
But first, let's take a look at what happened in December and the impact it may have on you and/or your child.
Christmas Miracle: Obama Reforms the "No Child Left Behind" Law
Obama recently signed a law that reforms the "No Child Left Behind" law. U.S. News mentions that while this previous law was applauded for having "the right goals", it was too "cookie-cutter" to be effective. This overhaul of the law gives more power to the states, allowing them to make more decisions.
The hope is that this law will increase equal opportunity among children in the U.S. One thing remains though: students will still have to take federally required reading and math exams. However, this new law does encourage decreasing the amount of time students spend taking tests rather than learning material.
There has been backlash over the amount of time students spend taking tests throughout their K-12 years. However, U.S. News asserts that students in other high-performing education systems across the world spend more time taking tests than students from the U.S. Andreas Schleicher, an international testing expert, states that the U.S. ranks "just below average" on frequency of testing.
WPI's Decision to Go Test Optional is Paying Off
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) became test optional in 2008. This decision was meant to encourage underrepresented minorities to apply to WPI. The Washington Post takes a look at what happened after this decision.
One of the biggest results? The number of applications from women nearly doubled and the number who enrolled increased by 78%. As Kristin Tichenor, a senior VP at WPI says, "A test-optional policy is not about attracting weaker students. It is about sending prospective students a message: we see you as more than a number."
The school allowed students to send other representations of their high school successes, such as Eagle Scout projects and robotics designs. Surprisingly, students sent these items in addition to standardized tests scores rather than instead of.
Only 5% of students don't send scores. So what does this mean? The possibility is that going test-optional sends the message that the school recognizes the importance of looking at the "whole student." This acknowledgment seems to make students feel more comfortable about not only applying, but sending in their scores along with their additional materials to give the college the "whole picture" of who they are and what they hope to achieve.
Business Insider published a piece on the top education stories that will dominate headlines in 2016. These include the troubled for-profit college industry, affirmative action, Malia Obama, the Common Core, and the NEW SAT.
Additionally, most seniors are probably finished with college applications and The Huffington Post has some advice for what NOT to do once your child is done applying to schools. Essentially, students should not be doing anything while waiting for the schools to make their decisions. The article advises students to be patient. However, this advice does not apply to students who have heard back from Early Action or Early Decision schools or who have been deferred. We have some advice for next steps if your child falls into one of these three categories.
FAFSA is Officially Open!
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened on January 1. Current high school seniors who plan on attending college in the fall and would like to apply for federal student aid are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
Some packages are awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, so students should consult with their parents and try to submit the application as soon as they can. Just a heads up. FAFSA requires tax information from the previous year and W-2 forms may not be available until late January, but you can apply using estimated tax information and input actual data when you receive your W-2. Luckily, this will be changed for the following academic year as the FAFSA will be posted earlier (in October) and families can use tax information from the previous year.
Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, has a helpful guide for filling out the FAFSA.
One more thing to note: when listing schools your child is interested in, on the FAFSA form, list them alphabetically. We mentioned in a previous monthly roundup that listing schools in say, order of interest, can actually harm a student's chances of getting in to a school. Apparently, college admissions officers can see this information and if their college is last on your list, it may impact their decision on who receives an acceptance letter.