The University of California's Response to the Varsity Blues Scandal

On the one hand I think … will it ever go away? I’m sure like many people, I’m getting a bit bored of the college admissions scandal that erupted last March. After all, there are corrupt characters and shady deals in every walk of life. Yet, in my line of work, the scandal is like a virus that has left a lingering cough. It simply will not go away.

On the other hand, I think that we must continue this discussion to ensure that the loop holes are closed and the areas for abuse are shut down. Like I’ve said before, the guilty parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and be made examples of to everyone. Crime should not pay.

On that note, I’ve copied below select portions of the University of California’s outline of measures it plans to take in response to the scandal. The full response (with details) should be available after the end of this month, so please stay tuned …

Based on the ECAS audit findings, UC is undertaking the following comprehensive steps to strengthen our policies and procedures, and prevent bad actors from taking advantage of the system in the future:

● Clearer documentation ○ Ensuring a clear documentation trail for admissions evaluations that support an admission decision ○ Ensuring that there is sufficient documentation, approval and rationale for ancillary admissions processes and admission decisions on the basis of athletics or special talent ○ Implementing the monitoring of donations to prevent admissions decisions from being made on the basis of expected financial gain to the university (emphasis mine).

● Improved verification protocols ○ Strengthening existing processes in place to identify falsified application information ○ Enhancing controls to verify special talents and make it more difficult for third parties to influence admission decisions based on special talent ○ Improving mechanisms in place to monitor student-athletes’ participation in athletic programs

● Stronger procedures ○ Adding mechanisms to identify and manage potential conflicts of interest in admissions and existing relationships that may give the appearance of inappropriate influence on admissions decisions ○ Improving IT system access controls to ensure access is granted only when required for specific job responsibilities ○ Strengthening the organizational independence of the athletics compliance offices by modifying the reporting structure ○ Ensuring personnel are appropriately trained on these new protocols UC campuses are developing individual plans for implementing the changes outlined above, which will be completed by the end of July 2019. The campus internal audit departments, with oversight from ECAS, will then track these plans over the next several months, helping to ensure the changes are implemented in a timely manner. As we look ahead to the second audit, we will remain transparent and accountable in our findings, and keep the public, the UC community and others apprised of our steadfast efforts in this matter. By proactively identifying and addressing the processes that can be improved by this audit, we will ensure our best efforts in preventing these types of illegal activities in the future

The Joys - And Advantages - of Reading a "Real" Book!

I tell my students all the time: read a book! Not an e-book or something on a screen of any sort, but an actual, hardcopy book. I’ve long believed (and studies support) that reading books is good for us. It can help us to better concentrate and retain information. In a world where our senses are inundated by stimuli, the ability to focus on one thing and really take it in is critical to academic, professional, creative and perhaps even emotional success. Sadly, it is also becoming a lost competency.

As we approach summer, encourage your students to read for enjoyment. I’m not so much concerned about the message as the medium … just have them read a good, old-fashioned book! We still remember what they look like, don’t we?

Below is a very interesting article on this exact point:

And for Extra Credit: Read a Physical Book

By Michael Bugeja 

MAY 28, 2019

The idea came to mind as I was reading an old Atlantic article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," by the tech writer Nicholas Carr. The internet, he feared, had rewired his brain: "I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. … That’s rarely the case anymore."

I wondered: Could I engineer the opposite result for my students — reared on cellphones and laptops — if I asked them to read a book in a physical format? That is, would they be distracted from their digital devices by reading a hardcover or paperback book — the ultimate firewalled medium?

Our students are multitasking masters. They easily text friends while reading an e-book or maintaining eye contact with someone. But even for expert multitaskers, texting while holding a print book can be awkward — they flip closed if you remove a hand, and you lose your place. But more than testing their dexterity, I wanted to see how the experience of reading in print would affect their digital lives.

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So I offered extra credit in my "Technology and Social Change" course if students read a physical book for their required paper. They could select any volume on technology, social media, or philosophy for the paper. But if they were seeking the extra credit, they had to (a) bring the actual book to class for verification purposes and (b) write about the experience of reading a book in print.

The 26 students who opted in chose books like Andrew Keen’s The Internet Is Not the Answer and Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. (All 26 gave written permission to use their responses and first names in this article.) This simple assignment was illuminating. Many students had not read a physical book since at least middle school. Based on their emails, I tabulated and organized their reactions into six broad categories:

  • 92 percent enjoyed the experience of reading in print.

  • 73 percent found their cellphones a distraction, interrupting their reading.

  • 27 percent said reading in print had helped them focus and complete the assignment.

  • 27 percent said they seldom read books — in any physical or digital format — in college.

  • 15 percent found reading a print book to be relaxing; it had a calming effect on their minds and/or improved their sleep.

  • 15 percent felt a sense of accomplishment and pride as they approached the end of their book.

For me, the responses affirmed the power of print versus the programming of technology. Of course, I could not verify that students had actually read a print book, rather than bringing one to class and then using a digital copy.

But their written testimonies rang true and were filled with personal confessions about how tethered they feel to their distracting devices:

The unrelenting pings proved annoying. "I found it very hard to stay focused, and eventually would get upset and put my phone on silent out of my reach," said Sydney, about trying to text a friend as she flipped the pages of her print book (Man’s Search for Meaning,by the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl).

In that moment, a new educational world opened up to her, one in which she said she "was 100 percent focused on reading, as my phone and laptop was out of sight." Free of digital distractions and immersed in her book, she started highlighting and writing notes on earmarked pages. "This was super-helpful in writing the book-review paper," she said.

Almost all of my mostly Generation Z students felt liberated by silencing their iPhones and Androids. They revitalized their relationship with print books, ignoring the insistent notifications that beckoned. In a few cases, students actually left the premises, book in hand, to escape from the tension that the mere presence of a cellphone or laptop elicited. For example:

  • "Throughout my time reading The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt, I will admit that I was very distracted by my phone, laptop, noises outside my apartment, and my roommates popping in and out of my room," wrote Clare. "I needed to make a change or find a better place to read, or else I wasn’t going to finish reading this book in time. So, given that, I decided to go to the library." She found a quiet spot there. "I went for an hour or two each day … and sure enough I finished it within a week."

  • At first, Molly, who also read The Happiness Hypothesis, kept her phone near her while wading through the dense book, which covers philosophical ideas since ancient times. However, she said, "I often found myself not comprehending the reading because I was thinking about checking my phone — even when it wasn’t in plain sight." She started leaving it in a different room while she read. It made her realize, "I’ve become so attached to my phone that when I don’t have it, I continuously think that I’m missing something."

Other students didn’t eliminate digital distractions so much as control them in order to better absorb the content as they read:

  • Julia, for example, was one of several students who plugged in earphones to listen to music while reading but turned her phone screen down so that she wouldn’t see the alerts. She checked her phone only between chapters.

  • Another student, Blake, set a timer on his phone that prevented him from picking it up while he read his book (Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital). "I was able to get my reading goals out of the way, but still had the gratification of holding my phone, after 45 minutes or so," he wrote. The experience made him aware of his own digital dependency: "From my bedroom, to my living room, and kitchen, there’s such a difficulty with separating my personal life with social-media influences."

Print has some advantages educationally. Who knew? Many of my students enjoyed the tangible experience of holding a book in their hands — the feel, the heft of it. Some said reading a print book had helped them learn the material better than reading it electronically would have done.

  • "Being able to use a pen to mark sentences or paragraphs that resonated with me and helped me take in the information more clearly," said Lexie, who read Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. When it came time to write her paper, she found that she recalled information better and appreciated being able to go back and look at what she had marked down.

  • Reading felt more authentic, said Yean, who read a print version of Alan B. Albarran’s The Social Media Industries. "When reading a virtual copy," he said, "I feel like I am just browsing through the web for information. I do not absorb information as well because it feels like a chore to me."

  • E-books "just don’t deliver the same sort of visual and tactile satisfaction I get from reading a physical book," said Amber, who also read Boyd’s It’s Complicated. "It was actually quite a relief to be able to sit down with a physical book with no distractive notifications. … I was able to dive right in and get lost in a book without even realizing it."

Reading a print book, it turns out, is actually enjoyable. Students found it relaxing. They got a sense of accomplishment in watching as their bookmarks got closer and closer to the end. It even helped some sleep better. Witness:

  • "Reading a paperback book really relaxes the mind and takes you away from all of your surroundings," wrote Giles, who reviewed James Barrat’s Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. "To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that wasn’t online." Without the incentive of extra credit, he said, he would have read an e-book. "So, thank you," he wrote, "because this experience really did help me to remember how much I enjoy reading real books."

    "I always made sure I read my book for about 20 to 30 minutes right before bed," Neil wrote, after readingMindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans. "Before reading this book, I would almost always be looking at my phone or laptop right before bed." He plans to keep trying to read a physical book at night, "as I noticed great improvements in the amount of sleep I was getting, which really improved my overall life."

  • "You feel like you actually accomplish something when you read a physical book, front to back," wrote Cory, of reading The Glass Cage. Technology, he noted, has a way of making you feel as if the information you are reading "will never end."

Some students remarked that they rarely read books in any format. One even acknowledged that this was "the first book I have read, cover to cover, for some time." She recalled reading books before college, but acknowledged that she spends "a lot more time on my phone playing games and watching Netflix." This experience changed her perception about that and rekindled her love of reading.

Other students weren’t sure they had enjoyed the physical experience of reading a hard copy. "I’m torn whether I like it or not," said Samuel, who read John Seabrook’s Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture, "because I am not a fan of how uncomfortable it is to hold a book. But at the same time, a book page is a lot easier to read than a screen." Still, he found it satisfying to know that he could focus on reading and resist the urge to check his phone.

And how did the experiment affect my course? It enriched our discussions throughout the semester.

In Carr’s essay about what the internet might be doing to our brains, he wrote, "The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds." We create "quiet spaces" in our psyche, he noted, by "the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation" that fosters original ideas and associations.

That was the experience of Alaina, who read Sherry Turkle’s The Second Self: "Hours could pass before I’d put it down at times. One thing about reading the book for this class was the topic was thought-provoking rather than entertaining."

In the end, most students acknowledged the insistent nature of cellphones that interrupted their education on a residential campus. Many also experienced the thrill of being immersed in the world of print and ideas. A few had epiphanies about the importance of the university library.

In a class about technology and social change, perhaps the biggest change from this extra-credit experiment was in the students themselves.

Michael Bugeja is a professor of journalism and communication at Iowa State University.

Why Hire An Admissions Consultant?

How hiring a private 'college navigator' helps our family survive the high school years

Hiring an expert keeps us from killing each other over SAT prep, college tour registrations and application deadlines.

Counselors will look at grades and test scores. They will also consider learning styles, and whether a student might do better in a smaller, more personalized college or a larger university.

May 23, 2019, 12:58 PM EDT

By Stephanie Thurrott

When our son Mark was in high school, we hired a college consultant — someone to help us navigate the complicated path to the right school. It worked. Mark just finished his third year at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he’s thriving. Now, we’re using the same counselor to help our high-school-junior daughter, Kelly, find the school that’s right for her.

College counselors aren’t just for the wealthy anymore. “More and more average families are using counselors. There’s a wide range of services, and prices can be affordable. If the goal is to have your child attend college and be happy and successful, a counselor is able to identify the best-fit colleges for your child and to do a lot of research you can’t possibly do,” says Ann Laurion of The College Navigator, the counselor who has been working with my family.

Not every student needs a college counselor. I have a nephew who had his heart set on Penn State early on, and had the grades to get accepted. He had visited the school many times and was sure it would be a good fit for him. His family agreed.

But Mark was considering schools throughout the Northeast. And Kelly is open to going almost anywhere in the U.S. With more than 3,000 colleges in the country, it would be nearly impossible to figure out which ones might be best academically, socially and financially.

“Everybody knows the name brand schools, but they are incredibly tough to get into,” Laurion says. “And just because a school is famous or expensive or you’ve heard of it doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for your child.”

What do college counselors do?

Counselors help students present their best selves, says Brooke Daly, president of the Higher Education Consultants Organization. “What have they accomplished and how can they present that in a compelling way?”

Finding a college takes a lot of energy, time and bandwidth. “If you feel overwhelmed and can’t handle another parenting duty, an independent educational consultant might be a good solution,” says Maruta Vitols, an independent college consultant with A+ College Consulting in Newton, Mass.

I think the most valuable service for my family is the list of reach, midrange and safety schools that Laurion thinks are a good fit academically, socially and financially.

“College counselors can help students discover opportunities they didn’t know existed,” Daly says. “They often do aptitude and personality assessments so kids can better understand what majors and careers might be good fits.”

Counselors create college lists after getting to know the student well. “Anyone can stick information into a computer program and get a list of colleges. That doesn’t mean they are a good fit for your child,” Laurion says. Counselors can blend their knowledge of schools with what they learn about your student to develop a personalized list.

For example, Laurion added some southern schools to Kelly’s list even though Kelly didn’t think she wanted to go south. With another winter behind her, though, the idea of college in a warmer climate is sounding appealing. On the other hand, Laurion understands that Kelly strongly prefers urban and suburban settings, so there aren’t any rural schools on her list.

Academics, social life and finances are all part of the mix

Academically, counselors will look at grades and test scores. They will also consider learning styles, and whether a student might do better in a smaller, more personalized college or a larger university.

Socially, counselors might ask your child where they stand politically, what kinds of friends they want, and how often they want to come home. The answers help find the places your child is most likely to thrive.

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a kid falling in love with a school and then finding out their family can’t afford to send them there.

Counselors also encourage parents and students to talk openly about finances. “College is so outrageously expensive, and students need to know what families can and can’t afford to pay,” says Vitols. She recommends staying away from schools that are out of your price range. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a kid falling in love with a school and then finding out their family can’t afford to send them there,” she says.

Outsourcing the nagging

There’s also a benefit of working with college counselors that I felt was key — they take on a lot of the nagging that can lead to tension between parents and teenagers. Instead of me pestering my kids to meet deadlines, there’s someone else doing it. In the last year or two before your child leaves home, it’s nice to spend time together and keep the tension to a minimum.

“We can act as mediators. Basically we say the same thing [as parents] but coming from us, a teenager is often more open to receiving that suggestion,” Vitols says.

Laurion agrees. “The consultant is not involved in whether the child came home late last night or if their room is kept clean. It’s my job to assist with this process, and nothing else comes into play,” she says. “Kids are trying to become more independent and they don’t want to listen to their parents. When someone else comes in they are more likely to listen.”

What else do they do?

College counselors also can:

  • Get to know your student’s preferences, personality and interests so they can help find schools that are a good fit.

  • Review high school classes to be sure your student is taking the course load colleges want.

  • Recommend prep materials for the SAT and ACT, remind your student of registration deadlines, and suggest when to send test scores to colleges.

  • Help with essays.

  • Help your student request the right letters of recommendation.

  • Guide your student through the common app and any other application materials colleges require.

  • Help prepare your student for admissions interviews.

  • Guide families so students control the process, with parents assisting.

  • Help you apply for financial aid and understand aid packages when you receive them.

  • Coach students and families through disappointing news — a college rejection might be the first time a student worked really hard on something that didn’t turn out the way they wanted.

When do most families start?

Counselors may start working with families as early as ninth grade, when they focus on helping parents plan for financial aid, making sure students are taking the right courses and maintaining good grades, and recommending and reviewing extracurricular activities.

“The rubber hits the road junior year,” Vitols says. “That’s when families start seriously thinking about the application process.”

Your child’s school guidance counselor can also be a resource, and many independent counselors will work with your school counselor. But Vitols says the average school guidance counselor handles 482 students. That doesn’t leave them a lot of time for individual attention.

A smarter way to pay for college

NOV. 6, 201702:40

Hiring a college counselor? Ask these questions

I found Laurion through word of mouth — my hair stylist had hired her to help her three children find colleges. That works, but you’ll still want to make sure a counselor is a good fit for your family.

Interview a few people and make sure your child is part of the conversation. “You want the child comfortable with the consultant. It’s important that the child is involved in the process and wants to do this,” Laurion says.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s your experience? Look for someone who has worked in college admissions. Ask about their training and background.

  • What professional organizations do you belong to? Look for membership in the Independent Educational Consultants Organization, the Higher Education Consultants Organization, or the National Association for College Admission Counseling or one of its local branches. All hold members to high ethics standards.

  • What services do you provide, and how does your process work?

  • Do you offer help applying for financial aid?

  • Can we see your contract?

  • Is there a limit on interactions, emails or phone calls?

  • Will my child work with one person or a team?

  • Are the meetings in person, online or over the phone?

  • Do you guarantee admission, certain SAT or ACT scores, or financial aid? (A “yes” answer is a sign of shady activity.)

  • How much do you charge, and what’s included? Some counselors charge hourly rates while others offer packages. The industry average is $150 per hour, according to Daly. And you might pay $1,000 to $7,000 or more for a package.

What if you can't afford it?

Some counselors use a sliding scale, and some professional organizations award funds to students in need. Some also volunteer in programs at high schools that help first-generation, at-risk or low-income students navigate the college application process.

Travel Funds Available at Wellesley for Rising Seniors!

Please see the email I received from Wellesley College. What a great opportunity for some great girls!

Discover Wellesley Weekend Travel Funds Now Available!

Exciting news for your rising senior girls! Students may now apply for a travel grant to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend on Sunday, October 6 and Monday, October 7. 
Who is it for?
Wellesley encourages applicants from underrepresented cultural backgrounds such as African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latina American, Native American; first-generation students; and/or students from other underrepresented communities. The travel grant selection committee will also prioritize inviting students from families with limited financial resources, regardless of cultural or racial background. The above-mentioned are priorities, but are not meant to imply any exclusivity regarding the program or the selection process.
What’s free?
Transportation to and from campus, meals, and overnight housing (with a current student!). Family members are welcome to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend, but the grant only covers travel for the student.
How do students apply?
The priority application deadline is June 30; the final deadline is August 15.

  1. For details on how to apply:

  2. Students are encouraged to report SAT or ACT test scores and must submit a copy of their unofficial transcript (grades 9-11th) and a statement of purpose along with their application. 

What can you do?
Please pass this information to any rising seniors you think is a good fit for Wellesley and may need financial assistance to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend. We are looking for engaging, bright, and academically driven women who represent diverse geographic regions and who are interested in discovering Wellesley’s diverse and inclusive community. We give preference to students who have not yet visited. Last year, we received nearly 600 applications for a total of 100 available grants, and we hope to offer as many grants this fall. 
You are welcome to email me with the names of your students who will be applying for the travel grant, so I can keep an eye out for their applications.
A second chance
Due to limited funding, we may not be able to award grants to all qualified students. If they are not awarded a grant, we hope you will still encourage them to apply to Wellesley. Our application is free. We offer additional travel grants for our Spring Open Campus program for admitted students in April.

For more information, please review our travel grant webpage, including our FAQs.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Thanks for spreading the word!
Best wishes,
Natasha Robinson
Associate Director of Admission

Reflections on the Admissions Scandal

Most people are probably aware of the admissions scandal that exploded in the national news yesterday. If not, I invite you to review the following link:

In a nutshell, many were charged in a money-for-admissions scam that targeted some of the nation’s most elite schools including Stanford, Yale and Georgetown University, where I worked for almost a decade. The cast of characters includes college athletic coaches, standardized test administrators, corporate CEOs and even some famous actors. Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, was among those indicted. Say it isn’t so Felicity - I loved you in Desperate Housewives! This will forever tarnish my viewing enjoyment as I watch reruns of you playing Lynette Scavo.

At the center of this web of deceit is Rick Singer, CEO of The Key, a life coaching and college counseling company. The indictment states that Mr. Singer received ~ $25,000,000 from wealthy clients to bribe athletic coaches, doctor test scores and falsify credentials. Singer created what he called a “side door” to college admissions. The front door is how students get in the old-fashioned way: they earn it with their accomplishments. The back door apparently goes through institutional advancement. You know what this is - it comes in the form of donating buildings, endowing scholarships and the like. Singer’s side door paid off athletic coaches to designate students as athletic recruits, despite the fact that many didn’t even play the sports they were purportedly recruited for! The scheme was elaborate, to be certain, and this thumbnail sketch does not do it full justice.

So why am I writing about this? Because there are some people in my line of work who are justifiably concerned that members of the general public might think all educational consultants are somehow on “the take” or are otherwise suspicious. But we all know that there are bad apples in every profession and we shouldn’t let them spoil it for the rest of us. As an attorney, I know there are certain lawyers out there whose ethics are - shall we say - less than sterling. Similarly, we’ve all heard about doctors who have received kickbacks or other remuneration from pharmaceutical and device companies for using and/or recommending certain products. The fact that these physicians exist does not mean that we should stop going to the doctor! It just means that we should vet our healthcare providers thoroughly.

Unlike other professions, educational consultants are not licensed. We do not have the equivalent of a state bar or board of medical examiners. It is my sincere hope that this will one day change and we will be subject to stringent credentialing and licensing requirements. I would welcome them! For the time being, however, what we have are memberships in professional associations. IECA (the Independent Educational Consultants Association) and HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association) are the two main (although not only) players in this arena. Membership in these organizations requires more than just paying a fee. One must apply and submit proof of experience and credentials. Once admitted, members are held accountable to the organization’s code of ethics or best practices. For example, IECA’s Principles of Good Practice can be found here: Members are forbidden from taking compensation, in any form, from schools to facilitate admission for clients. We are also forbidden from even implying that we have influence over admissions representatives that could sway a decision in our client’s favor. It should go without saying that we are forbidden from paying off or bribing anyone!

Does membership in one of these organizations guarantee ethical behavior? Sadly, it does not, anymore than medical or legal licensure guarantees that someone with nefarious motives won’t behave badly. Are educational consultants who do not belong to these organizations de facto unethical? Absolutely not! In fact, some of my most respected colleagues have chosen, for personal reasons, not to be members. Yet, the best practices of these organizations serve as a metric you can use when interviewing potential educational consultants.

The most important takeaway I hope to impart is that it is incumbent upon you to thoroughly interview potential consultants. If you have questions, please ask! If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts! The vast majority of us behave ethically and appropriately. We provide valuable services to help students with the complicated admissions process while hopefully reducing anxiety along the way. We have neither crystal balls nor magic wands and students will, at the end of the day, be admitted based on the quality of their credentials and application materials. The selection of an educational consultant is a critical investment. As with any critical investment, caveat emptor is the controlling principle.