MIT Adds GRE for Philosophy Ph.D. Admissions

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been known in philosophy circles for being one of the few well-regarded Ph.D. programs that did not require applicants to submit GRE scores. But MIT has started to require the GRE. Via email, Alex Byrne, head of philosophy at MIT, explained the decision: "This decision had nothing whatever to do with the utility or otherwise of the GRE as a predictor of success in philosophy graduate programs. Many applicants to our program sent in their GREs anyway -- both good and bad scores. These scores were not ignored, at least by some faculty members. Probably some applicants had the mistaken belief that we did require GREs, and probably some applicants had the mistaken belief that GREs were not taken into account at all. In the interests of transparency and fairness we decided to join our competitors and require the GRE, ensuring that we have the same data points for every applicant. There will be absolutely no change in the weight attached to GRE scores, which is marginal at best."

Officials at the philosophy departments of Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities confirmed that they would continue to keep the GRE optional for Ph.D. applicants in philosophy.



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Bard Will Keep Essay Option for Admission

Bard College announced Thursday that it will keep an option it introduced last year under which applicants can win admission by submitting four 2,500-word research papers. Those whose papers are judged by the college's faculty members to have produced B+ work or better will be offered admission, without any SAT scores, review of high school transcripts, or teacher recommendations. Bard leaders have said that they want to encourage the evaluation of applicants beyond traditional measures such as test scores and grades. For the class admitted this spring, 41 applicants (out of 7,000) tried the essay approach. Of the 41, 17 were admitted. But Bard introduced the program in September. The new essay topics will be ready in June, giving the next class more time to consider and act on the option.

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Law school group agrees to stop flagging scores of students who get extra time due to disabilities

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Law school group settles suit by Justice Department by agreeing to no longer identify test-takers who receive extra time due to a disability -- and to streamline process of getting extra time.

Minority Law Enrollments Show Only Modest Gains

Minority enrollments in law schools showed only modest gains in the last decade, rising from 20.6 percent in 2003 to 25.8 percent in 2012, according to an analysis in The National Law Journal. The figures for black students were particularly stagnated, increasing only from 6.9 percent to 7.5 percent during that time period.

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CollegeNET Sues Common Application

CollegeNET, a business that provides a number of admissions-related services to colleges, has announced an antitrust lawsuit against the Common Application. "Common Application has orchestrated a sea change in the student application process, turning a once vibrant, diverse and highly competitive market into a straitjacketed ward of uniformity," the suit says. "[D]iversity and competition have been virtually eliminated among ‘elite’ colleges, approximately 85 percent of whom are members of the Common Application." The press release announcing the suit also charges that the association imposes rules on members that have the impact of increasing application costs to students, and pressuring colleges to use the Common Application exclusively rather than using multiple admissions services.

The Common Application has faced considerable criticism in the last year over the numerous bugs and glitches in a new software system. While much of the criticism has focused on technology, pricing structure has also been an issue. And an outside consultant's report for Common Application questioned whether the incentives the Common Application gives member colleges to use the application exclusively advance or detract from the organization's mission. When the application problems were blocking applicants from submitting applications last fall, institutions that were exclusive Common Application users faced more difficulty coming up with alternatives for applicants.

A spokesman for the Common Application said via email that "we have just learned about this lawsuit, and will reserve any comment on the matter. The Common Application is a nonprofit, voluntary membership organization that has been dedicated to promoting equity, access and integrity in the college application process for nearly 40 years."

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How the 1% Visit Colleges

For those parents stressed out about visiting colleges that their children might attend, Magellan Jets is promoting a special service: 10 hours of private jet rental, dropoffs and pick-ups at airports, and a "seamless itinerary" to visit colleges on your child's list. The cost is $43,500. MarketWatch noted an obvious question for those who sign up for the service: "How will your college student get home for Thanksgiving? A packed economy flight, or another private jet?"


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Wesleyan U. Goes Test-Optional in Admissions

Wesleyan University has announced that it is ending a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. A statement from Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan's president, said: “We’re skeptical about the value of the SAT in predicting college success. Scores don’t necessarily add much to student applications; what’s more, we believe they can skew the advantage toward students from privileged backgrounds, or those who can afford test prep.”

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Growth for Challenger to Common Application

With more than 500 member colleges, the Common Application remains a key force in admissions, even after taking a lot of hits in the last year for a botched launch of a new software system. But a competitor, the Universal College Application, is seeing growth. In the last year, as problems hit the Common Application, Universal added 12 new members, bringing its total to 43. Today, Universal is announcing six more members: Brandeis and Colgate Universities, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the Universities of Chicago and Rochester, and Wilson College.


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U.S. Agencies Reiterate Backing of Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld the right of states to bar public colleges and universities to consider race or ethnicity in admissions decisions. On Tuesday, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a letter affirming the right of colleges without such state bans to consider to consider race and ethnicity, within the limits of other court decisions. "The Departments of Education and Justice strongly support diversity in elementary, secondary, and higher education, because racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation," the letter said. "The educational benefits of diversity, long recognized by the court and affirmed in research and practice, include cross-racial understanding and dialogue, the reduction of racial isolation, and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. Furthermore, to be successful, the future workforce of America should transcend the boundaries of race, language, and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected."


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Explaining Asian Academic Success

A new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences uses two longitudinal surveys to attempt to explain the relative academic advantage of Asian-American students, on average, compared to white students. It appears to be about work ethic. "We find that the Asian-American educational advantage is attributable mainly to Asian students exerting greater academic effort and not to advantages in tested cognitive abilities or socio-demographics," says the abstract, available here.


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