The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 10, 2009

College admissions, teen drinking topics at CCHS Principal’s Coffee

“It’s been a year unlike any other year,” commented Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) Guidance Department Chair Brad McGrath when he spoke at the Principal’s Coffee on April 6 about how the economy and demographics have affected college admissions this spring.

By now most colleges have sent out their admissions decisions and high school seniors have until early May to respond. McGrath noted later, “The admissions data on early decision is what has made college admissions unlike any other year.” In comparison to last year, fewer students who applied early decision were rejected and more were admitted or deferred.

“The Ivy League schools along with Williams and Amherst Colleges are the hardest to get into this year,” he said, because they are offering financial aid packages that are generous enough so students do not have to take out loans. He also observed, “Wait lists will be longer this year at most private colleges.”

However, McGrath said, “Except for the Ivy League and several other highly competitive schools, private colleges are accepting more students than in the past.” Tufts University has been accepting roughly six CCHS students each year in the last several years, however, this year 12 were accepted. He added, “CCHS students did very well at Georgetown.”

McGrath has noted, “More students are applying to state schools because of the economy, but we do not know if more students will attend.” He said, “One hundred eleven kids [from CCHS] applied to UMass-Amherst. That’s about a third of the class.” He thought the usual number of CCHS students applying there was between 70 and 80.

“Our kids do well getting into out-of-state public schools,” said McGrath. Although out-of-state tuition is higher than in-state tuition at public colleges, it is generally not as expensive as private schools. McGrath gave the example: The University of Massachusetts tuition is roughly $20,000, the University of Connecticut costs about $30,000 and private schools are running in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.

McGrath explained that the Virginia public colleges and universities want 20% of their student population to be out-of-state students. They admit more than this in order to reach their target, since fewer out-of-state students actually attend once accepted.

Another comment made at the coffee was that applications were up at Tulane and Duke, which surprised McGrath. He went on to explain that as a nation, our population is moving south and west. “Maine and Vermont are dropping in population” so they are recruiting. He commented that generally, students prefer to go to warmer places.

Stock market hits schools unevenly

McGrath said that for most colleges, 60% of their operating budget comes from tuition. Some with large endowments have been hit by the stock market plunge. “Carnegie-Mellon got creamed in the stock market.” He added that NYU, which holds very conservative investments, has done well. “Colleges are doing everything they can not to cut financial aid.” At some universities, individual departments have been asked to cut 5% of their budget so those funds could be used to keep students who are already at the college from dropping out due to the financial circumstances of their families.

In conclusion, McGrath said, “You still can get deals in private schools. It doesn’t look like financial aid will be cut much.” His strategy for next year would be to have students add schools to their list where that student is viewed as a very strong candidate.

Alcohol and parents

CCHS Principal Peter Badalament then spoke about on-going efforts to understand why so many CCHS students are drinking alcohol and why binge drinking is so prevalent. He reiterated what had been found in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Three-quarters of the kids report drinking alcohol; half of them report drinking in the last month and a quarter of them report binge drinking. Over 40% of the senior class reported binge drinking, where binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in a few hours.

Students told Badalament that they get a lot of good information at CCHS, but it does not necessarily change their behaviors. Badalament said, “We need to educate parents.” He is concerned about what parents are modeling at home with regards to alcohol.

He said parent-to-parent communication is key to help fix this problem. Several people at the coffee offered suggestions. One woman said she calls the home of where her son is going to make sure the parents will be there. Another noted that she has other adults stay at her house when she is going away for the weekend so no parties are held at her house.

Badalament is considering using breathalyzers for the proms, particularly the senior prom. He may have all students “breathe in” before they are allowed to enter the prom or randomly select every few students to be tested. He has asked the Student Senate to discuss these considerations. He said this strategy has worked well at other schools. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito