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Best Education Sites Maps College Web Design, Utility

I’ve seen some interesting, innovative and flat-out weird ways that colleges have marketed to students. When I was on the receiving end, the ‘interesting’ factor in admissions was just starting to climb — but the most I remember are some packages and postcards with wild designs that made colleges look like they were trying too hard to be cool.

Even then, I gravitated toward stodgy, classic and boring.

Now it’s a different game. The other day a parent showed an e-mail her son received from a college that was courting him. The e-mail was a mock-romance letter that said the institution was worried he just wasn’t interested — and they wanted to know, was there someone else?

It was a funny, lighthearted way to communicate — but it shows the extent to which the admissions landscape has changed.

Now, the main portal to a school — the portal they’d like prospective students to jump through, and imbibe absolutely everything on the other side — is the college’s website. Just about everything can be there, and truth be told, it’s a lot more useful than a generic admissions rep or, what’s worse, a jacketed-junior whose knowledge of higher ed couldn’t fill a Nyquil cup stumbling over your most basic questions as you’re hustled across the quad on a third-rate tour.

I love design and web utility. Always have, since that summer class at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School where I learned HTML back in the internet’s Pleistocene Era. It’s been a trip to see how sites in higher education — and particularly the website’s role in the admissions process — has evolved over the last 20 years.

Best Education Sites, a new project designed to track some of the design/utility and engagement in higher ed’s online media, has some pretty interesting analyses of how colleges use the web. It’s no surprise that some schools have taken to social media more quickly — and more successfully — than others, but some of the design patterns surprised me.

If someone had asked me about font use on higher ed sites, I would’ve said 60/40 sans serif to serif. Colleges go for clean and chic, but I didn’t think the edge was more than 3:2 or 2:1.

Wrong. 94% of content on college sites employ sans serif fonts.

And colors might be more interesting. Reds, oranges, greens and purples are incredibly uncommon, while grey and black make up the lion’s share. Blue and yellow you can get away with, it seems.

Hop on over to Best Education Sites and check out their wonderful infographic — it’s worth a look to see how the Mad Men of college admissions are designing their sites.

SpendOnLife’s Credit Blogging College Scholarship – $2,000, Under 400 Words

Here’s a rare one – an ad without commercial intent. has announced a blogging scholarship program for students. The topic? The importance of credit and preventing identity theft. A year ago most would’ve said this was a bit of a stale topic, but after a tumultuous financial season, this is a hot, relevant topic.

Who’s eligible? You must:

  • have a legitimate blog (blogs consisting of nothing but spam do not qualify)
  • be at least 18 years or older
  • be a full or part-time student of an accredited college or university

Pretty standard stuff. Have a blog, be an adult, go to school.

And what should you write about?

“To be considered for the scholarship you must write a blog entry on your own blog about credit or identity theft. We are not restricting you on exactly what you must write about, instead we are wanting to use your creativity and researching skills to decide on a more specific topic. We do ask that all entries are less than 400 words. That leaves enough room to communicate an idea effectively but keeps it short enough to keep the reader interested.

Each blog entry must also inform readers on how they can participate in this blogging scholarship. The more people that participate in the program, the more of the general student population that will be exposed to this very important topic.”

So, it’s up to you – find a particular facet of credit/identity security that you find interesting and have at it. 400 words isn’t much at all. A page of 12pt, double-spaced, Times New Roman text is about 250 words. That’s a page and a half for a shot at $2k.

Deadline? December 1st, so you’ve got time:

“All entries must be posted on your blog and submitted to us by December 1st. The winner will be decided shortly thereafter and scholarship monies will be mailed by check to the student by January 1st.”

Once you’ve written your post:

Visit our contact form and submit your:

  • full name
  • address
  • email
  • phone number
  • blog post entry URL

This is an opportunity worth taking if you’re in school, have a blog and can write a concise, meaningful post. If you can’t, your blog probably stinks and you write bad papers in college.

If you write a post, let me know – I’ll be happy to link to it.

Why I Don’t Give Alumni Donations

boston university terriers

Well, first, I can’t really afford it – let’s get that out of the way. I wish I could, but right now I can’t.

Aside from that limitation, I don’t give to my University’s general fund because of irresponsible, inefficient spending. I don’t want to donate money to a University when those funds are spent on frivolous projects outside the central purposes of higher education – for example, voter registration.

I’d donate my time and professional expertise, though.

Welcome to the College Rankings Game, Forbes

forbes college rankings logo

Forbes has released its new college ranking system so that college-seekers might have an alternative to US News.

As you might expect, there’s some good, some bad and some surprises.

I like what I see so far – you can read my brief summary and analysis of the Forbes system [and links to other takes] over at the GlobalScholar blog.

Affirmative Action/Discrimination in Education

the plight of the rural non-elite

The issue at The Quick and the Ed, and on Flypaper’s radar, is affirmative action. TQ&tE, in discussing Obama’s take on the issue, says:

“I’m in favor of racial preferences in college admissions as long as the goal is to help minority students who come from substandard K-12 schools and have to live with legacy of historical racism along with discrimination that still exists today.”

I’d go with cultural/intellectual diversity [useful] over racial diversity [useless], but I understand what Mr. Carey is saying. Flypaper is unimpressed.

A few years ago, I applied for a job at a well-known education bastion in New York City. I overheard one of the interviewers say to another that I was “too country.”

A year before that, I had a similar interview in Los Angeles, where an examiner expressed concern that a rube like me just wouldn’t be able to “fit in” in LA and that I “wouldn’t be happy in a big city” despite anything on my CV or in my testimony that might suggest otherwise. I wish that she’d told me about my happiness before leaving for the interview – it could have saved me a 3,000 mile trip.

Yes, maybe it was a mistake to wear overalls and a straw hat to these interviews. Maybe I should’ve brought my own spittoon, too, because the interviewers balked when I spat load upon load of tobacco juice on their carpets. And maybe the Hawken blackpowder rifle strung over my shoulder presented a mismatch with their cultures [really, it was only a .32 Davy Crockett squirrel gun - I figured a .50 or .58 would seem too aggressive, though I think they failed to make the distinction].

Ok, ok, the attire/accessories part was an exaggeration, but all the rest is true.

I’m not suggesting equivalence between different types of discrimination. We do, however, see suboptimal decisions made for all types of goofy reasons, whether in hiring, college admissions or routine social situations.

It’s an imperfect system, and some get the short end of the stick far more often than others, but it’s better than a doubly-goofy fix based on which racial box you check on an application.

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