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Trends in Undergraduate Education

March, 2011
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As discussed in The Hobsons Report on Undergraduate Student Recruitment 2010, the US had an increase in enrollment of first-time freshmen by almost 600,000 students. This is a large increase and it means that applying to US colleges and getting admitted is becoming increasingly difficult.
In America, there are more than 3,000 colleges with lots of majors to choose from. The search is one that must encompass many elements. Some just refer to lists of top schools to decide where to apply. This is a mistake. America has many colleges that don’t make those lists which are created often by profit-making enterprises with criteria that don’t necessary elucidate what a good education means.
In a US study by Hobsons, it is interesting to note the following results regarding which subject areas are highly prioritized by US students.
 
All Senior Junior Sophomore
Business and management 13% 13% 12% 15%
Education 7% 6% 6% 9%
Engineering 9% 10% 8% 11%
Fine and applied arts 7% 5% 8% 11%
Health Professions (other than medicine) 7% 6% 9% 6%
Humanities 4% 5% 3% 3%
Law 6% 8% 6% 5%
Math and computer sciences 3% 3% 2% 2%
Medicine 16% 17% 17% 18%
Physical and life sciences 6% 7% 6% 6%
Social sciences 12% 11% 14% 5%
Other 9% 8% 9% 11%
 
 
Types of Schools - Private, Public and Liberal Arts
54% of the participants in the survey opted for private schools and 46% for public schools. 
Those students who apply to public schools in states where they are residents are able to receive significant tuition discounts. Those who apply to public schools in states where they are not residents will pay tuition fees that are close to those of private schools.  
There are many students who are opting for a liberal arts college where their intellectual capabilities are challenged by studying literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science. The concept of a liberal arts college is typically American and it connotes a college:
1)In a residential setting where most students are living on campus, away from home;
2)That often provides a two year liberal arts exploration before students go on to declare a particular major;
3)That is smaller in size than universities. There are smaller classes and more one-on-one attention by professors.
 
Examples of liberal arts colleges include: Goucher College in Maryland, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Davidson College in North Carolina, Colby College in Maine, Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and many more. Liberal arts colleges have the reputation of an environment where people get to know each other well, where there is intellectual engagement and pursuit, and community involvement, all founded on critical and analytical thinking and communication. Many highly successful individuals, such as t the nation’s wealthiest, US presidents, Pulitzer Prize winners in a myriad of areas, and Fulbright scholarship recipients have graduated from liberal arts institutions. 
The Washington Monthly College Guide ranks liberal arts colleges in accordance with their contribution to the public good in the areas of:
Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students)
Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs)
Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country)
 
The top five colleges noted here are:
Morehouse College in Georgia, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Berea College in Kentucky, and Amherst College in Massachusetts. 
 
In Summary
The college search, application and essay process is one fraught with complications, strategies, and lots of focused hard work. One of the steps in the college search process is to determine the type of college in which one is best suited to excel, be it public, private, liberal arts or some other variation.
 
By Dr. Rachelle R. Wolosoff
 
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