Colleges Watch Courseloads Carefully

Colleges are increasing pressure on seniors admitted under early programs to maintain their course loads, according to an email sent to students and faculty by John Anderson, Director of College Counseling. Some schools, such as Skidmore College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, may reassess the early acceptances of students if they change their course schedules without properly notifying the school in advance. According to Skidmore’s Early Decision Admission letter, Skidmore’s policy is that “[students] may not drop any courses” without notification. If such a situation arises, the university may “reassess [one’s] admission status.” Mary Lou Bates, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Skidmore College, said that when a student tries to change his or her senior course load following early acceptance, “Skidmore picks what courses a matriculating senior can stay in… and what they can drop.” She added that only five to ten admitted seniors out of 640 are able to make changes to their schedule. Even though colleges threaten to defer admissions when unauthorized course changes take place, Associate Director of College Counseling, Carl Bewig said that there have never been any cases of this happening at PA. Some students are uneasy about the influence colleges have over senior course selection. Jake Bean ’08 was going to drop his English 560 course and instead take International Relations. However, his advisor, West Quad South Cluster Dean Peter Washburn, had him call his college counselor, Jonathan Nicholson, who recommended that he not drop the English class, as most colleges require four years of English. Bean said, “It was frustrating because I am more interested in International Relations and feel that after 10 terms of English at Andover, I have gotten a full dose of what the department has to offer. I wanted to explore more of the humanities, which I might actually major in.” Most colleges, however, do not limit all forms of senior course change. Bewig said, “There are many legitimate reasons for an Andover student to change their schedule…However, students shouldn’t [change their schedule] simply because they don’t want to work as hard.” Bates said that Skidmore looks for “validity, coherence and academic rigor in students’ requests for changing courses. This process is extremely individual [and] depends on students’ established interests.” Bewig suggested that Seniors plan ahead when considering possible course selections for the Senior year. Prior to Senior year, each student records fall trimester classes, as well as tentative plans for the winter and spring trimesters on his or her Secondary School Report. This course request sheet is then sent to all of a student’s potential colleges. Bewig stressed the importance of Seniors to put their true intentions on the Secondary School Report, rather than just put the classes that appeal to college admissions officers. Betsy Korn, Associate Dean of Studies, said, “I believe that colleges are just trying to be fair to all of their applicants by basing their decisions on factual information… They’re simply asking to be given an accurate listing of what courses are being taken. That seems reasonable to me.” Bewig said that one obstacle regarding notification of colleges of course changes is the problem posed by time limitations in course selection. At Andover, Seniors have a brief window – about a week – to change courses once a term begins. This gives students little time to get in touch with colleges to obtain approval for course changes. He also spoke about the issue of deciding when course changes merit an email or letter to colleges. Bewig said that in some cases, course changes are not worth the time of an admissions officer. In this case, college counselors, he said, “Use… professional judgment to determine if [a course change] is a major alteration in a schedule that is worth bothering a school about.”