College Miscellany

A year ahead: two things for for current college freshmen:


Great interview with University of Santa Clara’s admission director:

Time’s new survey of the 50 best liberal arts colleges, ranked by their levels of aid and SAT/ACT scores:

Ken Burns’ commencement speech at Stanford last month:
NPR gathered the best commencement speeches of all time:

A round-up of 2016 commencement speeches:

New York Times collects ‘favorite’ essays:

A college admissions expert’s blog to follow: Willard Dix:

Steven Spielberg gives the commencement at Harvard:

Frank Bruni podcast:
College Admissions: Stop the Madness!
Insider Podcasts
Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights from New York Times staff. In this podcast the Times columnist Frank Bruni weighs in on college acceptance madness.
It is college decision season. And, to many, there are few words that incite more terror, hysteria and then, for an increasingly small number, elation than the words Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst, Duke and Northwestern — among other prestigious colleges.
The Times columnist Frank Bruni offers fresh insight into the particular madness that is the college application process. In this podcast, Mr. Bruni, author of the best-selling book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” talks about the trouble with college admissions and how the process affects people’s lives.
nside The Times
College Admissions: Stop the Madness!
Columnist Frank Bruni: You do NOT have to go to a college with less than a 10% acceptance rate in order to succeed, or, to have the destiny you want.

Mr. Bruni also offers comforting words to those who have received the dreaded rejection emails from their top college choices. “There is nothing about that rejection that is an objective measurement of your worth or that is an accurate predictor of your future,” he says.

He adds: “Take some of the energy you spent trying to get into schools and lavish some of it on making the most of where you are going to school, and I promise: You will not be behind the eight ball because your No. 1 choice said ‘No.’ ”
Susan Lehman is host.
Correction: April 7, 2016

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a book written by Frank Bruni. It is “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” not “Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be: An Antidote to Admissions Mania.”

Malia Obama goes to Harvard after a gap year:
More Malia:

Washington Post:

Breaking Out of the Box
About $8 billion a year is spent on diversity training, despite little evidence that it works.
April 29, 2016 2:36 p.m. ET
‘Where are the girl bus drivers?” I asked my mother when I was 6, and I’ve been hearing versions of this question ever since: Where are the women lawyers and doctors? Painters? Politicians? Military officers? CEOs? Scientists? Full professors? (For that matter, where are the male nannies, elementary-school teachers and nurses?) The where-are-they question was the obsessive focus of the women’s movement that erupted in the 1970s, but over the decades, as women and men entered occupations previously forbidden to them by law, custom or social norms, the question has come to seem quaint. “Where are the women doctors?” Are you kidding? They’re here.
This is why Despina Stratigakos’s “Where Are the Women Architects?”—a slim, well-documented volume, only 82 pages of text—is both outdated and all too timely. One might think that, as one profession after another has made the question as passé as bloomers, all other male-dominated fields would take the hint. But, no, they never do, trotting out the same old justifications for excluding women from training, hiring, promotion and honors: Women aren’t suited for our work, not smart enough, not motivated enough, not talented enough, not womanly enough, not masculine enough . . . These self-serving justifications persist until more than a few token women have broken through the gates, demonstrating that they are “enough” of all of those things. The latest entry in the “who is still being stupid about this issue” sweepstakes is architecture, as Ms. Stratigakos, an architectural historian, reveals.
The first thing that historians of any field do is, naturally, start in the past. Typically, they find that women were there, but systematically overlooked, written out of history. Ms. Stratigakos restores her own field’s foremothers—telling us, for example, about buildings designed by women in places as diverse as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the 1913 Leipzig International Book Fair and the 1914 Haus der Frau at the Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne. This latter building, designed by Margarete Knüppelholz-Roeser, “caused a stir because of its severe and boldly unornamented forms,” Ms. Stratigakos says, prompting some design critics to say it lacked “feminine grace.” Nonetheless, she adds, it is “considered by historians to be a watershed moment in the development of modern architecture.” Who knew?
By Despina Stratigakos
Princeton, 114 pages, $19.95
Ms. Stratigakos then explores the state of gender inequity in architecture, reserving special venom for the “boys’ club” that has awarded the profession’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, to only one woman, Zaha Hadid, who died in March. (When Robert Venturi won the prize in 1991, his professional partner and wife, Denise Scott Brown, was ignored. The field is still scrambling to make up for this insult.) Women architects today, like their peers in other professions, are working to make the field more welcoming, undo discrimination and restore the legacy of earlier pioneers.
For all the value of Ms. Stratigakos’s historical portraits and her account of today’s struggles, the most memorable chapter in “Where Are the Women Architects?” may be the one that tells the story of Architect Barbie. Ms. Stratigakos and her colleague Kelly Hayes McAlonie persuaded Mattel to create this doll (Computer Engineer Barbie and Astronaut Barbie have also joined Barbie’s ranks). But the first problem they faced was how she should be dressed. Clearly not in the businesswoman-black style an actual female architect might favor: “To a five-year-old girl, a doll dressed in black says ‘villain’ or ‘mortician,’ not ‘architect,’ ” Ms. Stratigakos writes. Architect Barbie ended up with a pink drawing tube for carrying blueprints, a white hard hat, black glasses—and a dress. A century ago, women were excluded from construction sites because of their dresses, yet were simultaneously forbidden to wear pants. “Our decision to combine a hard hat with a dress—symbols of building and femininity—channeled the spirit of girl power, flaunting that which has been prohibited,” she writes.
By Iris Bohnet
Belknap/Harvard, 385 pages, $26.95
And then all hell broke loose. Architect Barbie provoked—rather, reflected—a generational division among feminists as well as among women in the profession. Older women greeted the doll with scorn and contempt: “The hard hat is useless, as they’ll never let her on site in those heels!”; “Her accessories should include a paycheck that is 30% less than the men’s, antidepressants, and IBS medication.” Many found the Barbie doll itself an offensive stereotype, a “gross misrepresentation of what women look like.” Younger women saw her as cause for celebration: “I would pay big money for a hot pink drawing tube!”; “God help me, I really love Barbie’s outfit, and I want it for myself!” One admonished her elders: “They are dolls, not realistic representations of women.”

It’s a tempest in a hot-pink teapot. Adults are always worrying about their young children’s gender stereotypes, either because their children aren’t conforming to them or because they are conforming to them too rigidly. Either way, the worry is misplaced, because what children play with and what colors they prefer at 4, 5 or 6 have virtually nothing to do with what occupations they enter as adults or the attitudes they will acquire. What is important for children is an awareness that all occupations are open to them: When little girls believe that “architecture is for boys,” as when boys think that teaching is only for girls, they lose interest in it.
It took young girls themselves to show their elders why Architect Barbie works, regardless of her clothes and accessories. Ms. Stratigakos and Ms. McAlonie set up workshops where young girls learned what architects do, saw examples of the work of women architects, and practiced basic skills in drawing floor plans. They were then given an exercise to redesign Barbie’s Dreamhouse. “With a focus that surprised even us and that never wavered,” Ms. Stratigakos writes, “the girls displayed an intense desire to learn how to shape and control their own spaces. Some girls admitted that before the workshop, they had not known women could be architects; with Barbie herself giving the go-ahead, they got to work with a vengeance.” A 7-year-old created a floor plan that included a separate room for monsters, giving them their own space and leaving the rest of the house “monster free.” In one fell swoop, she had eliminated the childhood fear of monsters under the bed.
I hope this imaginative little girl will grow up in a world shaped by behavioral economists such as Iris Bohnet. In “What Works: Gender Equality by Design,” Ms. Bohnet assembles an impressive assortment of studies that demonstrate how organizations can achieve gender equity in practice.
Ms. Bohnet begins by delineating The Problem: Unconscious bias is everywhere, a normal part of the human mental repertoire. Résumés being equal, employers are more likely to call Howard over Heidi, John over Jamal, for an interview. This kind of discrimination stems not only from prejudice but also from the universal human trait of preferring to live and work with others who are like us, at least until we are exposed to enough people who are unlike us to enjoy the differences.
This is why both sexes are discriminated against when they apply for jobs dominated by the other sex—women as engineers, men as secretaries or day-care teachers. Likewise, it is normal for people to think in categories and stereotypes; this makes information processing more cognitively efficient—except when it doesn’t. It’s also normal for people to succumb to confirmation bias, looking for evidence that we are right and ignoring evidence that we are wrong; this makes decision making more efficient—except when it doesn’t. And it’s normal for employers to think they are skilled at predicting job performance from an interview—except that they aren’t: Hundreds of studies now show that subjective predictions are no better than chance.
How to correct for these mental blinders? How can we overcome the most basic bias of all—the bias that we are unbiased? Ms. Bohnet is critical of the typical diversity training programs where experts often begin by demonstrating how prejudiced you are, even if you think you aren’t. U.S. corporations spend $8 billion annually on diversity training, in spite of an utter lack of evidence that it works and some evidence that it backfires. These well-meaning workshops are “unlikely to change attitudes, let alone behavior,” Ms. Bohnet explains, because most people are not motivated to change their behavior. Becoming aware of our biases doesn’t automatically eradicate them, because we are very good at justifying them. She is equally doubtful about the popular books and workshops that counsel women on how to navigate the system, compete and negotiate more effectively, and so on. This advice can be helpful, she observes, but it doesn’t go far enough. You can’t very well “go it alone” when you are a token X in a world of Ys, because anything you do—assuming you get through the door, let alone up the ladder—will be attributed to your X-ness.
Ms. Bohnet’s paradigmatic alternative to ending gender discrimination begins with her opening example of what it took to end male-only orchestras: blind auditions. Efforts to raise the men’s consciousness or appeals to fair play didn’t cut it, but a simple design decision—using a curtain—transformed what orchestras look like. Another simple change—giving judges a coffee break—helped them make better, more deliberative decisions.
“What Works” is stuffed with good ideas, many equally simple to implement, which will “make it easier for our biased minds to get things right.” There is no “design-free” world, she suggests; every company has ways of selecting employees. The task is to create better designs that bring us better results, increasing the chances that the best people are hired and, once hired, do their best work. “Through behavioral design we can move the needle forward,” Ms. Bohnet maintains, creating “equal opportunities for female musicians, for male teachers, and for everyone else.”
The book’s three main sections apply principles of behavioral economics to the questions of how to design talent management, school and work, and diversity, applying empirically based interventions that increase satisfaction and productivity. “Empirical” is her key word.
And the research in this field has yielded endless surprises: How, for example, might employers “orchestrate” smarter evaluations, overcoming the inclination to stereotype individuals? “In our experiments,” she writes, “when evaluators looked at candidate profiles individually, men were more likely to be hired for the math task and women for the verbal task, including those who had performed below par.” But when evaluators had to assess more than one candidate at a time, their stereotyped preferences evaporated: “Comparative evaluation focused evaluators’ attention on individual performance instead of group stereotypes,” she writes. “Not only did the gender gap vanish completely, but basically all evaluators now chose the top performer. . . . The right thing turned out to be the smart thing, too.”
Chapter by chapter, Ms. Bohnet takes on gender issues and average differences that have seemed intractable, shows how easy interventions can reduce them, and summarizes these applications clearly. For example, because “women do not like to guess,” they will skip questions on the SAT that they don’t know for sure. Men are more willing to guess and thus do better; they are also less likely than women to say “I don’t know.” But that tendency for women to skip what they don’t know for sure explains up to 40% of the gender gap in SAT scores—and is a main reason that SAT scores have wildly underpredicted women’s college performance. “In one of the most consequential design innovations promoting gender equality in recent history,” she writes, “the people behind the SAT took risk out of the multiple-choice questions.” In discussing other ways of “leveling the playing field,” Ms. Bohnet observes, we need to solve the problem not only of women’s lesser confidence but of men’s overconfidence.
In this era of the TEDification of every promising idea, Ms. Bohnet is refreshingly careful. She never overgeneralizes; she cautions about extrapolating from one group to another; and she acknowledges ignorance where data are lacking. “Replacing intuition, informal networks, and traditional rules of thumb with quantifiable data and rigorous analysis is a first step toward overcoming gender bias,” she argues.
The author knows that many organizations may be afraid to take that step: They don’t want to test their methods, precisely because they suspect that those methods aren’t working; better to remain oblivious to the errors of our customs than risk confirming them. The glory of this book is that Ms. Bohnet not only offers dozens of practical examples of how behavioral findings can be put to use but also demonstrates that moving toward equity need not be a zero-sum game in which as women gain, men lose. “Behavioral design is less like playing chess and more like dancing,” she shows. She makes trying out the new steps seem like an exhilarating project rather than an impossible one.
—Ms. Tavris, a social psychologist, is the author, with Elliot Aronson, of “Mistakes Were Made (But
Not by Me).”

Planning a gap year:

Washington Post: College counselor: I’m sick of reading about golden kids getting into Harvard: Here’s the story I want to see:

The girl who got into 5 Ivies and Stanford:

More Frank Bruni:

and more:

The essays:

Hoda Kotb commencement speech at Tulane May 2016:
Hoda Kotb’s Tulane commencement speech offers 10 life lessons for grads
May. 14, 2016 at 12:34
Here’s something you might not know about TODAY’s own Hoda Kotb: She got rejected by 27 news directors while driving all over the country trying to find a job after her college graduation. 27!

Clearly, it all worked out for Hoda (and us) in the end — and it’s a message she shared Saturday with the Tulane University class of 2016 as the graduating class’ commencement speaker.

“Hoda Kotb embodies the spirit of Tulane. Her journey has been remarkable,” said Tulane President Michael Fitts.

As a former New Orleans resident (she spent six years as a local news anchor before making the jump to network television), Hoda was just as thrilled to be back in the Big Easy.

“You might be sad today because you’re leaving this great city, but I promise you’ll be back,” she began. And went on to crush her speech and inspire a standing ovation from the class of 2016.

Here are some of the highlights.

1. You don’t need everybody to like you, you just need one.

After her aforementioned post-grad rejection tour, Hoda recalls meeting the news manager who took a chance on her… and changed her life forever.

2. Do not forget the people who helped you.

When Hoda got her first opportunity to fly solo behind the anchor desk (and it was a legendary fail), that same hiring manager gave her a second chance. They remain in touch to this day.

3. Life can change in an instant.

Hoda was sailing along and thriving in her career when a breast cancer diagnosis brought everything into perspective.

4. The best advice you may ever get in your life may come from a complete stranger.

While recovering from her cancer surgery, Hoda sat next to a prying stranger on a plane who wouldn’t stop asking her about her procedure. When she reluctantly told him, he said…

5. Don’t hog your journey, it’s not just for you.

You can help others by sharing your journey — and honesty is therapeutic.

6. “I learned that my life has margins and it’s to be valued and not wasted.”

Breast cancer was a game-changer, Hoda said, and one that caused her to evaluate her relationships — and overhaul her personal life for the better.

7. If you survive anything in your life, who cares what it is, if you’re still standing, you get four words: “You can’t scare me.'”

Hoda said her cancer scare gave her the courage she needed to ask for her job at TODAY.

8. You are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with choose your friends wisely.

This one speaks for itself!

9. Don’t let anything hold you back.

Hoda points to an audience member who overcame extraordinary odds to be successful. Watch the speech for the full story.

10. New Orleans [or wherever you call home] is your house.

There was a Flo Rida song involved. Obviously.

And with a “geaux get ’em,” wisdom was served. Congrats to the Tulane class of 2016 … and congrats to Hoda on a wonderful speech!

Lin-Manuel Miranda giving the commencement speech at Penn: and

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