We collect essays from people who care about higher education.

Go HERE to submit original essays, suggest topics, and refer us to previously published work (by you or others).

Questions are followed by author’s last names which link to their essays.

Advice

How do you get the most out of college? Strow, Perry, Ramirez 
How does a poor student become a good one? Halfon
How can you write better? Toor, Elbow
How can we communicate more effectively? Jones
How can you become a better learner? Krebs
What kind of schools should students consider? Henderson  
How do you even decide to go to college or not? White
Suggest a question.

Wisdom

How should you organize your life? Schlesinger
What have you learned about life? Schall, BakerOwens, LaBossiere, Coleman
What have you learned about people? Shasha
What have you learned about teaching? Kirp, Johnstun, Duneier
How does college relate to the real world? Williams
How do you teach people to do the right thing? Kittle, Allen, Pace, Goldstein  
What would you tell your teenage self? Halasz, Stroup, Rodney,
Brighton
What would you tell your grandchildren? Allen
What is your mission? Adubato, Allen, Korver
What is your passion? Hall, Haag
How did you come to value what you do? Adubato
What kind of person are you? Perry
What ethical issues have you faced? (awaiting submission)
What has gotten you to change your thoughts or feelings? (awaiting submission)
Suggest a question.

Critical Thinking

What should colleges teach? Schwartz/Sharpe, Allen 
Is higher education improving or going down hill? Wolin, Goldrick-Rab, Ramaley, Schwartz 
Is graduate school worth it? Seligman
Are students learning the best way? Poe, Jaffee, Stavans
Are we preparing students for the professional world? Shapiro, Schneider
How can students and faculty improve their interaction? Toth
Is higher education the best thing for everyone? Yaffe
Are too many students going to college? Williams
Is imitation a form of flattery – or stealing? Cohen
Do we need to pay for knowledge? Rubin 
How much do students know? Dolby
How will open online courses affect the future of education? Carey, O’Donnell
Is competition good? Potter
Where is higher education headed? Martin, Spar, Williams
Are we evaluating colleges the right way? HurtadoHauptman  
Is the admissions process a good one? Schwartz, White 
How should higher education be funded? Urgo  
What do academics do wrong? Lang, Jenkins, Goldstein 
Do we have a moral obligation to care about our students’ futures? Cassuto
Are our students the customers, the product, or something else? Schlesinger 
Who gets to be on top? Haag, Espenshade, Wilson
Are colleges doing research the right way? Schell
How should higher education be funded? Loss
Is our college here for the students or are the students here for us? (awaiting submission)
Should our college game the U. S. News rankings? (awaiting submission)
How is our reputation different from reality? (awaiting submission)
Should “caveat emptor” be the operative philosophy when we  market to students, or should we hold ourselves to a higher standard than, say, a used car dealer? Q4Colleges
Do we have a fiduciary responsibility to put our student’s best financial interests ahead of our own? (awaiting submission)
What, if anything, should a diploma from our college mean other than having passed a minimum number of courses?  (awaiting submission)
Suggest a question.

College Admissions Essays

Just for fun, we are collecting both wacky and wonderful college admissions essay topics and answers HERE.

 

 

by Jacky Brighton

Jacky BrightonDearest Jack,

In keeping with the tradition of writing postcards from the holidays home to yourself, here’s a letter from your nearly-enlightened self in the year 2013.

In the last years I have learnt so much about myself that I feel the need to pass some of

Continue reading »

 

Is higher education improving or going down hill?

Interview with: Barry Schwartz (Swarthmore)

Q4Colleges.com exclusive interview with Barry Schwartz.

We spoke with Barry Schwartz, who is a Professor at Swarthmore College, author of The Paradox of Choice and Practical Wisdom, and frequent TED speaker.

Q4Colleges: Barry, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I would like to use Q4Colleges as a way of getting higher education back on track on track with regard to the narrative. The questions I had when taking my kids around visiting colleges were, “Who is running these places?” “What are these people like?” “What are they trying to do?”

Continue reading »

 

Are our students the customers, the product, or something else?

by Leonard Schlesinger (Babson)

Schools that identify students as customers are missing the essential reciprocal nature of the educational relationship. As someone who has spent most of his adult life running service enterprises that were truly taking care of customers, the use of that word for what is essentially a partnership relationship demeans the work that faculty do. You would not “flunk” your customer because you don’t want to make him or her unhappy.

The customer mode generally implies a transactional encounter. So, when they’re in line at the dining hall or bookstore or engaging in the administrative functions on campus, then, absolutely, students are customers.

However, what goes on in the classroom is not transactional. When they’re in the classroom, each student is a PILE—a Partner in the Learning Enterprise. A Partner in the Learning Enterprise recognizes that each of us has a set of

Continue reading »

 

How does a poor student become a good one?

by Mark Halfon (Nassau Community)

I graduated from high school with a 69 average, which at least was better than all my friends in my Brooklyn street gang. My high school counselor told my mother that I was just not “college material.”

He might have been right; no college wanted me as a student, and who could blame them.

As it turns out Pace College in New York let me pay for classes as long as they didn’t have to give me credit for attending thereby dragging down their rankings. They call this being a “non-matriculated” student. Despite my poor high school record, I excelled in mathematics and thought I would become an accountant.

Continue reading »

 

Are colleges doing research the right way?

By Jesse Schell (Carnegie Mellon)

This is a transcript of a presentation by Jesse on March 6, 2012 at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. It was part of a panel entitled Game Educators Rant.

Hi everybody. I have a special kind of rant today.

It is directed to a certain segment of the audience. I realize a number of you are here by mistake. There’s a certain percentage of the audience who wandered in here mistakenly reading the session title as “Game Educator Grants.” So this I dedicate to you. We’ll call it my G-Rant.

Continue reading »

 

What is your mission?

by Clint Korver (Stanford)

There is this lovely period when you are working on a Ph.D. after you have gotten all your coursework and tests out of the way when nobody cares what you do; it is kind of an intellectual romp all over the place.

During this time I ran across The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. His second habit is to begin with the end in mind. He basically says that you should create a mission statement for yourself.

So I spent a month or two trying to create a mission statement and I failed utterly. I would think things like, “What if I created a company like Hewlett-Packard; that would be pretty cool.” But if I were on my deathbed looking at my life, would that do it for me? I could imagine ways of doing it that wouldn’t be very fulfilling. It was the same story for everything I came up with; it would depend on how it happened.

Continue reading »

 

How did you come to value what you do?

by Beth Adubato  (Rutgers)

First of all I have wanted to go to William and Mary my whole life because Thomas Jefferson went there and we have the same birthday. That’s what I wrote about in my essay and I’m pretty sure I got in because of my essay; I’m the only one who got in from Essex County in my year. The most students apply from New York and New Jersey and more females apply than males, so it’s really hard to get into William and Mary.

When I got there I didn’t like it. But I wanted to go there my whole life so I decided to stick it out. And I wanted to major in political science and go to law school; that was the whole plan.

Continue reading »

 

What is your passion?

by Pamela Haag

It’s true that “passion” and “mission” get tossed around a lot these days. They sound like things that any college freshman can pick up at the salad bar.

How will you even recognize your passion when you encounter it? Perhaps unwisely, I’m going to propose a practical rather than a gauzy, ponderous answer to that question:  A passion is something that you love so much that you want to keep doing it even when you’re failing at it, you need to work hard to do it, and the doing of it occasionally is no fun at all.

That comes as close to a mission in life as I can imagine. I love writing in almost any genre or permutation, even when it’s a nightmare.

Too often, what we’re good at gets

Continue reading »

 

How do you even decide to go to college or not? and,

Is the admissions process a good one?

By Scott White (Montclair High School)

Does it really matter in life where one goes to college? Yes and no. Late adolescence is an important time in one’s life, a time to try out new personalities and ways of thinking.  Psychologist Erik Erikson called it a psycho-social moratorium, a time when you try out for who you want to be without the same consequence you might see later in life.  As long as students follow my axiom:  “Don’t do anything that can kill you,” there is little one can do that would have permanent consequences. 

Continue reading »

 

What have you learned about people?

by Dennis Shasha (NYU)

When I entered college, I thought the intellectual world was divided into science people and humanities people. I loved math and physics, so put myself firmly in the former camp.

Funnily though, I found that I had much more in common with painters and sculptors than say with political scientists or economists.

I finally married an artist in fact.

It took me to my first job — designing circuits for computer processors — to realize why.

Continue reading »

 

How do you get the most out of college?

by John Perry (Stanford)

College takes up four years of your life, at least.  These days it can mean big bucks for you and your parents, even if you don’t go to a pricey private school.  And it’s a lot of work. If you get it wrong, it’s not so easy to go back and start over.  So it’s no wonder that many college freshmen and prospective college freshmen are confused and anxious about how to plan their college years.  And frankly, there are a lot of seniors who look back and wish they had done things differently.

You have about 120 semester units, or 180 quarter units, to work with. I’ve got some suggestions for how to use them, based on teaching and advising college students, for almost fifty years, at Cornell, UCLA, Michigan, Stanford and the University of California, Riverside.

Let’s start with what you want to avoid.  First of all, you definitely want to avoid spending four or so years going to college and not graduating with a degree. 

Continue reading »

 

How can students and faculty improve their interaction?

by Gwendolyn Toth (Montclair State)

When I attended college in the 1970s, it was clear that we were there to learn from our brilliant professors. However, as I look back with 35 years hindsight, I realize that learning occurred not only in the classroom, the laboratory, the rehearsal hall, the dorm rooms, the rec rooms, and late-night bars (we could drink in those days).

We also learned in the dining hall.

Over food we met new friends with new points of view. Discussions started in late-morning classes continued at lunch with both students and teachers.

We all ate together every day.

Fast forward to 2012.

Continue reading »

 

How can you write better?

by: Peter Elbow (UMass)

I got interested in writing because in my first try for a PhD at Harvard, I gradually couldn’t write.  I had to quit before I was kicked out and felt like a complete failure because I had so much invested in my image of myself as a good student.  When I went back to grad school five years later (at Brandeis) I gradually learned what became my philosophy of writing:  I can’t write right, but I can write wrong;  and then I can make it right.  It’s too hard to take a mess in the head and turn it into coherence on paper;  but it’s not so hard to take a mess on paper and turn it into coherence on paper.

My current interests (reflected in my new book) concern the wisdom of the tongue.  Starting around age four, we all internalize a native language.  No one’s native language is

Continue reading »

 

What have you learned about life?

by Michael LaBossiere (Florida A&M)

Some years ago my life was at a terrible low point. My marriage was failing, my career seemed stagnant, and I was stuck in what seemed to be a sea of bleak misery. Many of my problems seemed to stem from my reluctance to do bad things and the willingness of others to prosper through misdeeds.

One morning, when things seemed to be at their lowest point, I went for a run. As I ran, I thought about my life and how I ended up in the situation I faced. In the past, I believed that a person should do what is right—even when it often seems like doing wrong has the greater reward. But, I had seen the rewards of trying to be good and those reaped by those who thought just about themselves. At that moment, I doubted the value of trying to be a good person.

Continue reading »

 

Are too many students going to college?

by Walter E. Williams

Too much of anything is just as much a misallocation of resources as it is too little, and that applies to higher education just as it applies to everything else. A recent study from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity titled “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart,” by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe, explains that college education for many is a waste of time and money. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. An essay by Vedder that complements the CCAP study reports that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.” The study says Vedder — distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of CCAP — “was startled a year ago when the person he hired to cut down a tree had a master’s degree in history, the fellow who fixed his furnace was a mathematics graduate, and, more recently, a TSA airport inspector (whose job it was to ensure that we took our shoes off while going through security) was a recent college graduate.”

The nation’s college problem is far deeper than

Continue reading »

 

What would you tell your teenage self?

by Steve Halasz

Dear Steve,

It’s 1966 and you’re excited and nervous about starting your first year at Hiram, a small liberal arts college on a pleasant hill in Ohio that has a well-deserved reputation for intellectualism.  As your 64 year old self, I know what’s coming and so I’m writing to clue you in.

You are going to Hiram because (1) it’s a charming campus with lovely old buildings on a sweet hillside with a great view of the countryside, (2) it’s not far from home, (3) you got a scholarship, (4) Harvard didn’t accept you.  But mostly, you’re going there because you are an intellectual, and there are few places in the U.S. where intellectuals are

Continue reading »

 

What would you tell your high school self?

by: Sarah Stroup (Q4Colleges.com)

Dear Sarah,

I am Sarah of the future writing to you to provide you (us?) with some perspective on how your life right now will look once you are seven or eight years down the road.  If you are tired of people trying to tell you what to do, how to think, and who to be, then I don’t blame you.  Old people love to try to give young people the answers, if only just to feel like their age is useful somehow.  If you are already annoyed enough to stop listening, then it’s possible that you don’t need my advice because you already have enough confidence in yourself to go get yourself into scrapes, have adventures, and prosper.  Ultimately, that’s what I want to say to you anyway.

Continue reading »

 

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Brooke Allen (Q4Colleges.com)

The unspoken contract when you are hitch-hiking is that you need to be more interesting than the radio. One summer (circa 1973), Debra and I decided to see how far away from New Brunswick, New Jersey we could get when all we had was $49 and three weeks.

We knew that repeating your own life story over and over gets repetitious so we used a little trick. We would ask each person who gave us a ride to tell us their story and then we would tell the next person the previous person’s story.

Continue reading »

 

What would you tell your high school self?

by Adrienne Rodney (Q4Colleges.com)

Hi Adrienne,

You probably have an idea (or wish) of what life will be like at 32. I’m sure you’re very successful (you want to be a publicist, right?), thin, educated and probably married with children. I’m sure you also got to where you wanted to be by 27. Am I right? Is this what you imagine?

Unfortunately life doesn’t work the way you want it to. That doesn’t mean life is worthless, just that what you envision is not always reality.

Life at 32 will be NOTHING like you think it will be, but that’s okay. There are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to pass to you.

1. Don’t let others make important decisions for you.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. You’re going to want to

Continue reading »

 

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

By Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U)

Envision this: You’re an employer, interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position in your unit. The applicant is very direct.

“I’m in it for the money,” she explains. “I make all my choices on the basis of how much I can expect to earn. I chose my major based on earnings reports. I applied for this particular position because you pay more than any other company in the region. Actually, I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t stop with a two-year degree, since I read in the newspaper last week that I could have made almost as much in my first job with half the time spent on college. I hate thinking about all the time I wasted.”

You have no difficulty deciding not to hire this new graduate. The job applicant who arrives talking money first, money only, lacks common sense, and career sense, too.

And yet our candid candidate did

Continue reading »

 
Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.