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  • Beth & Tim Manners

Ed Source: "Since SAT/ACT scores are optional or totally off the table during the pandemic, many colleges say that the personal and academic information presented in applicants’ essays will loom somewhat larger than in the past. That, in turn, is making some students double down on their essay compositions, often trying to distinguish their pandemic experiences from others stuck in online education and lockdown. In some cases, anxiety is heightened because they are not able to talk face-to-face with counselors and can’t visit drop-in writing centers."

"Without standardized test scores, colleges will look more at the essays for evidence of 'intellectual curiosity, initiative, drive and determination,' said Jayne Fonash, who is immediate past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) ... It is the place 'to tell the story beyond the data, beyond grades and transcripts' and should be written in a student’s natural tone and language, 'not like the third act of a drama'."

“I think students put a lot of pressure on themselves for the essay to be perfect when, in fact, it simply should be a heartfelt, clearly and succinctly written story about an important aspect of their life,” Fonash added. The compositions “don’t have to be about an event that changed the future of the world. Their life may not have a lot of drama but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of life lessons.”

  • Beth & Tim Manners

Bahm Now: "Located in downtown Birmingham, the Auburn University Urban Studio is a teaching & outreach program of Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. The program gives third- and fifth-year students the opportunity to engage in real world community projects throughout the city of Birmingham ... Since the program’s inception, the Urban Studio has worked on dozens of project-specific studies in Birmingham, including master plans for Lakeview, revitalization plans for College Hills and Graymont, housing studies in Avondale & Midtown and much more."

"Admission to the program is competitive—only 15 students are admitted each year ... Fifth-year students in the Urban Studio typically have the opportunity to work on an individual project, as part of a larger collective study. At the inception of the study, the cohort examines the project and comes up with a set of uses that are needed in the district—housing, health, schools, etc. Within that project, students craft a large-scale plan that the Urban Studio can share with developers and shareholders in the community."

"The current third-year students are examining the feasibility of transforming the Cobb Lane area into a new arts district for Birmingham. The one-block cobblestone street could be a vibrant home for new art studios and galleries, accompanied by coffee + tea shops. Meanwhile, the fifth-year students are studying the neighborhood around McLendon Park, in order to better utilize Legion Field and the other amenities in the community."

  • Beth & Tim Manners

The Student Life: "A startup that seeks to provide an in-person, community-focused academic experience for college students in the wilderness, A Place Beyond (APB) rents out and converts campgrounds into college campuses where students from around the country can apply to learn and live for the semester ... APB participants are enrolled full-time at their respective universities but pay APB for room and board. Participants are tested for COVID-19 weekly and were quarantined upon arrival. Together, they live in cabins, eat meals together and are free to explore around the converted campground when they are not doing work."

"Participants are also paired with mentors, who are paid staff members typically in their 20s, to monitor their academic success and overall program experience. In addition to these check-ins, mentors run optional workshops, activities and expeditions throughout the semester."

Pitzer student Tatiana Wells comments: “Everybody goes to different colleges, which I wasn’t sure about how that would work out, but honestly, it’s not that different from having a different major than your friend at the same school. We all get up, have breakfast and then you have the whole day to do work or go bouldering or go mountain biking. Kids take trips to the lake and go cliff jumping; we can cook, we do movie nights. If you want to play ultimate frisbee, you put it in the Slack and get a team together, because someone is always down to hang out. If you need a quiet place to work, the entire campus has really good WiFi, and it’s really nice to be outside.”

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