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The Vornle Method


The Vornle Method

The following description is a DRAFT and it includes some of the commentaries made by the author and editors of the material.  It was written as a long letter from John Vornle (a skilled writer and a graduate of Colgate University) to his children.  None of them read the material completely, but perhaps you will.

Posted by one of the editors...

A perspective on College 
by John Vornle  
---------------- d r a f t -------------


by Stephen McCrea

This pamphlet opened my eyes.  I am a high school teacher.  At least once a day I hear:
“I need to pass this course to get into college.”
“If I get a good score, I’m in.”

Once a week I hear
“Man, how am I ever going to raise my SAT?  I just don’t get it.”  (This is usually a student who wants to get into a first-rate school and needs a combined score of at least 1150).

Most people believe that you need to get three good ratings.
Good GPA
Good SAT
Good rank in class (top 10 percent)

Having a 3.9 GPA means nothing if you are ranked in the top quarter of the class (grade inflation is everywhere!).

But I hear of students with 3.8 GPA, a combined SAT over 1200 and a rank of 24 out of 300 who have applied to five colleges -- and they get no letters of acceptance.

What went wrong for these students who have accumulated such good records?

Mr. Vornle’s analysis (“U.S. universities are businesses”) helps me explain the system to my students and it reveals two strategies:
a) If you are a “full pay” student (able to pay full tuition), you have a surprise waiting for you …  a “line of negotiation” into the process of college admission.
b) If you are not an athlete or if you lack the funds , this pamphlet gives you three steps to use to improve your chance of getting accepted.

After reading Mr. Vornle’s manuscript, I now ask my students, “What else should you be doing to get ready for college?”

I hope you will agree that this short pamphlet will give students a new view into the “admission process” and that you will become a negotiator.

It’s no longer a passive “admission process” (I hope they pick me).  It’s more of a “Seize the Day” process:  what can you do to grab the attention of the reader of your application?  “Hey, reader!  Look at what you will lose if you don’t read about me!”

Good hunting!

Steve McCrea
High School Teacher, MPA, Math 800, Verbal 720
Certified to teach English 6-12, Math 6-12, ESOL K-12, Political Science 6-12
Accepted at MIT, Yale, Swarthmore, Haverford, Princeton
Waitlist at Harvard.

Some questions about colleges and the college application process:

A) Getting perspective on American Universities

What are the revenues of a university?   
What are the expenses?...Hmmm.. 

What are revenues divided by the number of students?  

That number is HALF of the tuition? 
That means any student paying full tuition is carrying another student... 

What should be an applicant’s strategy of negotiation?   

B) Selecting a College/ How do you get to know a college?

Big school or small school?     
What is your personality?   
International or close to home?   
Junior year abroad?  
How do you REALLY get to know a college?  
Should you stay over night? 
What questions should you ask?  
How do you get away from the college appointed "guide" to the campus and really get to know what it's like to be on campus?   
Is the student-written guide to campus life and to the professors overly spiteful?  
Can you believe what you read in web sites?  
Is any of this important?

C) How do you best prepare yourself?

What is needed to be successful in college?  
What skills do you need to pick up in high school?  
What should you ignore at school?  
What is "fluff" and what is needed in later life?

A) Getting perspective on American Universities

Question: What is the business plan reality of a college?
Answer: If you divide the average revenue of a university that charges $32,000 per year by the number of enrolled students, the average revenue per student is actually around $17,000.  This is the average tuition (and other fees) collected by colleges for each student.  To me, this means that every student paying more than $17,000 is subsidizing the rest of the student body.

• American Colleges are excellent at promoting themselves to students, parents, and the business community.
 They are expert marketers.  They are far ahead of European universities who have not spent much money marketing themselves over the past 20 years.
Why do I tell you this?  American colleges are full of fluff.  

Note:  Spend your time in college making friends with the people you will want to remain in contact with after college.  They are life-long friends.  Get involved in as much as you can.

• Universities are businesses. They collect revenues from the parents of students.

• Why do I tell you this? Most people think that universities have a “higher purpose.”  They do, but most fail in the execution.
• What are most American Universities?  The American university is a simple business.  

• McCrea adds:  Universities claim that they are “not for profit” but running a university is a business.  The typical college seeks clients who will pay for its services.

B) Selecting a College/ How do you get to know a college?  

At almost any university you can find a positive situation.   Pick subjects you are interested in learning about now and dedicate yourself to associating yourself with the best teacher/ professors in the university system you can find. 

Question: Given the importance of the teachers, why do universities not tell you much about their teachers, classes and curriculums?
: Profits.  

C) How do you best prepare yourself?

Question: What are the three top qualities colleges look for?
Conventional Wisdom:  
Rank in class

The Vornle Answer:
 Other than athletic ability (which is number one for many colleges), I am going to say: 
(1) evidence of leadership (...of having organized peers and motivated a group to do something); 
(2) extra-mural distinction in some extracurricular activity, i.e. not just editing the high school paper, but writing for the local community newspaper, or getting nationally ranked in chess or debating;
(3) personal dash, charisma, popularity, especially with adults.  Evidence of leadership in fundraising is very attractive.  “Personal dash with adults” is a trait schools won't ever admit noticing, but it influences them, like it or not.

Why do I tell you this?
 #3 is important.  You need to capture the attention of adults so that they volunteer to write you the letters of recommendation.

What are Admission Realities?    Selective American colleges and American Ivy League colleges are very difficult to enter.  The competition is intense. 

However, there is room at those top schools for middle-ability kids from eastern prep schools and ambitious families to attend the best programs in the mid-west. 

Afterward/ Conclusions/ Comments 

The marketing hype and tension associated with American colleges, their emphasis of being a business first and foremost, distracts from the reason for seeking a higher education.  

The world is open to each of you.  I want you to consider colleges and universities outside the United States where: a) you may get a better education, and; b) you won’t be distracted by American conventional wisdom and being stuck with students that are less mature, less culturally aware.  

Don’t base your choice of universities on “feel,” or “comfort” with the campus.  

Since information about teachers, classes, course requirements, teachers’ assistants, etc., are hard to find, maybe you can create your own system of questions that you want to know about places.  

As far as the application process goes, make yourself stand out!  The French have a saying: “Vive la difference!”  It’s the differences that will make you attractive.  Document yourselves well.  Aim high!  Aim for whatever you are interested in.

Other Points

• The important factors in selecting a college are the characteristics of the teachers/professors with whom you spend your time and the legacy of learning and inquiring process they are able to impart to you.
Why do I tell you this?  This is why I think you should be going to college.  

Question: What do colleges want?
They want full-pay, traditional age (between 17  and 19 years old in the freshman class), well-rounded students, who also have exceptional grades and Board scores. 

Why do colleges want “free kids”?  It allows them to earn more profits.  “Free kids” are considered desirable because: 

1) As current students, they are likely to be rewarding to teach and to graduate on time (Incoming grades and scores are the best predictors of on time graduation.); 
2) They are likely to contribute to the extracurricular life and morale of the community (Their future is expected to be like their past.); 
3) They raise the rankings of the school, which heavily turn on the academic profile of the undergraduate body (The fact that rankings rest heavily on profile of student body is partially defensible, since students do learn from each other, and partially sheer snobbism.); 
4) As alumni, the full-pay kids contribute more to the school.

The type of person who reviews your application is not a professor. They are regular people trying to select an “entering class of students” who will meet the criteria as determined by the school’s president.  

As an applicant you need to have done the things that make you stand apart from your classmates.  Being like everyone else is a distinct disadvantage.

• Of an entering class of 1000 students, the Admission Committee objective is that 800 must meet the GPA and SAT criteria, and half must pay the full tuition.  The remaining 200 are selected to complete sports teams, meet social objectives (blacks, other minorities, religion), satisfy special organizational skills (band instruments, chorus, art, student government, newspaper reporting, community service).  

Why do I tell you this? 
You have a chance to get into even the most selective colleges if you meet special criteria that they need.  The challenge is figuring out “what” is needed and then landing with an admissions person who agrees with this characteristic’s importance to the school. 

Reality check:  All the double-700 SAT, full-pay, top 10% of high school class, well-rounded 17 year-olds in the whole country will not fill the freshman classes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford.  

• Student Counselors in High School provide suggestions based on statistics (GPA, SAT and acceptances of past students).  
• Why do I tell you this?  Don’t expect much!  

• For students, universities are a place of learning and fun!  However, they are not “transparent”:  Universities don’t make good information available about their teachers and courses (especially not to applicants).  
• It is difficult for non-students to find out about the personal teaching style of professors and the reaction of students to the professors; 

• If a person becomes a tenured professor, he then has an easy secured life with relatively no pressure. 
• Why do I tell you this?  Professors are sometimes good, sometimes bad. 

Why go to University?   The certificate is important.  It is the expected thing to do in the American system.  The interaction with the student body is important for your education.  
However, keep it fun.  Participate fully in the life of the campus and the community.  Good luck.

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Quote from Telecosm 
by George Gilder

"The supreme time waster, though, is television. Many people still have trouble understanding how egregious a time consumer, how obsolete a business model, how atavistic a technology, and how debauched a cultural force it is. You sit down on a couch in front of a screen, to watch degrading and titillating lowest-common-denominator trivia, scheduled for you in some netherworld between Madison Avenue, the FCC, and Hollywood, offering a sordid stream of sleazy banalities, gun grunge, bedroom mayhem, and offal innuendoes, some preening as "news" and some leering as entertainment, for as much as seven hours a day, on average, consuming perhaps two thirds of your disposable time, year after year, all in order to grab your eyeballs for a few minutes of artfully crafted advertising images that you don't want to see, of products that you will never buy. Is it a breast? Is it a thigh? No, it is a fender! A frosted Beemer? No, a beer bottle. TV ads that are as irrelevant to you, 90 percent of the time, as the worst telemarketing spiel. Justifying this scheme is the "free public service" that television supposedly offers, namely the "serious" portions of the "news" (chiefly government propaganda) and Saturday morning children's programming (more propaganda)."

Distributed by 
John P. Vornle, 
President and Managing Director,
Long Term Capital Company, 
2 Mystic Lane, 
Westport, Connecticut 06880 
Tel: 203-454-2263

Subpages (1): Essay for College