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8E TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2007 • • • HEALTH & FAMILY THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER | www.charlotte.com Why is college Ideas for a kid’s birthday party admission getting B-Day more competitive? ––––––– from 1E Ideas under $200 Why is it so much more competitive now than when we went to college? There is no denying that many of us parents wouldn’t be accepted at our own alma maters if we were applying today. SAT scores have inched up and acceptance rates have dropped. Why is it so much more difficult to be adCOUNTDOWN TO mitted? COLLEGE According to a recent article in the New York Times, this year “Harvard Lee Bierer turned down 1,100 student applicants with perfect 800 scores on the SAT math exam and Princeton turned away thousands of high school applicants with 4.0 grade point averages. “Needless to say, high school valedictorians were a dime a dozen. It was the most selective spring in modern memory at America’s elite schools, according to college admissions officers.” To be fair, the frenzied college admissions panic is among the country’s most elite 50 to100 colleges and universities. Nationally, the acceptance rate for undergraduates is actually a relaxing 70 percent. Among the top tier of public and private liberal arts institutions, applications have increased by one-third or more during the last five years alone. Yet, the available spaces have remained constant. Here are two of the major reasons for the increased competitiveness in college admissions: There are more students, and many of these students are applying to more schools. Today’s college applicants are part of the baby boom echo. There are just more kids out there. Three years ago there were 2.5 million high school graduates. This year, according to the federal Department of Education, there will be 3.2 million graduates and the number is expected to keep rising through 2009. More importantly, 30 years ago half of high school graduates were applying to college. Today, due in large part to our increasingly global economy, almost two-thirds of all high school graduates are applying to college. Many students are trying to hedge their bets and are applying to more and more colleges. In 1975, only 3.2 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges. However, in 2006, that number rose to 17.4 percent. Use of the Common Application makes it even easier: www.commonapp.org. It’s one application used by 300 or so colleges across the country. It includes an essay, is filled out online and students check off the colleges they would like to receive their application. As Chandler Bing from the Friends television show would say, “Could it get any easier?” With a keystroke and the caching of a credit card, students can spontaneously apply to more and more colleges. And they do. Another reason for the increase is the advent of online applications. And it’s the preferred method at most schools; nearly all offer online applications. The number of people applying online jumped from 41,000 in 2000 to more than 700,000 in 2006. Let’s end with an encouraging statistic: What percentage of students get into their first choice school? It’s not 25 percent, not 40 percent. More than 75 percent get the school they want. Now that’s good news. Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte: email@example.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com • Earth Fare, 12235 North Community House Road, Charlotte, in Ballantyne, offers birthday parties and cooking classes catered to your little chefs. Children prepare and then devour their own food. Prices vary; 704-926-1201. SouthPark location is scheduled to open in mid-August. • Latta Park Sprayground, 601 East Park Ave., Charlotte, in Dilworth; and Veterans’ Park Sprayground,, 2136 Central Ave., Charlotte. Kids can run around in fenced-in water-spray areas. The picnic shelters have grills and can be reserved for $100 by calling 704353-1238. • Celebrate with Homer and the Charlotte Knights at Knights Stadium, 2280 Deerfield Drive, Fort Mill, S.C. $195 provides reserved seats for 10 kids and two adults, special recognition atop the dugout with Homer, and an hour at a birthday table, where a personalized cake and soda are provided. Guests get a Knights souvenir. Call Rebekah Leveille at 704-357-8071, ext. 2168. • AirPlay Kids, 3700 Avenue of the Carolinas, Fort Mill, S.C., is becoming popular with south Charlotte and Fort Mill moms. Located next to Carowinds in The Crossroads Mall, “The Inflatable Play Zone” has open play hours all year and can be rented for private parties. Unlike other inflatable play places, AirPlay Kids closes to the public during party times. Prices range from $155 to $285. It’s closed at the moment because the mall is being remodeled but scheduled to reopen in the fall; 803-802-7050. dies” to a traditional tea party at La-Tea-Da’s, 1942 E. Seventh St., in Elizabeth. For $300, attendees receive a manners lesson and scavenge the dress-up trunk for the perfect outfit, hat and jewels. A full tea menu, birthday cake, printed invitations and thankyou cards included. Other party packages are available; 704-372-9599. • Balloons Over Charlotte, 7984 Graham Road, Denver, gives thrill-seekers a bird’s-eye view of the Lake Norman area. Flights depart at sunrise and one and a half hours before sunset and last about three hours. Dan Stone is an FAA-certified pilot who has been flying balloons for more than 25 years. Flights are limited to six people, and tickets cost as little as $165 per person; 704-896-5241. Top picks • EAST MECKLENBURG TOP PICK: Let the kids “climb the walls” at Ideas over $300 • Invite eight to 10 “young la- Inner Peaks Climbing Center, 9535 Monroe Road, Suite 170, Charlotte; www.InnerPeaks.com. • WEST MECKLENBURG TOP PICK: Embark on a rafting adventure at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, 820 Hawfield Road, Charlotte. Cap it with a party catered by its professional staff; www.usnwc.org. • NORTH MECKLENBURG TOP PICK: Hop on a horse-drawn wagon at Lazy 5 Ranch in Iredell County, 15100 N.C. 150 East, Mooresville, and come face to face with 750 animals from six continents; www.Lazy5Ranch.com. • SOUTH MECKLENBURG TOP PICK: Thrill rides and family-friendly rides abound at Carowinds, 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte. If the weather is steaming hot, party guests can splash the day away at Boomerang Bay Water Park; Carowinds.com. Climb every mountain, even if it’s closed It just wouldn’t be summer without a trip to Tweetsie Railroad. An easy jaunt up the highway into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The perfect little trip for the kids and me. See, that way of thinking is just foolish. Nothing involving children and a mountain is simple. I mean, this ain’t “The Sound of Music.” I gotta get an SUV, loaded to the gills, up to Boone through weekend traffic. All Maria had to do was sew together some drapes and march the Von Trapps through the Alps. But we’re going to Tweetsie. So who does that make us? The Von Twerps, I guess. My first mistake is I plan for the hour-and-45-minute trip to take an hour and 45 minutes. You can’t do that. Maria had it right. Load up and go. We’ll get there when we get there. She didn’t diddle around and feed everybody lunch and hope Gretl would take a nap. FAMILY Tracy Curtis I, on the other hand, counted on being on time. But I’m sitting on the highway staring at a sign that says “closed for emergency blasting.” Maria would have been psyched. That’s a few hundred less rocks she’s gonna have to climb. But for me it translates into a two-hour detour. I’m sure there weren’t any detours going up the Austrian mountains. Not that Maria would have cared. Where did she have to be? Not at the ticket counter of a theme park at 9 a.m. to beat a crowd, I can tell you that. I was always in awe that she was able to get seven totally different outfits out of those curtains. I mean you can’t order that many designs out of a catalog. She made everybody’s different. A total “in your face” to the Captain, who dressed them all exactly alike. I don’t think it was particularly fair that she only made a scarf for Louisa, but that’s just me. I always wondered – how long did it take her? And where did Liesl’s puffy white blouse come from? Pillow sham? And Mother Superior sure lucked out. Who in her right mind sends a perfectly sane Sister in to take care of unruly children? The Holy Mother could have been responsible for a perfectly stable woman going from nun to nutcase. It was a bonus that Maria actually wanted to stay. Sitters only sit because they’re just sitting, not staying. It’d be a great reality show to go up against “Supernanny.” “Super Nun” – she comes into your house, gets rid of the bells and whistles, and teaches your children to sing at the farmers market. You gotta hand it to her. Ma- ria kept it pretty simple. I didn’t see her handing Rolfe a bunch of messages to deliver canceling play dates and parties before heading to the hills. She didn’t spend three hours packing a car, or stocking a cooler, or loading CD’s into the console. She put the kids in the second of two outfits, and told them to start walking. My kind of girl. My kind of movie. Obviously, everybody’s kind of movie. And now that I think about it, it’s not the music. It’s not even Julie Andrews. It’s that a mom can make seven sets of clothes out of two sets of drapes, teach children to break into four-part harmony, and then march them through the Alps without the promise of a Happy Meal. That’s the appeal. That’s the fascination. It’s what we all want to do, and that’s why it won an Oscar! Ooh – 20 more miles to Tweetsie.… Tracy Curtis: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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