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Articles / Applying to College / Campus Newspaper Insights

Campus Newspaper Insights

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Feb. 20, 2020
Campus Newspaper Insights

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Soon it will be time for college-bound high schoolers to make what is probably the biggest decision of their lives so far: Where to go to college. Once acceptances come out, the classic process is to visit all the schools that remain in the running. Sometimes those visits have already been made, but perspectives and attitudes can change between a visit that took place many months ago and now, on the brink of the decision.

Sometimes it's not possible to visit a second time before deciding. Hopefully, there was a first visit, since choosing to enroll at a college you've never seen before is a risky -- if not outright bad -- choice. But for those who have made a prior visit, comparing pluses and minuses against personal preferences, and also cannot make a post-acceptance visit for whatever reason, there is an alternative evaluation method: campus student newspapers.

As most others await outcomes, those of you who have already been accepted via Early Action have until May 1 to make your enrollment decisions. One of the key ingredients in making that decision is finding out, in greater depth, your compatibility with a certain school's student body. Some of you may have applied to schools you know only by reputation or through anecdotal information provided by friends or what you've read, perhaps here on College Confidential.

One of my ongoing mantras about making an enrollment decision is: "You've got to trod the sod!" which means that you must physically visit a school's campus before making your decision to go there. I won't get into the details of my rationale for saying this, but suffice it to say that your "gut" can tell you many things about a college -- both blatant and subtle -- that you can't discern from "virtual" tours, viewbooks and marketing materials.

Check out Student Newspapers

Is there another way to sample a school, short of a trodding on the sod? One of the best, in my opinion, is exploring a college's student newspaper. These sometimes extremely revealing publications can give you direct insight into the hearts and minds of a school's student body, along with a look at what's happening on campus and with so-called "town and gown" (student and community) relations.

How do you do that? Here's a Google page that has a great list of links to student newspapers. You'll see some superb info, such as …

List of student newspapers in the United States

Best College Newspapers ..

Top 50 College Newspapers

Student Newspapers in United States

College Newspapers: An Exhaustive List Of Campus Publications Maintained By University Students

… and so on.

But how can you get special insights about a school from merely reading its student newspaper(s)? Well, let's start with student op-eds. It's always good to check the pulse of campus attitudes and the opinion/editorial page is a good place to start. Here are a few current excerpts:

The Cornell Daily Sun

Editorial: Put the 'Break' Back in Breaks

A four-day mid-semester pause from classes would seem to offer ample time for students to recharge and focus on well-being and sleep. Nor is this an accident, as The Faculty Handbook Project makes clear: "Short breaks from academic requirements are intentionally included in the academic calendar to provide rest, respite and a break from schoolwork." Cornell Health further emphasizes the need for rest, especially sleep, with an entire page dedicated to sleep-related health. It recommends students take 7-9 hours every night to get sleep — which, in its words, "is a necessity, not a luxury."

But is that consistent with the messages our instructors are sending us? Take, for example, the all-too-common practice of professors assigning work during breaktime. When students get work over break, the obvious implication is that the assigned work should trump any need for a proper break. When that message is coming from faculty across campus, the risk is that it can incubate a culture where students feel their need for a break is secondary or even illegitimate ...

The Bucknellian

Opinion: Coronavirus fear fuels racism and xenophobia

… #Coronaviruschina is trending on Twitter, and in the midst of saddening videos of people in hospitals with masks and people collapsing to the ground from sickness, you'll also find jokes like "China, stop eating everything that moves." This disease has evolved from a serious infection harming people in our world to another social media fad. Instead of turning to the experts for the most updated and honest information, most people are reading and seeing misinformed posts on social media.

Seemingly, posting about the spread of the virus is beneficial to help people become aware, but sensationalizing a disease is insensitive and only driving the stigma against the Chinese. Your fear, however rational or irrational it may be, doesn't justify racist or xenophobic behaviors and comments. As I write this, there are a total of 11 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and no deaths. The virus's symptoms are no different from those of pneumonia, but the racial target of the virus has heightened the anxiety and panic surrounding it ...

The Phoenix (Swarthmore College)

Op-Ed: Showers, Uniforms, Pronouns: Testimonials of Non-Binary Student-Athletes

… As an athlete on a women's team, I am repeatedly misgendered. The second I get to the track for a competition, the only words to describe me are "she," "her," "girl," "lady," and "woman." It makes my stomach turn, but my sport is divided by gender. Even the implements we throw are different. Within Swarthmore Athletics, however, I have noticed good reception towards genderless language and the fluent use of they/them pronouns. It is already difficult to ask people to use new pronouns, a request that is even more challenging with a coach because of the inherently unbalanced power dynamic between coach and athlete. My coaches and teammates, however, have been very good about using the proper pronouns and using my new name. Kayla, Parts and I all have the same coaches, and they have been relatively good with pronouns with all of us ...

… A further challenge is that the awards for the athletic department are all gendered. In addition, I have never had a pronoun used for me in media coverage, and Kayla rarely does. If the writers did not know what our pronouns are, they could just ask, or find this information on mySwarthmore. Avoiding my pronoun altogether makes me feel profiled and does nothing whatsoever to affirm my gender identity. It wasn't until May 14, when I qualified for Outdoor Nationals, that Swarthmore Athletics publications began using they/them pronouns for me in their articles ...

The Daily Collegian (Penn State University)

Editorial: New grade forgiveness policy will only help students if they put in the work

Penn State announced the enactment of a new "grade forgiveness" policy, allowing students the chance to potentially expunge grades of a D or lower from their respective grade point averages.

Through the policy, students attempting to expunge a grade from their GPA must retake the respective course and receive a grade higher than a D for grade forgiveness to count. Students are only permitted to re-take up to 12 credits for the purpose of grade forgiveness, which adds up to roughly three or four courses.

Although the original D or F letter grade obtained would not count toward the student's GPA anymore, it would still appear on their transcript, showing both grades received in the course.

Many seem to be under the impression that the implementation of grade forgiveness could pose a crutch for "lazy" students who didn't try hard enough the first time they took a course. It's important to remember, though, that there are many reasons a student could receive a poor grade in a course — struggles related to mental and physical health, family matters, financial issues and more ...

The Technician (North Carolina State University)

Opinion: Climate change is a threat to North Carolina now

Technician recently reported that 2019 was North Carolina's hottest year on record. To those reading this while wearing short sleeves in early February, this may not feel too shocking, but we should all be a bit alarmed that the temperature is shifting so rapidly.

Climate change is often considered to be a long-term threat — something the kids might have to worry about, but not a reason to act much differently in the present. However, evidence is increasingly pointing to real-world impacts of a warmer climate right now. "The hottest year on record" is now becoming a euphemism for "last year." ...

... 2019 being the hottest year on record for the state doesn't mean a whole lot. But having warmer than average temperatures several years in a row worsens catastrophes like the triple whammy of Hurricanes Matthew, Florence and Dorian hitting North Carolina's coast. Stronger storms, more severe droughts, and, eventually, submerged coastlines are all dangers that climate change is likely to produce if nothing is done to stop it. The threat we face from global warming isn't explosive, but it's still deadly serious.

I've just scratched the surface of how student newspapers can give you a unique look at a college's atmosphere, attitudes and happenings. The mood today is much more volatile than it was even five years ago. Thus, you should check whether the student body attitudes at a college you're considering line up with your personal viewpoints and preferences.

You don't have to wait to get that admission decision to begin your evaluations. Get a jump now on which schools seem more of a match for you. Read some student newspapers today!

Share Your Thoughts

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Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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