College acceptance rates are falling — here's what to do

Plus: Wells ejects rowdy hecklers from boring meeting; the latest ridiculous hip-neighborhood name; rage parties at $160/hr

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Good morning! Today is Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Here are today’s big stories in Charlotte-area business news:

Expert advice: How Charlotte parents should approach college admissions

If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have the impression that colleges are becoming tougher to get into:

  • Parents last month were charged in a big national cheating ring. They were alleged to have paid for fake test scores and to have bribed athletic coaches.

  • Applications to elite colleges are surging. There are about 15 schools nationwide where the acceptance rates are below 10%.

  • Closer to home, colleges including UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, Wake Forest and N.C. State all say they received record numbers of applications this year.

All that information can combine to seriously stress out parents worried about their kids’ future college prospects. And that stress trickles down to kids – and to high schools, where classes and activities have become super-competitive.

So if you’re a parent – what to do? The best advice: Chill out. Let your kids be themselves. Understand what colleges want, but don’t try to micromanage a process you have no control over.

That’s the advice, slightly paraphrased, from Lynn Osment, a former associate director of admissions at Furman University who lives in Charlotte and helps guide high school students through the college admissions process. She spoke with the Ledger about college admissions. Some of the highlights:

The main problem is over-involved, pushy parents: “The biggest problem of where we are right now is this helicopter parenting situation. It’s an epidemic. We have parents all thinking their child has to go to Name Brand University in order to be somebody. They will go to any length to make that happen.”

Understand what colleges look for. They don’t need a class of 100% Einsteins. They want balance and all kinds of students (who can do the work): “Any time you are talking about applying to a school that has a 30% acceptance rate or less, it’s going to be tough. If you’re at 20% or less, it’s a crapshoot. They turn down perfect kids every single day. But they don’t need all perfect kids in there.”

There’s no silver bullet for getting your kid into a certain school: “There is no magic formula. There is no magic pill. If you invent a cure for cancer and you apply to Harvard, they may take you, they may not.”

A big misconception: “Parents have a misconception that if I’m in such-and-such high school then I have a better chance of getting in. Their competition will be within the high school they are attending. They don’t pit Myers Park vs. Charlotte Country Day.”

College doesn’t determine a student’s success: “Once you get that degree, you have to be able to show the world who you are and what you can do. Kids who are in places just because of the name, they’re not going to do everything they can at that school that will fully expand their horizons.”

Non-‘elite’ colleges can make a lot of sense. Osment says she worked with a student who graduated from UNC Charlotte with a mechanical engineering degree in 2008 – right as the recession hit – and had three job offers with high salaries. “Some people turn their noses up at UNC Charlotte, but they’ve got some doggone good programs over there.”

As for the rising number of applications at colleges, a lot of that stems from a trend toward students applying to more places through the common app. Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions, Christoph Guttentag, explained the dynamic last week to the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle:

He said that this practice creates a positive feedback loop that gives rise to more applications submitted to highly selective schools, causing acceptance rates to drop. This causes anxious students to apply to more schools.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The number of applications to Duke rose nearly 12% this year. Numbers were also up at Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Yale, University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins, the paper said. UNC Chapel Hill’s applications rose 6%.

But it’s important to keep in mind that most of those schools aren’t the norm. In a column on the college cheating scandal, the education writer for the Greensboro News & Record explained that the elite colleges implicated in the scandal account for just 4 percent of U.S. student enrollment and that college admissions is less selective than it is sometimes portrayed:

The vast majority of the other 96 percent of schools aren’t hard to get into. There’s no need to bribe your way in through an ivy-covered side door, in other words, because the front door is open to most all comers. …

In 2017, … four-year U.S. colleges and universities accepted about 56 percent of all applications. Moreover, the tier of 170 most/extremely/very selective universities represents only about 10 percent of all four-year schools.

There are lots of colleges out there. At least one of them is bound to be the right one for your kid.

Raging against the banking machine

On Tuesday, the sun rose. The internet was active. And people were mad at Wells Fargo.

A pretty ordinary day, all in all, except that the Wells Fargo anger was vented at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting, held in an airport hotel in Dallas. Last year, the site was a Marriott in Des Moines, Iowa.

Cynics have suggested that the bank has been scheduling its annual meetings in recent years in locales least likely to attract ranting protestors. That for sure means crossing off Wells Fargo’s headquarters city, San Francisco, as well as New York, Chicago … come to think of it, most major financial centers also happen to be activist hotbeds.

Future sites of Wells Fargo annual meetings are said to include (left to right) an underwater hotel in the Maldives, Ernst Blofeld’s secret lair in the Swiss Alps and Des Moines, Iowa, where shareholders met in 2018.

Usually, there’s little actual news at shareholder meetings. They tend to be boring, with results preordained.

But out-of-control protestors raging against buttoned-down financial types? Now that’s a fun story, and leading national media indulged:

CNN: “Multiple Wells Fargo shareholders kicked out of rowdy meeting

Bloomberg: “Wells Fargo annual meeting besieged by hecklers

Reuters: “All Wells Fargo directors elected as hecklers call executives ‘frauds’

None of the complaints was original — Wells Fargo has been facing this wrath for how many years now? — but the spectacle of activists yelling at bank executives is one that’s impossible to ignore.

Then there’s this detail, from American Banker:

As one shareholder was escorted out, another investor told her to “go to Bank of America.”

LoSo? MoRA? Time to say ‘No Mo’

Everybody has heard of SoHo, the Manhattan neighborhood that derives its name from being south of Houston Street.

A couple decades ago, somebody in Charlotte coined the term “NoDa” to refer to the area along North Davidson Street near uptown. Clever.

A few years ago, the southern part of South End started being called “LoSo,” for lower South End. Contrived and barely plausible, but fair enough. Most people who say that term do so with an ironic, knowing smirk, since the name is widely seen as a marketing fabrication.

Now, though, it’s time to draw the line. It seems that people living along the Monroe Road corridor have taken to calling the area “MoRA,” short for “Monroe Road Area.” The Biz Journal yesterday ran an article on what could be MoRA’s defining moment as a hip destination … the arrival of (what else?) a brewery:

This brewery expects to open in southeast Charlotte’s MoRA neighborhood this fall.

Brothers Jared and John Thomas expect to invest roughly $600,000 to bring their vision for Edge City Brewery to life.

It will be located in the Meridian Place development, near Hawthorne’s Pizza, at 6209 Old Post Road. That’s across from East Mecklenburg High School.

MoRA refers to the Monroe Road area between Charlotte’s Oakhurst neighborhood and Matthews.

Setting aside that this is not a “neighborhood” but rather a six-mile stretch of asphalt, the practice of incanting a cool area into existence by giving it new consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel name is becoming tiresome. Maybe even Mo-RA-nic. There is actually a lot of welcome development in that part of the city. It doesn’t require a silly name.

CharlotteFive actually tackled this issue three years ago:

Let’s not kid ourselves — the Monroe Road corridor has a long way to go before it gets on the same level as some of Charlotte’s iconic neighborhoods. It needs more density, more transportation options, including better bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Shoot, it probably needs a brewery.

[Face palm].

Are mommy blogs actually pyramid schemes?

An interesting read from BuzzFeed News, “Inside the world of stay-at-home moms who blog for profit.” If you wonder why mommy blogs seem unoriginal and dreadful to read, you need to understand that a lot of them are sales operations, not genuine reflections on the joys and challenges of staying home with young ’uns:

If you look at it from the right angle, this type of blogging begins to resemble a cousin of multilevel marketing (MLM). Multilevel marketing typically involves a pyramid-like structure wherein very successful salespeople recruit other salespeople, who in turn are encouraged to recruit others. More established salespeople earn a commission from the sales made by their recruits, hence the “multilevel” dimension. The high earners at the top of the pile serve as motivation to newbies, and a big part of what they sell isn’t a physical product at all, but the promise of independent wealth and success, whether it comes from selling yoga leggings or teaching yoga classes. The idea is that “If I can do it, so can you.”

The financial model in this case is inverted, in a sense; successful bloggers at the top of the figurative pyramid can earn income through newer bloggers sharing links to their products (printables or “blogging tools” and guides), while those less established bloggers earn a small affiliate commission. Bloggers often invest a significant amount of money on these tools to get them started, but there’s no guarantee that your upfront investment will pay off; after all, the internet is filled with stories of women who have gone into perilous debt while trying to earn money as LuLaRoe leggings salespeople. And the overlap with MLM is multilayered; many bloggers sell printables with instructions for making your own essential oil blends, which is another branch of the giant MLM tree in American economic life.

Full article here.

In brief

  • More details on the Panthers’ plans south of the border: “The Carolina Panthers are planning a 200-acre development in York County that would include an orthopedic sport medicine facility that would employ about 200 people, a hotel of at least 150 rooms that would include conference space, and perhaps corporate headquarters, offices and residential projects,” according to The State newspaper.

  • Banktown: US Bank plans its first N.C. branch at 201 S. Tryon St. — the first of 10 branches the bank plans to open in Charlotte by 2020, the Observer says (paywall).

  • Scamming Catholics: The Roman Catholic diocese of Charlotte is warning parishioners of a scam email from “Fr. Roux” asking recipients to buy gift cards or send money. “This problem has been plaguing various parishes in our diocese for a while now,” according to an email sent yesterday to parishioners that was obtained by The Ledger.

  • Rage it out: Queen City Nerve comes through with a fun review of Charlotte’s first “rage room.” Inside a west Charlotte “industrial warehouse area anchored by a junk yard and multiple massage parlors,” people pay $40 and up for a 15-minute session to destroy cars, dishes, computers and the like with sledgehammers and baseball bats. The owner “estimated that around 95% of House of Purge customers are women from ages 7 to 70 who come to ‘rage out and have a good time.’ These women come in for predictable reasons like breakups, betrayals and loss, but also to host birthday parties and celebrations.”

Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • Avengers: Endgame (PG-13) (97% on Rotten Tomatoes): Superheroes in intergalactic showdown

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Us (R) (94%)

  • Shazam (PG-13) (90%)

  • Breakthrough (PG) (64%)

  • Captain Marvel (PG-13) (78%)

Cheap getaways from CLT:
  • Charlotte to Denver, $126 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), May 2-6 and other dates.

  • Charlotte to Providence, $76 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), May 10-13.

  • Charlotte to Orlando, $96 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), May 18-20.

  • Farther out: Charlotte to Bogota, Colombia, $371 round-trip on Spirit (one stop), June 21-26.

  • Farther out: Charlotte to Newark, $78 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Aug. 24-27 and other dates in September.

  • Farther out: Charlotte to Krakow, Poland, $590 round-trip on Lufthansa (one stop), various dates in October.

  • Farther out: Charlotte to Reykjavik, Iceland, $487 round-trip on Delta (one stop), various dates in December, January, February.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.

Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.comand let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.