Question: I am currently a junior in high school. I was wondering if there are any colleges in Texas that have a class in Zoology. I am really interested in a career in where I get to study animals, especially in their habitats. Thank you, this would really mean a lot and I’d have a better idea of where I would want to go to college.
I just used College Confidential’s “SuperMatch” (see http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/ ) to find four-year colleges in Texas where students can not only take classes in zoology but also major in it.
My search came up with:
U of Texas-Austin
Texas State U-San Marcos
Texas Women’s University (and, yes, men can enroll)
Tarleton State University
There are other Texas colleges that offer courses in zoology even if it’s not available as a major or which offer majors in related fields. For instance, a major in “Wildlife Biology”, “Forest Science and Biology” or “Animal Behavior and Ethology” might interest you, and you can search schools that offer these options on SuperMatch.
I suggest that you play around with “SuperMatch” by typing your desired locale and major and then add in other preferences …size, admission standards, etc. You should consider colleges outside of Texas as well. SuperMatch can help you pick locations that are a reasonable distance from home but not necessarily in-state. While public in-state universities can often offer the lowest price tags, you may also find that need-based financial aid and/or merit scholarships can make private colleges and out-of-state colleges equally (or even more) affordable.
Posted in College Search
Question: I just started 11th grade, and I know its a little early to be worrying about my future but I would like to have at least some idea of what I’m going to be doing. I have ZERO idea of what I want to major in or what college I want to go to. I would love to do something in the arts department because I’m a dancer and actress and singer (basically a performer) but it’s not a practical thing to major in (and my parents would never let me). I happen to have a talent with doing people’s makeup, but I cant exactly make a living off of that. if you could help me that would be amazing. Thank you!
The “Dean’s” crystal ball puts you at a liberal arts college (or in a liberal arts program within a university). As you probably already know, “liberal arts” schools aren’t necessarily liberal (some, in fact, can be quite conservative), and many students may not take a single art class in four years. But what the term really means is that freshmen don’t enter into a specific “pre-professional” program (e.g., engineering, pharmacy, physical therapy …). Instead, they start out by choosing courses from a broad range of fields and then eventually (by the beginning of junior year) choose a “major.”
But even once the student selects the major, it doesn’t mean that he or she is limited to that field alone. A typical student at a typical liberal arts college takes about 32 classes during the college career. (This breaks down into roughly four classes per semester, two semesters per year over four years). And a typical major requires somewhere between 10 and 12 courses. So this means that, even if you are taking about a third of all your courses in your major, you can still take two-thirds OUTSIDE OF your major if you wish. (And, for many majors, you can take a few classes from different departments that still “count” toward your major. For instance, an English major would probably get credit toward the major by taking “European Drama” from the theater department or “Latin American Literature in Translation” from the Spanish department.)
So even if you end up majoring in a field that your parents would call “practical” (economics, education, etc.) you could take classes offered by the theater, music, and dance departments. So, when it’s time to choose a college, try to pick one that offers classes–as well as performance opportunities–in those areas and which welcome non-majors. Such colleges aren’t tough to find.
Next, add your other preferences to the list (size, location, campus climate, etc.) along with your likelihood of acceptance and affordability. All of this will help you to narrow down your choices. College Confidential’s SuperMatch is a great place to start. You can pick the factors that are most important to you and even decide how crucial they are … “Kinda” important, “Very,” or “Must have.” See http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/
Regardless of the classes you’re in and of the major you select, most colleges offer tons of opportunities to take part in theater and vocal productions. If you enjoy doing make-up and think that you’re good at it, almost every theater department would LOVE to have you on board to help out with the plays. And did you know that, for the majority of liberal arts majors, the first job out of college is more likely to be linked to an extracurricular activity than to the major? Thus, even if you end up deciding on a parent-pleasing major, your make-up experience outside of class time could actually lead you to some wonderful job opportunities after graduation doing make-up for professional theaters or even in Hollywood.
So, don’t fret about not yet having your future already mapped out. A liberal arts college can be a great way to test the waters in many academic areas, to find time to pursue your passion for performing arts, and make-up, and even to keep Mom and Dad content by picking a major that they’ll approve … even if it isn’t ultimately a stepping stone on your career path.
Posted in College Search
Question: My older son was admitted to Stanford and Princeton but I convinced him to go to UCLA because he was given free tuition.
We don’t qualify for any need-based scholarship and my younger son, a rising high school senior, might be facing the same situation. If, for example he gets into Harvard, would it make sense to borrow $50,000 a year or have him follow his brother’s example? He is a very hard working student and it’s sad that he has to settle.
You’ve asked a common and confusing question … somewhere in the same league as the one about the chicken and the egg. In other words, there are no easy answers.
Over the past decade or so, folks on the College Confidential discussion forum … and in the greater world beyond it (and, yes, there is a world beyond CC, though sometimes I tend to forget it ) … have often debated this same issue: Is the value of a big-name degree worth the dough that it demands? You’ll find that the answers range from emphatic yeses to equally adamant nos, and they come from not only the parents who have shelled out—or saved—big bucks, but also from students and alums who have had time to test out the fire-power of their assorted sheepskins.
My perspective? Certainly for anyone who can spend $60K per year with about the same insouciance that allows me to buy red grapes when they’re not on sale at Stop & Shop, it probably makes sense to spring for the high-status alma mater. I once served on a panel with a well known 40-something Harvard alum who was asked if she felt that her degree warranted its cost. She insisted that it did, noting that “As soon as people find out where I went to college, they just assume I’m smart. They don’t expect me to prove it.” But she was also quick to point out that, on the road to career success, she had encountered others traveling beside her who had attended far less snazzier schools and were doing just fine nonetheless.
So for the rest of us, the waters are far murkier. Certainly UCLA is nothing to sneeze at. Its name provides as much recognition as that of an Ivy but with less prestige. If my own son faced this decision, I would first look beyond the price to see what each college offers. Factors like major, location, size, extracurriculars, etc. might make UCLA a better fit for some students than Harvard would be.
But if both schools ticked the same number of boxes on my child’s list, I would only be willing to pay for the expensive college if I felt that my son desperately wanted to be there, seemed to have valid reasons for being so insistent, and if the financial burden we would have to shoulder would be manageable. While some college debt is inevitable for most families, parents need to take an objective look at exactly what this will require in their own household. For instance, what happens if a parent loses a job? What happens if the student plans to head to graduate school, especially in pricey areas like medicine and law? How much money will remain for retirement? For other children?
And how important to you is prestige? Try to be honest with yourself about that. For some people, it’s worth the steep fee. But also ask yourself what fall-out you can expect if you agree to finance Harvard (or the like) for your younger son after saying no to the older one.
Finally, keep in mind that even if your older son’s decision boiled down to Stanford or Princeton vs. UCLA, your younger son is just a high school junior and he need not be faced with only a similar choice. There are some colleges that are private and prestigious but which also offer full or big merit awards (e.g., Johns Hopkins, Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt, Emory, Boston College, Notre Dame). So if your son is strong enough to be admitted to Harvard, he may have the option of earning a free or cheap education at other institutions besides UCLA.
Finally, if your two sons are in college concurrently, you may qualify for need-based aid, even if you didn’t qualify when your older son applied for college. Have you done the Net Price Calculator on the Harvard Web site to confirm that Harvard will be as costly as you suspect? Note, too, that all colleges are now required to post a Net Price Calculator online. Although these new tools are not completely reliable, I recommend that you play around with one–or several–to see if you will really need to borrow as much as you claim.
But, ultimately, deciding how much to spend on a child’s education is a very personal decision. If you tell your son that Harvard is out of reach, you may always feel sad about this choice. But, on the other hand, your son can get an excellent education at UCLA … or at countless other more affordable institutions … and I’ve heard plenty of complaints about Harvard (and other hyper-competitive, hyper expensive schools) so don’t ever make him feel that he was merely “settling.”
Posted in College Admissions, College Search, Financial Aid
Question: My son is the student council president of his school. He’s the captain of the football team, and he has a B to B- average. He also has an IEP, with a learning disability in comprehension. Where do I start? Do we look at division 3 football teams, like the coaches suggest? Do we focus on schools that specialize in kids with disabilities, or do we focus on his incredible leadership skills? Thank you
So many colleges these days have support services for students with disabilities that you should be well served by prioritizing your son’s other preferences … size, location, academic offerings, athletic offerings, campus climate, etc.. (Try College Confidential’s SuperMatch http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/ for suggestions.)
Just be sure to focus on places where the typical admitted student has a GPA in roughly the B to B- range. (If a football coach is hot for your son, you may find that he will be admitted to colleges where his GPA and test scores are somewhat below the typical accepted-student range. But you will also have to decide if you want him in a place where he may be struggling to keep up, especially in light of his disability.)
You didn’t mention SAT or ACT scores. These can often play a bigger role in admission decisions than many admission folks are willing to concede. If you feel that your son’s scores don’t reflect his abilities, you can also consider the long list of test-optional (or “test-flexible”) schools that you’ll find on the FairTest Web site: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional
Have you checked out the book and/or Web site for Colleges That Change Lives? http://www.ctcl.org/ Perhaps one–or many–of these schools would be a good fit for your son. (Here’s a recent CTCL thread from College Confidential: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1330997-did-one-colleges-change-lives-change-your-life-your-childs.html ) One young man I know from Massachusetts attended Guilford College in North Carolina, a test-optional Quaker-founded school with a football team in Greensboro. His life was indeed changed by the attention and encouragement he received at Guilford, and he went on to be accepted by his first-choice grad program and to land a great job after that.
So my advice would be to first seek out colleges that tick the must-have and hope-for boxes on your son’s wish list (and yours) and then contact each college’s disabilities resources office (most schools have them though the names will vary) to find out how your son’s special needs will be met … and to evaluate the vibe you get from the staff when you ask whatever questions you have.
If your son plans to play football in college (or even thinks he might), he should fill out the athletic recruitment forms for prospective students that you’ll find on most college Web sites. If he can’t find the form, he can email the coach directly and explain his interest, experience, and strengths. (I think it’s a good idea to email the coach directly, even when there is a form.) If you are planning campus visits, try to schedule an appointment with coaches when you are there. WARNING: At the Division 3 level, where coaches don’t have to prove their interest by offering scholarship money, you may find that coaches are prone to exaggerating interest in a prospective player. Even a “guaranteed four-year starter” may find himself on the bench in September, so proceed with caution and ask a lot of questions.
Whatever he decides, it sounds like your son can find many colleges that will fit him and welcome him, and his learning disability should not be at the epicenter of his search.
Posted in College Search
Question: How are average GPAs computed for purposes of College Confidential’s Supermatch College Search?
The College Search lists at least 31 colleges with Average GPAs of 4, the highest unweighted GPA possible. If they have average GPAs of 4.0, more than half of their incoming freshmen must have high school unweighted GPAs of 4.0 and GPAs must be rounded up, as it would be mathematically impossible to have such an average otherwise.
Do Olin, WUSL, MIT, Pomona, Notre Dame, Rice, Northwestern, Duke, Chicago, Yale, Columbia, Amherst, Dartmouth, Harvard, Stanford, Williams, Claremont McKenna, Carleton, Tufts, Cornell, Vassar, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Brown, Bowdoin, Haverford, Cooper Union, Washington and Lee, Wellesley, and Georgetown ALL have freshman classes containing a large majority of students with perfect high school GPAs as reported? This seems impossible to me. If they do not, why are they listed as having Average GPAs of 4?
I am particularly interested in the answer to this question because my son has an ACT of 35 but will have an unweighted 3.9 after his junior year due to several grades of B+ in AP classes.
You’ve raised a good question, which I relayed to the Hobsons honchos who created SuperMatch.
From that, I’ve learned that the “elite” colleges you’ve named do not provide an official average GPA to prospective students and their families. Thus, any time some critical piece of information is missing from a school profile (GPA, SAT’s, ACT’s), the SuperMatch team employs a formula that estimates the missing data based upon the available data.
But, as you’ve pointed out, when it comes to certain hyper-competitive colleges, this formula is slightly flawed. GPA’s at Amherst, Swarthmore, MIT, et al are very high but they’re not THAT high! And your son, with an unweighted 3.9, will certainly be in the running everywhere he applies.
So I’ve passed your query over to the Hobsons SuperMatch team and they are returning to the drawing board … thanks to you.
If you keep an eye on SuperMatch you will see a change in the near future … possibly an “est.” next to the GPA (meaning “estimated”).
I hope that helps and I also hope that SuperMatch was able to direct your son to colleges and universities that meet his other academic and preference selections, even if the GPA part was a tad confusing.
Posted in College Search
Question: Our friends have hired an independent college counselor to help their son maximize his Ivy League admission chances. My own son (a junior with a B/B- average) has a college list that is far more modest, but the guidance counselor at his high school is new and doesn’t seem very well informed. We are new to this process ourselves. Are we short-changing our son by not engaging a private counselor for him, too, or is that money better spent for those aiming at the very selective universities?
When it comes to life’s to-do lists, we all have different comfort zones. The same folks who trudge through their income taxes every April without the aid of an accountant might never tackle a tire change … even in their own driveway. Likewise, some families can easily navigate the college admissions maze with only the help of Web sites like College Confidential or a short stack of guidebooks, while others prefer to have a seasoned pro at the helm.
But one thing for sure is that independent college counselors do far more than packaging prodigies for Princeton. Often it’s families like yours—with a plethora of options and unreliable assistance from the high school—who can benefit most from the information that an independent counselor will provide.
I’ve pasted below a recent blog post from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) Web site. It was written by Jane Hoffman, a Westchester, NY-based independent college counselor. Here, Jane debunks some of the myths about indie counselors and explains how newbie families like yours might benefit from outside help:
I wish that more was written about independent educational consultants’ integral role as educators. In the current, complex and often competitive terrain of college admissions in 2012, we teach. The arguments about us often seem to range from “we are all about fit” to “they are pariahs who package and promote.” Personally, I think those two poles miss the integral role we play as educators.
I teach students about college curriculum, general education requirements, what it means to declare a major, the opportunities and options, how college differs from high school, the difference between liberal arts colleges and universities, and so much more. I teach parents how the college admissions terrain is so different than when we applied and the large role of enrollment management. I decode how colleges think and the importance many place on demonstrated interest and that they expect that families have nothing more to do than “college shop.” I explain that the student will have options and so the challenge is to self-assess and determine his or her goals and to identify and then apply and gain admission to schools that will further those goals.
Particularly as the search process is and needs to be starting earlier and earlier in the lives of high school students, I often find myself talking to 15-year-olds about college and what it means to be in college, which can feel like a remote abstraction. I teach students and parents how to quiet all the relentless “noise” out there and what to pay attention to, meaning the student’s learning style and the family’s values, and to look within rather than to start with a focus on any particular colleges.
I also believe that IECs have an opportunity and responsibility to educate college representatives about the perspectives of students and families as they conduct the college search and application process. I firmly believe that how IECs are viewed by the public, both prospective clients and those that would never anticipate hiring professionals, is something that we need to be aware of. Looking at that bigger picture, I feel a responsibility not just to my clients but also to members of the public who may not be able to avail themselves of the services that we provide. My own education and advocacy role includes trying to talk to college representatives about the tremendous stressors that families experience throughout the college search and application process.
Posted in College Admissions, College Search
Question: Is it possible to apply to a college after their deadline? My daughter was accepted to colleges like UCLA, Berkeley and Rice, but we can’t afford them. Is it too late to find a small private college even after the deadline?
First of all, there are a number of private colleges whose deadlines haven’t passed. You can hone in on some of them by using the Common Application’s search engine that you’ll find here: https://www.commonapp.org/SearchEngine/AdvancedSearch.aspx (Scroll down the page until you spot the question about deadlines.)
This recent Examiner article by Washington-based independent counselor and admissions writer Nancy Griesemer might also be helpful: http://www.examiner.com/college-admissions-in-washington-dc/colleges-still-accepting-applications-for-fall-2012
In addition, shortly after May 1st, the National Association for College Admission Counseling will post their annual “Space Available Survey” that lists all schools that still have spots for September freshmen, even if their deadlines are long past. There are usually a few nationally-known colleges on this list … not Harvard or Yale of course, but typically some places whose names you and others will recognize. Many (but not all) will have financial aid available, too.
Meanwhile, it is definitely possible that other colleges will consider your daughter, even if she has missed the application deadline. This, however, will only be the case if she is a very strong candidate. However, if your daughter needs financial aid, this will diminish the odds that the colleges will consider her post-deadline unless:
-They did not get the “yield” they expected from their admitted class and thus have some money left in their financial aid budget
-Your daughter is an EXTREMELY strong candidate, with a GPA and test scores that will help boost their averages
-You won’t need financial aid if the colleges you’re considering are less pricey than UCLA, Rice, Berkeley, and any other places that may have admitted her.
Another possibility for your daughter might be a Gap year, which will buy her time to apply to more affordable colleges for a September 2013 start. While many official Gap-year programs can be pricey, she might want to consider City Year (http://www.cityyear.org/default_ektid22283.aspx ) which actually pays students to participate (and not the other way around) and which will look good on applications. Given that your daughter was strong enough to get into the top schools you named, she should be an attractive candidate for City Year, too. The final application deadline is April 30, but some students applied via earlier deadlines which might mean that your daughter, if accepted, may not get her first choice city of the many City Year options.
City Year is part of the AmericaCorps network, and there may be other AmericaCorps programs that your daughter would prefer and which will also pay a stipend: http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/choose/index.asp
I’m sorry to hear that you’re in a bind at this hectic time of year. But your daughter sounds like an excellent student, so she can find options that will work for all of you. Don’t rush into anything that doesn’t feel like the right fit.
Posted in College Admissions, College Search, Financial Aid
Question: Which colleges are recommended to complete an undergrad and medical degree togther in 6/7/8 years. Thanks
It’s not responsible for an Internet “Dean” to recommend a combo-med college (or ANY college) without knowing a lot about the student involved. However, you may find this earlier “Ask the Dean” column helpful: http://www.collegeconfidential.com/dean/archives/choosing-a-combined-bachelorsmd-program.htm It’s about seven or eight years old but the information it contains is still current.
Above all, I can’t emphasize enough how competitive these programs are. Combo-med programs are usually far more selective than their host institution at large. For instance, a young man I worked with nearly a decade ago was turned down by the University of Rochester’s Early Medical Scholars program but he went on to excel as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and then at Harvard Medical School. Another student in my orbit is currently an undergrad at Yale but was denied at the two combo-med programs she aimed for … at Boston University and George Washington University.
On the other hand, a young woman I advised is now in the B.A./M.D program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She was a very good student in high school, but her grades and test scores weren’t as strong as those of the two Ivy Leaguers cited above. However, her passion for a career in medicine–which came across clearly in her extracurricular endeavors and her essays–probably played a key role in her acceptance.
So, while it’s impossible to counsel a student in Cyberspace whom I know nothing about, at least I can warn that student that all the combo-med programs set the bar very, very high.
Posted in College Admissions, College Search
Question: I want to study translation (where you translate documents from one language to another). But I don’t know which schools offer this. Is there another way that this is said? I would feel honored if you answered my question. Thank you.
You’ll find a lot of information about your intended career field in this article from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos175.htm#training
As you’ll see when you read it, you will need to be fluent in at least two languages, but you don’t necessarily have to formally study translation in college. However, a number of colleges and universities do offer a major in Language Translation/Interpretation. To find such schools that meet your other preferences as well, do a search on College Confidential’s SuperMatch. (http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/) and the College Board’s Matchmaker (http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/search/adv_typeofschool.jsp)
If no colleges come up on your “Results” lists, try varying other preferences (size, location, etc.)
This article provides a list of the “top” 10 translation graduate and certificate programs: http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/2009/09/23/top-10-us-translation-schools/ (Some of these schools offer undergraduate programs as well).
Extensive foreign language skills will come in handy if you pursue this career, but also familiarity with another area (e.g., law, science, economics) can enhance your demand as a translator.
Good luck! Veel geluk! Edu! Gangi þér vel! Bonne chance! Удачи! Ngikufisela iwela!
Posted in College Search
Question: I am a sophomore in high school and my sister is a junior. My parents have scheduled some college trips for her during our April break, and I am going, too. My sister is having interviews at three of the colleges we’re seeing, but it’s my understanding that interviews are not available to sophomores. However, all of these colleges are really far from our home, and there’s no way that we’ll be able to go back again next year or when I’m a senior. So should I try to schedule interviews, if I can?
Most colleges do not interview sophomores, but sometimes this policy can be flexible when there are extenuating circumstances such as yours. Contact the admission official in charge of your geographic region at each of the schools you’ll be seeing. (The admission office receptionist can give you the name and contact info, if it’s not on the Web site.) Tell him or her about the family trip and ask if an exception might be possible. In doing so:
-Be sure to ask an admissions officer for this exception, not the receptionist who might ordinarily schedule interviews since this is a policy decision which a receptionist may not be authorized to make.
-If you feel that you are an especially strong candidate for a particular college, you should try to include this information as well when you contact the admission official. You don’t have to say anything brash like, “To know me is to love me,” but you could mention in passing that you are a straight-A student or that you’ve taken PSAT’s already and feel that you’ll be in well within that college’s “admit range,” etc.
Finally, when you say that you live “really far” from the colleges that you’ll be visiting, be sure that we’re talking some serious miles. “Far” can be a relative term, and each family may view it differently. I’ve worked with students in Queens, NY, who think Philadelphia is “really far” from home … “even too far” … although the fittest of the lot could probably get there on a bicycle.
Don’t be surprised if the admission officials you contact recommend that you attend an info session on campus and take a tour with your sister but ask you to schedule an interview with an alumnus close to home next year rather than allowing one on campus for a sophomore. However, you may find that the practices will vary from school to school, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
Good luck and safe travels
Posted in College Admissions, College Search