Disadvantages to LACS

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Discus: College Search and Selection: June 2004 Archive: Disadvantages to LACS
By Skulkarni1 (Skulkarni1) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 01:08 am: Edit

hi, there's been a lot of hype about LACS on this board and on college websites in general. i don't know much about htem to be honest with you, except that everyone talks about how "the people are nice and there's an emphasis on leaarning and the class sizes are small." there has to be some disadvantage of attending a liberal arts college along with the advantages of it, just like their are advantages and disadvantages of attending a huge university. for example, attending a huge school, you usually have the advantage of:
- having more options for your major, usually more specific
- tend to have more opportunities research wise, etc
- usually have the "ra-ra" spirit of school spirit
- hard time getting to know ur professor

so what are the advantages and disadvantages of liberal arts colleges? please no LAC bashing an no LAC posts stating "there are no disadvantages to LACS." that can't be true. there are good and bad things about every single type of school, and i just wnat to kno what they are

By Chasgoose (Chasgoose) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 03:20 am: Edit

Actually LAC's tend to have a rabid ra-ra school spirit (see Williams College) it's just that they are small so the sports aren't D1 quality. Also, there are just as many or more opportunities for actual research at LACs because there are no grad students to compete with.

There are some disadvantages I found that made me choose not to attend LACs, however.
-The ones I liked tended to be a bit too isolated for my tastes (even at Amherst with the 5 college consortium I felt a little trapped)
-The downside to a small student body is that it is small and might end up feeling a bit confining.

By Barrett (Barrett) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 04:51 am: Edit

Each to her (or his) own, Chasgoose.

Interestingly, the disadvantages you named were among the very reasons that I chose to spend my undergraduate years at a small college. In fact, I preferred to limit my distractions because my overwhelming priority was to seek an intense academic experience (and my goodness, did I find it). I also thought (correctly it seems, judging from my time spend at a much larger university on the heels of this hermetic undergraduate experience) that my wish to become closely acquainted with many different types of students would be hindered if I attended a large school in the first instance. To generalise from my own encounters, I would have to say that at a small college you are much more apt to run into people outside of the classes and activities that you associate them with. At a large university (at least at the one I chose to attend), it was frighteningly rare that I would actually see (i.e., spontaneously meet up with) my classmates outside of formally scheduled activities.

By Cynner012 (Cynner012) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 04:51 am: Edit

Plus, if you're a techie/science person, the resources and money aren't there for big research projects and to bring in the top gun professors. True, there is more undergrad interships and research that goes on since there are no grad students, but I think you're still better off at a bigger university if you're set on a research-intense science, like chem or bio.

By Shennie (Shennie) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 12:34 pm: Edit

At a smaller college the professors are much more accessible. Since teaching is their primary focus they usually have lots of office hours and students feel very comfortable dropping by with questions or just to talk. At large universities, it can be a challenge to even find the profs. office and when you do, you discover that s/he only has office hours once a weekd and they are when one of your other classes meets. Also, you are more likely to run into profs on campus at a LAC.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 01:24 pm: Edit

Actually, it's a fallacy that undergrads at LAC's don't get the opportunity to do research - the top LAC's offer outstanding research opportunities for UNDERGRADS.

At research universities, the plum research opportunities are most frequently given to grad students and phd. students.

Of course, it's a choice: do you want to be a lowly lab assistant on a well-funded research project at a university or running the show and doing the research yourself at an LAC? (This isn't to say that some universities don't do a very good job of providing some undergrad research opportunities as well...and certainly some LAC's do a poor job too!) But there IS a reason why a higher percentage of scientists going on for doctorates come from LAC's than they do from universities.

Potential disadvantages to SOME LAC's:

Less prestige and "bragging" rights.

Some departments can be pretty small (who wants to be stuck taking all of your major classes from three teachers when you don't like two of the three?)

Less specialized course selections available.

Because the goal at an LAC is on gaining a broad-based, interconnected education, rather than a specialized education, core and distribution requirements at many LACs are more extensive than at many universities.(Again, there are some exceptions to this rule at both the LAC and university level).

Smaller classes mean you can't cut classes as easily as in a big lecture - teachers know who you are and how prepared you are every day.

Generally, a greater emphasis on on writing and discussion (a negative for some folks).

LAC's generally have smaller libraries.

Fewer extracurriculars (clubs, etc.)- you may be the only person at an LAC who wants to be in the flyfishing club, at a university it's statistically more likely that someone out there will have your same interests...if you can find them.

Universities tend to attract more "big name" events like concerts, famous speakers, etc....although many LAC's do an excellent job of bringing great events to campus.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 01:38 pm: Edit

To balance my above post, a few advantages of many LAC's:

- in general, better and more personalized advising. (To put this in perspective: would you rather go to a high school that has 1 guidance counselor to every 500 students, or to a school where there is one guidance counselor to every 50 students?)

- Smaller classes likely to mean that teachers are more likely to spot when you're struggling with a subject.

- often easier to switch majors, try different subjects, fit in study abroad.

- personal interactions with teachers can make it easier to get recommendations for internships, summer research opportunities, grad school, jobs.

- often better support services available for students who are struggling with a subject (can make a big difference when you're trying to get through organic chem!)

- often more opportunities for hands-on, experiential education: i.e., class field trips, internships, research labs that focus on defining/solving problems rather than cookbook labs.

- often more opportunities to do independent study projects.

- less bureaucracy and red-tape.

- Often easier to get into the classes you want.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

Many of the advantages have already been listed. There is also the stronger comraderie that can develop since you get to know your classmates better and get to know most of your classmates. Friends who have gone to the larger universities often only know a small segment of their class.

The disadvantages are if you do not like the advantages, such as if you really prefer a larger, less personal, more anonymous environment. Also, many of the LACs are not known to much of the population. Most Ohioans know Ohio State. When you start talking about Kenyan or go out of state to Gettysburg or St Lawrence, the name recognition drops significantly.

The other disadvantage to LACs is the dearth of business, education, communications, physical therapy, and other more pragmatic majors. Though some LACs do have business courses and education courses, most instead have a core liberal arts program that is the main course of their offerings. You are not as likely to be able to get these more preprofessional courses. My friend's daughter transferred from Lake Forest, which she loved, to Penn State when she decided she wanted to become a nurse and did not want to go extra years to get that nursing degree. You may be limited if you want that leading edge computer tech course or want to switch from math to engineering. (though there are LACs that doe have education, engineering and busibess programs). Also, most do not tend to offer combined masters programs which are an opportunity available in some universities and schools that have advanced degree programs.

By Whartonfella (Whartonfella) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 02:31 pm: Edit

i dont know if it was mentioned already as i didnt read over everything clearly but at a university there tends to be a much more diverse studeny body. its probably not because lacs wouldnt like to admit more minority students but for the most part i cant think of any minority students that want to go to a lac.

By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 02:33 pm: Edit

Generally speaking some of the disadvantages that I've found are:

1> Less prestige than most universities
2> School can be too small....it's almost like high school where you bump into the same faces all the time
3> People constantly haven't heard about the school that you attend, or think that the LAC is some kind of community college. This can really get annoying after a while.
4> Less research opportunities. Many of the opportunities are small grants which can't pay for much in terms of travel expense etc.
5> Less emphasis on the hard majors such as sciences, engineering, math etc, and a lot of emphasis on the intagible arts majors.

The advantages are that you get a good education, while not being bombarded by prestige wars! This is a huge plus in my book

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 03:12 pm: Edit

About LAC research: my D has been given a resarch assistant position at Smith. The specific position is still TBD (she indicates her first three choices from a list over the summer) but the projects that panelists described during our visit were pretty impressive. Some students were getting their names on academic papers in second or third positions as sophomores and making presentations at academic conferences where most people assumed they were graduate students.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 03:32 pm: Edit

i cant think of any minority students that want to go to a lac.

Whartonfella, you may want to read a bit before making such a "thoughtful" comment. Does that mean that minorities do not value superior education? Think about it!

By Asdad (Asdad) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 04:52 pm: Edit

LAC students are more likely to get into the courses needed and graduate in 4 years.

You see less of your old bf/gf at a large school.

By Cookie33 (Cookie33) on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 10:00 pm: Edit

me: minority student...will attend LAC..

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 12:15 am: Edit

Wow, there's a lot of nonsense being posted here.

A few misstatements that really stand out:

a) LAC's aren't good for science majors. Baloney. In fact, when you measure the number of PhDs in science and engineering per 100 undergrads, LACs occupy 11 of the top 25 spots in the country. In fact, aside from two very specific science/engineering schools (MIT and CalTech), LACs are at the very top of the list.

Here's the link to a fabulous essay on science at liberal arts colleges and the ranking from the author's research for a five year period in the 1990s from this essay (the order shifts a bit depending on the specific timeframe, but the general rankings hold:


CalTech 42
M.I.T. 22
Harvey Mudd 19
*Swarthmore 18
*Carleton 15
*Reed 14
U. of Chicago 13
Rice U. 12
Princeton U. 12
Harvard U. 11
*Haverford 11
Johns Hopkins U. 10
*Oberlin 10
*Pomona 10
*Grinnell 10
Yale U. 10
*Kalamazoo 9
*Bryn Mawr 9
Rensselaer Polytech. Inst. 9
Cornell U. 9
Case Western Reserve U. 8
Stanford U. 8
Brown U. 8
*Williams 8
*Amherst 7

b) LAC's aren't prestigious. Again, pure baloney. They are not as well known amoung the general population (except in New England), but are VERY prestigious among academics.

c) LAC's aren't good for minority students. Again, pure baloney. Some are, some aren't. Some of the very top LACs are among the most aggressively diverse schools in the country. For example, 7% of Swarthmore's faculty is African American and the student body is only 62% white.

Now, for the disadvantages of LAC's, there are a few:

a) If you intend to specialize in a very narrow niche (say, Mideival French History) to the exclusion of all else, you might be more likely to find experts and courses at a larger school.

b) If you are a child prodigy and already doing advanced college level work (say quaantuum mechanics) in high school, you might run out of courses at a LAC, whereas at a university, you could transition into grad school courses.

c) If you look at college as vocational training, an LAC is probably not for you. The main thing a liberal arts curriculum teaches is how to think, question, analyse, and communicate.

d) The small size can be a plus or a minus. Some people really love the close-knit campus community; others may start to feel a little claustrophobic. It probably good thing to the extent that you fit with the overall "personality" of the campus; a bad thing if you are outside the norm. For example, if you were an in the closet gay, you might very well be more comfortable in a larger population. Not that you wouldn't be accepted at an LAC, but just from a pure numbers standpoint, there are going to be fewer like-minded closet gays and less opportunity for anonymity. The smallness issue is magnified a bit by a remote rural location and reduced by a location that provides easy access to a city for mini-vacations from the ivory tower.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 08:51 am: Edit

I don't necessarily agree that the number of students who go on to get a PhD in science or engineering is the best measure of the quality of the science or engineering program.

What about the students from schools not on this list who actually get a real job after undergraduate study in these areas? Or for that matter, the students who go on to medical, dental, or veterinary schools?

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 09:12 am: Edit

The number of PhDs would not be the ONLY good measure of the strength of science and eng, but what it does probably mirror is the faculty's ability to get students fired up about and involved in research. It reflects the availability of research opportunities for undergrads, too I bet. To me, the importance of that is that hits the research universities right in what most prople would think was their strength.
The way students decide on research as a career is by doing research, and except for a few natural geniuses, they need to be mentored and to start at a small scale - that evidently is where these LACS excel.
Some of them do a fair job at producing docs and atts too - but not "real jobs". Bachelor degree jobs in science without specific training - nursing, med tech, teaching, PT, etc - aren't the most, ahh, permanent, lucrative, maybe. Most people interested in science, but wanting or needing to stop at bachelor's level need more specific training than a LAC can give,except education certificate.

By Asdad (Asdad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 09:26 am: Edit

"The main thing a liberal arts curriculum teaches is how to think, question, analyse, and communicate."

Interesteddad, I think you summed up LACs in that statement.

"It probably good thing to the extent that you fit with the overall "personality" of the campus; a bad thing if you are outside the norm."

And this is why the "fit" is much more important in a LAC than a large school.

By Entropicgirl (Entropicgirl) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 10:20 am: Edit

My mom went to Reed, and she is VERY adamant about me NOT going to a LAC. Here's what she tells me: her school didn't have nearly the variety of courses that a larger school does, and therefore she didn't figure out what she wanted to study until a few years into grad school--when she realized that her grad school didn't really offer what she wanted. So she wishes she'd gone to a bigger school.
The other thing she says is that, by the end of her years there, she got really sick of everyone knowing her business.
All this is just what my mom says, and she actually went to a LAC. So please don't respond and try to tear this to pieces...it's just her experience, and I'm sure everyone's is different.

By Whartonfella (Whartonfella) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 11:26 am: Edit

xiggi. i meant that the minority student i know want to go to universities. usually in urban areas like baltimore new york boston or philadelphia.

i happen to be one of them

By Chasgoose (Chasgoose) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

You know it is possible to get a liberal arts education outside of an LAC.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 12:04 pm: Edit

>> My mom went to Reed, and she is VERY adamant about me NOT going to a LAC.

I don't know about your mom, but my wife an I (both LAC grads) pushed the benefits of larger universities to my daughter quite hard. Having visited schools with her and taken a fresh look at the landscape, I am more convinced now than I was forty years ago that LACs offer the best possible undergrad learning experience for most students. However, I feel very strongly that parents should not impose their ideas on their kids and that presenting pros and cons of all types of schools is the only fair approach.

She gravitated towards LAC's after visiting schools of all sizes. But, we shared our college eperiences with her and explained the real-world disadvantages of liberal arts colleges in many dinner conversations.

To Sokkermom: I agree that PhD's in math and science are only one slice of the picture. Although, it is an important slice for MATH AND SCIENCE majors since that is really the pedominant career path in those fields.

You could also look at med school, law school, and biz school degrees. I haven't run across data, but I'm sure that it is equally high since many LAC (Williams for example) are med/law/biz school factories.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 12:29 pm: Edit

Here's a piece of data on law, med, biz schools:


I think this Wall Street Journal survey is flawed because it only looks at enrollment at five top med schools, five top law schools, and five top biz schools -- overly narrow criteria, IMO. For example, I think that getting into UVA Law School or U. of Washington Med school is a pretty good outcome, but neither of these (or many others) would count here. Nevertheless, it does provide a glimpse.

Note that again, LACs do very well -- nine of the top 25 per capita percentages. Average these results with the Science/Engineering PhDs and you've pretty much covered the gamut of grad/professional schools. Certainly, it's fair to say that graduating from a top LAC puts you in position to compete quite nicely for PhD, Med, Law, or Biz school placements.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 12:47 pm: Edit

>> You know it is possible to get a liberal arts education outside of an LAC.

Absolutely. In fact, many top universities pitch their undergrad programs as being like "a small liberal arts college" within a university. I find that pitch a little disingenuous at large state universities with 10,000 undergrads, but more plausible at many midsize private universities (4000 to 5000 undergrads).

The one big disadvantage academically is that the average student at a larger school is less likely to have one-on-one or small group mentoring relationships with their professors. Over and over, students talk about being challenged one-on-one (in effect, debating ideas with professors) as the key component of learning how to critically analyze and think.

This is not to say that many university students don't manage to carve out this kind of personal one-on-one mentoring. They do. But, on average, it cannot happen as often because of the numbers involved and the structure and tenure priorities of teaching in a research institute setting.

Just as an example: the pre-frosh days last month at my daughter's LAC included a "Lunch with the Faculty" event -- basically just as it sounds. Standard lunch in the dining hall, but at every table were three or four professors, just shooting the breeze with the prospective students. That kind of casual interaction is a constant at small schools, a direct result of the size of the community and the exclusive focus on undergrad teaching.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 03:35 pm: Edit

What range of LAC's are you specifically talking about?

Because a lot of these advantages aren't even true for the majority of LAC's.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 03:52 pm: Edit

I don't think the range really matters. After all it's all relative.

Top LACs versus top universities.

Mid-rank LACs versus mid-rank universities.

Lower tier LACs versus lower-tier universities.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

Some of these advantages don't apply to most LAC's so if he's looking at Mid-level LAC's he needs to know that a lot of these only concern the minority of LAC's.

Say he wants to pick a mid-level LAC as a safety to a top university..he might think that the mid-level LAC has some of these advantages listed when in fact the university might have them. Or vice versa.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 04:27 pm: Edit

This discusion really isn't that abstract. Just think about the difference between a large high school with 600 in the senior class, a mid-size high school with 300 in the senior class, and a prep school with 100 in the senior class.

Those are very different experiences. Not to say one is "better" for every student. Just very different.

Multiply the numbers by 4 and you've got representative samples of three different size undergrad schools.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 04:37 pm: Edit

If I thought the discussion was abstract, I wouldn't have asked him specifically which schools.

Look, he may have a certain range of LAC's, universities he's interested in. Maybe he's aiming for the top like Amherst and Williams, or maybe a second tier school.

So he needs to know that some of these advantages ONLY apply to very specific schools (in some cases, only a handful) so he doesn't go away thinking this is true for all LAC's when they're untrue for a majority.

I'm not even talking about size...

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 04:39 pm: Edit

>> Say he wants to pick a mid-level LAC as a safety to a top university..

That probably isn't a real world scenario. There are only about 200 LACs in the United States. So a "mid-level" LAC (say #100) is not going to be particularly selective or academically rigorous. Just looking at the trusty lists, the #100 LAC has median SATs from about 1000 to 1200, perhaps in the range of the least well-regarded state universities. I doubt that many kids are applying to Duke, Emory, and Presbyterian College.

I would say that there are about 50 top LACs that are quite excellent academically (and some are real admissions bargains). There are another 50 that would offer all of the same advantages being discussed here, but would not be as academically rigorous.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 04:54 pm: Edit

I picked "mid-level" LAC's as my safeties...Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bard etc. Many, many people do that. How is that not plausible?

By mid-level, I didn't have a particular rank in mind...certainly not #100! Just not the absolute toughtest in selectivities (Amherst) and not the least selective. In the middle..hence "mid-level."

You used the term mid-rank. I didn't.

All I am saying is that the OP should know that some of the advantages listed here are only true for a few schools and are not true for the majority of LAC's.

So if we knew which range he was looking at, it would make more sense to give the disadvantages for that range. Obviously Amherst isn't going to have the same disadvantages as Union College. So I think it's important he doesn't generalize some of these advantages.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 05:12 pm: Edit

Let's get specfic.

Compare a top ranked LAC and university in the South: Davidson and Vandy.

They have very similar campus cultures. More athletics than the probably can support with the size of the schools. Fairly prevalent greek scene. Both a little too white. Same basic SAT range: 1250 to 1430. All in all, they draw their students from the same base.

While I can think of many, many reasons to choose Vandy over Davidson, I have no doubt whatsover that, on average, you will get a more personalized, intensive, and intimate educational experience at Davidson.

Of course, academics are just one part of the college experience, so I wouldn't say that Davidson is a "better" choice than Vandy. I can (and have) argued both sides of that coin (to my daughter).

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

Have you even been reading what I'm saying?

I am not talking about a comparison between 2 schools, one LAC and one University.

I am saying that some advantages here are ONLY for a few schools.

So if the OP wants to apply to a certain range of schools, he should know which advantages apply to that range and which apply only to a few schools.

That is all I am saying. A minor point that was directed to the ORIGINAL poster.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 05:24 pm: Edit

>> I picked "mid-level" LAC's as my safeties...Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bard etc. Many, many people do that. How is that not plausible?

Those are hardly "mid-level" LACs. Those are all in (or close to) the top 10% of the LACs in the country. Heck, Smith's academic peer assessment is smack dab in the range of Brown, Dartmouth, Emory, and Rice.

Those three specific LACs do highlight some of the "admissions bargains" I mentioned. Because non-coed colleges aren't exactly everybody's cup of tea in the 21st century and because Bard has a rather "artsy" reputation, admissions are easier at these specific schools than their overall quality and academic strength would suggest. As Martha Stewart would say, "admissions bargains" are a good thing!

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 05:32 pm: Edit

Why are you arguing over such petty things?

They are mid-level depending on what your criteria for the levels are.

For me, it was:
Top level LAC's are the reaches for everyone (Amherst etc)
Bottom level are the ones everyone gets into.
Mid level are the ones in the middle.

Who the hell's talking about peer assessment. I was very clearly and obviously talking about selectivity. Sure, if you put all the LAC's together, they are roughly at the top, but if you're using broad categories (very hard to get into, not hard to get into, and middle range) then these fall into the middle range. You seem to think there is a set definition of what "mid-level" means. When you break things up into 3 categories, the ones falling into the middle level are called "mid-level."

I'm not saying these schools are only in the middle of the LAC pool. I'm saying in terms of selectivity, they were around the middle for me. 50% acceptance rate or more for me wasn't the most selective (20%) and it wasn't the least selective (80%). Hence, it was the MIDDLE level.

This thread is getting off topic just because you feel you have to argue with me (on several different points, most of which are pretty dumb).

All I did was ask the OP which range of LAC's he might be thinking about. I don't know why anyone would have a problem with that.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 05:49 pm: Edit

>> I'm not saying these schools are only in the middle of the LAC pool. I'm saying in terms of selectivity, they were around the middle for me. 50% acceptance rate or more for me wasn't the most selective (20%) and it wasn't the least selective (80%). Hence, it was the MIDDLE level.

Yes, but you are a specific applicant with a specific range of reaches, matches, and safeties.

The point I'm trying to make is that the broad comparisons between universities and LACs apply no matter what your specific range may be.

For example, a hot commodity like a URM with 1500+ SATs has one range of schools. An average white kid with 1100 SATs has a different range. But, the comparison between LACs and universities WITHIN EACH RESPECTIVE ADMISSIONS RANGE is fairly consistent. In other words a low-range LAC is still going to offer more personalized attention than a low-range university. The pluses and minuses still apply, regardless of the "range".

The one caveat to that is that below a certain point (for both universities and LACs), you need to start worrying about the finanicial viability of the school. Colleges are no different from other businesses -- revenues need to equal expenses. Because LACs tend to be more costly to operate (overhead for deans and swimming pools and libraries are spread over fewer customers), I would start to pay attention to financial issues once you drop down into the bottom 100 LACs. But, that's something that should be considered for ANY college or university.

You can't really compare schools in different ranges. For example, I doubt that Northeastern offers all the bells and whistles of Yale or Brown.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 06:03 pm: Edit

>>>Yes, but you are a specific applicant with a specific range of reaches, matches, and safeties.

Even without looking at certain applicants, you can divide schools into 3 broad categories. Highest selectivity, middle selectivity, and lowest selectivity, with acceptance rates of about 20%, 50%, 80%. Of course there's the issue of "self-selection" but you could say most LAC's are self-selected because no one applies for prestige. So Smith falls into the middle of this range. It's not the most or least selective. So it's mid level. I called it mid level. Why do you have a problem with that?

The OP is not only asking for comparisons, but also a listing of disadvantages. Say he wants to apply to Union college (a top 50 LAC). This school and others in its range can have advantages and disadvantages not mirrored at all in a comparable university.

I'm not trying to compare schools of different ranges. I'm trying to warn him that some of these advantages only apply to a specific range.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

>> So Smith falls into the middle of this range. It's not the most or least selective. So it's mid level. I called it mid level. Why do you have a problem with that?

I have a problem with that because there is no rational measure that would classify Smith College as a "mid level" anything. It is one of the finest, best endowed post-secondary schools in the United States, by any criteria.

Look, I understand where you are coming from. I can play the educational snob thing, too. Lord knows, you should hear my mother-in-law talk about colleges (third our fourth generation Ivy League snob). My father grew up in a farmhouse without electricity or running water and graduated from Harvard Medical School. So, I appreciate "the best schools".

But, that's not how I look at it. I try to step back and take a much broader view of students and colleges. I think that a bright, motivated student can get just as much out of four years at the University of Georgia as four years at Harvard. In fact, I could make an argument that the University of Georgia would better prepare kids for a happy life. Having said that, I certainly understand that there are some bells and whistles that come from attending a school with a lot of money.

I don't really care about what "range" a prospective applicant is talking about. The issues and the decisions are the same whether we are talking about a kid who got into Harvard, Yale, Amherst, and Swarthmore or the University of South Carolina, Florida State, Mercer, and Presbyterian. I am just as excited for the kid going to the University of Arkansas as I am the kid going to the University of Pennsylvania.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 06:38 pm: Edit

>>>>I have a problem with that because there is no rational measure that would classify Smith College as a "mid level" anything. It is one of the finest, best endowed post-secondary schools in the United States, by any criteria.

Yes, but it's not the most selective! (As I've repeatedly stated, I'm not talking about quality of school, but selectivity). I know Smith is great, otherwise I wouldn't have applied. But it accepts 50% and it's a safety for many people. So it's not the most selective and it's not the least. That leaves it in the middle.

And even if I'm completely wrong, do you really want to spend the rest of the evening arguing about it? We know your daughters going to a good LAC. That's fine. But can't you think of better ways to "parent" than to constantly express your bias against the best universities?

How can a student get as much from University of Georgia when University doesn't have as much to offer? Think about it. That is not elitism, that is a fact. They just don't have the same kind of opportunities. But deny, deny, deny, right?

As for which one would prepare for a happier life, that's obviously just your own personal bias. And no, you couldn't make such an "argument" - you could rant your own biased opinion.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:25 pm: Edit

All female colleges have a degree of pre-selection to them. The type of student who applies to these schools first of all (obviously) are females, and are usually pretty serious about studies. And in looking at these schools, I tend to focus on the academic quality maturity, wisdom, and charactor of the students who come out of a school rather than those of students going in. These schools still have a strong track record of turning out some real shakers and movers in society.

When H worked on Wall Street, I looked at several listings of colleges where the young people graduated. There was a strong concentration of the traditional ivies--understandable when you take into account the legacy and job connections situations, but I was also struck by how many of the top woman's colleges were represented especially since women are greatly outnumbered in that industry.

I did not consider an all women college for myself nor did my girls go to one (though D was accepted to Smith). But I have a lot of repect for the education these schools are providing for their students.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:27 pm: Edit

Smith is a safety for many people? I don't think so.

The percentage of college applicants for which Smith is a "safety" is miniscule.

That's like saying that a Mercedes is an affordable car for "many" people. Or a $1 million house is affordable for "many" people in Los Angeles, just because it's not the most expensive house around.

>> constantly express your bias against the best universities?

What university have I expressed my "bias" against? In my own conversations with my daughter, I only listed one school (a liberal arts college) that I would not support financially. It was a "experimental" school with a totally unstructured educational program and a spotty reputation since its founding 35 years ago. I felt it was poor dollar value.

My daughter's top two choices were a liberal arts college and a mid-sized private university with a huge endowment. In many ways, I thought the university was a better choice. In other ways, the LAC had advantages, academic program being the biggest. In the end, my opinion didn't really matter, since my daughter had a clear preference.

If you review this thread, my post listed four specfic DISadvantages of liberal arts colleges. I haven't seen a school (or type of school) yet that doesn't have warts.

>> How can a student get as much from University of Georgia when University doesn't have as much to offer? Think about it. That is not elitism, that is a fact. They just don't have the same kind of opportunities. But deny, deny, deny, right?

Actually, I prefer to look at it as "affirm, affirm, affirm" the terrific college experience available at the University of Georgia and many, many excellent colleges and universities in the United States.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:35 pm: Edit

>> I did not consider an all women college for myself nor did my girls go to one (though D was accepted to Smith). But I have a lot of repect for the education these schools are providing for their students.


I've often thought that the remaining Seven Sisters missed the boat by not following suit when their male counterparts were dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century with coeducation. If Wellesley were co-ed, it would be the hottest, most selective LAC in the United States.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:48 pm: Edit

xiggi. i meant that the minority student i know want to go to universities. usually in urban areas like baltimore new york boston or philadelphia.

i happen to be one of them

Well that is far from being universal. Let me spell out the three main reasons why I disagree entirely:

1. Baltimore
2. New York
3. Philadelphia

In general, I consider those three cities to be least desirable cities in the United States, and especially as a student. If you happen to enjoy the awful weather, the abysmal living conditions, and the local "flavors", all I can say is good for YOU.

I NEVER considered applying to any schools located in those three cities, and I would not do it even if the local schools offered free tuition!

Obviously, that is just ME and I respect that your opinion might be entirely different from mine. That is why there are close to 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. Each one of us will find schools that appeal to his own individual value.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

If Wellesley were co-ed, it would be the hottest, most selective LAC in the United States.

Really? Just because they would have males running around?

I fail to understand the logic.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 08:13 pm: Edit

Have things changed that much at W?


Wellesley College 1969 Student Commencement Speech Hillary D. Rodham May 31, 1969 Ruth M. Adams, ninth president of Wellesley College, introduced Hillary D. Rodham, '69, at the 91st commencement exercises, as follows:

In addition to inviting Senator Brooke to speak to them this morning, the Class of '69 has expressed a desire to speak to them and for them at this morning's commencement. There was no debate so far as I could ascertain as to who their spokesman was to be -- Miss Hillary Rodham. Member of this graduating class, she is a major in political science and a candidate for the degree with honors. In four years she has combined academic ability with active service to the College, her junior year having served as a Vil Junior, and then as a member of Senate and during the past year as President of College Government and presiding officer of College Senate. She is also cheerful, good humored, good company, and a good friend to all of us and it is a great pleasure to present to this audience Miss Hillary Rodham.

Remarks of Hillary D. Rodham, President of the Wellesley College Government Association and member of the Class of 1969, on the occasion of Wellesley's 91st Commencement, May 31, 1969:

I am very glad that Miss Adams made it clear that what I am speaking for today is all of us -- the 400 of us -- and I find myself in a familiar position, that of reacting, something that our generation has been doing for quite a while now.

We're not in the positions yet of leadership and power, but we do have that indispensable task of criticizing and constructive protest and I find myself reacting just briefly to some of the things that Senator Brooke said. This has to be brief because I do have a little speech to give.

Part of the problem with empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn't do us anything. We've had lots of empathy; we've had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible. What does it mean to hear that 13.3% of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That's a percentage. We're not interested in social reconstruction; it's human reconstruction. How can we talk about percentages and trends?

The complexities are not lost in our analyses, but perhaps they're just put into what we consider a more human and eventually a more progressive perspective. The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago.

We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot. Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness in the first five years of this decade -- years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the space program -- so we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn't a discouraging gap and it didn't turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. What we did is often difficult for some people to understand. They ask us quite often: "Why, if you're dissatisfied, do you stay in a place?" Well, if you didn't care a lot about it you wouldn't stay. It's almost as though my mother used to say, "I'll always love you but there are times when I certainly won't like you."

Our love for this place, this particular place, Wellesley College, coupled with our freedom from the burden of an inauthentic reality allowed us to question basic assumptions underlying our education. Before the days of the media orchestrated demonstrations, we had our own gathering over in Founder's parking lot.

We protested against the rigid academic distribution requirement. We worked for a pass-fail system. We worked for a say in some of the process of academic decision making. And luckily we were in a place where, when we questioned the meaning of a liberal arts education there were people with enough imagination to respond to that questioning. So we have made progress. We have achieved some of the things that initially saw as lacking in that gap between expectation and reality. Our concerns were not, of course, solely academic as all of us know. We worried about inside Wellesley questions of admissions, the kind of people that should be coming to Wellesley, the process for getting them here. We questioned about what responsibility we should have both for our lives as individuals and for our lives as members of a collective group.

Coupled with our concerns for the Wellesley inside here in the community were our concerns for what happened beyond Hathaway House. We wanted to know what relationship Wellesley was going to have to the outer world.

We were lucky in that one of the first things Miss Adams did was to set up a cross-registration with MIT because everyone knows that education just can't have any parochial bounds any more. One of the other things that we did was the Upward Bound program. There are so many other things that we could talk about; so many attempts, at least the way we saw it, to pull ourselves into the world outside. And I think we've succeeded. There will be an Upward Bound program, just for one example, on the campus this summer.

Many of the issues that I've mentioned -- those of sharing power and responsibility, those of assuming power and responsibility have been general concerns on campuses throughout the world. But underlying those concerns there is a theme, a theme which is so trite and so old because the words are so familiar. It talks about integrity and trust and respect. Words have a funny way of trapping our minds on the way to our tongues but there are necessary means even in this multi-media age for attempting to come to grasps with some of the inarticulate maybe even inarticulable things that we're feeling.

We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty. But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue.

The questions about those institutions are familiar to all of us. We have seen heralded across the newspapers. Senator Brooke has suggested some of them this morning. But along with using these words -- integrity, trust, and respect -- in regard to institutions and leaders we're perhaps harshest with them in regard to ourselves.

Every protest, every dissent, whether it's an individual academic paper, Founder's parking lot demonstration, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age. That attempt at forging for many of us over the past four years has meant coming to terms with our humanness. Within the context of a society that we perceive -- now we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk about reality sometime, authentic reality, inauthentic reality, and what we have to accept of what we see -- but our perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men's needs.

There's a very strange conservative strain that goes through a lot of New Left, collegiate protests that I find very intriguing because it harkens back to a lot of the old virtues, to the fulfillment of original ideas. And it's also a very unique American experience. It's such a great adventure. If the experiment in human living doesn't work in this country, in this age, it's not going to work anywhere.

But we also know that to be educated, the goal of it must be human liberation. A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves. To be educated to freedom must be evidenced in action, and here again is where we ask ourselves, as we have asked our parents and our teachers, questions about integrity, trust, and respect.

Those three words mean different things to all of us. Some of the things they can mean, for instance: Integrity, the courage to be whole, to try to mold an entire person in this particular context, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence.

If the only tool we have ultimately to use is our lives, so we use it in the way we can by choosing a way to live that will demonstrate the way we feel and the way we know. Integrity -- a man like Paul Santmire. Trust. This is one word that when I asked the class at our rehearsal what it was they wanted me to say for them, everyone came up to me and said "Talk about trust, talk about the lack of trust both for us and the way we feel about others. Talk about the trust bust." What can you say about it? What can you say about a feeling that permeates a generation and that perhaps is not even understood by those who are distrusted? All they can do is keep trying again and again and again. There's that wonderful line in East Coker by Eliot about there's only the trying, again and again and again; to win again what we've lost before.

And then respect. There's that mutuality of respect between people where you don't see people as percentage points. Where you don't manipulate people. Where you're not interested in social engineering for people. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. And the word "consequences" of course catapults us into the future.

One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday, a beautiful day, was that I was talking to woman who said that she wouldn't want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn't want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she's afraid. Fear is always with us but we just don't have time for it. Not now.

There are two people that I would like to thank before concluding. That's Ellie Acheson, who is the spearhead for this, and also Nancy Scheibner who wrote this poem which is the last thing that I would like to read:

My entrance into the world of so-called "social problems"
Must be with quiet laughter, or not at all.
The hollow men of anger and bitterness
The bountiful ladies of righteous degradation
All must be left to a bygone age.
And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle
For all those myths and oddments
Which oddly we have acquired
And from which we would become unburdened
To create a newer world
To transform the future into the present.
We have no need of false revolutions
In a world where categories tend to tyrannize our minds
And hang our wills up on narrow pegs.
It is well at every given moment to seek the limits in our lives.
And once those limits are understood
To understand that limitations no longer exist.
Earth could be fair. And you and I must be free
Not to save the world in a glorious crusade
Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain
But to practice with all the skill of our being
The art of making possible.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 08:25 pm: Edit

Wellesley has everything. Bigger endowment than Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore. Unbelievably strong academics. Drop dead gorgeous campus. And, the most desireable location of any LAC -- even better than Swat's because it's in the highly prized Boston market.

Because it did not go co-ed, Wellesley receives fewer applications than its peers, not just losing out on men, but on women who don't want an all-female school. Therefore, its selectivity is lower than it otherwise would be and, with selectivity, comes "designer label" prestige.

Of course, the flip-side of my argument is that the women's colleges have not been as successful attracting men as the bastions of masculinity have been in attracting females. For some reason, women seem to have no objection applying to a recently all-male school like Williams College where women still have a limited voice in decision-making (only 6 of 21 positions on the Board of Trustees). But, Vassar continues to struggle to get as much male interest as it would like.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 08:57 pm: Edit

"If Wellesley were co-ed, it would be the hottest, most selective LAC in the United States."

(Actually, it would likely be Scripps - but your point is well-taken. Of course, selectivity only tells you are about the students the school rejected, and nothing whatsoever about what happens once the accepted students get there. There are many students who don't want a large university experience, or a HYP experience, or a LAC experience, or a co-ed experience, or a single gender one, and certainly not one in the Midwest (LOL!) That's what makes a market!)

By Jrpar (Jrpar) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 10:04 pm: Edit

"recently all-male school like Williams College "

Huh? Williams has been coed for more than 30 years.

(I still have my "A Decade of Men and Woman Copopulating 1969-1979" mug)

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 10:41 pm: Edit

Actually, the first co-ed class ('75) arrived on campus in Sept. 1971. If I recall, the freshmen class was about 1/3 women as the college began expanding towards equal numbers. All the freshmen women lived in Sage. It seems like just yesterday!

Before that, there were only a few female transfer students and exchange students from Vassar.

Let's see. 178 years of all-male. 32 years of co-ed. That's pretty "recent" from an institutional culture standpoint. I think it's fair to say that Williams is a male institution that has been slowly building a coed history, as is the case with virtually all elite northeastern schools. Not a moment too soon, either. Talk about Siberian exile, how about being stuck in an all male school in the Berkshires?

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 11:10 pm: Edit

I graduated in June '71 -- sigh.

So now I have a younger d. A probable Divsion I athlete (gymnast) - and that's what will pay her way. Wants to be a filmmaker, and wants courses in applied filmmaking. Also a jazz pianist (who could already make a living moonlighting.)

You put it altogether, and there isn't a LAC in the universe that would be in her top 100; and there's not an Ivy that gets close. As far as her needs go, clearly a bunch of inferior institutions. (Given her academics, they'd likely drool over her too.)

I'm a lucky guy -- I'm likely to get off cheap - TWICE!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

>> I graduated in June '71 -- sigh.

I arrived in Sept. '71. My future wife in Sept. '72.

Williams had to go co-ed. It would be a shell of its former self if they were still trying to stick it out as an all-male school. Those traditions, along with so many others at these schools, became obsolete in the late 1960's. I don't know if there had ever or has ever been a time when shaping the future of the schools was taken so completely out of the hands of the administrators.

That's why I'm a little surprised that Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, and Bryn Mawr have all continued to have a go of it as all-women colleges. They are hanging in there, but I think they will continue to see a slow, steady erosion in their applicant pool.

Wellesley's SATs are a full 100 points below Swat and Amherst. If they had gone co-ed 30 years ago, their median SATs would probably be the highest of any LAC. With a better location and the biggest endowment of any east coast LAC, they would be stealing students from Amherst/Williams right and left.

I guess it was just politically too difficult, although letting women in the place didn't sit well with the good ol' boys club in Williamstown, either.

I suppose if the mass conversion to co-ed had happened in the 1980's or '90's, all the Seven Sisters might have been a part of it. But, in 1960's when the decisions were made, the opportunity for women in education and the workplace was still an uphill battle and the rationale for women's colleges probably looked like it would continue indefinitely.

I suppose Wellesley has fared better than Radcliffe!

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 12:10 am: Edit

Actually, Smith went through a massive change, beginning in 1975 with the arrival of Jill Ker Conway (you can read about it in her book "A Woman's Education") Prior to that, Smith had been a very fine college, intellectually, but had not thought very clearly about the specific needs of women in the emerging culture.

Among the changes: setting aside 1/10th of the places in the college for older women (average age 36) - there went the SAT scores, in exchange for a much broader range of experience in the classroom. (Think of what this does to selectivity data, when instead of trying to attract a larger applicant pool so that you can reject more of them, you are recruiting one student at a time to actually get them to come.) A heavy emphasis on women in the financial world, the beginning of the paid internships program (there were always paid internships -- the difference here was that they were tied to places where formerly the business/organizations didn't have them or pay for them -- many in the financial world), and the formation of a women's financial network; a massive change in financial aid (now, 70% of Smith students are on financial aid, compared with 40% at Williams - this has a huge impact on the way things feel); an all-women's engineering school, in a field where 90% of the graduate students are men, and almost none of the women were coming out of liberal arts colleges); massive new emphasis in the sciences (which, really, hadn't previously existed); heavy emphasis on student-faculty research projects beginning in the freshman year; reorganization of the longest-standing continuous foreign study programs in the U.S.

All the top women's colleges have seen substantial increases in their applicant pools since the late 1980s/early 1990s (take out the ADA Comstock Scholars -- the older students at Smith -- and all of a sudden their selectivity skyrockets - not that I think that is a particularly good thing - it just makes for more disappointed applicants).

I have to say that when I visited, I was, frankly, rather shocked. I fully expected to find a paler version of Williams (as it was 35 years ago). We found something that looked (and felt) VERY different indeed.

By Iska (Iska) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 12:24 am: Edit

Digressing, I'm glad Interesteddad mentioned some really good schools with terrific honors colleges - SC-Columbia, UARK-Fayettevile - schools that get lost in the Ivy fog that shrouds this board. Throw in Clemson too, a school that has a nurturing, family atmosphere like you would not believe. I would gladly have attended any of these schools if I had not got into HYP. I'm just digressing to cool this discussion down a little bit.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 12:41 am: Edit

Thanks. Interesting stuff about Smith. One of the most consistent refrains I've noticed on CC recently is the strong positive reports about Smith coming from parents.

I've got a couple of interesting links on women and LAC's, but I'll start a thread in the parent's forum....

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 03:10 pm: Edit

>>>The percentage of college applicants for which Smith is a "safety" is miniscule.

A safety (at least defined by my guidance counselor) is a school that accepts more than it rejects (over 50% acceptance rate) and where your SAT scores are in the top 75%. If grades, EC's etc are OK, Smith is a safety for girls at my school with 1400 or above. A safety does not have to be a school where absolutely everyone gets in and you're guaranteed a spot. This is impossible because there are no guarantees. It's a school that you're very very likely to get into.

Looking at my school's acceptance/reject book (a compilation of all students for the past few years, their grades, scores, description of EC's) no student has gotten rejected from Smith with above a 1350 and a 3.7 in the past few years. It's a popular favorite at my school and though no one's attending next year, I do know many people that applied. Multiply that number and you'll see it's not "miniscule."

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 03:24 pm: Edit

Reach, safety, match are all relative terms. There are many kids who pick safeties that I would not classify as a safety school. You many come from a school where Smith is a safety, Tropicanabanana. You are very fortunate and very priviliged to be in that situation. But those of us who look at the scene more broadly, do not see Smith as a safety.

My good friend has a daughter who goes to a NE boarding school with a great rep. She has high stats and Dartmouth is her reach school even with a legacy hook. Mt Holyoke which she loved is her match school, and ST Lawrence U is her safety. In my opinion, she has a nice set of picks. She loves all three schools and though she has her preferences, she was able to find what she wants at varying selectivities. She and her mother and her school concur with her choices and no one considered Smith which she visited and did not like considered it her safety.

I have met people who think Dartmouth and Duke are safeties. Perhaps in their worlds and minds, but not in the framework of the real world.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 03:37 pm: Edit

Dartmouth and Duke cannot be safeties because the odds are against you getting in. Safeties usually are where the odds work in your favor (they accept more than they reject). As I said, at my school, the guidance counselors say a safety MUST have more than a 50% acceptance rate.

(You're required to apply to a safety at my school, and they don't consider it one unless it has a 50% or greater acceptance rate, and your SAT's are above 1400.)

From what you've said about your friend's daughter, I'd have to say Mt. Holyoke is her safety. Not that I know everything about admissions decisions, but based on profiles and numbers, she's very, very likely to get in.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 03:52 pm: Edit


I agree with you that some folks on this board are very sensitive about certain LAC's being labeled as "safety" schools. However, at some very competitive high schools with very competitive students, a lot of the LAC's are used as safety schools by some very qualified students. Some of these LAC students may be "ivy rejects", as one poster referred to them as.

A friend of my son applied to Yale (reach) as a double legacy athlete. He applied to UVA and Williams. The only school of these three that he was accepted to was Williams. Whether he applied there as a safety or not, that is where he is going. The same holds true with some of the other LAC's. Another friend applied to Penn. His safety school was Haverford, and that is where he is going.

Some of the LAC's also welcome applicants from certain competitive high schools. This particular high school has an extremely high acceptance rate at schools such as Smith and even Swarthmore. Five out of six applicants who applied to Swarthmore last year were accepted. Granted this is not the norm for every high school. It is possible that some of these LAC's are considered safety schools during the application process by some of these applicants. Presumably, once the students enroll, the LAC then becomes their first choice, and they get a great education.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 03:57 pm: Edit

My school isn't that great or competitive.

It's just that for some reason, girls here tend to do better than the boys academically, and the boys are busy being stuffed with Ritalin (it's like an epidemic here) so there are plenty of girls with 1400 SAT scores, even though the school's average probably isn't that high (I don't know what it is, but it's your average large suburban public).

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit


I admire your tactfulness!

To me, it's just not a difficult concept to understand that, while a school may be a "safety" for a miniscule group of priviledged applicants, it will be an impossible dream for the vast majority of good, solid, successful, smart high school seniors.

It's also not that difficult to understand that, while ultra-elite, heavily-endowed colleges have their merits, they are only one of many avenues to a very rewarding college education and that many less selective schools offer benefits that the elite schools don't. I am just as excited for a motivated student choosing between two schools that Tropicana would look down her nose at as I am for the priviledged student choosing between Yale and Princeton or Smith and Wesleyan or Emory and Vanderbilt.

I think it is unappealing for fortunate students at elite colleges to display an air of educational snobbery. Gratefulness for one's blessings and empathy for the challenges of the broader community go a long way in future leaders.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:16 pm: Edit

duplicate post, sorry!

By Skulkarni1 (Skulkarni1) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:35 pm: Edit

okk so back to the advantages and disadvantages lol.....

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:36 pm: Edit

S applied to Yale (EA), He was deferred and then rejected.

He was accepted to Duke. Never in his wildest thoughts did he consider Duke to be a "safety". In fact, before and after the Yale EA experiment, Duke was and continues to be his dream school! He applied to Duke as a reach like everyone else. Close to 17,000 kids applied this year for an entering class of around 1600. Jamimom: I am not sure anyone could really ever consider a school with those odds to be a "safety".

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:37 pm: Edit

My son goes to a top rated prep school. 20% of last year's class scored over 1500 on the SAT1 and the list of kids getting into the top schools is quite impressive. The counselors, one of whom is an old hand with over 20 years of college counseling expereince on both sides of the table defines a safety school as one that accepts 75% of its applicants within the context of that private school setting. Obviousl the definition changes when applied to a person to person setting, but I really do not consider schools like Smith in a safety school setting except for very elite applicants.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:38 pm: Edit

sorry skulkarni 1. You hit the send button before my last post.

By Chasgoose (Chasgoose) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 04:53 pm: Edit

Vassar was my safety, although I am the son of a relatively active alumna (so I had the male affirmative action and the legacy going for me) with stats way above those who are usually accepted from our school (which has a very good relationship with Vassar, usually sending at least one student there every year. This year we went 3 for 3 at Vassar.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 08:54 pm: Edit

tropicana, are you a total nerd with no friends? why do you get off on being such a snob? it makes you look really dumb, despite . . .

yale, yale, yale, yale, yale, selective, selective, selective, selective, top recruiters, top recruiters, top recruiters, only ivy, only ivy, only ivy, only ivy . . .

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 09:01 pm: Edit

I have enjoyed Tropicanabanana's posts. Don't always agree with her but have enjoyed many of her arguments. I agree with her that for SOME very select kids, Smith could be a safety, but for most of the us, Smith is not. When I think of Smith I think of a top school as do most of my generation. What will pan out in this generation is yet to be seen. But it appears to me that Smith got a great class this year.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 09:06 pm: Edit

tropicana, there you go. there's the compliment you wanted: "SOME very select kids . . ."

yes, that's you. congratulations! move on to another thread. you don't need to fish for compliments or self-validating statements on this one anymore.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 09:12 pm: Edit

>> Smith is a safety for girls at my school with 1400 or above

OK. For the sake of argument, lets say that Smith is a safety for anyone scoring 1400 on their SAT.

1400 is the 95th percentile score. So, Smith is a safety for a maximum of 5% of the high school students taking the SAT. Now, lets reduce that number by the high school seniors who have not taken a rigorous college prep courseload. Now, lets reduce it further by the number of seniors who don't have a strong class rank/GPA. Now, lets cut the number basically in half because men can't apply to Smith.

So, now we are down below 2% of high school seniors for whom Smith might be a "safety".

Would you not agree that less than 2% would be a miniscule percentage? How would you characterize "less than 2%"?

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 09:37 pm: Edit

Here are the stats from S's particular high school based on Smith applicants in 2003. The school supplies this information for most colleges to potential applicants. (Obviously S was not a potential applicant to Smith, but all schools can be accessed through a web site maintained by the college counseling office.)

703 Average SAT I Verbal of Accepted Students
649 Average SAT I Math of Accepted Students
7 Number of Acceptances
2 Number of Rejected applicants

I guess kids with similar scores that applied from this school in 2004 might view Smith as less selective (ie; more safe) than some other schools to which they might apply. This passes the 75% chance of acceptance discussed earlier at this particular high school. I know that Tropicanabana does not go here from her earlier post. It also demonstrates that this school may have developed a good relationship with Smith, and vice versa.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:10 pm: Edit

Forgot to add that the average GPA of accepted students to Smith from this particular school in 2003 was 3.24. (They have no weighting system or ranking).

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:17 pm: Edit


The fact that your school compiles such data, let alone makes it available on a website, indicates that your school is in the top point zero zero something of all public high schools in terms of college preparation.

That is what Jamimom and I have been trying to point out. It is a wonderful blessing for students who go to such amazing high schools. And, yes, those students have amazing college opportunities available to them. But, it is NOT representative of the broad community of college applicants in the United States.

I believe that Smith would have been "a pretty solid bet" for my daughter as well. I've said many times that the remaining non-coed Seven Sisters are among the best "admissions values". But, I'm not going to come on a public forum, with a broad range of high school students, applying to a broad range of colleges, and act like some snob claiming that "Smith is a safety", when 98% of the college seniors in the United States could only dream of getting into Smith. It's just insensitive and, uh, "elitist".

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 12:29 am: Edit

It's not elitist to call it a safety; it's a FACT.

Let me explain this to you again. At my school (regular suburban public), students are required to apply to a safety. In fact, you're pressured to have at least 2.

A safety is defined by our school as a school with an above 50% acceptance rate, and that your SAT score is at the 75th percentile.

There are many people at my school who apply to Smith as a safety, and in the past few years, no one has been rejected with a good gpa, good EC's and an above 1350 score.

I would not look down my nose at any school. That is a stupid thing to say, because all the schools I applied to, I would have loved to go to, and they were not all elite.

By safety school, I do not admit that it's an absolute guarantee to get in. I mean that the chances are very, very likely, that you feel "safe" about your chances.

So by the standards imposed by my average suburban public school, it's a safety. Since there is no uniform definition of a safety, I'll take my school's over yours, thanks. You can say that according to your own personal criteria, Smith is not a safety. But for my school, it is, for the dozens of girls who have around 1400 SAT scores and OK everything else.

I am not fishing for compliments. For god's sake, if I had been rejected everywhere, I would not suddenly turn against these schools and not acknowledge how great they are. I'm obviously not anyone's favorite person on this board and never get compliments ANYWAY. And comments like "some very elite students" don't get me off, anyway...There are other (better) places I could look if I were looking to affirm my self-worth.

>>>>Would you not agree that less than 2% would be a miniscule percentage? How would you characterize "less than 2%"?

Your logic is severely flawed. You're saying that 1400 is in the top 5% of test takers, therefore Smith cannot be a safety for at least 95%. Well, hmm..Smith's applicant pool is not the entire body of test takers. Its applicant pool is suburban and private school middle and upper middle class white girls (that's the majority). And amongst its accepted students, 1400 is the 75th percentile, so Smith is a safety for about 25% of students (those who have the 75th percentile or above SAT scores) So you're 2% figure is....way off.

98% may dream of getting into Smith, yes, but we're not talking about every single senior. In fact, more than half the people who dream (by applying) realize this dream.

Look, I am not trying to come off as elitist.
I do not believe there is anyone that would be so fragile as to be offended by what I said. It's not my opinion, it's a fact, and Smith is a good school.

I wish you would realize that I say things that I believe are facts, not things that I necessarily advocate. Just because I say, for example, that consulting firms are going to recruit more heavily at Harvard than at Union, does not mean that I'm advocating or agreeing with this, or that I'm looking down on Union. It's what I believe, and I don't think I should be watering down my opinion.

College is not such a sensitive, controversial topic that no one can't handle a little "insensitivity."

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 01:41 am: Edit

>> Look, I am not trying to come off as elitist.
I do not believe there is anyone that would be so fragile as to be offended by what I said. It's not my opinion, it's a fact, and Smith is a good school.

Let me shift the context and see if you can understand why people view some of your comments as elitist.

Of the 120 girls in my daughter's senior class, I would say that Smith would be a safe bet for three, maybe four girls. Probably a match for another half dozen, but I really don't know the SAT distribution since it's not something that people talk about in my daughter's class.

Now, suppose my daughter had 20 of her closest friends over for an evening of Heath Ledger movies. After a couple of hours shouting "take your shirt off" at the TV, they take a break for some popcorn and start talking about college applications. My daughter (smug with her ED letter) stands up and starts saying, "oh, Smith is a safety and THAT'S A FACT".

Don't you think that some of her 20 closest friends might be feel a little resentment? Don't you think that some of them might view my daughter as just a tad arrogant? Easy for her to talk, she got in her first choice school.

Remember, some of these 20 closest friends probably only have SATs for UMASS. Some of them have finanical issues that make going to college iffy, period. Or, limit their options to living at home and attending the local community college. Heck, there's one girl who's insecurity about college has led to her lying to her friends about her class rank, where she has applied, and where she has been accepted. And, there's my daughter, unable to step out of her own little world, obvious to those around her, saying that "Smith is a safety and that's a fact!" Fortunately, that has never happened. If it had, there would have been a LONG conversation in our family.

It's all in the context. Now, if my daughter were having a private conversation with just her best friend, the valedictorian, it would be perfectly reasonable for the two of them to discuss THEIR safeties. But in a broader setting (and this website is certainly a broader forum), it would be insensitive and elitist. For all we know, there are kids reading this who got rejected at Smith. How do you think it makes them feel to here you carry on about Smith being a safety?

Some people go through life oblivious to how elitist they sound. Bless her heart, my mother in law sounds like the biggest snob on the face of the earth when she starts talking about colleges. Heck, she disses one of her own kids -- Yale, Wellesley, Williams, Connecticut College ("but, she was the popular one"). She's not mean. She's really not trying to be condescending. She just sounds like that because nobody pulled her aside when she was senior in high school and told her to put herself in somebody else's shoes.

Here's a fact of life. 99 out of 100 people you meet for the rest of your life are going to assume you are a snob when they find out where you went to college. Don't give them ammunition.

By Asdad (Asdad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 06:35 am: Edit

I agree that Smith may be a safety for people with a SAT above 1350.
A very small % of students score above 1350. For the large majority that do not, it probably sounds incredible that someone would label Smith a safety.
Would I call Smith a safety? No.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 07:34 am: Edit

Interesteddad: It is not a public high school. And there are many private high schools throughout the country that compile such data.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 07:52 am: Edit

This all has nothing to do with "elitism". I am not sure why people are so offended. I can tell you with absolute certainty that had my S applied to Smith, he would have been out right rejected! I think the discussion suggests that different colleges may be better "bets" for different students.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 12:04 pm: Edit

>> It is not a public high school.

Thank-you. I had mistakenly thought that your son was a public school kid. My mistake! The stats of 5 out of 6 accepted to any single elite college make a heck of a lot more sense in a prep school context.

Often, prep school kids/parents and public school kids/parents have a very different perspective on college admissions. In the context of an elite prep school, it makes perfect sense to consider elite colleges as "safeties". When, in the broader context, such a designation would quite properly be viewed as "elitist".

For example, your son's school probably doesn't have many graduating seniors who will be living at home, working, and attending a local commuter college for finanical reasons. From most public high schools, attending a $40k a year private college is already the rare exception, not the rule.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit

Tropicana asked earlier how I could possibly suggest that the University of Georgia could offer something that an elite private school does not. It would offer the opportunity to experience and understand a very wide range of backgrounds, including the perspective of kids who would not consider Smith a "safety".

By Annakat (Annakat) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 01:11 pm: Edit

a snob is a snob is a snob is a snob. especially an insecure one. people here are smart enough to recognize one when they see one. it's in the subtext of their comments and in their desire to argue issues just to highlight their achievements or how smart they are.

get over yourself, snob girl.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 01:11 pm: Edit

I don't think the perspective of those who would not consider Smith a safety is such a crucial perspective that would either make or break my college experience. I doubt I would notice/care since I never plan to discuss college/SAT's/anything related to high school once I get to college.

And since, only 2 others from my school are going to Yale, there would be tons of others who don't consider it a safety.

At another school, a safety may be a school that accepts more than 60%, and you have 80th percentile SAT's, plus 3.5+ Gpa's!! So at a different public, Smith wouldn't be a safety. I am not calling it that to insult it, I am telling you that this is how it is.

If I had my friends over for a sleepover, they would know what qualifies as a safety, and since National Merit Finalists were announced in school, they'd know exactly who it would be a safety for. So I wouldn't be announcing anything. And since amongst girls, there are more than a handful of 1350 - 1400 SAT students, it wouldn't just be me.

The kids who are reading this who got rejected would understand that I'm talking about the strict requirements of my own school.

>>>>A very small % of students score above 1350. For the large majority that do not, it probably sounds incredible that someone would label Smith a safety.

No, in the entire country, it's a small percentage. in the Smith applicant pool, it's close to 30%. Because around 1400 is 25th percentile. So we're not talking about every singe high school student. We're talking about those applying to Smith.

I'll say this again; we're discussing college education, nothing more. Something which most humans will never experience. It's not so important, controversial that I can't speak bluntly for fear of being "insensitive." That's ridiculous. We're talking about colleges, for god's sake, not religion or war or family or anything else that even matters in a huge way. So I'm not going to withold my opinion as if it's so devastating for anyone to hear.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 01:13 pm: Edit

>>>>it's in the subtext of their comments and in their desire to argue issues just to highlight their achievements or how smart they are.

Except I've never once posted my "Stats." If I really wanted to brag, that's what I would do.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 01:38 pm: Edit

>> I don't think the perspective of those who would not consider Smith a safety is such a crucial perspective that would either make or break my college experience.

Are you a Republican fat cat? You sure sound like one! That's sounds like something Rush Limbaugh (or better yet, William F. Buckley) would say.

By August (August) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 02:28 pm: Edit

On the subject of disadvantages of LACs, I know this opinion has already been expressed, but I also disagree with the person who said that there are fewer research opportunities for undergraduates at liberal arts colleges. Unfortunately, a mistake that seems to be made very often is to make assumptions about the quality of the undergraduate curriculum in a particular major or the availability of research opportunities for undergraduate students in that area at a university by looking at the research productivity of "the university" in that area. However, the research productivity of "the university" usually has little or nothing to do with the undergraduate experience. For one thing, looking at sheer numbers of papers produced in a year, Nobel laureates on the faculty, etc., is obviously going to make larger universities appear more impressive than smaller institutions that produce just as much per capita just because there are more people at the larger institutions! But, more importantly, this type of research productivity simply does not tend to be reflected in the undergraduate experience. Yes, there are exceptions, but, in general, the hotshots on the faculty of universities do not teach a lot of undergraduate courses, and they have graduate students who do their research with them. Also, I went to graduate school at a school with a very highly respected department in my field, and the gulf between the graduate and undergraduate programs there was astounding. Although the graduate program is very rigorous and very successful at placing Ph.D. graduates in academic and research jobs, the undergraduate program in that department is nowhere near as good, and, in fact, a student graduating from that program would be very unlikely to have anywhere near the preparation to succeed in the graduate program at the very same school. While ranking systems always place that department in that institution near the top, there are dozens of other institutions around the country that would provide a much better undergraduate background in that area.

Here is my experience: I went to Smith, where I had a double major in math and classics. I agree that paucity of course offerings can sometimes be a problem, particularly at the advanced levels. I found that with my math major. (I should also caution people that institutions of all types, in advertising to students, like to send huge lists of courses that they offer, but, when you get there, you find that many of them, while they might have been offered once or twice in the past, in effect exist only in the catalogue. It's better to check what is actually being offered this school year.) I also agree with the person who said that you may be able to take more courses in unusual specialties at universities. Of course, this is not always the case, as LACs sometimes offer unusual seminars and interdisciplinary courses. And what I found very interesting, after studying classics at Smith and then spending time at a large university, was that the university, despite being vastly bigger than Smith, had no classics major and almost no Latin or Greek course offerings. My upper-division classics courses at Smith varied in size from 1 to 4 or 5 students, but they weren't canceled because of low enrollment. The fact that Smith maintains a classics department while a large university may not reflects the valuing of the traditional liberal arts at LACs.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 04:43 pm: Edit


We talk about small size and relationships with professors, but sometimes I think that people view this in the abstract and may not really grasp the style of learning that occurs in many departments at small LACs.

For example, in an average senior class, Swarthmore has 10 Math majors (it has varied from 6 to 14 over the last ten years). That is a very small number, especially when you count up 13 professors in the Math department -- all of whom focus exclusively on teaching undergrads.

To be sure, those 13 professors are teaching courses to non math majors. But, the reality is that each math major is going to have what amounts to a one-on-one mentor with one of those professors during their entire junior and senior years. The upper level classes for math majors will be seminars with a handful of students and a professor. This makes for a very personalized style of education where students get the full attention of their department professors and are challenged to go toe-to-toe, one-on-one with the best educated PhD's in their field.

The same numbers carry across to most of the science majors (except Bio which is larger because of the pre-meds). That is why there is so much opportunity for undergrad research.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 11:11 pm: Edit

August, interesting: my D is considering a double Math/Political Science major with Classics or History being the back-up choices.

Can you expand a bit about the upper Math courses or deficiencies at Smith? I'm not convinced that my D is a natural Math student but she has loved Calc BC and is hanging on to a strong A going into the final. Any general comments--or, what the heck, specific comments--about your experiences with both Math and Classics would be appreciated. When did you graduate?

By August (August) on Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 04:07 am: Edit


Yes, I agree with you about the mentoring. I had very positive experiences with both of my advisors at Smith (one for each major -- they help you choose your courses). The math advisor was a professor with whom I had three courses during the time I was there. We had many discussions outside of class, and there was also one semester when she helped me one on one with something that I was studying separate from the rest of the class. My classics advisor was also very good. I had a STRIDE project in the classics department, and I worked with him. In addition, there were other professors who took an interest in me.


I graduated in 1998. About the upper-level math courses, I guess I just reached a point where there weren't too many challenging courses left that I hadn't taken. However, I do know students who took Special Studies courses at Smith and/or took graduate courses at UMass in order to do something more advanced. I guess the reason I didn't pursue this was that I was busy with the double major and also I wanted to take courses outside of those majors while I still could since I knew that I planned to study more math in graduate school.

Anyway, overall my experience with math was good and there were some good opportunities. In my last semester, I took a topics course in math where I had already studied about half of the material, and so the professor and I worked together on studying something completely different during that part of the term. Also, I was involved in some summer research at Amherst, and Smith paid me a stipend to do that.

I think that the classics department at Smith is great. You really get to know the other classics majors because there aren't too many of them, and classes are very enjoyable. The classes required for the classics major were all centered around translation from Greek or Latin into English, but while I was there they added the classical studies major, which may be of interest because it is a little more flexible and can include classes in history, philosophy, whatever is relevant, in addition to the languages.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 10:20 pm: Edit

Thanks, August. I'm going to try to get my D to read this the next rare time she gets on CC.
She really liked her two years of Latin in hs and is jazzed with the idea of taking Greek.

Side note: we were at the Renaissance Faire today and she bought a small coin from the reign of Claudius. She got hooked on the PBS "I, Claudius" series.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 07:02 pm: Edit

The fact that a school is, or is not, a safety misses the point entirely. Selectivity means not one whit once one gets in -- its only impact is on those who didn't.

The real question in spending money on a college education is "value added". What is the "value" added to the student once they get there. It can be measured in lots of different ways, though it is difficult to pin down. It could be admissions to graduate schools factored by entering SAT scores (and family income). Or lifetime alumni graduate degrees. Could be the number of very top fellowships (Rhodes/Marshalls), although since they are given out in ones or twos, they only reflect the number of true geniuses on campus. (A better measure is the number of widely disseminated graduate fellowships that are nationally competitive -- strangely, this year, which is probably an anomaly, Smith somehow had 10 Fulbrights, which was more than AWS combined, and the same number as Yale, but with half the student body -- though it could simply reflect good advising staff.)

More likely though, it probably should be measured simply be the number of students who feel like they've been mentored well, and ready to get on with life's journey. I happen to believe that LACs are in position, generally speaking, to do that better. NOT that it always happens - it doesn't! (The advising I received at Williams 35 years ago was, in fact, relatively poor, but it may have had more to do with me than with the system.) The Ivies are beginning to acknowledge this, which is why they are trying to bring down class sizes (though that is only one small step in building a better mousetrap.) Some of the honors colleges at state universities are doing the same. They wouldn't be doing this unless they thought they were lacking something they thought the LACs were doing better.

A disadvantage that I have seen at LACs is that they can indeed become "monocultural". Could be sports, or it could be drinking, or it could be something else, but monocultures make it more difficult for other cultures to thrive. Yale has done very well, I think, in managing to hold on to an arts subculture, a preppy subculture, a gay subculture, an athletic subculture, all existing uneasily together, but each having enough size and stability to pass along to a new generation of students as they come in. And there are state universities I've seen which also manage to do so, which is a tricky feat indeed.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 07:22 pm: Edit

>>>>Yale has done very well, I think, in managing to hold on to an arts subculture, a preppy subculture, a gay subculture, an athletic subculture, all existing uneasily together, but each having enough size and stability to pass along to a new generation of students as they come in.

Just curious, where did you get that impression from? A visit? An article?

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 11:04 pm: Edit

A two-day visit. And a meeting with a student from our little town who was there. I found that very exciting and impressive, in fact, especially after our visit back to my own alma mater (Williams), which seemed, at least on the surface, much more monochromatic (and we had a similar impression when we visited during the "admits" day.)

I think some of the LACs realize this disadvantage too -- almost all of the good ones have allowed their student bodies to grow over the years, making it more possible for stronger subcultures to take hold.

By Alan5 (Alan5) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 11:19 am: Edit

LACs are great. But what happens to the LAC grad who fails to get into grad school? There are tons of unemployed or under employed liberal arts graduates out there.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 11:43 am: Edit

Same thing that happens to the unemployed or underemployed computer technicians, aerospace engineers, film editors, musicians, and MBAs.

They starve.

No, not exactly. The computer techies, aerospace engineers, and MBAs work as salesclerks at Wal-Mart. The film editors, musicians, and LAC grads are to be found at Starbucks.

If it's about a job, think beauty school.

By Alan5 (Alan5) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 11:55 am: Edit

Good point. The smart move would be to double major and earn degree in a field that is "marketable" like business and a concurrent degree in a field that you "enjoy" like philosophy.

By August (August) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

I do think that liberal arts colleges, in their advertising, tend to exaggerate the "marketability" of a liberal arts degree. I believe it when they say that a liberal arts degree can prepare people for a variety of careers; the problem is that employers haven't caught onto that idea as much as the liberal arts colleges would have you believe, and employers are the ones who have the jobs. Employers are in general still very narrow-minded, and, in an economy like this, the jobs that are out there that actually have decent benefits and everything are for business and engineering majors, etc.

But I am not saying that a liberal arts college graduate is at a disadvantage compared to a university graduate with the same major. And I still believe that students should major in exactly what they find interesting, because college is the last chance for most people to devote a majority of their time to intellectual pursuits. I think that, for most people, the reality is that the biggest factor determining the "marketability" of their degree will be the type of economy into which they graduate, and that's a matter of pure luck that cannot be predicted for people who are entering college now.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 12:23 pm: Edit

In my town, unemployed engineering and business majors (without graduate degrees) are a dime a dozen. The situation for MBAs is worse, as there have been so many layoffs in computer-related and investment-related industries, that newly minted MBAs stand virtually no chance whatsoever.

Lots of jobs for LPNs, though, and childcare workers. Also, roofers.

By Barrons (Barrons) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 12:29 pm: Edit

Actually I was an MBA working at Starbucks--only because I wanted a break from business. After a year off I decided to go back to work and had two good job offers in a week. Both pay in the six figures.
Depends what industry you are in. Mine is still very busy and getting better.(Commercial real estate investments)

By Alan5 (Alan5) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 12:39 pm: Edit

I hate to admit it, but I'm addicted to Starbucks' White Choclate Mocha Frappucino. Just curious, did include your experience at Starbucks on your resume?

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 02:19 pm: Edit

Ooooo, White Chocolate Mocha Frappucino......now I have to stop off at Starbucks on my way home (that is one of my favorite-can't have drinks).

By Barrons (Barrons) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

No, but it made for good conversation in the interviews. Both offers came through previous contacts and there was no real competition. The people contacted me when they heard I was ready to go back to work. Later in a career having good contacts rules.
BTW most of my co-workers were students. A couple had graduated and were deciding what to do next. We had some good discussions. Sbux as a company is well run--a tight ship for that type of business. They really work you pretty hard--that was what got me back to a real job.

By August (August) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 04:49 pm: Edit

You're right, Mini. Based on the experiences of me and people I know, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that a new graduate today in engineering or business has more than the remotest chance of getting a job in his/her desired field. I just meant that chances are small/nonexistent for liberal arts majors to get a job that even requires a college degree, and so a liberal arts major with no other "skill set" (ugh -- job search lingo) is unlikely to be able to find a job around here that pays a living wage or benefits. I hope things will get better and I wouldn't discourage people from pursuing what they are actually interested in. Here, too, there do seem to be jobs in child care (and telemarketing, and I don't know about roofing or LPNs).

By Skulkarni1 (Skulkarni1) on Friday, June 04, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

lol wow this is the biggest post i've ever started.....and my question really hasn't been answered lol........

what are the disadvantages to the LACS minus the prestige issue?

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