ACT vs SAT, kids changing minds, early app angst

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: ACT vs SAT, kids changing minds, early app angst
By Cangel (Cangel) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 11:11 am: Edit

Multiple questions, trying to avoid multiple threads.

DD's list is beginning to come together. She has not sent any ACT/SAT scores, we live in an ACT state. Her SATI is fine, only taken once, ACT average plots out like SATI, no real advantage there, but her verbal and math flip flop on the 2 tests (Math and Science subs on ACT much higher than English, verbal higher than math on SAT). SATIIs are a little problematic - not bad, not great either, she is taking one more, the writing, in Oct.
Should she just send the ACT? I asked the Amherst adcom did they prefer one test over the other and the answer was no. Her current plan is (if it doesn't cost the earth) to send all scores before she takes the writing, then send the writing to the schools where she needs it (I think only one school now) or to all if she does well. Anyone have thoughts?

Second question, this has been talked about several times - but does anyone actually know or have a kid who dramatically changed their mind after being admitted ED? We as parents worry about it, but do the kids who are together enough to apply ED not just relax, and enjoy senior year?

Finally, I only got a couple of responses (one of which echoed my worries with no real answer) to this on the Admissions Forum - Dartmouth has this "pre-app" which basically asks for demographic info, but does ask RD or ED - has anyone ever changed their status after sending in this form? It does NOT include the signature page for ED/RD, just asks the question. We would wait till after her overnights, but the only person I've been able to find who actually applied here, said the alumni interviews are good to do, and the slots are limited in our area, so get on the list as soon as you can.

By Garland (Garland) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit

I don't know about the ACT/SAT question; sorry.

As far as ED, my S was accepted ED. I badgered him about being sure, especially as he knew beforehand that he'd been accepted "rolling" to his second choice school. I was a real pain to him, for just the reason you stated.

He never wavered, before or after his acceptance. In fact, he spent the rest of the school year almost swaggering--not because of what school he got into, but because he was DONE, and knew where he was going. It made for a very relaxed senior year.

As far as changing the type of admission: your best bet is to ask Dartmouth. In my S's case, there was another school he was considering before he got the ED. He filled out the pre-app stating he was RD, but I called the school to ask if it could be changed to ED 2, (if he was turned down ED 1), and they said that would've been no problem. I do feel, to reiterate, that you'd need to speak to the specific school.

By Drusba (Drusba) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 04:09 pm: Edit

Without knowing what those test scores actually are, it is difficult to guess which should be sent. However, if the composite scores are comparable just send both -- let college decide which one is better. Note, the college is likely to learn all scores regardless of what you do -- the scores will be on the official high school transcript. Also note as to Amherst: it generally requires three SAT II's but you can submit ACT in lieu of both the SAT and the SAT II's so sending the ACT is definitely recommended there.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 04:55 pm: Edit

I have seen plenty of kids on-line who got accepted ED and then changed their minds.

I also have a cousin who tried to do that and was promptly rejected by every school that she subsequently applied to even though because of a variety of factors ranging from brains to coming from a very wealthy family she probably would have gotten acceptances from the schools.

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 05:28 pm: Edit

What were her scores?

I would send both, if I were in her situation.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 10:43 pm: Edit

SAT1 - 1540, 800V
SATII - 770 Bio/740 Amer His/720 MathIIc (yuck)
ACT - Comp 34, Math 35 (whoa), Eng 29 (what the?), Science 35, Reading 33 (I'm a little fuzzy on the last 2, certain on the first 2).
She took the ACT twice (33 second time) and SAT once.

Competitive college admissions are not a big thing here, she did this with little prep or coaching, and because of summer activities, only has time for the Writing SATII in Oct. I asked previously about repeating the MathIIc, she does not want to repeat, and that's OK with me. She was quite ill when she took the SATIIs, miserable, did all three in one sitting - I know better now, take them early, and only 2 at a time.

NorthStar - I don't quite understand what you mean about the cousin, if DD does change her mind and she has already been admitted, that's just life - if she really hates it she can arrange her transfer. I was only wondering how often it happens, what the outcome was. She's the kind of person who would be so happy to have it over, that the ED school would no doubt be her favorite.
My only misgiving is that all of a sudden she likes a larger school (Dartmouth), more the size that her Dad and I thought ideal.

Her current list, for what it's worth:
Dartmouth, Amherst, Swarthmore - in the lead
Davidson - close behind
CArleton - great on paper, but can't visit, therefore somewhere in the pack
Yale and Williams - once leaders, now fading, may not apply
Rhodes, Univ of Richmond - safeties
B'ham-Southern COllege - ultimate safety rolling admit

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 11:11 pm: Edit

Wow, she and I have the exact same SAT score and breakdown, coolness! I think that a 800 verbal looks really good, just because so few people get it (compared to math). Either way, I don't think her scores are going to be a problem/dealbreaker even with a...gasp...720 IIC. On, a different not, I live right by Carleton and have visited. It is a nice school, it feels very old-school/ivyish and is gorgeous. Academically, it is, of course very strong. Politicaly, UBER liberal. People seem to do whatever they want there. It felt awfully snooty though, even the person I talked to in admissions seemed snooty. I didn't even apply. How did D do on the PSAT? Is she looking into any schools who give fantasmic merit aid as safeties? It might be a good idea.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 11:18 pm: Edit

Well, at the risk of making her sound like the delicate heroine of a Victorian novel, her other junior year bout of virus was the day of the PSAT! She's sitting right on the fence ofsemi-finalist, so we are waiting with baited breath.

Her safety schools were chosen with the possibility of merit money in mind, they are also a little closer to home.

Carleton snooty? Hmm, doesn't seem that way on paper, but that's why you visit. What is St. Olaf's like? That's the only far away safety she might apply to, she likes the biology, and Dad and I have a soft spot for the choir.

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 11:29 pm: Edit

Very snooty.
St. Olaf's is really great, I know many people who have graduated from there and loved it. The music program is, of course, awesome. Also, they have very good opportunities for study abroad, if D is interested. It's one of my favorite schools around here, right up there with Macalester. I was going to apply (and had great relationships with everyone I met there) but decided it was too close to home for me (1/2 hour or so). It is also very pretty and quite close to Carleton (if she wanted to hang out there or something...randomly). Northfield is a small town, but very cute...lots of cows. And it has an interesting (good) smell (the Malt-o-Meal factory). The student body there is a lot more friendly and relaxed (IMO) there than Carleton.

But, if she does end up a finalist/semi-finalist make sure to check out some places offering full undergrad can be pretty awesome. I'll be at the University of Tulsa (Small, private) in just a few days and I'll be going there for free. It opens up so many doors (grad school, study abroad, etc.)

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 11:55 pm: Edit

Gee, I was only there for 3 hours but I would not have described anything or anybody we met on our visit at Carleton as snooty. Compared with Macalester it was a bit more formal feeling, but in no way uppity. I would guess if your daughter likes Swarthmore and Amherst it might appeal..just another person's 2 cents!

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:25 am: Edit

I don't think SAT Is or ACT makes much difference, though I guess I with the 800 I would send the SAT. And the ACT contains the only less-than-stellar score she has achieved.

Carleton certainly does fit right in with your Ds other choices, and I wouldn't call it snooty. In fact I'd bet it would seem a bit more open and friendly than several of the schools on the list. If she has serious interest in St. Olaf as a safety a trip to Northfield would be worthwhile, though assuming a strong GPA, she is well-covered with Rhodes and Richmond.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:34 am: Edit

No waivering or second-guessing after ED here. Daughter was on cloud nine on December 1st and has gotten steadily more excited since then.

Made for a wonderful senior year and a long, gradual transition from high-school to college mindset.

I'm sure that others have had a different experience, but here it was such an overwhelming first choice that was only stronger following October and April overnights.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:46 am: Edit

Unfortunately, there are students who don't tell their counselors that they have been admitted to their ED college, and then apply elsewhere or don't withdraw their other applications.

Every December on CC, we see postings from students who got into the ED college but then (sometimes after seeing that a classmate with similar stats got into an even better college) want to know how to back out of their ED.

A lot of changes in perspective can happen between September and Dec. A college that seems wonderful in September can not seem so wonderful in December when a student has an acceptance in hand and knows that that acceptance is supposed to lock the student into a college choice.

By Patient (Patient) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:46 am: Edit

Our experience was similar that described by interesteddad.

Son applied EA, not ED, so he was not locked in to his decision. However, he never wavered although he did dutifully give consideration to several of his other acceptances. With him I never would have worried about whether he would change his mind because he has loved this school since forever, and every time he visited or had any contact with it, it only made him want it more. Kids like that are easy when it comes to ED.

It is harder when you get the feeling that they are applying ED for the sake of getting the process over, or because everyone else is doing it, or because they think that have to in order to get an admissions edge. If I had a sense that one of those motivations were driving the decision, I think I'd discourage my child from applying ED. I think it has to be for the kids who are passionate about the school and maybe have been for a while. I'm sure people will disagree with this point of view, however.

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:40 am: Edit

Maybe I just met the snooty people when I was there!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 03:08 am: Edit


For my daughter, she her ED school had been her clear first choice since June after the 10th grade. She just knew and that opinion never waivered, even after visiting another dozen schools.

The problem during that entire period was that tje odds of getting accepted ranged (depending on the day) from long shot to maybe a 50%/50% proposition. While she was doing everything she could to max the odds, she never could let herself fall crazy in love with the idea of that one school to the exclusion of another half dozen schools she liked just fine. Until the ED acceptance letter arrived. Then, she was finally free to really let loose with her excitement.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 09:23 am: Edit

Patient, you are raising some of the concerns that I have - one difference in her, though, is that she has gradually developed a "profile" of what she wants in a school, and thinks she can be happy at any of the schools that fit the profile - some more than others, some are harder to get into than others and each has strong points and weak points.
I think that knowing her, a positive ED outcome would be the best thing, I'm just nervously watching for any sign that the profile is wavering. When school starts, there will be some questioning of her choices, I'm sure. A lot of What's an Amherst? and Dartmouth, isn't that in New York? Luckily, her friends and close classmates are a little more informed.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 10:08 am: Edit

By the way, I showed her an article from CC early on in this process - I can't remember the title, but it was written by a college counselor about her own admission experiences years ago. Basically, she couldn't see a lot of difference in the colleges she was interested in, wanted to get on with her senior year, picked a school for ED, got in and went on with her life with out really haveing any great surge of love for the school as a high school student. She felt that she had a great college experience.
This sounded so much like my daughter, I had to show it to her - she said, "That's me!".

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:39 pm: Edit

Cangel - What is your Ds GPA, class rank and strength of schedule? Without that info, it's hard to determine if she is in ED at one of her favorites. If the rest of her profile is as strong as her test scores, I'd think she would be in ED at all the schools on her list that offer it. If not, ED is not a sure thing at her favorites. In that case her list may have a cluster of reaches and and a cluster of safeties, with no matches.

It would certainly be great to avoid all the hassle of the full college app process, but there will be some attached to ED no matter what (unless she applies to a match or safety) and if she does not get accepted ED she has to go through RD as well.

If a student does not feel pressured into applying ED and applies to a school he or she is really excited about, I wouldn't expect any buyer's remorse. (The latter factor assumes a situation where there has not been a new #1 favorite school every couple of weeks.) That said, I agree with those who suggest ED only for students who fall in love with an individual school, or are absolutely dead set on attending a school (not necessarily an individual school) that is just a little bit reach-y for them. And I agree with the folks who discourage ED when financial aid is an issue.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:48 pm: Edit


I do not know whether my S will apply ED/EA and where. Each of the schools on his list is excellent, each is incredibily hard to get into, and each has its specific attractions and drawbacks. But whether he applies ED/EA, he cannot be so sure of being admitted that he can forget about RD. By the time he will be notified by the ED/EA school, it would be too late to put together other applications from scratch; it would be difficult to write several new essays. So I will suggest that he put together all the RD applications and be ready to send them off if need be in late December. I doubt that, if he were admitted ED/EA, he would suffer buyer's remorse as each of the colleges is truly excellent. The more important issue for him is to choose which among these excellent colleges to commit to early. If he cannot, he will just have to apply RD to all and make up his mind by May 1.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:06 pm: Edit

One additional point about having a clear first choice ED school:

It provides motivation to dive into that FIRST application process early and hard. Because of her desire to attend and the early deadline, my daughter did just about everything she could have done to improve her chances.

Once that application was in the mail, she turned to the next apps and had finished and/or mailed three more by December 1st. Virtually all of the work she had done on the ED application translated directly to the other applications, with the "Why Podunk U?" essay being the only part that needed to be customized.

BTW, I think Cangle has an excellent college list for her. Given the effort put into visiting and researching colleges, I'm sure her application will be solid and I would be very surprised if she doesn't get accepted at the majority of schools on her list.

However, if I were advising her, I would want to add a couple of very comfortable matches positioned in the list between the safeties and Davidson. Something along the lines of a Vanderbilt or a sure-bet LAC (Hamilton, for example).

My only comment on the particular schools is that Dartmouth is more Williams than Williams. New Hampshire has seriously bad winters (unless youo are a skier). The drinking and frat boy ambience at Dartmouth puts Williams to shame. In its favor, Dartmouth is a mid-sized university that puts above-average emphasis on its undergrad program and it is an excellent school academically.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

I, too, was surprised that Dartmouth was tops and Williams was out.
I'd think that Bowdoin would be a match/safety, at least in terms of stats.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 03:25 pm: Edit

Thanks, guys, no she won't disregard her other apps, I promise. The waiting will bother her much more than actually doing the applications, at least that's what she says. I think Interesteddad makes a very good point about the incentive to work extra hard on that first choice school. I think she lacks that incentive.

As to the vagaries of her list - see my post at the tail end of "How marketing can influence...", as well as on the "how will I do at Williams...". Some decisions made by 16 year olds are not at all logical, even if they are unusually mature and levelheaded 16 year olds (the same thing applies to us 40 year olds too) - she just didn't like Williams (I loved it, wanted to move in, but I'm a sucker for mountains). I think she really liked the D-plan, she's very interested in study abroad, and somehow working it out with the D-plan made more sense, she liked the Women in Science program and just saw more kids that looked like her hanging around - our visit to Williams just didn't go as well. She's also still very interested in Swat and Amherst, they both have other strengths and weaknesses. Swat and Dartmouth do seem a world apart, don't they?

As for the comfortable matches, this is where the only whiff of prestige comes in - we live on the Gulf Coast, and will pay full freight, DH and I have some difficulty with paying that much money, and sending her that far away unless we have something to make us feel that the school is definitely better than her safeties or anyone of the other schools you've mentioned closer to home, where presumably (hopefully) there will be some merit money.AWS, Carleton, Davidson, we think yes, these seem better, most of the other Northern LACs, I'm not sure, or she didn't like them. Bowdoin is still out there and she may apply, her GC lobbied for this one and so did I, DH doesn't like the idea. DH and I would like to see her apply at Vandy and Wake Forest as semisafeties, but she'll have none of it (a good friend has his heart set on Vandy, and she would be some tough direct competition, same for Furman and W&L) I'm hoping she will reconsider, or look into becoming the semi-yearly person to UVa.

Other stats for what it's worth
GPA 4.0/4.4/ 97.x weighted average, hardest class schedule available/ever taken at her school
Rank - doesn't rank, but top 5% of 150, probably #2 - her GC is quite savvy, prior college admissions person, and will paint her in the best possible light
Recommendations should be good to great - one great, one who really knows
ECs - 7 years band, no sports, Scholar's Bowl team captain went to state, district MVP
Helped found and served as Vice-president/ acting president of a Venturers scout troop - coed sailing - learned to sail, rehabilitated a boat, did bay clean-up by kayak
State and National placement on National French exam 3/3 years
Miscellaneous community service and academic awards, extensive church related volunteer work
Yale Book Award (typically given to #2 person at end of junior year, guess what the #1 person gets, poor Yale)
Typical BWRK

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

Thanks for the stats info. Clearly, your D does not need ED to get into a top school. I guess I would downplay ED unless she really falls for a school; I don't see the value otherwise.

BTW - I can see how Dartmouth could stand out from other options. The D-Plan is unique, and the school seems to be the largest school around with a traditional small LAC environment. A daughter of a friend of mine graduated last year and had a terrific experience.

One other LAC thought. Grinnell is as strong academically as any LAC on your list, and they do give merit money. And yes, it is in the middle of nowhere.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 09:04 am: Edit

Thank you Reid for the encouraging words.
We will meet with her college counselor soon after school starts, and ED application is the point of that meeting, either way I hope she can do some overnight visits before Nov 1.

By Candad (Candad) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 11:24 am: Edit


Your S's SAT scores are good for all colleges that do not require Writing. Also notice that some Science/Engineering department prefers SAT II Chem or Physics, not SAT II Bio. You can do a quick search on your S's list.

Although we live "in an ACT state" (IL), she didn't use her ACT two yrs ago. She thought her ACT score (again 34) was not high enough compared with her SAT's. So she sent SAT I/II to all 8 colleges including (NW and UIUC).

D didn't apply ED, she didn't want to limit her chance to a school which she might not like it later. She said that she won't apply ED if she's given a second time to consider -- just her opinion. We had already got supprised for "kids changing mind" . She swung from CS/EE during the application to Liberal Arts at decision time. Foutunately, what her applied were all larger schools.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

I worry about kids from areas who've never experienced snow applying ED at NE LACs. Visiting in the summer or early fall just does not give a hint of what life will be from December to April.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 11:41 am: Edit

Marite, yes me too. She seen a little snow, we were in NYC this past January on MLK weekend when it was 3 degrees among others, but short trips are different than living with it. But experiencing something totally different is part of what she wants, my bet is she will come back South for grad school.

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