College Application List- How many and what type?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: College Application List- How many and what type?
By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:16 pm: Edit

I am a senior this year and am trying to finalize my application list. I was abroad all summer as an exchange student and did not get a chance to do any college research. Right now, I am interested in studying Middle Eastern Language and Culture/International Studies. I am looking for schools with a good study abroad program, at least an arabic language program (not necessarily a major), some sort of International major, and preferably options for language houses/internships/other related activities. At the moment I have a 1500 combined highest SAT score with a 780 french and 800 writing sat 2. My GPA is about 3.92 UW, 4.6 or so weighted (top 5%). Without going into long details, I play varsity field hockey (although I'm not the team star), work 20 hrs week, teach at church, and participate in various language/cultural activities. My list right now is:

U Penn (Reach or Reach/Match?)

Johns Hopkins


U Mich.

Are these schools realistic, and if not, what are some ideas for Matches and Safeties, preferably LACs? My parents are supportive as far as money and visiting, but they dont know much about schools themselves, so please help! :-)

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

You have a great list there Alita. All of those schools are excellent in Arabic and in Near/Middle Eastern studies...and all of them are strong in either International Relations, International Studies or Political Science. You classified your chances exactly right. With Penn, I would also look into their Huntsman Program. It may be of interest to you. I would also add the following 2 schools to your list:

Chicago (match)
Georgetown (match/reach)

Good luck!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

I don't have that much time at the moment. But given your qualifications and interests, two schools come to mind to me for matches: Tufts and Middlebury. I don't see NYU or UMich as true safeties, closer to matches, though easier matches than Tufts or Middlebury but not a clear definite for admittance. If you could find one school just below those to be a safer safety, that would be good.


By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

One more thing Alita, if you aren't a resident of Virginia, I recommend you drop UVA. They aren't that good in Middle Eastern Studies or in Arabic.

As for good safeties, look into Indiana-Bloomington (excellent Poli-Sci and near/Middle Eastern studies department) and Wisconsin-Madison (great IR and Poli Sci department).

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 05:58 pm: Edit

How serious are you about study abroad? Yale, while allowing it, generally discourages it. In fact, the Yale website says only 100 students study abroad (for credit) each year - which is a tiny number, and some of them are only for a semester. I don't think they have any study abroad programs of their own - and sometimes, programs from other places give priority to their own students, shutting other folks out. I am pretty sure Harvard does not particularly encourage it either (I think the only Harvard-sponsored abroad program is in Chile), though they do have some dual arrangements elsewhere. I'm not sure about Princeton, though I think they have more of their own programs. However, (when we researched this with my d., as it was a high priority), we discovered that if the program abroad cost more than the year at Princeton, and students were on financial aid, they would be expected to cover the extra cost AND there was an additional fee payable to Princeton as well. (I have heard good things about Middle Eastern studies at both Yale and Penn.)

If study abroad is strongly in your plans, you should check carefully, especially if you are expecting to be receiving financial aid.


Macalester's programs are fantastic. But no Arabic as far as I know.

Smith has the the oldest and longest standing programs in Western Europe, and sponsors students in about 35 other places. (actually, the other women's colleges are strong as well.) There is a 5-College Certificate Program in Middle Eastern Studies (Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, U.Mass). Mount Holyoke, in particular, has a large Islamic student contingent. As with Williams at Oxford below, studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies in Paris at the Smith program (or, I imagine, the Hamilton program) would be an amazing thing.

I think if you look at the combined offerings below, you'll find it is among the larger undergraduate programs to be found.

Earlham (a safety for you) is unique in that faculty often travel with students abroad. They have their own longstanding program in Jerusalem/Palestine, though it is on hiatus for the last year or so, and I think they are moving it to Beirut. They are like 6th in the nation in percentage of students who go abroad.

Kalamazoo (another safety) requires international study for graduation! Hope College is also strong. St. Olaf's (another safety, and a great school), is like 4th in the nation for percentage of students going abroad, and has a program in the Middle East:

Williams has a long-standing program at Oxford University (but is not known for its language programs generally speaking.) They have a combined African/Middle Eastern Studies program. Studying Middle Eastern stuff at Oxford would, frankly, be amazing!

Hamilton is well-known for its program in Paris. Don't know about Middle Eastern studies.

Middlebury has an extremely well-regarded Arabic language summer school. Surprisingly, though, I don't think they teach it during the school year (better check for yourself.)

By Cheers (Cheers) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 07:25 pm: Edit

Super Safety (poss $$$ award): American. Superb Intl Studies, Study Abroad and internship program. Not sure about Arabic--but that's best done immersively IMHO. (Check out American University in Cairo for Year Abroad Programs if you haven't done so already).

REach: G'town SFS. Emphasize your interest in Arabic on the app. SFS believes Arabic and Mandarin are THE two languages for current Int'l Study students.

By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 07:31 pm: Edit

Thanks guys-I'm checking into all of these schools now.

On the arabic, I started studying it my junior year (my local cc is the only on the east coast to offer it I think?), so I will have 4 college courses before I grad HS. However, that will only cover the 100 level in a university.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 07:42 pm: Edit

In 'Abroad' friendly schools, you can arrange for credit for programs that aren't on their list. More red tape but worth it....

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 07:43 pm: Edit

Let us know what you find, so if someone asks next time....

By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 08:31 pm: Edit

Ill post the answers as soon as I find them-Hopefully before my parents kick me off for hogging the computer! :-)

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit

I'd suggest you take a look at the University of Texas-Austin Center for Middle Eastern Studies as a possible safety, which has an excellent and extensive program in this area.

Not only do they offer arabic, they also offer courses in Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, middle eastern politics and culture as part of their undergraduate major in middle eastern studies. It's also possible to major specifically in Arabic studies. Unlike many schools which only offer Arabic at the introductory level, their course offerings are extensive. Plus, the opportunity to learn other middle-eastern languages at the same time is a unique one.

Because of their outstanding international reputation, they have wonderful contacts for study abroad in the Middle East. Additionally, they have some programs that provide grants for students to conduct research in the middle east on various topics and languages. Here's a link to the undergraduate program there:

Also add Dickinson to your list - it graduates more language majors than any school in the country, offers Arabic, has a great international relations program, and exceptional opportunities for study abroad. You can probably consider it a safety with the possibility of merit aid.

By Alita (Alita) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:48 pm: Edit

Okay, updated list for now:


U Penn (Reach or Reach/Match?)


Unsure of classification:
Hampshire College
Smith College

U Mich.

U. Texas Austin
U. Indiana Bloomington

As you can see, I deleted and added some schools. There is still some narrowing down to do-I dont have time to apply to 12 schools. I will post later to explain these changes...its late and I have to get up and run tomorrow!

By Davidrune (Davidrune) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:24 pm: Edit

I can't believe nobody said it. DARTMOUTH.

They have an Arabics program.

Furthermore, their D-Plan allows both internship and study-abroad opportunities. A lot of kids at Dartmouth study abroad, I think about 50%

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 01:22 am: Edit

You are safe at Hampshire. And probably close to safe at Smith if you tell them about your Middle Eastern interest AND your field hockey (field hockey is BIG there.)

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 02:31 am: Edit

David, I don't think we forgot Dartmouth. But Dartmouth is a reach. Would you recommend it over Georgetown, Yale, Columbia and Princeton for what this young lady wants to study?

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 07:25 am: Edit

George Washington Univ has a good international studies program and would be match/safety.

By Gtownmom (Gtownmom) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 11:13 am: Edit

Alita, be sure to go to Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service website.

I think this would be a really great fit for you. Although your credentials are superior, Gegorgtown's SFS is a reach for everyone. Visit the school if you can. If it feels right, give it your best shot. Good luck on all your applications! GtownMom

By Davidrune (Davidrune) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 08:43 pm: Edit

Alexandre: yes

By Alita (Alita) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

How many of these schools, in each section R/RM/M/MS/S is enough to apply to. I will not qualify for financial aid except in the really expensive schools, but I will apply for merit aid if possible...

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 12:14 am: Edit

Good list. Just weed out a few that are not a good fit for social reasons. Best of luck - I have a hunch you're going to do veyr well.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 04:47 am: Edit

David, I do not question Dartmouth's academic excellence, and I believe you when you say the Arabic program at Dartmouth is good. But I would not recommend Dartmouth to someone who wishes to study, and perhaps later work, in the domain of Middle Eastern Studies. I am an Arab and a Middle Easterner, so I actually know which schools in the States have a presence in the Middle East. Dartmouth may have an Arabic department, but it is small and not as well recognized as other top programs.

I have attached a link to Dartmouth's Near/Middle Easetern department.

Now compare Dartmouth to the top deaprtments in the field. Given her interests and credentials (1500 on the SAT, top 5% of her class, 4.0 GPA etc...), I would apply to the following 10 schools.






Penn (Huntsman program is preferable)



Michigan-Ann Arbor


Like I said, among the reaches/matches, I would recommend Chicago, Columbia, Georgetown and Penn over Dartmouth. Their offerings flat out exceed those at Dartmouth.

By Alita (Alita) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Okay, now its down to the narrowing process. As I have only visited 4 schools (Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and Princeton) and will only be able to visit UPenn, Georgetown, and George Washington, I cant speak for a lot of the following questions at the schools on my list, so Id appreciate if anyone with personal info and knowledge could help. Please, no ratings, I realize that all of the following topics are subjective and would prefer explanation (sorry for making yall work more! :-) ) Thanks...

Things I like in a school...

School spirit (and a good football team (my southern tradition!))

Active social life with different options

Pretty campuses (old style architecture)

Small town (rural) or large city- not big on suburbs

Campus feel- gated, central campus -college feel

Students live on campus, other students (colleges) nearby

people who are happy to be there

If you have any other points to mention-feel free! The more info the better...

By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 11:00 am: Edit

Oh, if anyone could comment on the dorms, also...

Thanks in advance

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 11:17 am: Edit

I can only speak for Indiana, Michigan and Texas. I do not know much about Middlebury.

Indiana: Bloomington is a great little college town. Good social life with plenty of options. Strong school spirit, primarily thanks to its Basketball program. Football is not that good at Indiana. Indiana has a campus feel and it is gorgeous, probably the most beautiful campus I have seen.

Michigan: Ann Arbor is a great college city. There is a sizeable young professional population because companies like Pfizer, Borders, Dominos and dozens of biotech and hightech companies have opened headquaters in Ann Arbor. The city is cosmopolitan and trendy, but at the same time intellectual and quaint. Good social life with plenty of options. School spirit is unmatched, primarily thanks to Wolverine Football. 110,000+ fans fill the football standium for each game, regardless of the weather. Michigan's campus is not gated, but it does feel like a campus. I would say that Michigan, although quite beautiful, is more impressive than it is pretty. The architecture is mainly "old style".

Texas: Austin is a very cool and zippy college city. Unlike the rest of Texas, it is liberal and one of the pillars of the American music scene. Lots of bands pass by Austin. Like Ann Arbor, Austin has a large young professional population, thanks primarily to Dell and other tech companies. The campus is not gated, but again, it feels like a campus. Like Michigan, it is more impressive than pretty. Socially, you will have plenty of options. School spirit is quite strong, primarily thanks to Longhorn Football.

I hope this helps.

By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:52 pm: Edit

Alexandre-Thanks! One more q, would there be good internship opportunities in these areas?

Anybody w/ info about Yale, Georgetown, U Penn, Middlebury, Hampshire, Smith, or George Washington?

On a little bit of a tangent, I look at Chicago and the academic program and campus I really like. However, we went to an admissions session near my house and all 6-7 students seemed kind of "out of it," plus there is the whole "place where fun goes to die" rumor. Is this typical/true, or do I just have the wrong sources? I like strong academics but at the same time I want to be able to spend some of the weekend with friends, etc, not sleeping in the library every night.


By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

Smith provides paid research assistantships to their top 45 or so first and second year stduents. They provide a list of opportunities, but if there isn't one specifically tied to your interest, they will go out to the faculty and create one for you (they did for my d.) This is in lieu of on-campus work/study, and they also create opportunities for the STRIDE students (that's what they call them) to get together periodically to discuss their research. In addition, every student at Smith gets a paid summer internship (paid by the College; these are in addition to those they help you find elsewhere.) These internships are paid only when the organization/agency you wish to work for doesn't have such a paid internship available otherwise. They are international in scope:

I went to Chicago as a graduate student/TA, though it was a long time ago. The rumors are, in the main, true. Great academics, though.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 07:43 pm: Edit

Harvard is a reach for anyone, but if you are interested, do apply. It has a great program of Middle Eastern studies.
Mini is wrong about Harvard not encouraging study abroad. Larry Summers goes on and on about the need for Harvard students to go abroad. The truth is that they do. According to the adcom we heard yesterday, only 10% go abroad for a semester, but 60% go abroad some time during their college years, usually in summer. I'm not even counting the students who travel abroad on behalf of Let's Go. A young woman I know has just returned from an 8-week trip to southern China. As for why Harvard does not have its dedicated program abroad, it makes sense: if you are among a whole lot of other American students, and especially among your own classmates, you might as well stay home.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

Well, you can look at the data itself. How many Harvard students go abroad as part of an organized academic program?

The truth is, however, that many students at Harvard do indeed go abroad at least one summer. In fact, many students at Harvard went abroad before they got to Harvard. Remember - 48% of the students come from the top 5% of the American population economically speaking (and probably an extremely high proportion from the top 2%), so they do go abroad.

The truth is that at Yale, approximately 100 students go abroad as part of their undergraduate studies each year. (This is according to Yale itself.) At Harvard the number is higher - probably double. It is probably also true that it is less attractive to Harvard and Yale students (as so many had already been there.) And both Harvard and Yale figure (rightly or wrongly) that what they have to offer at home is better than what is available abroad. But if a student wants to do serious academic study abroad, supported by your institution (including carrying the $40k along with them, and whatever financial aid was made available), there are 30 or 40 places that are better.

This isn't a knock on Harvard and Yale. They do what they do best - and I'm glad there are lots of choices out there.

(Almost 30 years ago, I used to work for Larry Summers at a human rights agency in Philadelphia. He goes on and on about the need for Harvard students to study abroad precisely because, currently, they aren't doing it. Same with the importance of matriculating students from the bottom 35% of the population - he goes on an on about it because, currently, they aren't doing it. And he wants to redirect the tanker. They certainly have the money to do it.)

I would presume, however, that Middle Eastern studies at Harvard would be excellent indeed! One of the best reasons to go to a larger, prestigious, research-oriented universities is take advantage of the niches they can develop well that no one else can.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:13 pm: Edit

But, Mini:
What is the point of pushing students who already go abroad one way or the other to go on a semester of study abroad? That's why Harvard and Yale students do not feel the need to go on semester abroad in great number. Remember that 60% of Harvard students do go abroad.

Actually, to hear Larry Summers talk, he's interested in the student who will go back to Dad's firm in Ohio and needs to be exposed to global culture before the end of college. Well, said student can do so during summer.

By Blossom (Blossom) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:52 pm: Edit

Mini-- you should get some sense of quality control before you randomly extol the academic benefits of study abroad for an entire year.

I did it (back in the '70's) as did many of my classmates (except the engineers and hard-science people who couldn't take the time...) and it was a joke academically. Fantastic in other ways, no question, but the standards for an American student at this well-regarded U. in Europe were abysmal. From what I hear of my friends kids.... the standards are lower still now.

Develop language fluency? yup, fantastic. Cultural sensitivity? No question. Helping to clarify long term career goals? Excellent. Academic rigor? None. Grade inflation? Everyone got A's (we were paying at least double what the locals were paying in tuition, so the prof's wanted to make sure we got our money's worth) Did anyone care if you went to class? Nope. Was their academic advising of any kind? As long as you didn't get into trouble w/immigration by trying to get a job, or get picked up for smuggling heroin, we were pretty much left to our own devices.

So-- I wouldn't knock Harvard or Yale just yet. Anecdotally, the standards at the American U's which run programs in Europe are even lower than what I experienced way back then in an actual European U, which makes sense since almost any kid who is a junior "in good standing" at any American U. can be admitted.

I'm glad I went. I'll encourage mine to consider it. I won't be heartbroken if they don't, nor will I look enviously at the kids who are going. There are fellowships, grad-level programs, volunteer service organizations, etc. all of which can supplement a college education without making a kid sacrifice 25% of their academic program for the sake of becoming culturally aware.

By Alita (Alita) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 11:13 pm: Edit

Blossom-Did you enroll directly into the university where you studied? If not, would you consider the benefits better if a student were to enroll directly in the university as a normal student (ie: studying in the native language instead of english and living w/ other native students?

By Alita (Alita) on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 11:06 pm: Edit

Okay, Ive made my final list:


U Penn


U Michigan Ann Arbor

U Texas Austin
Ind. U Bloomington


I have one main question. I am applying in late sept to IU Bloom and Michigan because they are rolling admissions. I do not want to apply anywhere early decision because I am not sure where I want to go, and I dont want to rope myself into anything. So, that leaves early action. Harvard and Georgetown are the only schools on my list with an early action option, and I can only choose one because Harvard is single choice. So, which do I choose? I know at georgetown the percentage of students admitted EA was 25% versus 22-23% in reg admissions, so it doesn't seem like it would help much. What about harvard? Would it be to my advantage to apply early there? Also, any tips on the apps for these schools?

thanks a bunch

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