LACs vs. universities

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: LACs vs. universities
By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:26 am: Edit

Wanna rumble?

J/K. Thought it might be useful for people with HS juniors and seniors to identify some of the pros and cons of each. I'll start:

LAC pros -- close-knit environment, small classes, taught by profs, perhaps more nurturing.

LAC cons -- fewer course offerings, possible course caps, no graduate courses (or interaction w/grad students), less diversity, may be too stifling after a year or so.

University pros -- more course offerings, opportunity to take graduate classes, big-name profs, more diverse student body, more student groups, ability to continue meeting new people throughout 4y.

University cons -- bigger classes, TAs teaching sections (and sometimes classes), some kids may feel lost in a big school.

I also wanted to note that it's important for kids to see both. My kid was definitely focused on LACs in spring of junior year, and liked the ones she saw (OK, except Amherst). Until she visited a medium-sized university, and she realized that was much more what she wanted. So even if your kid insists they want a small school, or a big university, make sure to try to see some of each.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:44 am: Edit

Rhonda63, I don't want to rumble LOL but think you have some great points here, esp that the appeal of LAC/Universities may change for the student from HS junior year to graduation. It is a fun debate for me because h and I much prefer LACs and kids did not. And I have to admit that the universities my kids attend (which are definitely NOT the places I would have chosen for them) seem to suit them just fine and be as perfect a fit as is possible. And in the case of one son it is pretty clear now that my LAC choice would have not been an appropriate choice at all for him. Darn! hate it when I have to admit I was wrong

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:45 am: Edit

I used to be a college advisor at community college in Seattle
While most of the students were working on a transferable AA certificate, quite a few were students from local universities that could not get into the classes that they needed to stay on a 4 or 5 year track. The universities are often just too big and unless they enroll hundreds of kids in one section there is no way that everyone is going to be able to take the classes they want, when they want them. The intro classes are often huge and still there are not enough seats.
Example 1225 seats were available for organic chemistry, at a college where they have 4500 min in freshman class, they filled up faster than you can say Nirvana tickets.
Contrast that with a LAC that offers enough intro seats for students as students usually stay in the classes that they enrolled in, so no need for overload or drop forms, not at the rate at the uni anyway.
On the flip side at the CC we also saw students who had been attending a rigourous LAC but just couldn't handle the intense academics, pretty hard to have an off day when only 15 or 20 students in the class, they needed to regroup and bring up their grades before transferring back.
a real disadvantage to LACs is that even the largest dept is going to be small compared to a university. However students know that going in and can look at it as college is where they get the basic knowledge, grad school is for the real specialized study. This is reflected in the percentages of students who recieve their Phds who graduated from a LAC as compared to percentage of university grads.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:48 am: Edit

"LAC pros -- close-knit environment, small classes, taught by profs, perhaps more nurturing."

Students in very small depts at good universities get these same LAC benefits plus the university benefits you cite.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:53 am: Edit

honors depts at unis are also generally smaller like a school within a school.Merit aid is often offered for honors students, I know several who had their expenses covered for all four years and they knew that going in.
A big weight off of parents minds, I'm sure

By Drusba (Drusba) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:16 am: Edit

Large university: Con: you are to a great extent anonymous to your professors (and most students). Pro: you are to a great extent anonymous to your professors (and most students).

LAC: Pro: students and professors know each other by name. Con: the same.

LAC: Con: the awful professor dilemma -- inevitably you will have one required course that is taught by only one professor who is "highly distinguished" in his field but can't teach worth a hoot. Pro: Because that course is required, you might get lucky and, because of high demand, they add another section at the last minute taught by an unknown and undistinguished temporary teacher hired from the area who is a great teacher.

University: Con: TA's who cannot teach worth a hoot or speak English. Pro: getting a TA for a required course who can teach allowing you to avoid that other section of the required course taught by the professor who is "highly distinguished" in his field but cannot speak English or teach worth a hoot.

University: pro: there is a party somewhere every night. Con: you actually attend them all.

LAC: pro: in your major you can often get the same professor for a second course. con: he will remember you from the first course.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:46 am: Edit

Diversity can be viewed as a pro or a con, depending on the individual. It could mean there are a smaller percentage of students there with whom you share core values and interests, and hence a smaller pool of potential friends.

For example, some off-campus wonk types may not feel so comfortable at a college with 40% frat boys. Some of them might prefer a school with all wonks.

Just a thought.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:47 am: Edit

Mediator viewpoint: Small to medium university, 4-8000 students, <1000 grad students, is the best compromise, just the most difficult to find. Moderate intro classes, TAs rare, small upper level classes. Cons - most of these are actually regional masters' level unis, old teachers' colleges like the school I attended.

It occurs to me that the real problem is the large classes are often intro ones that freshman and sophs take, when the students really need the support of the LAC, while juniors and seniors, of course, are in the smaller ones. Maybe a high quality Community College is a better solution for a number of kids than we might think.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

Drusba, that would be a "bingo". Great job.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:53 am: Edit

Moneydad -- I think you make a good point. One concern my D had about a LAC was that she might NOT fit in, or even if she did at first, maybe things would change. With a larger pool of students, it's more likely you'll find people like you and also people who may not be like you but you want to hang out with.

I agree with the middle-sized school point -- that's a great option. But it's hard to find safety schools in that size range.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 11:01 am: Edit

The advantages of the middle-sized schools, coupled with their rarity are what make the Ivies and a few other schools of similar size so attractive and so selective.

By Barrons (Barrons) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 11:36 am: Edit

LAC's don't do this:

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 11:46 am: Edit

Cangel, or could possibly the Honors Colleges at a not huge state flagship uni be the ultimate compromise? That is a question that is taking up a lot of my time. U of Ark with their 200 million of Wal-Mart money, Ole Miss with it's Netscape trove, and U of South Carolina all seem to be providing a nurturing , small LAC environment to a small group of statistically gifted students.(Yes, I understand why the are doing it and yes, I understand that it can be argued that it takes resources away from other areas in a time of budget woes.) These wholly artificially created Honors Colleges have greater opportunities in course selection , professors, and potential friends than any LAC can hope to match. Godawful conundrum, isn't it?

Throw into the mix that some of us don't believe that academic standing is the only worthwhile criteria to be considered in choosing a college.I have told my D that I want her to feel free to take part in silly college skits, build a homecoming float, play intramurals (or possibly D3 ball), and fall in and hopefully out of love at least twice. D's High School career has seemed to center on "the next step" (although she has managed to have some fun along the way). College shouldn't be like that. As much as possible and practical, college should be an end in and of itself and not just preparation for grad or professional school (which will then become preparation for employment). If it is , you'll wake up at 30 or 40 and say, "God, look at all I've missed along the way".

It would be so much easier just to be a prestige-junkie and go with the most highly rated school the kid could get into, wouldn't it? ( "Junkie" was my second choice for a descriptive noun , but I'm trying to be polite to the "uber-elite" among us) It does seem to me that a few, thankfully just a few, parents start at the top of the USNWR and send in apps in descending order until they achieve "acceptance" for their child. All but those who get the #1 ranked school are disappointed in their choice. That seems to me to be so defeatist and wrong-headed. JMO

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 11:51 am: Edit

Lacs do do research in fact I think that biology is probably the largest department at several LACs.
They are about more than the "arts"

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 11:53 am: Edit

You think it's defeatist and wrongheaded to aspire to get in to the best school you can? You think people who give their best shot to Harvard or Yale are whores? Is that what you're saying?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

I think a "whore" is someone who is doing something that they would not otherwise do; for money.
Certainly there are many who prostitute themselves in our country who aren't "streetwalkers", but someone who is trying to get into a competitive college isn't one of them.
However to seek out a namebrand college with little knowledge about the school other than it is "Ivy" or "little Ivy" seems as shallow as picking your spouse by their job title or buying clothes based on what sport stars shill.
However the reverse should not be true either, dont decide against applying to an Ivy if you like the combination of size academics and resources that they have to offer,just note that many others are doing the same thing, and for virtually all students who are qualified for a school that attracts many applicants, it is a tossup re: admittance.
I also think that virtually all schools have social activities for students. Even at Reed which has been called called the Parris Island of colleges( I had to look it up- its a boot camp for Marines), my daughter has participated in scavenger hunts, untold dances and parties, the sighting ( and touching) of the Doyle owl, chats with Dr Demento during Paideia, lots of on campus events and speakers, costume parties, renn fayre, capture the flag, and I am sure lots of things that I don't know about.
You certainly can have fun at any school if you are so inclined.
What we have enjoyed with smaller schools is that you can participate at a higher level than at a larger school. Example in high school she particpated as one of the stars of the fine arts dept, was in all the musicals in high school, ran track, and sang in the vocal group. She was not unusual, and was not the star but being a small school they had room to do more than one thing.
At her college she has participated in a classical choral group, has friends from different majors and parts of campus, she runs a ADD support group and is a peer mentor. There are many more groups t choose from at a large university, but it often is the same ones that are very popular and numbers dictate you need to choose which to participate in. Not a bad thing, just a different choice.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

(*Edit- This is in response to Idler's comment)

That's not how I read Csbballstardad's comment at all. He was talking about prestige being the *primary* focus. You said "aspire to get in to the best school you can" which is different.

There are people who drive themselves crazy trying to decide who is #1 (Princeton, Yale, Harvard) and will fight to the death to support the school they get into as being #1. It is defeatist and wrongheaded for someone to look at HYPS as their ONLY option-that view "anything less" as the end of the world.

But, to get back on topic, I would agree with everyone here as far as the pros and cons for both universities and LACs. It really depends on the person, and of course there will always be different opinions as to what is really a pro vs con.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

Many LAC's do offer undergrad research - Be sure to check out the faculty research interests link to see the research students at one LAC (Hope College)were involved with this summer - not shabby:

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Well,that tone seems a little strident, now doesn't it Idler? I think only that the search for prestige as the sole criteria for school selection is wrongheaded and defeatist. My guess is we would differ very strongly on the definition of "best", argue vehemently and fail to budge each other one iota. So , in the interest of economy let's just say we did all that already.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:29 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity -- my D had some of the same experiences at a small HS, where she participated in a lot of things and had leadership roles that perhaps would have gone to others in a school with a class size of 500.

But in college, one positive aspect of the larger schools is that there are so many more groups doing any particular activity. For example, my D was involved in theater in HS and freshman first semester of college (it ended up being too time-consuming, so she didn't continue 2nd semester). At Brown there seemed to be numerous theatrical productions going on at any given time. Same with other activities -- the school has two radio stations, for example, and god only knows how many a cappella groups. I think that offsets to some degree the concern that there will be more competetion for spots in a particular group at a larger school.

What is renn feyre?

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:32 pm: Edit

Csbball -- I actually think academic prestige is the most important factor in choosing a college. That doesn't mean you agonize over whether Harvard is better than Princeton, or blindly follow the US News rankings.

Here's my rule of thumb, which I've stated here before -- you should attend the most academically pretigious school you get into at which you think you can be happy. (putting aside $$ considerations, which of course complicates the decision immensely)

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:32 pm: Edit

Csbballstardad - I think the answer to that is yes and no, just as my medium sized uni can be yes and no. After all, I'm talking about a group that is either highly selective (think Yale, Duke, Dartmouth) or often non-selective - your in-state 2nd rank uni.

For example, our state's flagship uni has an honors program (BTW what Netscape person went to Ole Miss, I thought Grisham had given them bucks, but I didn't know about Netscape), DD would automatically qualify plus we have prepaid tuition, the only question is whether to be lazy and write no essays, or try for extra room and board money. The only problem is nothing else about the uni appeals - strong traditional Greek system (not her cup of tea), very few students live on campus, except in honors dorm (which seem somewhat like a purgatory, no vibrant dorm life) and it is iffy whether or not she would make marching band (which would make up for a lot of the downsides). So even though academically, it would be fine, for her it would probably not be the best choice, because she would not participate in some of those other activities of college you mention.

Yes I think there is way too much emphasis on the top of the heap here, but I think it is more amongst the students than the parents, and Idler, the prestige hunters I'm talking about are people who insist on a top down app, and when they don't get in or are miserable, wonder what happened. Or those folks whose only knowledge of a school is where it fits in the hierarchy. Remember many of these people are internationals, and all they really know is "what they read in the papers" - it is more difficult for them to see the quality of a small Lac in the midwest.

To me, the real reason to go for the top school, the real advantage they have is the student body - the other kids. The quality of the other kids is so high that you don't have to worry about being segregated into an Honors dorm - everybody's somewhat above average, or they wouldn't be there. Remember, Csbballstar, what the minimum requirements for Ole Miss are, many of the students just met the minimum (I don't know about Ole Miss, but Alabama's is 2.0 and 21 ACT, it can't be much higher). I'm not trying to be elitist, many of those kids will be just as successful and just as happy as any 1600 scorer. But at Yale or Amherst or Swarthmore or Carleton or Stanford she will be surrounded by an amazing group of people, who will do amazing things, being in that atmosphere is what you pay for.
My daughter's recurring, and truly plainitve request has been "I just want to average, I don't want to known as the smart kid anymore" - that's as good a reason as any, I guess.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:41 pm: Edit

Demiqy, I'm glad you understood. I think a student who rejects HYPS, WAS for the reason that they are at the top of someone's scale is unbelievably foolish. My child may very well be applying to 3 schools in that group that meet her personal statistical criteria, but not solely because they have a single digit ranking. Academic reputation is a variable. It is just not the only variable to be considered.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:54 pm: Edit

Cangel, The Honors college at Ole Miss, previously Barksdale , was renamed for Sally McDonnell Barksdale and is now "The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College". I believe "Jim" Barksdale of Netscape along with his spouse Sally , before her recent untimely death, gave 100 million to establish the Honors College. That is from memory.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 01:14 pm: Edit

Renn Fayre is Reeds big festival before finals
I have never been there but my daughter promises me that I may go the year she graduates.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

Thanks -- sounds a little like Bryn Mawr's May Day (also right before finals).

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:14 pm: Edit

re Csbballstardad's prestige comments. But NOT to put any words in his mouth LOL. From previous posts I'm assuming you are southern and sometimes I think it is difficult for posters from other areas of the country, esp the NE, to understand how different the college perspective can be. Things have changed a whole lot from my own childhood in the deep south when we just assumed a girl (parents were transplants) who went to one of the seven sister schools, the name of which we had never heard before in our lives, was pregnant. Why else would you leave the state? My crowd all had professional parents with a couple of degrees, affluent backgrounds, had done some travel-- but still had no idea our state school wasn't in the same class with any other. The first person I knew who headed off to grad school at Yale, we all worried that it would be too cold and wondered why on earth she didn't apply to one of the schools just a little further north: UVA or Duke? Which to our minds were just as good schools. Why on earth Yale we wondered? What could possibly be the attraction? What a trial we must have been to our Ivy league educated profs; first time I heard a Boston accent I was positive the fellow was European and it took nearly a term to clear up that misunderstanding. Computers and the media have made a big difference imho in college perceptions in the deep south but still when my high achieving middle school niece (at a very prestigious prep school) told my sons she wanted to do theater and they immediately responded, "Tish" she got really distressed. I didn't realize till later when my sis-in-law told me that they had scared her to pieces; she absolutely can't imagine having to go that far and it had never entered anyone's mind that she should. During the last several years, I know kids who have turned down HYP for Rice or Duke and no one even blinks. 20 years ago I knew a kid who turned down H for Ole Miss; money was not an issue. I don't know how common that particular scenario would be today. Although provincial my family does see the US News report and thus understands what schools are "best" LOL

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:30 pm: Edit

And not to put words in Emptynester's mouth, but I'm not so sure we Southerners are so far off wrong. What are the people in the NE who insist on attending an Ivy are being, but provincial? Just because the endowment is bigger, and USNews agrees, does that make it truly right?
Someone posted something about Ivies benefitting from years of interest on money contributed when the NE was economic engine of growth in the country, back in the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller. The point being, wait until Stanford, Duke and EMory have a few more decades of growth in their corporate largess.

Yes, I'm being defensive, but having visited some of these NE schools, and knowing several grads of different schools - it really makes you think!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:38 pm: Edit

okay Cangel: what I am worried about is southerners like you giving your kids up to the NE schools... don't mean to sound so melodramatic but I went a little bit north for grad school; a whole lot further north for jobs and now have yankee kids who will never go back *home* in spite of how hard I tried to keep them connected. I think this hurts our culture and makes our children rather rootless.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:44 pm: Edit

Re: "LAC's don't do this:"

Neither do the undergraduates at research universities. Note that the lead author of the article is described as a former graduate student. Undergrads at U's and LAC's can both be involved in research. At LAC's the students work closer with the professors, but realistically undergrads at either type of school aren't likely to make a major adavance in the understanding of cancer, Alzheimer's, or whatever on their own.

At my D's orientation at Kenyon I met her faculty advisor. He had received his PhD. from Berkeley and before that had received his B.A. and Master's from large provincial universities in Canada. He said, after that experience, it had taken him about a year to "get" what Kenyon was all about. At first he was puzzled when he heard full professors discussing their students on a first name basis, clearly exhibiting a detailed knowledge of their interests and backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses. At Berkeley undergraduates were a group presence lacking individual distinguishing characteristics as far as the faculty was concerned.

edit: which is to say, to each his own.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:54 pm: Edit

Don't worry, we've already brainwashed DD into thinking she must come back South for med school or law school if she goes (it really is the most cost effective way to go), and after spending 3 weeks at Yale this summer, I think she is approaching it more from the aspect of Margaret Mead observing the "natives" in Samoa, or a naturalist observing the wildlife! Her younger brother just thinks she's nuts, why anyone would want to go away from the ocean where there is SNOW is a mystery to him.
Now if her future spouse just agrees to move South.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit

"Now if her future spouse just agrees to move South." could happen; couple of my cousins managed it LOL. Good luck with the process!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:07 pm: Edit

Getting someone to move South is easy. Just take an April vacation from dreary, cold, gray, barren vaction to the south where the sky is blue, the temperatures are warm, the grass is green, and the azaleas are in full bloom.

My wife and I left snow on the ground in Williamstown, April of our senior year, to visit Atlanta. It was literally like going from a black and white movie to Technicolor.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:16 pm: Edit

I was thinking I wouldn't participate in this but...when we went to the orientation at Swat, there was this rising senior who said he spent his entire summer working with a professor on Chemistry research. I agree with 2dsdad, undergraduates do research at LACs as well as unis...and most of them don't find the cure for alzheimer's. But it is still meaningful to them and to their prospective employers or graduate schools.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:17 pm: Edit

I wrote an excellent response to Emptynester and in my haste to post, erased it , As I can't type, I have been crying over spilt milk but Cangel covered it well. I am growing tired of this and will leave "y'all" to it for now but... "afor I shuffle on down to da pool hall I'll try to close with sometin to help dose who is havin' some troubles understanding this po' ol' south-en boy an his no account chillun".

My kid is far too independent minded to leave the determination of where she goes to school solely to the schools. I feel some of you are advocating just that . "Go to the most academically prestigious school you are admitted to" ( top down apps).

My D would never stand for that. She was referred to a while back by a teacher of hers as "a goat in a room full of sheep". It appears that some things never change and for that, I am forever grateful.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:33 pm: Edit

"Go to the most academically prestigious school you are admitted to" ( top down apps).

I don't understand how that constitutes "leaving it to the schools." Presumably, she had her own criteria for selecting the schools she applied to and applied only to schools she felt she would be comfortable attending? If that is the case, then I don't see what is wrong in suggesting that among those, she choose the most academically prestigious, unless finances dictate otherwise.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:38 pm: Edit

Csbballstardad- Okay, now I have to say that I don't see Rhonda63's comments in the same way that you (and several other people) do. I don't think that I've ever seen her advocate that students apply to the most prestigious colleges that they qualify for--so she isn't exactly advocating the top down apps.

I've read several of her posts and I interpreted them to mean:

1. Find the schools that you could see yourself happy to attend (we're not talking paradise, but at least satisfied).

2. When you get your acceptances, if everything else is equal, go to the one that is most prestigious. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I remember her even specifying "most prestigious to you" or something along those lines. I've always intrepreted this to mean the school that you think is best....which makes sense to me.

But I'm not trying to put words into Rhonda63's "post" either. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, that is just the impression that I've received.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Marite, I was typing when you posted. I think that you said it better than I.

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:44 pm: Edit

Hey csbballs, when you said "prestige junkies" you were just being coy about saying "prestige whores," right? I wouldn't want to put words in your mouth.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:51 pm: Edit

Again - not speaking for anyone but myself. Until recently it is possible that not all areas of the country actually agreed on a definition of academically prestigious. Some of us didn't even know we were supposed to consider such a concept when we chose colleges for ourselves. Faced with it as adults looking at colleges for our kids we have a much different experience than do NE parents who are living the same drill they went thru themselves as teens. I often thought during the process that it would have been much easier for us if h and I had had the same familiarity with all these schools as our NE friends who had to explain to us over and over why such and such was good and how it was different from so and so.. Of course, I didn't know this board then and didn't own a US news until AFTER my son had acceptances and we were trying to choose-- pretty clueless LOL We did have one of those fat college books

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:52 pm: Edit

As explained, we may have reached common ground. I think. Let me try. "Apply to the most academically challenging and most academically stimulating colleges or universities that you feel you could be happy attending and within that grouping give special credence to the ones with the highest academic reputation" . Is that close to common ground?

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:53 pm: Edit

Demingy -- you characterized my view very well! I do think that each person has their own list of "prestigious" schools. I know I do, and it may not agree with others' here. I have a fairly short list of "schools I would pay full far for my kid to attend," lol.

You're right, I would never advocate just applying to the top US News schools. Some of their top 10 are probably NOT on my "own list" anyway!

I think what people often overlook is that a lot of kids will be pretty happy at a lot of schools. Just because you love the school you're at doesn't mean you wouldn't have loved another one equally (or more!). So why not go to the most academically prestigious one you get into, assuming you think you'll be happy there?

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:00 pm: Edit

Hey, idler, I kind of left that blank for others to fill in. I do find it somewhat curious you should choose that particular word. Was your mispelling or abridged version of my screen name a mistake or an attempt at "humor"? It's amazing how the typed word can be so misconstrued, don't you think?

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

I believe Rhonda's original post began "wanna rumble?" Csbbals, just joshin'

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:03 pm: Edit

My kid is far too independent minded to leave the determination of where she goes to school solely to the schools. I feel some of you are advocating just that . "Go to the most academically prestigious school you are admitted to" ( top down apps)

This is what our family( daughter) decided.
she chose the schools she applied to ( with some help), after the admittances came she went to the school that was highest on her list. It did happen to be the most "academically prestigious" but she was looking for rigor in a college, not a football team.
She did not apply to any name brand schools. This was her choice. Her high school has had students go on to schools that are more known, and she probably had a shot if she had wanted to, but she didn't want to. But while the schools certainly court students they don't apply for them, so I don't see how the schools are making the decisions. The student is making the decision by choosing what schools they are interested enough in to fill out apps and essays and post a check. There are hundreds of great colleges, and although I do know one young man whose mother confided to me that he had applied to 19 colleges ( he ended up at Brandeis) I know most probably don't even apply to half of that many. My daughter applied to just 5, she was accepted to all and she chose the one that we had thought was a reach. ( I still think it was a reach)
You do want to go to the "best" school you can. But there are obviously other things to consider besides "name". Location, size, temprament, course selection, finaid, lots of criteria come together to make the "best" school. even location can in these days of national or even international searches be a factor. My daughter is taking time off from a school that is less than 200 miles away, but she has been able to stay in close contact, increasing the chance that she will go back and finish her senior year. She recently got a job that involves attending an educational conference hosted near her college, so she is tickled pink!
I also want to add that a school chosen for all the wrong reasons may work out just fine. I know people who never visited their schools and grew to love it. A close relative only applied to one "little" Ivy and 5 Ivies without knowing much about them other than their "prestige", was only admitted to the little Ivy but seems to be content and is winning academic awards.
I wouldn't recommend applying to a school you know little about and applying to 19 sounds like you don't know what you want. But I can see the same person being happy with schools that are very different.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

Wow, I think that it is threads like this where you can see the communication differences between regions (and even social/financial/educational backgrounds). Many of us are saying (and have been) the same things (or similar) in different ways and becoming very adament about it. :)

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

I have never interpreted Rhonda's assertion to go to the most academically prestigious school as being prestige hounding, because she always modifies it with "that is right for the kid" or words to that effect. That approach is a very different thing from shotgunning 15 applications to Ivy and Company, then wondering why you aren't happy.
I don't think many parents on this board would disgree that academics should be the first and most important differentiating criterion - we might disagree about what constitutes academic prestige or academic quality, and we would probably disagree with USNews

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:29 pm: Edit

I think that most parents ( & many kids) on the CC boards are way more informed than off.
Ziggi for example gained enough perspective to choose a completely different school than he started out to.
I hear parents in our area discussing tiers of schools and anquishing over US News rankings. If the parents dont even go that far, they just send their student to the best fit of public instate schools without looking elsewhere.(see, I didn't say that public schools couldn't be a good fit, but you should get more info first)
We are remarkable well informed and we can thank each other for giving true honest answers about our experiences and opinions.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:35 pm: Edit

My advice on the LAC versus research university would be to consider both options, without prejudice. Try to engage in coversations about what college is really like and the advantages and disadvantages of both types of schools (academics are just a small part of the big picture).

I know my daughter ended up with some of each on her final list -- schools that she liked for different reasons, different sets of tradeoffs. The only type of school that she ruled out (but, only after visiting two of them) were very large state universities. She liked both, but felt that the overall experience was not what she was looking for. At the end of the day, her first choice was a liberal arts college. I believe her second choice would have been a mid-sized private university.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

Well, that was fun. Sancho, where's the next dragon? This time a real one. Donny Q

Idler, way to keep a sense of humor. It is appreciated ;)

By Caseyatbat (Caseyatbat) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:33 pm: Edit

I have learned so much from CC over these past months, and try to respect (if not agree) with all points of view. I am a west coast gal (does that have a bearing??) with a senior D, and I can guarentee you that the words "academically prestigious" will not be included in any of our college decision making. "Academic fit"--yes. "Academic quality"--absolutely. The prestige part simply won't be a factor.
Drusba and Csbballstardad--great posts!

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 09:24 pm: Edit

i've been reading these posts and caseyatbat, i completely agree with the difference between academic presitige and rigor, and I think more people here are reffering to rigor rather than prestige, even though many are calling it prestige

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:57 am: Edit

well, how about these differences...

lac - small classes.. this semester i have five classes with 10-15 people in them, 1 class with 25 or so and thats only becuase two sections got merged together due to a death in faculty.

no ta's at my college.. all profs..

you get to have the same prof multiple times, which is great as long as you get along :) for example. i had to miss my first day of classes to go to a funeral, and i emailed my prof's telling them, and they were nice enough to send handouts home with a kid in my class cause they knew we were friends. when a teacher not only knows your name, but even who you hang out with, that's pretty cool.

research - my roommate has been doing all sorts of research for various things for the past years.. she's going to med school soon

graduate students/programs - we can take graduate classes as undergrads at our school, can get our MBA in a five year period.. most schools it takes kids 4 years to get their BA.. yet alone their MBA..

one thing is that since there are less people, less sections of classes are offered, and occasionally there are scheduling conflicts, but if you plan out your major from the beginning this won't cause you from graduating on time - case in point - my roommates and i are all gradauting in 4 years OR LESS.. all of us in completely different majors... which means it CAN be done.. as long as you plan it out properly.

i haven't been to a big uni.. so i dont know how these things stack up compared to them.. anyone?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 01:11 am: Edit

my daughter regulary did things with her profs. All employees at Reed got a stipend to do things with students, from the president ( well I don't know if he got paid) to the housekeepers and security guards. She often went to dinner at profs homes, played paintball with the acting president, went to movies with her advisor and his family, went bowling with the campus police... ( so far everything is g rated right?)
anyway on a campus of only 1300 students you get to know people pretty well an dsee them in a different light, w hich may or may not be a good thing!

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 02:27 am: Edit

Yep, Celebrian23 , that finally got through to me, also. It took a while, me being from the South and all, but I finally got it.

LOL. "Prestige" or "prestigious " has a negative connotation to me ( and obviously some others ) that some other posters don't share. A stray spark of campus radical egalitarianism, maybe ?

While I find academic reputation , or academic standing , or academic quality all fine criteria to use , I reject outright the word prestige and want nothing to do with it, especially if it is connected with education, as in "prestigious academic schools".

Speaking only for myself, what I hear when someone says "Prestigious School" is "Snooty, Exclusive, Members Only School". Hair stands up on the back of head and I do not hear higher quality, or better programs or professors, just simply "snob appeal" for social climbers trying to buy their way up "the ladder". Status for the sake of the status.

I'd buy another Mercedes (if I could get it to haul hay) but not because of it's prestige value . It would only be because I like the performance and features better than that of the competition.

It became clear to me somewhere in the middle of the thread that we were not communicating very well. This communication difficulty wasn't due to a class difference, or a difference in educational level obtained, or wealth, or writing ability . I surmise it may instead be , as one poster described, a difference in world view. It is possible that it may simply be a matter of semantics. Either way, I believe all combatants escaped unscathed and unbowed.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 09:59 am: Edit

Csbballstarsdad: Have you seen Mini's archived post of Entitlement Indices of private colleges and universities? If not, I would definitely recommend it to you. I am becoming more than a little interested in your daughter's college search lol Is it possible for her to do the sort of Ivy summer program that Cangel's d participated in? Might be informative for her. As the grad of an honors college at a state school that contained individuals as breath-takingly brilliant as I have ever met.. I don't find the idea of the Ole Miss honors college a bad idea. imho the profs there will be as important as her classmates. I hope you know Tulane gives quite a few merit scholarships and some are used to attract super achieving NE kids and give her that experience without going so far. Has she considered the womens colleges? A couple of parents here have made Smith sound really really attractive. Bryn Mawr is wonderful according to a friend's daughter; truly does share students with Haverford (male students!) Wellesley is providing amazing alumni support/networking imho. Of course there are many more!

By Kiddielit (Kiddielit) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 10:19 am: Edit

Wait a minute, though. Not to break up the amiable detente, but if everyone has really been saying the same thing all along, I wonder why Rhonda has often prefaced many of her posts (not just on this thread) with the comment that her feelings are not quite the same as those of many other posters.
What are we really talking about here, anyway? The decision about where to apply in the first place? Or the extremely enviable position that only a few students find themselves in, of having to decide between (say, for example) Yale, Brown, UVA, and a LAC in the top fifty that has offered some merit aid? Maybe in some special instance, that child might pick the LAC over Yale -- it's probably a financial instance, but it might be a different personal issue. So in that case, the student is perhaps not picking the most academically presitigious choice open to them. Most students, if they could, would choose Yale. Now another instance -- Yale over Amherst. Both top-rated, but here truly the difference between university and LAC comes into play (though maybe not as much as a choice between, say, Cornell and Amherst.) So you pick one for smaller classes or quality of life or what have you -- where does academic prestige come in here?
I'm sorry but I don't understand Rhonda's position. I agree that "fit" is perhaps an overused phrase on these boards, but when looking to put together a list, it's wise for kids to look at all sorts of criteria. In the end, why throw all those criteria out the window if the lottery ticket to Stanford or Yale comes through?

By Kiddielit (Kiddielit) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 11:05 am: Edit

And another thing -- this phrase "academic prestige." C'mon -- it's still prestige. We're not talking academic excellence or rigor. Knox College has those; Allegheny College has those. What, you say? Princeton, which just happens to be extremely prestigious, also has academic prestige? How convenient for the argument.
Everyone on this board is in some way concerned with academic prestige. It's a given. Fit only really comes in in two cases:
when someone is lucky enough to get into a whole lot of similarly prestigious schools and has to choose one;
or when someone doesn't get into their prestigious schools (or wouldn't if they applied) and is trying to make a sensible, wonderful choice for themselves from all the other schools out there.
I just think Rhonda's point was much clearer when she seemed to be saying, hey, maybe I'm being a little more honest than some people on here. My daughter goes to Brown not just because she likes it or it's right for her (other schools too might have been right for her) but because it's Brown, darn it, and that's part of what I'm paying for. To emend that point to "everyone should pick what is most academically presitgious for him and her" makes no sense as a point except in some extremely fictitious or rare settings where someone picks Harvard over Western Podunk because it's no. 1 in USNews.
Btw, if I sound belligerent, it's not aimed at anyone. I'm just trying to be ruthlessly logical in trying to understand this debate.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

I'll get the d to find mini's post for me. I sprained what few working cells I have left trying to help out 2 kids with essays. Goodness, Emptynester go to college admissions and look at what those kids are asking others to critique. In the next thread they are claiming stats beyond mortal comprehension.

Forget their total of lack of effort or style, they can't even frame an essay into an intro, a body and a conclusion. It is beyond me how they can graduate from high school without some basic understanding of composition and claim a 750 Writing.

I have been incredibly harsh ,it seems, in criticizing D's work because it lacked flow, or cadence, or style. I will be a lot more forgiving starting right now.

One more thought comes to "mind". I haven't written anything creative in 20 years. Late last night I determined that my vocabulary has degenerated so badly that I had the full use of approximately 30 words and a series of grunts and clicks. When and , more importantly, how did this happen?

By Pmyen (Pmyen) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 05:12 am: Edit

I agree with Kiddielit that many students choose their colleges based upon reputation rather than size. Among top students, there will be some that will know at the beginning of the application process what type of college/university they are looking for and tailor their applications accordingly. I actually think size is a useful way to narrow down choices before applying. On the other hand, most teenagers are not sure what they want at the time of application (other than a strong academic experience) and the determinant may come down to particular strengths/weaknesses of the institutions which accept them. At that time, how important the size of the college is may depend on the individual with all other factors (including reputation) taken into consideration. I recall reading last spring on this site about a senior who agonized over choosing between Williams and Cornell-two excellent but very different institutions that provide almost the extremes of college vs. university educational experiences.

I actually faced the scenario mentioned by Kiddielit as I was fortunate to be accepted by both Yale and Amherst a number of years ago. I chose Amherst specifically because it was a small college with a close-knit community. However, it was only when I visited both campuses that I realized that I preferred a LAC-type experience. Interestingly, Amherst also was the only LAC that I applied to. In retrospect, I feel very positive about my decision as Amherst was probably the ideal fit for me at that stage of my life. I am a firm believer of "fit" for college students, and would advise students to choose Brown or Yale if it was the best fit for them and not just because they are Brown or Yale. As the original poster outlined, there are advantages and disadvantages to small colleges and large universities, indeed it is the case for individual institutions. Hopefully, the prospective student knows enough about himself/herself to go where he/she can best fluorish.

In contrast to my application experience, both my son (now in college) and daughter realized they wanted to attend a LAC before they sent in their applications. My daughter will probably apply to 7-8 LACs, which hopefully, will give her a choice of different LAC experiences. After visiting 15-20 LACs the past two years, there are definite personalities to each LAC as some of them are very different from one another (perhaps the greatest distinction being co-ed vs. women's colleges although rural/urban would be another).

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 05:51 pm: Edit

DD has both LACs and large universities on her possible list. They are ALL in the Ivies here as they do not fit her "warm weather" criteria. As a kid who has grown up in New England, DD wants to go to a different part of the country...and she is sick of winter. There are plenty of wonderful schools south of the Mason-Dixon line. Some may not have the "name recognition" but they are great nonetheless. Costs of southern schools are certainly much more reasonable in most cases.

By Pokey318 (Pokey318) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 07:41 pm: Edit

And my daughter grew up in the South; she only want Northern schools with cold weather! Her thought is that she will come back home where all her family is, so she wants to try the North for a bit. Don't know if that is how her life will turn out, but I understand her logic.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 11:02 am: Edit

I know a lot of people are put off by my "rule of thumb," but I still think it makes sense. I think you have to start with the premise that there is not necessarily just one perfect school for any particular kid. There are probably many at which said kid will be happy. If that's the case, doesn't it make sense to go to the most academically prestigious one you can get into?

And as for the term "academic prestige," I completely agree it does NOT mean academic difficulty. I truly believe you can get an excellent education at most schools in the US (and probably can get a crappy one at most schools, including HYP). It's really a question of what YOU make of the opportunities. So I would NOT say that you will definitely get a better education or have to work harder at Harvard than at Knox College (which someone mentioned above).

I guess I do feel that the name on the degree is part of what I'm paying for, probably a big part.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 12:29 pm: Edit

Rhonda63, I tried for the sake of argument to rank the national prestige of my D's long list of "possibles". How do you do that? I really genuinely don't know. Prestige to me yielded one order. Prestige to my community college educated secretary yielded another order, and another from my NYU educated partner, and yet another from my University of Texas Plan 2 partner. How do you do that? All of these folks are smart people , successful people, relatively happy people.

The big winning responses for all of my D's possibles were "never heard of that " and "Good God, where's that?". I could have slapped them. Try it and see what kind of responses you get. What kind of national prestige are we talking about as my d's choices (all top 50 , except the two state schools , they had heard of them .LOL.) were uniformly unknown. (this would be D's list w/o regard to $ issues)

I tried it out on a local McGill educated plastic surgeon, "I have never heard of these, she should go to Yale or Rice", I tried it on a UT and Vandy educated Cardiologist. Nada. If name recognition to college educated Americans is a criteria for prestige than I think we have to face it, once you get past the Ivies, MIT, and Caltech you're basically talking about schools with D1 sports teams ( yes I know that the Ivies are sort of D1 ).

I am really finding it difficult to place a lot of emphasis on what others think of D's choices, except as it bears upon her acceptance to grad schools, which as it stands now will likely be medical school in Texas, hence the use of doctor's in my quick survey. I know if I surveyed academics it would be a far different result but my D is not interested in being an academic at this time.

What do you think? By the way, on the couldn't tell me where or what they were list were : Williams, Bowdoin, Grinnell, Haverford, and Hamilton. All top twenty LAC's. Sheesh. Is that depressing or what? ( D doesn't consider many uni's as she wants small size, and small town.)

We went into the process with 2 stated goals : medical school admission and "fit" for this highly individual student. I would personally find it wonderful if that choice also ended up being perceived by the world at large and academia as "prestigious", but I don't see that it is worth sacrificing any degree of fitness for a particular child. JMO.

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit

The advice I'd give when someone gives you a blank stare when you mention Williams or Haverford would be to ignore them.

I just came back from a wedding this weekend and when I mentioned Swarthmore, I got blank stares. Someone then went further and asked me how much tuition we pay for my son's education at Swarthmore. I said including room and board around $40k. That caused a pause as if to say 'what? That much for a no-name school?' and then went on to say how rigorous Columbia is and I should be glad my son is not going there!

She meant well, but I was glad when the subject changed. Does it really matter what this woman thought? I'd hope not.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

Well, I have to admit it bothers me some. I get it from the GC, her classmate's parents, and everyone who stops me at the grocery store. I think I'll just smile and say she's decided not to go to college. Our 1560 4.6 Val went to University of Chicago this year. Last years 1500 4.6 went to TCU. The year before to Texas A+M. The year before to Texas.

On Honors Night the conversation centered around why couldn't the Val get a scholarship to a better school? Was he from Chicago? Jeez. Now had they announced any Ivy, Stanford , Duke, MIT, Caltech, Northwestern, Vandy, Tulane, UNC, UVA, William and Mary (for some reason), Michigan, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, ND, USC and the University of Miami, and probably several more schools, the average parent would have been on their feet clapping at his accomplishment. Amazing, simply amazing.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

I'm not talking about sacrificing a degree of fitness. I guess I really think this idea of "fit" is overrated and somewhat counterproductive. Just how "highly individual" do you mean? Specific major? Other interests? Personality?

I personally would not rely on others' opinions, either. I have my own idea of what is "most prestigious," and I don't mean a 1-2-3 ranking, but a more general idea. So, as I said above, I could list about 20 schools, all of which I would consider "academically prestigious" enough in MY mind for ME to be happy to pay full fare for my D to attend. If she were choosing among several of them, I wouldn't care which one.

Believe me, I know there are plenty of successful, happy, productive people who went to no-name schools -- in fact, I consider myself one of them, since I went to a third-rate state U (nothing like UT).

It does seem important to consider med school admissions, but you know it's always possible that your D may change her mind (I went to JHU undergrad as a dedicated pre-med, with no questions about my future plans. That changed by the end of the first year.)

Anyway, good luck! I'm not trying to convert anyone here, just offering my perspective.

And just one note to Pmyen, whose kids have visited numerous LACs -- I hope they have visited at least one university, just so they are (more) certain that's NOT what they want! I would give the same advice to someone who hasn't visited a LAC b/c they are convinced they don't want to attend one -- you need to at least check it out!

By Demingy (Demingy) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:23 pm: Edit


Don't worry, you are not alone. I think that "prestige" goes out the window when you start to head west. There are many eastern and midwestern prestigous schools (as in "popular") that are no-name for people in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, get the idea.

I've mentioned to a few people that I might move to Massachusetts because I really like Smith College (moving east was almost unheard of for me before my college search). These people have looked blankly at me and asked why I don't just go to our state university instead of going to some "community college" out east.

I've learned to just be amused by the little bubble that exists out here. :)

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:44 pm: Edit

Jus tell 'em they invented cough drops. (and Brown invented UPS.)

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:49 pm: Edit

And Duke's only claim is that it invented (or is it perfected) Basketball.....

(Misconceptions apply to Universities as well as LAC's)

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 01:50 pm: Edit

Many years ago, I met a young man from Appalachia who was attending Harvard. He'd joined ROTC and that's how he had heard of Harvard. But no one in his community had heard of it. They went blank when he mentioned his plans. His friend from the same community and also in ROTC had set his sight on Princeton. Princeton, the folks in the community had heard about and approved of. It was the next town over. So much for prestige, brand name, popularity.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 02:14 pm: Edit

Outside the coasts and the various alumni scattered over the country, nobody knows about these schools, it's OK, you know what, I don't think anyone cares. Heck, I consider myself a reasonably well read person, and I had not heard of Williams until a couple of years ago, although I did know about Amherst and Swarthmore (couldn't spell it). There are LACs, though that have regional reputations - Rhodes, Millsaps and B'ham-Southern for example, I'm sure there are others in TX and the Midwest, just say it's like school X, but more selective, people will say OOHHH, I see.

On another topic, if you are an MD, I apologize ahead of time for preaching to the choir.
DD is considering med school as well. This is the advice I gave her - first, we offered to bank the 3 years of big bucks tuition that will be the difference in a state uni education and private faroff school. Being 16, she turned us down.
I strongly believe that state med school is the way to go, unless a person has research goals (MD/PhD) that coincide with a particular researcher - private med school educations are way overrated, graduate near the top of your med school class, then do a high powered residency, you will be evaluated on your own merits at that point.
To me, the important thing about undergrad is the education and the opportunity to explore places and disciplines and ideas with a freedom that most of us will never have again. That is why I'm glad she turned the money down, what she will hopefully get doesn't really have a value.

Finally, in looking at colleges for possible pre-med, we have looked hard at the pre-med advising system. I think this is the most important "school related" factor in admissions - it is the one thing the student has no real control over. We've looked for schools with documented support for the pre-med student, including volunteer opp., research opps, suggested schedules to allow you finish on time, ways to do that and study abroad, and, most important, counseling to help the student decide if med school is for him.
JHU is a great school, I'm not knocking it, but I cringe when I read kids wanting to go there to improve their med school chances - if s/he isn't a science genius, they could do a lot better, and have a better chance.

Pre-med rant for the day, now over.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 02:49 pm: Edit

For what it's worth: "prestige" is cognate with "prestidigitation," descends from the Latin, "prestigium," conjurer's trick, I believe retains that sense in French, and in English seems most often applied to luxury goods and, of course, institutions of higher learning.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

I will apologize in advance, I really don't know why I'm choosing here and now to do this . Sorry. Maybe you, Carolyn, and some of the other pros will see it over here. Since you asked, which I really don't think you asked for this but..... D is an individual not in any clinically weird way. Just that she is not someone who needs to be in a gunner, steal the book from the library to keep your rival from getting an "A" cut-throat pre-med school. She's very very competitive but would be more likely to share her notes with her competitor than to try to trip him up. (Picture Lance waiting on the big German when he fell off his bike , and then pounding on him again immediately after he remounted and you'll have it).

She is very afraid that a frat, sorority exclusive environment may tend to exclude her. Princeton dining clubs, also. She does not feel comfortable (yet ) in cities of ANY size and wants her car at school at least as a sophomore. She is not one who can deal easily with the maze of registration and the like at large schools , it overwhelms her so they are out for now.

She wants everybody to stay at school on weekends and make their fun happen there. She does not enjoy being preached or proselytized to by the left or right, the religious or non-religious. She is very willing to engage in fierce in class or out of class debate with students or teachers but does not like being singled out for her opinions and wants them respected.

She is liberal leaning, a Methodist, relatively conservative I'd guess in clothing, hair and make-up. She is attractive, fit, athletic, and tall and would like some members of the opposite sex to be so, also. She volunteers her time with special olympics, youth mentorship athletic programs, and taking care of orphaned animals (she has bottle raised over 20).

She listens to Cross Canadian Ragweed, James Taylor, rock and roll, and new country. She was invited to be our regional version of a deb (her mother is a Junior Leaguer ) and declined. Her two prize possessions are her show jumping horse and her construction yellow Xterra.

She would like the opportunity to play basketball at the intercollegiate level IF a school that meets her other criteria has a place for her. She wants a dating scene. She wants a collegiate atmosphere. She wants the kids to have selected their school proudly, not as a third or 15th choice. She wants the kids to want to be there, not somewhere else.

She wants, a strong science school with a great track record to med schools. She wants a capable staff of advisors to guide her to med school. She would like the chance to study abroad or in New York for a semester.

Her rec's presently would come from her high school coach who has told me that "D is the finest person I have ever met, not student or athlete, person" , her calculus teacher who says "she can see the relationships in a way that very few can" and her principal that has said "D's work on projects has raised the bar for the whole school. Now others are turning in projects just to stay up with D".

In exchange she will give them a top 1% standardized test scoring, 4.0 UW, 4.6 weighted, Val or Sal, good hearted, hard working kid from a rural school who lives on a ranch, who plays quality basketball for the school and AAU , who is a section leader in our precision driven award winning marching band and orchestra, who is an exceptional tuba player, who has won every academic school award multiple times, who will have 6 years of math, 8 ap's,4 dual credit college courses- in short the single hardest schedule ever taken at her school.

Our EFC should be around $20,000 which will be very difficult because of health considerations . That is all I will say. The profile is less favorable than Fafsa.

She is a good kid, she has long since passed by any goals I had set for her and is entirely self-motivated, and I want her to get what she wants in college as she has given up boyfriends, and beach trips , for books, basketball, and band. I won't fool myself by thinking there aren't twenty, thirty, or forty or more just like her on this board, it's just that this one is mine. I would appreciate your thoughts. ( I really wasn't going to do this here it just happened.LOL. )

By 3togo (3togo) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 03:00 pm: Edit

> I'm not talking about sacrificing a degree of fitness. I guess I really think this idea of "fit" is overrated and somewhat counterproductive. Just how "highly individual" do you mean? Specific major? Other interests? Personality?

hmm .. I agreed with your idea that each kid would be happy at many schools but I do think "fit" has a big play in this.

I doubt many kids would love both a small LAC in a rural town and also love a huge research university in a major city. The differences of those experiences are too great. It seems to me if a student figure out their "fit" on major dimensions ... city, suburban, or rural ... large, meduim, small ... narrow or broad academic focus ... then they will find lots of schools with that "fit" (and I do believe within that "fit" there are usually lots of possibilites).

So when I see someone stuck between picking Columbia and Middleury my first reaction is that this student has not thought about their "fit" because those schools are so radically different. If they have thinking about Haverford and Dartmouth that is grouping that makes more sense even though one if a LAC and one is an IVY.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 03:06 pm: Edit

Oh, D's PSAT ninth grade was a 186 index ( 91st percentile for Juniors ), and her PLAN in 10th was 99th percentile composite as if that says much. We'll know more soon.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 03:29 pm: Edit


From your description, it sounds like your daughter would be a good fit for Williams, of the northeast LACs. Socially, it sounds like a fit. And Williams' students have an above-average focus on pre-med and varsity athletics.

In the Southeast, I think Davidson is an obvious great fit as well.

There are many other schools that she'd enjoy, but those two really jump out at me from your description.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

I have visited Williams with her in the car as a 10 year old as my wife's aunt, a retired Barnard professor of dance, owns a farm in the Berkshires, in Washington, Mass. south of Pittsfield. I was very , very impressed.

Davidson does leap off the page ,doesn't it? We had a gloomy day, short visit where she was concerned about a feeling of being closed in, and not that happy with the urban sprawl that continues 20 minutes further out from Davidson, but she loved the campus , the town, and the kids.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:16 pm: Edit

Csbball -- your D sounds like an impressive and interesting young woman. If I were you, I'd visit a wide range of schools w/her, because the stereotypes are not always the reality, I think. And she sounds like she deserves a school where she can thrive and be challenged and happy. I believe being from a rural area will help in admissions at many of the more selective schools.

3togo -- I'm not sure I agree that a kid couldn't be happy at a small remote LAC and a university in a city (let's say Columbia v. Kenyon). Is it really the case that we can ONLY be happy in one single set of circumstances? I live in a great urban neighborhood which I love, but I'm pretty sure I could be quite happy in the country, too.

Finally, to those who have comment that prestige doesn't matter in certain arenas -- I don't disagree with that. I just think if you are making a decision among schools, wouldn't academic prestige be a big factor? I'm not saying going to Harvard is going to guarantee you anything (including a good education), but I am more prepared to pay $40K a year for Harvard than I am for Knox College (and I don't mean to knock this particular school, just that someone mentioned it above).

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:21 pm: Edit

Davidson's location is very interesting to me. From the campus or the quaint little town, you would think you are 800 miles from civilization. Yet, drive 10 minutes away and you are in the booming suburban New South of the Lake Norman area.

Of course, the Lake Norman area has its own unique identity. That is the epicenter of the NASCAR racing industry. Virtually every NASCAR driver lives in one of those fancy houses on Lake Norman and the vast majority of the race shops (huge sprawling industrial park palaces are within 15 minutes of Davidson.

Swarthmore is even more deceiving. On campus, there is no hint of civilization and when a house in the surrounding neighborhoods goes on the market, I suspect that you are looking at high 6-figure to 7-figure price tags. Yet, half a mile away is miracle-mile development with a mall, Target, Best Buy, etc. Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford the the other LACs that come to mind with a similar old-money close-in neighborhood feel. I'm really partial to these locations because those neighborhoods make such fabulous places to live with a combination of peace and quiet plus easy city access. The problem is that nobody can afford to buy in those neighborhoods!

Williams really is in the middle of nowhere. However, even that is a bit deceptive because of the popularity of the Berkshires as a summer retreat for the big-money NYC crowd. Actually, Williamstown is a wonderful place in the summertime.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:32 pm: Edit

Williams would be a great fit. Mount Holyoke would be also, except for the dating scene (but might make up for that with a perennial national champion equestrian team and horses?) The car at Williams is unnecessary, and even a hazard (winter and all.) Not much "volunteer" activity to be had at Williams, except for tutoring. EVERYONE stays on campus on weekends (there's no place to go!) The Williams MooCow band will be QUITE the change from the one she is in now. LOL!Tuba will be in demand, and there's lots of music. Lots of athletics, too.

Amherst might be a reasonable choice, too. More community-related activity, and less insular, but generally less athletics (though still some - the year Williams won the Div. 3 nat'l b-ball championship, Amherst was fourth.)

Skidmore might be a safety, and it has lots of horses, too. I really can't comment on its academics -- when I was at Williams 35 years ago, Skidmore was just a finishing school, but seems to have changed radically since.

She should get good advising at any of the good northeast LACs, provided she takes advantage of it.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:35 pm: Edit

Csbball -- I noticed you said large schools are out -- how large? Would 5-7K be acceptable? There are a lot of great schools, many difficult to get into of course, in that size range. (Chicago, where you mention last year's val went, is one of them).

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:00 pm: Edit

It's that Chicago part of that U of Chicago that kills it. LOL. Most larger LAC's and small uni's tend to be in cities, don't they? That size is not a problem, the city is. ( Remember she's the kid who loves the Honor's College at Ole Miss, or at least the idea of it, and it's set among 9000 students).

The mom would like nothing better than Mt. Holyoke, or Smith for that matter. D says nope. D likes the idea of a somewhat progressive campus atmosphere and has recently pruned Wash and Lee off the possibility tree. We are now just beginning to look at Hobart and Wm. Smith Colleges. Maybe a good compromise safety, but their stats don't seem that stellar.

Thanks for the thoughts and kind words. Compared to some I am sure she looks fairly plain with no published works , national awards, or other EC's that stand out and I am sure her high school profile will eliminate her from contention or even consideration at some schools.

It is what it is. We'll make the best of it. It was my choice to remove her from the private school bubble of only "better off" kids, and I'm still sure it was the correct thing to do, at least until the rejections start flying in.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:01 pm: Edit

>> The car at Williams is unnecessary

Actually, I think a car is a necessity at Williams because it is virtually impossible to get to anywhere without one. Back in the stone-ages when we went there, hitchhiking was an acceptable mode of transportation. But, not in this day and age.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:04 pm: Edit

But it's almost impossible to get anywhere (in a reasonable period of time) WITH one! (though it's nice to go snowshoeing around Charlemont....)

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:04 pm: Edit

How about Dartmouth? I know it has the "drunken jock" reputation, but it might be worth a look (I'm beginning to be more convinced that these reputations are not necessarily reflective of reality). I was thinking of it for my D as a good compromise -- university but a little smaller. The location and the reputation (sigh) put her off.

Don't know anything about its pre-med reputation.

Also, not to push my own D's school, but what about Brown? It is in a city, but Providence is a relatively small city and the university is up on a very nice, green hilltop (College Hill). Very nice area, with shops, etc nearby, but separated from the downtown (which is small anyway) by being up a steep hill.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:50 pm: Edit

>> (though it's nice to go snowshoeing around Charlemont....)

We lived in a spectacular house in Hoosaic Tunnel for a year. Climb all the way up the mountain east of North Adams, past the New Florida Lounge, and then down a windy one-lane switchback mountain road to the valley floor along the river towards the Yankee Atomic Plant, right next to the eastern end of the Hoosaic Tunnel. When the mountain road was impassible, the only way out was to wind along the river east toward Charlemont and pick up Route 2 there. Had a blast in that house.

I didn't do much snowshoing. We did take a couple of Flexible Flyers up Mt. Greylock after an ice storm and tried sleding down what was then a gravel road. We were lucky nobody was killed. I ended up in the trees, discretion got the better of valor, and passed on the second and third of my allotted runs!

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 07:54 pm: Edit

I (and 15 of my compatriots) built a geodesic dome on the side of the mountain between North Adams and Adams, which was used for two years by a summer camp. There was no road that came with 1 1/4 miles of the site, and we decided to build the dome on a platform mounted on creosoted telephone polls (this is, of course, 1971). Quite an engineering problem, as we didn't have a helicopter.

There was only one solution. In midwinter, with the snow 7 feet deep, we did the Egyptian thing and made a human harness, and pulled the poles up the mountain side with 15 of us on snowshoes. Took four days.

Some day, archaeologists are going to find the remains and go, "huh?"

Ah, what college kids will do for fun!

By Pmyen (Pmyen) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:30 pm: Edit

Rhonda-I agree that it is good for students to check out both universities and colleges before they apply. Ideally spending time overnight. My kids did visit a few universities but unfortunately did not give them a fair look, in my view. It seemed they had made up their mind based on what they saw on their limited visits. Perhaps a gut feeling? I also recommended that they take a good look at the honors program at our state university but they are/were determined to experience college a moderate distance from home. I guess that is another story...Thanks for the advice though.

Csbball and Cangel- Several years ago, I served on the medical school admissions committee at one of the top medical schools (at least by reputation!). I would say there was an advantage to students who did well as what were commonly regarded as academically rigorous schools. Whether fair or not, in most cases, these were the top universities and LACs. Top students from these schools were a proven commodity. Students from state unversities and less well known schools would have to be at the absolute top of their class and have stellar MCAT scores in order to be interviewed. Having fulfilled these criteria, though, these latter students definitely had similar odds after interview. Medical schools want diversity at many levels, including wide representation of colleges, however, they are unwilling to take a chance that someone will not complete his/her education due to academic or personal reasons.

Having said that, medicine is quite differnt than law where going to the right law school is critical for working for the right firm. It seems that certain law schools provide a built-in network for their graduates. In contrast, I think that one can get an excellent education at a state university and save a lot of money at the same time. In fact, some of the top medical schools are state schools-UCSF, UCLA, UMichigan. If a student was fortunate to be a resident in those states, I would definitely pick one of them over a top private medical school if finances were an important consideration. Given the cost of medical education, I would say that is the case for the vast majority of medical students. I think a similar case could potentially be made for choosing a less highly-regarded state school vs. a well-known private. I advised an outstanding college student who worked for me as a summer student to consider his state school UColorado over NYU if cost were a consideration.

Unless one is interested in going into a highly competitive subspecialty at one of the very top academic centers, where you go to medical school should not prevent you from doing whatever you want in medicine if you do reasonably well in medical school. There are more than enough good programs around the country in all fields and subspecialties. Last, with the exception of academic medicine (which I am a part of), where you go to medical school matters little to your practicing colleagues and patients. They are looking for responsible and compassionate care from their colleague or physician. By the way, I don't hang my diploma in my office as my patients rarely ask where I went to medical school.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:41 pm: Edit

Dartmouth and Princeton have been D's favorite dream schools for a while and only recently has the allure started to fade for Princeton just a little (but she hasn't visited).They are financial reaches , and statistical reaches but maybe....D really was excited at the suggestion of Williams, also a financial and statistical reach, but at least she has a chance to play ball and has a relative near for a home cooked meal and a place to spend the short breaks when everybody else is getting flown to Aspen. (Just kidding) As everyone else seems to be lowering their sights D seems to be raising hers, at least for her reaches.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:46 pm: Edit

PMYEN, excellent post and I will pass it on. The voice of experience is always welcome.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:00 am: Edit

Pmyen, my post got lost in cyberland - I couldn't agree with you more. It hurts my heart to read posts from so many kids who want to be physicians, and who don't have any inkling about how the system works. They set themselves up to make very poor financial choices without understanding that these choices will determine what residency/specialty they can pursue, where they can practice, etc. All without realizing that it truly doesn't matter as much where you go to med school as how well you do in med school. Not enough to go 100K in debt.

You almost answered the question that I have in relation to my daughter - if you go to a school like Swarthmore or Univ of Chicago, and you have an A-/B average,rather than a straight A average at the local school - is the candidate's record evaluated with consideration of the rigor of the school? I DO NOT think that this the reason to choose not to go to an academically rigorous school, but it is good to know what she would be facing.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:12 am: Edit

The president of Swarthmore College addressed this issue during Freshman orientation. He says medical schools do take into account the degree of difficulty in getting an A, B+ at Swarthmore, U Chicago, Caltech etc. and factor that in their decision.

There is a lot of discussion on CC about this, especially in the Medical School Admissions forum.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

And med school placement rates are high from these colleges. 87% for Swarthmore, I think.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:53 am: Edit

Medical school admissions have gotten continually easier over the past decade or so, and students who wouldn't have stood a prayer 20 years ago are regularly admitted.

The prestigious school vs. state u. for medical school is a total red herring. Certainly the student at Swarthmore or wherever with an A average will likely have an easier time than the A student at Podunk. But the same student at Swat with a B average is likely an A student at Podunk, hence obviating any advantage.

Of course, the real question is how to pay for it, and whether it is even desirable. At Yale (for example - it is similar, but less extreme at the other Ivies), the percentage of grads. entering med school upon graduation dropped from 17% in 1975 to 6% in 2002, a 65% decline (this is on Yale's website - office of institutional research.) The students at Yale today are certainly no worse than they used to be. Some wait a year or two before applying (just as they do at other schools -- often discouraged by the school itself to apply in their senior years.) But they are more likely not to see med school as a desirable destination, and the slack has more than been picked up by the grads of ;restige LACs and Podunks of the world, where the gap has been rapidly narrowed.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:55 am: Edit

Cangel and PMYEN, this conversation is worth it's weight in gold to me. D has told me recently that her fever to attend THE top undergrad has faded as she has realized that if she goes to any number of quality schools, performs at a 3.6 level, and does well on the MCAT , she can achieve her goal of acceptance at UT-Galveston, or Southwestern as she has always intended to "come home" for med school as she desires to be a treater, in a surgical specialty. The pressure to attend THE exactly correct undergrad has been relieved.

Originally D had her sights sat on not only THE highest rated undergrad, but THE major that would be "best" in her naive but aggressive way of thinking. First the idea of THE major has been dispelled , and recently the idea of THE school is being broght into Q.

I look forward to hearing PMYEN's response to Cangel's q. Thanks for letting me eavesdrop. This is so much better than a guidebook! y'all are interactive. LOL.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 11:07 am: Edit

That kind of came out wrong. She has not set her sites lower on her undergrad, or a challenging major, it's just that selecting Johns Hopkins where she might be less than happy, and whatever their hardest science major is that she may not be as enthused about, has been replaced somewhat by a more holistic approach to her education.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 11:18 am: Edit

There is another "med school advantage" at the prestigious u. or LAC that isn't talked about much, but is quite significant. The student at Swat or Yale or wherever is much, much more likely to come from a family with money and/or a family with a parent who is a professional (doctor, lawyer, etc.) than one who goes to Podunk. Indeed, the lack of funds and/or professional in the family is often the reason why the Swat or Yale admit chooses to go to Podunk. A student from a wealthier, professional family is much, much more likely a) to go to the prestige school, and b) to either have the money to attend and/or be willing to take on addditional debt for professional school, and the financial and emotional support to do so.

It rubs off on poorer students, too. Remember that the prestige of a school is largely determined by the number of wealthy families who send their sons and daughters there. If you hobknob with wealthier folks, chances are more likely that you will take on their habits and attitudes, including a statistically higher likelihood of entering one of the professions.

Now, this is much less true for grad schools, which are often paid for with fellowships and assistantships. Correcting for entering SAT score, which are also heavily affected by family income, (and hence just looking at the value-added of the school), there is no question really that the top schools in the country are not Yale, Harvard, U. Chicago, Princeton, Swarthmore, Amherst, and Williams, but rather Hope, Kalamazoo, Earlham, and Beloit. (note that they are all LACs, just not the ones we usually think of.)

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 01:24 pm: Edit

>> Compared to some I am sure she looks fairly plain with no published works , national awards, or other EC's that stand out and I am sure her high school profile will eliminate her from contention or even consideration at some schools.

I just want to comment on this. I learned from watching the application cycle unfold this year that this is a misconception. In my opinion, this myth is perpetuated by people who forgot to look at the single-digit acceptance rates at exactly five schools in the United States and needed to rationalize why they didn't get accepted, when the answer was right there in the numbers all along.

Once you move outside of these five schools, perfectly "average" valedictorians and salutatorians from perfectly "average" high schools get accepted to the very best colleges and universities in the country without being "walk on water" applicants.

If you've got a top class rank (let me repeat that for emphasis, IF YOU'VE GOT A TOP CLASS RANK), good test scores, and can put together a coherent application, getting into elite colleges is not that mysterious or unpredictable. So far, of the four or five Swarthmore freshmen I know about in a little detail, I haven't seen stuff that would necessarily stand out as "world class" ECs here on the "What are my Changes" lists, other than the fact that each student communicated a certain zeal and insight about the things he or she enjoyed. My daughter's best friend who is going to Williams was valedictorian and a stellar student, but she had fairly "normal" ECs -- math team, Science fair, music/orchestra, etc. She got an "early write" acceptance in the regular decision round.

IMO, if you are in the top 1% of your class, with 75th percentile test scores for your college, bring some personality to life in the essays, and show some degree of consideration to "fit" in the "Why Podunk U?" answer, you have a very, very high likelihood of acceptance at any college or univeraity that doesn't have a single-digit (or near single-digit) acceptance rate. From watching my fellow CCers and other friends of the family this year, I am not aware of a valedictorian/salutatorian getting rejected by any college other than Havard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, or Stanford.

I'm not absolutely sure about this, but my hunch is that coming from an "average" public high school works to the student's advantage in many cases. Personally, I think pitching a public school valedictorian growing up on a ranch in Texas to a northeast elite college would be about as good as it gets in terms of "identity".

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 01:42 pm: Edit


I'm glad that your D has stopped thinking in terms of THE school and THE major. There are now many more paths to med school than there used to be; the trick is to take pre med courses without necessarily being a pre-med major. Someone I knew was a social studies major at Harvard, though he kept his sight trained on future grad school. He told me that college was his chance to explore topics he would not have the time for later. He spent a year abroad; part of his time was spent on an archaeological dig. He wrote his senior thesis on archaeology and politics. He also took a number of pre-med type courses. After graduation, he worked in the health field for a couple of years (he'd done lots of health-related community service while in college) and got admitted to JHU med school. He wrote to me recently to let me know he's graduated from JHU and has moved to Stanford. Twenty years ago, this kind of trajectory would have been unheard of.
There are plenty of great LACs with strong science departments that would be very suitable for your D. The thread on LACs with merit aid might be good to check out.

By Dke (Dke) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 02:19 pm: Edit

Emptynester and Cangel....both of you have succinctly described in one or two paragraphs the mentality I've encountered "down here" in Florida about the Northeast, Ivies, LACs, etc...As a "yankee" I'd never met so many people who thought it would just fine to stay down here instate ...and when I'd ask parents if maybe they'd consider a place like Yale (??) they looked at me as if I had two heads.....its a regional mentality, but as one of you pointed out, so are the Northerners who'd never THINK of sending their kids south of the Mason Dixon line....

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 02:34 pm: Edit

We broke the "northern mentality" mold! We actually sent our kid down south. (and this is a kid who went to a very preppy New England high school, which is typically a feeder school to very preppy New England LAC and Ivy League schools!) He actually wanted a change. Warmer climate and culture.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:02 pm: Edit

Random thoughts:

The reason, IMO, the advantages of a selective school with competitive academics is the opportunity to grow and develop as an intellectual person, to meet some incredibly fascinating peers, and learn just whatever with a freedom that us working stiffs just don't have.

Mini, the desireability of med school has waxed and waned through the years and will continue to do so. I think several profound changes are going on in doctor supply, some positive, some negative, some permanent, and the US doesn't know yet wha the outcome will be - aging baby boomers, limits on resident work hours, 50% women in med school, and crushing debt - expectations of people finishing residency are changing, we (physicians) can't see yet where it is leading our profession.

Csbb - I'll get flamed for this, but Johns Hopkins (a wonderful school, no mistake) is about the only place I would tell my daughter "don't go there for pre-med, it's a mistake". She is not sure medicine is for her, and I've tried hard to offer her neutral exposure, pushing the idea of majoring in whatever makes you excited, make a start on prereqs, but don't sacrifice your education for MCAT prep, you might want to be a lawyer (a real possibility for her) or go into business. An overly competitive environment is not for her, and neither is a large lecture hall full of gunner pre-meds looking to see who will fall first.

Dke, we are all much more regional than we would like to think, maybe we can all do with a little consciousness raising about quality and opportunity in another backyard.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:14 pm: Edit

Cangel -- I went to JHU for two years as a pre-med and I wholeheartedly agree with your advice. They were the two most miserable years of my life, and I dropped out of college after that (eventually finished somewhere else). My experience is of course outdated (I was there from 81-83) so it is worth exploring the situation now, but based on my own experience twenty-plus years ago, I agree with your advice to your D.

I should also note that my H went to JHU, majored in a non-science field, did very well and liked it. I consider it an excellent school with fantastic academics and would encourage anyone to go there for anything OTHER than pre-med.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:19 pm: Edit

JHU is well-known for it's creative writing program (writing seminar). My son looked into it for the writing program but did not like the location since he's been there for 2 summers.

By Garland (Garland) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:24 pm: Edit

Cangel, I'm always a little surprised to hear that children of MDs are considering med school. My kids grew up amidst their dad's med school, residency, and physician experiences, and not for one moment did either one of them want to be a doctor.

In fact, he's starting classes this week to get a teaching certificate--he's ready to get out of the field himself.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:24 pm: Edit

We did look into JHU, for size, reputation, and location, and it does seem to have a lot to offer and the school seems interested in capturing "non-pre-meds". The problem for her was the intensity and size of the pre-med classes was a big turn-off, in effect closing off that option.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

Dke, thinking about Florida: while investigating honors colleges at state schools several years ago, the one at Gainesville really impressed me from the on-line descriptions; I never got there to visit and have no first hand knowledge but my memory is that they offer mentor relationships, travel/research opportunities and promise of publication of student research. Someone on this board will know the details, but anyway from the description and the highlighted student bios, I couldn't imagine anything much better for the intensely focused student, providing the appropriate faculty were available there. And of course it doesn't cost $42000 per yr!

A couple of parents have posted about looking for places their students will be comfortable and expressed concern with the academic quality of the student body. Recently I heard a Swat student say, "college is the first time I got to be around people like me." Some colleges attract intense students. But some prestige schools discussed on this board, although they have lots of extremely bright high achievers don't necessarily have students that engaged in their studies. The greater emphasis may be on their ec's. It may be on their social life. I don't think that is a bad thing or a negative to the schools but it does seem to me important to realize that difference. At some schools the students, because of their life experiences will be more sophisticated and that does change the campus culture imho-- again not a judgement call.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

"The reason, IMO, the advantages of a selective school with competitive academics is the opportunity to grow and develop as an intellectual person, to meet some incredibly fascinating peers, and learn just whatever with a freedom that us working stiffs just don't have."

Here, here! I'll drink to that! (and I don't drink...)

"Mini, the desireability of med school has waxed and waned through the years and will continue to do so. I think several profound changes are going on in doctor supply, some positive, some negative, some permanent, and the US doesn't know yet wha the outcome will be - aging baby boomers, limits on resident work hours, 50% women in med school, and crushing debt - expectations of people finishing residency are changing, we (physicians) can't see yet where it is leading our profession."

I think we are seeing a true sea-change, and who knows where it is leading? If Yalies are a leading indicator, the future is going to be much different from the past.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 03:19 pm: Edit

CSB - I think your daughter has a good list of schools but there are a few others I might also recommend. First, Knox College in Illinois has a very good pre-med program. In fact, they have a special program where a certain number of students are automatically guaranteed admission into Rush Medical College in Chicago if they maintain a certain GPA during their years at Knox. This program is unique in that it allows these students to also apply to other med schools as well. Might be worth a look. It's a nice, very friendly school with enough quirky people to make it interesting I think.

She might also want to take a quick look at St. Olaf in Minnesota - excellent science programs. It's a bit larger than your typical LAC - 3000 students - which is nice. It is a Lutheran school but word I have from several sources is that the religious aspect is not overwhelming. The opportunities for study abroad are absolutely superb, even for science majors. Really, I think St. Olaf has the most interesting and comprehensive school-run program out there.

A third school she might find attractive is Whitman College in Washington State - again, very good science program, good med school track record, very social and welcoming school with excellent very personalized advising.

And, finally, Southwestern U in Texas has an excellent reputation for getting kids into med schools.

By Megsdad (Megsdad) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 05:03 pm: Edit

Your description of your daughter was interesting and rang a bell with me. Our family(and specifically my daughter) spent over two years researching and sending apps to 12 schools. Some of the same schools you mentioned were on her list...Davidson,Vanderbilt, Williams, Amherst, William and Mary, Duke, Smith, Mt Holyoke, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley to name some of them. She was accepted to all and chose Wellesley.
She comes from the southeast, tops in her class from a small rural school, great ec's, and is also a Methodist. She is a musician, a dancer and loves the outdoors. She also carried the heaviest load in the history of our school and is strongly interested in medicine.
We visited many of the schools (most actually) and found Wellesley to be a wonderful fit for her. It is located on a 500 acre lakeside campus that is unbelieveable (12 miles from Boston).
The pre-med program is outstanding. As a first year she met and planned out what was needed for medical/dental/vet admissions during the first week with a special advisory group. They have a financial program that pretty well says if you get in they will find a way for you to pay for it.
We took her there 2 weeks ago and so far she is loving every minute of it. I realize there will be some "down times" coming, but as a family we have commented many times that Wellesley was definitely the right choice for her.
Just a might be worth checking it out.

By Mauretania (Mauretania) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit

I was pleased to hear your daughter's doing well at Wellesley. I remembered her as she was a southerner heading north as my daughter did (NYC).

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

Megsdad and csbb- I'm so envious, our 3 daughters sound like they are cut from the same cloth (except mine is 4'9" and uncoordinated, so basketball and most other sports are, excuse the pun sweetie, out of reach - she likes messing around in boats), even down to being Methodist!
I could NOT get her to look at Wellesley for love or money, she just would not go see it, even when we drove right past. I thought it would be a great fit, with a very good chance of acceptance, but no women's schools for her.
A lovely young lady from our church is a freshman at Wellesley this fall, tell your daughter to look for other Methodist Southerners!

By Pmyen (Pmyen) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit

Cangel and Achat-In general, an A average from Swarthmore will certainly get an admissions committee's attention. Getting a B/B+ average will probably get you into medical school somewhere. I would say that such an average would translate to an A/A- from a typical state school with exceptions from schools like UC Berkeley, UVA, etc. which probably fit in between. Students at state schools can enhance their transcript by taking honors program courses and graduate level courses. Med schools, like colleges, want to see that you took the most challenging curriculum possible wherever you went to school.

I agree with Mini and Cangel that med school and med school admissions have changed. The number of male applicants has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years and it is the influx of female applicants that has kept the academic requirements of admission high across the board. As an example, when I graduated from medical school, 15% of my classmates were women. This year's entering class is 53% women. I agree with Cangel that the influx of women has and will continue to change to practice of medicine.

I also want to point out there is virtually no financial aid for medical school. In that sense, it has been difficult to encourage economically disadvantaged students and URMs to apply to medical school. Except for those few students whose parents, are willing to pay 150Kears or more after training. From a pure investment point of view, the return on a medical education is not what it used to be. This fact and perhaps a more realistic view of medicine than say the Dr. Kildare/Marcus Welby eras, has led to a decline in medical school applications among males. On the other hand, I would say that it also has helped build a pool of applicants more interested in medicine for idealistic reasons rather than income and prestige. I think candidates are willing to put in long hours of training and work because they enjoy it and can be of service to their patients.

Sticking to the original theme of LAC/elite colleges vs university w/r to medical school admissions, I would make the following observations. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and they also may depend on the particular student.

LACs-Classes are smaller (freshman chemistry might have 100 students compared to 1000+ at at state university); more personal education so profs can write more informed letters of recommendation. The premed counseling programs also are individualized so students usually get better advice and a more polished application from the premed committee or advisor. As someone has already alluded, the top LACs place a high number of their applicants into medical school. I think Amherst, Williams, Haverford, Davidson, Wellesley all have 80 or even 90%+ placement of their graduates. Additionally, unlike the experience at some places like JHU undergrad where 30% of the class at premed, there is less "weeding out" of students who are interested in medicine. Students at top LACs know that if they are at least a very good student, they will get in. The one major negative factor is that there may be less clinical/research/or volunteer opportunities at an LAC due to its size or location.

At at state university, the applicant needs to be at or near the top. He/she would have to have MCAT scores comparable to students from other top schools. Having said that, I would imagine a B+ student at Swarthmore or Yale would likely be an A student at Penn State or Univ. Florida so I don't think going to a state school hurts such a student's chances. However, I think it would be more difficult to get good advice as the premed advisors are probably more busy as they have to advise more students. Students thus would have to be more proactive about finding out where to apply and how to strengthen their application. On the other hand, research opportunities usually abound, particularly if the student is a science major. Also, many state schools and large private unversities will take a fair number of graduates from their undergraduate college. It is preference on one hand; on the other hand, it also is based upon knowing their own students and their own curriculum.

I would advise students to go to a school environment where they think they can do well with the caveat that they will need higher grades and competitive MCAT scores if they choose the large university route. One last point, many students are applying after taking some time off to work or pursue other educational interests. Working in a meaningful (preferably medically-relevant) activity (e.g., research, clinical, teaching, Peace Corps, etc) can strengthen the application of a good student who might not have been accepted previously or is on the margin for acceptance. As I said earlier, medical schools want to make sure everyone of their students can handle the work. In addition to being able to meet the academic requirements, they seek personal maturity. Hope this helps.

By Pmyen (Pmyen) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

Except for those few students whose parents, can and are willing to pay 150K again, most students will incur signficant debt that may not be paid off until 10 years or more after training.

Sorry, typo in third paragraph of my last post.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

Ah yes Wellesley- the path not taken, as my daughter turned it down.

I think I read someplace above that social life and dating opportunities were considerations. If so, I trust she will investigate all these places thoroughly. Make sure she asks someone there what "the #### truck" is. I found the idea completely degrading, as did my daughter.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 07:24 pm: Edit

For what it's worth (purely a single anecdote), my step-nephew is going to med. school this year. Slightly under a B- average at Brandeis, slightly better than average MCATs. No groundbreaking research, or famous profs for recommendations. Didn't have to go far from home either - med school is close to New York City. Twenty years ago he'd be in Grenada. Just has to pay the bill.

My sense is that my alma mater Williams, like Yale, is sending far, far fewer pre-meds on to med school than 25 years ago. Close to 100% of them are getting in, but the total number applying directly from undergrad is lower. And the weeding out is taking place in a different way. It used to be that they graded intro bio or organic chem on a strict curve, thus getting rid of 60% of the premeds the first year or so. Now, they simply tell a whole bunch not to go directly from undergrad, but take some time off, do some research, etc., etc. The rate of admissions thus remains unsullied, but many of the students who didn't even apply might have gotten in easily had they gone to Podunk.

Who knows?

By Momrath (Momrath) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 06:12 am: Edit

I finally had the time to wade through this thread. A lot of interesting tangents. All I can say from personal experience was that a large university was wrong for me and a small LAC seems to be just right for my son. (My husband went to art school and thus avoided the argument altogether.)

Csbballstardad, I'm glad to hear that your daughter is interested in Williams, among others. It sounds like a good fit covering just about all of her "wants". I especially endorse the requirement "She wants the kids to want to be there, not somewhere else." as a Williams given. Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 08:40 am: Edit

pmyen -- your LAC/uni comparison seems to be lac vs. state uni.

also, csb, it sounds like your D is set on med school. but i would never bet $$ on a 17-year old not changing her mind, esp during 4y of college when kids often undergo a lot of changes and mature significantly. so it seems to me that while med school placement should be a consideration, overall academic excellence should be just as important.

this is from a former dedicated pre-med who ended up dropping all her science classes and ended up going to law school.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 10:04 am: Edit

"Except for those few students whose parents, can and are willing to pay 150K again, most students will incur signficant debt that may not be paid off until 10 years or more after training."

Yep. This was us. My H started med school with a toddler at home, and another born while he was there. Graduated in 87 about 100,000 in debt (many of the loans accrued interest during med school and part of residency--and some were 12 or 15 percent!) It's doable, and anyone who graduates can make enough money to pay it off, IF, and it's a big "if", they don't have delusions of a lavish lifestyle. H is a pediatrician on a mobile clinic van; well-paid, but certainly one of the lesser paying areas of medicine. The loans were paid off a couple years before D started college. In order to do so, we've never raised our "lifestyle" to much above residency level. Which is ok, because he didn't go into it for the money. But my point is that you don't have to have med school paid for by family; even the less monetarily respected specialities like pediatrics will cover the loans, providing you don't have an inflated idea of "appropriate" lifestyle.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit

Yep, and I have no experience base to judge what those changes will be. Will she be more accepting of cities? sororities? No idea. I guess there's still time to fall in love with a bass player, too.

By Stanfordman99 (Stanfordman99) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 02:43 pm: Edit

"From watching my fellow CCers and other friends of the family this year, I am not aware of a valedictorian/salutatorian getting rejected by any college other than Havard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, or Stanford."

I am a valedictorian and I got accepted into Harvard, Yale, and Stanford but got rejected from Caltech. So there you go, here's one valedictorian who got rejected by a college other than HYPSM. Yay!

By Garland (Garland) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 03:28 pm: Edit

Go to, search 2007 or 2008 classes for a list of vals, then randomly look at what schools students were rejected or accepted to. You'd be surprised where vals get rejected--just with a random look, I saw Duke, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Vanderbilt, Emory, etc. This was only searching vals going into class of 08; I'd assume sals would show similar or more non-big five rejections. And these are kids whose SATs are all extremely high, on top of val status.

Sure, vals are more likely to be accepted, but it's a fairly large exaggeration to say they can get in anywhere non-HYPSM.

By Mysticwistful (Mysticwistful) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

I agree with Interesteddad. Valedictorians are almost always guaranteed admission to schools like Johns Hopkins, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Emory unless they have dismal SAT scores or something. I doubt a val with a 1500+ and decent ECs would get rejected by any non-HYPSMC school.

The "sexy sextuplet" of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Caltech, and MIT are always a crapshoot, but valedictorians have so many other schools to choose from that I think they needlessly worry about not getting into a good college.

By Deferreddude (Deferreddude) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 03:46 pm: Edit

I don't know if valedictorians are guaranteed admission to EVERY non HYPSMC school. Places like Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, and Upenn (where the acceptance rate is in the teens) are also highly competitive. However I might agree that a valedictorian should be guaranteed admission to at least one of the other competitive schools like Johns Hopkins, Emory, Vanderbilt, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and possibly Cornell.

By Bluejay (Bluejay) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 04:02 pm: Edit

I guess I don't understand all of the hoopla about the valedictorian. At our school (500 + in each class) the top ten or so kids are usually separated by tenths of a point. Does it really make that much difference if the val has a 98.50 and the number 5 student has a 98.25? What am I missing here?

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 04:48 pm: Edit

"However I might agree that a valedictorian should be guaranteed admission to at least one of the other competitive schools like Johns Hopkins, Emory, Vanderbilt, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and possibly Cornell."

That is the most ridiculous statement I have seen on this board. Just because a kid is valedictorian it doesn't mean that their other qualifications meet the requirements of these schools. Most of the schools listed like to see something other than grades. Particularly important are EC's, test scores, essays, (personality) etc. The fact that a kid is valedictorian also says nothing about the rigor of the high school they attend. Not all valedictorians are equal!

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 05:20 pm: Edit

Sokkermom, as someone who occasionally uses hyperbole to make a point, I understand what made you say "most ridiculous statement" line. May I suggest you visit the politically oriented threads in College Cafe for a refresher course in what is truly ridiculous? LOL.

To the point at hand though, just so I'll know where you're coming from, where does your sokkerkid rate in their class? Just wondering.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit

daughters school didnt have valedictorians per se. 18 kids in graduating class in an urban private prep school? What would be the point? They didnt rank either the course work and grades were supposed to speak for themselves I think.
During graduation several people did speak, and several sang or danced or both but with such a small class it is hard to say "this person is the smartest and most deserving" ( actually if you did have to pick someone, you probably would have picked the one who still hasnt even gone to college, he taught school in Ulithi for 2 years and is now a recruiter for the Marines. Deep springs would be perfect for him, but after almost 3 years on an island that didn't even have it's own shortwave radio, he might not "get" it.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 05:43 pm: Edit

OT (sort of): Medical school applications in 2003 were down 26% from the recent peak in 1996.
I believe that 2004 applications are down again, but I can't verify that.

"In 2003, graduates of private medical schools had incurred a median debt of $135,000, while the median amount of debt for graduates of public medical schools was $100,000."

As a two MD family we have successfully steered our Ds away from considering medicine. I am sorely conflicted when I encounter a young person who expresses an interest in the field. I don't think it is my place to dash their earnest hopes and dreams but I try to make sure that their expectations have some grounding in the reality of the field today.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 07:09 pm: Edit


#1 sokkerkid graduated from a rigorous high school that did not rank. They did not recognize valedictorians. (He definitely would not have been valedictorian there.) He was in the top "quintile", a distinction his school used.

However, had he attended the local public high school he may have had a chance at being "valedictorian". The courseload at the public school would have been much easier. I would not have expected him to be accepted at some of the above referenced schools based simply on that fact. In fact, history has shown that the valedictorians from the local high school have been rejected from most of the schools listed over the past few years. The point I am trying to make is that even if you are valedictorian, that fact alone will not guarantee you admission to any competitive colleges.

By Csbballstardad (Csbballstardad) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 08:26 pm: Edit

I do not believe all valedictorians are equal, either. Class rank is one measure that adcom's can use. I personally believe it says something about a child's fortitude rather than as a judge of intelligence.

No matter the rigor of a particular high school the student who takes the hardest courseload and makes the highest grades is undoubtedly a student you can count on as being determined, and consistent over subject matter and over time. I would appreciate knowing that if I was trying to learn all I could about a prospective student.

It is not a given that a valedictorian of a particular high school is the "smartest kid" in that high school ( I guess statistically it would be unlikely), but it is 100% certain they are focused, disciplined, driven and goal-oriented.

AP test scores and ,if taken, SATII scores fill in some questions about content mastery. Now with EC's to further determine personality and purpose, and the ACT (or SAT) to measure whatever it measures, and an essay or 3 , maybe a picture starts to form. Without that class rank as an indicator , the factors I believe it measures will have to be determined from the EC's and essays. I propose that that will be a more difficult task. BTW my D is #2 in her class by .003 (so I know how minute the differences can be), but that bell hasn't rung. LOL.

If a college chooses to value SAT -type intelligence in their formula more than the other factors, I have no problem with that, but that is not how I'd do it. In my large urban school district of 1974 the highest SAT scorer from my high school scored an almost perfect score. He was not able to use the score to his full advantage as he was unfortunately removed from school prior to graduation for attendance problems resulting from his unfortunate incarceration for burglarizing a drugstore.

True story. Each element of the search is designed to uncover hints and measures of personality, skills, intelligence, drive, and a myriad of other traits. What a particular school chooses to value is up to them and it is clear not all value every element the same. I submit that is probably as it should be. JMO.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 11:23 pm: Edit

Just to be clear. I didn't say that valedictorians or salutatorians are GUARANTEED anything. I simply said that valeditorians and salutatorians get accepted at these schools regularly. It still takes a half-way decent application and a student that isn't blatantly dullsville.

Keep in mind that I don't use the newfangled PC definitions of words. When I say "valedictorian", I mean the number one ranked kid in the class -- not one of 50 kids given the title by some fuzzy-headed feel-good educational self-esteem theory. For example, there are magnet schools in California that call anyone with all A's a valedictorian and anyone with all A's but one B a salutatorian. Nonsense.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:28 am: Edit

There are three particularly interesting facets in the data about med. school applications. 1) There is a 26% decline in the number of applications. But the trend in all college and university applicants is an increase in the number of applications submitted by each individual. So the number of individuals applying to med. school likely may have declined by 40% or more! 2)While there has been a decline in applications, and likely a greater decline in the number of applicants, there has been an increase in the number of medical school slots. 3) The largest percentage decline is in the northeast states - where all the Ivies, and the bulk of the prestigious LACs are, and where the bulk of their students come from. As I've previously noted with respect to the Yale data, the quality of students in the LACs and Ivies (like Yale) is not likely declining. Rather, med. school is a less desirable destination, and the slack is likely being picked up by students from less prestigious schools, and state schools.

Conclusion? Med school just isn't that hard to get into any more -- paying for it IS. The advantage offered by the prestige schools to the average med school is likely shrinking., not because they have declined in quality, but the quality gap is also shrinking (for pre-meds).

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:47 am: Edit

My dad, the retired phsyician and med school professors swears that there are way too many doctors and that the fundamental flaw with our health care system is over-supply and attempting to pay for too much medical care for too many people. By that he doesn't mean that everyone shouldn't get basic medical care, but that the over-supply encourages hideously expensive procedures on people whose prognosis would be just the same if you did little or nothing. Whether it's running to the doctor's office at the slightest sniffle or heart-bypass surgery, his contention is that the medical system is delivering far more specialist "treatment" than is really desireable.

I remember him talking decades ago about how the system cannot continue to absorb all the docs the medical schools continue to churn out.

BTW, I am not a lawyers' kid, but I suspect that we, as a society, would be better off with fewer of them, too!

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:54 am: Edit

And my community there is now a shortage of primary care docs. We have essentially close to "a single provider" system. Instead of single payer with a flexible choice of providers, we have a single HMO that dominates the entire community.

Yet, in the rural areas of the state, there are no docs, except those imported from India (where there is truly an oversupply, even though it is much tougher to get into med. school than here), Pakistan, even Afghanistan.

Probably an oversupply of docs who went to Yale, though (LOL)! They simply won't work where we need 'em! (defending myself against brickbats by heading to the greenzone....)

By Monydad (Monydad) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

There is a fancy well-to-do subdivision near me,the ritziest in our whole city, and it is packed with doctors. It is practically a dorm for doctors.

The other people who live there are for the most part people who have successfully taken business risks, started businesses, succeeded above all others in their large companies, etc.

But the doctors just go to work every day and do their jobs. They take no business risk. They don't even have to be particularly good at what they do to live in this subdivision, unlike the other residents, they just have to be doing it at all it seems. Their financial success at some relatively high floor level seems virtually guaranteed to me, whereas most of these other people are exposed to real business and job risk on a perpetual basis.

Most people would gladly take a large loan if the enterprise it is funding has a near-guaranteed payoff. There is little or no business risk involved, unlike virtually everyone else in our society.

If there was truly an oversupply of doctors in my area then more of them would be living in my subdivision instead of that other one.

Until I see them moving across the street from me, figuratively speaking at least, I will not be crying for them. Not at all.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:20 am: Edit


Is there truly an oversupply of doctors in India, or is it more like here, perhaps an oversupply in cities and a shortage in rural areas, except that there are more rural areas in India than in the US? I find it hard that there are too many doctors in India. The recent elections cured us of thinking that India was Bangalore on a larger scale.

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:44 am: Edit

I think in India it is like here, a true shortage is rural areas and an oversupply in cities. I know this because my cousin is here from India. In the West Bengal system where he went to college, any doctor who enters the system has to mandatorily serve in rural areas for 5-10 years. The area where he was assigned is truly unlivable at least by his standards. He decided to move to the US.

There are lots of people I know who did the same. In India, (at least in West Bengal) a doctor can work in a city by setting up private practise independent of the medical system or conform to the medical system and be moved to rural areas.

Trust me, there aren't enough doctors in rural areas in India. I still know that women die in childbirth in rural areas of Bihar. And people die of diseases that they shouldn't be dying of.

India is truly a country of contradictions.

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:52 am: Edit

And my uncle who moved here as a doctor during Vietnam, was practising in our semi-rural suburb of Calcutta and was frustrated. He decided to take the ECFMG and come here. He never went back.

The other states don't have mandatory service after medical school. The mandatory service is there in West Bengal because WB is a Marxist ruled state.

In other areas of India there is a huge shortage in rural areas and people dying of very curable diseases.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:08 am: Edit

Monydad, many of those docs fit into the "big hat, no cattle" group. Then there is the Doctor 90210 group, they manage to stay out of managed care.

Interesteddad, you are describing "excess demand", but last time i checked we lived in a wealthy democracy, and, good or bad, when the public has excess demand, the marketplace will supply it. This is only one of several factors increasing the cost of health care, and, but we "have met the enemy and he is us" definitely is true, and is probably the most difficult to do anything about. A good case in point - my hospital, last week, for the most cardiac caths they had ever had in a single day, due in no small part to our ex-Pres - these people all had chest pain, who should have waited?

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit


Thanks. That's what I thought. The discrepancy between urban and rural areas is far greater in developing countries than in the more developed ones, though it still exists in the latter. In a place like Boston, MA, it's easy to speak of an oversupply of doctors, but you don't have to travel far to know that this is not the case everywhere.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:28 am: Edit

no you don't have to travel far
virtually all the poor counties in USA are rural.

More than 20 million people in the United States live in areas that have a shortage of physicians to meet their basic health care needs.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:09 am: Edit

" Mini:

Is there truly an oversupply of doctors in India, or is it more like here, perhaps an oversupply in cities and a shortage in rural areas, except that there are more rural areas in India than in the US? I find it hard that there are too many doctors in India. The recent elections cured us of thinking that India was Bangalore on a larger scale."

It varies widely, place to place. In most rural parts of Tamil Nadu, one trips over a doctor every three hundred yards. (the real shortage is in public health - that would require me to write a dissertation on Indian culture, but I don't have time.) My adopted sister runs a pediatric wing of a public hospital south of Chennai (Madras) and the real shortage is not in medical workers, but in clean water and lack of blankets. My adopted brother, a public health doc and psychiatrist, works in Cambodia providing services to war victims, etc. When he lived in Tamil Nadu, he refused to carry a physician's bag, and instead would go on long campaigns regarding water supplies. Malaria remains the biggest health problem in many areas, with most strains resistant to western meds.

Bihar (where I haven't been in 25 years) is a different story altogether. Imagine the worst of Appalachia, Indian style. Then add little private armies of thugs and politicians.

Then in certain parts of India (rural Gujarat is a good example), there may be plenty of docs, but Hindus will only see the Hindu doc, Muslims the Muslim doc, etc. So there is a shortage, but an artificial one.

The training on Indian docs, combined with the number of kinds of conditions they see, tends to be excellent. Selectivity into medical schools is hugely difficult. My sister was invited to head the U.N. medical missions in East Africa - seems they are pushing all the American doctors out, as they are not adequately trained (on the whole) to deal with the very wide range of conditions that are seen (and have difficulty operating without the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment.) This is a generalization, of course, but one with which the U.N. is now operating, based on their experience.

The irony in all this of course is that India (and, specfically the Indian government) for the past 30 years has hugely been subsidizing the American health system, providing a very substantial number of residents, interns, and docs in rural and underserved areas. It's simply part of their "foreign aid" budget (LOL!)

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:58 am: Edit

States like Orissa, Bihar, the north eastern regions like Assam, rural West Bengal don't have doctors. Same with rural parts of Rajasthan. The young boy who works in my mother's house in West bengal has a sister dying early of childbirth. It is not just Bihar.

I don't know where you come off saying there is an oversupply!

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

Tamil Nadu is a relatively prosperous region of the country, by the way.

And selectivity in public medical schools is very high, it is very hard to get into but you can easily pay your way into a non-selective medical school. I know of idiots in my class as well as my brother's class who paid Rs. 1 Lakh (a huge sum in 1980) to get into a medical college.

But yes, India does subsidize other countries by sending doctors here.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:16 pm: Edit

Varies by area. In the south, there is a huge oversupply, even in many rural areas. But, it the main, it is like here - docs don't want to work in poor, rural areas. The largest part of the population of India lives in the three main river deltas, and they are, in the main, very well-doctored. Rather like the two coasts of the U.S. Go to rural Nebraska and....

But early childbirth deaths even in Tamil Nadu remain relatively common. My sister is always regaling us with tales of the impacts of dirty water, the lack of properly functioning sterilization equipment, poor infection control practices, etc. She has stories of how she cleaned up the pediatric wing (brought in statues and altars of gods and goddesses, thus turning the pediatric wing into holy places - cut premature deaths by 50%.) Many of her friends, though, are now practicing in California. (She has a public health degree from Johns Hopkins.)

As is usual with India, virtually anything one can say about it is true....and so is its opposite! That's what makes it such a fascinating place!

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:22 pm: Edit

"The largest part of the population of India lives in the three main river deltas, and they are, in the main, very well-doctored. "

No they are not. I'd recommend you visit West Bengal which is very populated as well as Assam.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:42 pm: Edit

Actually, according to the Indian gov't (take with three armloads of salt) the number of doctors per capita in Calcutta is much higher than the national average. But, to all accounts, they are unevenly distributed, and, as it is a regional medical hub, medical facilities are hugely overcrowded. (Same would be true in Chennai.)

Now where the doctors actually are is always a good question. I have a newspaper clipping about an a sudden onset of a disease in a posh girl's school during exams (figure that one out!) There were supposedly 921 Calcutta physicians on call. But they couldn't find a single one!

By Achat (Achat) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit

We are not talking about Calcutta!!! Even if you have looked at Govt. figures, trust me, you don't know about health care in India. You might know about Tamil Nadu but not the rest of the country.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 01:36 pm: Edit

We're also not talking about LACs vs. Universitites.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 02:05 pm: Edit


"There are three particularly interesting facets in the data about med. school applications. 1) There is a 26% decline in the number of applications."

The site lists the number of applicants, not applications. I believe the number of applicants per med school spot is approaching 2:1. It was closer to 3:1 earlier in the 90s. 25 years ago, before the expansion of med school class sizes (at the behest of the Federal government), the start of several new schools, and the easing of immigration requirements for foreign doctors all in response to perceived doctor shortage, I thought the ratio was closer to 4:1, but I may be wrong.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 02:35 pm: Edit

What kind of gpa does it take to get into med school these days?

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:12 pm: Edit

LOL! Last time I looked, Calcutta was the capital of West Bengal, and in the river delta, as I noted. But you are right - I know nothing about rural West Bengal, or Assam, or northern Bihar. Have spent some very interesting times in Orissa. The situation in rural Gujarat is fascinating. Docs or not, the combination of religious conflicts, the two hundred mile cancer alley (multinational chemical companies), resistant malaria strains, and disease spread through the building of new dams has turned medical care into a bad joke. Gujarati docs can earn a good living, but increasingly are leaving as environmental diseases overwhelm them. I have friends of 30 years who have been trying to organize in the districts 200 miles northeast of Surat for two decades, but increasingly have to rely on outside docs to do factfinding for them.

2dsdad -- it is fascinating to watch the decline in applications since 1996. The decline at Yale seems to date from 1975 - it would be interesting to see whether those early decline curves were matched at the other Ivies and prestigious LACs, only to spread to the general run of schools later.

If the data (as it says) is number of applicants, how does it actually line up with the number of available slots? I don't live in a community where there are lots of future docs (Olympia is not a wealthy place - and most future docs would have left here long before they got to apply), but in the last decade or so, I can't seem to remember a single pre-med who didn't get into medical school somewhere. Didn't matter what school they attended. This is a far cry from what I remember it 25 years ago.

By 2dsdad (2dsdad) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:54 pm: Edit


"If the data (as it says) is number of applicants, how does it actually line up with the number of available slots?"

In 2003 16,538 US applicants matriculated, or 47.5% of the total applying, very close to 2:1.


"But the doctors just go to work every day and do their jobs. They take no business risk."

Very few working people do and yet many middle- and certainly upper-management positions with no business risk at large corporations are paid as well as medicine. The CEO class never plays with their own money and yet they are enriched even more handsomely. I am not sure why you feel docs should be subject to the same economic forces as entrepeneurs. Certainly many entrepeneurs take a risk and fail losing their entire investment. But when they succeed they can be rewarded far more handsomely than any doctor, with the possible exception of the fat-suckers and nose-jobbers doing elective plastic surgery.

I can't see much reason why a young, smart, hard working person would go into medicine today as it is. Now you want them to invest in 11 to 15 years of education after high school which trains them to do little else besides medicine and risk having that investment wiped out completely by a downturn in the economy or a shift in the market? That is a formula for a physician shortage for sure.

By Monydad (Monydad) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:34 am: Edit

This is what I think:

If there was a freemarket for medical training more people would be able to undertake it and salaries would be lower. There are non-market constraints governing access to medical training that have the result of distorting the economic process with regard to this labor pool.

Given a result of a near-guarantee of being able to live in that fancy subdivision whether you're good at your craft or not, many many people would undertake those loans and years of education. Most other people undertake their years of education and apprenticeship with no guarantee of a payoff whatsoever.

In finance theory there is a tradeoff between financial risk and expected return on investment.
IF you invest in a TBill, with virtually no financial risk, you expect a lower return than a stock market investment that has an uncertain payoff.

Investing in medical education seems to me to have little more risk than a TBill, so I would think in a functioning marketplace the reward, ie compensation, should be much more modest. Absent forces that impede the free labor market in this field I believe salaries would be lower than they seem to be now.

So I don't think these people need to take business risk, they just shouldn't be paid quite so much if they don't. I think free-market economics is being distorted in this field. Something related to barriers to entry of the labor pool.

I'm assuming though that there are still many more aspirants to medical education than there are places for them to receive it. some people here seem to be suggesting that this is no longer the case. I haven't studied this matter. I've just looked at that subdivision and drawn conclusions from that.

As for the others you mentioned, CEOS don't necessarily get to stay CEOs forever. They are subject to market and job risk. Entrepreneurs can possibly make more, for sure, but most of them who succeed around here seem to live in that same subdivision with the doctors.

However, I'm here to glean tidbits that may be useful to child #2, so enough of this OT rant. Sorry I fell into it.

By Lizschup (Lizschup) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit

Dstark, to answer your question in part I looked at USnews top 50 schools of Medicine(research) and found 3.49 to be the lowest average GPA of admitted students. That was at Boston University. The top 3 schools have an average of 3.8 to 3.82.

By Hubbellgardner (Hubbellgardner) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 09:22 am: Edit

The average across the country for accepted pre-meds has been about 3.5 for years; for every 3.8 there is a 3.2 getting in somewhere(lower GPA's tend to come from grade-deflated LAC's, however, their MCAT scores tend to be above average- ie a Swarthmore graduate with a 3.2 may have an MCAT of 35, whereas there are a lot of state university graduates with GPA's of 3.8 who get 25 on the MCAT). A high MCAT and GPA from any college will get you in, it is when there is a discordance between GPA and MCAT score where the prestige and profile of the college comes into play.

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