Now that it's over, what would you do differently???





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Now that it's over, what would you do differently???
By Gtownmom (Gtownmom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:33 pm: Edit

This is for parents and students who, in recent years, have completed the college application process (congratulations to all you wonderful college students by the way!). I have been asked to give an informal talk at our local library about college selection and the college application process. My own experience and that of my friends have given me a lot of material but I thought I'd go to the experts...CC parents and students!

Please answer breifly....what do you wish you knew then that you know now? In other words, what would you do differently if you were to do it again? (And many of us will!)

By Cleveland (Cleveland) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

There was a thread on this in the past, so you may want to look at it. I'll make the same suggestion now that I made then: apply to a school with rolling admissions that you're pretty sure you'll get into. This makes the wait until April 1 a lot easier, especially when you get deferred from an Ivy and all your friends are hearing back positive news from other schools.

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

Thanks Cleveland, I'll look for that thread. I entirely agree with your suggestion. In fact, that is at the top of my list since we were one of those families who were exactly in the situation you discribed!

Anyone else???

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:45 pm: Edit

I wish I had known about CC MUCH earlier in the process for my son. Our family was truely unprepared for the application process to selective colleges and our school is hopelessly overcrowded and could not have possibly helped us. I knew about CC in November of senior year when my son had already applied ED. I wish I had known about it in February or March.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:34 pm: Edit

Since the outcome was successful, I can't really look back with much second-guessing. However, I would have done one thing differently:

I would have had my daughter focus on the PSAT/SATs earlier. By that, I don't mean the kind of stat-crazy effort to take the tests over and over. But, she only took the PSATs once in 10th grade and the SATs once in 11th grade. By not taking each test one additional time, I think she left some easy points on the table -- points that would have been extremely valuable had she pursued a "maximum merit-aid" strategy. Of all the tests, she only took one SATII a second time and she increased her score 70 points with a fairly modest amount of practice test work.

Given the role of the PSAT in the national merit process, I would have liked to have seen her put a little effort in a second test date. I also would have liked to have seen a second SAT test date -- unfortunately, she got "snowed out" of two SAT dates and she ran out of options.

As for things that we did:

a) Read "The Gatekeepers". Focus the application.

b) Build the college list from the middle out. In my opinion, the college acceptance game is not as daunting as it appears. A win-win outcome is achievable and predictable, IF the list is appropriate.

c) Consider all types of schools (small/mid/large and urban/suburban/rural).

d) Spend time trying to ascertain the big picture "culture" of the schools instead of focusing on this major or that academic department.

e) Sit down early (10th grade, 11th grade) and talk with your child about what they like to do. Explore the options for taking a favorite activity to the next level -- to a level that will push the child's growth and, therefore, provide interesting material for the college applications. Specifically, brainstorm about options outside of the standard school-sponsored ECs.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:40 pm: Edit

Interesteddad, did you read CC when/before your daughter was applying. How did you come by all this knowledge is my question. We were pretty clueless. Reading the books made me even more nervous.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:43 pm: Edit

And remember, I am not a Boston Brahmin and don't know much about Harvard, MIT.....your average bubba would describe me to a T.

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

Don't decide on December 11 to apply in jr. year, get recomms to teachers by 13th, and application in at one school 15th. Take time, go to meetings, casually visit schools in a given area, have range of schools that one would like on their list, apply to favorite Ed (or favorites EA).
Oh well, worked out fine in the end (I hope)

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:13 pm: Edit

One thing I strongly encourage people to do (which we did) is PLAN YOUR TESTING in tenth grade. For some, ninth grade is not too early. Look at the calendar for tests given at collegeboard.com and plan when you're going to take the SAT and each SAT II, giving yourself enough time to retake if necessary. My D took the SAT IIs in the score choice days, so it was a little easier, but she took one SAT II (Latin) that was only offered once a year at that time. And of course you can't the the SAT w/the SAT II. She also did NOT want to take the SAT a week after exams, for example. So with some planning she made sure all testing was done before end of junior year (she didn't retake anything, but it would have still been done then if she had had to).

A friend of mine with a now-HS senior recently thanked me for giving her this advice when her son was in 10th grade.

Second important thing -- make SURE you know what information the HS will provide regarding ranking and difficulty of courseload. Esp imp for schools that don't rank, but even if they do, issues like weighted vs. unweighted and indication of relative courseload difficulty are important. This is something the SCHOOL needs to do and you can't do yourself, so it is important to find out what they will be telling colleges.

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

I started reading CC as my daughter was trying to build her college list -- after a spring college visit trip during the 11th grade. I learned a lot from the parents here.

Consideration of college started after a spur-of-the-moment "girls' road trip" my wife and daughter took summer before the 11th grade. They came home raving about Swarthmore and, frankly, I was very concerned about that being an unrealistic goal. That led to a lot of interest on my part in figuring out, "what is realistic?"

At some point, my wife brought "The Gatekeepers" home from the library. Both of us read it and had our eyes opened about how the process really works -- especially the notion that the test scores serve only as an initial threshold, but don't really determine the outcome, unless they are extraordinarily high relative to the stats of the school. Since it is nearly impossible to have "extraordinarily high" test scores at the super selective schools, the deciding factors have to be something else.

From "The Gatekeepers", it was clear that "something else" meant an application that allows the adcom to put checkmarks next to every item on the standard checklist (class rank - check, the science trilogy - check, 4+ years of language - check, toughest available courses - check, strong recommendations - check, etc. etc.) PLUS some identifiable personality or identity or intellectual spark or EC interest that is attractive and might add to campus life. This spark could be almost anything. I think a lot of kids and parents miss the boat by thinking too narrowly about "standard" activities and not realizing that something else could well be just such a spark. I think that's why sometimes a kid who just wings the application the night before it's due can be successful -- the spark emerges in almost a stream-of-consciousness way. On the other hand, I am amazed at the number of essays posted here that serve no identifiable purpose whatsoever in furthering the cause.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Make sure that one of your safety schools is a financial safety, even if something goes disastrously wrong with your family finances (this is something we did, and fortunately it wasn't needed, but I'm amazed at how many students, in particular, never think about how they're going to pay for college). As for something that I would have done differently: I would have started the round of college visits even earlier than we did. Not necessarily focusing on specific schools, more like types of school.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

Someone with the name Achat is an average Bubba in America?? Love it!

Had I been on CC before we submitted apps, I might have realized the SFS at G'town was as tough a reach as the Ivies. We wouldn't have bothered to fall in love, use up an ED or even visit.

Other than that...he ended up at a match school, in a great city (great cities equal great profs is my theory); joined by a large diverse student body and able to pick from an astonishing array of abroad opportunities. All good!

His capabilities might be slightly higher than the average SAT, but he has a small hill to climb in terms of learning to work hard to achieve a high GPA. It will probably even out.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:20 pm: Edit

We probably wouldn't change much. We didn't have class rank, we didn't have science triology, we didn't have "toughest available courses" ('cause, outside of her college courses, we didn't hve any). We didn't have ECs 'cause we couldn't separate between the ECs and the "real" stuff. Writing it up was an "interesting" challenge.

We figured that if the adcoms couldn't see what she was all about, it was probably the wrong school. Since there were/are plenty of schools out there that could, and since a kid can only attend one of them, we didn't figure that to be a problem, and it wasn't.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

A second vote (although she's just a senior) for planning testing ahead. My daughter was very sick on 2 test dates, and out of the country for a third date. Now I know that if you miss the PSAT as a junior, there are some alternatives if you pursue them in a timely fashion - had I known that last year, she wouldn't have gone to school on the PSAT day, she wasn't well enough to do her best. Junior spring was a grueling series of ACT,SAT,SATII and AP tests - we could have spread it out more.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

We did our best to not become obsessed with the college selection process, and I think that we succeeded. I didn't become aware of these boards until late spring, but they became useful at that time in deciding how to evaluate the schools to which S had applied, the offers received, and various practical aspects of going off to school.

Probably would not have done much different in selecting schools to which to apply. However, had I looked at these boards a couple of years ago (which likely would have meant I was obsessive at that time), I might have put more emphasis on preparing for the PSAT than we did.

We tried TheDad's (d) and (e) but were not able to get very far with them.

All in all, though, I think we did fine, and in addition I have gotten a very interesting education.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:53 pm: Edit

Now that I think of it, I DO know something we'd do differently. All 3 of us - my d., my wife, and I -- all ended up putting a huge premium on having d. be able to spend significant academic time abroad. This would mean having access to the best foreign study programs, excellent language programs, financial aid that follows the student wherever they go, and large numbers of folks on campus doing the same thing. D. happened by luck to land at one of the national leaders for the same - but it could have been otherwise. I think there are rafts of schools we looked at - high ranking ones, and including some to which she was accepted -- where study abroad is not a priority, and plenty of others where she didn't apply where it is.

By Gtownmom (Gtownmom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:56 pm: Edit

Wow! Thanks for all the good suggestions! Starting early and gathering as much info as possible from various sources seem to be the biggest suggestions.

I'm open to any other thoughts as I have a few weeks to prepare this talk....

A couple of quick further questions to keep the discussion going...

1) Did you find the flood of mail from schools helpful or confussing?
2) How many schools did you (or your student) consider seriously? apply to? visit?
3) What did you do (or do for your student) to keep a healthy perspective during this time? (Not that I was good at that!)

Thanks in advance for the help!!!

By Clipper (Clipper) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:11 pm: Edit

I would like also to caution those parents who think that their child will get into an ivy like H or Y. I know I thought mine had everything she needed - scores, hardest courseload, 2 state championships, recommendations, interviews well, and excellent entertaining essays. I read the Gatekeepers, and How to Get into the Ivy League and she had the whole ball of wax. Well, it did not work out that way. Only 1300 kids get to go out of 21,000 and mine wasn't chosen. Still disappointing to her and she still wonders what went wrong. So I guess what I am saying is try not to get your heart set on a specific college.

I was talking to a student the other day and she said she wanted to go to Columbia. She has a 4.1 and is #5 but SATs are 1200 and no EC's that are remarkable. She said her family is set on her going to an Ivy League school. She has no clue. I feel bad for these kids who are clueless. I guess bc we did have a clue but were still disappointed in the outcome.

2) She considered 4 seriously, applied to 8, visited 4.

By Pamvanw (Pamvanw) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

1)The flood of mail from schools can be somewhat controlled by the answers you put to the PSAT questionaire. Our 1st student left all the options open as far as size, location & major, & our mailbox was stuffed for months. It was so overwhelming that most of it was just thrown out. Our 3rd student (who had the same stats) was very specific about size, location & major, & most colleges have respected that. We get very little mail since he put engineering, medium to large school, & very few locations as acceptable. It's much better for us that way. 2nd student had totally different stats so cannot be compared.
2)We visited at least 12 schools with our first one. She applied to 2 - her reach & her safety. She got into her reach ED. If she hadn't it would have been a problem since wasn't too happy with her safety. I don't really recommend this approach unless the student also really likes the safety. With the 2nd one we looked at half a dozen. He applied to 3 - a match, reach & safety. His favorite was his match & he got in. With the 3rd he has been dragged to so many campus visits that he's not too interested in seeing more schools. We took him to 2 engineering days, & he is in love with his match/safety, & would be happy at his safety. I want to take him to one more engineering day. If your student is interested in a specific curriculum like engineering it is really important to go to an open house where they can actually see the labs, meet professors, & hear the details of college life in that major.
3)Healthy perspective. I think we were just lucky with the first child, in that she was accepted at her reach. We did NOT have a healty perspective, in that even after we looked at all those schools she really had NO school she wanted to attend except the one she ended up at. I think we are lucky with the one who is looking now, in that he loves a school that I will be shocked if he doesn't get in.
One thing we learned is that if it doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't. Our middle child loved a school that we thought would be too complicated for his personality & organizational skills. He talked us into letting him go there. He did OK, but it was too complicated, & he dropped out after 3 semesters. His GPA was OK, but he hated it. Life was way too hard to handle on the large urban campus. I now wish we had taken OUR gut feeling that this wasn't going to work into account. I'm sure he could have thrived at a small school, & he now admits that it wasn't the right choice.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:50 pm: Edit

I'm certinly no expert, and like most of the posters above, the school my son ended up at, I truly believe was his match. However, there are some things I recommend to my friends now.

1) Treat every school as if it is a reach. Even here in Texas with the 10% rule and you are in the top 10%. You may be considered for honors or scholarships. If you put an equal effort into impressing schools that have high admit rates that you would into an Ivy app, good things can happen.

Also, the selectivity of schools can rise suddenly and change the playing field for the average student. That happened at my son's school. They had a record 17,500 applications, their admit rate dropped, their yield was higher than expected and the students in this year's freshman class were in the top 4% of college bound seniors in the country. The Class of 2008 is the most academically qualified incoming class in the school's history. Son had thought of it as a safety. Then after being accepted with merit money and hearing the final outcome, he realized how truly blessed he was.

2) Trust your kids. They know a lot more than you think about what's going on. Let them do their applications and write their essays on their own. Son asked me to proof his EC's, but the rest I left to him. They are capable of so much. I only stuck stamps on his transcripts and teacher recommendations and put them in the mail.

3) Back to every school being a reach. Don't press your kids to pick a first choice school and don't talk up one school over the others. I did and I think I influenced my son. It did not work out for him, and frankly by that time, I had come to realize that the school he is attending now was a much better match for him. After making a mess of the situation, I kept my mouth shut, and he came to the same realization on his own. It's much easier to cope with disappointment if there isn't embarrassment because everyone knew they wanted that number one school and didn't get in. My mom used to run interference for my son by telling well meaning relatives that he was already accepted to the state flagships, but that the privates he had applied to were very hard to get in to. That always brought out a smile and a nod and the subject would change.

4) Look harder at the schools that are hungry for great students. They offer the best merit aid.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:54 pm: Edit

1) We kept all the mail in a large box and quickly recycled most of it, once we had a couple of things pinned down aout schools.

2) We made three visits: Southern CA (3 schools), East Coast (6) and one nearby. Applied to all of them plus a couple of others, because at the deadline S couldn't decide which if any to omit.

3) Reminded ourselves that there were a number of good possibilities for him, and the converse of # 2 was true, i.e. there were no "gotta-get-ins-or-else", even including the reach schools.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

Gtownmom, son applied to seven schools. We visited five. The two we didn't visit were on opposite coasts and it was impractical for us to visit just one school. Not enough days off.

The flood of mail was helpful in the beginning. It got him excited and started him thinking. But after awhile, it was just more stuff. Unfortunately, by the time he figured out what kind of school he wanted, it was too late to shut the flood gates.

By Alleya17 (Alleya17) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:23 pm: Edit

From a student's point of view, the two problems my family ran into:
Talk about your finances with your child!!!! I'm the oldest and my parents hadn't done any research into the cost of college ahead of time. My mother assumed that since her father had been able to pay for a decent school off of an army salary, she wouldn't have any problem paying for any school I wanted. They told me over and over not to worry about the price, so I took their blank check and looked at the best and most prestigious schools. It wasn't until after I'd been accepted to my top choice that they realized they might not be able to afford it. Even though I had a financial safety on my list, I wasn't emotionally prepared to have to turn down my top choice because of money. I would have been devestated if it hadn't worked out, because they never did anything to check my growing enthusiasm for the school. It's so important to be clear with your child about what you can and can't afford and what they're expected to pay for (eg -- do they have to pay for all food outside of a meal plan or will you give a food allowance, who pays for textbooks, etc). Don't be afraid to name actual numbers so that everyone is on the same page.

I also wish that I had realized how important volunteer work is for pure merit scholarships. I did a ton of volunteer work in middle school and the first year or two of high school, but when I switched cities half way through high school, I never got around to finding another place to volunteer with. There were countless scholarships that I could have gotten if I'd kept up even half of my original level of volunteering.

Oh, and I wished that I'd started looking earlier. I didn't start looking at colleges until Fall of senior year, so there were a couple schools (such as Berkeley) that I couldn't seriously consider because I wouldn't have been able to make the application deadline.

I seriously considered 8-10 schools, applied to 5, and visited 4, though I only visited the top 2 after I'd been accepted (They were too spread out to visit all of them beforehand.)

By Joesmom (Joesmom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:25 pm: Edit

First I would encourage everyone to get the best possible SAT score possible. Take a study course and work your tail off to improve your score.The SAT's count at the more competitive schools.
Second, apply to schools that you are qualified SAT and grade wise to attend. Yes, we all have some dream schools,but be realistic too.
Third, visit and speak highly of your safe schools. If you let your kids believe these are 2nd rate schools, they may be devastated if there are the only schools that accept them.
Finally treat the college search as a military campaign. Learn the names of admission officers handling your file, call, write thank yous, request interviews and don't give up. My son was waitlisted at his top 2 schools and at the 11th hour was accepted by both. Once you make the waitlist,it is a whole new ball game.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

Best thing I did with son #1...get him to rewrite his primary essay again and again until I, and everyone else who read it, knew it said "him." I had read everything that urged caution in use of humor, but my son couldn't be himself in writing without it- he had to loosen up, write a poem, read a bit of Bill Bryson...and then it came...

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:28 pm: Edit

Visited 15 colleges with specific intent to consider them. Several more that she had spent enough time at for other reasons to know the school.

Applied to one ED and had mailed two other apps that she withdrew on Dec. 15th. Had a total of eight that she was planning to apply to with three contenders for the final two slots.

By Alleya17 (Alleya17) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit

One other thing, if you're really suprised about a rejection, consider appealing the decision. I had a friend who didn't get into a school for which she was qualified and had a glowing alumni recommendation. The alumni suggested she appeal the decision and when she did, it turned out that her rejection letter was a mistake -- they'd meant to accept her with a half-tuition merit scholarship.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit

What would I do differently, designate "college talk times" with friends going through the same thing...as well as "college talk times" with my kids. Compartmentalize this part of life so that it is easier to keep it in perspective. I have done better with this the 2nd time around (postings to CC notwithstanding!).

By Joesmom (Joesmom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:32 pm: Edit

oh yes, one more thing. Don't think your child has a 100% chance of getting into any 1 school. The competition is brutal. Try not to portray to your child that anywhere is a must have or die school. That type of thinking can only hurt your child and yourself.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:48 pm: Edit

D visited one school in 9th grade, five schools in 10th grade, and seven schools in 11th grade. Re-visited two finalists before making decision in 12th grade. I felt that the scale of visits was both appropriate and necessary: the act of visting changed her criteria as she went through different experiences. A school that was #1 on paper wasn't even applied to while a whole class of colleges (women's colleges) garnered three applications. In other words, visiting *before* applying was critical.

D was another HYS aspirant. Looked good on paper: 1580/790/780/760, 3.9uw, solid EC. Struck out and in two out of three cases, I don't think she would have been a good *fit* there, notwithstanding how gratifying it might be to say "My daughter goes to X."

She's going to a pretty damned good school and I'm mostly very happy with the result but in terms of process it would have perhaps been better to have been on her essay earlier, as in summer of junior year. I agree with InterestedDad's observation about essays that advance the cause. Check that...after the past three days moving her in, etc., I'm extremely happy with the result: great peers, great profs, great environment, great opportunities.

One plus, by going to a notch-below-an-HYS-school, D picked up some merit aid including an undergrad research assistant position that's very yummy.

Other notes: yeah, tentative testing schedule was worked out in 9th grade. The hs encouraged students to take PSAT in both 9th and 10th as well as 11th and the practice helped. Also, her academic program was charted out for all four years before 9th grade and pretty much stuck with. There are changes I might have suggested if I had known more about some of the hs teachers but that's water under the bridge.

Finally, her all-consuming EC (ballet) made her application pretty "lopsided" and she lived and died with that. Late in the game I was told that ballet dancers are a dime a dozen...and here we had thought they were rare on the college level.

By Kblodge (Kblodge) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 07:01 pm: Edit

Two suggestions:
1.) If you possibly can, VISIT schools before you apply. Because I was incredibly busy my senior year, and my family's finances were in kind of a tight squeeze because we were building a house, I didn't visit anywhere before applications were due. My parents figured it would be more logical, and more economical, to see which schools I got into and then visit them. What we didn't think about was the fact that visiting helps you realize that a school, or school type, that you thought might be a perfect fit isn't right for you at all. Fortunately I had added a school to my list as an afterthought that didn't fit the type of the other schools I was applying to, and it ended up being absolutely perfect for me. Not everyone will get lucky like that, so be sure to visit. If you can't, be sure to apply to at least one school of a different type than the others on your list, in case you change your priorities about what you want.
2.) Use the common application--it saves so much time. I used the commonapp online, and since it is so easy to add schools to send your app to without doing extra work, it is probably the reason that I added the "afterthought" school that I ended up attending.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 07:21 pm: Edit

There have been a few posts on various threads about the issue of EC's and their desirability in terms of admissions.

My son#1 must have had the shortest EC list of all time. Throughout his life he has completely refused to do anything "because" it would look good, etc. His EC's were interesting and unique to a minor extent, because he is interesting and unique to a minor extent. Because they were important to him, and he didn't care if they were important to anyone else, he could write about them with affection, knowledge, humor, insight and passion! 4/7 Ad com members who read his application took the time to email him about his essay in which he described his passions! He wasn't applying to HYPSMAWS and maybe this "just be yourself" approach only takes you so far..but we have raised a person, not an application. I think if there is integrity in the life, it is a lot easier to create integrity in the application. It all falls together very naturally...

Thedad, will your daughter continue her ballet in college? I went to HS with dancers, and know that no one who doesn't love it could possibly make the committment involved. Would you have encouraged her to give it up if you had known earlier on that it wasn't going to be such a big "application hook." I think not...

By Coureur (Coureur) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit

D was also an HYPSM aspirant. She had the "whole ball of wax" with stats, recs, and ECs. Given the fierce competition, W was worried that D wouldn't get into any of her reaches and focused on the matches - which is wise that somebody did. But I, on the other hand, felt reasonably sure that she could get into SOME of the reach schools, but that it was impossible to predict which ones. So one thing I did was to encourage her not to focus on one true love school but to apply to as many of the top reaches that she could that also met her other criteria (major, atmosphere, location, size, etc).

She ended up visiting about 15 schools and applying to 11 of them, 7 of which were reaches, 2 were matches, and 2 were safeties. I predicted that about 4 of the 7 reaches would accept her, but I had no clue as to which 4 they might be. And this is exactly what happened. She got into 4 of her reaches, including her second choice school, which is where she is enrolling.

Interesteddad provides an excellent explanation of the checklist approach:

"From "The Gatekeepers", it was clear that "something else" meant an application that allows the adcom to put checkmarks next to every item on the standard checklist (class rank - check, the science trilogy - check, 4+ years of language - check, toughest available courses - check, strong recommendations - check, etc. etc.) PLUS some identifiable personality or identity or intellectual spark or EC interest that is attractive and might add to campus life. "

We (actually W) figured out a similar checklist, and by the beginning of the Jr. year we could see which items lacked check marks. We identified these for D and helped her find the right opportunities and prepare for the standardized tests, etc. And she delivered. One by one all the items were checked off and she was ready to apply. She also delivered enough of the personality or intellectual spark in the essays. It worked out fine.

By Caseyatthebat (Caseyatthebat) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:10 pm: Edit

I did not discover CC until the college admissions process was a fait accompli in our house. However, our path was one of the recruited athlete, so all the great insights offered here would not have resonated with us. Interestingly, S had discovered CC long before me, but he used it exclusively as a window into SAT preparation and Ivy League admissions.

To those who have time to do something in this regard, I would urge serious preparation for the PSAT. Taking the test as a sophomore as practice is a valuable wake-up call to those who need one. S experienced this moment of realization in January of his soph year after receiving disastrous results from the soph testing of the PSAT. He made the commitment to turn his testing scores around, and he worked on this personal objective relentlessly for the next 9 months. He was very successful, and those PSAT scores made all the difference in the world. Others may not need that length of time (and probably he didn't either, but the process caught his interest, so there was no stopping him.)

I would recommend taking the SAT in October of the senior year. Seniors just seem to do better. However, don't wait until November, you will miss out on the Presidential Scholar's program, in which you may or may not be interested. We learned this the hard way, as S took it in senior year once in November and achieved a qualifying score, but it was too late for consideration.

We also never knew to take one or two SAT IIs at a time. He did take Chemistry after he had just studied for the AP, so that was heads up, but he jammed 3SAT IIs in at one sitting. It worked out great for him, but was not wise, IMO. As others have said plan the testing years. We knew to stay away from the baseball season in the spring, but that was a major headache to work around.

By Encomium (Encomium) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:35 pm: Edit

do you actually need the "science trilogy?"

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit

I read a book that said a certain score (which she got) on SAT was good enough and she said she really didnt want to take them again. Now if she had taken them again with her very tough course schedule and super high GPA , recs , volunteerism et I feel she would have gotten a better financial offer from where she is. When we discussed this though she said that UNC where she was waitlisted told her, that her SAT kept her from getting in (if she had been instate she would have been in for sure they said) SO she says if she had gotten in UNC she probably would have gone there and we we would have ended up paying more money than what we are paying now...AND she also is SO HAPPY where she is!
We also did get some money from her State senator and delegate, with the reasonable cost plus with what we saved her education is covered totally. SO in a way I would say take the SAT's again and even a prep but in another way I would say it worked out best she didnt!
The other thing is stay on top of your grades..she missed Val with an 89.9 in Physics..and if she had tracked her grades online she could have pulled that up a bit probably.
Anyway water under the bridge..its all worked out!

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:42 pm: Edit

For what it's worth (which is probably little, since we are homeschoolers), mine did college biology, and college pre-med chemistry, and college botany/ethnobotany. No high school sciences at all, and no physics. Now had she had only h.s. bio and chem, well, I have no idea how they'd look at it, but, no, as an absolute rule you don't "need" the science trilogy.

But if you are doing everything on the "straight and narrow", maybe you do? Beats me.

By Encomium (Encomium) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:45 pm: Edit

yeah, i mean, would double math (ap calc BC & ap stat) and double language (ap spanish and honors latin) along with AP english maybe make up for the fact that someone didn't have ap physics senior year?

(whistles...)

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:06 pm: Edit

Of course it is not an absolute requirement to have the science trilogy.

However, if you have the curriculum checklist covered (science trilogy, math through calculus, four years of language, four years of English lit, hardest course available...), you take away an issue that needs to be explained or overcome when the admissions committee discusses your app.

It's the sum total of the application. If you are short in one area (like the science trilogy or SAT scores), you'll have to offer more of something else. Conversely, a valedictorian with 1600 SATs and all the boxes checked probably doesn't have to offer as much "something else".

By Encomium (Encomium) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:09 pm: Edit

well it's not something that i have an "excuse" for, it's just that I'm simply more interested in humanities than the sciences, in languages and English-so...

oh well
i know 2 kids who got into yale-1 didn't have the science trilogy, 1 did but only was taking 2 ap's, so i don't think it's super-critical

By Mauimom (Mauimom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:48 pm: Edit

One note on the "college visits." I had a daughter whose heels were dug into the dirt like a mule in opposition to the application process. Starting "early" didn't help much (in terms of creating any enthusiasm), but it DID help in terms of the "visit 3 schools, only one makes the 'cut.'"

I recall one of our first visits in the fall of junior year: over a four day weekend we visited 4 schools -- 2 in Boston & two outside (Hampshire + UMass Amherst). Only ONE of these survived to be considered. This happened with California schools as well (only applied to one out of three visited) and with Chicago area ones. So, from an initial list of 11 schools, only 3 passed the first round. Thus we had to expand the list and the visits.

The MOST valuable lesson, however, is to remind yourself and your child that the college search is a process of finding an academic environment that will be a match for your child. It is NOT a quest to get into School A or School B. If you all can approach the process as an adventure in finding out what's out there in terms of opportunities and challenges, rather than assuming that School A or School B will be perfect, you can actually have an interesting time.

Provided, of course, that you take plenty of Valium.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 01:37 am: Edit

Enconium, Thanks for asking about the science triology. My daughter has already decided that she will NOT be taking Physics senior year because she wants to fit in honors Asian studies and a semester of philosophy. She has agreed to do four years of math, however. She will also have 4 years of language.

When we recently visited colleges, my daughter asked every admissions rep about this and they all said that for a humanities/social science major, not having physics wouldn't be the kiss of death as long as she took a challenging 4 year courseload in other areas. Hope that proves true!

By Momrath (Momrath) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 02:07 am: Edit

Since the outcome was good, there's not too much that I'd do differently, but there's a lot I wish I knew before hand.

1. Start early
I knew nothing (I think I was in denial). Skidmore/Swarthmore, Hamilton/Haverford/Hampshire, Williams/Wesleyan/Wellesley: they all sounded the same. And the alphabet soup -- SATs, ED, ECs, GCs, etc, etc, I hadn't a clue. On December 1 of my son's junior year I decided it was time to get serious and oh my god, was I ever shocked. Being smart and charming was not going to be enough. We caught up fast with books, the internet (though sadly not this site, yet) and Collegiate Choice videos, but we could have used another year.

2. No one knows or owes your kid like you do
Counselors, teachers, other parents, admission committees are all helpful, but the knowledge and the responsibility lies with the family. If you want your child to go the best college that s/he can get into that best suits his/her personality, then you've got to find it and figure out a way to get what you want. Aim high and don't get discouraged by statistics.

3. Love thy safety
Aim high, but have a safety that doesn't give you and your child the willies. They are out there. Plan to devote at least half of your search and selection energy on identifying and visiting and learning to love that safety. If your son or daughter has a good, solid, I-can-see-myself-there safety, then donít try to split hairs between matches/reaches. Once you have a sleep at night safety you can revert to aim high.

4. The application has to shine
Unless your child is a shoe-in, s/he must package her/himself in a way that jumps off the page into the admit pile. This is not the time for modesty (or arrogance). Be brilliant and let your personality, your passion shine through.

5. Be interesting
There's a difference between being interested and interesting. Especially if your kid is not the Val with a 1600 or a URM or a tipped athlete, s/he needs to stand out from the herd. Find that passion, develop it, present it in a compelling and consistent manner.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:35 am: Edit

I am not sure I would change anything ...
Son took college application seriously, wrote his own essays and apart from proof reading, did not allow us to comment, he made his own choices about ED/EA schools. He was anxious at some points but in general had fun witht he process.

Our major help to him was in brainstorming with him whether he was a strong candidate for any given school or not.

We drove him to a few places to visit, did not go overboard on visits since he did not feel he was getting a good sense of colleges from the visit. Yale guide was fun, the day was sunny, the visit was great. Princeton guide was sort of overwhelmed, day was cloudy, Princeton seemed staid. He finally said he got a much better sense for colleges out of internet based research and did not want to visit until he was admitted (that is the reason he did not apply ED anywhere).

He was happy with a 1520 SAT score, we pushed a little to try again and the next time it was 1580. I am not sure the extra 60 points helped but couldn't have hurt. He never wanted to take an SAT prep course so we bought him some software and books.

On this board, there have been many recommendations for making contact with adcoms/professors etc. The idea was enough to inspire horror in our home, and he did the minimalistic application. Did not send in reams of stuff, cover letter etc. He has published some stories but did not send them.

No effort at showing interest in the school with one exception. He loves writing so took each essay prompt seriously and responded to it individually in addition to his generic essay. His Amherst essay sounded pompous to me and when I pointed it out, he claimed that that is the sort of stuff Amherst likes. Whether he is accurate or not, he got in.

He did visit top choice schools after admission and considered them very seriously before making a decision.

Every now and then there have been complaints on this board from kids about overinvolved parents and I have some sympathy for them. Was I ever overinvolved? I got fairly anxious around December 15. Next time around I hope I can ratchet down my own anxiety level a little. But I suspect that is out of our control. Beyond that we were less involved than many parents on this board but our son preferred to muddle along on his own.

By Frazzled_One (Frazzled_One) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 07:58 am: Edit

" ... there have been many recommendations for making contact with adcoms/professors etc. The idea was enough to inspire horror in our home ... "

Wow, am I relieved to read this, as daughter has been adamant that she isn't going to make this sort of contact unless she can't find the answer to her questions elsewhere, and so far, she's been able to. This may well mean that she's content to take many issues at face value, instead of exploring further. When we visited one of her favorite schools last spring, she was very resistant to even saying hello to the adcom she'd met a few months earlier at her hs, though she did end up sitting down and talking with her for several minutes.

I believe it's been suggested that adcom and especially professor contact is a particularly good idea at smaller, special interest schools or LACs? This makes sense considering the more intimate student-teacher relationships one expects to find at such schools.

Of course, "demonstrated interest" has its limits as part of an overall admissions strategy, depending on the school. At UNC-CH the adcom leading the info session stated flatly that having visited the school played zero part in the decision to admit (they seemed to be very much about number of APs and SAT II scores).

One thing I might do differently with daughter #3 is at least set foot on a LAC campus. Two older daughters were insistent that they wanted mid-sized schools or bigger, I think because they were frustrated and eventually disgusted by the closed-in feeling of their 1500-student hs. We never thought to expose them to what a LAC actually looks/feels like, and they may well have fallen in love with the environment.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 08:35 am: Edit

I can't think of much that I would have had my recent graduate do differently in the college process and am happy with how things went and the pace and all. I did find CC when we started the process. It has helped!

Carolyn, my younger D, the one who is graduating a year early this June, will not have takent Physics either because she has only been in the high school for three years and the way our science curriculum goes here, it is only possible to take Physics in the fourth year of high school. Just thought I would tell you that your D is not the only one. My D, like yours, is not going into a related field. She will have had five years of high school math through AP Calculus.

Susan

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 09:45 am: Edit

What I would do differently: (1) no EA/ED! One son decided around 11 or 12 that he wanted to go to a really good school, read all the how-to books (against our wishes; looked at them at Barnes & Noble!) and created an amazing profile for himself. Literally almost perfect stats, national awards in science & writing, modest local sports success, a very interesting & unusual outside ec that tied with his main interest and generated an unexpected amount of enthusiasm on the part of interviewers. Summer before senior yr we sat down and strategically helped him choose his early choice school from among the holy trinity and it was a sensible decision: top kid in his school had been accepted annually for more than 10 yrs. Deferred and crushed !! I think as a family we handled it pretty well (bad bad bad school!!!) and since he started receiving likely letters and expense paid recruiting invites to campuses he considered *really good* by late Jan/early Feb (wow! isn't it lucky about that deferral?) he was able to bounce back fairly quickly but I think we really should have spared him that pain. (2) Just start at the top of the US news list and apply to the first 15 or so schools that had appropriate depts. Add three good safeties. Where we live it is a given that you only apply to one of the holy three because to do otherwise "lets them know you don't really care about an individual school" LOL urban myth or savvy admissions office propaganda? (3) begin return visits immediately upon learning kid was accepted ! We ran out of time and April was really difficult. happy ending: son in special program at elite school and very happy

With my lopsided kid, *good enough* stat kid who declined to take chemistry, physics, calculus-- at all, not just honors or AP-- I don't really know. I guess I wouldn't have insisted we waste time thinking about LAC's. He's the one who doesn't do well with tedious and I insisted he do all the apps himself and then I proofed and then he corrected and on and on and on. I guess I might just type up the darn things myself! It would surely have lowered the stress level. I didn't realize any parents actually did that till I read this board LOL same happy ending for this one but we were very surprised at the interest colleges had in him because of his unusual passions-- it was not a scenario that could have been planned! Creating a comprehensible application (which took a whole lot of time) did help imho.

I would believe my older wiser friends who kept telling me it really didn't matter LOL

By Thedad (Thedad) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 10:05 am: Edit

Robyrm, there is no way that I would have discouraged my D's dedication to ballet...and no way that I could have. She's going to take as much ballet as she can in college but the emphasis has been shifting: she was a dancer who was very strong academically; now, she's an academic who also dances. I was slightly surprised at just how ruthless she has been about subordinating the ballet schedule openings to the rest of her prospective college schedule: the academic choices took first priority and ballet is fit in when and if it can. If she has to substitute modern or pilates, she will.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

My main lesson: take all the conventional wisdom with a grain of salt.

Like Frazzled One's and Mom2003's kids, my S eschewed the heavy contact route. He also did the minimalist app, gave exactly what they asked for, and no more. Many call that the kiss of death. Basically, he took the size palate they offered, showed himself as truly as he could in that format, and let the chips fall.

Also, he didn't have the 4+ years of language, which I obsessed about inordinately, and made him stress about it, when in his case, the fourth year would have turned senior year into a horror for him. Shoulda just let it alone.

Bottom line, he did get into his ED school, not HYPMS(he had zero interest in them) but not far below. So I learned to have more faith in the kid himself, less in conventional wisdom.

That being said, the best advice we got here in CC was the idea of focusing the application around two main bullet points, making sure all the parts cohered. The fact that his class selection, ECs, essay, and main points of the recs all echoed the same main themes really gave the application shape.

I also realized from my first child's expereince and from reading the boards the importance of leadership, not just participation, and I did nudge S to put himself forward more than he might have naturally. This was a growth experience for him, as well as a boon to the applications.

By Idler (Idler) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

I've come to realize that for all our interest, driving, and nagging, and our invaluable suggestions about the college essay,Mom and Dad really had very little influence on either kid's college decision. I've also come to realize that that is a very good thing. What would I do differently? Not get so involved since it really didn't matter much...naah, it was fun.

Emptynester: my two seem exactly like yours, and we went through amazingly similar experiences. Like you, I'm coming around to understanding what the older and wiser friends said!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 12:17 pm: Edit

Thedad, Smith is certainly very prestigious where I live. Is this a coastal thing?

Re ballet, I think the sad truth is that it's so incredibly time-consuming that a kid can hardly imagine doing more, but colleges get dancers applying who have done things like performing professionally, receiving merit scholarships to nationally known training programs, or doing well in regional or national competitions in which they performed a solo variation or pas de deux. In his book the former Harvard adcom Chuck Hughes gives examples of the sorts of things that catch their attention when they are looking at a young dancer.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

Idler: aren't we lucky to have had the opportunity for such different sorts of parenting experiences? smiles- Agree totally with the parental impact (lack thereof) on college choices. Mine said they *needed* a certain type of school and they were going to that type of school regardless of the elders' better judgement. Our *better judgement* - of which we were totally convinced at the time- added an unneccessary layer of choices and stress to the process.

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

What would I had done differently now that I know better? A few things, but not much, because in the end the result looks like the right one.

I read some books on college admissions (some I bought, some I skimmed in the bookstore, have to admit). Didn't know about the Gatekeepers; might have read it, might have become scared. Don't know for sure as I still haven't read it.

Should have made the timing of college visits, both before and after acceptance, a priority. Due to other schedules, we did not make the first visit until mid-August. Not a good idea, as the schools were not in session, so we saw beautiful clean campuses uncluttered by bodies lying around and with the grass neatly cut. The only humans in sight were the admissions folks, enthusiastic student guides and other visitors. Not a way to get a good impression of what a school is like.

We were unable to visit in April due to work and other schedules. Still, it would have been better to make it a priority.

Two realizations:

1. 18-year olds really do not have an appreciation of the quantities of money that are involved. Sure, they can tell the difference between say $ 20,000 and $ 100,000 in the abstract, but they do not have the background to truly relate to either amount, least of all in the context of a four-year period. However, one thing that I would repeat (hypothetically, since we have only one child) would be the presentation to the child of a table comparing the 4-year costs at the schools that accepted him, including the value of any merit or need-based aid. Nothing succeeds in getting a point across like a picture, unless it's a table.

The other lesson is that, with all the above, things nonetheless seemed to come out fine. Of course, we're still in the "honeymoon" period, but we have a good feeling that this is a good situation.

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

In the end it did not matter but my son took the ACT once and got a very good score. We did not want to chance a lower score the second test so he didn't retake it. We didn't realize that it was different then the SAT and they only send the tests you request so he could have possibly done even better. It didn't matter however as he ended up at the school he wanted but we know better for my D. Of course she prefers the SAT to the ACT but I'm sure someone can benefit from this tidbit. Of course probably everyone already knew this and I just needed to find this site earlier in my son's process!!

By Gtownmom (Gtownmom) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 03:40 pm: Edit

All of you have given me some very good info to work with to assist families who are just beginning this process. Remember how it felt when you didn't know a thing!? (What's an SAT 2? I didn't know there was more than one!)

Another suggestion I will make to the up and comers is to finalize the order your preference of schools (assuming you've visited them) just before you will begin to hear from them. We did this and when my son's number two school came through with an acceptance, we decided not to even worry about anything lower on the list leaving us to await only one answer. That lowered the anxiety tremendously (especially about potential or actual denials). It is also generous to consider, if all is for sure financially etc., to send application withdrawls from your lower list choices if you get a higher up acceptance. This opens the space for a kid who may have your safety as his or her top choice.

I truly appreciate all the input and am up for more if you think of it. I will also check the archives here for other good suggestions.

Keep it coming....

GtownMom

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 06:55 pm: Edit

One thing we would have done differently: not checked the "do not send info" on the PSAT/SAT/ACT tests. I advised my son to do this because we didn't want the deluge of mail. He also wanted to keep the test results private, until he had the chance to see them first. He scored well on his first test (not sky high, but good enough). We didn't get the deluge of mail. However, he also didn't get invited to many scholarship competitions and programs that his classmates were invited to attend (whose scores were lower). We even called one school to ask why he was not invited to their honors program presentation. At first they politely told me it was only for "select" students, but once they heard his scores and rank, they were astonished. They assumed it was because they buy test results from the testing agencies to assemble their mailing lists. Because he checked the "do not send" box, he never got on those mailing lists. We just wonder what other things we may have missed.

Done right: Applied to a variety of schools (small, medium, tech, research, LAC). His priorities changed over senior year, and I'm glad he had many choices come spring.

He took the tests early Junior year (Dec. & Jan.) and never again. He could have possibly done better, but decided it was good enough. I also wonder if the colleges actually noted that these were his first and only scores, and took that into account.

Don't be shy about negotiating financial aid after the awards are offered. Several schools came back with additional aid (including some who said they do not give merit aid).

Apply online & use the common app. when possible. Many schools waive the fees.

(Applied and accepted to 11, incl. one ivy)

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

This is a great thread!
I have two more to go but have learned a few things with one and two.
1. The importance of the PSAT's and to have child prepare for them.
2.Don't say absolutely no because a school is across the country.Let them have what they want.
3.Be prepared for little aid. There are some very bright kids out there and loads of competition.
4.That being said, encourage the safeties, or is it , 'love thy safeties'!
5. Be happy with what you have.Maybe child #4 isn't child #1 but ain't he great and aren't we lucky!!! Or in other words, so what if Tommy is taking 16 AP classes and got into Harvard- Life can be good for everyone in the U.S.A. if you are careful and everything is relative.
And I'm stilling learning.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 10:50 pm: Edit

Backhand I LOVE your list. Absolutely wonderful and true - especially number five!

By Idiias (Idiias) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 12:45 am: Edit

ahh your kid goes to Georgetown? How do they like it? I went to a party there on friday night. Amazing campus...

By Patient (Patient) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

I have philosophical advice rather than practical advice, which has been given in great abundance here:

1. If you're getting stressed, be sure to take time for yourself--exercise, go to a movie, etc--get your mind off it!
2. If you live in a competitive community, it is okay to avoid having college conversations. I studiously avoided them after being blindsided by one crazed mom in the cafe one day, who spewed forth every grade and score her son had ever gotten in his entire life I think...it made things much less scary not to be comparing stats and notes with classmates' moms!
3. Really listen to your child--they know more than you think and they know what THEY want and care about, and it is THEIR life, not yours.
4. Don't take over the process. If they are organizationally challenged, and/or really really busy, help with addressing envelopes, buying stamps, making folders, listing deadlines and keeping an eye on them. Don't write their essays or tell them what to write. You are not applying to college, they are.
5. Relax and enjoy a little!
6. If your family has financial or geographic or other limits, explain them before the application is mailed. Last year, there were some panicked parents whose child got into their EA school and the parents suddenly realized that they couldn't afford it--what a huge disappointment to a student who has gotten her/his hopes up, achieved a victory, only to have it snatched away.

By Frazzled_One (Frazzled_One) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:09 am: Edit

Excellent thoughts, Patient! #2 has special resonance with me - I live in such a community and I'm a little tired of having to fight my way to the cantaloupes because a couple of moms have taken up residence in the produce section to do a brag/psy ops session.

I do think it can be wonderful, though, to have genuine friends going through the same process. In my case, these were some of the same moms with whom I traded weaning and potty training stories. Sometimes our kids had vastly different ideas about the schools they wanted to attend, and sometimes they had applied to the same schools. I knew they were true friends because they were always supportive and encouraging, even when one of our kids may have outscored the other by a couple hundred points on the SAT.

Another reason to avoid your typical "crazed mom" is that, if you allow yourself to be pumped for info about schools of interest, GPA, scores, etc., the data will inevitably make its way into a vast gossip pipeline, and any notion of privacy is lost. I know someone who resolutely refuses to divulge where her daughter is applying, though I think her reasoning is a bit faulty. She doesn't want anyone else to "find out" about Vassar. (???) I haven't told her so, but I think word's out already.

By Gtownmom (Gtownmom) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:07 am: Edit

Idiias, yes my son's at Gtown but he's only been there a week and I haven't spoken to him yet so I assume no news is good news. He was very excited about attending and the new student orientation was great. I'm sure he's loving it.

I love all the advice. I think that not getting dragged into too many college conversations, especially during the most stressful times, is an excellent idea. We actually had to be very vague even with my son's grandparents because they, with the best of intentions, were adding to the anxiety!

I'd like some thoughts on another issue I've heard about....Seniors wanting to "settle" for a safety to avoid the stress of reaching for a more competitive school. I've heard of kids who didn't want to apply in order to avoid the potential disappointment and also because they felt that others might consider them undeserving if they did get in. Anyone else hear of or experience this??

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

I've just recently heard of this. It was in conjunction with a desire to attend a school where the workload wasn't as hard as in the ivies or very competitive (in the admissions sense) schools. I guess it can be a healthy thing in some cases. I wonder, though - since it's not that much more effort to send an application to one super-elite, wouldn't you always wonder IF if you hadn't applied. I also wonder how accurate it is to think that the workload at Dartmouth, for example, is that much harder than the work at Lafayette. I'm not sure that's the case at all. There is a belief that the difficulty is in getting in to some schools, not in graduating from them. On the other hand, I kind of admire a senior who says they refuse to play the game. I do think it's gotten insane and passive resistance might not be such a bad idea.

As a side note, I've heard one story about a student who attends a LAC with a reputation for extreme workload, is doing well, but wonders if maybe she might have had more fun and time for extracurriculars if she'd attended a school where the workload was more reasonable.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 01:29 pm: Edit

I think the workload actually can be harder at some tier 2 schools, particularly at public universities that have to have generous admissions policies.

I taught at a tier 3, and had to give lots of trivial kind of homwork -- outlining, word definitions, etc. just to make sure that students did their reading and stayed up to date on their projects.

At an elite university, a professor can have a midterm, final and paper, and not have to have lots of other assignments to omake sure that students do their work. The students are very organized, are motivated and know how to research and write.

This can be different at less competitive schools. To have students learn, the profs may have to give more quizzes, request drafts on papers, and require lots of assignments that would seem unnecessary and boring to people who are bright enough and motivated enough to have qualified for Ivy quality universities.

The professors also may be less flexible about accepting late assignments or modifying assignments to make them more interesting to students. That's because students at less competitive universities may ask for modifications because they want to do things whichever way is easiest. They would not be as likely to be asking for modifications because they are interested in a field.

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

One piece of advice that I think gets overlooked: pay attention to the PSATs! So many kids and parents think of this test as "only" a practice test for the SAT; they spend tons of time, money, and energy prepping for SAT, but none on PSAT. However, it is the PSAT which is the sole determinant of National Merit Scholarship awards. Unfortunately, by the time many people realize this, it's too late to take it more seriously.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:53 pm: Edit

Its always been easier to graduate from the tough schools than to get in. Plenty of people who could graduate with very nice marks are declined. Probably more than half of the rejections.

Of course, graduating with grades that allow you to take the next step to a good professional or grad school is a completely different matter. That requires a little focus.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 02:03 pm: Edit

Mild disagreement with Patient, whom I normally totally agree with.

If your child is organizationally challenged, college application time is the time to help him/her learn to be less challenged. By hs senior year, our son had learned good study and organizational skills. Nevertheless, we told him that getting his college applications in on time and listing and keeping track of the requirements and deadlines was his responsibility; we were not going to remind him of due dates. Also, I asked him to make lists for me of due dates for financial information.

We did not address envelopes, make folders and the like; we have done enough of that for organizational mailings. True, we did keep an eye out to make sure that he didn't completely miss important dates, and I assembled my own list of financial information due dates to make sure that the lists he gave me were correct. However, we did not remind him of deadlines and he even made sure to remind me of a few.


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