Greetings from Vanderbilt - beyond HYPMS

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Greetings from Vanderbilt - beyond HYPMS
By Evil_Robot (Evil_Robot) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:40 am: Edit

Note: All current Vanderbilt information is towards the end, as the beginning is just summary.

Not all of you know me, as there are many new '05 parents here, so I'll do a little introduction/background.

I graduated in 2004 from a public magnet school in California. I received a 1600 on the SATI; 800, 800, 780 on the SAT2s; took the full International Baccalaureate program and graduated with the diploma; ended up taking 17 AP/IB courses (AP National Scholar with all but one test being a 5); took several college courses in math up through discrete math, multivariable calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra; and was part of many extracirriculars that were recognized in many venues. I had excellent teachers, excellent friends, and an excellent time in school. That's my resume, in brief and with plenty left out. I am currently majoring in mathematics and computer science at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee on a full-tuition-and-then-some scholarship courtesy of this generous university (which my parents are oh-so-grateful for). And really, all this isn't nearly as impressive as it seems. I just went with what I knew and ended up in a great position today. I got lucky.

I discovered College Confidential after taking my first (and last) SATI in January of 2003. After several months of various discussions on various forums, I began to get a reputation as a helpful person who knew way too much for his own good about college admissions. When admissions time rolled around, I had some difficult decisions to make.

I was accepted by:
Yale (Early Action), Stanford (off the waitlist late in May/early June), Carnegie Mellon, Vanderbilt (with the current scholarship), Harvey Mudd, UCLA (Regents Scholarship), UC Berkeley (Regents Scholarship), and UC Irvine (Regents Scholarship).

I was waitlisted and later rejected by:
Harvard and MIT.

As it was, my first choice was Yale, but financially matters did not end up working out. Speaking of financial matters is too much to be contained in this post, but to summarize, my family is fairly middle class, very economical, completely self-employed, and large amounts of money in my name for college, which didn't help us.

Here are the relevant College Confidential discussion threads, which ended up being massive threads with hundreds upon hundreds of replies. Must have touched a nerve around here with the choice between the tip of the top of the Ivy League with large debt and perfectly good schools for less than 1/2 or 1/4 the price. Alumni from both sides chipped in with their experiences and I still think they're worthwhile reading for anyone caught between two choices with financial issues. I gained a sort of notoriety around here for these posts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

About a month ago, I packed up my things and moved in here at Vanderbilt. It's a bit of culture shock, coming from sunny Southern California to the South where almost all the tea is sweet and barbeque is a way of life.

Vanderbilt has a reputation as a socioeconomically and racially homogenous university. I'm proud to say that it hasn't hurt me one bit to not be the stereotypical fraternity boy/sorority girl with bags of money. Honestly, the frat life is something you choose, or don't. I most likely won't.

Freshman housing is excellent (single rooms ahoy, although small), and campus food is better-than-average, with a fair amount of variety on the menus in the cafeteria. I have no complaints in these regards. Orientation was a bit sickeningly forced, but I'm sure it's that way at any university. The university has one of the most beautiful college campuses that I visited in my college tours in spring break and summer '03. (including all the ones I applied to excepting CMU and including above that Columbia).

Academically, things have started off a bit slow but are now beginning to pick up. Most of my credits transferred and I have junior standing (effectively) as a freshman. Compared to the difficulty of my exceedingly-difficult high school, this is quite a breather. My professors all speak very fluent English, and foreign accents are not a problem here. I have excellent instructors in every regards to working with you. My advisor is already suggesting applying to the graduate program in CS here next semester (so I can take grad classes for my masters my junior/senior year), and it looks like this university won't run out of advanced courses to take.

But most importantly, the people. I've already met a group of friends with whom I can associate almost better than the ones I left at home. My dorm mates, with the exception of the one drunk guy who is bound to fail out, are from very different parts of the Union, and are excellent to hang out with. I've met a wonderful girl, and we're going to see how it goes.

I think I've met 2 or maybe 3 fellow College Confidential alumni at Vandy, and they all seem like nice people.

Overall, I can't recommend Vanderbilt enough. I'm having the time of my life here. I'm skipping out on a huge amount of material that could be said due to time constraints (and your willingness to read huge blocks of text), so feel free to ask any questions you may have about Vanderbilt, my college admissions advice, or my resume.

Thanks for getting this far :)!

By Kinshasa (Kinshasa) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:45 am: Edit

I've been thinking about you and wondering how life was at Vanderbilt. Thanks for letting us know. Sounds great!

By Iska (Iska) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:53 am: Edit

Why did you choose Vandy, with all those excellent scholarships at great home state California schools? Doesn't Berkeley have superior math and CS?

By Greg530 (Greg530) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:57 am: Edit

so what's the point of this post your stats and accomplishments and to feed your ego?

By Evil_Robot (Evil_Robot) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 02:13 am: Edit

" so what's the point of this post your stats and accomplishments and to feed your ego?"

No, to encourage people with the "stats", with the goals, with the ambitions, to look beyond the Ivy League. And maybe even give Vandy a chance.

" Why did you choose Vandy, with all those excellent scholarships at great home state California schools? Doesn't Berkeley have superior math and CS?"

There are other reasons to choose a school beyond its strength in the fields you choose. Personal attention, less stress, and more intimate working with professors? With ambition, I feel that most undergraduate programs are what you make them.

By Annieivy (Annieivy) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 02:16 am: Edit

I would definitely have chosen Vandy over the UCs too. Nice that you're enjoying it so much!

By Enjoyingthis (Enjoyingthis) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 02:28 am: Edit

Greg30-- don't be mean. A lot of us followed Evil Robot's story and are truly pleased to hear from him. His difficult decision will undoubtedly have relevance for many this upcoming round of admissions.

ER, I'm so glad it worked out for you!

By Anxious_Mom (Anxious_Mom) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 03:08 am: Edit

Good to hear from you ER, and I'm so glad that Vandy turned out to be what you'd hoped for.

btw, Iska - the $ value of the Regents scholarships varies among the different UCs depending on the students need. If there is need, each UC will pay up to the full need for Regents scholars, but, if there is "no need", the value of the Regents merit scholarship is much lower, for example only$1K per year for Berkeley. My recollection is that ER did not qualify for need-based aid (at least, according to the FAFSA) so the Regents scholarships at the UCs would cover only part of the cost. Of course, as ER stated, there were other factors that were important to him.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 06:30 am: Edit


I am so pleased you posted. After all the collective anguishing about your choice, it's great to know things are turning out so well.

Momsdream is interested in Vandy for her AfAm son and was wondering how comfortable it might be for him. Can you comment on the make-up of the student body there? What about art history, a field of interest for her S?

By Fireflyscout (Fireflyscout) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 06:43 am: Edit

ER - thanks for the update, especially after all the "angst" CC went through over your decision! My 8th grade son is interested in computer science - any suggestions about what he can do in his high school years to explore that besides taking AP Computer Science?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 07:43 am: Edit

I came late to CC, but followed your decision closely, as many resemblances to my S's choices. At 2 schools my S accepted at, merit aid offered, and also would have had junior status. (he took other route). I have no doubt that you will shine at Vandy, and most likely be accepted at top notch grad schools. I look forward to your posts over next few years

By Cheers (Cheers) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 07:48 am: Edit

ER, Congrats on the easy adjustment. Sounds like you are making the most of every opportunity, academics through...a girl? Already? lol. Well done.

Have fun!

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 07:52 am: Edit

ER, welcome back. Glad you are enjoying Vanderbilt. I would be interested in knowing about the diversity of the student body also.

By Megsdad (Megsdad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 08:39 am: Edit

Good to hear you are doing well at Vandy! We are from Tennessee and Vanderbilt was also a choice for my daughter. She was accepted there, but choose to go north to Wellesley. BTW, she is lamenting the fact there is no sweet tea in Boston, so the tea issue runs both ways. You are exactly right....Vandy is a beautiful campus. We have a long history with the college in that my parents attended Vanderbilt in the 1940's. Unfortunately, football hasn't changed much over the years, but you can hold your "culture vs. agriculture" sign when you play UT late in the season!!

By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 09:30 am: Edit


It's great to hear that you're doing well. Keep up the good work: you are an example to many.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:24 am: Edit

Thanks for posting - Greg, I asked ER to post a follow-up after seeing him turn up on the Vandy thread. He underwent a difficult, but VERY realistic decision making process last spring. Some people thought he was nuts, or ruining his future, by giving up an Ivy, a HYPSM no less, for Vanderbilt?!/!
Yes, I'm exaggerating a little, but ER's story illustrates a good point that a number of students need to hear again this year. Also, he shows that you can go to the South for a good education (a lesson I'm maybe a little less interested in the great masses hearing ).

Thanks ER for sharing your story.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:26 am: Edit

Ignore Greg530, ER! The rest of us are absolutely DELIGHTED that you are well and happy where you are, and I was especially wondering how things turned out. I am especially happy (so there, Greg) that you posted your stats, because it is great to break the insane cycle on parts of this board - people who say, "My kid is going to an Ivy NO MATTER WHAT!" as if there were no other good schools; as if unemployable jerks didn't graduate from Ivies too (believe me- I have a business and we get resumes more frequently than you'd think for low level jobs, from Ivy people in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s who can't seem to do anything); as if going to an Ivy proves you're superior (and I speak as an alumni interviewer!!).

Congratulations, and I hope you check in every now and then!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:27 am: Edit

I'm another parent who is very glad that you posted, ER. While someone criticized your posting of your high stats, I know you were doing it to summarize the background for anyone who was not aware of your story. But many of us did follow it last year. You are an incredible student with rich achievements. I recall the difficult dilemma and advice flowing from different perspectives when you got into your first choice, Yale, (EA no less, when so many on here were not as successful in that round at that school), yet had this incredible scholarship offer at Vandy. I know you got it from all angles but made the choice that worked for you and your family. It was admirable the thought that went into your process and that you eventually took the so-called less prestigious school for another great university with a full ride.

It is great to hear how it is going for you. It sounds like it is about as terrific as it gets. And I do believe that kids can be happy at more than one school out there. It sounds like you have some good opportunties at Vandy and have made some good friends as well. And, most of all (lol) met a GIRL! Sounds like you have it all.

Keep us updated and thanks for following up with us here as many of us like hearing how it all turned out.


By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:40 pm: Edit

ER, Thank you for posting a follow up to your story. It is wonderful to hear how well you are doing. Congratulations and best wishes.

I wish that CC had a place where we could save all of these types of stories for future generations of students - It would be great for kids in the midst of the college choice angst that comes every April to know that, no matter what choice you make, things really do tend to work out if you approach things with an open mind and a willing heart..

By Ellemenope (Ellemenope) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit

ER--thanks for giving us an update about Vandy. One concern that I had when you made your decision to go to Vandy over Yale was that you wouldn't be intellectually stimulated at Vandy. But it seems that with advanced standing and taking grad classes, you will be plenty pushed academically.

And it sounds like you'll be getting plenty of individual attention there (after all, how many frosh are taking grad school classes).

You've already met a girl, too?!! This could be the start of a whole new thread!

Good luck!

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:51 pm: Edit


There IS a thread on How to meet girls that Massdad provided a link for. ER needs to contribute his experience to the seemingly clueless on that thread.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

ER good job tahnks for the posting. This again proves that you can get a nice education wherever you want. Use your opportunities at Vandy and keep us posted. Good luck

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 01:54 pm: Edit

ER -- I'm quite impressed that Vandy is offering you such opportunities, and it's great that the prof recognized your abilities and recommended graduate courses. Glad it is working out so well for you.

And thank you for posting your stats -- for those of us who didn't follow your whole saga, it gives us a little background.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit

So nice to hear from you, Evil Robot! . If I go visit there, I will certainly look you up! Several kids I know are there as well and they too like it very, very much. Keep us posted as the year goes by.

By Eadad (Eadad) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 07:12 pm: Edit


It is good to hear from you and great to hear that you are having the time of your life at Vandy. My son was also accepted EA at Yale (you and he "spoke" a few times on a couple of the Yale threads last year) and, like you, chose to enroll elsewhere.

Your stories sound so similar that I could cut and paste much of what you've said and put it under my name. I have never heard him so happy (save for the day that the EA decision came in and at his commencement!) and he can only describe UNC as "awesome." He entered with 40+ hours of credit as well, though he can't officially declare higher standing until the end of the year.

He has made a large circle of friends, has found his classes to be great and the profs engaging and feels that his every expectation has been far exceeded to this point.

I am really glad that you posted your experiences and hope that others (unlike Greg530) will understand that there are many, many opportunities for great educations and wonderful undergraduate experiences outside the Ivies and that not attending one is not the end of the world.

You two were accepted in the toughest admissions cut of the year last year, yet fate and other circumstances took you both in different directions and you both are thriving and having the times of your life. Congratulations and continued success!

By Patient (Patient) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 08:36 pm: Edit

ER--I'll join the chorus. I was one of the parents who watched and to some extent participated on your college choice threads last spring and I always thought your decision in favor of Vanderbilt was courageous and thoughtful. I think that no matter where you went, you were going to thrive and find the positive, as you have at Vandy. I am really, really happy for you! Let us know how things are going from time to time!

By Momofthree (Momofthree) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 08:55 pm: Edit

ER, I am a 2005 parent, and really appreciate your reviewing your stats for us so I can appreciate the value (and complexity) of your choice. I sincerely wish my S would considered Vandy, but we live very nearby and he wants to explore some other parts of the country. I have wonderful memories of grad school on that campus, and know so many wonderful kids from DS and DD's school who love the place. Glad to know you have so readily found friends and are so at home.
P.S. you can ask for unsweetened tea, if you want!

By Helicoptermom (Helicoptermom) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 09:20 pm: Edit

Evil Robot,

Thanks so much for the update. I am deeply impressed by your resilience, maturity, and sense of perspective--all qualities that will matter much more in life than a Yale degree (and I love Yale; my husband and I both graduated from there, and our daughter's a freshman there now). The world needs more people like you with emotional as well as academic intelligence.

Live long and prosper.

By Hoo_29 (Hoo_29) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:26 pm: Edit

ER, will you graduate early or enjoy your full ride and take extra classes?

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