Blew Jr Year -- Any Hope?

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Discus: What Are My Chances?: August 2004 Archive: Blew Jr Year -- Any Hope?
By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 09:05 pm: Edit

We would appreciate opinions and advice...

My dd contracted mono during her junior year and her grades nosedived. She was full IB diploma but is thinking of doing IB Honors to help raise her GPA. (Her school only weights IB by 10%.)

Current GPA = 3.6 (weighted)
ACT = 30
SAT Verbal = 740; Math = 590; combined = 1330
Top 15% of class
Wants to major in foreign languages/linguistics/psychology

We'd appreciate any advice about staying full diploma versus going honors. Also, she could transfer to another school in the district and take AP classes. AP grades there are weighted by 20%. Any advice on which route to go? Also, are we close in figuring out which schools are matches versus reaches?

Thanks, guys, for helping!

College List:

Saftety is local public University
Holyoke = match
Vanderbilt (legacy) = match
Reed = reach/match
Claremont McKenna = reach/match
Northwestern = rech
Macalester = reach
Georgetown = snowball's chance
Pomona = ditto

By Duke3d4 (Duke3d4) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 10:56 pm: Edit

What is her gpa unweighted? most colleges care about UW instead, since every HS is different.

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:54 am: Edit

Duke, I'm not really sure about an unweighted GPA since she took some IB classes before 11th grade. I guess the easiest would be simply to deduct the 10% weight given for IB. Her unweighted GPA would be just under 3.3.

The problem with the whole GPA thing is that an "A" at one school may be harder to achieve than at a different school. However, when the first thing adcoms look at is GPA (especially unweighted), it can immediately eliminate some of the best candidates. That is why the smartest kid at my dd's HS decided to drop IB and take all regular classes. She is Nat'l Merit, 4.0 -- and because classes are so easy, she has all of the time in the world to do every EC imaginable.

By Fonzie (Fonzie) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:03 am: Edit

I know several people who applied early to the University of michigan and wisconsin with those stats and IB who were admitted. Key word: EARLY. Like, Early Sept. Not only does it increase chances of getting in, but takes away a lot of stress for the senior year if you have some early "good" schools in the bag.

I highly suggest ED also if money isn't a factor and it's a #1.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

Boxmaker, the NM girl at your daughter's school will definitely get a look from all the schools she applies to, but it may only be a look. I think they will see her strategy for what it is, and it may backfire on her. If it doesn't, there's nothing that can be done anyway, and I know it isn't fair. My son sat at graduation behind students that did the same thing, but he is attending a more selective college than they.

When I read threads like this, I am inclined to respond as a parent since I am not an admissions expert. I would ask, what level of classes offer your daughter a challenge without overwhelming her? I would think that that is where her best bet lies. If the classes are too easy, it may look to the adcoms like she dropped back for the grades. And, if it's too easy, she may become bored and let her grades drop below what they would have been had she stayed at a higher level. I think that the cream always rises to the top, and if she keeps her options open, she should have some very exciting college possibilities. After having just gone through the process, I don't believe in having a first choice or dream school, I believe in doing research and having a good group of prospective schools (safety, reach, match) that are all on fairly equal footing until you see what schools she is accepted to. Then it's safe to talk about order.

In our district, IB students that transfer to AP schools lose the weight for IB classes. They are then weighted as AP and brought from a 6.0 to a 5.0 scale. I would check into that and sit down with a calculator and refigure her GPA if they do to see if you'll actually be worse off. Since schools tend to unweight the grades, she may not stack up as well against the school profile since many of the students will have been doing AP and regulars. (AP students, don't flame me. My son graduated from an AP school, and had many friends at the IB magnet, and I know they had more study hours and a tougher time.)

It's awfully easy to fall into a pressure trap. A very intelligent young woman in my son's class did that and had a break down. Now she teters between being able to handle things and being overwhelmed. She graduated after a medical leave and with a less demanding schedule than before. I always wonder if she wouldn't have done better in the long run, college wise, if she had pushed herself less, had more EC's and her mental health.

By Topper (Topper) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

Boxmaker, I think that colleges understand the varying levels of "A standards" in different highschools. If you've looked at the part of applications that GC's fill out, many times they are required to show what kind of courseload relative that the applicant has relative to the rest of the sudent body. In addition, colleges can also look at a specific highschool and its average SAT scores or AP scores to see how students are generally challenged. If the school doesn't offer AP scores and only weights on a minimum percentage for GPA's, that's probably another thing that you'll have to make clear to colleges. I don't think that you should be too worried about whether or not colleges will consider your daughter if it's just because of her GPA. Good Luck.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:14 pm: Edit

What specifically did your D take junior year, and what were her year end grades in those course? What is she scheduled to take senior year? Where do the top quintile of her high school generally end up going to college? Where do most of the kids end up going to college?

Did she take any SAT2s, what are her scores? Any APs, what are her scores?

Given the info in your post, I feel that Claremont Mckenna is a reach--look at their profiles of the accepted students and their acceptance rate. I do not know how strongly the legacy card is at Vanderbilt, but the kids who were accepted this year that I know were all pretty danged impressive in stats. Also, give the choices your D has made in schools, a local state school may not be a satisfactory safety for her. I would advise looking for another safety that feeds her profile better, along with another good match. If she is considering women's colleges, Simmons or Wells are both good choices as safeties for her. Wheaton and Goucher are former women colleges that are good matches. Some southern schools would be Randolph Macon, Agnes Scott, Hollins, Sweet Briar. For some reason, the local state u does not sit well with me from what you have posted.

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 07:48 pm: Edit

Thank you all for responding -- and with such good information! I sincerely appreciate the time that you have taken to offer suggestions.

During my dd's junior year, the school changed to 7 classes from block scheduling. She took all IB classes: Biology, chemistry (1/2 year), History, Math Studies, English, Russian, and TOK. She also took 5th year Spanish (1/2 year) as an independent study. Her GPA first semester was 3.3/3.0 (weighted/unweighted)and 3.0/2.7 the second semester. Her current overall GPA is 3.662 and she is in the top 12-15%.

For next year: My dd's current school is changing schedules again: This year they will have 5 courses a trimester. If my dd stays where she is, her first two trimesters would be: regular English, regular History, IB Math Studies, IB Biology and IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK). She cannot register at the new HS until the week before school starts so we don't know what classes are open. The new school is on a 7-class schedule and she would try to take: AP Biology, AP American History, AP English or regular English (she hasn't decided), Trig (regular), Phy Ed (never took it!), Theater and study hall. She is terrible in biology and Trig but says they are interesting and she doesn't care about the grades.

My dd had mono during the winter of her jr year. We learned the hard way that her school's policy is that if a student is well enough to attend classes, work is due at the same time as everyone else. She was afraid to miss more than a week of school because IB classes move so fast. So, she would drag herself to school but was not able to keep up with the work and got a lot of zeroes.

There doesn't seem to be an easy way to explain that her problems stem not only from mono but from an unsympathetic school. How do you get that message across in a college app without sounding like you're whining and making excuses?

My dd does not want to go back to that HS and wants to switch schools. I do not think it is the best choice -- but then, I'm not the one who has to do the work.

Either way, there are additional questions: If she stays where she is and drops down to IB honors from the full diploma, how do you explain it? If she switches schools, how do you apply early? Does the GC say "I've known this student for 3 weeks and here are my impressions?"

The list of colleges also is hers. She wants Georgetown and Reed -- I don't see it happening. The only real "match" I see might be Holyoke. I don't consider the local University to be a great choice, but: I think it will not overwhelm her (after IB), she could graduate debt-free by living at home; and she can get in.

What a mess!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:32 pm: Edit

Just my opinion, and I have to caveat heavily as I do not know the cast and setting at all. Most of the time, the guidance counselor and teachers recs are a blase, vanilla bland nothing from most public schools. I will get a lot of flak, from saying that, but that has been my observation and that of every guide book written by an adcom and every former and present adcom I know. They have too many of these things to write, and too little personal knowledge on those kids. A big advantage that the smaller, high calibre prep school has is the statement the counselor writes which generally takes them 2 hours to write and many hours of prep, including a questionnaire, an interview, and some investigation by talking to those in the school who know the student well. The run of the mill high school counselor rarely knows the students well, and spends little time on those recs. Just add up how many he has to write. At S's school, each college counselor only has 35 recs to write and has a rough draft done by the end of the summer which he reviews with each student and asks for more info before, writing the final version that fall. Plus that is all these guys do, there are counselors to take care of other issues. So there is a big difference. I suggest she put together a very readable resume of herself and a cover letter emphasising everything she wants in the counselor's rec and give them to whichever school counselor she chooses to go with. She meets with the counselor of the new school if she goes there and lets her know right away that she is hot on GT and Reed and ask for advice in applying early to GT, and follows that advice with short notecards or e-mails. If she keeps in touch with the counselor weekly through Sept and Oct, she will be in better shape than most kids who have been at that school for the three prior years, is my bet.

She needs top scores on SAT2s and to bring those SAT1s up to really have a shot at GT unless there is something else going on (a tag of sorts). Reed is a different story. Demonstrated interest--a visit, research, e-mails, a letter, can help your D's case.

Unfortunately, it is not going to matter that she was ill last year. There are kids who have cancer and chemo and STILL manage to keep those grades up or show just a tiny blip. Those are the type of kids that the top schools want, the one who persevere despite adversity. But other than that very top group of schools, you will find most school will work around that blip to some degree.

I don't think it is such a mess at all. She may need to widen her field a bit. GT and Reed are very different schools. If Reed is on her list, Holyoke, Pritzer , Scripps, Oberlin and some other schools of that sort would be good choices for her. It is the GT/Claremont McKenna/Vanderbilt that kind of stands out as different from her other choices. She needs to visit some of those schools as they are quite different in atmosphere.

Anyway you look at it, she needs a stellar first semester--it is pretty much over by January. Not a problem to shoot for the stars on a few as long as you have some realistic choices as well.

As for the local college, I don't know which school it is, but the state flagship school would probably be a better place for her than a school that is not that academic. I get the strong sense that your D is looking for a school of some academic rigor and to go away for college. Commuting may dull the edge she is getting for that experience. There is no doubt in my mind that she will get into a splendid school with high calibre academics, and she seems ready for that jump.

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:06 pm: Edit

Jamimom --
Thank you for the suggestions. I had not thought about Oberlin but that might be of interest to her. I am not certain whether it is too rural for her but she seems interested in Holyoke....

The local university she would attend is a Big 10 school. I think that the school is better than it is ranked in several areas although it is not as strong in the humanities as in science. One additional advantage of going to school locally is that she can continue to train in her sport. It is not NCAA and it is not popular and it is not an Olympic sport -- but there is a US National Team and she hopes to earn a spot in a few years. In addition to liking the quirkiness of Reed, she also could train in Portland.
I need to get a better feel for the whole Claremont scene. I know that Pomona has the best reputation and Scripps is a women's college -- but I'm not sure why one school is better than another beyone that. (Time for more research!)
Thanks again for your suggestions and support. It is appreciated very much!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:34 pm: Edit

I feel better that it is a Big 10 school. Sometimes when someone says a local, state school, they mean Southeast SYZ U which is often week in the liberal arts and is typically a school for business, education and criminal justice majors. Most of the big state schools do have excellent resources for all kinds of majors; it's just a matter of being able to deal with the red tape many times. She can also dorm there and get the college experience that way as well.

Good luck in finding some good choices, and do keep us all posted. Take a peek at the Parent's Forum--I usually post there.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 12:10 am: Edit

Boxmaker, your daughter has a decent chance with Reed. With a mean SAT scores of 1380, 50% graduating in the top 10% of their high school class and an acceptance rate of 55%, I should say that Reed is a reach, but reasonably so.

Here are the schools I recommend:

Reed is a reasonable reach/match.

Grinnell is also a great LAC and I would say it is a match for your daughter.

Bates and Colby are two great LACs with reasonable admissions standards.

Oberlin. What a school!!! They started the civil rights movement... a full hundred years before the rest of the world! And their psychology offerings are #1 among LACs.

Colgate is yet another reasonable reach/match.

Macalester is a little tougher, but I would still say that your daughter has a shot.

Somebody mentioned Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan-Ann Arbor above. Those are two very good schools with great college atmospheres.

If she applies to Michigan in early September, I would say she would be a very realistic reach/match and Michigan is awesome in languages and is a close #2 in Psychology behind Stanford.

Wisconsin-Madison is a match with a great psychology department and very repected language departments.

Indiana-Bloomington. Great in languages and psychology, gorgeous campus, awesome atmosphere and pleasant college town. A great safety if you ask me.

University of Washington is very similar to Indiana. Goergeous campus, great atmosphere, good at her intended majors and great location. Washington is also a safety.

Northwestern is a great school. It is a reach, but it worth applying to.

Georgetown is a nice school, but I do not think it is worh applying to. It is weak in the instruction of most languages other than Arabic, Portuguese and Chinese, it is very mediocre in Psychology and its acceptance rates for students not ranked in the top 10% of their high school class is ridiculously low.

The University of Chicago is a school I really recommend, if your daughter likes that sort of environment. It is obviously a reach, but a great school for the intellectually driven.

Vanderbilt is a great choice.

I also recommend NYU.

So, a recap:




Indiana University-Bloomington

That's it from me.

Good luck.

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 12:25 am: Edit

One other slightly "off" question....

My dd's essay is on her self-discovery that she needs balance in her life. She is thinking about including a paragraph on how she probably bit off more than she could chew by going full IB rather than honors. She'd rather take fewer classes and actually try to enjoy what she is learning rather than just trying to get everything done. We're not sure if this is a good way to go but the change from rigorous to easier schedule needs to be addressed. Any opinions or suggestions?

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 12:33 am: Edit

Alexandre -- Thank you for all of the info! There are a few on the list we have not looked at and will start investigating!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:43 pm: Edit

I am not sure I would put Bates, Colby and Colgate as match/reaches. Or U Michigan out of state. Kids I see going there have top grades as Bates and Colby tend to emphasize that transcript and do not even require SAT scores. Bu the majority of the kids are in the top 10% of their class. Any school with close to a 1/3 accept rate, is a tough nut to crack even with your numbers in the mid fifty percent range.Don't know where the poster is from, so perhaps there is a geographic "tip".

I don't know the west coast schools as well as I do those here in the east. But there are some other schools that are "a'la Reed" such as Evergreen, Lewis & Clark, Whittier. Of the Claremont Group I see Pomona as a super reach, Claremont McKenna as a reach, Scripps and Pitzer as matches/safeties. Rhodes is another school worth investigating. Grinnell and Macalester are great picks.

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