Advice for ‘your “average” excellent student’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Truthful advice about getting into top colleges, for your “average” excellent student

… Your excellent student, (especially if a white girl, or Asian), in a good school district, with excellent test scores, grades, and a range of ECs is very, very unlikely to get into any school with an acceptance rate under 20%. UNLESS the kid is, or does, something exceptional, or is hooked.

That’s one CollegeConfidential parent’s opinion after going through the college application process with her daughter this year.  I suggest you read through the discussion if you’re interested in this topic.

Many families have unrealistic expectations for their “average” excellent kids.

In our town (and all over the Northeast, I suspect), a smart, hard working white or asian girl with good/great stats is a dime a dozen. Actually, I think the same is applies to the boys as well.

We have a number of young men and women who are still shell shocked that they did not get into certain schools. It was all so predictable, and unfortunate that their parents did not “get it”. I know of one mother who is embarrassed her daughter was only accepted to UVA. It’s heartbreaking.

Not all Totebaggers aspire to have their children attend tippy-top colleges.  Some just want their children to be academically qualified for the most selective schools so as to be eligible for merit scholarships elsewhere.  Other Totebaggers would be happy with their children attending your average state school.

Your thoughts?

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268 thoughts on “Advice for ‘your “average” excellent student’

  1. We don’t talk enough about college here :)

    As I’ve said, I’m completely un-totebaggy in my view of college. DS has a couple of out-of-state flagship state schools he wants to go to, as of now because he likes their sports teams. He’s only in 8th grade so that can change many times by his junior year. I have no expectations of my kids going to HSS. I think they are smart enough, but I don’t think it’s what they will want, but who knows. My goal for them is to do well enough so that they have plenty of options.

  2. This is so timely, I was at our district college night last evening, in which several admissions directors, some from schools I had never heard of and others that I consider to be kind of meh (Fordham, Manhattan College) gave talks in which they basically said that if you haven’t taken every AP course and gotten a high GPA, forget it. They also all deemphasize SATs. Meanwhile, I have a kid who is great on tests but has a 3.3 average because he still has issues with losing papers. Obviously he isn’t going to an elite school and we realized that years ago (can’t afford ’em anyway) but now I am starting to worry whether he could simply make it into say SUNY Albany engineering. WTF is going on? I thought schools were struggling for students. When I look at the stats posted on those sites that show student profiles for various schools, I realize I could never have gotten into ANY of the 10 schools that accepted me back in the day. I had a 3.2 GPA when I graduated. And yet I ended up with merit aid at a pretty good school

  3. Related, kind of – I am opening my mail at work right now, and see that I am invited to score CS AP exams in Kansas City in June. They will pay travel and lodging. Um, think I will pass

  4. WTF is going on?

    Totebagginess is apparently a lot more widespread than it seems. I think the Northeast is also much more competitive than other areas.

  5. I’ll be so devastated if this happens, I don’t know what we’ll do. It will make us regret everything about the past 18 years. There’s just no hope for someone who doesn’t go to an HSS.

  6. DS is one of those kids. I’ve been pushing state flagships hard. Even if he got into a HSS, would it be worth it? His college list is 50% state flagships and 50% HSS. HSS, in our case, does not equal Ivies. More like Duke, Rice, Vandy, etc.

  7. “WTF is going on?”

    More US kids going to college and more international competition. Engineering is even more competitive.

  8. Milo, I am not talkiing about elite schools (which is what I think you mean by HSS, right?). I am talking about frickin’ SUNY Albany, which back in the day was sort of a directional state U. I guess they have been trying to upgrade, but still.

  9. The rep at last night’s events who was most pushing straight A’s in AP’s, and early action, was a state flagship. She also said that engineering there is very competitive because they limit spaces for budget reasons

  10. Unless it matters a lot to their grad-school or career plans (rare), I wouldn’t pay much more to move from a strong in-state public university to any other school.

  11. OK, what are ED and RD?

    @Milo — [snort]

    I’ll be that lady in the article in a few more hyears. Fundamentally, the ADHD and personality mean my kid is never going to be a good HSS target — she is decent at a lot of things but exceptional at none (largely because she gets bored/distracted and flits off after something else), and a good student but not an 800-SAT-valedictorial-exceptional one. She’s that basic east coast white girl without any real disadvantages to overcome, and without the writing ability (or interest) to write an essay that is going to grab someone and set her apart. And I, alas, chose an alma mater that doesn’t weight the alumni advantage to the same degree as others. :-) I am glad I have my mom to help us know the kinds of schools that will be good matches for her.

    Not that the demographic issue is a new thing — I was rejected by the school @2 hrs away, even though I was accepted by several much better schools 8+ hours away. If we could move to NM for her last two years of HS, maybe we’d have a shot. :-)

  12. Mooshi – My sarcasm was not directed at you. I don’t know about the NY equivalents, but if an aspiring engineer doesn’t get into Virginia Tech, there’s engineering at Virginia Commonwealth, James Madison, Old Dominion, and probably a couple others.

  13. LOL Milo.

    My DH is totally not stressed about our kids and college – he thinks that college will get so expensive that pretty soon online courses will start taking market share etc.

    I am sad that our kids likely won’t go to the schools we went to – we don’t have enough $$$ to have them count as good legacies. ;) I do plan to keep in mind the “hook” and what that will be as they get closer to the time. Also thinking UMass Amherst sounds pretty good right now.

  14. We don’t have a strong in state public, and I don’t plan on my kids settling here. (I have nothing against it, but DH and I, and all of our siblings, moved away, so we don’t think of settling near family as a cultural norm). So I want my kids to go to a school that has a more national reputation and network.
    Seriously, I could write a book on the OT, but I’ll spare you:).

  15. We have no public option of the calibre of Virginia Tech for engineering. Our best public engineering programs are at SUNY StonyBrook and SUNY Buffalo. SUNY Binghamton has engineering too, but that school positions itself as a liberal arts school so their engineering isn’t as big there. SUNY Albany has an engineering school which seems to be mainly computer science and engineering – I don’t see things like civil engineering listed. Not sure if any of the other SUNYs have engineering. I know CUNY does have a program, as well as computer science at several of their campuses. The program at Queens College is pretty good.

  16. Mooshi – I think Colin Powell went to CUNY, and he became Joint Chiefs Chairman and Secretary of State.

  17. Oh, lots of famous people went to CUNY, and it is on my list. However, CUNY has downsides – very little funding, enormous classes, and a lot of very marginal students. I also am not sure my kid could get dorm space so he would end up commuting like most of the kids who go there. It actually might be a good thing for him because he may need more support than most kids – but I am sure it isn’t what he saw himself doing for college!!!

  18. MM gets to more important questions: Do you want (and would your student strive in a context with) mostly-large classes or mostly-small classes? Do you want a research school where classes are taught by grad students or more of a teaching school taught by those who do research but whose passion is teaching? Socially and otherwise, will your student thrive in a smaller-college context or do fine with 40K people?

  19. I just noodled around the SUNy Albany site a little. My kid could definitely get in based on their posted stats for GPA. But they don’t make it clear if engineering has additional criteria. I know that at the other SUNYs, engineering imposes additional admissions criteria on top of the regular ones.

  20. Yeah, well, I tell people all the time that our kids are competing not just against the overall pool against which they might stack up pretty well, but also against kids from their very own high school class, ALL of whom could well be very well qualified for admission at the local R1. Only a small % are going to be accepted there since ‘geographic diversity’ is very important to some colleges.

    So there becomes the strategic application process whereby a kid applies to 1 or more perfectly normal colleges where he is the only one from his high school so he’s only competing against the pool, not his friends. Really.

  21. @Eric: #1 child needs smaller classes and more attention. Thus my concern — my little distract-a-bunny would get completely off-track at our local public.

  22. Milo, there is a path from CCs to SUNY 4-yr schools, since our CCs are part of SUNY. I don’t know enough to say for sure if that program works (well) in getting kids from CCs to the 4 SUNY University Centers (Albany, BInghamton, Buffalo, Stony Brook) or to the more competitive SUNY Colleges (e.g. Geneseo).

  23. I’m curious if anyone has anecdotes of “average excellent” (or excellent/excellent or other) students’ experience in applying to HSSs. IIRC Finn may have some.

  24. College is a long way away for us. If we still live in VA and one of the kids gets in and likes it, UVA seems like a no brainer. But I am not very Tigerish and much less Totebaggy re: colleges than a lot of you, so any school my kids like and seems decent will likely be ok with me.

  25. My #1 graduates in June. He’s likely not ready for college and is almost certainly not ready to go off to college. So, next year, he’ll be staying at home, working a lot. and going part-time at my school (small, local, teaching > research [a “3/3” school; do y’all use those designations?]).

    My #2 is a sophomore in HS and could have gone to college last year. He’s 4.0 so far with honors and AP courses. He’ll do well on standardized tests but probably not crush them. He might go a lot of places, but most likely, he’ll go to IU. (With my half-price tuition benefit, they’ll probably end up paying him to go.)

  26. I feel like an outlier here when it comes to this topic, but I simply don’t care where my kids go. I want them to pick a place they like. If it ends up being a bad choice for whatever reason, they can course correct later.

  27. I always roll my eyes when people say they could never get into their alma mater if they had to apply today.

    If I had just completed my teenage years, it’s possible that I would have a website, blog, tumbler, Twitter account that was quasi intellectual and clever. It’s possible that I would’ve participation in something like the Intel science competition, because those things find their way to the tiny corners of the earth now. I might have even worked a little harder on my grades, as I would’ve been more aware of what the actual requirements were for college, as I could look them up on the Internet.

    It’s true that colleges expect a lot more from their applicants than they did 20 years ago. But the world offers those same applicants a lot more information and opportunity.

  28. I can only speak of applicants from my own college cycle, not now. My BFF in high school was “average excellent” She had a 4.0 and had very good but not perfect SAT scores. She did a lot of the academic extracurriculars, but played no sports, and had no serious involvement in anything not related to school. No music either. I can’t remember where all of her acceptances and rejections were, but she ended up at Harvard. She is white, and both of her parents were attorneys. She did fulfill some geographical distribution.

    Another close friend in high school also went to Harvard. She could be described in almost identical terms, except she was quite active in debate in orchestra, but nothing beyond being one of the better participants in the school. White, with college educated parents.

    Perhaps we were geographically really that desirable?

  29. MM – I always hear about how perfect you have to be ‘these days” to get into UIUC too, but according to the stats, they admit almost 60% of applicants. Even Michigan which is the “elite” public in our area admits over 25%. So how true can that need for perfection really be? Seems like a lot of “average great” students must go to those schools, which are plenty good IMHO to be successful even if you want to go to grad school, work in consulting, etc. Maybe not if you want to work at Goldman Sachs, but aren’t the robots taking over I-Banking anyway. ;)

    I kinda hope that DS will get into and like UIUC because it is a plenty good enough school with regional reach, and it is not expensive. But then, if he has specialized interests, real ambition to move to the coasts, or big career ambitions, I might be supportive of something else. I also might be supportive of something else if he really would thrive more in a smaller setting. I loved going to a small school, so it’s hard for me to discount the benefits. But he’s 8. So who knows.

  30. I went to the most selective medical school in the country. At least, it was the years I went there. I went to school with a whole lot of excellent average white people. Most of them were very smart, and very hard-working, but the average student had no hook.

  31. My kids are decent students from the wrong demographic for HSS. We have decent enough in state options. However, if my kids through their work and accomplishments had a chance and wanted to attend a selective college, I would encourage them. I would be realistic with them about their chances and not encourage only tippy top schools but a range of others that will admit them. Here, from what I can tell the college competition exists only among the top few students at the good schools – those students will usually be NMSF etc.

  32. “I always roll my eyes when people say they could never get into their alma mater if they had to apply today…. If I had just completed my teenage years, it’s possible that I would have a website, blog, tumbler, Twitter account that was quasi intellectual and clever.”

    That’s a good point, Ada. I was chatting with an average/average kid yesterday who is making a few hundred dollars a month off his YouTube account by posting clever videos. That could be spun as a catchy EC.

  33. My friends with average-excellent white daughters pushed them to do something a little off-beat. One girl did percussion in band and orchestra and is now at Columbia. (Of course she is also brilliant and a champion equestrienne and stuff.) Of the three daughters of another friend, only one didn’t do something oddball, and she didn’t get into Stanford and had to go to Occidental (sob!). It’s useful to be obsessed with music or horses or something, I think.

    To follow up on Ada’s point, I think that it’s true many of us wouldn’t get into HSSs now, but if we were kids again, we’d all be pushing ourselves harder just like today’s kids do. Maybe my mom would’ve driven me to Santa Clara for synchro. Maybe I would have jammed much harder on the clarinet to make myself appealing to Stanford Band. If we were kids again we’d do what we had to do, just like the youngsters do today.

  34. This falls into my “I can’t even” category. My boys are bright, reasonably hard working, and genuinely good kids. There will be a good fit for them one way or another. Although I am an Olympic level worrier for many, many things, for some reason college for them just has not wormed its way into my psyche. I’m confident it will work out.

  35. Then what’s the difference? Why is it that some parents live and breathe this stuff while others are much more cavalier?

  36. We have gotten the eye roll from a relative whose DD got into state flagship from a very average public school here. The eye roll is because we have our kids in private vs. public school. We are seen as foolish and wasteful. The thought is average excellent students don’t have much of a chance beyond the state flagship so it doesn’t matter what school they attend.

  37. Milo: There’s also a third category of parents who pretend to be cavalier and secretly obsess over it.

  38. We go to college night on Monday….looking to get more information. We have been talking lately about where you’d be more comfortable in terms of developing critieria, such as:
    1. How big is too big of a classroom size? She has been mostly in smaller classes, so could she handle an Chemistry 1 for Engineers with 130 students in lecture and 30 students in lab (size of mine back in the day).
    2. Does she feel more comfortable being one of a handful of really smart kids or where she is just average?

    At this point, we have told her (sophomore) that she doesn’t have to do her initial cut of schools based solely on price. However, that will come into it and her pre-paid tuition plan is our total comtribution for tutition and fees. She goes somewhere more expensive, then she either needs aid or needs to be willing to take out loans or some combination of the above. The HS has told the kids to figure out what you want to study because if you want to by an X, then schools A, L and Q have the best program for that while if you want to by a Z, then schools B, N, and Y are better. So, she is focusing on the what she wants to study now.

  39. This is the author of the original post responding in the thread’s comments (“Val” is the apparent shorthand for valedictorian.):

    agree @lostaccount . In fact, of the 12 colleges my D applied to, we only discovered some of them when people responded to my original post. Then I got the Fiske guide and that is how I learned of some of the others my D applied to. To refer to the previously mentioned Val again, her own parents had never heard of two of the LACs she got accepted to, until she applied! And one of them is super famous in the US.

    Even in my area, where people generally are pretty knowledgable of the best colleges, two of the wonderful ones my kid applied to drew blanks from almost everyone. My kid’s friends teased her and said “why on earth would you want to go to college in Minnesota?” Well, because it’s a flipping amazing school

    I feel like I despise every single person mentioned in that comment, starting with the author.

  40. I am Anonymous who doesn’t care. I think it’s because I believe in my kids–but then, so do many ppl here, including those who obsess, so that can’t be the real answer. Maybe because I didn’t grow up caring, since all schools are about the same where I’m from? But my DH doesn’t care either, and he grew up here, so …?

    No idea, but like Lark, I can worry like a champ about all kinds of things, and this truly isn’t one that’s ever made it on my list.

  41. Why is it that some parents live and breathe this stuff while others are much more cavalier?

    I think a lot of it comes from the same place you get cheer moms and football dads. They are trying to live their life through their children. I many cases trying to right the wrongs they perceive as having been done to them; “I could have gone to Harvard (NFL, MLB, etc) too if only mom and dad had been more supportive.”

  42. @Rocky — Thus also explaining our approval of choices like tuba and softball vs. violin and soccer. Now if only she’d start her own emo band. . . . :-)

    In all honesty, though, I would *not* do nearly as well as a kid today. I’d do fine on the standardized tests and essays, but the whole “schoolwork as TPS report” approach and electronic grade calculation they do nowadays would have just screwed me over. IMD most teachers gave me As because they knew I was smart; if I missed a homework assignment or something, no one really cared because they knew I knew the stuff (except for the occasional twit who downgraded me for my messy notebook); if I didn’t follow the exact process, they still mostly graded based on the result (I mean, I wrote my term paper, THEN went back and wrote the outline and note cards). And even with that leniency, I still pulled a couple of Bs and even one C over my HS career (ok, the C was because I got the flu the week before the big math test, but it still dropped my straight-As for the first three quarters to a B for the year). Now every miss along the way, every failure to comply with process, is automatically entered into the electronic grading system, where it is assigned its relative weight and computed into a precise grade. And God forbid a kid get sick before a big test (tho today, any good hovermommy probably would make a big deal about forcing a makeup test, etc., so that’s probably not a fair comparison).

    In short, I am a “results over process” person, while the school seems to focus on teaching the process as the way to get to the results, with grades based on how well each step was executed. Which actually is pretty helpful for DD, btw, and for other kids whose brains work in that more logical, stepwise manner. But I would look much more like an underachiever, because I would miss enough steps in the mandatory process to bring down my average in a number of classes to an 87% or whatever.

  43. Ada, I’m not sure how old you are, but in my day, what we were told was that the more selective schools were looking for ‘well-rounded students,’ i.e., students with interests and activities that extended beyond studying and getting good grades (test scores were supposedly measures of aptitude back then). Perhaps your friends who went to Harvard were among these well-rounded kids.

    Apparently that led to a surfeit of well-rounded students, so now to stand out you need to have a hook, and for those not born with a hook, the hook is often excellence in one particular thing, with the degree of excellence required having an inverse relationship with the number of other kids having excellence at that same thing.

    “It’s useful to be obsessed with music or horses or something, I think.”

    Apparently.

  44. “OK, what are ED and RD?”

    While ED means something specific to Bob Dole, in this context, ED is early decision, and RD is regular decision.

  45. “They are trying to live their life through their children. I many cases trying to right the wrongs they perceive as having been done to them; “I could have gone to Harvard (NFL, MLB, etc) too if only mom and dad had been more supportive.””

    In many other cases, parents are trying to do for their kids what their parents did for them, which was to give the kids opportunities they didn’t have for themselves, often through sacrifices on the part of the parents.

  46. “I am Anonymous who doesn’t care.”

    My perception, based on your posting history, is that you do care, a lot, but aren’t one of those parents who obsesses over her kids getting into particular schools or a particular tier of schools.

    E.g., I remember you being concerned about safety at a certain school one of your kids was considering.

  47. Finn,

    trying to do for their kids what their parents did for them,

    It’s hard for me to think like that but obviously you’re correct.

  48. ““I always roll my eyes when people say they could never get into their alma mater if they had to apply today…. If I had just completed my teenage years, it’s possible that I would have a website, blog, tumbler, Twitter account that was quasi intellectual and clever.””

    Maybe those kids who made it into Totebag land, or who had parents who pushed getting through the hoops so that their kids got into college prep course would be okay. But, smart kids who don’t have that are at a serious disadvantage.

    DD2, who doesn’t know when to be quiet, told me about an exchange in one of her classes earlier this week. Another kid (who is getting As in Precalc), was trying to decide between taking AP Calculus next year, or Accounting (which isn’t an A-G math class). The teacher and counselor kept trying to convince her to take accounting, because who wants to work that hard and AP classes are a bad thing. DD2 had to pipe up and point out that the other kid needed the GPA boost, and that colleges look to see if you took the rigorous classes offered, especially if there aren’t very many.

    This is the sort of advising that kids get at my children’s school. How much chance do they have to get into a flagship?

  49. “My kid’s friends teased her and said ‘why on earth would you want to go to college in Minnesota?'”

    I believe that is, literally, what I asked myself in 10th grade. :-) Famous last words and all that.

    “Why is it that some parents live and breathe this stuff while others are much more cavalier?”

    Well, background for one — I come from a family of academics, so college choice is a big thing.

    Also depends on the kid, though. I am totally *not* worried about DS, at all — I just don’t have to. He naturally does all of the things colleges like (G&T, excellent school work, tests well, etc.), so he will likely have many options available. But if not, he is also the kind of personality who will flower wherever he lands — he works really hard at whatever he is doing, he sees things as opportunities and not burdens (reminds me of Milo in this way), he tunes out the stuff that he doesn’t care about, and he is just going to do what he wants to do and nothing will get in the way. I call him my diesel engine, because once he gets going, you’re just not going to deter him. So from the mom perspective, step back, brush off hands, watch and smile.

    But DD, man . . . a lot of brains and potential, but also a lot more challenges in figuring out how to deploy the former to achieve the latter. She needs more guidance to figure out how to use her powers for good and not evil, and would very easily death-spiral her way out of the wrong situation. Her I worry about.

    I also think it’s a lot easier to not care when your kid is still 5-10 years away from thinking about it. :-)

  50. “I could have gone to Harvard (NFL, MLB, etc) too if only mom and dad had been more supportive.”

    Well that’s not my kid(s), or at least DS1 re baseball. He got all the support he needed, and he was actually good enough, but he never pushed himself unless there was an external (too often, paid) coach involved. Just not self-motivated enough to go really all in even for something he loved.

  51. Thinking of RMS’s mother not wanting to drive to synchronized swimming…the kids who were auditioning for All State Band had to be driven to their auditions all over the state it seemed for quite a few weekends in a row. The potential All State candidates I know of, seemed very internally driven and their families were not in the least Tigerish.

  52. Finn – yes, you’re entirely correct. I don’t care about the name brand/HSS/Ivy part is what I meant. I care tremendously about the kid, and not at all about bragging rights re: his/her college.

  53. “in my day, what we were told was that the more selective schools were looking for ‘well-rounded students,’”

    IMD, that was the common meme. But even then, my mom knew well enough to call bullshit — she told me that there are a gazillion “well-rounded” students out there, and that what colleges really wanted were people who were truly excellent in a specific area. They just had to be good enough in the other areas to meet the admission criteria.

  54. LfB, tuba could definitely help your DD either get into a school, and/or get financial aid, particularly at schools with big-time football programs.

    Total conjecture on my part: I imagine one such school might be the one to which Risley’s son could not bring himself to attend.

    I also know a guy from my HS whose daughter was probably average excellent as a student, but got into a HSS, because she was an excellent softball player.

  55. “I also think it’s a lot easier to not care when your kid is still 5-10 years away from thinking about it. :-)”

    True, I’m not thinking about my 7th grader’s college choices. My junior, OTOH,….

    Application period starts in July/August, so it makes sense to think and talk about this. Also, his friends are starting to make their college decisions. It’s helpful to see where people he respects go.

  56. “Apparently that led to a surfeit of well-rounded students, so now to stand out you need to have a hook, and for those not born with a hook, the hook is often excellence in one particular thing”

    That angle was pretty well publicized by the time I was going through this.

    I grew up caring about college prestige (far, far more than I do now) because my Mom made a big deal about it. A school that nobody had ever heard of in Minnesota would not be sugarcoated as “flipping amazing.” I think part of my Mom’s interest in the matter was based on what Rhett said, that she realized her parents weren’t sophisticated enough to even think about what a name brand meant.

    There is a topic we’ve discussed before about personal finance and conspicuous consumption, and the going theory was that one’s propensity toward conspicuous consumption throughout life could often be predicted by his self-perception of relative socioeconomic status in high school. My Mom grew up working-middle class in a fairly affluent area (now a very wealthy area). Her best friend’s Dad was a prominent judge. I think this set of circumstances may have contributed to her being the kind of person who would never tolerate vinyl siding.

  57. Hmm …I don’t think it’s mainly about bragging rights or parents wanting to re-live their lives through their children. Some possible reasons why parents push:

    The belief that getting into the UMC is getting harder, and that an elite degree can only help.
    The belief that your kid truly belongs among the HSS elite because that’s where she’ll find her tribe. You think you really have a snowflake.

  58. I don’t think it’s mainly about bragging rights or parents wanting to re-live their lives through their children.

    We’re not talking about the set of all the parents of HSS students. We’re talking about the subset who are concerned about it to a degree even a totebagger would find unseemly. For those their innate competitive nature expressed trough their children is a big part of it.

  59. “The belief that getting into the UMC is getting harder, and that an elite degree can only help.”

    When you say UMC, do you mean purely by financial numbers, or is school name bragging rights a variable in that? Because obviously, if you run the numbers, in-state vs. the flipping amazing SLAC that nobody’s heard of (including the applicant’s parents)…, Vanguard index fund, yadda yadda yadda…

    One thing that makes it hard for me to care about this stuff is that I always seem to be working with and for alumni of VT, NC State, Georgia Tech, Penn State…

  60. “The belief that getting into the UMC is getting harder, and that an elite degree can only help.”

    This is another factor that is probably also specific to the Northeast. Because in most of the country, it’s really not that hard at all to have an UMC life. Let’s just take a look at the outer suburbs of Charlotte:

    http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/562-Medora-Ln_Fort-Mill_SC_29708_M55294-07505#photo11

    (I know a little of this area, since I initially accepted, and then turned down a job offer in Charlotte.)

  61. It seems that there are regional differences in what constitutes an elite degree and whether the elite degree is worth it if you don’t choose to live on the east cost or work in finance.

    When push came to shove, DH and I couldn’t justify the cost of an elite school versus the cost of flagships. She could put a substantial down payment on a new house, start a business, or pay for grad school with the difference in cost. The flagships have an impressive alumni network, provide an excellent education for what she wants, and are on this side of the Mississippi.

  62. I am not sure I believe that UMC status is that hard to maintain. I went to a big public university. The tier down from UVA and UNC. ~30% admittance rate. Pretty cheap for in state tuition. Almost all of my college friends are UMC. Most were reasonably bright but nothing exceptional. I think my experience is pretty typical.

  63. “One thing that makes it hard for me to care about this stuff is that I always seem to be working with and for alumni of VT, NC State, Georgia Tech, Penn State…”

    I relate to this. Even when I worked for the big, admired Multinational conglomerate, they mostly recruited from state flagship caliber schools on the high end. Since then, I’ve mostly worked for and with people who went to state schools of all levels and regional privates. There are way more of Rhett’s hypothetical people who are a VP at 5th3rd Bank with a degree from Michigan State in the UMC than anything else, I would think. I also agree that I don’t know that an UMC lifestyle is really all that hard to achieve without killing yourself to get into an elite school or an elite company post-graduation, but I think that depends on what you call an UMC lifestyle.

  64. I’m not worried about the prestige of the school that my kids go to. They are still young enough that I think they are super special snowflakes ;) Someone summarized it well in a previous college post that some people view college as an investment decision and some view it as a consumption decision. I want my kids to have the life-changing experience that I had at college, and I’m willing to pay for it. Obviously, I view it as a consumption decision.

    There are very few people that I know in the corporate jobs I’ve had in town that graduated from prestigious schools (HYPS). The vast majority aren’t even graduates of prestigious land grant universities as most have graduated from directional state universities. Coworkers at my level and above lead very comfortable lives here in flyover country.

  65. “I imagine one such school might be the one to which Risley’s son could not bring himself to attend.”

    @Finn, honestly, I think that would be awesome for her. I just don’t think she can get in.

    “A school that nobody had ever heard of in Minnesota would not be sugarcoated as “flipping amazing.””

    Whoa, them’s fighting words. Don’t diss my alma mater. #4 liberal arts school in the country when I attended, #1 west of the Mississippi (+ 1/3 cheaper and 2/3 less attitude).

    The fact that our DC bubble believes the only acceptable school west of the Appalachians is Stanford doesn’t make it true.

  66. “but I think that depends on what you call an UMC lifestyle.”

    What do we consider an UMC lifestyle?

    Along this line of thinking, it still kind of amazes even me to watch Beachfront/Lakefront Bargain Hunt, or one of the 50 different cabin shows, and size up the people buying vacation homes.

    They’re very rarely Totebaggy. Perhaps Totebaggy people are too concerned about saving for private college and being gung ho about weekend tutoring and extracurricular hooks to be flitting away their weekends at the beach in Galveston or tubing on Lake of the Ozarks.

  67. It is also about doing for your kids what your parents did NOT do for you. In my case, my parents were like there are two major state universities – A and B. At that time, B was more know for math and science graduates, apply there. The end.

    I saw all the catalogs (way before the internet) and asked about other places. The response was just, no. In hindsight, both knowing myself better and knowing more about those other schools, several of them would have been a better fit. I completed undergrad and grad school, but my entire focus was to just get through this and get out. I now know I didn’t take advantage of many things that were on campus, but I had no idea and no guidance. While I was not a first time college attendee in my family, I might as well have been.

    So, from my perspective, I want my DDs to pick some thing to study that is a balance between being employable when they graduate and something they enjoy, without being burdened by a boat load of debt. I want them to do that in an environment that both challeges them academically and gives them a sense of community while they attend school. Many, many schools fit this description, so it isn’t about finding the ONE perfect match.

  68. LfB – No, it’s not that I’m dissing anything. I truly believe that just about any school can give you a great education. It’s just something about that author’s attitude that I can’t quite pinpoint that drives me batty. I have a little bit of Holden Caulfield coming out here. It’s the same reason I despised some of the characters of Parenthood (well, mainly just Christina).

  69. I feel like an outlier here when it comes to this topic, but I simply don’t care where my kids go. I want them to pick a place they like. If it ends up being a bad choice for whatever reason, they can course correct later.

    You’re not the only one.I feel exactly the same way. I think a lot of it is regional – this is a much bigger deal in the northeast than it is in other parts of the country.

  70. Well, *I’ve* heard of a top liberal arts school in MN. But I suppose the whole discussion supports the argument that most people think of school prestige in terms of HPYS (big name schools everyone’s heard of) and Local Flagship / Other Local Schools. So if you’re looking at college on the investment model, if you’re not going to HPYS or Local Favorite, there’s not a big difference between a Carleton or Reed or Pomona and a University of Northern Arizona or Michigan State or one of the SUNYs — most people will see it and just register ‘college degree from some place I’m not familiar with.’ OTOH, if you’re looking on the consumption model and Reed is your dream school, Michigan State is probably not just as good.

  71. Just did my time standing in front of my student’s research poster at Student Research Day. Ouch, my feet hurt.
    SOmeone suggested RIT. I was cataloguing PUBLIC schools with engineering. RIT is private and quite expensive. That is why I was excited to find out that my second kid could go there for essentially public tuition because they have a special program for hearing impaired kids. But that doesn’t help DS1, plus I don’t think he has the GPA to get in anyway, even though I know he would do well there (I know people in their CS program pretty well, and know the level at which they teach). My DS1 is an example of the kind of kid who is put at a disadvantage by the recent trend to emphasize grades over SATs.

    Another shocker for me was last year when I went to the HS awards night. They introduced their top seniors and went through their achievements. These kids were amazing. They were all team captains, had done independent science research projects or chaired significant fundraising initiatives or won music awards. They had great grades and showed lots of initiative and leadership. And yet, only a couple were going to schools we would describe as elite (Columbia and Cornell). Most were going to SUNY, CUNY, or Fordham (local fave because you can live close to home). I think only a couple were going out of state. Was it limited horizons, or just that these seemingly perfect kids were not good enough for the top tier schools?

  72. I’m thinking of writing up a post on online college classes (credit-earning, not MOOCs), both for current high school students and in general.

  73. I went to HHSs. DH went to a 3rd tier school. DH partied more and I worked more. However, we wound up in the same place, professionally. For this reason, I am less stressed about where DS goes to college.

  74. “When you say UMC, do you mean purely by financial numbers, or is school name bragging rights a variable in that?”

    Mainly financial. But it’s also about being able to have a job that is not miserable, offers options, and is in fact enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.

    Yeah, the importance of an elite degree is probably more of a Northeast opinion because there’s probably a greater concentration there.

    “It’s just something about that author’s attitude that I can’t quite pinpoint that drives me batty.”

    I was wondering why the hate. She actually seems to be the relative voice of reason, and not unlike many totebaggers. It seems many of us do the same things that those “crazies” who live and breathe this stuff do. Not all of us, but many of us do focus a lot of our attention on grooming our kids to “be their best”. If being their best means going to the best college, many of us would be on board for that.

  75. One reason that this is such a big deal in the northeast is our relative lack of top tier public universities. This is even more true in CT and MA than in NY. In CT, the public flagship was underfunded badly for years, so badly that classes were held in 1940’s era quonset huts as late as the 90’s. UMC people in CT did not want their kids going to the flagship, which drew more from working class families like my DH (he went there for undergrad).

    Also, it is harder to get into elite schools if you are from the Northeast, which feeds into the paranoia. But I think lack of decent public flagships is the bigger part of it. There are no Berkeleys or UMichigans or VATechs in the Northeast

  76. My Notre Dame friends taught me that Michigan State is a terrible, despicable school with the trashiest student body you could imagine. When I lived in a shared apartment, we had enough ND merchandise on display to open a satellite apparel and gift shop.

  77. When you say UMC, do you mean purely by financial numbers, or is school name bragging rights a variable in that?

    In addition to bragging rights you also have access to what I’d call HSOs. Just like we have HSSs we also have HSOs (highly selective occupations). Looking in Boston, it seems like a curator at the MFA (Tufts, Yale, Harvard) makes 72k and and MD PhD researcher (Johns Hopkins, Harvard) looks like it pays $160k. Both are of course extremely prestigious occupations. They would make the same as a nurse manager married to a cop who works some OT, the couple having met at UMass Boston.

  78. “It’s just something about that author’s attitude that I can’t quite pinpoint that drives me batty.”

    Yeah, I see it. It’s a combo of the extreme helicopter tendencies mixed with a dash of snobbery. The acronyms are also grating for some reason, but in 8 years, it may not look like a foreign language to me, so I shouldn’t be too harsh. But I’ve seen the same type of annoying tendencies on the local school choice/admissions discussion blog, and I didn’t care for the obsessiveness, humble bragging, and put downs there either.

  79. “My DS1 is an example of the kind of kid who is put at a disadvantage by the recent trend to emphasize grades over SATs.”

    I think the top schools emphasize both.

  80. “but the whole “schoolwork as TPS report” approach and electronic grade calculation they do nowadays would have just screwed me over.”

    This is where many kids in large public high schools are at a serious disadvantage, IMO. In my brief stint as an admissions reader, I saw the difference that a small, well-funded private school can make in helping above-average but not tippy top students more competitive. They have more realistic grading scales (90 is an A, not 93 or 94), and don’t have plusses or minuses. They don’t exclude as many kids from AP courses, but they also may offer 15 AP courses instead of 25, removing the pressure to pile them on and eliminating the absurdly inflated 5.4+ GPAs. Smaller class sizes and better teachers means that able kids with organization issues might still get top grades, because there is less focus on endless graded events and the quest for points. It seems to me that a lot of bright kids get dinged because the grading systems have become increasingly mechanical, even as grade inflation means that the kids who have mastered the TPS report format are all getting straight A’s.

    And perhaps one reason that the state flagship rep at MM’s college night was hammering the AP/GPA point is that large state schools don’t have the resources to ensure at least one human reader for every application?

    On the broader theme of the CC post — first, many of the parents who post there are an extremely self-selected group of obsessive busy-bodies. Even when all of their kids are past the college admissions stage, they are still hanging around providing advice and bickering over the details of particular students’ HSS chances. But I do think that the OP on that thread made some excellent points about the difficulty of the HSS admissions game. Supply and demand. The supply of seats in those classes is fixed, and each year the demand increases both from overseas and from the efforts to increase applications from under-represented groups. Most of the elements that determine admission are beyond the control of the applicants, and students and their parents are deluding themselves when they are convinced that there is some special, secret formula for Getting In.

  81. because they have a special program for hearing impaired kids.

    and there are a ton of students there who are deaf/hearing impaired. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is a big deal. A place for said kids to go without seeming different.

  82. CoC- Hate’s too strong a word. I wish I could better explain what bothers me about it. Part of it is what comes across as her need to push the idea that her kid is truly exceptional, that she and her friend, the “val,” are, by their nature, entitled to the best, therefore any school they choose to attend would automatically be amazing. (And I don’t even know what school this is). That plays into what I perceive as a huge “phoniness.”

  83. CoC, perhaps at Harvard, where you better be perfect in every category. But at the next level down, there has definitely been a recent trend to deemphasize the SAT. They claim that GPA shows a students perseverance better, which I just don’t buy. Of course I haven’t done a scientific study, but I have access to high school GPAs and SATs for our students, and find the SATs far more predictive. The problem with GPAs is that they are all clustered. My students typically come in with between an 88 to 93 HS average, in non APs of course. You just don’t see students with anything below an 85. There isn’t much difference between a student with an 89 and a student with a 92, IMHO. But their SATs have huge differences. So a student with a 91 average and a 450 math SAT is far more likely to flunk out than a student with an 89 average and a 650 math SAT (and yes, we see both)

  84. Milo – I’m speechless. I think your ND roommates meant Michigan and not Michigan State. :)

    I don’t need to worry about any of this talk for my kids. We are from MN after all – where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” They will be just fine.

  85. Fred MacMurray – yes that program is what we are interested in. Because of my friends who teach there, I knew it existed and I knew they work with very hearing impaired students all the time. So RIT was already on my radar. I wasn’t aware of the financial perks until I went to the engineering expo

  86. “It’s a combo of the extreme helicopter tendencies mixed with a dash of snobbery.”

    YES! I’m very quickly turned off by parents who know too much about the details of other kids. I see this even in elementary school, and it’s mildly repulsive to me even when some Mom is complimenting me on something that my kid did in school. I’m thinking “Why the hell are you even paying attention to how my kid did on a science project?”

  87. @Milo — Well, it seems like you think she was “sugar-coating” her daughter’s out-of-state options to puff up her own ego and persuade everyone her daughter was smart enough to go to a great school when it was really only meh. But that’s not what she was doing. The out-of-state school *was* a fantastic school – far better than many local options. Yet her daughter was being laughed at for considering it instead of the better-known-but-not-as-good local options. She was commenting on the parochial attitude that says “why in the world would you want to go *there*?” without realizing that “there” is pretty awesome.

    Try reading that paragraph again from the assumption that the out-of-state options are in fact top HSS, and the in-state options are meh. I think you can still dislike her for caring so much about whether her friends recognized the college name (I could tell her you get used to it). But it is frustrating, because either you let it go and let people think you’re stupid [the correct call in the end, btw], or you correct people and then come across as the egotist who has to brag to everyone how good your school was. It’s the same thing I heard while interviewing out of law school: “If you’re so smart, why didn’t you go to [insert local top-20 school] instead of [insert far-away top-10 school]?” There is no good answer to that question (although “no student loans” helped).

  88. “I think your ND roommates meant Michigan and not Michigan State. :)”

    They got into some fight at a football game with Michigan State students, and that was the primary basis for this assessment.

  89. One reason that this is such a big deal in the northeast is our relative lack of top tier public universities. This is even more true in CT and MA than in NY. In CT, the public flagship was underfunded badly for years, so badly that classes were held in 1940’s era quonset huts as late as the 90’s. UMC people in CT did not want their kids going to the flagship, which drew more from working class families like my DH (he went there for undergrad).

    Also, it is harder to get into elite schools if you are from the Northeast, which feeds into the paranoia. But I think lack of decent public flagships is the bigger part of it. There are no Berkeleys or UMichigans or VATechs in the Northeast

    There aren’t any of that level public schools in Colorado either and people don’t seem to be very concerned about their kids getting into an HSS. I think a lot of it is that most of the HSSs are in the northeast, so there’s more interest in them. The higher population density factors into it as well – if the schools want geographic diversity, there is less competition if you are applying from Colorado than from New Jersey.

  90. “Was it limited horizons, or just that these seemingly perfect kids were not good enough for the top tier schools?”

    Mooshi, there are some 10,000 private and 24,000 public high schools in this country. They all have top students and team captains. Even if you focus on the top 10% of public and 30% of private schools, and assume that there are a dozen of those perfect kids at each one, that’s 30,000 perfect kids. How many slots at the top schools? You can do the math. The TJ magnet school in Fairfax County, which graduates 800 “perfect” kids each year, only gets about a dozen students into universities like Stanford and Princeton. https://www.tjhsst.edu/abouttj/schoolprofile/docs/2014-15TJHSST%20Profile.pdf

  91. LfB – I can see what you’re saying. However,

    “She was commenting on the parochial attitude that says “why in the world would you want to go *there*?” without realizing that “there” is pretty awesome.”

    1) Remember that I said I despised EVERYONE in the thread equally :) , including those who were making fun of the girl for going to Minnesota.

    2) The author didn’t think the school was amazing before her daughter decided to apply and attend. By her own admission, she hadn’t heard of it. So I get the sense that if the dice had come up differently and her DD were going to Dartmouth, she would be of the same parochial attitude that she’s now correcting.

  92. I used to be moderately concerned, but my first has changed schools, changed majors, dealt with life’s ups and downs, and I realize it’s all going to be fine. It’s much easier going into this the second time. My kids are individuals, and they’re not me, and just because I think I would want to do it a certain way in their shoes has no bearing on what is going to happen. They require different things to be happy than I did. But taking the long view, they’re going to be fine, and they’re going to make good lives for themselves.

  93. Unlike the rest of you, I’m confident that my children, even Baby WCE, could get admitted to my alma mater, Rural Iowa Community College. And Baby WCE only says 4 words so far. I’m optimistic her vocabulary will be adequate by then.

    If any of my children have a burning desire to be admitted to a selective school, I may rent a post office box at the nearest Indian Reservation. But based on the drive and ambition they’ve shown so far, I hope they’ll someday graduate Thank You Laud from a state university.

    Last year (or maybe the year before), I observed that two children of Mr WCE’s engineering colleagues went to Harvard and West Point in the same year and I read about half-a-dozen other people from our three main local high schools/home schools going to selective schools. (includes military academies, not just Ivies/MIT/Stanford) People from here must get geographic diversity points.

    Rhett’s point about people from prestigious schools having access to prestigious occupations is the main reason for the interest in selective schools, I think. To work in the arts, politics or national journalism, it’s best to have parents who can send you to a highly selective school. This means you can graduate without a six figure debt at 8%. The two Harvard grads I know from high school are in this position. One is a human rights advocate. The other one has started a wedding planning business.

  94. “Rhett’s point about people from prestigious schools having access to prestigious occupations is the main reason for the interest in selective schools”

    One of Scarlett’s classic quotes from TOS is “Nobody goes to Harvard to become an occupational therapist.”

  95. Mooshi – I can’t remember if you have thought about the Olin school for your son. Is that an option?

  96. Milo, LfB, this is why the correct response to hearing where someone’s kid is going to college is always, “Great! Is she excited?” or if kid is already there, “Great! How’s he liking it?” Even if it’s the nondegree program in thumb-sucking from the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, “Great! Is she excited?”

  97. “So I get the sense that if the dice had come up differently and her DD were going to Dartmouth, she would be of the same parochial attitude that she’s now correcting.”

    Probably. But a big point of her thread is she learned that Dartmouth is mostly unattainable but other great options exist. She wanted to share what she learned. I can’t find much fault in that.

  98. “I’m very quickly turned off by parents who know too much about the details of other kids. I see this even in elementary school, and it’s mildly repulsive to me even when some Mom is complimenting me on something that my kid did in school. I’m thinking “Why the hell are you even paying attention to how my kid did on a science project?””

    YES – this drives me insane too. I had another mom who commented on DS being in a certain reading group, and how it was a “higher” reading group than her kid, and I was really taken aback. Why does she care? How does she even know? I know what he is reading, and he’s mentioned a couple of the kids that he does his “book club” activities with, but I don’t know how many reading groups there are and the relative level of each of them. I certainly don’t know or care which kid is in which group. Ridiculous.

  99. My child is absolutely furious that a MS classmate at a different HS is given extra credit just for the asking. MS classmate doesn’t like current grade, go ask for extra credit and the teacher is required to give it. MS classmate would have course averages in the low 80’s, but plays the extra credit game so well, the averages are in the mid-upper 90s. My child’s HS discourages extra credit in general and it is only allowed if it is offered to everyone taking that course – not just one section, but all of them.

    To MM’s point – yes searching out the extra credit shows perserverence, but how well will this child do when it isn’t offered that way in college? SAT/ACT scores are more reflective of this child’s academic ability.

  100. Regarding knowing where your kid is compared to their peers —- Some schools make this very transparent and/or communicate to parents about their child and others don’t. Parents with children on the border of a level (math, reading, etc) who think their child should bump up are often the ones trying to figure all this out as they don’t think their child is properly placed.

  101. “The author didn’t think the school was amazing before her daughter decided to apply and attend. By her own admission, she hadn’t heard of it.”

    That’s not what I took away from it. She hadn’t heard of it [my alma mater] until she started asking around. Then someone mentioned it, so she did some research and discovered, holy cow, here’s this great school she had never heard of. So her daughter applied (and got laughed at). And in the end her daughter didn’t get admitted there (waitlisted).

  102. I know I’ve read several articles about the alma maters of a number of CEOs – they usually came from state schools, and obviously are very successful.

    I went to a HSS and DH to one of his state’s flagship schools and it took him about 5 years to leapfrog over me, org chart-wise, at our company. His parents did not go to college, and he got no direction from anyone except for his older brother mentioning Harvey Mudd one time – and DH gave it no more than a passing thought. He had to pay for his school after freshman year, so the in state options were clearly the way to go.

    We interacted with a very type-A, well educated group of parents while our kids were in high school, and so many were obsessed with their kids going to school “back east” (RMS – thinking of your comment from the other day). They didn’t really care how good the school was, and were happy to pay that $50K a year rather than admit the kid didn’t get into one of the UCs. Although there are plenty of them who seem to get into to the HSS schools – either money or a hook of some sort, I guess.

    My advice to the average excellent student is to apply to enough of a variety of schools that you won’t be terribly disappointed. Don’t do all top 20 schools plus one local state school; make sure you have some safety schools that you really want to attend. Also, be sure to look for merit aid at some of the private schools that have it to give. They may not be HYPS, but they are good schools from which anyone would be proud to graduate.

  103. “They claim that GPA shows a students perseverance better, which I just don’t buy.”

    Grades are much more subjective and, as anon 3:01 points out, subject to the whims of those assigning grades.

    What I’ve pretty consistently heard from HSS presentations is that grades are very important, especially if the applicant is from a school with which they are familiar. But if the applicant is from a school from whom students rarely, if ever, apply, grades are looked at with a grain of salt, and test scores will matter more because they are considered to be more objective.

  104. “And perhaps one reason that the state flagship rep at MM’s college night was hammering the AP/GPA point is that large state schools don’t have the resources to ensure at least one human reader for every application?”

    UC is experimenting with LoR this year, with just UCB accepting them, and they are optional.

  105. Ivy- At least she wasn’t commenting that your child was in a “lower” reading group! I’ve found that many times those comments really are an indication of some insecurity or worry of that parent about their own child and really has very little to do with you or your child. Like when a parent notes how your child is already walking/eating/sitting up, etc.

  106. “Was it limited horizons, or just that these seemingly perfect kids were not good enough for the top tier schools?”

    MM, I’ve mentioned it before, but I’d bet my bottom dollar most of these perfect kids had so-so test scores. Good but not great scores.

  107. “Regarding knowing where your kid is compared to their peers —- Some schools make this very transparent and/or communicate to parents about their child and others don’t. ”

    I see your point, but knowing where your kid as compared to their peers in general is one thing, knowing specifically how all the other kids rank is another. This is 2nd grade.

  108. “She hadn’t heard of it [my alma mater] until she started asking around. Then someone mentioned it, so she did some research and discovered, holy cow, here’s this great school she had never heard of.”

    Born-again types are the worst–Christian, sober, whatever…

  109. I really do feel for the very very bright (in the book smart sense) or very talented but less than fully socialized kids today. The reason in my day and as a parent that I thought it legitimate to pursue a top school, whether a leading liberal arts college, a top STEM school, an elite university, or a specialized program (Juilliard/RISD), was so that the kid could just “be”, find his/her peer group, have his curiosity/talent nurtured and also critically evaluated, instead of trying to pass as “regular” socially while being trained to accept that his square peg self shouldn’t aspire to anything but a round hole.

    So I personally am not as concerned about exactly where on SLAC ladder or the engineering school ladder the “average” excellent or the above average kid ends up, although I can see that the full pay influx of kids from overseas or trickle down highly qualified out of state students, coupled with budget cut backs can adversely affect less expensive opportunities for in state students. Most totebag and totebag fellow traveler kids will end up fine. I care about the quirky bright kid who can’t play the game, although those are kids (and their equally quirky parents) who may be the ones who develop new educational paths to serve themselves better.

    And LfB – that college was known to me growing up, and Cambridge MA always sends a fine contingent. It doesn’t go in and out of fashion like some of the others of its general type. If my niece had been willing to go that far from home (probably would not have made the cut, tho), I would not be rolling my eyes to the same degree.

  110. They got the bubble areas of Houston wrong. So many more bubblier options….

  111. “Supply and demand. The supply of seats in those classes is fixed, and each year the demand increases both from overseas and from the efforts to increase applications from under-represented groups.”

    Some HSS have been increasing their enrollments. E.g., Yale did it recently, Stanford and Princeton have announced plans.

  112. “that’s 30,000 perfect kids.”

    But there are fewer than 1000 perfect SATs per graduating class.

  113. “At least she wasn’t commenting that your child was in a “lower” reading group! I’ve found that many times those comments really are an indication of some insecurity or worry of that parent about their own child and really has very little to do with you or your child. Like when a parent notes how your child is already walking/eating/sitting up, etc.”

    Oh right – exactly. I think she thought it was a compliment. If it were the opposite, she would have kept her mouth shut and looked at with me with pity I guess. Maybe she did that when she saw his sad science fair project. I thought it indicated a creepy level of investment in her child’s classmates academic progress in early elementary school. :) I guess it doesn’t change from the infant days to the college admissions to the “HSO” job offers!

    I like Scarlett’s characterization of the CC heavy posting crowd as a self-selecting group of busybodies. I guess that’s what rubbed me the wrong way like Milo. Busybody is a perfect word. It encompasses both the know-it-all quality and the obsessiveness. (Note: I have never been on that site except for through links from here, I am purely commenting on the excerpt of the mom of the snowflake with the “val” BFF.)

  114. DD- That there is a quite well regarded public school in your state.

    Regionally. It has no name recognition nationally.

  115. “I think a lot of it is regional – this is a much bigger deal in the northeast than it is in other parts of the country.”

    When I lived in CA, the focus among most of the parents I talked to about that sort of thing was quite different. For many CA students, the goal is to get into a UC, and especially to get into the first choice UC. For many of the very high achievers, Stanford is also a goal.

    This is consistent with what I’ve seen recently on Naviance, where when you look at one school, you can also see what other schools others who are looking at that school are looking at. Kids looking at Harvard often look at Stanford, MIT, and other Ivies. Kids looking at Stanford often look at UCs.

    My guess is that is why Stanford has recently had the lowest acceptance rates. They get a lot of the same applicants as the Ivies and MIT, but they also get a lot of regional applicants who don’t apply to the NE schools.

  116. ” yes searching out the extra credit shows perserverence, but how well will this child do when it isn’t offered that way in college?”

    Um, college students always show that kind of “perseverance”, and lots of instructors, especially the adjuncts, give in. Not just at my school, but my colleagues at other schools all report doing this. I think it is especially common at your small liberal arts colleges where everything is supposed to be personalized.

  117. OK, I am puzzled by acceptance rates. For example, one school I was checked said they have an acceptance rate of 84%, not so good, but SATs that average around 600 for math and verbal. How is that possible? Is it just that people with bad SATs don’t even bother applying? In that case, the acceptance rate is pretty meaningless because it would then be based at how effective the school is at scaring potential applicants off.

  118. “she would have kept her mouth shut and looked at with me with pity I guess. ”

    You would hope. I’ve had some busybody types say some rather rude things when they learn DS has an IEP all under the guise of being helpful.

  119. MM, does the school require SATs from all applicants? Because if it’s optional, then kids with lower SATs might not submit them.

  120. “I like Scarlett’s characterization of the CC heavy posting crowd as a self-selecting group of busybodies. ”

    This might shock some, but I do go to CC and read posts there.

    As Scarlett points out, it’s a self-selecting group. My perception is that a lot of posters go there because there are others of like mind there, and there is some anonymity, so they feel comfortable discussing things at a level with which they rarely if ever discuss with anyone IRL.

    If you’re creeped out by the discussions there, then it’s not for you. But thanks to the obsessiveness of many of the posters, there’s a lot of info there, all in one place, and many of them are very willing to share what’s taken them a long time to research.

  121. Colorado School of Mines has national recognition for some fields, but maybe not of interest to most students.

    There are colleges where the acceptance rate is not a good measure, where students self select to apply.

  122. “One reason that this is such a big deal in the northeast is our relative lack of top tier public universities. This is even more true in CT and MA than in NY.”

    Ouch, not good news for L and her UM Amherst thoughts.

  123. If you’re creeped out by the discussions there, then it’s not for you. But thanks to the obsessiveness of many of the posters, there’s a lot of info there, all in one place, and many of them are very willing to share what’s taken them a long time to research.

    Yeah, that’s my impression of the CC boards, that it’s a great place to look for detailed information on some specific college-related topic, but a bad place for your sanity to regularly hang out.

  124. Finn, but ZooMass does give you access to classes at its tonier neighbors.

    (Do people still call it ZooMass?)

  125. UMass was always dissed in the Northeast, but that may be changing.

    Even back when I lived in New England, there was a lot of discussion as to why the public universities were so much worse than those in other wealthy states. The answer given was always that the people in the state government had all gone to private colleges, so the public universities were off their radar. Also, for a long time these were not sports schools. I think UConn only started getting adequate state funding after their basketball team started winning. Back when my DH was there, the basketball team was a sad joke.

  126. A much larger number of applicants are now coming from CA if you look at the statistics of the top schools in New England, mid Atlantic, and southeast. If you look at enrolled students at the top 20 school all along the east coast, you will see a shift in a pattern from 10 – 15 years ago where states such as NY, NJ, MA and PA would dominate as the top feeder states. It used to be more regional, but the population growth is coming out of other states such as CA. One reason is that some of the top CA students can’t get into the UC schools that they would like to attend because the competition is so stiff. This has created a shift in the application and yield rates from CA at some of the top schools. The schools predict that the next state to send large numbers out of state due to demographics will Texas, but that hasn’t happened yet.

  127. “UConn”

    BTW, I love their team name. It makes a lot more sense than many other schools’ team names, and shows a sense of humor.

  128. “One reason is that some of the top CA students can’t get into the UC schools that they would like to attend because the competition is so stiff. ”

    I’ve also heard that in-state UC acceptance rates dropped as the schools accepted more OOS, including many from out of country, full-pay students due to reduced state funding.

  129. Hmmmm. I guess I could qualify as a busy body per complaints above. I guess I should also avoid making helpful comments about other people’s kids who may or may not have IEPs. Seriously what else is there to talk about with a fellow mom/dad who you only ever meet at your kids school?

  130. “I like Scarlett’s characterization of the CC heavy posting crowd as a self-selecting group of busybodies. ”

    I, too, disagree. CC has given me a lot of valuable information about AP v. IB track in high school, about good summer program options for high school students interested in STEM (led me to Milo’s alma mater last year–DS had a blast), and about good engineering schools for DS. A lot of schools on our list made our list only because of CC (Bama, Purdue, Oklahoma, Ga Tech). Since neither DH nor I have an engineering background, this info was very helpful to us.

  131. To Milo’s question – I think I just don’t worry about it too much because we have such good state school options. If they decide those state schools are not the right fit for them, or if there’s an academic area they want to pursue that isn’t offered at state schools, certainly DH and I would support them in researching and evaluating other options. But fundamentally that should be a kid-driven process. By the time they get there, we’ll have done our part to educate and raise them, and after that it’s on them.

    To Rhett’s point about parents – My parents all but filled out my older sibling’s college applications (in fact, to hear them tell the story, they actually did fill them out and I would not be surprised if it were tru). They were the original helicopter parents . That sibling flunked out freshman year from a fabulous school. By the time they got to me they were so over it, they didn’t even take me to visit a single school (not even UGA). I tagged along with a girlfriend and her parents on their school visit trip. They would not have known which schools I was applying to had they not had to write the application checks. There was zero discussion about where I should go or what I wanted to do. And I did great – loved the entire college experience.

    So my goal is to be in the middle. I want the process to be kid-driven, but I want to be supportive. And I’m thankful it doesn’t take up too much real estate in my brain, because I can’t usually pick what I do and don’t worry about.

  132. “But there are fewer than 1000 perfect SATs per graduating class.”

    True, but none of those kids is a shoe-in at any of the HSS either.

  133. Houston, I have never done CC. I know it has forums, lots of them. I thought it was mainly for students though. Where do the parentals hang out?

  134. “The schools predict that the next state to send large numbers out of state due to demographics will Texas, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

    That’s happening here. Because of the competition for the Texas flagship schools, many kids are going out of state. Not necessarily by choice.

  135. “I think your ND roommates meant Michigan and not Michigan State. :)”

    Or both.

    ND has long rivalries with both schools, longer with MSU (ND leads series 48–28–1, and that 1 was an epic), but less successful with UM (trails 24–17–1).

    And of course a lot of people just don’t like ND.

  136. There are a lot of parents on the college sites, too, posting info on dorm choices, food plans, registration for orientation, etc.

  137. The other thing that seems really different about this generation, perhaps in response to the busybodies, is the way they and their parents are so “on” about message management.

    We were talking with DW’s cousin-in-law, a high school senior whose family is part of our extended holiday group that I’ve previously described, on Thanksgiving, and she was talking about college applications (it’s not like I even asked). But at the time, her public statement was something like she was planning to apply to seven schools, she had already been accepted to two, and was very hopeful about one. Apparently, the identities of these schools was strictly on a need-to-know basis. And I really don’t care, but it would just be natural to make a comment like “Oh, well Charlottesville’s a fun town,” or something to that effect. But nope. So what are you supposed to say to that? “Go get ’em!”?

    DW’s cousin, a little bit older, was going through the same thing a few years ago and her Mom, a career HR manager, always controlled the updates by email like it was a corporate press release. It was concluded with a list of “Applied, and offered admission” as one heading and “Applied, not offered admission” in another column. God forbid anyone use the “r” word!

    Of course, this is the same girl who explained to DW how they were timing their engagement announcement on Facebook so that it would post on a Friday afternoon when she suspected that it would get the most attention and comments.

  138. “And of course a lot of people just don’t like ND.”

    That’s an understatement. They resent, imo, the fiercely loyal, perhaps a bit cultish alumni.

  139. MM, when I’m looking at CC it’s because of some specific issue I’m looking at so it’s a range of sub-forums. My impression is that there’s a mix of parents and students on the boards under the broad category of ‘college admissions,’ with parents more likely to be veterans of the process, whereas the boards under the broad category of ‘current college student issues’ are more student-heavy.

  140. Quick, alert HPYS, and the occasional west-of-the-Appalachian’s SLAC: DS just got honorable mention in the 4th grade STEM Fair. New resume forthcoming.

    :-)

  141. “Where do the parentals hang out?”

    The site is huge, and there are a whole bunch of threads and communities within the site. There are numerous parent communities, e.g., CO 2016 parents, CO 2017 parents. Some threads/communities are mixed, with parents and students, e.g., some communities for specific schools, or trying to figure out NMSF cutoffs.

    I’ve only explored a limited part of the site.

  142. Dell – I guess I should’ve added more context. Really (as usual) I’m just venting.

    To answer your question – You complain about the curriculum, administration and/or teacher, of course! (joking)

  143. “I have a little bit of Holden Caulfield coming out here. ”

    Do you read Frazz? It’s my favorite comic from the local paper.

    One of the regular characters is named Caulfield.

  144. Let’s say your snowflake is considering taking up yak herding, and you’re wondering whether this could be the hook that gets him into an Ivy. So you google ‘yak herding ivy admission site:collegeconfidential.com’ and then explore the results. Who knows which sub-sub-forum that topic might arise on? But whatever threads you find, chances are there are both parents (“My daughter used her yak herding experience as an essay topic and she’s now at Yale, but it turned out they wouldn’t let her bring her yaks to campus!”) and students (“HELP I have a 4.2 GPA SATs only 1590 but my dream is to go Ivy do you think yak herding could help?”) Except, again, for the college-specific subforums, which seem to be mostly students (“Hey, anyone who’s lived in XXX Residence Hall, did you have problems with other students’ yaks always monopolizing the common rooms?”)

  145. They resent, imo, the fiercely loyal, perhaps a bit cultish alumni.

    No, it’s the “subway alumni” that we resent – the ND fans who have zero connection to the school and like them only because “they are Notre Dame.” Same with the Dallas Cowboys.

  146. I keep seeing ND. I thought it was North Dakota, but I just realized you are talking about Notre Dame.

  147. “I’m very quickly turned off by parents who know too much about the details of other kids.”

    Ahem.

    When my kids come home, or jump in the car for a ride home, and start yammering about what went on in school, e.g., who did what to whom, or who they were grouped with for what activities, DW and I listen, and encourage them to talk.

    This informed some major decisions we’ve made.

    E.g., while we loved many aspects the kids’ preschool, DS didn’t have much of a peer group (some of the best friends he made were the parents of his classmates, who he loved talking to when they picked up their kids), and our primary source of information for that was DS (confirmed in conversations with teachers). So that affected our decision to not keep him there once he got to K.

    And those familiar with my philosophy WRT peer groups know I like to know about their peers (and their peers’ parents, and sibs).

  148. No atm, it’s a good reminder to be bit more circumspect.

    Really I find that people get annoyed at things that don’t bother me a much.
    It’s fine online but this happens IRL so much and to such extreme. Some examples: Oh, that person was asking me detailed questions about my choice of school for my two little girls and that so annoying!!!! Oh, this other person asked me if I was pregnant because my tummy is still out a bit, and that is so rude and now I need to come up with a fitting reply and seek revenge or alternatively post passive aggressive stuff on Facebook so that said person can see it and get some kind of message.
    Such navel gazing turns me off and annoys me! :p

  149. “I think a lot of it is regional ”

    There’s also a lot of variation from HS to HS, and even with a given HS.

    Given that which HS a kid attends, especially public, is often determined by where they live, I suppose you could characterize that as a regional difference.

    But obviously, a high-end prep school that regularly sends kids to HSS will be different from Cordelia’s kids’ HS.

    When I was in HS, the vast majority of the kids who seriously considered college applied to one or two colleges, some combination of flagship U and local CC. But there was a subculture, mainly the NHS kids, who looked out of state, including HSS, with several going to Yale, and a few other going to places like Georgetown or UCLA.

  150. Just to clarify – I am not familiar with the CC site at this point. I’m sure there is good information & plenty of sane conversation. There is good information on a similar site that I frequent for K-12 school discussion in my area, but there are also plenty of busybodies. Like HM – both are present in most discussions. But I thought that “busybody” was a good descriptor for why the one mom’s comment excerpted here rubbed me the wrong way like it rubbed Milo the wrong way.

    (HM – I love the Yak Herding example.)

    I 100% own that I think it is creepy when other parents know too much about their elementary school kid’s classmates’ “academic achievement”. It’s invasive & strange to try to suss out that information because it definitely isn’t openly shared by the teachers, and it hasn’t been shared by me either. The kids don’t even get letter grades yet!

  151. Finn – maybe if you discover the information, just realize that it’s not something people necessarily want to talk about. It would be like meeting your new neighbors, and even though you may have Zillowed their house out of curiosity, you wouldn’t mention to them that you think $553k was a great price, congratulations!

    And real estate is publicly available legal information; be at least as circumspect about someone’s child.

  152. “Finn may have some.”

    I’ve been hearing mainly from DS. He has a few close friends who are seniors, other not as close senior friends and acquaintances, and has heard about other seniors he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

    One thing driven home for him by the acceptances/rejections he’s heard about is the truth of my admonition to him that HSS are reaches for everyone; he’s also realized there’s quite a crapshoot aspect to those as well.

    BTW, I’m assuming that “average excellent” refers to an excellent student without a hook.

  153. “Of course, this is the same girl who explained to DW how they were timing their engagement announcement on Facebook so that it would post on a Friday afternoon when she suspected that it would get the most attention and comments.”

    Oh my. Should I say Bless her Heart?

    I feel like Notre Dame is a school that has very strong reactions around here. Love or hate, not much indifference.

    Finn – I see what you mean about the car ride, and I see your point. But at this point in early elementary school, they are mostly talking about baseball and Star Wars and who broke a rules and had to sit on the sidelines at recess and the bad word that someone said at lunch. They aren’t talking about each other’s academic achievements. Because they don’t really have any – it’s 2nd grade.

  154. “just realize that it’s not something people necessarily want to talk about.”

    That’s true, we usually keep that sort of thing to ourselves. But it’s handy to know some benign information about the other kids to start conversations with their parents, e.g., “I heard our kids had juice duty together last week.”

    But I guess one point to consider is that you may very well have access to that same information about their kids, or more generally, your kids’ peers.

  155. “But I guess one point to consider is that you may very well have access to that same information about their kids, or more generally, your kids’ peers.”

    DW thinks this is a big motivator for a lot of the moms to volunteer in the classroom. But our reaction to this is “who cares?” I may be interested in what reading group my child is in relative to the rest of the class, but what do I care which kids specifically are in certain reading groups?

  156. “many of us do focus a lot of our attention on grooming our kids to “be their best”. If being their best means going to the best college, many of us would be on board for that.”

    I think that describes a lot of tiger moms.

  157. “It would be like meeting your new neighbors, and even though you may have Zillowed their house out of curiosity, you wouldn’t mention to them that you think $553k was a great price”

    I find this creepy. Kind of like looking up your kids’ friends’ Facebook pages. Just because info is out there doesn’t mean you should look it up.

  158. I know a number of unhooked kids who have gotten into HSS schools. But they don’t get into all the ones they apply to, so there really is an element of chance/not all schools are looking for the same thing.
    Milo, I had the exact same thought as you about people not disclosing where they’re applying until it was my kid. And then I understood.

  159. “It would be like meeting your new neighbors, and even though you may have Zillowed their house out of curiosity, you wouldn’t mention to them that you think $553k was a great price”

    When the house next door went on the market, the seller’s broker invited us to an open house one night just for the neighbors and those living within a few houses. By that time they’d even had an offer, so when the neighbor moved in, not only did we know the selling price, we’d had a chance to poke around in all the rooms of the house.

  160. “Milo, I had the exact same thought as you about people not disclosing where they’re applying until it was my kid. And then I understood.”

    Kinda like not telling others about a pregnancy until at least the 2nd trimester, or it begins to show.

  161. “I know a number of unhooked kids who have gotten into HSS schools. But they don’t get into all the ones they apply to, so there really is an element of chance/not all schools are looking for the same thing.”

    Yes, that’s one thing to keep in mind. Acceptance rates at many colleges, not just HSS, have been going down in part because so many kids these days apply to so many schools (DS’ college counselor told us the average at their school is about 9).

    So it’s getting harder to get into specific schools, but it’s not necessarily a lot harder to get into one of your choices.

    But I’m skeptical that those kids were truly unhooked. Perhaps their hooks were only big enough for some of the schools, or the same hooks were perceived by different schools to be different sizes, or what is a hook to one school might not be a hook to another. E.g., you don’t need as big a hook to get into Cornell as Harvard, in part because Cornell has a larger enrollment.

  162. “a bad place for your sanity to regularly hang out.”

    This. Totally agree that it is an excellent resource, but must be used sparingly. Get what you need and get out. (I did not follow this advice, of course, when DS1 was beginning the college search. I even posted quite a bit myself, then realized that I was turning into one of Them, and cut way back. Now I only post on our university board, and only to help out people who have specific questions or concerns that I can answer from the “on the ground” perspective.)

  163. “That’s an understatement. They resent, imo, the fiercely loyal, perhaps a bit cultish alumni.”

    A lot of people also hate that Other Blue School in NC. There was even a piece in the WSJ last week or so. I honestly don’t understand the hate. Are the alums really that obnoxious? The basketball program seems to be graduating players who don’t cause major scandals. I totally understand why Carolina fans are not enthused, but don’t get why people in NYC or Chicago or California should care at all about the Blue Devils.

  164. Scarlett, perhaps it was one player in particular who started it.

    ESPN had a show about that player, showing how he didn’t come from a silver spoon background that many of his haters had apparently assumed.

  165. BTW, I’m assuming that “average excellent” refers to an excellent student without a hook.

    I get the sense that some are using hook to mean a cheat or a gimmic. In many of the cases I’m familiar with, the hook was a jaw droppingly impressive accomplishment.

  166. “ESPN had a show about that player, showing how he didn’t come from a silver spoon background that many of his haters had apparently assumed.”

    Excellent show. 30 for 30.

  167. “Scarlett, perhaps it was one player in particular who started it.”

    Was it the guy whose first name is also a religious group? He was a student a few years after my time, but I never did understand why he generated so much animosity. I need to check out 30 for 30.

  168. A hook is something that sets an excellent student apart from other excellent students (or, some would say that some hooks set very good students apart from excellent students).

    Impressive accomplishment is a typical hook. A common hook is athletic potential, with achievement being a major part of the perceived potential.

    Some hooks looked at cynically include legacy and URM status.

    But as Malcolm Gladwell has said, somebody needs to fill the bottom quartile.

  169. “I get the sense that some are using hook to mean a cheat or a gimmic. In many of the cases I’m familiar with, the hook was a jaw droppingly impressive accomplishment.”

    I think that the most common use of “hook” refers to characteristics such as URM status, legacy, donor kid, faculty kid, recruited athlete, first-generation college student. Something other than pure academic achievement.

  170. I think of a hook as anything that makes you different than the 1000s of other kids with almost perfect test scores, multiple APs, and great GPA. For example, gifted athlete or musician that they want to recruit. It could be that you’re from Nebraska, a legacy, first generation, or from a certain diverse background.

  171. Scarlett – not obnoxious ime, and they really have been some of my best friends. As it worked out, after graduation I became closer with more ND guys than my own classmates, partly due to numbers and also because all my college friends became pilots (and one SEAL). Most sub guys, well, eh, you know, not exactly the socially adventurous types.

    DD probably has a point about subway fans with no real connection to the school, but that’s different. I’d say ND grads are very passionate about their school, but so are Penn State grads. However, Penn State is enough of a middle class school that it’s acceptable to be as prideful as you want. People who go to Harvard learn that it can be awkward to be too loud about their school. Navy grads are passionate, but even we learn that in certain situations, you don’t want to be a “ring knocker” (prick). (I often got the comment from ‘my guys,’ “Sir, you don’t *seem* like the Academy type.” This is high praise from an enlisted man. :)

    But maybe Notre Dame and Duke don’t have the occasion to scale it down, and they have legendary and storied sports teams, AND, unlike PSU they’re very selective and very expensive.

    But I wouldn’t pay it no mind. That’s where I was headed if things worked out differently.

  172. I think of a hook as anything that makes you different than the 1000s of other kids with almost perfect test scores,

    Not mearly different, you need to be more impressively amazing.

  173. For me, the college process with my first kid will be a giant learning process because I don’t know what I don’t know. Though I don’t volunteer or visit their schools often, the staff has been very helpful when I have asked questions. The high school is a college prep school, I am confident that they have experienced counselors to offer adequate guidance. At my kids’ school by third/fourth grade kids generally know where their peers are academically. In MS, there are honor roll presentations every quarter, so again the kids know.
    I honestly wouldn’t have known any of the colleges on that list except to know that Uni of Rochester is in Rochester. The names became familiar because I somehow landed up on College Confidential. I learnt that Davidson College near me is a sought after SLAC. Most people here haven’t heard of it.

  174. You don’t have to be impressively amazing if you happen to be born to certain parents, or live in certain states/countries. If you hail from a state that has very few qualified applicants, and they want a kid from all 50 states – you’re going to have a better shot. Legacies are just lucky enough to be born to a parent, or have a sibling that attended the U. What about the kid I posted about a few months ago? Her mom is one of my close friends, and they intend to check the hispanic box because one of her grandmother’s cam from Puerto Rico in the 50s. The colleges don’t generally look into the details of how/why certain people check certain boxes for background.

  175. On the subject of going to the best school you get into, I know a young man who is attending a UC (not Cal or UCLA), and every time his mother told people where he was headed she made it a point to also say that he had been admitted to UCLA and another HSS. She was fine with his choice, but wanted to make sure you knew that he was “better” than that.

    On the other school in NC, I developed a dislike after some students were tarred and feathered over an alleged sexual assault. I believe the case fell apart for lack of evidence, but not until the DA and the university seemed to make a crusade out of punishing the rich, white lacrosse players (not sure if that is the correct sport) before the facts were determined. I don’t know if those who live in the area have a different take on it – that is just what I got from reading the stories across the country.

  176. I just emptied out several big boxes of my high school junk. When I graduated in 1978 I knew more than I know now. I knew about Montaigne and Teddy Roosevelt and how to use SAS and SPSS for statistics, I knew the Periodic Table and how to do legal research. I could write essays in Spanish about Borges and Unamuno. I knew about the role of women in Ancient Greece, I’d read every Jane Austen novel and many of Shakespeare’s plays; I wrote essays about the Unreliable Narrator, using The Good Soldier as my leading example. I correctly answered questions about Al Smith’s 1928 Presidential campaign. I knew which features of the Early Christian churches may have come from the Roman Villa. I knew which sacraments the Puritans rejected.

    And now I don’t know any of it.

    Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

    I think I’ll have another glass of wine.

  177. Rocky – I know what you mean. I kept the book for my most difficult class in college, and I don’t understand any of it now. I don’t think I really got it when I was in it, but I managed to understand enough to pass it!

  178. I think the perception here is that Duke goers are snobby rich people. UNC goers are equally qualified academically but salt of the earth types. I think of it as the relationship between the Yankees and the Red Sox. My kids have friends whose parents went to Duke, so they are quite aware of it. Then there are the Duke Tips magnets seen around town as well.

  179. @SSK: FWIW, the prosecution didn’t just fall apart because of lack of evidence, the prosecutor himself was prosecuted for his behavior. It was a total witch hunt, and the prosecutor was so completely focused on getting the Duke lacrosse team that he actually hid exculpatory DNA evidence (i.e., there was DNA from unidentified men and NO DNA from any of the defendants). There was an excellent show on ESPN a few weeks ago that delved into this. It makes me angry, because it was had such a huge impact on kids who were unfairly targeted but presumed guilty, while just adding more doubt to the next real rape victim’s story.

    “The colleges don’t generally look into the details of how/why certain people check certain boxes for background.”

    My Freshman year, someone asked me about my Native American background (which surprised them, given my blue eyes). ??? I had somehow gotten entered into the system as NA, although they later confirmed that I never actually checked that box on anything.

    “I can understand why Kentucky alums hate him.”

    And as a lifelong fan of the Other State Team (the red one), can I say, I just love the guy.

  180. And in a total coincidence, DS is currently fixated on figuring out what college he wants to attend to study “tech stuff.” He has currently landed on Harvey Mudd, although he suggests Stanford may be an acceptable backup.

    I am trying very, very hard not to laugh (in between dispensing motherly advice about how he’ll need to work hard and those are very hard to get into and there are lots of other programs that will get him where he wants to go, etc.).

  181. Louise, is the local perception also that UNC goers are mostly NC natives, whereas Duke goers are largely from elsewhere?

  182. LfB, DS told me that his friend who is going to Harvey Mudd just found out that he should’ve applied for Presidential Scholar, because winning that would’ve gotten him significant merit aid.

  183. ” I learnt that Davidson College near me is a sought after SLAC. Most people here haven’t heard of it.”

    Really? I think a lot of people have heard of Davidson, the alma mater of Steph Curry.

  184. ” I had somehow gotten entered into the system as NA, although they later confirmed that I never actually checked that box on anything.”

    Perhaps not checking any box was translated by someone to mean, NA, albeit a different NA than Native American.

    But what does blue eyes have to do with it? One private here has only students of native ancestry, but based on their looks, you’d be surprised that many of their students have that ancestry.

  185. Finn: No. I’m just depressed that I don’t even remember that I ever knew it.

    But could you find the derivative for a function at any point??

    No. But if I had, in 1978, I wouldn’t now.

  186. My experience of Davidson grads is that they think Davidson is way, way more prestigious than HYPS, and that everyone knows about it, whereas in fact most people outside of the New South have never heard of it. See also: Middlebury grads.

  187. Finn – Davidson just doesn’t enter college conversations. UNC, NC State, followed by Appalachian State (good directional U, in the mountains) UNC Greensboro, followed by the other UNC campuses.

  188. “I think a lot of people have heard of Davidson, the alma mater of Steph Curry.”

    I haven’t heard of Davidson or Steph Curry.

  189. We may have covered this here previously, but would you all let your kids go into debt for some of these schools, like a Davidson or Middlebury, or from my region, Baylor or SMU? We decided not to leave that up to our kids, but rather steered them toward public schools. I feel pretty strongly that 17 is not the right age to make a commitment to $60k of debt when they cannot understand what that repayment means to other life choices. (For Harvard for a kid dead-set on IB, sure – I’m talking about kids destined for the rest of life’s occupations.)

    And completely unrelated, my DH’s oil and gas related company had yet another round of layoffs today (7th? 8th?). The previous 40-person group is down to him, 2 other guys and a manager. I’d give anything to pay $3 a gallon for gas!

  190. MBT – I would discourage it, but I’m not going to try to forbid it. It’s their lives. And, you know, eventually, there’s a lot of capital (on DW’s side) that will make its way down to them that they could dispatch student loan debt.

    Sounds tough for your DH’s company. If he’s survived this long, eventually they’ll have to keep someone around to keep the lights on.

  191. Steph Curry is the reigning NBA MVP, presumptive MVP for this season, and worth billions to Under Armor. He is to UA what Michael Jordan was to Nike.

  192. MBT – some of the private schools might have good merit aid packages – so that would have to be considered. A kid I know of, got a good package from Wake Forest so went there. I am presuming the kid chose that option over state flagships.

  193. “Go sports teams!”

    I didn’t know the NASCAR driver in the Murray quiz, either.

    And I guess I’m not surprised that I didn’t know a small liberal arts school in another state with only 1700 undergrads (the size of my high school) and no NROTC program.

    Really, to know about it, I would need to have made a deliberate effort to know all HSS solely because they are highly selective.

  194. HM,
    Perhaps I should sell my sheep and get a few yaks instead. Might help DD get into the college of her choice. She could start a business selling either yak cheese or sweaters made from yak wool.
    In all seriousness, I do tell DD that living on a sheep farm gives her a unique perspective and sets her apart from others. Won’t really help her if she wants to go to Tech, but would give her a chance to write an interesting essay if she decides to apply to UVA.

  195. Sheep, my guess is that if she can work that into her essay, that could be her hook at some HSS as well.

  196. Milo I probably wouldn’t have forbidden it either, if either of them showed they wanted to go to a particular school badly enough that they were doing the research and trying to find a way to fund it. That wasn’t the case, so I wasn’t volunteering that as an option. If we could have afforded it comfortably I might have been willing to pay, but I just don’t see letting one of them take on all that debt when second choice seems almost as good.

  197. MBT: Best of luck to your DH.

    I, too, would discourage private college at $60K, but DS is stubborn and will hate any school that’s not his decision. So I will try to guide, but not force. We talked about college costs yesterday and I highlighted all the things he could do with the money he saves by going to state school.

    All the private schools on his list are “reaches” and have really low admissions rates so I’m not sure he’ll get in (to tie back to the OT), so the point might be moot.

  198. “The colleges don’t generally look into the details of how/why certain people check certain boxes for background.”

    Potentially good news for MM’s daughter, who can accurately check the white box, and not check the Asian box, for ethnicity. Hmm, perhaps her dichotomy could be a hook.

  199. “But what does blue eyes have to do with it?” — @Finn, in the part of the country where I was attending, Native American usually meant coming from the reservation. But that was just the comment I got when I explained that I checked “Caucasian” and had no idea what they were talking about.

    @MBT — Eesh, sorry, that’s tough. A lot of my clients are in that industry, and the low prices are really wreaking havoc with a lot of lives.

    On college choice, I’m kind of where you are psychologically — right fit yes, generic drifting no. All three brothers managed to drift their way through more-than-four-years of private colleges, funded in two cases by the Bank of Dad and in the other by loans that my stepbro was never able to repay due to subsequent massive chronic depression and anxiety. I can’t see myself being nearly as patient as my dad, and I don’t want my kids burdened for 30 years like my stepbro (I think it was literally my stepdad’s inheritance that finally cleaned the slate for him). But we’ll see where I am on this in another few years when it’s less hypothetical. . . .

  200. I feel pretty strongly that 17 is not the right age to make a commitment to $60k of debt when they cannot understand what that repayment means to other life choices.

    If they are smart enough to get into a HSS that $250/month should have zero impact on their life choices.

  201. Scarlett – I sure used to know how to, and my college roommate still does (she teaches Calculus).

  202. I’m amazed at what Rocky learned in high school and all the math that WCE and others learned in high school. I took the hardest classes offered but compared to others on here they were remedial at best. I took calculus in high school and college but remember none of it.

    I would pay $60K for a SLAC, but as I said before I view it as a consumption choice. I want my kid to find the college that is the best fit for them to excel. I say this now but I have 12 years before having to write a check.

    ESPN had a fascinating article about how Nike screwed up retaining Curry and how hard Under Armour worked to sign him and the financial impacts of it.

  203. For a 10-yr repayment plan, it would run just under $700 a month, so effectively a $12k+ reduction in salary for the first 10 years. At 23 and just starting out, that seems like a lot to me. Growing up where I did, I have a different view of what “a lot” is than you big-city folks.

  204. I wouldn’t waste a genuine interest in yak cheese making trying to get admitted to a HSS. Come study with Lisbeth Goddik, a leader of probably the foremost fermentation food science program in the country. (in addition to cheese, you can study making wine or beer). She commented a couple months ago that it is very hard to get food science professors with Piled Higher and Deeper degrees, because the people with those interests tend not to enjoy jumping through academic hoops, and that they finally found someone with a PhD in spirits making who will be joining the program as a tenured professor soon. If your cultural heritage means your education is not complete with a Piled Higher and Deeper degree, food science is a very good area to compete for a tenured professorship.

    I didn’t learn much advanced math in middle school/high school. I enjoyed math puzzles, which is rather a different thing. For example, you may know that the sum of the digits 1 to n = n(n+1)/2 but did you ever think of applying that knowledge to quickly determine how many gifts to give your true love on the twelfth day of Christmas? Rather than 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12 = 78, you can just say (12*13)/2 = 78 and save yourself a heap of time and trouble.

  205. WCE – you could offer that to Sandra Boynton as an addendum in the next edition of Hippos. “Nine hippos come to work / ALL THE HIPPOS GO BESERK!…One hippo alone once more / Misses the other forty-four.”

    9(9+1)/2 = 1+44

    Rocky – interesting and gross. I sort of assumed that when the Ingalls put away meat, it basically tasted like very salty beef jerky. But he smoked it first, for a couple days. It sounds like the sailors didn’t.

  206. WCE – it’s essentially just calculating the area of a triangle = 1/2 * base * height. N is the base, n+1 the height, the +1 is needed to get from the partridge in the pear tree to the corner.

  207. As you may know, the only way an 18 yo could borrow $60k is if the parent or someone else co-signed, in which case the co-signer would be assuming that debt.  On their own, a student can only borrow up to about $30000 for UG.

    MBT, very sorry about your DH’s job situation.  BTDT when I worked in the oil industry, months/years of watching co-workers laid off and wondering when my time would come.

  208. Update on the girl who got into 5 Ivy League’s and Stanford based on her Costco essay:

    It turns out she has a hook, IMO.  She’s “Hispanic” based on her Brazilian-born mother.  Although there’s debate about Brazilian being Hispanic, it’s generally accepted for college app purposes.  The impressive MIT summer program this student participated in is geared toward URM students.  (Of course I’m making some assumptions since I don’t know if she checked the Hispanic box in her application.)

  209. In terms of “hook”, I think of something like Rhett, something very impressive that is also VERY DIFFERENT from all the other kids applying. I had a big hook. ;)

  210. Smith Mountain Lake has shoreline on Bedford, Pittsylvania, and Franklin Counties in Virginia. I can’t help but wonder why we don’t just move there, on the water, and I’ll take a road warrior/work-from-home job. It would be a little bit easier for my kids to get into any of the top state schools from those presumably underrepresented counties. That, and Nashville’s less than seven hours away.

  211. For the schools you list (Middlebury, Baylor, Davidson), I would not let my kid take out piles of debt. If the school was awarding lots of merit aid, and the debt would be small, we would take a look, although I can’t imagine my oldest having any interest in these schools anyway.

    I think debt might be worth it for MIT, CMU or Stanford. But it isn’t going to happen.

  212. “Although there’s debate about Brazilian being Hispanic, it’s generally accepted for college app purposes.”

    At our university, ANYTHING is acceptable for college app purposes. One Hispanic kid had a single grandparent born in Puerto Rico (and the upper classes of Puerto Rico as his essay made clear). We were told to accept the students as they described themselves. But if a student described himself as “Caucasian” and didn’t check the Hispanic box — Hispanics can be of any race, as we know — if anything in the application suggested that it was a diversity case, it was to be sent off to the diversity pile. The instructions were very discreet in this regard, with absolutely no helpful examples to guide us on what might indicate diversity. Admirably clean. When I came across one student with a generic name who was adopted at birth from a “diversity” country, but who described himself as Caucasian, I asked for guidance and was told to go with Caucasian, even though his admissions chances would have been better as a diversity applicant.

  213. Rhett – Rates won’t be low forever.

    “For a 10-yr repayment plan, it would run just under $700 a month”

    And that’s what I used to pay in rent.

  214. Mooshi – want is your opinion on Georgia Tech ?
    Milo – just this morning I saw a Penn State sticker :-).

  215. “just this morning I saw a Penn State sticker :-).”

    I’ve worked with some intimidatingly smart people from there. Like WCE smart — a full standard deviation to the right of me.

  216. It is not surprising that a follow-up post went up on CC:

    Things to boost the odds of your average excellent child

    I think someone from here may have posted this comment. :)

    Good Grief! There is WAY too much focus on getting kids into reach colleges these days as it is.
    Now there is a “formula”?
    sorry but I think the focus on trying to help kids to get into reach colleges, where most have absolutely no business applying in the first place, needs to ratcheted down, not encouraged.

    NO “average” excellent student’s life will be over if he/ she does NOT get into an reach college!!
    But too much pushing by overly eager parents who are anxious to prove their snowflake is “excellent” at something in order to impress college admission offices can have a very negative impact on a students HS years.

    And parents who live through their kids accomplishments need to chill out.

  217. “At our university, ANYTHING is acceptable for college app purposes.”

    The guideline as I understand it is whatever ethnicity “you identify with”. Similar to the laws popping up about public bathrooms and sexual identity.

  218. So, a parent actually takes the time to provide helpful resources, and gets yelled at by other parents who are acting “more Totebaggy than thou”? Not impressed. These types of tips helped DS, by highlighting opportunities he didn’t know existed. To get into an internship or a camp, you have to apply. But to apply, you have to know it exists.

  219. Houston – I agree. If all those commenters were so concerned about “just letting kids be kids, enjoy high school, don’t grow up so fast, don’t try to force them into competitive schools,” then they wouldn’t be reading CC in the first place.

  220. We just purchased over priced tix to see Bruce at the end of April. The decision to splurge was easier than the decision to blow off the second night of Passover. I stressed, but my mom and aunt were fine with the decision. I was happy that we decided to go for it after I saw their reaction.

  221. Wow, I’m surprised by the negative reaction to that follow-up post. My first reaction was that those suggestions would be helpful to kids whose parents and HS teachers/counselors don’t know all of the things that schools are looking for and don’t have the knowledge of all of the options that talented kids have available to them. I knew about Tanglewood because, hello, my mom’s an English prof.; I bet the guidance counselors in the wealthy district here also know to direct talented writers there. But what about kid without those family connections or school support? Most people know about the Intel science fair thing, because they put the winners on TV every year. But who knows about The Concord Review, or writing contests, or National Portfolio Day? What kid knows that there’s a talent search for math geeks, unless the school pushes it?

    But somehow, these suggestions of non-obvious things that talented kids can do in particular areas gets twisted into “stop telling people to force their average kids into 73 activities they hate just so they can get into a school that’s too good for them.”

    The “average” epithet is particularly galling, because none of those programs are for “average” kids. I didn’t get into Tanglewood, and I’ve always been a better-than-average writer; the Concord Review isn’t going to accept a standard HS term paper. The kids who have the ability even to get accepted to these programs are already, by definition, well above average. And those kinds of talented kids need these kinds of outlets to learn and hone their craft. And if spreading knowledge of these programs increases the odds that talented kids without all of the privileges and advantages of wealthy parents and school districts get into a HSS, more power to them.

  222. Argh — not Tanglewood — it was another intensive summer writing program, I swapped the names in my head.

  223. Lauren – I’d like to see Bruce sometime, but we’re going to take the kids to the Opry in August. Compared to live entertainment prices along the Acela corridor, this is surprisingly reasonable for five people.

    LfB – Since it’s coming from the commenters on CC, and not, for example, USAToday.com, I wonder if the backlash is fueled by resentment of the idea that an ever-expanding group of kids will learn the tricks, and the comparative advantage of the commenters’ own years of hovering will be diminished.

  224. “My first reaction was that those suggestions would be helpful to kids whose parents and HS teachers/counselors don’t know all of the things that schools are looking for and don’t have the knowledge of all of the options that talented kids have available to them.’

    Those folks probably don’t know about College Confidential either.
    But I agree that is incredibly useful to have this sort of information — which used to be available only to those with connections — out there for everyone else.

  225. Somebody asked about GeorgiaTech. Yes, that is a very good school if you want to do a STEM major. I know some of their CS people and work with a person who got his PhD there. Very first rate

  226. “I agree. If all those commenters were so concerned about “just letting kids be kids, enjoy high school, don’t grow up so fast, don’t try to force them into competitive schools,” then they wouldn’t be reading CC in the first place.”

    “The “average” epithet is particularly galling, because none of those programs are for “average” kids… The kids who have the ability even to get accepted to these programs are already, by definition, well above average. And those kinds of talented kids need these kinds of outlets to learn and hone their craft. And if spreading knowledge of these programs increases the odds that talented kids without all of the privileges and advantages of wealthy parents and school districts get into a HSS, more power to them.”

    Agreed.

    Thanks for posting that Steph Curry article. I enjoyed it.

    Milo – Could you actually get a work-from-home job in your area? It seems like that would be truly living the dream for you.

  227. Well, that CC program list is helpful to people like me. I would say I am an interested parent but one who didn’t know about things like summer band camp or Maker Fair. None of the folks I know are teachers or college professors, who would know of such things. I found quite a few things just off chance, talking to other parents and from here on the Totebag.

  228. Ivy – I meant work from home combined with traveling. That I could probably get pretty easily. As the kids get older, and if I grow more bored, then it’s a likely option.

    DW WAH now, with very occasional trips downtown, and her current boss, the owner of the company, considers her invaluable. Both he and his wife have told her (and me!!) in situations like the Christmas party that if she’s ever unhappy about anything, let him know, because they don’t want to lose her. However, if the company folds, or gets bought out, anything can happen. Her living in the DC region, I think, makes transferring to a similar employment situation more likely, even if the geography is irrelevant from a rational perspective. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure she would want to keep doing the same thing. She occasionally mentions going into teaching, dreaming of being more involved with the schools and having the ability to spend two months of the summer living in London with the kids.

    I mostly keep my mouth shut.

  229. Milo, we’ve noticed that it is much easier to get tickets to see him at face value in certain parts of the country.

    I have not been able to visit the Opry yet. It’s on the bucket list.

  230. “I mostly keep my mouth shut.”

    Smart man. :-)

    One of the HHI that has stuck with me was a young teacher, who bought a rundown apartment in a hill town somewhere in Italy for some ridiculously low amount of $$, so she could spend summers there. Brilliant.

  231. Milo, we’ve noticed that it is much easier to get tickets to see him at face value in certain parts of the country.

    Lauren, it’s generally easier to get face value tickets for most concerts/events in other areas of the country than NYC, and face value is usually a lot cheaper. That’s one think I really like about Denver – we get all the concerts and shows, but you can get tickets pretty easily and they are usually pretty reasonably priced (relative to the average prices for these things).

  232. Lauren,
    enjoy the show. if you have siriusXM, channel 20 has been running the recordings of live concerts from the tour. Last night was Newark on 1/31/16.

  233. on pricing, for the concert we saw here in Feb I bought 4 tix at face, and stub-hubbed two of them for not quite 2x. So my net after their cut was being able to see the show for about $50pp.

  234. I wanted to do that with tickets that we were able to get for Billy Joel. DH wanted to give to his cousin, but I think that’s a great idea when you know it’s going to sell.

    DH listens to the concerts all of the time. We’ve been driving to Long Island a lot and there is usually traffic. The reason he wanted to get the tickets is because of the concerts from the other cities.

  235. I think lot of the haters posting in that CC are the “busybodies” to which Scarlett referred earlier. Their comments add no value to the discussion.

    I’m with LfB on that. I’ve been to CC enough to have seen participation by ambitious kids like the ones she described (and perhaps some students at Cordelia’s kids’ school), who apparently don’t have parents or counselors to provide this sort of guidance and information to them. My guess is that there are a lot more who read CC but don’t post.

  236. “I think debt might be worth it for MIT, CMU or Stanford.”

    Not sure about CMU, but MIT and Stanford are among the schools that meet “full financial need” with grants, not loans, and thus are typically on lists of schools whose students graduate with the least debt, along with the Ivies who have similar aid policies.

    Of course, a common complaint is the “full financial need” involves beggaring. Note that the average debt from these schools is non-zero.

  237. Oddly enough, after reading the comments on Fordham yesterday, I came home to find a Fordham catalog (super-long brochure?) in the kitchen. Yes, my oldest is at the unsolicited college mail age.

  238. “Not sure about CMU, but MIT and Stanford are among the schools that meet “full financial need””

    And how much financial need do you think they’ll calculate when they examine the combined income of a tenured CS professor and a NYC hedge fund techie?

  239. “And how much financial need do you think they’ll calculate when they examine the combined income of a tenured CS professor and a NYC hedge fund techie?”

    About the same as other similarly priced schools, but the whatever aid they provide will be in grants or work study, not loans.

    What I’ve heard and read says that HSS are more generous with need-based aid than most other schools, but they also make it harder to hide the means to pay.

    Also note my comment re beggaring.

  240. ” but would you all let your kids go into debt for some of these schools, like a Davidson or Middlebury, or from my region, Baylor or SMU?”

    I believe SMU is quite generous with merit aid.

    But I would push really hard against debt for those schools, although that would depend on alternatives. For a top school, I’ll consider underwriting, perhaps delaying retirement, but I don’t think I’d work an extra couple years for a school like that if going somewhere like USC with merit aid of full or half tuition is an option.

    Of course, USC has its own set of concerns.

  241. ” I think the focus on trying to help kids to get into reach colleges, where most have absolutely no business applying in the first place”

    I think there are (at least) two kinds of reach colleges.

    One is where the applicant would fall into the lowest quartile, probably well below the 25%ile point, for test scores, GPA, etc. In many of these cases, the line quoted above may apply.

    The second is the schools that have far more qualified applicants than they can accept, e.g, HSS. In those cases, the above quote does not apply. E.g., Stanford has historically rejected more applicants with 2400 SATs than they’ve accepted, but that doesn’t mean kids with 2400s have no business applying to Stanford.

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