College Confidential (Totebag Version)

by Louise

Totebaggers with older kids, what is the criteria for getting into a college that people would recognize ? I am not talking of Highly Selective Schools but maybe a tier below ?

Also, if you have experience with HSS, please share that. Some Totebaggers have left the decision on where to apply, how hard to work to their kids, others may have offered tips or made suggestions.

Still others have inside experience as readers of applications, college administrators and professors. I would love to hear your views on this edition of The Totebag College Confidential.

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264 thoughts on “College Confidential (Totebag Version)

  1. My favorite topic this year! DS is applying to 7 colleges. 2 HSS, 2 state flagships, 3 out of state flagships. One application completed. I’m pushing DS to get the rest done sooner rather than later. So much inertia.

  2. With a HS junior, I’m very interested in what totebaggers have to say. We attended a college presentation (5 schools – Vanderbilt, Princeton, Dartmouth, Northwestern and Berkley). The interesting takeaways for me were:
    1. At HSS the acceptance rate is so low compared to the number of applications that are submitted, that you need to have the high school experience you want. Don’t base your whole HS experience on trying to be the “perfect” student for a HSS. Having the experience you want will also make you more unique.
    2. Essays – if the school uses a holistic approach, make sure you tell your story, make what is unique about you stand out. If a teacher you know pretty well was to read your essay without knowing who it is, would they know it was you or could it describe one or more other students. If it could be someone else, then you also likely look like another applicant to the school, so revise!

  3. “getting into a college people would recognize” Well, there are tons of those.

    I looked at the current USNEWS rankings http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/best-colleges/search?_mode=table&_sort=acceptance-rate&_sort-direction=asc and counted 69 colleges with an acceptance rate of 25% or lower.

    Which leaves 1672 other 4-yr colleges with higher acceptance rates, 218 of them in the 25-50% range including recognizable schools like: Baylor, Boston College, Boston U, Bryn Mawr,a bunch of Cal State (not UC) schools, Holy Cross, Colgate, Wm & Mary, CO Mines, Denison, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Fordham, GWU, Georgia Tech, Howard, Lehigh, Marist, NE Conservatory of Music, NYU, Northeastern, Oberlin, Occidental, Ohio St, Pepperdine, Reed, RPI, Santa Clara, Scripps, Skidmore, Smith, SMU, Spelman, St. Lawrence, a bunch of SUNYs, Syracuse, TCU, Tulane, Union, 3 UC schools, the Universities of FL MD Miami MI MN NC Richmond Rochester South Florida TX VA WI, Vassar Villanova, Wake Forest, Worcester Poly.

    In the next group ~50-60% accepted (another 216 schools) we have these generally well regarded schools: NC State, LMU, UC Santa Cruz, Penn St, Clark Atlanta, VMI, a bunch more SUNYs and Cal States, Univ of GA CT AL MA AR Pittsburgh Houston Tampa (yeah, playing to a regular on that one), Sarah Lawrence, Temple, Providence, Hobart, Elon, RIT, Purdue

    And IMO the most important thing for the vast majority of people who go to college is (a) getting the degree and (b) getting good enough grades so the diploma says “with honors” or the Latin equivalent.

  4. So, at least according to collegeboard, there are 1238 other accredited 4-yr schools out there which accept 60% or more of their applicants and are looked upon favorably for lots of reasons. It’s not too hard to get into college…but it may be hard to find the one that’s right.

  5. My kid will probably apply to 7-10 schools (1 is done!! and he’ll likely get his acceptance from them by Halloween), none in the top tier, maybe 1 in the 25-50% tier. As much as I would like him to go to either of my alma maters, he’s not the student I was. He’ll be fine, especially if he meets the condition above.

  6. AustinMom — That advice makes a lot of sense.

    “It’s not too hard to get into college” Our HS guidance counselor used to say “there’s a college for everyone”.

  7. Not surprisingly I think, I was hands off on this. I offered help if they wanted it, but didn’t insist they accept it, nor did I make any other demands about the how and where and when of their choices and process.

    One kid wanted no help at all and left everything till the last minute — no application begun prior to the very date it was due. He didn’t proof read or even spell check his essays. It stressed me out at first, but I let go of it after I realized that if he missed all the deadlines or messed up the apps and had to take a gap year and try again later, that wouldn’t be the end of the world, and could even be a really good result for him.

    The second kid (now a HS senior) applied early to the single school she wanted. She got in and is not applying anywhere else. She accepted some help, was very organized about college visits and application deadlines, etc. But when she settled on the place she liked best and got in, she was done.

  8. Check out the early decision acceptance rates versus the regular acceptance rate. At some extremely selective schools the acceptance rate is higher for the ED pool, so if your child wants to go there he or she should focus on that top school for ED.

    On that note, be sure to double check the restrictions for Early Decision and Early Action – these seem to change with the wind.

    My kids applied to several reach schools (in the top 20) but did not get in. DD due to her tests scores, and DS due to his grades. They both had very good extra curricular activities, but my understanding (and maybe Scarlett can weigh in on this) is that if you don’t have a certain GPA/SAT combo, your application doesn’t really get more than a glance. If you have a hook then the game changes.

    It is probably a little too distant now, but in DS’s rowing carpool there were two older guys who ended up going to Harvard and Yale for rowing. I asked what they needed to have to be considered and they said a 3.7 gpa and a 2100 SAT. I guess that was the cutoff for being able to do the work at the university. This was 6 years ago.

    For regular people I think a near perfect SAT score and GPA puts you in the pool, but there are so many just like them that it is a random selection process.

  9. But getting into which program? At many schools, the engineering program (or sometimes pharmacy) is harder to get into, with fewer students accepted.

    Also some schools play the game of accepting lesser students into special, lower prestige programs. Back in the day, BU used to play that game – I don’t know if they still do. We play that game too, although the worst of it is being phased out (students admitted under THAT program mainly ended up flunking out)

  10. Another piece of advice for selective schools is to take a good look at their acceptance data from past years. I remember looking at the average grades and test scores for UCLA and thought, great, my kids fit in here, maybe they can get in. However, I looked at past data and saw that if you didn’t have a GPA over 4.0 your chance of getting in (without a hook) were about 5 percent. I found the statistics by hunting around on the internet and their website, but that may just be a public school type of thing.

    Make sure that your child has a variety of schools – not just one safety school – because if that is the only acceptance he or she receives, they will probably not have the best attitude about their future college!

  11. Austin, that advice is great, especially the blind-essay comment.

    Right now I am more stressed about saving enough money for college than I am about getting the kids in, but when they get to HS I will definitely encourage them to be their own person WRT extracurriculars.

  12. Oh, I forgot to mention that I was not hands off. DD was proactive but I had to push her a bit, and DS was, in his typical fashion, very laid back.

    I do remember DD getting accepted to Oregon very early (they did rolling admissions) and we both said – whew, you have gotten into a school!!!! You have a place to go to college!

    Yes, I forgot that DS applied to the engineering schools at the universities, and those were definitely harder to get into that the arts & science department.

  13. My DS is applying to one in-state and one out-of-state flagship, two other in-state Tier One schools, a directional state U, and a small liberal arts school. I have said all along that I don’t think a small liberal arts school is worth the tuition premium, and it turns out I like it the best out of all the schools he’s applying it. He will qualify for a scholarship there, but it will still leave us paying 50% which is about double what we would pay at any of the other schools. Right now, his plan is still to live at home and go to community college for his first year. His plan is to be a military psychologist (and I am aware this may change) which will require many more years of school, so he thinks it makes sense to save some money where he can. I am making him apply to these other schools in case he changes his mind by next fall. I want him to have other options. (And it feels odd to may that he is not in a big hurry to get away from us.)

    My views on school have evolved with my daughter’s experience. Now, I believe that it is much more about what you make of the experience than the school you go to. If going to a less competitive school allows you to be in the Honors College and have some great experiences that way, I think that is a better route for some kids. Having the bandwidth to get actively involved in some organizations is a nice counterbalance to just studying, and the connections they can make can be very helpful in recommendations for grad school or the job hunt. Being able to stand out relative to their peers instead of being in the middle of the pack is something to consider. I know this has been Milo’s point for quite some time, and now I am a true believer.

  14. And, I put this out there for the other end of the scale: well known schools with > 75% acceptance rates: OK St, Duquesne, Univs AZ CO NH HI IA IN KS ME MO MS MT OK TN UT WV WY, LSU, Auburn, OR St, Longwood (VP debate site), Az St, IA St, Iona

  15. “whew, you have gotten into a school!!!! You have a place to go to college!”

    Yes, or as I have said…”you have a non-military option”

  16. And, I forgot the third piece of advice – while need-based aid is given, it can take different forms. So, a school that gives you a little less aid, but it is in the form of grants, may be a better overall deal than if that aid is in the form of loans.

    This has raised questions for me about early decision – do you know about the financial aid picture before hand? what if they give you less aid than you originally thought, is the decision still binding?

  17. Sigh, we haven’t really started. I know DS1, who is 11th grade, will apply to SUNY StonyBrook, Buffalo, and Albany. Maybe also Brooklyn College for CS. I have no idea what he can get into because we don’t have test scores yet. Based on GPA, he could get into SUNY Albany engineering and Brooklyn College. I don’t know about the others.

  18. ssk – re the Harvard/Yale story…sounds about right. A kid who graduated from my kid’s HS a couple of years ago was a volleyball star (US junior national team) and Stanford was looking at him. SAT (2-score) was just under 1400 and grades were >3.6. Not high enough for them…needed >1400 with those grades or >3.75 with those test scores.

  19. That book “How to Raise an Adult” spends quite a few chapters on college and the burden parents place on their kids with the HSS admissions game. She had some statistic in there that even if you took every valedictorian in the country the HSSs couldn’t take them all (I’m probably flubbing the actual statistic but it was something like that).

    DH and I went to a SLAC that’s now ranked in the 50s in the US News and World Report rankings. DH and all of his close friends have been really successful so getting into a top school is probably not going to be something I care about for my kids.

    That book also talked about this website The Alumni Factor which looks interesting. This guy set it up when his kid was applying to college and it basically polls alumni of each college in measures of life satisfaction (it covers income and career progression but I think it also looks at other factors like happiness/family life, etc.) If my kid were close to college age I would probably spring for a subscription.

  20. DD is applying to only two schools-WPI and Va Tech, with the former being her first choice.
    Here is what she has done/did.
    1. She took both the SAT and the ACT once last spring. She did above the average for both schools to which she is applying, so no more testing for her. She had a book for each test that she used to study and she had an app on her phone that gave her two SAT questions (one math, the other English) to help her prepare for the SAT. No class to help her prepare for the tests.
    2. She did not take any subject tests. Neither school required them or even recommend them. DD never mentioned them and being the hands off parent that I am, I did not even know about them until two days before.
    3. If DD asks for our help, then we offer suggestions, otherwise it is all up to her.
    4. We would really like her to in state to Tech, but we will fork over the money if she does decide to go to WPI. We have told her that she can go wherever she wants and that she will be able to graduate debt free.

  21. MM – He should get into UB…60% of applicant are admitted and they can’t all be from this part of the state.

  22. well known schools with > 75% acceptance rates: OK St, Duquesne, Univs AZ CO NH HI IA IN KS ME MO MS MT OK TN UT WV WY, LSU, Auburn,

    This goes to Scarlett’s point that most schools admit basically anyone who applies.

  23. This goes to Scarlett’s point that most schools admit basically anyone who applies.

    and probably the acceptance % at almost all schools is higher than reported since the school will count as “applied” anyone who filed the application and paid the fee (if applicable). And plenty of people apply, pay the fee, and never get all the hoops jumped to have a complete application.

  24. Like Ssk’s son, mine has already received an acceptance from an out-of-state flagship. He is not likely to choose it, but was able to submit it to the school as his required acceptance into 4-yr university that is needed for graduation. It is a relief to have that acceptance in the back pocket. (Plus this school’s acceptance is a card with a cheering crowd from a football game, with students all decked out in the school’s color, and when you open the card it plays the school song. My husband and I seem to enjoy it a lot more than my son did.)

  25. My DS’ acceptance is on Fred’s >75% list. An added bonus of those is they do rolling admissions so you get your reply within a few weeks/months of when you submit your application. You don’t have to wait until spring to know what your options are.

  26. Really? Colorado at Boulder has a greater than 75% acceptance rate? Huh.

    The only kid we are focusing on now is DH’s niece, whom I have mentioned several times before. DH was out there awhile ago and plopped her down next to him at the computer and dragged her through applying to several Indiana colleges. She has adequate grades and test scores. Her extra-curriculars aren’t particularly interesting or impressive. But still, she ought to get in somewhere. We’re all holding our breath. Seriously, one of those five kids needs to do something other than drop out of high school and get convicted of felonies.

  27. I have three kids that have gone through this process; it’s hard to know what things were ultimately important. One applied ED to a fairly competitive school (28% admit rate) and was admitted. One applied to two state schools with rolling admission (one in-state, one out) as well as ED to a large private fairly competitive university (32% admit rate), to which she was admitted. Both feel the ED helped their chances; whether or not this was true, I can’t say. One of them ended up transferring to a different school after a year, so perhaps the (self-inflicted) pressure to decide early backfired. The third child was a NMF, and applied to a few super selective schools (admit rates <10%) and a few very selective (admit rate <20%). To be safe, he also applied to a few where we knew he'd be a shoe-in, and to a school with free tuition for NMF. (We wanted him to have a choice in case none of the really selective schools accepted him.) In all, I think it was 11 applications. He wound up getting into one of the super selective schools (the one that was really the best fit for him), but NOT getting into a couple of the very selective that we thought he had a better chance at.

    All of that is to say – who knows? We live in a fairly rural area with a decent public high school. There is very little of the "college arms race" atmosphere" that I hear about from my friends in DC and Boston. All of the kids participated in whatever activities in high school interested them; there was nothing done "for the college application."

    We did encourage them all to spend a lot of time crafting their essay and short answer responses, and to have them proofread/edited by others (we were willing to do so, but were fine if they chose to use a teacher or one of our editor friends instead.)

    We did many college visits, and made suggestions about schools we thought that they should consider, but the final decisions were up to them. I had a spreadsheet listing lots of different colleges, and information like size, male/female ratio, admit rate, SAT scores, tuition etc. which helped give a quick overview of places they were considering.

  28. “applied early to the single school she wanted. She got in and is not applying anywhere else.”

    Does that school have rolling admissions?

  29. Yes, but UB engineering? Do they accept 60% And, I don’t even know what 60% acceptance MEANS. How does that translate to GPA? Those are so inflated nowadays.

    UB would actually be my last pick. I think we have increasingly come to the conclusion that he needs to stick fairly close to home. His counselor is recommending that he stay within easy driving distance. Sad, because he is so smart. The other day, I overheard him on a Skype call with his research project mentor (who is a CS researcher at a R1 university), and they were discussing algorithms that I don’t even understand, Especially in math, he just immediately understands everything, like he breathes it. But he is also highly likely to flame out of college in his freshman year :-(

  30. Sheep Farmer – if she goes to WPI and you have no friends or family to call on, I will be happy to be local auntie. I am a short hour’s drive away. I think my friend’s younger son is a junior, not a senior now, so I could also make the introduction to that family. (They drive a luxury Tesla).

    Austin Mom – Students whose final choice is truly dependent on financial aid do not apply Early Decision (binding acceptance). Most totebagger families, even those below the level of well-to-do or with at least one parent of retirement age (see my Skidmore niece) may talk about finances being an important factor, but in the end they fork over the money. (We are all waiting for Finn to eat his hat and send Finn Jr to Stanford rather than NMSF full ride at Oklahoma). Or grandparents kick in the difference.

  31. I just looked up my university/ According to US News, we have a 65% acceptance rate, which would make us more selective than UCBoulder. Really???? I think these acceptance rates are suspect.

  32. Really? Colorado at Boulder has a greater than 75% acceptance rate? Huh.

    Google says it’s 84.2%.

  33. From the UB website: “Engineering applications receive an additional review to ascertain the applicant’s readiness in key science and math areas.”

    And 90% of their freshman class is “in the top half of their HS class” I’m sure he makes that cut.

    Given what you said above, sounds like he’s probably qualified on those front. I understand the other distance issue; hopefully not really a long-term limiting factor for him.

  34. I know some of the people at WPI, It is a great school. The only downside is that it is in Worcester (a town I know well)

  35. Meme – Thanks. A few of DD#1’s choices are way out of our price range without significant financial aid. We have done the net price calculator, which if you get that much aid appears doable.

    Does anyone have experience of how well the net price calculator fared in predicting your costs?

  36. I was talking to a friend in the Northeast whose son is a 10th grader. At his public school the atmosphere seems very college arms race. He wants to do science (not engineering) is a good student who is mild and laid back. I mentioned looking into state research universities (Mooshi made suggestions in the past). My friend usually pretty calm seems nervous.

    Another interesting thing, I learned is a parent got an interview with an official at the flagship U for her daughter. Is this some kind of informational interview ? Heard of tours and interviews after admittance but not before.

  37. Louise – I did a pre-admittance interview at every school I applied to, it was pretty standard.

  38. “At some extremely selective schools the acceptance rate is higher for the ED pool, so if your child wants to go there he or she should focus on that top school for ED.”

    I think that’s pretty much the rule rather than the exception; I’ve seen stats on the acceptance rates for ED/EA vs. RD, although there’s always some caveat about the applicant pool being different.

    Some schools fill over half their classes from ED/EA.

    So if your kid knows exactly which school he/she wants to attend, and you can afford it and are willing to pay for it, ED/EA (especially ED) is the way to go.

    “This has raised questions for me about early decision – do you know about the financial aid picture before hand? what if they give you less aid than you originally thought, is the decision still binding?”

    From what I’ve read, this is the one acceptable reason for backing out of an ED commitment.

    Keep in mind that not all schools offer ED. Many offer EA, which is not binding. Some have restricted EA, which limits applicants to a single school, with exceptions. Others don’t have any early admissions.

    “Students whose final choice is truly dependent on financial aid do not apply Early Decision (binding acceptance).”

    Based on what I’ve read, that’s not necessarily true. I think if you use a school’s NPC (net price calculator; all schools have one on their websites) and it indicates a net price you’re able and willing to pay, then it’s OK to apply ED. If the offer comes back with less aid than the NPC indicates, IMO you’re justified in backing out of the ED commitment.

  39. Louise, it’s an admissions interview. It counts. No matter how the school frames it. The kid should use it to glean information unavailable from the website, collegeboard.org, etc. The admissions rep s/he talks with will be using it to see if the kid is really interested in the college, speaks well, asks good questions (hint #1 (just like for job interviews): never ask anything that’s discussed on the website/in the admissions materials unless it’s to dive deeper into a specific thing).

  40. “Does anyone have experience of how well the net price calculator fared in predicting your costs?”

    No, but we just finished our FAFSA forms. This is a big step for my privacy-loving DH to actually submit our financial info to an organization that is not the IRS. He was literally grumbling the whole time he did it.

  41. Backing out of ED, even for financial aid reasons, is a big deal. I agree with Meme–if you are dependent on financial aid to afford the school, don’t do it. I’ve heard stories of colleges accepting fewer students from high schools where kids break the ED contract.

  42. Another thing with those acceptance rates – that is the rate accepted from those applying. Perhaps we have a 65% rate simply because the best students never even bother applying? In that case, you really can’t compare acceptance rates across schools. You need the average GPAs.

    The idea that we are actually rejecting applicants is scary, because so many of our current students are not college ready.

  43. Business owners and other circumstances make NPCs less accurate.  For married families with mainly W2 income NPCs are more likely to give a good prediction.

    Depending on the complexity of a family’s financial circumstances (e.g. divorce/separation/remarried, business holdings, fluctuating annual income), the reliability of the calculator will vary from family to family. In short, the Net Price Calculator works best for families with straightforward financial situations, while cases that are more complex will need to undergo a more thorough review.

  44. If we know we won’t qualify for aid, should we bother filling out the FAFSA? Given that SUNY costs less than our daycare did, I know we will be paying full freight.

  45. Admissions interviews: On CC, there’s been discussion about creating a resume for these interviews, which I will suggest to DS if he is able to schedule any (a lot of schools don’t do local interviews here). I’m thinking a single sheet to include things like GPA, test scores, classes taken, and ECs, so the interviewer has all that at a glance.

    We went to an event similar to the one Austin described (Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn, Stanford; the one Austin attended isn’t coming here). I talked a bit to a guy who heads up the local interviewing for his alma mater, and what he said he tells his interviewers is the #1 thing to try and glean is whether the interviewee is a nice person. That’s one thing they can’t get from the applications, as opposed to academic ability.

  46. Yes, acceptance rates should be considered in the context of other factors, like GPAs.

  47. “If we know we won’t qualify for aid, should we bother filling out the FAFSA?”

    If your child has the potential of receiving merit aid, a FAFSA is still required in many circumstances.

  48. Houston, I’m very impressed that you’ve already done the FAFSA. I’m still moving money around and pre-paying bills before I do it, but hope to have it done before the end of the month, when DS’ first app is due.

  49. “If we know we won’t qualify for aid, should we bother filling out the FAFSA?”

    Besides what Houston said, I’ve also heard that it’s a requirement for many on campus jobs.

  50. Should you fill out the FAFSA if you are a high-income family?  It’s complicated, but keep this information in mind:

    • The FAFSA must be submitted to qualify for a federal loan.
    • Some merit scholarships require a completed FAFSA.
    • A family income that is higher than about $200,000 disqualifies most students for financial aid, but there are exceptions.

    Is your income too high to qualify for college financial aid?

  51. “there’s been discussion about creating a resume for these interviews,”

    That’s part of the guidance / college admissions process at my kids’ school. They make the kids do them by the end of junior year (things like varsity letters expected in senior year are noted as such) for them to use on college visits over the summer. And the resume (.pdf version) is included with the transcript & rec letters when the school sends materials to the colleges in support of applications.

  52. Well, I don’t have any personal connection to CU Boulder, but somehow I thought most flagships had a lower acceptance rate than that. Interesting.

  53. “If going to a less competitive school allows you to be in the Honors College and have some great experiences that way, I think that is a better route for some kids.”

    Yes, I thought an honors college in a large flagship was a way to get the best of both worlds in terms of fish/pond.

  54. “Another thing with those acceptance rates – that is the rate accepted from those applying. Perhaps we have a 65% rate simply because the best students never even bother applying?”

    At the schools with sub-10% acceptance rates, my guess is that well over half of the applicants have no realistic shot of acceptance, i.e., they’re cannon fodder.

  55. Jeez, even CSU Chico has a lower acceptance rate than Boulder. The world has gone mad, I tell you. Chico has an honors program too, and the faculty I knew who ran it were a dedicated lot.

  56. OK, according to Princeton Review, UC Boulder has an acceptance rate of 80%, with an average GPA of 3.62. My university has an acceptance rate of 65% with an average GPA of 3.49. Clearly, acceptance rate is all about the quality of the pool. You have to look at GPA and test scores.

    BTW, my DS1 would not be getting into UC Boulder based on GPA

  57. including recognizable schools like:

    Not that I have any totebag cred to begin with, but I’ve never heard of some of those schools.

  58. Most likely, all the top students in CO apply to UC Boulder, whereas the top students in NY are not applying to my school. Although I am still amazed that our average GPA is that high. It goes to show you that GPA has nothing to do with being college ready.

  59. The idea that we are actually rejecting applicants is scary, because so many of our current students are not college ready.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in the totebag estimation of what college ready means*.

    Do you really think the person who lives here, who was at the median of the 84% who got accepted to UC Bouder is up to totebag standards?

    http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/14136-E-101st-Ave_Commerce-City_CO_80022_M25759-31805

    I’m betting they aren’t.

    * I can see not being ready to MM’s CS class but there are many other less “rigorous” options.

  60. Now why in God’s name would U. of Southern California have a 16.5% acceptance rate and yet Boulder have have an 84% acceptance rate? I’m glad I’m not trying to provide any guidance to any students other than my niece, because my intuitions are apparently 50 years out of date.

  61. But he would be getting into Boulder because he’s from NY and they want some geographic diversity. (A kid from our neighborhood went there several years ago; I think mostly he majored in snowboarding and consequently ended up at the local CC for his second freshman year).

  62. BTW, my DS1 would not be getting into UC Boulder based on GPA

    Even with his very high test scores?

  63. By college ready, I mean being able to write a sentence that can actually be understood, being able to do simple calculations like an average, and being able to read a freshman level textbook. About half my students cannot do those things.

  64. I also see that UC Boulders SAT range is about a 100 points higher than ours. Those acceptance rates are just meaningless

  65. It goes to show you that GPA has nothing to do with being college ready.

    which is really the problem with Texas 10% (or 8%) rule. I get what they’re trying to do, but generally the top 7% kid at Brownsville High just isn’t going to be as qualified as a lower ranked e.g. top 15% kid from a totebaggy suburb of Houston, Dallas or Austin.

    Which is why standardized test scores became popular / important. And then that all fell apart with the testing-optional stuff.

  66. Tangentially related, we started watching Last Chance U last night, based on the recommendation of some of you here. Talk about not being college ready!!

  67. Aren’t Mooshi’s first-year students learning stuff like if-then-else reasoning and incrementing lists and counters and arrays and stuff? Any college student ought to be able to handle that.

    The upper division classes are doubtless harder.

  68. I also see that UC Boulders SAT range is about a 100 points higher than ours. Those acceptance rates are just meaningless

    Yeah, I see what you mean — I never paid that much attention before (or at least not for years) but you’re quite right.

  69. I’ve been doing alumni interviews for years, and I met a weak applicant last night. Most of the kids that I meet during the early process are great. I usually want to admit all of them, and they seem like they could be successful at many schools. This is the first time that I’ve ever met an applicant that I really don’t want to recommend. I won’t do that by putting her int he lowest categories, but I will just check the average number.

    I’ve had plenty of shy kids that don’t like to brag, and that is ok. I can usually find out about their accomplishments by talking about their favorite activity, sport or class. This kid was just all about academics and had one very minor sport. Even when she discussed why she wants to attend my alma mater, she just talked about where it was located. There are plenty of good schools in this same location, but she just focused on the location instead of the school.

    Finn – she was nice, so I won’t share as much as I shared here with a negative tone. I usually go out of my way to highlight why the applicant is great. I am going to have to dig deep, and focus on some academic classes to write anything that is positive.

    If your kids do alumni or on campus interviews, tell them to write a thank you note after the interview. It can be an email, but they should write a note. Please tell them to be prepared to have questions to ask the interviewer about the school. The questions shouldn’t just be about random stuff, but they can even ask easy questions like why did you choose the school if they are nervous and can’t think of good questions. They should try to ask at least 2 or 3 questions instead of saying no questions. They should be able to talk about a favorite class or subject, favorite activity etc. Most of the alums that I know that do these interviews are not trying to make this a difficult process. They want to make the students comfortable, but the kids have to be willing to share a little and answer with more than a couple of words to an open ended question.

  70. Off-topic: SCHOOL CALLED BECAUSE OF RAIN. Nearby counties may need to send people to shelters in our county’s school buildings.

  71. By college ready, I mean being able to write a sentence that can actually be understood, being able to do simple calculations like an average, and being able to read a freshman level textbook.

    I wonder how well the person in that house (median at UC Boulder) would do.

    I also wonder if I walked over the the Pru as everyone is leaving work and asked 100 people to find the average of 24, 38, 205 and 3, how many would be able to answer.

  72. Now why in God’s name would U. of Southern California have a 16.5% acceptance rate and yet Boulder have have an 84% acceptance rate?

    The beach?

    DS is just a freshman, but from what he says about he and his friends’ interest in colleges, CU isn’t on the radar at all for most of them.

  73. This is the first time that I’ve ever met an applicant that I really don’t want to recommend. I won’t do that by putting her int he lowest categories, but I will just check the average number.

    Why? Isn’t your job as an interviewer to weed out the applicants who aren’t a good fit for the school? Of course, if getting average scores takes applicants out of the running, then it’s the same thing as not recommending her.

  74. @ssk – agree. At a place like Stanford being perfect is the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if after they got them all in, they sorted them by race and gender and then randomly drew names. How do you distinguish between them when all the kids are perfect virtuosos who build wells for kids in Africa?

  75. Sheep & L – I’m close to Worcester too! Also, Sheep, my friend’s son is a current student there, and I know a few profs there. If you want additional info, let me know.

  76. Boulder have have an 84% acceptance rate?

    Because to fill their 6200 freshman class slots, they need to. Their yield (enrolled/accepted) is only 24%. Stanford is 80%, Yale, Princeton are 65% (collegeboard.org)

  77. DD1 made it through the college application process, but I don’t know that I have anything to add. I felt clueless all the way through and still don’t feel like we did it right. I hope she is at the right school for her.

    DD2 wants a gap year. There are a number of reasons why this might be a good idea. She does need something productive to do during that year. Does anyone have any ideas for a gap year?

  78. Just got a message from my kids school district that there weren’t any clowns around the school, but they would let us know if there is a problem.

    I am at a loss on what to think about the whole clown thing.

  79. S&M – a friend of mine who lives near the Mouse has school cancelled already. She’s already hunkered down.

  80. TAh-DAH!

    The University of Colorado Boulder guarantees admission to first-time Colorado resident freshmen who meet specific criteria. For a copy of the guaranteed admission guidelines, visit admissions.colorado.edu/undergraduate/apply/freshman/guarantee,

    Students who are not granted admission as entering freshmen may consider transferring to CU-Boulder after successful study elsewhere. Students are encouraged to complete at least one full year of transferable college or university course work, including any courses outlined in the minimum academic preparation standards (MAPS) chart that were not met in high school.

  81. Rocky, meaning they are not even considering it.

    DD2 wants a gap year. There are a number of reasons why this might be a good idea. She does need something productive to do during that year. Does anyone have any ideas for a gap year?

    Get a job?

  82. Cordelia – does your DD2 have ideas for the future? Is there a career path she’s looking to explore? Maybe an internship in that field, or job shadowing (not sure what the financial situation is for her and you). If she wants to explore, maybe encourage working with a local outreach group (pick your favorite topic – housing initiatives, environmental, children, etc), or let her have more time to travel (solo or with a group like People to People or other groups).

  83. RMS – USC is very hard to get into now! I have friends who called it “U of spoiled children” and “U of second choice” – but boy have things changed!

    Worcester Poly Tech – my mom is from Worcester so I walked around there as a kid. As a young girl I thought I would go there or Holy Cross (even though I didn’t live anywhere nearby).

  84. Cordelia – does she want to travel/volunteer and do you want her to? There are a number of programs now and there are Gap Year Fairs you can attend.

    You might ask the admissions folks at the colleges your DD2 is interested in – many have opinions about what gap years should and should not include. (FYI – just to be prepared, know that if she wants to do math or engineering, many will strongly discourage the break).

    If she wants to do a travel/volunteer combo thing, Projects Abroad runs gap year programs (www.projectsabroad.org). My DD did a summer program with them and loved it, and it was well run. Not cheap.

  85. Rocky, that makes more sense – I thought it was odd you didn’t know what that expression means :)

    DS is interested in out of state flagships – Nebraska (several family members went there), Oregon, some others. His friends are leaning the same way, although of a few of them are talking about the University of Denver as well.

    Tying in to a previous discussion, their interest in a lot of these schools is sparked by the sports teams. (DU has recent national championships in lacrosse and hockey.)

  86. Interexchage is a pretty solid non-profit that facilitates Australian work years (with horses!!). They also do Au Pair placement, and some ESL stuff. I would like to take a gap year and go to Australia….

    There is some up front out of pocket cost, but then it is paid work.

  87. Get a job?

    She will be 17. She can’t get a job without a work permit issued by her school, but she won’t be in school anymore because she will have graduated, so she may not be able to get a work permit.

    Her age is the primary reason for the gap year. Older DD didn’t turn 18 until after college started and it was challenging in a number of odd and unexpected ways.

    She is fantastically good at networking, hardworking, smart and driven. She will get into trouble if she doesn’t have something productive to do.

    And, tying in the topics for the last week when I’ve been too busy to comment: She is taking the PSAT at an alternative time because she is going to a national conference. She went to a conference in DC this past summer and has been using social media to keep up with the other kids from all over the U.S. There was only one other kid from her state and it took until the fourth or fifth day of the conference to meet up with him. Their small group at the conference seemed to consist of the future sales people that Rhett references. She will likely end up in sales, and her time in college will likely be more productive if she is actually eighteen when she starts.

  88. ssk, I just looked up the admissions stats for USC and you’re right! We called it those names back in the day, too.

    I think I should just go lie down and wait for climate change to kill me.

  89. She will be 17. She can’t get a job without a work permit issued by her school, but she won’t be in school anymore because she will have graduated, so she may not be able to get a work permit.

    Interesting. I guess things have changed in the 30 years since I was 16 and could get a job by just going and applying. We definitely didn’t need anything from school.

    I do agree completely about the age. I was 17 when I started college and I would have benefitted greatly by waiting a year.

  90. USC offers attractive NMF scholarships.

    Selected on the basis of PSAT performance.
    Entering first-year students are considered
    if they have been designated National Merit
    Finalists and name USC as their first-choice
    college with the National Merit Scholarship
    Corporation.

    http://admission.usc.edu/docs/Scholarships.pdf

  91. I’m reviewing applications for an intern… thanks to this board, I now see “volunteering to build houses in a 3rd world country” in a totally different light…

  92. Interexchage is a pretty solid non-profit that facilitates Australian work years (with horses!!).

    Sounds great, where do I sign up? Oh wait, I’m busy adulting. Darn…

  93. She will be 17. She can’t get a job without a work permit issued by her school, but she won’t be in school anymore because she will have graduated, so she may not be able to get a work permit

    High school graduates or minors who have been awarded a certificate of proficiency are exempt from the permit requirements.

    http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/ChildLaborLawPamphlet.pdf

  94. Sheep Farmer, is that two questions per day? What is the app?

    My kid will probably not see any reason to apply to more than one school, and I would be very, very surprised if he chooses to study for the SAT or ACT. This will become an issue if his scores are close to the NMS cutoff this year and sophomore year and he just needs a few more points, but otherwise I’m not going to sweat it. I want him to go to the toughest school he can get into, because he tends to run with the pack, not out front, and I think he can handle academics as long as the emotional/social stuff is under control. His only EC right now is a beach cleanup crew run by his science teacher. I’d like to see him do more, but he says he’s focusing on grades, so as long as they’re ok, it’s fine I guess.

    He had a little stumble recently, and now that the quarter is ending, he must get everything turned in, so I went through all his classes in the online grading program with him, noting what still needs to be done and prompting him to decide what to do when. We both nearly died. I will not being supervising his application process closely. I will, however, do the full flight of campus tours and make sure that he sees the “real” college application process, because so many at his school will probably go to CC, if anything.

    He alternates between “what will I do without you, mama?” and “I can’t wait to get out of here. It’s stupid that you have to wait until you’re 16”. I predict that the former will win in by college time, but who knows. I do not want to send him off unprepared. He needs to be excited and confident when he goes, so that he focuses on the opportunities ahead, not leaving me . I’d be fine living alone now, but if he needs me around, he’ll stay. If he wants to go but doesn’t get in, I guess we’ll have to find a good gap year thing for him to do. I will not want him to stay with me for that–too much stress when he *should* do something but it isn’t mandatory.

    He’s taken a little step away from me recently; he rarely texts me during the school day any more. It’s good, just a little odd at first.

  95. “Seriously, one of those five kids needs to do something other than drop out of high school and get convicted of felonies.”
    Awesome! But tell us how you really feel.

  96. This is a couple of years old but could give gap year ideas.
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/non-traditional-students/1680905-gap-year-thread.html

    Many gap year programs cost as much as college, btw.

    Other ideas?
    Americorps http://www.nationalservice.gov/

    HelpX
    HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

  97. friends who called it “U of spoiled children” and “U of second choice”

    ssk – yes, those are regular parts of my lexicon!

  98. HelpX
    HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

    How about a job at Kroger or CVS? I don’t know that crewing on a sailboat is going to get them all that motivated.

  99. HelpX
    HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers
    to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

    That has been her life thus far, although I am not sure she actually earns her food and accommodation.

  100. Cordelia, a friend with a bright, capable daughter spent a year at a math/science magnet high school working on her Spanish in Barcelona. It’s not really a gap year (’cause she had to stay enrolled in high school in the states, I think, to be eligible) but a similar concept.

    Saac, for large state schools, the department you are in is much more important than how competitive admissions to the school are, IMHO. Some high population states (Texas, California) have limited slots for their state flagship schools and a selection of lower tier schools. Some states (Iowa, Oregon) have few state schools (Iowa has 3) and your peer group is affected by your department. I think the ACT range of graduates in my department was probably ~29-36, but the average ACT for admitted students was low 20’s.

  101. It’s not my job to weed out because the admissions staff is paid to do that task.
    I’m there to discuss the school, and allow an applicant any where in the world to have a face to face meeting with a paid or unpaid representative of the university. My feedback is not going to going to push this kid into admit or not admit in this case because she is not a strong enough applicant compared to the pool.

    I can try to highlight great applicants, but this kid can probably do the academic work. She’s just nothing special. The school doesn’t accept the common app, so most kids that I meet for an interview are applying early because they’re qualified. Most are overqualified, but there obviously isn’t space for everyone.

  102. Wow! In Texas the child work restrictions only apply to 14 and 15 year olds – max 40 hours a week and not during school hours during the school year, 48 hours a week otherwise, and some limitations on how late and no “hazardous” occupations. Pretty much anything goes for 16 and up, with the exception of a few occupations and, of course, can’t sell alcohol.

  103. Mooshi, how much marketing does your school do (besides the BB team)? Many top schools intentionally encourage everyone to apply so they can cut more people and have a higher admissions rate. Or so I’ve heard.

    Is your son more likely to stay organized with the subjects he likes? Maybe he could take the lightest full load possible his first term, with most classes on the mathy side of things. Once he has the hang of college and how classes go, he can tackle the ones that are so easy it makes them hard.

  104. How about a job at Kroger or CVS?

    Well, this type of gig has definitely amped up my oldest’s motivation to get his college degree(s)…complete the AA, then move on to the bachelors. Not everyone needs this real world wake up call however.

    While he does make pretty good money and generally enjoys the work, he really wants the ‘vacation days’ that he apparently will become eligible for in about 6 months. His biggest and continual gripe is the fluctuating schedule e.g.:
    Mon 730a-4pm (which turns into 530pm)
    Tue off
    Wed 730-4pm
    Thurs 2-10pm
    Fri 2-10pm <== making it hard to meet up with friends who have 8-5 gigs and are ready to pack it in by the time he gets there
    Sat off
    Sun 2-10pm

    and then the next week will be different. he does get his schedule around 10 days before the start of his workweek (Saturdays),so some planning can be done.

    I remind him it'll all be different starting mid-December when he finishes his AA and only has work…he'll feel he has plenty of time. And also, he has few marketable skills at this point so be glad for the ~$500/week you're taking home (net of everything incl 5% Roth 401(k) contribution so as to max the company match of 1:1 on that 5%).

  105. Rocky, I did not go to my state’s flagship university. The one I went to was one of the original “Public Ivies”. It was smaller and required higher scores/GPA. I don’t think anyone considered the big one prestigious at the undergrad level (grad school/research is a different matter). I was confused at first when I first heard people on here talking about the flagship as if it was always the best one. But I can still talk TBDBITL and I know to reply “I-O!” when someone shouts “O-H”. (I rarely do though, am really sick of people putting that on FB)

  106. How about a job at Kroger or CVS? I don’t know that crewing on a sailboat is going to get them all that motivated.

    This is my point as well. I think a 17 year old will learn much more working an entry level job for a year than taking a year-long glorified vacation.

  107. Cordelia: Send your DD to work for Sheep Farmer. : )

    DS will be 17 when he goes to college. Should I be concerned about this? What should I look out for?

  108. I totally flubbed a local interview with an alumna (~20 years ago). She asked me what literary character do I most identify with and why.

  109. Fred, the difference in preparedness is the point of the 10% rule!
    And good point about about yield.

  110. She asked me what literary character do I most identify with and why.

    These kinds of questions are horseshit, unless the student is planning to be an English major (or other language major since they are literature majors).

  111. DS will be 17 when he goes to college. Should I be concerned about this? What should I look out for?

    It depends on the kid. I was pretty emotionally and socially immature, and it was pretty obvious. But the idea of taking a year off never crossed anyone’s mind.

  112. WCE, I would think a kid could start out at the school, get a good GPA, including a couple classes in the desired major, and then transfer in. Cutoffs for admission to a major are not that big a deal if you get into the school–unless you truly are not ready for the major. In that case, you’re saved the embarrassment of being told you must leave the major.

  113. I guess this is YMMV, but I started college at 17. The only annoyance I can recall is the idea of having to send everything that needed a signature home to my parents. My turnaround was quick (relatively speaking) – about a week between me mailing it and me receiving signed forms. Today, that turnaround could be minutes.

    The maturity of the student, I think, would be the biggest factor. I had no issues being ~1200 miles from home and underage. I went about my life as I would in high school, except I didn’t have mom or grandma cooking my meals, and no one to make sure I was on time/prepared/etc. I was mature enough to handle school while being the youngest in my cohort.

  114. This blog ran that literary character question once, but it was phrased in a way that made inclusion of tv & movies obvious. Strange how different people react to it differently. To me, it’s a total softball. Interviewer wants to see the kid formulate thoughts & sentences, maybe show insight or a sense of humor, and tell a little bit about themselves. Even if a kid has only read Popular Mechanics their whole life, they ought to be able to figure out some kind of response.

  115. the difference in preparedness is the point of the 10% rule!

    No, the point is to get kids who would not otherwise get into UT (because e.g. their GPA + SAT was too low) in there based solely on their HS grades. Now the best spin I can put on it is “life is graded on a curve” since being in the top 8% kid some small, rural, poor HS in West TX you get in and, probably, you’re woefully unprepared, and you’re much less likely to be successful than the kid who is 15-20% at a totebaggy HS near a major metro who will get his/her degree on time. But, hey, you had the opportunity. I’m all for the share the wealth concept, btw. They’re trying to take subjectivity out of the process, but the unintended consequence is a poorer-prepared entering class than if they had a regular, critical review admissions process.

  116. ” I didn’t have mom or grandma cooking my meals, and no one to make sure I was on time/prepared/etc”. Isn’t routine the easy part? My kid could handle all that stuff now. But that little wobble a couple weeks ago really threw him off balance.

  117. Houston – I was 17 when I started college and it was not an issue. The only time I had an issue was my senior year, when everyone else was 21 and I wasn’t.

  118. “At some extremely selective schools the acceptance rate is higher for the ED pool, so if your child wants to go there he or she should focus on that top school for ED.”

    Have not had a chance to read all the comments yet, so maybe someone addressed this point, but, at least at our university, the ED pool is significantly more competitive, with the strongest applicants generally applying then. Therefore, even though the acceptance rate is higher, that fact is irrelevant to the average applicant. The less impressive applicants may be deferred, but they may also be rejected outright. I would not advise any student who isn’t in the tippy top of the applicant pool to apply early, unless it is to a school like Penn that fills half the class in that phase. At most schools, the only downside to waiting is that you have to wait until April for a decision.

  119. eing in the top 8% kid some small, rural, poor HS in West TX you get in and, probably, you’re woefully unprepared,

    Doesn’t that undermine the helicopter parenting theory that the hardest part is getting in?

  120. Fred, how would a kid have a low GPA and be in the top of their class? Segregation by income is becoming more extreme in this country. Letting low income kids whose parents and communities did not have the resources to tailor their first 18 years to their needs have to get a chance somehow. That 15-20% is better prepared because they have been prepared–all the tutoring and stuff we were talking about the other day. Admitting them because they’ve been given a ride to the front of the line doesn’t make sense. But I agree with you that the university needs to have facilities available for those kids from Cochise County, or else the whole exercise is pointless.

  121. DS will be 17 when he goes to college. Should I be concerned about this? What should I look out for?

    It depends. DD’s issues are more along the lines of unforeseen irritations. She can’t go to clubs with her dormmates that have an 18 year and older policy. She can’t use the climbing wall at the rec center. In one of her classes, the typical assignment is to participate in an experiment. She can’t give consent and so has to write a paper instead. She had to get a permission slip signed for a trip.

  122. “But that little wobble a couple weeks ago really threw him off balance.”

    S&M – that’s the maturity part. I had those wobbles, lots of them. But I kept moving forward and kept myself on track without mom looking over my shoulder. I was mature enough for college at 17 (probably 16, but I wasn’t ready to go).

  123. S&M – a kid in the top 10% of a weak school may not be as qualified as a kid in the top 10% of a really strong school. It has nothing to do with GPA (mainly due to grade inflation and how GPA is determined differently at each school). No one is arguing with the original purpose of the top 10% program, rather Fred is noting that having less qualified kids (who came from weaker schools) is an unintended consequence of the program.

  124. “Fred, how would a kid have a low GPA and be in the top of their class?”

    I used to review scholarship candidates from smaller towns in Texas. The GPAs are high for the top performers in these schools, but the SAT scores are surprisingly low in comparison to the GPA. For example, in our urban high school, the top students also have top 5%+ SAT scores. In the rural schools, the top students had SAT scores that were more towards the middle of the bell curve. These were good kids, and they will do just fine at UT or A&M, but they were not “elite” when compared to their colleagues from richer, more urban schools.

    That said, I’m in favor of the top 7% rule at UT, even though it excludes my kid.

  125. Letting low income kids whose parents and communities did not have the resources to tailor their first 18 years to their needs have to get a chance somehow.

    Right. The point is to increase racial, ethnic, and economic diversity without having lower standards for minorities. The 10% rule can be applied to all applicants equally and achieve this.

  126. How does one find out what percentage of incoming students are admitted in ED, and how they compare to the rest of the incoming class? That sounds like useful info when deciding whether or not to do it at a particular school.

    Would anyone else like to do a day on gap years?

  127. Class rank is used because there is no consistency among grading practices. So being top of the class makes GPA irrelevant. A better comparison is top of the class with mediocre test scores, compared to 15-20% with strong test scores. And Saac I don’t know where you got the idea that you could be 15% in a challenging school environment only because you got to a ride to the front of the line. Some of those kids work very hard, hours of homework every night plus ECs and volunteer hours, etc. You may think parents paying for test prep is getting a free ride, but it’s still up to the kid to be willing to put in the work. Mine were not, and you mentioned up thread that yours is not likely to. So kudos to those kids who are willing – they are truly working for what they want. And I absolutely believe that some of those kids are likely to be more successful at UT than some kids that make it in from other districts. I tutored a girl in math in college who was valedictorian, but couldn’t do fractions. Her high school teacher hated fractions so didn’t teach them. I can guarantee that kids at 50th %ile in my high school could do fractions.

  128. I agree with you completely. The rural, poor kid might have a 4.0 or a 3.0 (in a no grade inflation environment) and still be #4 out of 50 kids in his/her class.

    the university needs to have facilities available for those kids from Cochise County, or else the whole exercise is pointless.

    Just having them is not enough. There needs to be constant outreach to the highest at risk of failure kids to be sure they’re learning the ropes, progressing well especially in the first semester. And, kids being kids, particularly boys, some will take the outreach as butting in, or making them look like they’re not strong enough to make it and will reject it, to their detriment.

    Like I said, I’m all for sharing the wealth.

  129. I had turned 17 only a couple of weeks before I went off to college and I was fine. It meant that I was never legal to drink while in college though

  130. Fred is noting that having less qualified kids (who came from weaker schools) is an unintended consequence of the program.

    I disagree – it’s a completely intended consequence. It’s affirmative action without having quotas or different requirements for different groups.

  131. Fred, now I see what you were saying. At first I thought you were in favor of striking that rule down, instead of robustly living up to it.

  132. That does not show you the point Scarlett made, that the ED admitted kids were even better qualified than the regular applicants/admits, but it gives you an idea how the freshman cohort is built.

  133. MBT, I don’t think they “want” it any more from the kid where the nearest test prep class is 200 miles away and they have work after school every night. It aounds like you’re saying those kids wouldn’t work hard for it. If anything, they’ve had a lifetime of what Fred’s kid had a year of, and are highly motivated. It is possible that they went to crappy schools–school quality is directly related to income in this country, because schools are locally funded and residences are segregated by income.

  134. “I disagree – it’s a completely intended consequence. It’s affirmative action without having quotas or different requirements for different groups.”

    Correct. And also agree that outreach is important to help these kids succeed.

  135. “. It’s affirmative action without having quotas or different requirements for different groups.”

    Exactly. Also deals with poor white kids who see themselves disadvantaged by traditional affirmative action. It also has the advantage that not every black or brown kid is immediately assumed to be there because of AA. (I’ve probably already mentioned the little cretin who tells my kid he doesn’t belong in their (honors) classes, haven’t I?)

  136. So what is the deal with having to “want” a school so badly? Thinking back to my time, I applied to 10 schools (unusual in that era),mainly midwestern R1 publics. I was ready to go to any one of them that gave me enough financial aid. I only did one interview, and that was because I was in the running for a special scholarship and we lived pretty close to the university. I never heard of anyone going on college visits. None of the schools I applied to even breathed a word about visits or interviews.
    I was accepted to all 10 (with a 3.2 gpa no less), but only got extra financial aid over and above my need based aid at two of them. I learned the hard way that if you need financial aid for college, you are much better off applying to private schools. I ended up at the only private university that I applied to, because they gave me the better financial aid package.I had never even seen the campus until the day I moved into the dorm

  137. So what is the deal with having to “want” a school so badly?

    I assume kids who apply ED and are admitted tend to donate more money and form a stronger part of the alumni community than someone who only went because it was the cheapest.

  138. What Houston said about top 10%. But, even in metro areas, we have schools that border our ISD where the differences are large. In general two HS have the same percentage of students taking an AP exam, but in HS #1 80% get a 3 or better, but in HS#2 13% get a 3 or better. Yet, these students may have the same “grade” in their AP class at their HS and be in the top 10% of their respective classes and taken the most rigorous program available to them.

    The unpreparedness is the big issue to me. When they are unprepared typically one of two things happen: (1) they fail classes or (2) they are put in remedial classes. Being in a remedial class is better in that you are put in the courses to build up to achieving your major. But, you may be adding 2 or more semesters on to your college career that are not cheap. This contributes to not being able to graduate in 4 years and the amount of student loans some of these kids are carrying. It makes it even worse if they drop out and have loans.

  139. “How do you distinguish between them when all the kids are perfect virtuosos who build wells for kids in Africa?”

    Obviously, you can’t, but the admissions office at every HSS pretends that they can. It’s nonsense.

    Our university accepts fewer than 20% of applicants, so twice as easy to get into as Stanford, and the process for most reasonably competitive students is a crapshoot. HALF the accepted students were in the top 1% of their high school class and 40% were captain of a varsity team. The middle 50% SAT scores are in the 1400-1540 range, which is around the 95th percentile.

    I only read about 250 applications, from the bottom of the pile (sorted by test scores), but the exercise made clear the difficulty of making meaningful distinctions among essentially identical applicants. “Nothing sets her apart” was one of my standard evaluation lines. Too many applicants wrote uninspired, cliched essays, but that wasn’t as much of an issue as the truly interchangeable teacher and counselor letters. The crush of applications to be reviewed in 2 months means that staff can spend only 20-30 minutes on a first read, and even fewer on the second round and the perfunctory discussions in the review committee. Despite what the gurus on College Confidential claim, there really isn’t a secret formula to admission at the most selective schools. Plenty of extremely well-qualified students have to be turned away because there just aren’t enough seats in the class, especially for those who lack hooks. A bad essay can sink an otherwise great application, but a terrific essay will not necessarily make a student sufficiently “stand out” among the others in the pile. Getting a really solid “this is the best student I have had in 10 years of teaching at New Trier” letter is priceless, but those letters are, by definition, rare and in any event students have no way of knowing which teachers write the most helpful letters.

    We were very fortunate to be able to avoid the admissions roulette by moving here and getting the faculty admission hook.

  140. Saac, I’m not saying that at all. I am saying that they want it, too – in addition to the kids from less competitive districts. I felt like you were dismissing them because they didn’t have challenges, and I was making the point that they took advantage of opportunities offered to them, which other kids may not have, and don’t deserve to be dismissed. That said, I accept that they may not get in to UT at 15th %ile, and although that undoubtedly feels unfair to them, the policy is the best attempt I’ve seen at trying to level the playing field.

  141. “The GPAs are high for the top performers in these schools, but the SAT scores are surprisingly low in comparison to the GPA.”

    Our admissions office rates every high school in the country on a six-point scale based on factors such as the average SAT score and % graduates attending 4-year colleges. Class rank at the top schools was adjusted to account for the level of competition. I saw lots of applications from students who were at or near the top of their high school class at very mediocre schools but had SAT scores under 1200 and very poor essays. Most of them were clearly not competitive for admission.

  142. The unpreparedness that AustinMom describes is a significant problem. Students who take remedial classes are much more likely to drop out.

  143. While I tried to point out in my last post the problem, I am not saying that you should exclude those kids. What I am saying is that you are throwing MORE extra challenges at them – either by putting them in courses they aren’t prepared for or by adding to their years in college/loan debt by putting them in remedial courses. If they do overcome these challenges, they may still have more debt than their better-prepared peers, may not be offered the same same salaries right out of college if the challenges resulted in lower GPAs or more limited access to internships.

    I haven’t seen the committment to really helping these kids succeed after they are admitted.

  144. Saac – You probably already know this, but I heard on the Weather Channel (God, that makes me sound old) that Disney World is shutting down for only the fourth time in its history.

  145. S & M, does your high school use Naviance? If yes, some high schools will give access to students in their freshman or sophomore years. You can see grades and test scores from kids from your high school that were admitted to colleges. It won’t show if the kid is a star quarterback or a legacy, but it gives you an idea of whether kids from your HS have recently been admitted to certain schools.

  146. I see that it can be a softball question but I was just totally not prepared – I had no idea what to expect. I got waitlisted at that school. Much later, in business school while on long car rides, I would read through behavioral interview questions (“Tell me about a time when…”) and work on answers just to always be ready! And now I know the answer the blender question! haha

    Also, thinking back, the interviewer was pretty straight-faced and monotone. Much later, I did two mock interviews back to back. One with someone like the alumna interviewer and one with someone more friendly and chatty. The boring guy said I did poorly. The fun guy said I did great. So duh of course, there is subjectivity, but I learned I can’t mirror my interviewer intentionally or not.

  147. I think I’m with Saac in the Texas 10% debate, for the reasons she’s illustrated. The kids in the Totebaggy schools have already enjoyed every possible advantage. And we’re talking about state schools that are meant to serve the entire state, as best they can and see fit.

    The only possible downside I see is that there may end up being even less incentive for lower-performing schools or districts to improve, since they’re already sending at least some grads to good colleges regardless.

  148. Milo, and as of 1pm all those theme parks were still telling the employees to come in, no excuses, and now they’re trapped. I hope they sue the damn parks.

  149. Naviance is a good resource. Our university has a database with at least five years of admissions decisions available to readers, and in marginal cases they definitely compare Applicant A to Applicants B, C, and D from the same school to weigh the strength of A’s file. It is usually a significant advantage to apply from a feeder school, from what I could tell, especially because feeder schools tend to have very savvy college counselors who know exactly what admissions is looking for in a letter of recommendation and who have a stake in not overselling a weak candidate.

  150. “all those theme parks were still telling the employees to come in, no excuses, and now they’re trapped”

    Cast members, not employees. :)

    So as of 1pm, they were saying that, and then they said “Oops, better to close after all”?

    I would have thought that Orlando was far enough inland to be OK, but what do I know.

  151. I will look into Naviance. That name sounds like a combination word, but of what, I can’t tell.

    MBT, sorry to have misunderstood you. Thanks for clarifying

    Rocky, sue for what? Money to pay the babysitter when they were hunkered down with the kids for extra hours? Before going to work, you’d close up the house, right? From what I heard, Orlando is way further inland than Matthew was expected to go. Over here, things are oddly uneventful. Some clouds in the sky, but we haven’t gotten the usual afternoon thundershower (although the air is starting to feel like we will). When I pull up our local radar map on my weather app & zoom out a little, the rotation of the storm is perfectly visible. The reason the schools closed was not because of flooding here, but so that buildings can be used as shelters for people from neighboring counties. Makes me wonder what they’ll do on Tuesday if people’s homes were destroyed. Tomorrow is the last day of the quarter, so high school kids had assignments due and tests scheduled The school board was already trying to figure out how to make up the days they missed earlier this year for that tropical depression. They don’t have anything like snow days built into the calendar, apparently (according to the principal at ‘saac’s school)

    No word from Southern Florida or Savannah residents on here today, was there? Hope they’re OK!
    One model of the storm’s path had it heading out to see after Hilton ahead, and then looping back around to hit Palm Beach again. I ended of it will.

  152. Milo, have you noticed the sign by HR? Great big letters spell out “central casting”. I roll my eyes every time we pass it (which isn’t often)

  153. Sue for putting them at unnecessary risk and not allowing them to evacuate in a timely manner.

  154. Indeed I have not. I never noticed an HR office.

    One thing that I like is how they have their hometowns on their name cards. It’s just interesting. I don’t know if I was just looking to confirm an existing suspicion, but it seem to me like a very high percentage of cast members were 50+-year-old white guys from places like Ohio.

    DW has an uncle who’s an HVAC specialist who worked for them for many, many years and has generally painted a positive picture. But with a chronic health condition, he decided a few years ago that a lower-paying job with the state back home, combined with working for himself on the side, would be advantageous for the better with the state’s retiree health care.

  155. “Sue for putting them at unnecessary risk and not allowing them to evacuate in a timely manner.”

    I’ve read enough Grisham novels to imagine that it would probably be difficult to 1) show damages, and 2) prove sufficient negligence on the part of Disney.

  156. Thanks for clarifying about the “before” interview. I wouldn’t have known about it. I thought state flagship just looked at GPA/SAT and possibly did interviews after.

    The thing I wanted to tell Mooshi, is that if her DS’s test scores are excellent and he is doing those high level Math projects, there maybe a place for him at CMU and MIT. I say this because two brilliant kids of extended family got in. They were socially awkward, didn’t have the extra curriculars but they did what they did in their chosen subjects at a very high level.

  157. I have a 50+ yr old white guy relative who became a cast member after losing his business in the recession, I’m guessing primarily because he needed health insurance. His hometown is near Orlando, so it was convenient. He drives a boat all day, so enjoyable enough.

  158. Off topic but this made me immediately think of you all:

    Someone contacted me today about DD serving as a nanny/helper for her. The seeker, a woman, told me she and her husband had adopted a baby in September–that’s what they need help with (an after school errands/baby/dogs/laundry sort of thing). DD has often told me she’d like to adopt.

    The response that immediately popped into my head was, “Oh, [DD] has a real heart for adoption, so she’ll be so glad to meet you and hear about your path!”

    Instead, I said congratulations and gave her DD’s phone number.

    Which reminds me: Milo, what’s happening in Tontitown these days? Or Laredo for that matter?

  159. “Milo, what’s happening in Tontitown these days?”

    I’ve been traveling a bit. We’re way behind on our DVR shows.

  160. Does anybody ever wonder vaguely about how you would score on the SAT if you had to take it today?

  161. I’ve read enough Grisham novels to imagine that it would probably be difficult to 1) show damages, and 2) prove sufficient negligence on the part of Disney.

    You don’t need to prove that. You just need to show enough to get them to settle.

  162. Does anybody ever wonder vaguely about how you would score on the SAT if you had to take it today?

    I’ve seen enough of the current tests to say that for Totebaggers, verbal will have gotten stronger after decades of writing and analysis, and math may require some brush-up (how’s your trigonometry?), although ability to see multiple approaches to a problem may have improved. For people who don’t sit in an office reading and writing and analyzing stuff, I don’t know how much greater life experience would counteract forgotten concepts. It’s an interesting question.

  163. Does anybody ever wonder vaguely about how you would score on the SAT if you had to take it today?

    I shudder to think about it. However, I did use trigonometry a year old. I have never analyzed literature as an adult.

  164. Musing that the college admission process in our house will mean DH has to be on board with the final choice. When we went to see daycares I realized that we weren’t as close in our choices as I had expected. Choosing a school was a breeze by comparison. Hopefully college will not be a problem.

  165. Milo,

    I’m fascinated that so many of the computer models have the hurricane doing a loop and hitting Central Florida again.

  166. Louise, can you at least exclude your in-laws from the decision-making process?

  167. RMS – they will be excluded but will be concerned if our kids end up far from home. They will also call up family and friends to make sure *those* people have heard of the college the kids pick. I can be sure that a SLAC in the middle of the country will not be on their list of favorites.
    We will be the typical immigrant family with everyone wanting to see the college. All I can say is that my kids are used to this sort of thing and maybe they can use it in their essays :-).

  168. Tried posting a few minutes ago. Didn’t go through. We are evacuated. Expecting significant damage to home and beach house. Sick to stomach.

    We are well south of Savannah, not in Savannah. Just use Savannah as a point of reference for folks who wouldn’t otherwise know anything close to us.

    Lark

  169. Lark: I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope that the storm is a dud and passes you by. Keep us posted!

  170. Also, here’s an idea for a future post : if you are evacuating, and know there’s a decent chance you will come back to nothing, what do you take with you?

  171. Lark, glad to hear you & family are safe. We spent a year in the ‘boro, west of 95, so I’m familiar with the area of islands not too far from the Florida line, just from exploring around the area. There are some really intruiging and lovely places around there, with a lot of history. And now one more chapter. I hope you made the decision to leave early enough that you had time for that heart-wrenching decision.

  172. On that topic suggestion–the idea of a need to evacuate is my main motivation for condensing these two tubs of memorabilia into albums that can be reasonably flipped through and transported.
    We could also do a post on rebuilding, how to bring in the past while putting up something new. We all know Rhett would bulldoze the remnants to put up a fancy new thing (just teasing, Rhett!) but many of us find structures that incorporate the bones of older buildings and furniture made from reclaimed wood or other “used” materials more exciting and beautiful.

  173. Lark – sending you good thoughts.

    I went to college and was 16 for a month and then 17. No experiments or anything, and I don’t recall any permission slips. My friends and I didn’t go to clubs. The only bummer was not being able to drink senior year at anything off-campus.

  174. I went to college and was 16 for a month and then 17.

    I was a few weeks away from being 19…. (hangs head in shame).

  175. I know you’re joking, but I wouldn’t hang your head in shame because 19 could just indicate that you’re born after May 1 or June 1 and you were admitted top tier private school.
    I don’t think 17 year olds in college = smart kids. The cutoff for public schools in some places is still Dec 31, and there are bound to be a bunch of young kids due to the calendar.

  176. My heart goes out to you, Lark. I hope it ends up being not as bad you fear. Keep us updated please.

  177. I know you’re joking, but I wouldn’t hang your head in shame because 19 could just indicate that you’re born after May 1 or June 1 and you were admitted top tier private school.

    I should be so lucky! Of course, the reality was, I had to repeat second grade.

  178. ” Of course, the reality was, I had to repeat second grade.”

    That’s alright. DW failed Kindergarten.

    Lark – I hope it’s not as bad as you fear. Otherwise, we’ll get a good update on USAA’s claims handling.

  179. “if you are evacuating, and know there’s a decent chance you will come back to nothing, what do you take with you?”

    You are amazing. I admire your attitude in the face of everything.

  180. “Doesn’t that undermine the helicopter parenting theory that the hardest part is getting in?”

    If that were the helicopter parent theory, they would see their kids off at school, then go home and stop hovering.

  181. Houston, how was your experience completing the FAFSA? Did you use the tool to automatically download information from your federal taxes?

  182. “There needs to be constant outreach to the highest at risk of failure kids to be sure they’re learning the ropes, progressing well especially in the first semester.”

    I’ve read about a program at UT that does exactly that.

  183. “I would not advise any student who isn’t in the tippy top of the applicant pool to apply early, unless it is to a school like Penn that fills half the class in that phase. At most schools, the only downside to waiting is that you have to wait until April for a decision.”

    Is there a downside to applying early in that case? Is such a kid less likely to be accepted if applying early than regular decision?

    From what I’ve read, one of the big concerns of colleges is yield, and one of the reasons early applicants, especially ED and restricted EA, get accepted at higher rates is because that improves a school’s yield and makes it easier for the admissions offices to shape their classes.

    The downside to not applying early, especially if accepted, is having to apply to a bunch of schools, which would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, as well as take a lot of time and bandwidth the kid might prefer to deploy otherwise.

    I would suggest all seniors strongly consider applying early, whether EA, ED, or to a rolling admissions school. Getting an answer back, especially a positive one, can make their senior year a lot less stressful and more enjoyable, not to mention save their parents a bunch of money.

  184. Mooshi, sorry if you’ve been asked this before, but aren’t you a hook for your DS, sort of like how Scarlett’s DH is for their kids?

  185. SM, you’ve shared here many of your DS’ tribulations in school, how bright he is (and IMO no apologies required for being honest, whether or not it could come across as bragging), and how much he enjoyed spending time with MM’s kids, who apparently are also very bright but somewhat quirky.

    IMO, college could be a great opportunity for your DS to really find himself, and excelling in the PSAT is the one single thing he could do that would open the most doors to him WRT college choices. Thus, I encourage you to educate him on the significance of that one test, including the financial ramifications.

    Beyond that, I also encourage you to take an active role in guiding him through the selection and application processes. IMO again, he has a lot more at stake in this process than kids who have not had your DS’ difficulties with finding a good peer group. In the right school with the right peer group, he could really have a total blast and reach what appears to be a very high potential, but in the wrong situation it could be a very unsatisfactory experience. His experience with the MM kids gives him, and you, a hint of what to look for.

    You might also consider looking for summer programs that put him with other very bright kids, i.e., like MM’s. Some others here have mentioned how their kids enjoyed such experiences. A good experience like that might whet his appetite for more of the same and get him excited about college (or more excited than he already is).

  186. “We are all waiting for Finn to eat his hat and send Finn Jr to Stanford rather than NMSF full ride at Oklahoma”

    Halfway there, albeit the easy half. To my (mild) disappointment, OU is not on DS’ list of schools under consideration.

  187. Finn, it depends on the school. I really only know about our university. Not sure why they have EA anyhow, because it’s not binding and therefore doesn’t benefit the school on the yield point. We do have a lot of applicants for which our school is their top choice, and with an acceptance rate of 20% and only a fraction of the class admitted early, we could probably drop the EA option with no adverse effect on yield or the class profile. The admissions office cautions the staff to be conservative on extending EA offers because they want to see the strength of the entire applicant pool. The website explicitly tells applicants that only the strongest candidates should apply early. So unless the student is easily admissible even at a higher ranked school, my advice is that It’s better to wait for the RD pool. No student will be rejected from that pool if he would have been admitted early.
    At a less competitive school, there can be clear benefits to an early application, as you point out.

    On a totally unrelated point, the WSJ reports on today’s front page that only 20% of millennials have ever tried a Big Mac.

  188. Lark, wishing you well! DS evacuated safely and is with us. We anticipate losing our beach house too. First world problems, I know, because our primary home is safely outside the danger zone. I’m so sorry for you facing the prospect of damage to both. I’ll be watching the GA coast as well as SC now.

  189. “Halfway there, albeit the easy half. To my (mild) disappointment, OU is not on DS’ list of schools under consideration.”
    I am more eagerly engaged in the spectator sport of “where will Finn, Jr. go to college” that any senior I know IRL this year.

  190. I hope everyone is still safe.

    I like EA because you’re in, but you’re not forced to decide. Some schools are not obsessed with yield, and it gives the kids more time. I think this is critical for some kids that need to compare financial aid.

    This is another long weekend here due to Columbus Day. Is this the only state that still celebrates? Banks and post office too?? Since Yom Kippur falls on Wednesday, many schools opted to close on Tuesday too.

  191. Lark – thinking of you and stay safe.

    DH went to college at almost 19 too (he was held back in kindergarten “for social reasons”).

  192. When I first heard about Naviance, I was creeped out because I mixed it up with the student loan company Navient. But I looked it up, and it appears to be separate despite the really similar name. It still seems creepy though.

    Question: One of DS’s friend’s mom is organizing SAT prep. She has someone who will come to our area and do 6 weeks for $800. Mom claims this is much cheaper than Kaplan. I wasn’t going to pay for any SAT prep for DS, aside from one of those books, but DS wants to do it. I think he mainly wants to do it because the group would be all his close friends. So, my question – is SAT prep worth it for someone who is already scoring well on this sort of test (3 pts below NMSF on the 10th grade practice PSAT, 800 on SAT II bio test)? And is $800 really a good deal? Wow, that seems so pricey.

  193. Also, someone here, maybe Finn, had advice for when he should be taking the SAT in his 11th grade year. Could you remind me what that was? Thanks!!

  194. Kaplan cost $800 when I taught it around the turn of the century. With Kaplan you are paying for the materials (not me – I was cheap). You are also paying for the experience of a realistic testing environment. Now, you are paying for a lot of online practice as well as patented analysis of your results.

    I think it is hard to compare value of Random Mom’s Smart Friend to Kaplan. Certainly the former may be superior.

  195. “I would suggest all seniors strongly consider applying early, whether EA, ED, or to a rolling admissions school. Getting an answer back, especially a positive one, can make their senior year a lot less stressful and more enjoyable, not to mention save their parents a bunch of money.”

    I agree, except with the caveat that any ED application means a commitment so that should be for your top choice school. While any advantages to your acceptance chances may only be minimal (for reasons already mentioned) it’s nice to get the applications and decisions done early.

  196. Another benefit of EA is that it can allow your kid to revise or trim his list. DS got into three favorites EA and didn’t bother applying to three schools on his original list. He ultimately applied to six schools.
    Also, some schools require you to apply by 12/1 (or some early date) to be considered for merit awards.
    Lark, thinking of you this am.

  197. “Also, some schools require you to apply by 12/1 (or some early date) to be considered for merit awards.”

    Yes!!!

    MM, the main advantage I see would be your son engaging more in the process. From what I’ve seen, students already scoring in the top 1-2% don’t have much to gain from expensive prep. I would think of that $800 in terms of opportunity cost. Could I do something else with that that would have a bigger impact?

    BTW, from my experience with a lopsided kid in the 1% test score percentile but only about 20% GPA percentile, I think your kid’s chances are good for acceptance to his desired schools. I think the combination of his project work and test scores will do the trick. (Granted, I’m not very familiar with how engineering schools evaluate applicants.)

    Lark and HFN, thinking of you and I can’t imagine that type of loss.

  198. Finn – I did 2 FAFSAs yesterday. I had already set up the FSA IDs before. First one was for youngest, so was new. It took 1 there’s a link on the confirmation page “do you need to complete a FAFSA for a sibling” that loads all the data for the second one. Total time spent…30-40 mins. Assumes you have all your info (investment/bank balances, w-2/tax return info)

  199. would suggest all seniors strongly consider applying early, whether EA, ED, or to a rolling admissions school. Getting an answer back, especially a positive one, can make their senior year a lot less stressful and more enjoyable, not to mention save their parents a bunch of money.

    Finn – this is exactly the thought here. DS got a packet in the mail “(Name), apply to out-of-state university and get your answer within 4 weeks. No essays or recommendations required.” Having never looked at the school, and honestly I expect him to go to a smaller place than this, 20,000 total enrollment, he was unaware that it has lots of options in what he wants to major in, so he applied that weekend. Took a while for his HS to send transcript, but he should hear mid-late this month. Both of our other two kids got at least 1 acceptance by mid-Nov and, yes, it does take a big load off. Interestingly, all the early acceptance schools stayed in contention till very near the end of the decision process.

  200. Lark – thinking of you. I hope PTM is fine as well.

    And I want to know where Totebaggers kids are going to college. I sure it will be some sort of guessing game….and I will think it is one college but is likely to be another.

  201. Lauren – the publics here have off today for teacher development + Monday for Columbus day. The town over is heavily Jewish so their schools will be closed Weds, too.

    My kid’s private has Monday off for Columbus, then next Friday for their teacher development, then the 19th for ‘testing day’ for all grades except Seniors is only ~8-10am so the students can take Iowa Tests (or whatever) and Juniors the PSAT. Seniors just get a day to sleep/catch up.

  202. MM – I recommend taking the SAT in junior year at least by March (it’s offered Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, Mar, May, June). If he does great, scores available April 13, done. If you want a re-try after seeing the scores, June is available and the registration date is May 9.

  203. “You don’t need to prove that. You just need to show enough to get them to settle.”

    @Rhett: IME, big-name companies who are frequent deep-pocket lawsuit targets are frequently the most difficult to obtain a quick/easy settlement from. I have worked with a couple who had a corporate-wide policy of *not* settling nuisance suits, specifically because they want to provide a disincentive to future suits.

    I have not worked for Disney specifically, but my impression is they fall in that category. They have also been very successful in obtaining highly favorable state legislation on a variety of issues. So, yeah, no, I suspect those employees are just SOL.

    Hope everyone makes it through ok.

  204. My kids school arranges it so that Oct 31 and Nov 1 are off. At first I thought it was a coincidence but it has been a couple of years where these shenanigans have gone on :-).

  205. “I am more eagerly engaged in the spectator sport of “where will Finn, Jr. go to college” that any senior I know IRL this year.”

    Same here.

    Finn: The FAFSA process took less than 90 minutes. DH downloaded the IRS info and input our asset info. It was much easier than gathering data for annual tax returns. DH commented that it was a lot easier than he thought it would be.

  206. Mooshi: I’m a big fan of test prep. I think that scoring 3 pts below NMSF is a greater reason to prep (so your DS can bump his score a little bit and get the award).

    I agree with Ada–make sure the test provider provides a ton of practice tests. Ours also offered online testing/scoring as well as tutorial sessions for 6 months after the class. This was very helpful because DS took the SAT in Nov/Dec of his junior year.

    $800 is about what we paid last year.

  207. On the FAFSA, i linked to the IRS for my taxes, and just estimated the rest of the balances from memory. Most of those accommodations units fluctuate with the market or with my spending, so as long as they are within a general range, I don’t feel the time to pinpoint them was necessary. So using that method, the process is not bad.

  208. “’I am more eagerly engaged in the spectator sport of “where will Finn, Jr. go to college” that any senior I know IRL this year.’

    Same here.”

    Oh, totally. It’s fun when you want the best for someone’s kid and so can hope and cross your fingers and get excited, but don’t actually have direct responsibility for the process or outcome.

  209. I know Disney is a huge and powerful company, and it certainly does get concessions around here. If nearly all the hundreds of (low-level) employees who were required to report for work at that location that afternoon were to join together, would that still be a nuisance suit for them?

    Finn, thanks for thinking of my kid! You make some very good points. This blog is “quirky, bright kid” central, kids and parents, as far as I’m concerned. I think you were one yourself. Besides MM’s kids, e’ve also met LfB, Wine, and ATM’s kids. We thought they were all great. LfB’s daughter and MM’s middle son are the only ones out of that group who are close to my son’s age, and he did indeed get along with them both very well, in all the settings we’ve seen them in. Finding boys he gets along with is particularly difficult. I’m thinking that he will have to drive the application process because, besides the “quirky smart kid” card, he’s also a smart black kid, which goes against many people’s initial assumptions and also requires the appropriate fit. We may look at Howard or a couple other HBCUs. I don’t know if he’d fit in there or if he wouldn’t be “black enough”. That fit is something he can gauge much better than I.

    He is also incredibly stubborn. I’ve had the last, rueful laugh several times with teachers or school administrators who thought I was just another silly mom who didn’t know how to influence her son, and they’d bring him around in no time with their cleverness. No. When he digs in his heels, it’s for real. He is really looking forward to college, and knows that he wants to get into a good one, so I hope that will translate into being willing to do the stuff that needs to be done. If he were to show anything like the interest MM’s eldest has in that prep class, I would rejoice. He may or may not need the prep, but falling into step with a bunch of kids who are taking the admissions process that seriously and are likely doing the research, visits, early applications, etc would just be priceless. I expect that the easiest way for me to guide him will be to shape his expectation for the process and what he will need to do when. I’m certainly going to share many of the comments on this post with him over the next few days, and will also mention to him steps that I hear MM and LfB’s eldest, as well as his cousin who is a junior in a Cleveland prep school, take in the process. As we’re touring campuses, I’ll ask repeatedly about dates and will set up a calendar, so that the kind of painful evening we just had only comes up a couple times in the whole prices.

    As for finding his tribe–my undergrad shaped me in ways completely contrary to what one would expect from that school. If he goes to a school with 20k students or more (maybe down to 18 or so, but more than 10 in any case), I expect there will be a few kids and profs off in various corners who he’d connect with well. And that’s really all it takes.

    At least that’s how I’ve been expecting it to go. But I will keep your comments in mind.

    You are very right about summer programs. I need to get back on that. I’d like to find a good residential program for him, so he can just soak it all in for a week or two.

  210. Hour, I don’t know where your “nowhere” is. Sorry you’ve had to evacuate, certainly hope it all turns out ok for you! And when you set up that pool, count me in ;)
    Laura, it’s fun to watch as long as the parent is taking steps you find prudent and helpful, or at least defensible. Finn covers all those bases, so it’s fun.

  211. Finn: The FAFSA process took less than 90 minutes. DH downloaded the IRS info and input our asset info. It was much easier than gathering data for annual tax returns. DH commented that it was a lot easier than he thought it would be.

    I did it for NP school over the last few years and it took maybe 15-20 minutes, IIRC. Of course we probably have fewer assets than most people here so there wasn’t a whole lot to enter after importing the tax return info.

  212. “If nearly all the hundreds of (low-level) employees who were required to report for work at that location that afternoon were to join together, would that still be a nuisance suit for them?”

    Absolutely. (A), they probably have clear employment terms that absolves the company in circumstances like this; (B) really, it would be hard to call someone liable because they failed to predict the weather with 100% accuracy (otherwise, every meteorologist would be out of business); and (C) the issue here is setting a precedent — this may involve hundreds of employees, but they have hundreds of thousands or millions (past/present/future) to worry about suing them. All in all, I can’t imagine a company like that agreeing to a settlement that makes it clear they are liable to their employees if they don’t perfectly predict the impacts of a major hurricane.

  213. LfB, DH does employment law (he only represents employers, or as I like to say, “our evil corporate overlords”). You might be surprised at how often those big companies settle. And even if they don’t want to, their own insurance companies often force the issue.

  214. @Rocky — no, you’re right. There are many, many settlements to make things go away — I’ve frequently settled matters that I thought we were dead bang solid on the law because of the cost/risk of trial. I just think people underestimate how hard it is to get to that point — part of the reason we see so many completely stupid lawsuits is that people think exactly what Rhett said above: just file something and they will settle. My impression of Disney is that they are a hard-ass on lawsuits, because otherwise they would get sued for every little injury. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t ever settle (with a strong confidentiality agreement).

  215. “I think that scoring 3 pts below NMSF is a greater reason to prep (so your DS can bump his score a little bit and get the award).”

    Good point!

  216. Weird legal quirk about Disney – they do not agree to a jury trial waiver in their docs where it is otherwise standard to do so.

  217. Finn, while I was finishing that reply to you, DS came in to tell me about a video he’d seen of a baby seal taking a first swim, with its mama, and about the wonder of how the stones were transported for Stonehenge. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you set him up to prove your point about him being quirky ;)

  218. Anon, would you waive a jury trial if you could bring Mickey Mouse, the newest, still fresh-faced Annette Finacello, and fantasy princesses into the courtroom? And Disney has many other media arms as well

  219. I’ve also heard about Disney’s history of not settling lawsuits.

    But for the cast members, if they’re generally happy as employees and Disney has historically been a fair employer, why bother with a suit?

    I’m also wondering if Disney has an ESOP, which also helps mitigate against employee suits (lawsuits, that is, as opposed to clothing).

  220. “So, my question – is SAT prep worth it for someone who is already scoring well on this sort of test (3 pts below NMSF on the 10th grade practice PSAT, 800 on SAT II bio test)? And is $800 really a good deal?”

    CoC makes a good point: “From what I’ve seen, students already scoring in the top 1-2% don’t have much to gain from expensive prep.”

    If your DS’ friends are also in the top few %ile, and the prep class will be specifically targeted at that group, then it may be worthwhile.

    Else he is likely better off studying on his own, or with this friends but not in that expensive class, taking a bunch of timed practice tests, grading them, and examining the errors and making sure he understands why he made those errors and how to avoid them in the future.

    Endif.

    Make sure he is aware of the scoring system, especially the penalty against not guessing, and that he understands that he should make sure to answer every question.

  221. Mooshi, I’ll also add that he absolutely should be doing some sort of prep, being so close to NMSF and all the merit aid possibilities that come with it.

    I’ll also add that one thing DS was not able to prep himself well on was the essay, as the College Board is very opaque on the rubrics for that. But the essay is a smaller part of the current SAT, and I think he could find out about the rubrics from test prep books and online research.

  222. MM, I think a class would only be worthwhile if the other students are ALSO trying to raise their already-high scores by getting the hardest questions right/getting faster at answering ALL questions. Otherwise, he’ll be recovering material he already knows.

    When I tutored someone for her GMAT a couple years ago, we used an interactive computer program and by getting 3 or 4 questions right, we rapidly got to questions that were really too hard for her. I probably could have figured out the question type with time, but I said, “Take your best guess”, realizing that the time she required to get the mid-level questions right wasn’t going to significantly change. Just getting to the “hard” questions put her in the 90th percentile of the practice test (and she’d been scoring below 25th percentile on her own).

    For me, standardized tests are like the game competitions in Ender’s Game.

  223. “when he should be taking the SAT in his 11th grade year”

    Yes, it was I who posted that.

    “I recommend taking the SAT in junior year at least by March (it’s offered Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, Mar, May, June).”

    I agree that March of junior year is the absolute latest to take the SAT for the first time.

    Here’s the thought process behind that:

    First of all, a caveat that we did not consider the ACT at all. We knew that DS had to take the PSAT to become NMSF, and if he became NMSF, he would need to take the SAT to become NMF. So our plan was to take just those, and consider the ACT only if he didn’t get decent SAT scores.

    Working backwards:

    -We wanted the SAT done before summer after junior year, so he would be able to pick schools, research their application processes and deadlines, and start the application process that summer. And with EA/ED deadlines typically around Oct 31, the Oct date is too late to take scores into account in deciding where to apply early.

    -The May test date is in the middle of AP exams and thus is not a good time to take the SAT. It can be, however, a good time to take subject tests for the same subjects for which a kid is also taking AP exams, unless there is a significant amount of material on the subject tests not covered by the related AP exams. In those cases, the June test date is a good time to take the subject test, with the time between the AP exams and the June date used to study that material.

    -The June test date, if not used for subject tests, should be reserved for a last try at the SAT, although for many kids, it falls after school ends, and could thus be in conflict with family travel plans.

    -The March date is thus the last test date that also allows a chance for a retake while still assuming early application.

    I suggest that if the first SAT sitting is during junior year, it be taken in October or November. This is in part because the PSAT is in October, and prep for the two tests can thus be done concurrently. It also allows several opportunities to take the SAT again, and also allows for the possibility (likelihood?) that typically overscheduled totebag kids may have other activities scheduled on SAT test dates.

    The summer before junior year is a good time to do serious test prep. I suggest starting low intensity prep, e.g., question of the day app, at about the time in 8th grade when kids are planning out their HS classes and thus need to start thinking about college entry requirements.

  224. I’ll add that family travel plans for which the June SAT test date could be in conflict with could often include travel to attend the graduation of a relative, e.g., an older sib graduating from college.

  225. Finn, isn’t there just 1 test date /year for the NMSQT, during junior year? Are you saying to do that and the SAT the same school year?

  226. I’ll also make clear that I think it’s better for March of junior year to be when the SAT is taken for the last time, not the first.

    I’ll also add that DS took the SAT for the first time his sophomore year, at which point he had plenty of time for additional prep and additional sittings if necessary, and thus not a lot of pressure.

    Getting decent scores at that point meant largely not having to worry about the SAT, although he did take it again in his junior year when his school expects all juniors to take it (and pays for it, or perhaps more accurately, we pay for it whether he takes it or not).

  227. “isn’t there just 1 test date /year for the NMSQT, during junior year? Are you saying to do that and the SAT the same school year?”

    Not sure if the College Board has changed it, but for many years there were two dates in October, one on a school day and one on a Saturday, but most kids take it on the day their schools decide to administer it.

    So to answer what I think you meant to ask, it’s a one-shot deal, in October of junior year. Many kids get a chance to take the PSAT in sophomore year, but that’s purely practice, and is just the PSAT, not the NMSQT.

    And yes to your second question, my recommendation is to take the SAT for the first time no later than fall of junior year, about the same time as the PSAT/NMSQT.

    But if your kid will have a chance to take the PSAT in sophomore year, then fall of sophomore year is a good time to also take the SAT for the first time, after doing some prep the summer before that.

  228. SM, I strongly suggest your DS put in some time prepping in the next couple weeks.

    And absolutely make sure he understands the penalty for not guessing.

  229. Finn, this go-round is a freebie for him. If he’s in he top 5 or 10%, we’ll prep for NMSQT.

  230. Finn, I know you live in Hawaii and are proud to be a Hawaiian in that sense ,but I don’t know if you’re native Hawaiian. Will your kids need to deal with issues of “race” at whatever college they go to?

  231. “Will your kids need to deal with issues of “race” at whatever college they go to?”

    Yes, but so will all other kids.

  232. Finn, sounds like you have never thought about it, so I’m going to guess you’re white.

  233. HM, thanks anyway, but I was asking a specific person about his family, not inquiring into the general demography.

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