Social class and career opportunities

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you have a high class profile?

High-Class Hobbies Will Help You Land a Top Job, Unless You’re a Woman

Social class operates visibly and invisibly: Obvious signals include who your parents are, the neighborhood you grew up in, and the schools you went to. But there are less obvious clues, too, like what you do with your free time (playing polo or basketball) and the music you listen to (country or classical). Sending the right signals could lead to a career breakthrough — depending on how privileged your gender is.

Compare these two examples.

If you read the article you’ll see that the picture is complex, with race, sex, college, and type of employer coloring the results.

Rate your profile using the factors listed in the table above.  Where do you fit in on the High/Low Class spectrum?  Have you ever tried to manipulate your profile?  Do you think your profile matters in your particular situation?  Has a lower class profile ever worked in your favor?

Referencing the movie “Hidden Figures”, this article offers another perspective on what helps in opening doors to career growth.  With quantitative skills there is less need “to impress interviewers with nice clothes or family connections”.

Why more minorities should pursue a career in mathematics

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143 thoughts on “Social class and career opportunities

  1. I’m going to call bullshit on this one. The phrasing of the lower-class one is just so awkward, I assume that’s part of the low response rate. Do they even give kids awards for being the best athlete on financial aid? And who would add that qualifier to their resume?

  2. @Rhett – I agree with your assessment of the study. Then again, it is pretty easy to suss out someone’s background from their resume and a quick interview at entry levels, even if they both went to the same school. For the sake of argument – let’s say State Flagship which is a very good school for my field. First off, a high percentage of them live with their parents at the address where they grew up, which is a huge marker. On the whole, middle-class and lower kids (not Totebag middle-class) often have different types of work experience & interests, that is true. And yeah – I have interviewed kids from wealthy suburbs who are part of sailing clubs, but I already could probably make an educated guess on their background from their HS and address. In my experience, early 20-somethings also tend to be a bit more forthcoming about their personal lives than is really necessarily in an initial interview! But none of that is really relevant for me as an interviewer/hiring manager. I want to see competency (GPA and relevant courses), interest in the field/company, work ethic (specifically willingness to work longer hours in crunch periods and someone who will not complain about making copies of decks or doing the entry-level work that is required), and someone who does not seem to be a jerk or a psycho.

  3. Extra curricular activities require money. Some activities stand out because they require more money than others. Even when talented kids are pursuing things like All District Band competitions some one has to have the time and gas money to get them there and back.
    Sailing – I think of former poster Ellie whose kids belonged to a sailing club.

  4. I’m surprised any of these resumes received call backs from any of the top law firms. Dh’s firm is not top 50 and they don’t look at tier two law school students unless there’s some sort of connection. Either way I’d be surprised if a stint for Teach for America vs. an internship with the a district attorney would be considered equal.

  5. Machiavellian take: Turns out it’s totally worth the time for my sons to be going to the kid opera every time, but not so much for my daughter (although she still gets the extra credit in French class).

    BTW current opera playing here is a pretty new one, an operatic treatment of Streetcar Named Desire. Daughter’s review: “It was really dark. I did not know it was going to be that dark.”

  6. I realized at some point that ethnicity seems to trump everyone’s impressions. I have many markers of a “higher” social class- I speak 3 languages, I’ve very well traveled and well read, I went to a fancy boarding school, I went to an Ivy league college and an ivy league B-school, I ski, sail and fly fish.
    and yet, when I was younger, people saw a dark skinned hispanic woman and just can’t see all that other stuff. Until I started wearing more visible signs of wealth – fancy watch, car, jewelry, clothes etc….

  7. It would be interesting to see a similar project done in different hiring markets. Those of you who know the Texas market, do you think sailing guy would meet with such disproportionate success?

  8. “It was really dark. I did not know it was going to be that dark.”

    Gothic, even, depending on closely it follows the original play.

  9. This is very dangerous territory, I realize that. But I wonder, Mafalda, how you would have been perceived if you’d dressed in insanely-boring LL Bean New England preppy clothes and accessories? I don’t really have any insight into how that would come off.

  10. With respect to the second point about math – that is exactly why traditionally, when the son from the lower middle class went off to college, dad would sit him and explain “Son, you have to earn a living, so major in engineering. None of that fancy art history”.

    My DH, whose dad was a mill worker, got that exact advice from his dad.

    Of course in those days, no one cared what the daughters majored in, as long as they snagged a husband.

  11. In computer science, the advice given to graduating seniors is not to put hobbies or anything personal on the resume, unless it is career related. So coding competitions or open source contributions are OK, but not sports or clubs. Hiring managers won’t bother to look at them anyway, and they can make the candidate look less serious.

  12. @Maflada – That doesn’t surprise me at all. I have seen that as well.

    I have had a theory that showing too much wealth can be a bad thing for women in the workplace too because it can lead to comments about how that person “doesn’t need the job” because their husband is rich, isn’t “serious” about their career, etc. Maybe that is only at middle-management levels, I don’t know. Or regional. I have noticed that a lot of female executives that I work with tend not to have any flashy signs of wealth – hardly any “upgraded” engagement rings or things like that. Maybe a very nice watch, and definitely tailored, well-fitting expensive clothes, but nothing too flashy, even in the creative fields.

  13. CoC, if you are reading this, I submitted something a week or two ago. Just want to make sure you saw it

  14. And I can’t really rate myself on this stuff because I have never in my life put things like that on a resume.

  15. Ivy – YES that is true, but OTOH at the high levels, women have conspicuous consumption going around with clothes and accessories. For example, my friend who worked at Goldman got engaged, and apparently everyone who got engaged had 2+ carat rings and the women would give side-eye to anyone with a smaller one. (She does have a giant rock – her now-DH also worked at Goldman at the time) This was also true at my Biglaw firm, but the Boston location mitigated a lot of that – the WASP influence is still very strong here.

    When we got engaged, OTOH, DH ran a regression analysis to determine exactly what size and color, etc., of diamond was the best deal, and then we only looked at that range. ;)

  16. RMS- Yes, that is an excellent question- “upper classes” have different dress social rules depending on the culture. At my boarding school I learned a bit about that preppy style of dress and (being a regular adolescent) copied it a bit. I was quickly “taught” back home that it was a completely unacceptable way to dress for my social circle and adapted back quite a bit. By the time I was interviewing for jobs I had adopted a “serious/feminine/high lux” style of dressing. (at least that was what I was going for.) My latin friends always thought it was boring and conservative and my preppy friends always thought it was a little too sexy….. Such a hard line.

  17. When I was in law school and interviewing in BigLaw, we were told not to wear our engagement rings, just a plain wedding band–because the engagement ring symbolized a husband with money, and you’d quit your job as soon as you had kids.

  18. I don’t have all of Malfada’s qualifications and I can’t point to any specific thing but appearance and presentation of oneself can make a big impression on people. It has definitely helped people look past my ethnicity or where I grew up. I also try to see what I have in common with people, that has helped as well.
    Rhett’s advice on the development of soft skills along with technical skills resonates in a big way.

  19. “serious/feminine/high lux” – this is what DD and friends describe as their “Senator’s wife” look

  20. It’s an interesting dynamic. I’ve seen women resent another woman who had a high earning spouse. One had a big ring and worked part time the other was often off on lavish vacations all the while having multiple kids in college. I don’t recall any men having an issue with a guy’s car or trips or watch or anything because his wife was a high earner. The sample sizes are different so that could be it.

  21. Rhett, I think if you hung out in academia, you’d see it a bit. There were some male philosophy profs, for example, who had lawyer wives and thus had nice houses and lovely vacations, and they came in for some resentment from the poorer guys. But it’s true that when it comes to furious resentment and mommy wars and stuff, women do it better, sadly.

  22. ” I’ve seen women resent another woman who had a high earning spouse. ”

    It’s not just women though. I have heard speculation by both genders about women’s goals/ambitions/drive based on their supposed financial situation at home. “Oh, X isn’t ambitious because she doesn’t really need to work – she doesn’t care about being promoted.” What I have not heard personally is speculation about men’s ambition or financial situation based on their wife’s career. But I can see RMS’s example, for sure.

  23. Gothic, even, depending on closely it follows the original play.

    Pretty closely, according to my oldest — his criticism was that because the libretto followed the play so closely there was a lot of short dialogue, one or two word sentences, that translated poorly into sung form. Including “Stella!” And he thought the music was good but not great. It’s Andre Previn who composed it, I guess stretching out from conducting as a kind of retirement hobby?

  24. It’s also not just jealousy. It’s holding people back by making assumptions about their motives/drive based on the size of their engagement ring, cars, clothing, etc rather than having a conversation about it with the actual employees.

    But on top of that, I’ve always been curious about the reasons why female executives seem to follow the more WASPy rules in my experience. Now – I’ve never worked BigLaw or Investment Banking, and I’m not in NYC. But this has held across the industries that I’ve worked in. Is it a marker of seriousness? (e.g., upgrading to a huge rock signals something different than an equivalent watch – both of which can clearly be afforded by a C-suite salary?) Marker of class (WASP values)? I don’t know. I find it fascinating.

  25. rather than having a conversation about it with the actual employees.

    How would that ever work? The employee is going to tell the boss what the boss wants to hear and keep their actual plans and motivations to themselves.

  26. All this makes me think of DD’s friends who volunteered their families as references if we wanted to get into a particular swim/tennis/country club. I realized “what pool do you go to” was a question with many layers.

  27. Mafalda, thanks for describing those steps you went through. I think you’ve just explained why my son clings so hard to his Lands End school uniform cargo shorts even in a school with a wide open dress code. No others will do, not American Eagle or Hollister or anything else that looks rumpled and sloppy, even though he’s recently said he wants only Hollister shirts from here on out. He’s never moved back and forth between two worlds the way you describe, but the first time he was in a school with a lot of black kids, he definitely rethought where he fits in, and has decided on the white/upper income/honors classes side. (For the most part, although he will tell me I can’t understand Tupac’s lyrics the way he can). Louise, that’s exactly why I wish he would learn those skills! He still believes that competence at the task required is what will get him in. I wish he was right, but know he isn’t.

  28. My latin friends always thought it was boring and conservative and my preppy friends always thought it was a little too sexy….. Such a hard line.

    I had kind of an adjustment when I was first back home as a baby lawyer, after having been on the East coast and assimilated the preppier sense of style. I remember going to a wedding shortly after I was back and wearing a floral sundress, and noticing everyone else went for the short-skirted cocktail dress. Then about a year later, having returned more to Hawaii sensibilities, I flew back to the East coast for another wedding and wore a short-skirted cocktail dress and stood out in a way that had one of the groom’s high school friends following me around and pissing off his girlfriend. Everyone else was in a floral sundress. That was when the penny finally dropped about different places, different style norms.

  29. It’s also not just jealousy. It’s holding people back by making assumptions about their motives/drive based on the size of their engagement ring, cars, clothing, etc rather than having a conversation about it with the actual employees.

    Yes!

    Rhett, I think many employees who are being shunted in a direction they don’t want to go agonize over how to get their boss to pay attention to that and assign them to the big (or easy) projects they’ve asked for.

  30. “ifferent places, different style norms.” I never sat down and thought about

    I’ve never thought much about my attire–remember other women, a couple years behind me in grad school, telling me that my “whatever” outfits were the true power clothes, because they apparently showed self-confidence (really, I was just expecting that doing the work counts more than a thought-through look, although Rocky will say that not thinking about it is hard to do, and women can be penalized for dressing too carefully)–but I do recall coming back to KY from Berlin and realizing that I was wearing an awful lot of black…

  31. I rethought about posting my picture on my company directory. Many times people don’t look like their picture. And there is a tendency to form an opinion based on a picture especially with regard to race and ethnicity.
    Here we also get into the morphing of ethinic names into a common one.
    However, some groups require their people to post pictures and take professional ones especially if they are in client facing roles.

  32. Do you look like your picture, Louise?

    However, some groups require their people to post pictures and take professional ones especially if they are in client facing roles.

    DH’s firm does this, and does that thing where they pose all the lawyers in the same space in the same pose. If the pictures aren’t right next to each other it doesn’t look that odd, but there are some firms (no names mentioned!) where they put the posed pictures right next to each other and it looks a trifle…uniform.

  33. “How would that ever work? The employee is going to tell the boss what the boss wants to hear and keep their actual plans and motivations to themselves.”

    Right. Just like men do.

  34. I once read an interview with a female international medical consultant/expert witness. She said she had to dress as was expected in the country where she was called to advise or testify. In the eastern Mediterranean, for example, she had to break out her heavy gold jewelry, earrings, bracelets, necklace, for the courtroom. In the US that would make her look like a Kardashian, not a serious expert.

  35. RMS – I feel like I need a professional photographer to take a headshot and get hair and makeup professional done for a successful picture.

    My mother, a professional woman in the home country had to show up in a sari in all professional settings. She hated not to have another option.

  36. I feel like I need a professional photographer to take a headshot and get hair and makeup professional done for a successful picture.

    Well, lots of people do that, you know. You shouldn’t feel odd about it. I think even most Linked-In pictures these days are professionally done.

    I mean, assuming you even want a picture on your site.

  37. In fact, I think you should have a professional photographer come to your house and take a lovely picture of you in full makeup and hair sitting behind the wheel of your shiny new car that you should buy next week. :-)

  38. I agree that it is more difficult for women to “find” the appropriate style to fit in with the various informal dress codes in their lives – work, social, volunteer – some have more “requirements” than others. And, of course, there is always the judgment if you screw up.

    OK – Small hijack. Went to the appointment with DD#1’s couselor (junior year) trying to start down the college selection process. Two schools DD apparently matches fairly well with are Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Per counselor, WPI has a good scholarship if you are valedictorian or salutatorian and RPI has some sort of “medal” scholarship if your school nominates you. Both of these scholarships are in the $20 -$25K per year for all four years. Does anyone here know much about these schools?

  39. I went to work in a small country in Central Europe about a decade ago (short-term academic exchange). I only brought one style of clothes with me – what I would term “Aid Worker Dressy” – khaki skirts, fancy t-shirt style tops. Nothing tight or revealing. I expected it to be a bit post-apocalyptic and didn’t bring any jewelry or makeup

    Oh! It was terrible. Every other professional woman (not matter age or body type) was wearing metallic and tight tops, tons of jewelry, tight jeans. Of course they were made up extravagantly (and even the kind ones told me I would look so much prettier if I just wore some makeup). I had misjudged the dress code. (Similar mis-judgement – every time I have worn a fleece zippered jacket east of the Mississippi.)

  40. Louise – for SURE I had makeup and hair done for my pro pic for work recently. :) Not weird at all!

  41. Austin, DS also got the RPI medal scholarship worth $25k/year, but decided not to apply. It didn’t meet a couple of his filtering criteria; he didn’t want a school that was technically focused, and it’s not in an urban area. In his case, his HS selects one junior every year based on excellence in math and science, but I don’t think many winners actually go to RPI. I think that the 2 winners before DS are both now near Mémé.

    I’ve heard it’s a pretty good school. I went to school with a couple guys who went there for a couple of years but couldn’t handle the winters and transferred to local flagship U.

    From what I’ve read in CC, it seems like both school draw from the same pool, and that a lot of kids apply to both, and what I know of their reputation for engineering is similar. I remember reading some parents posting that their Ds liked WPI, but don’t remember similar postings about RPI, which is not to say there aren’t parents whose Ds liked RPI.

    Does your D want to go somewhere in that area?

  42. “your shiny new car that you should buy next week.”

    Hey, what’s the rush? We haven’t had a chance to weigh in yet.

    Louise, what are your requirements?

  43. “It’s Andre Previn who composed it, I guess stretching out from conducting…”

    And piano playing?

  44. “Why more minorities should pursue a career in mathematics”

    Or perhaps, “Why more minorities should pursue careers in mathematics.”

  45. Finn – She isn’t 100% sure, but if the $$ work out would like to go out of state. She is looking for a middle to smaller size school. Not sure a large flagship is a good fit. Her school is small. In the past 2 years only 3 students have applied there.

  46. “(Similar mis-judgement – every time I have worn a fleece zippered jacket east of the Mississippi.)”

    I think you would be fine with that in the Great Lakes area. :)

  47. @Austin — feel free to email me (handle @ gmail) — DH went to RPI, is a big fan. Happy to answer more specific/detailed questions that you may have. My DD is also considering it (as if she has a choice) — all I can say is the dating pool would be decent. :-)

  48. “In fact, I think you should have a professional photographer come to your house and take a lovely picture of you in full makeup and hair sitting behind the wheel of your shiny new car that YOUR FIL BUYS YOU next week.”

    Fixed that for you. :-)

  49. Austin, I don’t know about merit aid there, but I think Lehigh profiles similarly to WPI and RPI.

    Northeastern has been generous with aid in the past, but it seems as that has been successful in increasing its academic profile, they are becoming less generous, but your DD might look into it. I think it’s bigger than WPI and RPI, but not as huge as a flagship.

    If she wants something smaller, Swarthmore is a somewhat unique SLAC in that it has an engineering major (and a somewhat higher academic profile).

  50. In my corner of BigLaw, the hobbies mattered or not depending on practice area – white collar criminal, no one cared; corporate, everyone cared. I’m putting my kids in golf, tennis, sailing and ballroom dancing lessons, if I can get them to go :) DH thinks all of that is weird preppy stuff and has never been hampered by doing none of it.

    You can wear fleece jackets here, if they are expensive enough :)

  51. LfB – I had never heard of either one of these, so as we learn more, I may be in touch. She wants to go do some visits this summer in the northeast.

    On a side note, a crazy turn of events at school are leaning toward her taking 2 AP physics exams. The teacher is encouraging all the students in calculus to take both. I think my head would explode if I was my DD, but weirdly her grades are going up.

  52. … as it has been successful in increasing its academic profile….

    Not in the same geographic area, but Case Western and Rose Hulman might also be matches.

  53. Austin, if your DD is serious about one of those schools, it would make sense to schedule a visit for both since they are about two hours apart. Both have good reputations academically and both are in areas with other colleges/unis nearby. This may be entirely irrelevant, but if she enjoys skiing or hiking, New England is a wonderful place for a college student. Fondest college memories are of ski club, so there is my bias.

    This is said assuming that your handle refers to TX.

  54. Everyone wears fleece jackets in northern New England!

    Re. professional photos: How often should one update them? I had photos done for my website when I started my firm five years ago. I really like the pictures, but have they become false advertising now that I’m that much older? Is it time for a new set?

  55. “LfB – I had never heard of either one of these, so as we learn more, I may be in touch. She wants to go do some visits this summer in the northeast.”

    I hadn’t either. But my mother the college professor was very impressed when we started dating, so that was my metric. :-)

  56. Oh, and I hired a good photographer and a good hairdresser when I had my original photos done. I would definitely do so again!

  57. Austin, is your DD taking AP Physics C, the one that requires prior or concurrent enrollment in calculus? That’s pretty impressive if she’s taking that as a junior.

    My kids’ school requires all kids in AP classes to take the associated AP exams (and also requires the parents to shell out the exam fees). So everyone in his AP Physics C class will be required to take both AP exams. I’m pretty sure he took to AP Physics exams (1 and 2) last year.

  58. Austin–my DS also considered University of Rochester, which is also a peer to many of those mentioned. Don’t know anything about need-based aid there. Merit is decent but less generous than others mentioned.

    As a friend whose D goes to WPI said about the dating scene, the odds are good but the goods are odd.

  59. BenL, LOL.

    Also in the same geographic area, and with a probably overlapping academic profile, is Rochester Institute of Technology.

    Fred probably has some familiarity with the schools in that area.

  60. Austin – sheep farmer’s daughter had WPI as her first choice. I don’t know if she is still around.
    I have friends with money and options (Tesla owners) and their two sons went to WPI. It is one of our hidden treasures here in New England, although not everyone would care for Worcester. Not sure Troy is much different. HOWEVER, engineering schools are generally regional in reputation and hooked up primarily with employers in the region, except for odd specialties such as WPI robotics that might feed a national pool. RPI probably reaches a bit into the eastern midwest as well as mid Atlantic and New England. I gave similar advice to someone recently about Harvey Mudd, Georgia Tech and regionalism. Rice?

  61. From the first link in the OP:

    “For female would-be applicants that do want to break into a patriarchal and lucrative profession like law, you might want to just use your initials.”

    Which may not be necessary if your name is not gender specific.

    Is this something you considered in naming your kids?

  62. I have to tell y’all that I had to interact with two sets of visiting business partners today. One set had a bunch of women from all over the country very well dressed, some wore a ton of makeup for a work setting. I haven’t seen women in New England wear that much makeup.
    In the introductions I told them, I lived in Boston. You could see them trying to figure out which college I attended there ! ;-).
    The picture thing is definitely on my plate.
    The car is some where in there too. Definitely have made progress in my new role at work.

  63. Is this something you considered in naming your kids?

    One of our criteria in naming the kids was that the name would look like it belonged on law firm stationary. We did not, however, go for gender neutral names.

  64. In some fields being a “dark skinned hispanic woman” could work in your favor. I know a young hispanic who works in media and he sometimes regrets that his parents did not give him a more ethnic sounding name so that he could more easily benefit from the push for diversity hiring.

  65. I agree with Meme that not everyone would care for Worcester but wasn’t sure exactly how to convey that. Proximity to Boston might compensate for that, as may the schools nearby.

  66. I think of Swarthmore and Harvey Mudd as being a different tier than RPI.

    RIT might be another school worth investigating.

    Swarthmore is ranked #4 in by USNews for LACs and counts as a reach for any student. HMC has some of the highest test scores of any undergraduate institution.

  67. “more ethnic sounding name so that he could more easily benefit from the push for diversity hiring.”

    Or at least an ethnic sounding middle name so he could use it when it was to his advantage, and use his first name when it wasn’t.

  68. I remember spending a fall weekend in NYC and bringing my work fleece. In classic style, it had my name on the left chest, some impressive patches on both shoulders, and the institution on the right chest. Very high quality fleece, with expensive embellishments. I realized on arriving in Grand Central Station that I stood out like a midwestern tourist. New Yorkers do not wear fleece jackets going out for brunch, shopping, at trendy bars, etc. as far as I can tell. In Portland – I don’t think you could find a place where your fancy embroidered jacket wouldn’t fit right in.

  69. I”ve noticed that also about the fleece thing. But it seems to me that it’s techie types who mainly wear them in the NYC area.

  70. We tried to pick names that were not unusual, but not overly common, and would be unlikely to be mispronounced or misspelled, and were not ethnic (their middle names reflect their ethnicity).

    For DS, we also wanted a name that was not gender-ambiguous.

    We also tried to pick names that wouldn’t lead to teasing, and wouldn’t lead to unfortunate initials.

    I really like the name we picked for DS; at the time we picked it, it wasn’t a very common name, and was pretty exclusively male. But in the years that followed, it became increasingly common, and bestowed on females as well (there is a freshman girl on his debate team with the same name this year).

    We also didn’t google the names before we gave them, or we would’ve realized that DD’s name, while not especially common overall, seems to be quite popular in conjunction with our last name.

  71. “One of our criteria in naming the kids was that the name would look like it belonged on law firm stationary.”

    Yeah, if they want cutesy nicknames, they can always adopt them as adults. I have always regarded Bob Geldof’s kids’ names as being the epitome of what not to name your kid (and it’s less funny now that one of the poor girls is dead from an overdose). Fifi Trixiebelle, Peaches, Little Pixie, and Tiger Lily* are names you only give your daughters if you know they will never need to work.

    *Yeah, I know Tiger Lily was the half-sister of the others. Point still stands.

  72. “Bob Geldof’s kids’ names as being the epitome of what not to name your kid”

    How about Frank Zappa?

  73. Those are good too, but I think Moon Unit is better than Fifi Trixibelle.

  74. Yes, AustinMom is from TX.

    Finn – She is in AP Physics 1, because her school requires it before Physics C. She is also in AP AB Calculus. (Last year teacher told her she could take BC this year, but with so many AP classes, that is where she scaled back – hah!) Anyway, the school is jiggering around how AP Physics will work going forward. So, she because she is in AP AB Calculus the teacher is encouraging her and the other few in her same boat (with either AB or BC) to take both tests. The teacher says based on her performance so far, she expects DD to get a 4 on the Physics 1 test. As you likely know, the pass rate on Physics C is MUCH higher than on Physics C. If she passes the Physics C – Mechanical AP test, then she can take the other Physics C (Magentism?) next year. She is thinking of doubling up in sciene and also taking AP Chemistry.

    Yes my child has a death wish – if she takes both physics tests, she will take 7 AP tests this spring. And, yes, she is required to take an AP test for every AP class she takes. Can one buy stock in the college board?

    This DD generally hates cold weather, so I am CLUELESS why the northeast is so appealing.

    Meme – UT Dallas is apparently actively competing for students who would choose Rice, but need to public school rates. DD is going to an informational session at school about UT Dallas next week.

  75. I’ve recently learned, sadly, that Ima Hogg did not have sisters named Ura and Bea.

    I gave my son a name I thought would travel well, as I know it exists in several languages. What I did not consider is that the different spellings in those language lead to his name being frequently misspelled.

  76. Swarthmore is a somewhat unique SLAC in that it has an engineering major (and a somewhat higher academic profile).

    and is nearer a big city for the big city things if she ever wants those.

  77. Austin: UT Dallas offers generous scholarships. They are relatively strong in Engineering and Computer Science. Great dorms, small classes, but still kind of viewed as a commuter school. DS has applied to Vandy, which your DD might want to consider. How about SMU? We visited last summer and DH and I were impressed.

  78. also considered University of Rochester, which is also a peer to many of those mentioned. Don’t know anything about need-based aid there. Merit is decent but less generous than others mentioned.

    I have found need-based aid is pretty much by the (federal/FAFSA) book everywhere…the details are how much is loans, work study vs. free money.

    UR is higher up the overall academic food chain than RIT and has a great curriculum for some students. There’s only one class (basic writing) that everyone has to take, so there’s reportedly lots of flexibility in course scheduling (none of mine go there). Lots of Liberal Arts, a top 1-3 music school if that’s anyone’s thing with LOTS of merit aid, to go along with the sciences. UR definitely plays the diversity game across all dimensions race, economic, geographic. While there are lots of UR grads in the community, the geographic reach of the school means a smaller % of alums stay in the area. If your kid wants a residential campus vs one where most kids get an apartment by junior year, UR could be a good fit.

    RIT is more career-focused I’d say than UR, lower list price to start with and may be better for a kid who does not need/want to be around the research-driven (R1) atmosphere at UR. One of mine considered RIT and all have lots of friends who graduated from there and seem to have good jobs.

  79. Houston – Vandy is on her list as well. However, she has a 4 year prepaid tuition at a public Texas school. We got the old plan before it closed in 2003. So, while it will pay “something” whereever she goes, if it is more than that she will need some merit aid to fill the gap. I am not sure how much need based aid we would qualify for. Found out today UTD has a scholars day in early Feb on the weekend. I think we are going to sign up.

  80. One of our criteria in naming the kids was that the name would look like it belonged on law firm stationary.

    We call that a diploma name, and all my kids have them. My college roommate was really bothered by her given name, which was something like “Nicky Jo”. She thought it was very limiting on her resume.

  81. The best unusual name from the year DS was born is Apple. Guess whose daughter she is.
    I thought it was kinda cool. Everyone I knew was looking at baby names trying to find unusual names. A few friends have kids with not so well known names for the their first child but were probably exhausted by all the effort and chose more traditional names for the rest of their kids.

  82. Austinmom,

    DD will be starting at WPI in the fall. She was offered a great scholarship. She looked at RPI but was not impressed. If you want more info email me at sheepfarm1996 at gmail.

  83. Sheep, congrats to your DD.

    We probably won’t know where DS is going until April. We’re not expecting decisions on all his apps until March, although he just got one yesterday.

  84. This DD generally hates cold weather, so I am CLUELESS why the northeast is so appealing.

    I can see being on a campus in Boston city or in Cambridge but a campus outside these areas would be less appealing, given the winters. There is lots to do in the city so weather becomes less of a factor.

  85. There is lots to do in the city so weather becomes less of a factor.

    No. It doesn’t. I speak as someone who spent three years in Chicago.

    If I close my eyes, I can still feel the flesh being flensed from my bones by the wind off of the lake.

  86. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the flesh being flensed from my bones by the wind off of the lake.

    Very poetic RMS :-). You are doing your part to make sure warm weather Totebag juniors never venture into the cold and turn into snowflakes.

  87. Finn,
    Thanks. DD is so excited. WPI is the only school that she applied to. She was going to apply to Va Tech for financial reasons, but when she was offered the scholarship, she decided not to even bother with Tech. With the scholarship we will be paying just a little more than Tech would cost.

  88. Congrats, Sheep. I recently met some WPI alums through work, and they all told me they loved it.

  89. Today’s stupid first grade math problem is brought to you by Seattle Public Schools and my friend with a child there, sponsored by Mooshi.

    “”Complete the number pattern. 21, 4, 18, 8, 15, [fill in the blank], [fill in the blank]”

    Answer (which I would never have gotten but for someone familiar with this brand of mathematical stupidity): 12 and 12, because there are two patterns mixed up, 21, 18, 15 and 4, 8. One of the parents had SAT-M=800 in eighth grade and Facebook comment in response to the parent is, “You can’t solve this one because you actually understand series.”

  90. Anybody else having a hard time finding garlic to buy? We normally buy bottles of diced garlic from Costco or Sam’s, but haven’t seen it at either for the last few weeks.

  91. WCE, if it went on a bit longer you could actually solve it — if the 12 and 12 were in there, for instance, you could see that the differences are -17, +14, -10, +7, -3, +0, and you might notice that you’re alternating between adding -17 -(7*O) where O is number of odd entries in the series, and adding 14 -(7*E) where E is the number of even entries in the series.

  92. I mean, it would be the unusual first grader who solved it that way, but I’m just saying.

  93. Finn, they still had the big-ass refrigerated bags of peeled cloves when we stocked up at Costco a couple of weeks ago.

  94. DD’s school is doing the stupid student-led conferences again this year. DD’s advisor is the LA teacher we hate, so that just adds to the fun. Today, the teacher told them that then need to come up things they can do so they will feel successful. DD immediately brought up the obvious question: wouldn’t it make more sense for them to come up with things they can do that will make them be successful?

    And DD says the teacher is saying the conferences are mandatory, so we’re waiting to see what she does when we refuse to go. We went to them last year and they were a colossal waste of time.

  95. there are two patterns mixed up, 21, 18, 15 and 4, 8.

    Even if you see this, there isn’t enough information to solve it because 4, 8 doesn’t necessarily lead to 12 as the next item. 16 is another obvious valid possibility.

  96. Has anyone watched The Good Place? I just watched the season finale and it was fantastic. The whole season was charming and different from most of the comedies you see on network tv.

  97. I don’t think number patterns are too hard for first graders or kindergarteners, but agree with DD that two steps are too few to establish a pattern. I also don’t see the point in weaving two patterns together. What is that supposed to prepare them for?

  98. Denver, for the student conference, have DD get the Sparknotes for Unbroken (isn’t that what they’re [not] reading?) and then get her to show you how to work through the book in half an hour.

  99. Congratulations, Sheep Farmer!

    Milo, I just read that story and even for an elitist like me it made me want to punch those people. (Just kidding, of course!) The photos did it for me, especially the family that lives in the municipality next to mine. Plus, I know this guy (at least a local facsimile) and he’s a complete douche who thinks we love going to his lame performances.

    Mr. Springer, a 46-year-old attorney who also plays guitar in a rock band.

    (Boy, I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.)

  100. “One of our criteria in naming the kids was that the name would look like it belonged on law firm stationary. We did not, however, go for gender neutral names.”

    Our version of that was no girl names that belonged on the stripper pole/disqualified her for the S.Ct., and no boy names that got him beat up on the playground.

    As a result, DD has a name that used to be a boys’ name but seems to have become a girls’ name, and DS has a very traditional boys’ name. In both cases I had absolutely no idea how common our choices were until about 3-4 years after they were born.

  101. Sheep, Congrats to your DD! If she puts WPI on the list, we will definitely be in touch.

    Our student-led conferences are awful too. I do understand trying to get them to take responsibility for their progress, but they digress into parent/teacher interaction after about 30 seconds.

    A friend’s DD did a great job. She took about 10 seconds to go through the form they have to fill out, then said, My parents and I often discuss the things I do well with and the obstacles. These discussions have resulted in the following questions:
    1. Your syllabus recommends that students start homework on the day they have the class (A Day) so if they have questions, they can ask them before/after school on the day they don’t have class (B Day). We agree with this recommendation. However, why is the homework never posted until after 6 pm on B Day? What could be done to make it possible for me to comply with your recommendation?

    2. Your syllabus also says that students should come in for help when they don’t understand the material and/or when their grades are below what they expected. It also says that grades are posted in the grade book before the assignments/tests are returned to the student. It has been our experience that I don’t receive work/tests back until after the grades are posted. However, you posted 2 grades before the last week of the grading period and that week posted 10 additional grades and handed back all the work for the grading period. What could be done so that I can monitor my progress before the last week of the grading period and seek help if needed?

    My friend said the teacher tried to defend herself. She told my friend that the conference was to be about what the student could do. My friend told her (because the teacher says this all the time to the kids) that every question the DD asked was an “I” statement about what she could do.

    My DDs aren’t that willing to be that assertive. Denver, how would that go over at your school?

  102. AustinMom,
    Your friend’s DD rocks. She is destined for great things.

    I didn’t mind the parents in the article. They’re doing what many Totebag parents do, or would do if they had the resources. Though will never understand why people choose to share this kind of information with the public, especially with photos of the kids in their private living spaces. And are furry benches and giant furry pillows a new thing?

  103. “I think of Swarthmore and Harvey Mudd as being a different tier than RPI.

    RIT might be another school worth investigating.

    Swarthmore is ranked #4 in by USNews for LACs and counts as a reach for any student. HMC has some of the highest test scores of any undergraduate institution.”

    I agree that HMC is in a different tier, it’s one of the best engineering schools in the country. Swarthmore is sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison as a SLAC.

    The issue with engineering schools is size, if you’re looking for a smaller college environment (this is our issue with DD, which is why I am starting to pay attention to it). If you go to any engineering school ranking, you will usually see RPI listed somewhere in the teens to twenties nationally. But almost all of the schools ranked ahead of it are at large institutions. So if you are specifically looking at smaller schools with excellent engineering programs, it is a great choice.

    I do agree that it is not so well-known, probably because of the funny name and smaller enrollment (I also think schools with “Polytechnic” in their name tend to sound like maybe they’re ITT Technical Institute career training vs. rigorous academic environment). So if your kid wants a B.S. and then a job in another part of the country, maybe think about a bigger school with a bigger national name. OTOH, the engineering grad schools all know it (DH went to MI from there).

  104. Austin, that’s awesome. I don’t think my DD could be that assertive either. But it’s a great idea. I really think us refusing to go will bother them more because they keep telling the kids these are required. So we want to see what they’ll do when we don’t go.

  105. I am paying attention to engineering schools because that is where DS will likely land. Where he goes depends on his grades and acceptances. Actually Georgia Tech would be great but it’s ranked 4th and hard to get into.

  106. LfB – My DD is thinking smaller. We have two large state schools with engineering programs. I attended one of these schools and students can easily get lost in the sea of people. She went from a MS class of 40 (student body 120) to a HS class of 90 (student body just under 400). The idea of jumping to a 30-40 K student body is a bit intimidating. I think she’d be most comfortable in a 15,000 or less student body.

  107. I agree that Harvey Mudd is at an elite tier for engineering schools. Perhaps it also is on the national recruiting radar to the same extent as MIT/CalTech. I suggest that you plan a visit to RPI, RIT, WPI or any of the northeastern schools by early April when there are no flowers and it is gray and damp. The lack of spring may be a shock, whereas fall is beautiful, and a crisp winter day is simply exotic. Viewing a campus up close when it is located in or near a decayed industrial town is also a good idea. The college experience in Texas or in most of the South is very different than in the BOS-WAS corridor. In the Midwest it is less different, but there is still the weather.

  108. Rose-Hulman Institute has 2400 undergrads and is highly rated. It is engineering only. It is in Indiana.

  109. “I suggest that you plan a visit to RPI, RIT, WPI or any of the northeastern schools by early April when there are no flowers and it is gray and damp. . . . Viewing a campus up close when it is located in or near a decayed industrial town is also a good idea.”

    These are excellent ideas. I, for one, was prepared for the cold of a MN winter, but the brownness of late fall/early winter, before it was all covered in white, was depressing as all get-out.

  110. That Bronxville house is hideous.

    Our school did Parent-Teacher-Student conferences once, and then decided it wasn’t the best idea.

    Part of the reason that I did not become an engineer is because I specifically wanted to go to a small school & engineering programs at smaller schools are hard to find. Some dual programs with larger schools, but that wasn’t appealing to me either. In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t have been happy being an engineer anyway, and would probably have changed majors, but it seemed like a good idea when I was 16 or 17 and had limited knowledge about what people in different fields actually did all day.

  111. I second the recommendation to look at Rose Hulman. They have an excellent engineering summer camp, which might be a good way to check it out.

  112. OK, that WSJ article was depressing. I hope I haven’t screwed my kids over by being too quick to settle for “good enough” instead of paying top dollar for the top school zones. But, man, what you get for the cost of those houses is just flat-out depressing.

  113. I can’t get in to see the article, but I assume it is the Westlake here in Austin. I would not move from Houston to Austin just to get my kid in that high school.

  114. LfB – I think these people have screwed their kids by letting them think that the family can be completely uprooted because only the best public schools will do for the kids (which is completely arbitrary). I sometimes think that with private school around here (and this is clearly not everyone but some parents seem to put a lot of pressure on their kids because they are spending $30K on school each year). I was sitting next to an elite private school elementary school aged kid and her mother at the orthodontist last month and the mother was just peppering the kid with questions about tests, how she thought she did, etc. The girl was maybe 8 or 9.

    I skimmed the article but can’t these people just send their kids to private if they are buying $2m homes? And surely there are some suitable schools in Houston so the first dad does not have to commute from Austin to Houston and can see his children.

  115. ” And surely there are some suitable schools in Houston so the first dad does not have to commute from Austin to Houston and can see his children.”

    Maybe that is a feature and not a bug to have the dad spend the week in Houston.

    But yeah – I had the same thought. There are NO suitable schools in Houston? Seems doubtful.

  116. “I skimmed the article but can’t these people just send their kids to private if they are buying $2m homes?”

    They explained that they can sell the house later, presumably at a profit, but they cannot sell a private school education. It’s really over the top as far as I’m concerned. And to subject their family to that publicity seems pretty awful.

  117. LfB – you do what you can and want to do for your kids and if you and they are happy that’s it.
    My SIL mentioned that she felt like a failure for not keeping detailed tabs on her kid’s schoolwork. They live in a house like those pictured, their kids go to private school, have tried numerous upper class activities.
    Now they are on a quest to secure a spot in one of the higher ranked private schools than their current school. This is after moving from
    The suburbs to the city to attend their current school and after crowing how they loved it. Just doesn’t end.

  118. In my opinion, Bronxville is not typical of most communities, and the public schools are essentially private. The entry level rents are several thousand dollars, and even apartments start at close to a million. That keeps out the other 99%. It’s tiny and it lacks diversity of almost kind. We like to visit the restaurants, but I’m grateful that we don’t live in a community like that town.

  119. It’s hard enough to move adolescents when a job relocation is involved. But how do you convince girls to leave their friends? And doesn’t that also mess up the elite sports and arts programs that keep totebag kids busy? There was something approaching desperation underneath the surface of that story. Starting to agree with the criticism.

  120. Agree that the high price tag of some private schools is way more than kids should be pressured for.

    But any college student is “bored”…. What on earth? There are campus activities and organizations at every college and university in the country. Whether the surrounding is urban or rural, a student who is “bored” at college is not taking advantage of the opportunities available.

    And it looks like the problem of storing wind energy so it can be used on a schedule has been solved. http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/news/dutch_public_trains_now_powered_entirely_by_wind

  121. Advertising the contortions you went through to be in a particular school district can be a form of conspicuous caring, similar to advertising the sacrifices you’re making to keep them in private school or the hoops you had to jump through to get them into a particular charter or magnet. You must be a good parent who prioritizes education, because look at all you’ve done! An objective assessment of the relative merits of the schools involved is beside the point.

    I definitely do not mean to say that everyone who puts their kids in private, moves for the schools, etc., falls in this category; I’m just suggesting that’s what’s rubbing people the wrong way about the families in the article.

  122. My cubemate’s daughter went to community college for a year and then to RIT. She interviewed with Microsoft after a few weeks at school this fall, rocked the technical interview and was offered an internship as a sophomore. Schools like Harvey Mudd and Swarthmore seem to draw people who are pretty sure they want to go to grad school and likely want a PhD. Schools like RPI/RIT/WPI (my cubemate recruits at a couple of those) seem to have a strong career services office for people who want to get a job and maybe a MS/MBA on eventually part-time. Students who want to can get PhD’s but it’s not the “default route”. My engineering partner who went to Harvey Mudd said it was understood that the general engineering degree offered there was probably not one’s terminal degree.

  123. ““I suggest that you plan a visit to RPI, RIT, WPI or any of the northeastern schools by early April when there are no flowers and it is gray and damp. . . . Viewing a campus up close when it is located in or near a decayed industrial town is also a good idea.”

    Additionally (or alternatively) you could rent the Paul Newman movie “Nobody’s Fool,” set in Troy, NY. It’s a great movie, and the setting is perfectly portrayed and becomes almost its own character.

  124. Austin, you’re right, it’s Westlake.

    I assume those parents aren’t planning for their kids to attend a UT, or they’d be moving to a less competitive HS district to improve their kids’ class rankings.

  125. I’m assuming the TX dad is probably not commuting every week. The partner DH works for is not even in the office a lot of the time because he’s traveling. So I guess if the dad is maybe heading into Houston once or twice per month for meetings that’s probably all he’d have to do. Now that I think about it, DH once worked for a guy who was a big rainmaker at his firm and his wife had decided to move to this charming small town in South Carolina, so he just had an apartment here and mostly worked from their home on Fridays and Mondays. They then moved out west but he still works for the firm, just doesn’t come into the office very often.

  126. Austin, does your DD’s school use Naviance? If so, you may have access to college search tools to help you find schools similar to RPI and WPI (Naviance is customized by school, depending on what each school wants and is willing to pay for).

    If your DD enters RPI and WPI as schools of interest, Naviance may suggest other schools. You might also be able to just look up info on a given school that also shows what other schools kids apply to that apply to that school.

    There are also other websites that can suggest similar schools, e.g. prepscholar.

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