Nosy, or not?

from S&M

This is another article that could go two ways.

1. People could tell about inappropriate questions lobbed at their children or themselves, and about defending/ teaching their kids how to respond.

2. We could talk about things our kids try to hide from us that we really do need to know, whether academic or otherwise. That could also include other relationships where ideas of what’s proprietary and what needs to be shared differ.

What’s Worse Than Waiting to Hear From Colleges? Getting Interrogated About It

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246 thoughts on “Nosy, or not?

  1. I think this is one of those “problems” that’s exclusive to the totebag demo. I don’t think people who aren’t obsessed about college admissions are bothered by these questions. And they are probably not around as many other college-obsessed people, so they don’t get asked as often.

  2. Denver, you don’t think people who aren’t focused on college have anything that they don’t like to be questioned about? Weren’t you just saying recently that your kids don’t like to be asked about school and their friends?

  3. I agree with Denver. But that author is famous for bubble-dwelling, as we all know. She also, of course, cites the most egregious examples. Most people are just trying to make conversation, and over what other topics do you really relate to a high school student? Obviously, don’t ask for SAT scores or GPAs, but it seems more than a bit precious to declare that the whole topic is off limits.

  4. Yeah, if you confine yourself too stricly to the limits of exactly what this author is talking about with no modifications whatsoever, instead of using it as a jumping-off point or one of many possible examples, this would be kinda silly.

  5. For my kid, the biggest inappropriate question has to be about his hair. Solange Knowles came out with her “Don’t touch my hair” after we had already mostly figured it out. Little kids do get patted on their heads a lot, no matter what’s on them, but that never subsided with him. It is a clear violation of “personal space” and given the repeats, can sound like there’s something wrong with your hair, or weird.

    The #1 thing he’s ever not told me that he should have is also obvious: the bullying and teachers’ refusal to do anything about it. More recent, and at a much more manageable scale are his orders from Amazon. I keep the card number in there so charges to the Kindle go through, but lately there have been too many times that he “forgot” to ask me, or even tell me later. I’m tired of going round on it and trying to keep track of how much he owes me. I think I’m just going to stop his allowance, which is about the same amount.

  6. Married couples who haven’t had kids (yet) get lots of inappropriate questions on that topic.
    People who are looking for jobs get tons of questions too.

    It can be hard for well-meaning friends and family to know the topics that are off limits. Older family members often feel entitled to pry into matters that their kids or grandkids want to keep private, such as price ranges for new house and car purchases.

    Reading the advice columns in the WaPo is often amusing. Mothers and in laws are often portrayed as the worst offenders.

  7. I saw this article before and in the college obsessed bubble I live in, my son’s school puts out some guidance on being sensitive to the seniors during admissions season. I think these articles are helpful to some insensitive adults who say things like, “isn’t that a party school?” Or who have no idea about how competitive admissions are nowadays. However, I worry that this type of article and general “sensitivity awareness” on this topic further fuels the sensitive snowflake looking for offense at every turn types of kids. I told my boys to Just get ready for it. American culture is like that- the rest of your life you will have to deal with “what do you do”, “where did you go to school”, where do you live, what do you drive? Etc. Just learn to be comfortable with your choices and accomplishments.

  8. Madalda that is a great point. Giving kids the tools to live in the world is one of our basic parenting tasks.

  9. +1 to Mafalda “further fuels the sensitive snowflake looking for offense at every turn types of kids”

  10. I think it is also important to distinguish between small talk and teenagers asking for guidance. If someone is headed towards a party school, they should go into it with the knowledge that there will be a bit of explaining to do the rest of their list. UC Santa Barbara is a fairly tough UC, with a reputation as a party school. If someone is going there, they should be aware that there will be more explaining necessary than if they went to UCLA or UC Davis.

    Mafalda has a great point. Most of spend a portion of our lives fending off clueless, intrusive questions. Sometimes because people are idiots, but more often because they don’t understand cultural constructs. For example, it is very impolite to ask a farmer or rancher how much land their own or farm, but I have been asked that countless times. Depending on the person, I will say some variant of, “Not enough.” If I actually like the person, I might explain that they are asking a rude question.

  11. For example, it is very impolite to ask a farmer or rancher how much land their own or farm

    It is?? Learn something new every day.

  12. It is?? Learn something new every day.

    Yes, it is akin to asking someone how much is in their bank account.

  13. Pseudonym – interesting, I never knew that! Maybe I should start being offended when people ask about the forest. :)

    BITD, I found the questions about colleges to be conversation-ending – when I said where I went to school, there was a small “oh” and then nothing else. (This was when I went back to my hometown.)

  14. I find people here to be a lot better than in the home country where it seemed that many people didn’t have a sense of boundaries when asking questions. My aunt would hit back with zinger one liners. My mother OTOH was and is very good at the art of deflection. I had a very tough time growing up in such an evironment and therefore I am sensitive to asking direct questions of others. Most time I just chat, listen and interject with questions.
    Here college is not all consuming except perhaps for a small subset of students who aim to get into top ranking colleges. Most students go instate, those families that can afford it may go private colleges or neighboring state flagships.
    Parents seem just more about supporting the student (driving them to competitions, attending events etc).
    By the time senior year of high school rolls around it seems people have checked off the child rearing box.
    There are also a spate of divorces around the same time so families are in transition on different fronts.

  15. Agree that most of us have to learn to deal with answering rude/insensitive questions and it’s good to learn how to handle it early. Also worry about the “snowflake” tendency, to a point. Then again, college kids are supposed to be full of idealistic outrage to a point, so I have trouble reconciling that sometimes.

    I have to laugh at the disdain for “party schools”. In some circles, going to a “party school” is a goal, not something to be ashamed of. Especially if it is both a “party school” and a school with a good academic reputation. Same with being a big sports school.

  16. For college kids, or those about to commence, I usually ask what classes they’re taking and follow-up questions based on what they seem most enthusiastic about. Not asking newlyweds their plans for family is more difficult for me, because kids influence everything–where you live, what kind of work you do, if you go to grad school, what your hobbies are…

  17. DH and I were both very good about not asking DSS “How’s the dissertation going?”, because the only way to answer that is by beating the questioner senseless.

  18. There’s a CollegeConfidential thread on this topic that’s titled “Just smile and nod”. It includes gems such as the response of “Oh, I didn’t know he was that smart” when a parent said her kid got into a top college. It’s a bubble topic, but this time of year many kids (and parents) are on pins and needles over getting their college acceptance and financial aid information. It’s similar to waiting to hear if you made the team or band or similar childhood moments of angst. I have one friend who keeps on volunteering details of the wait for college news but I don’t bring it up.

    “By the time senior year of high school rolls around it seems people have checked off the child rearing box.”

    Lol!

    Not to be rude, L, but how many trees do you own. ;)

  19. My oldest who just turned 17 gets one of both of two questions from any well meaning adult he comes into contact with but doesn’t know well(examples – the nurse at the urgent care, adult cousins) : “so what schools are you applying to?” and “are you getting your drivers license soon?”. He has the same stock answer to both questions : “mmummmbllemmm”.

  20. I remember my parents asking me what I was doing while in law school my first year. My answer “studying”. Their response – “that’s all?” did not go over well. They were surprised I was not working, running, or doing some non-academic activity. They did not realize how different law school was to undergrad. I was more involved in more non-academic activities my second and third years.

  21. MM may have had this question from some who were just plain nosy. How much did it cost to adopt your kid?

  22. We are in the midst of the waiting game. The wait is driving me nuts. DS gets few of those type of questions, as he speaks to very few adults other than teachers and family.

    MIL is terrible about crossing personal boundaries with unwanted advice.

  23. CoC, I have never been directly asked that question but my daughter has. and some other very inappropriate things too.

    I have gotten procedural questions about adoption, in which I think people are nosing about trying to figure out costs, but it has always been from people who were clearly interested in adopting themselves.

  24. LOL CoC – I’m not sure we would be able to count!!! :) It is 300+ acres, but some of that is pond. (Note to Pseudonym, this is out in western MA so it is unusual to have a large lot like that, although it is undoubtedly small by your standards!)

  25. I had no idea the land question was offensive. It’s not like I know the going rate for an acre. I don’t think I’ve ever asked that question, but would guess that the person is just asking to get a mental picture of a small hobby farm or rolling fields in a very rural area. Not tying it back to wealth.

  26. Not tying it back to wealth.

    Not to be argumentative, but how would amount of land not be tied directly to wealth? I really don’t understand.

  27. L – Unless it is someone from northern New England who actually knows something about timber, I would expect that most eastern MA residents don’t even realize that it is a commercial endeavor, or assume at most a Christmas tree farm. They probably think you want to build some sort of vacation mansion or family compound.

  28. While traveling to the Grand Canyon by train, we passed vast ranches and when the guide mentioned the number of acres – it was in the thousands. Vast ! And so different from the East Coast.

  29. “but how would amount of land not be tied directly to wealth?”

    It’s tied to it, but we don’t know the conversion factor. And 99% of us would just be trying to get an idea of what this operation is like in order to better relate and understand.

  30. Psuedonym – When 2nd or 3rd generation city folk hear ranch, they think a spread like Hollywood folks have in Montana, not a working commercial enterprise. It is simple ignorance.

  31. Once it gets past a couple thousand square feet and maybe an acre, I have no idea what a land area of x units looks like. I guess that spares me from being rude!

    Mooshi, if the person asking is considering adopting themselves, I would think that question is suddenly much less offensive.

    “the only way to answer that is by beating the questioner senseless”
    Au contraire! There’s the possibility of throwing oneself from the roof.

  32. or assume at most a Christmas tree farm.

    As far as I know, Christmas tree farms are commercial ventures.

  33. “the only way to answer that is by beating the questioner senseless”
    Au contraire! There’s the possibility of throwing oneself from the roof.

    Ha ! Ha ! In my interactions with home country “aunties” (ladies senior to a teenage me), I considered both choices. Somehow survived those interrogations. I realize that I am now in that demographic but strive not to follow the footsteps of my elders.

  34. At 25 weeks pregnant I’m starting to get comments on my size and questions about the due date. I find it mildly irritating, but it comes with the territory. My problem is that I’m short, and carry my babies out, so people are assuming that the baby is due soon and tend to look a bit horrified when I tell them there’s a loooooong way to go.

  35. Denver, you don’t think people who aren’t focused on college have anything that they don’t like to be questioned about?

    I was responding to the article, which appears to be just about college stuff. I can’t read the whole thing to know if it touched on other subjects.

  36. Milo answered for me. I’d just want a mental image of what it looks like. I wouldn’t have a clue if the land value is $100,000 or $100 million. My follow up questions would be about what you are growing or raising. I grew up in a manufacturing city, so i’m just curious because it is far removed from my bubble.

  37. Milo answered for me. I’d just want a mental image of what it looks like. I wouldn’t have a clue if the land value is $100,000 or $100 million. My follow up questions would be about what you are growing or raising. I grew up in a manufacturing city, so i’m just curious because it is far removed from my bubble.

    I understand that our cultural constructs are different, and I see the explanations about why someone might ask the land question out of ignorance. My point was that, in various cultures, questions that might be innocuous in one culture are offensive in another. Whether or not this is “right”, or understandable is not necessarily relevant.

  38. Meme – true! Although we are not currently harvesting, just holding it as agriculture for the tax break. ;)

  39. Pseudonym,
    I’m a terrible liar, so I’d never be able to pull it off with a straight face :). It’s funny to think about though.

    Oh, and since this is the Totebag, I’m going to brag on 3rd grade DS1. We had conferences yesterday and his math skills tested out at >6th grade level. #calculustrack

  40. The MMM forums have endless discussions about how early retirees should answer the question “What do you do?”

    “What should I say? Will they think I’m rich? Will they think I’m bragging? Will they think I’m poor and unemployed? Is it any of their business? Will they be jealous? I don’t want them to assume that I earned a ton of money, but if I tell them about frugality, will they think I’m preaching?”

    People definitely overthink this stuff. Nobody cares about us nearly as much as we’d like to imagine.

  41. Pseudonym reminds me of last week’s church small group conversation, with a grass seed farmer who is hoping to rent land from out-of-state investors who, in his opinion, have been suboptimally managing land adjacent to his. Someone asked if he’d need to hire more people/buy more equipment and he explained that he has almost enough people and more than enough equipment available for the land adjacent to his that he’d like to rent.

    Part of me is wondering if I/one of us offended him and part of me hopes that if he didn’t want to answer any questions, he wouldn’t have brought up the topic. To me, it’s kind of like explaining that my equipment release is next week and I hope it goes well- socializing about work at the level appropriate to our very different occupations.

    I remember going on a 6 mile walk once with Mr WCE’s uncle around his ranch and (coming from Iowa, where farms are smaller) being astounded at the size of Montana ranches but trying to avoid any financial implications by focusing on the climate, surrounding mountain ranges, person who had set up bee hives, etc.

  42. Part of the land question is some sort of cultural shibboleth. For some reason, it is ok to ask what someone grows, if it is difficult, how you deal with labor, climate issues, in some ways how you market the crop. If it is a typical crop for the area, how hard it is to get water, how long you have been farming, if it a generational farm, on and on and on, but not how much land someone owns. Knowing not to ask that question because a) you know it is impolite and b) you know the alternative ways to find out, is a a sign of cultural understanding.

  43. I always ask HS seniors/parents “Do you know what you’re doing next year yet?” That way, they can give as little or as much information as they want.
    As a parent, I let my kids dictate how much information they wanted me to give out. It’s their story, not mine (l just get to pay for it).

  44. When people ask ridiculous questions (e.g., how much do you make or how much did you pay for your house) and I don’t want to answer, I just respond, “Why do you ask?” or in the case of the house, I tell them the Google probably knows.

  45. More recent, and at a much more manageable scale are his orders from Amazon. I keep the card number in there so charges to the Kindle go through, but lately there have been too many times that he “forgot” to ask me, or even tell me later. I’m tired of going round on it and trying to keep track of how much he owes me. I think I’m just going to stop his allowance, which is about the same amount.

    We have the kids pay us for Amazon gift cards and they use those to pay. We don’t have credit cards linked to their accounts for this very reason. The system works really well.

  46. My point was that, in various cultures, questions that might be innocuous in one culture are offensive in another. Whether or not this is “right”, or understandable is not necessarily relevant.

    This is another reminder to not attribute to malice what can be attributed to ignorance (or stupidity, or incompetence, or…..).

  47. I hope my children aren’t easily offended if asked about college when the time comes. I always hearken back to something an old boss said – “It is a greater sin to take offense than to offend.” When I was pregnant, especially with my oldest, I was very small and I got asked more than once if I was eating enough for the baby. I also have a friend who was all belly when she was pregnant with her first and she got asked if she was carrying twins. You just have to laugh.

    Here we have a similar thing going on when everyone finds out if their kid got into private school. It almost feels like a loaded question when you ask someone where their child is going to middle school.

  48. TLC – in December on my way home from a business trip, when I was boarding the plane, an older gentleman asked if I was “preggo” while simultaneously reaching out the touch my belly. I didn’t realize I could suck in my huge self in so far. He never touched me but part of me wanted to shout “no! I’m a walking public service announcement for what happens when you swallow a watermelon seed!” Or slap him. The later would have gotten me in trouble with the Air Marshals and I really wanted to go home.

  49. The MMM forums have endless discussions about how early retirees should answer the question “What do you do?”

    At DSS’s wedding, his cousin (now a missionary in Mongolia) asked me very sharp questions about what kind of volunteer work I was doing now that I was retired, and explained to me that it was not acceptable for me to spend any significant amount of time at leisure. I refrained from telling to go the fuck back to Mongolia already.

  50. Rhode, you just answered the question I was about to ask. 30 years ago, a pregnant belly seemed to be asking to be touched. I didn’t find that to be the case 15 years ago. But that behavior apparently hasn’t gone away completely!

    It sounds like asking about ranch size out West is like asking a New Yorker their address or something related to apartment size. Disney seems to work the same way, with clearly demarcated tiers of places to stay. A cashier recently handed me my food and said “have a magical day” or “goodbye”. I pointed out that the card had not yet finished going through. She said “I know you can pay for it if you’re staying at the Floridan”. We weren’t, but even people who are may have spent their last dime on it.

  51. “At DSS’s wedding, his cousin (now a missionary in Mongolia) asked me very sharp questions about what kind of volunteer work I was doing now that I was retired, and explained to me that it was not acceptable for me to spend any significant amount of time at leisure. I refrained from telling to go the fuck back to Mongolia already.”

    Well bless his heart.

  52. In all of my (many) pregnant days, I’ve never had a stranger go for the belly (knock on wood). I’m not sure I could refrain from slapping if they did though. Maybe that shows on my face. My Mom is the only one who has ever touched without explicit permission, and that doesn’t bother me.

  53. “I have to laugh at the disdain for “party schools”.”

    MIT has a reputation as a party school.

  54. “We are in the midst of the waiting game.”

    Only 8 more days (or fewer, depending on schools) of waiting…

  55. “my son’s school puts out some guidance on being sensitive to the seniors during admissions season.”

    It’s not just adults that need that guidance.

    Apparently on March 14, when MIT posts regular decisions (get it?), the two kids who’d been accepted early wore their MIT shirts to school. And then everybody from waiting for decisions got rejected.

  56. I second Anon’s suggestion to phrase the question more like “have you decided where you are going to school next year?” That way the kid can just say that he hasn’t yet decided, and you can move on to wishing him luck.

    On the “not bragging” front, I have a friend whose kid goes to UCSB, but has to tell you that he also got into two much more exclusive schools (top 20 on USNews list). She makes a big deal out of him choosing the right school for him as opposed to the best school he got in, which is true, it is great that he knew what he wanted. However, she wants to be sure that everyone knows he got into the more competitive schools as well.

  57. I’ve always been very hard to offend, I have a tendency to imagine the best intentions from everyone and, because of my cross cultural upbringing, assume the person doesn’t realize the question is insensitive. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to recognize that apparently sometimes the person is just being judgmental and very passively aggressively critisizing. My husband and I get a lot of the retirement questions since we retired at 48- i think people are really curious or thinking about doing it. My husband thinks they are being judgmental. It’s possible people ARE more judgmental on this topic when you are male?

  58. Finn – are acceptances posted online at a certain time and date ? And if so are a ton of students trying to access the website ?

  59. “However, she wants to be sure that everyone knows he got into the more competitive schools as well.”

    Reminds me of our Gov. While campaigning, he made sure that people knew that although he attended and graduated from flagship U, he was accepted to MIT.

  60. Louise, yes and yes.

    A lot of schools post decisions late in the day ET, which is mid-day here, so kids find out in school, often in group settings like where they congregate for lunch, or sometimes in classes, and word spreads extremely fast.

  61. “have you decided where you are going to school next year?”

    which I ask as “Are you going to school next year?”

    Some (very few from my kids’ school) are not. The is always at least one kid who is enlisting in the service, doing a gap year for any of a million reasons (the socially acceptable way of saying it), or just working (clearly not socially acceptable, but honest).

  62. Many high schools have a day when seniors wear the t-shirts of where they will be going to college. I don’t think our school does that.

  63. Hmm, I’m thinking that if DS gets accepted to HSS, but instead attends lower tier school with full tuition scholarship, he can still go around the rest of his life pointing out that he was accepted to HSS and not attending was his choice, especially to those who make a big deal out of which school one attended.

  64. Hmm, I’m thinking that if DS gets accepted to HSS, but instead attends lower tier school with full tuition scholarship, he can still go around the rest of his life pointing out that he was accepted to HSS and not attending was his choice, especially to those who make a big deal out of which school one attended.

    That won’t actually stop the people who went to the top schools from looking down on him. Amongst themselves, they’ll comment that it’s too bad he didn’t get a first-class education.

  65. I am genuinely interested in others’ plan about children, but steer clear of the topic. There is a childless couple, late 30s, in my book group, married x 10 years. Wondering if they are waiting, unable, undesiring of children. Curious about their choices – and though we share a lot at book club, that hasn’t come up. It seems like we know each other well enough to ask, however, you never really know how loaded that question might be.

    There was a point when we were debating adding a kid to our family. We were not on the same side of the argument. It drove me crazy when people would ask, because the most obvious answer was, “We are having screaming fights about this twice a week.”

  66. I always tell kids that most adults talk to them about college because it is something we can relate to. We don’t get the snapchat and the instagram and the venmo but we CAN make conversation about college. It is the low hanging fruit.

  67. “Many high schools have a day when seniors wear the t-shirts of where they will be going to college. I don’t think our school does that.”

    I’ve seen that too. Both at the Totebaggy schools and at some of the charter schools serving primarily the poorer parts of the city that have a strong focus on college admissions/attendance/preparation as a goal beyond graduation. Sometimes it ends up on the local news (both types of schools). I haven’t seen it much in the middle-of-the-road high schools. We certainly didn’t do that in our HS, not officially. But the seniors who were going to college definitely bought & wore a lot of gear senior year, including me.

  68. I try to be careful about asking about people’s child plans/choices, because LOTS of engineering women don’t want/didn’t want kids but some are/were unable to have kids. The childfree get understandably tired of being asked about it/hearing about other people’s kids.

    I couldn’t resist a Facebook comment when childfree math camp acquaintance posted about her new sporty car with “Why would anyone choose a minivan?” and I commented, “Fourth child.”

  69. “It seems like we know each other well enough to ask…”

    DW and I are not nosy types with professional or casual acquaintances, so I don’t feel that we’re ever guilty of the sort of offenses that get talked about on here. At the same time, since we have few friends, I think both of us would feel that if we’re going to hang out with someone or a couple regularly for a few years and try to establish a friendship, but we can’t even mention such an important topic like that, then there’s not much point in even being friends.

    With my close friends, I want to talk and joke about things like family, money, sex. Otherwise, don’t bother. I suppose that’s one reason we try so hard to hang onto college friends, because with them, real topics like that weren’t considered taboo.

  70. ” It seems like we know each other well enough to ask, however, you never really know how loaded that question might be. There was a point when we were debating adding a kid to our family. We were not on the same side of the argument. It drove me crazy when people would ask, because the most obvious answer was, “We are having screaming fights about this twice a week.””

    Right, I’m curious in a lot of situations, even with friends. But if someone wants to share, it usually comes up eventually. I got pretty open about the fact that we were one & done once we decided once and for all because I know people started to get curious. But when we were in the midst of making the decision, I didn’t talk to a ton of people about it because we were so torn ourselves. The last thing that I wanted to do was talk about it with someone that I wasn’t sure was going to get it. I also have had friends who eventually said that they were choosing to be childfree or people who shared their fertility issues/miscarriages after wondering for awhile when they were going to have kids.

  71. Our middle school has college logos painted on the walls, college banners hanging in the classrooms and the office . . . I’m pretty sure it’s primarily for the second reason Ivy listed, trying to focus kids on college as a post-graduation goal, although there are a handful of Totebag families in the school too. (And plenty of immigrant families ambitious for their kids.)

  72. When I ask seniors about plans, it is always, “Do you have a plan yet for next year?” I do not assume college (or even military) is part of it. In my area, community college is the most common option, but not right for everyone.

  73. @Milo – I see what you are saying, but when sensitive topics come up with my closest friends, it’s because they bring it up themselves because they want to talk to me about it. Not because I pestered them about when they are going to have kids. And there are still topics like that now – marital problems, problems kids are having at school, job/money issues, etc. I definitely don’t feel like I’m controlling what I ask/say to a high degree or anything though.

  74. “Only 8 more days (or fewer, depending on schools) of waiting…”

    Finn, Is your DS still waiting or has he made up his mind?

  75. I think the “wear your college sweatshirt” to school thing is an awful idea. Just a way to make some people feel better about themselves at the expense of others.

  76. I think the “wear your college sweatshirt” to school thing is an awful idea. Just a way to make some people feel better about themselves at the expense of others.

    Really, it seems like people should be able to own their college decisions/results. It doesn’t seem any more braggy than people wearing varsity letter jackets or other stigmata of above average athletic ability. I struggled to hit “average” in athletic achievement, and never got to brag about going to college (let alone where I was going to college), so I may be biased here.

  77. Houston, he’s still waiting for decisions on some of his apps. I believe one announces on March 30 and the other on March 31.

  78. Eh, I’m with Moxie. I look at the picture of the kids graduating from Denver School of Science and Technology and feel bad for the kids wearing the “Red Rocks Community College” sweatshirts next to the kid in the “Caltech” sweatshirt.

  79. In the home country, pre Internet, results were posted in the college lobby. It went by student number so you had to find the right sheet of paper and look for your result along with countless others. Some professional results were posted in the newspapers, again by student number.
    I don’t think I had a completely private moment to digest the result. Some years were state exams and making the cutoff marks determined things like college, choice of major etc. As soon as you got your results you applied for the next step. It wasn’t a long drawn out process but probably a few weeks of lots of nail biting.

  80. Really, it seems like people should be able to own their college decisions/results. It doesn’t seem any more braggy than people wearing varsity letter jackets or other stigmata of above average athletic ability. I struggled to hit “average” in athletic achievement, and never got to brag about going to college (let alone where I was going to college), so I may be biased here.

    I agree. We should celebrate the academic high achievers, not downplay it. Nobody has any qualms celebrating athletic achievement, why is there such hand-wringing about letting kids enjoy the achievement of getting into a good college?

    Having a college sweatshirt day seems kind of silly, but celebrate the academic achievements.

  81. It’s unclear if College Sweatshirt Day is a celebration of the fact that some people are going to college or if it is a day on which a pecking order based on the prestige of one’s university is established. It probably depends on the school.

    The people from my high school who attended the most prestigious schools (Harvard and West Point) didn’t discuss their accomplishments publicly.

  82. “I think the “wear your college sweatshirt” to school thing is an awful idea. Just a way to make some people feel better about themselves at the expense of others.”

    I agree that in a HS where there’s a mix of kids such that e.g. 1/3 are done with school after HS, 1/3 are going to CC/trade school/military, and 1/3 are going to college it just points out differences.

    In my kids’ HS where the goal from day 1 is to go to college, and everyone who wants will go to college after HS, they have a wall near guidance where mini flags of the schools the seniors have chosen to attend gets filled up. No kids’ names are on the wall, just schools’. And they have a dress code so unless it’s a dress down day there aren’t any college (sweat)shirts worn in the hallways. Possibly neckties. My kid is not going to choose an HSS, because he didn’t apply to any. Some kids will, but I don’t think there is a lot of jealousy among the kids.

  83. “but celebrate the academic achievements.”

    Kids’ school gives out academic awards in HS, and has an Academic Awards Ceremony every May.

    Didn’t Lauren or someone in that area mention their kids’ school also gives out academic awards?

  84. Fred, at the diverse schools you could argue that the high-achieving kids have more reason to celebrate than those at the more totebaggy schools.

  85. Since someone else brought it up I’ll mention that I get mildly po’d driving into our town on a couple of roads because there is a sign saying
    Welcome to Town
    Home of High School
    State Soccer Champions 19xa, 19xb, 19xe
    (etc)

    I see similar signs in other places too. Good for their athletic success.

    But where are the signs for
    Home to High School
    56 NMS finalists since 1976
    (which would be updated periodically)

  86. “Just a way to make some people feel better about themselves at the expense of others.”

    I agree that in a HS where there’s a mix of kids such that e.g. 1/3 are done with school after HS, 1/3 are going to CC/trade school/military, and 1/3 are going to college it just points out differences.”

    I thought it might be a bigger deal at schools where 99% of the kids are going to 4-year colleges, and over 50% apply to HSS. The most disappointment is among the kids with the scores and grades to realistically hope for acceptance at lottery schools.

    I went to a school like Fred described, and there were just a handful of kids who were disappointed about where they were accepted.

  87. “But where are the signs for
    Home to High School
    56 NMS finalists since 1976”

    Nobody would know what the hell you’re talking about. I’m probably in the upper half of the population in terms of academic achievement and familiarity with this sort of thing, and certainly moreso there than in athletic achievement, and I swear to God I had no freakin’ clue what NM(S)F was before I started reading this blog.

    Nothing is stopping anyone from wearing their college sweatshirt in high school. I think I agree with Moxie about a distaste for making it an official day. When I was in high school, I would have thought it was fine. When I was graduating college, and the tables were turned, I remember an awards ceremony that 1,000 of us attended to watch the same dozen or so people get all the awards. It’s like nobody realized that there’s a high degree of correlation between being one of the top three in your class academically, being one of the top three in your major, being a Rhodes scholar, etc., etc. What the hell is someone going to do with five or six ceremonial swords as awards?

  88. Well, I’m still “mildly po’d” that my kid’s NMF went unrecognized during high school awards night but every member of every sports team was called up on stage to receive an award.

    Did any totebaggers attend a “lesser” college for primarily financial reasons? Several years ago a star high school athlete attended a lesser school, presumably on a generous scholarship. But every news article about him prominently mentioned how he got in and turned down an Ivy League.

  89. We aren’t there yet, so I don’t know how it feels from a parenting perspective, but right now I can’t see holding it against a kid who’s excited at what they’re going to do. If they were to say “I got in but you weren’t good enough” it would be a problem, but it doesn’t sound like what they’re doing. Sounds to me like the people who feel bad at others’ good fortune are adding the second half of that sentence onto whatever the kid says. The mom’s hurry to explain that her kid got in at tougher schools gets a sympathetic smile from me. Parenting shouldn’t be competitive; but people often feel it is. Look at the expectations here. I read her comments as somewhere between defensive and pleading. “I wasn’t that bad a mom, honest. I did a good job. Please confirm that for me & tell me my kid/I did alright”.

    If it’s wrong to be visibly excited about what you’re doing, where does that end? Can you yell “yes!” with a fistpump when you get first chair or the lead in a play?! into a selective class? What if it isn’t a class but a whole program? For the summer? In a great location? Is it worse to be excited about where you’re going on vacation or a school trip? Does it matter if the school trip is just a trip or is edicational/volunteering? What about getting a car? If your parents tell you on your birthday that xyz car is on order for you, can you be excited and tell your friends? Moving to an early house? Getting your own bedroom? None of these is a zero-sum game. Getting into college isn’t either.

  90. For example, it is very impolite to ask a farmer or rancher how much land their own or farm, but I have been asked that countless times.

    Every farmer I’ve met has been super eager to tell me how much land they have. Just the other day some guy was telling me about all his pivots.

    Later googling says a pivot is 126 acres…

    A pivot:

  91. “If it’s wrong to be visibly excited about what you’re doing, where does that end?”

    WCE has a simple criteria that anything more than two standard deviations above the mean is distasteful for Facebook, bumper stickers, sweatshirts, whatever. I’ve thought about that criteria since she outlined it, and I’ve never found an exception to the rule.

  92. Fred, there’s a school close to our home with a big sign up front about it being a National Blue Ribbon School.

  93. “he can still go around the rest of his life pointing out that he was accepted to HSS and not attending was his choice, ”

    That; especially so long after the fact, sounds like obnoxious behavior. I presume that the mom who is saying that will drop it as soon as there is another big event in kid’s life.

    The response the RMS suggests could come from those who did go there is at least as bad.

  94. “Can you yell “yes!” with a fistpump when you get first chair or the lead in a play?! . . .
    None of these is a zero-sum game. Getting into college isn’t either.”

    First chair and lead in the play are both zero-sum.

  95. The people from my high school who attended the most prestigious schools (Harvard and West Point) didn’t discuss their accomplishments publicly.

    When a girl a year or two below me on swim team was in the paper for having gotten into four military academies, my thought was not “wow, what a braggart” but “wonder why she is so intent on the military”.

    When we got into the car today, “Just the Way it is” was in the radio. First line we heard was “you can’t go where the others go, cause you don’t look like they do”. DS said “that’s a little too topical” and changed the station. I asked when he felt like that. Answer “every time I see the news”. If he is excited about the college he’s going to, then hellyeah we will celebrate. And anyone who comes with their affirmative action nonsense saying he got inbecause he has “a hook” and ignores the price of that hook will get a knuckle sandwich from me, and maybe a kick in the ribs as well.

  96. Finn, there are other orchestras/bands, other instruments, other plays with other lead roles. Getting one once does not preclude anyone else from also getting one.

  97. One girl at my high school was an exceptional vocalist who was chosen as soloist for multischool choir events from her sophomore year on. The director was insensitive to the fact that Super Vocalist was always chosen but Super Vocalist was sensitive and asked to duet with Another Good Vocalist in one case and recommended Alternate Soloists in other cases.

    She had soft skills. :)

  98. What the hell is someone going to do with five or six ceremonial swords as awards?

    Open a lot of champagne?

  99. S&M – I think my midwestern is showing. My father is a PhD and never used it except at work. I don’t think I ever heard anyone refer to him and Dr. Moxie’s Dad in my whole life. “Everyone who needs to know I’m a Ph.D. already does.” My parents always felt like you should let your achievements speak for themselves. The only time you should call attention to yourself is when you are singing loudly and clearly in the church choir. Of course I’m not exactly like that which is why I have so much stand up material. I am also against the college stickers on the cars. Why would you put a sticker on your car for something your kid is doing? When they get their own car they can put one on there.

    I also agree that the sporting achievements get disproportionate attention. I would be happier if we switched to celebrating the academic achievements more than the sporting ones. But I am not in charge.

  100. The college T-shirt days I’ve seen around here do not feel braggy to me. The teachers wearing shorts from the schools they went to is often a part of it, to say education is valuable and encourage the kids that it’s worthwhile. Kids in every grade wear t-shirts; most often of a school with a good sports team or where a relative goes (DS chose his cousin’s over mine). In the upper grades they might turn to where they’d like to go, but I think the days have always been in the fall, before acceptances are announced.

  101. Moxie,yeah, saying you’re Dr So&so can get the reaction “what kind of doctor are you?” No one wants to hear “PhD”! They might say “oh, I thought you were a different kind” and try to make a joke about “the kind who can fix things” or “the kind that’s useful”.

  102. “Why would you put a sticker on your car for something your kid is doing? When they get their own car they can put one on there.”

    +1 Moxie. My car has stuff from my schools (tastefully displayed, natch). DW, on the other hand, is apparently conspicuously proud of her kids.

  103. I don’t wear college gear from my alma maters, but I sure as heck am looking forward to getting a sticker for my car and a t-shirt from DS’ college. I think it’s my way of showing pride in him.

  104. S&M – you are right at the MD/PhD thing. But really it is rooted in being humble. His PhD is actually a pretty significant achievement for him. He grew up on a farm in the Depression and was raised by parents who did not go past 8th grade so he had a lot to be proud of but he would never make a big deal of it. Not in his DNA.

  105. Why would you put a sticker on your car for something your kid is doing?

    Because you’re proud of your kid.

  106. I see a big difference between a “state U” bumper sticker and one that says “my child was student of the week at Crestwood Elementary School 😀”
    One is a general statement about a big part of your kid’s life (getting in is only an accomplishment til move-in day) and showing your support for your kid/their school. The other is a helicopter in the weeds, to mix my metaphores.

  107. @Houston – I agree. I will definitely proudly wear DS College stuff. I don’t do bumper stickers, so none of that. But coffee mugs, shirts, keychains, etc. Sure! I don’t see bumper stickers that say the kids’ schools as anything over the line at all in being a proud parent.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the college sweatshirt day thing. It feels a bit icky to have a special day sponsored & pushed by the school – although I also see the other side as it being motivating for the underclassmen. And as far as hurting kids feelings because they have to wear Red Rocks CC vs MIT – I’m not overly concerned about that. The kids all know the pecking order – they’ve been going to school together for over a decade in some cases. I thought we were against “everyone gets a trophy”/”don’t keep score in little league” Millennial-style coddling? Doesn’t that just create snowflakes who become unemployable? I kid. Kind of.

  108. Moxie, hmm. When my dad gives his name as Dr x, it’s in the same sense as if he were correcting someone on what his fist name is, not boastful. Being as I grew up in a small town, it wasn’t like he could avoid it anyway. His circumstances were similar to your dad’s except that he was born in 1935, so the Depression was over, and his mom died when he was an infant. But dad with 8th grade education, farming family in the Midwest, most cousins didn’t go to college etc–all the same

  109. “First chair and lead in the play are both zero-sum.”

    “Finn, there are other orchestras/bands, other instruments, other plays with other lead roles. Getting one once does not preclude anyone else from also getting one.”

    I wonder what you would classify as a zero sum game, then.

  110. When I was a practicing accountant, I never mentioned my undergraduate school, only my local accounting school degree. I wasn’t being reverse snobby, but after forty five years, of responses like well, la di da, or , gee you must be (meaning you sure must think you are) smart, or silence and moving on to another conversational group, you learn that athletic accomplishments are deemed to be the result of teamwork and hard work, realized artistic talent is a gift to be celebrated, but academic success as evidenced by an elite degree is something you were handed on a plate, either by money, lineage or natural unearned gifts. Sometimes we all just like to get together and chat freely without having to worry that something we say or do will make others feel excluded.

  111. IIRC I wore my college sweatshirt to school in a “thank god I’m finally getting out of here” spirit. There was definitely NOT an official day for it at my HS!

  112. “Did any totebaggers attend a “lesser” college for primarily financial reasons?”

    Yes? To a degree? E.g., undergrad I chose a lower-ranked school, but all of the options were in the same basic category of “highly-ranked SLACs” — it’s not like I turned down HYPS for BigStateU or CC, if that’s what you’re looking for. Law shool I chose a state school that was actually ranked higher than the Ivy I turned down but wasn’t perceived that way where I went to work, so don’t know if you’d count that. In both cases cost was the driving factor, although fit/feel was a significant part of the undergrad choice as well (MN being juuuuust slightly more laid back than MA).

    “Can you yell “yes!” with a fistpump when you get first chair or the lead in a play?! into a selective class?”

    FWIW, when I was pitching, my coach had to take me aside: whenever I struck someone out, I burst into a grin, and that was perceived as taunting/bad form. The funny thing was I had no idea I was even doing that — it was so unconscious that I was completely unaware and couldn’t figure out how to stop doing it. So I had to train myself to turn around and face the outfield.

    I like the “two standard deviations” approach — I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense. Although I’d also frame it up as sensitivity to your audience, too — e.g., I chose a higher-paying career than several (many) friends/relatives, so I am more circumspect in talking about “things that money provides” with them, because that can lead to hurt feelings. E.g.: DH’s car died within 2 weeks after we bought our current house. Having just signed a giant-ass mortgage and with a big reno in our future, we were not in the mood to drop a ton of money on a car, so he got a Santa Fe for like $22K. His sister, who had recently bought a $40K+ SUV for herself, was *pissed* — they make less than we do, and he got some sort of lecture about how it’s bullshit that we can’t afford a car like theirs and that we think they’re stupid with money or whatever — I honestly don’t even remember the reason, just that she somehow saw our decision to spend less as a critique of her decision to spend more.

    So, yeah, I’d rather just avoid the topics that could be construed as “look how awesome I am.” Because, Lord, I have enough problems reading social cues, and I’d like to keep the friends and relatives I have and keep them happy.

  113. “Moxie, hmm. When my dad gives his name as Dr x, it’s in the same sense as if he were correcting someone on what his fist name is”

    No it’s not.

  114. “you learn that athletic accomplishments are deemed to be the result of teamwork and hard work, realized artistic talent is a gift to be celebrated, but academic success as evidenced by an elite degree is something you were handed on a plate, either by money, lineage or natural unearned gifts.”

    Dead bang on as usual, Meme — DD, this is what I was thinking about the answer your question above. I totally wish we celebrated academic achievement more, but there is this hint/whiff of HYPS as basically indicating that you have rich parents and/or secret connections and “ins” that rich people do. Like you have the secret handshake or something.

    @Moxie: My stepdad never once went by “Doctor” or used his Ph.D in his signature line or anything. My mom routinely signed things “Dr. XXXX” I think the difference was that he was an UMC white guy from an academic family working in an academic world and so was sort of automatically respected by everyone he met. My mom, OTOH, was a single mom in the ’70s who was the first in her family to go to college and who put herself through school while supporting me; she required the credential to be treated as semi-equal.

  115. “His sister, who had recently bought a $40K+ SUV for herself, was *pissed* — they make less than we do, and he got some sort of lecture about how it’s bullshit that we can’t afford a car like theirs and that we think they’re stupid with money or whatever — I honestly don’t even remember the reason, just that she somehow saw our decision to spend less as a critique of her decision to spend more.”

    That’s got to be the strangest manifestation of insecurity that I’ve ever heard of.

  116. “an elite degree is something you were handed on a plate, either by money, lineage or natural unearned gifts.”

    You say that as though it never happens. On the other hand, you can buy your kids spot on an NFL team.

  117. Every farmer I’ve met has been super eager to tell me how much land they have. Just the other day some guy was telling me about all his pivots.

    He told you how many pivots and left it for you to translate to acres. This allowed you to get the answer to your question while not actually being next to you.

    I think it is some form of the 2 standard deviation rule.

    If you are a stranger or casual acquaintance asking the land question, then the person answering will have to overtly point out that they XXX acres. There is a distinct probability that the other person in the conversation will have 10XXX or 1/10XXX, which can generate awkwardness. Awkwardness is bad, potentially dangerous in a situation where you may well need to depend on your neighbors for help. So, avoid the awkwardness by avoiding the question.

    Besides, there are map books and aps that detail land ownership and acreage so that if anyone who really wants to know who owns what can find out fairly easy.

  118. “Sometimes we all just like to get together and chat freely without having to worry that something we say or do will make others feel excluded.”

    One reason we come here.

  119. “Although I’d also frame it up as sensitivity to your audience,”

    A soft skill?

  120. Milo, you must’ve been grouchy at 4:36, or you meant the comment for elsewhere. I said “my dad says x” and you replied “no it’s not”. Bit of a non sequitor there!

    On zero sum games: yes, getting this specific lead in this play is something only one person can do (barring multiple casts). I’m taking a bit longer view. If there are 2-3 plays per year, and you’re in theater for four years of high school, you’ll probably get a chance to shine. And getting into college most certainly isn’t a zero sum game.

    LfB, I can see how that looks like celebrating someone else’s loss. The examples I gave (and the theater & musical examples were added in late because it was to Finn, and probably weren’t such good choices) are all situations where the thing you’re celebrating does not mean defeat for someone else. “I’m going to Disney” doesn’t mean you’ve blocked anyone. Even if someone else isn’t going, that isn’t because of something you have done to stop them. And hell, even if you are the one and only homecoming queen your senior year, being happy you get to ride the float is different from gloating and your victory, even though there can be but one queen, does not come as a direct result of you stopping the others (unless you really did rip up ballots or back into the script formtheir speech). I see nothing wrong with celebrating–as long as it’s just happiness at what you’re going to do. That’s another difference from the pitching example–all the things I listed were things in the future; I was talking about eager anticipation. Back to the main topic, some kids might not want to go to a school they see as being harder, because they don’t want hard classes.

  121. Someone–I can’t recall who–mentioned earlier today that by the end of high school, everyone knows who has “money, lineage or natural unearned gifts”. I think that’s true and pretending like you’re going to work at the Steak n Stein just looks fake and insulting in its own way

  122. Saac – correcting someone for not addressing you by a title is not the same as correcting an improper use of your first name.

  123. In my grad program, after someone had passed their final dissertation defense, everyone would call them “Dr. Dave” or “Dr. Katie” for a couple of days as a way of saying congratulations. But after that, I find it odd when people insist on being addressed as “Dr.” I had one colleague (a librarian, not a professor) who, I kid you not, signed her Christmas cards “Dr. Mary Harlow”. And the comical part (to snotty little me) was that it wasn’t a real PhD. It was some sort of advanced post-MS certificate in librarianship.

  124. DH’s nephew is married to the daughter of a rancher in Oregon. What I learned from him is that you don’t ask how many head of cattle a person has – that is like asking how much money they have. I don’t know that the acreage was as a big a deal – but that may be because he is a rancher not a farmer.

  125. just that she somehow saw our decision to spend less as a critique of her decision to spend more.

    One of the great life lessons I’ve learned is that other people think about me much, much less than I (used to) think they do.

  126. I got a magnet from Duke Tips when DD made the cut. I used to see those in cars and wonder what it was. I don’t have any stickers or magnets on my car so it remains in my drawer (my kids school gives out a magnet too).
    My feeing is that in one so young, this achievement is a gift. I am still waiting on the hard work part. Or maybe there will less of the hard work part because of the gift. I don’t know because I had to put in an effort (although my brother once said that things come easy to me, he just didn’t see the effort).

  127. Dead bang on as usual, Meme — DD, this is what I was thinking about the answer your question above. I totally wish we celebrated academic achievement more, but there is this hint/whiff of HYPS as basically indicating that you have rich parents and/or secret connections and “ins” that rich people do. Like you have the secret handshake or something.

    I guess I’ve never been in an environment with those attitudes. Or I’ve just been oblivious.

  128. Btw,I’m not talking about walking around with a hauty attitude. Just a moment of honest excitement when a kid gets good news. By lunchtime, the buzz that accompanied the shirt-wearing has probably worn off, or at least it should. Also don’t mean shouting every time you ace a test or whatever. Reacting when you find out you’ll be pitching that season, as opposed to rubbing it in every pitch.
    Not doing that, and responding to the acceptance from your dream school as if it were hour mom telling you to put away your laundry, sounds really spoiled to me. I can’t imagine just assuming that whatever I wanted would always come my way, nor would I want my child to act that way.

  129. And getting into college most certainly isn’t a zero sum game.

    Getting into a specific college absolutely is.

  130. “Getting into a specific college absolutely is.”

    Especially among your high school classmates from a particularly competitive school, as admissions insiders freely and regularly admit that they only want X number of students from a given school.

  131. I am surprised that you all don’t think academic achievements are celebrated. I am from a far less Totebaggy background than many of you and we had awards for academics in high school, college and beyond. There were professional awards. There was NHS in high school. A big top 10 banquet for the top of the class in HS. Scholarship banquets and awards. There is no way my less than Totebaggy HS was the only one doing this. Sure, the popular kids cared far more about whether we were #1 in our football league. But the kids who were mathletes and in academic challenge got plenty of recognition. Everyone knew who the smart kids were and even years later it was discussed over and over at my 20 year reunion.

  132. Milo, now I see what you mean. I disagree. The x for his title does not go by Mrs. or by Lord. It goes by Dr. He has been in a couple situations where he was asked to provide emergency assistance–once in a plane. Flight attendants looked over the roster of passengers, came over and asked him to help. Good thing he hadn’t claimed to be Boy Elroy.

  133. “as admissions insiders freely and regularly admit that they only want X number of students from a given school.”

    I have never heard that before. If it is true, then I can’t imagine that my high school pushed that limit. Maybe this is the case for high-powered high schools where lots of kids meet the criteria. But even then, nothing we hear from admissions indicates they check a bunch of different criteria for each kid. If they don’t have time to notice the trend in grades on the report card in front of them, how would they be able to look up your high school among other applicants?

    It also sounds like this is a difference between heirarchal worldview and believing that the best thing for one person wouldn’t be the best for someone else. A future lawyer probably doesn’t want MIT any more than a kid headed for engineering wants Oberlin. The difference is not that one is better than the other.

  134. A big top 10 banquet for the top of the class in HS. Scholarship banquets and awards.

    That wasn’t true at my school. Yes, we had awards, but they weren’t a big deal. Pep rallies were mandatory; awards ceremonies weren’t. I think we just sat around on the lawn and got called up, got our hand shaken, then sat back down and then that was it. I only went to my 10-year reunion, but no one was talking about who the smart people were.

  135. “admissions insiders freely and regularly admit that they only want X number of students from a given school.”

    That is definitely the case here, though they would never come right out and say it. It’s not an issue for the non-Totebaggy schools, but for the many “feeder” schools, there is definitely a sense that those kids are competing against each other, not against the rest of the applicants. And the staff at those high schools know this perfectly well. Both sides have reams of data on applicants and decisions from past years. If the university accepts every kid from New Trier HS who presents a competitive application, there isn’t enough room for the strivers from no-name schools in North Dakota or PG County. There are exceptions for magnet schools like TJ, but even then, it’s pretty clear that some of those kids are being passed over for their friends who stayed behind at their base school.

  136. I am not sure if the awards objectively were a big deal. Probably to my parents. And the sports awards were definitely NBD to them or me.

  137. RMS – ditto. Pep rallies were definitely mandatory, and people made fun of the kids who were top 10 in the class.

    Saac – are you being intentionally obtuse? Of *course* getting into college from Newton North or Hunter is a zero sum game! I also agree with Milo on the first name vs Dr. It is not the same thing at all.

  138. Oh, kids in the top 10 were definitely teased. But so were the band members and the auto body guys and the total burn outs. That’s because teenagers are jerks. But you guys really don’t feel like you have been told that you are smart and that is a great and valuable thing your entire life? I feel like that has been constantly repeated and I am no rocket scientist.

  139. Kate – my parents said that. Occasionally a teacher might make a comment individually, but more often collectively.

    But truth be told, I’ve never felt particularly smart since leaving high school. Once I started college, I was perfectly mediocre, and I’ve honestly been that way ever since. I work with people who are so obviously a standard deviation above me.

    I only feel smart when I read Nextdoor.com.

  140. Random replies:

    I’m talking about the attitude that people have here that they have to downplay getting accepted to a HSS because it comes off as bragging and pompous, along with rubbing it in to the kids who got rejected. It’s the academic equivalent of winning a championship in sports, and nobody ever says you can’t celebrate it because it’s rubbing it in the faces of the losers (excuse me, non-winners).

    College admissions are a zero-sum game regardless of high school. Harvard can only admit X number of students this year. When one gets in, that’s one less spot the other applicants are competing for.

    I think Milo’s point on the Dr title is that it comes off as really pompous when you address someone as Mr. Jones and they immediately respond “its DOCTOR Jones.” (And then you ask them where the Ark of the Covenant is.)

  141. Hijack – what companies do people use for homeowner’s insurance? We just got our renewal notice and Progressive raised our premium 40% because we now have an auto loan. Yes, that’s the reason they gave me.

  142. I get asked on a regular basis how many sheep I have and how many acres we own. I have never been offended by that question. Perhaps it is because the farm is not our main source of income. In case you are wondering….so far this year sixteen ewes have produced 28 lambs, and I am still waiting on a few more ewes to give birth.
    For several years I would see a car around town that had a bumper sticker that said “my border collie is smarter than your honor student.” I thought that the bumper sticker was hilarious.

  143. We use Travelers for home and umbrella. I like them, and I found them great to work with when the tree smashed through our house during Sandy. I really don’t know if the rate that we are paying now is competitive because we haven’t shopped around in over 15 years.

  144. This farm, ranch, acres, land discussion is fascinating to me because I have no idea how much land is worth when I am outside of the major metro areas. I know an apartment might be worth millions more on certain blocks in NY, but I have no concept of how much land would be worth when we travel and see large farms or ranches.

  145. L, that depends on what kinds of schools those are. This is nothing I have ever heard of. Thanks for the slap of calling me obtuse. That was sarcasm, just so you’re clear. In reality, I think your post is unnecessarily bitchy.

  146. DD, I think that means that you agree that it’s ok to be happy about admission or winning a championship. Is that right?
    The way you wrote DOCTOR reads to me like it is said in a pompous ass tone of voice. I’ve already said, twice, that that is not the demeanor used. But you all think I’m lying anyway, so no point, unless you want to take the TARDIS back to the 70s

  147. you can’t celebrate it because it’s rubbing it in the faces of the losers

    You’re not winning a championship against your classmates. If you made the team and then rubbed that fact in the face of someone who didn’t, everyone would (rightly) think you’re an asshole.

  148. DD,

    California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are the only states that prohibit insurers from using credit scores to set prices.

    You should take your insurance problem up with your state rep. I’ll be interested to hear if any insurers in CO offer compeative rates without looking at your FICO.

  149. DD – USAA. But I should rate shop at some point. I feel like I’m paying a lot lately.

    Sheep Farmer – I was watching Travel Channel the other day, “Bizarre Foods,” and they were at a BBQ joint in KY that was famous for mutton BBQ. I thought of you. They said it was a big thing in 19th-century Kentucky because wool was a big industry, but eventually sheep get too old…

  150. S&M, yes I think it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate any achievement, whether that’s winning a sports championship, getting into a HSS, getting a new job or promotion, etc.

    I’m trying to find a tone or demeanor in a social situation where correcting someone for calling you Mr. instead of Dr. won’t sound pompous, and I can’t come up with one. I don’t think you’re lying, I just can’t figure out how your dad accomplished this. Of course it could be that hearing him do it was normal to you so you perceived it differently than the people he was correcting. I really don’t know.

  151. According to a new study, recent graduates of SUNY Maritime earn more than graduates of any other university in the United States. When Payscale.com surveyed the annual incomes of 1.4 million midcareer graduates with bachelor’s degrees, Maritime College ranked first, with an average income of $144,000, surpassing M.I.T., Harvey Mudd College and Princeton University.

    This article, Fred’s recent post about his son – it just reinforces my opinion that smart, hard working kids will be successful whether they attend community colleges, state universities, city universities, or HSS. A very good education can be found in 100s of colleges across the US. I hope that they are proud of their accomplishments on spirit day.

  152. I have never corrected anyone to require that they call me Dr. I do put it on certain forms, when I think it serves my purposes. I might correct someone in the appropriate circumstance, perhaps if the principle of my children’s elementary school expected me to call him/her doctor in a face-to-face meeting.

    I want my kids to go to school where Kate went to school. I certainly never thought of being smart with something to be celebrated, I don’t remember the smart kid awards. My parents never told me how impressed they were with my awesome brain and that I would need to use it for good and not evil. I didn’t get a letterman jacket. I didn’t get a pep rally. I’m not particularly better about this, but I am hesitant to condemn any school supported activity which celebrates kids for achieving college admssion success.

    In the end, I got to go to target today and buy anything that I wanted without worrying about how much it cost. That’s definitely not something everyone in my high school class could do. So, I feel like I won. Even though the checker did not address me as “doctor”.

  153. Rhett, the issue isn’t my FICO, that’s great. It’s that my “outstanding finance company installment debt is $23,000 or greater.” I’m also hurt because “most recent credit application was 2 months ago. optimum value is 25 months or more, score will improve as months since last application increases.”

    Apparently having outstanding debt (in this case an auto loan) that you applied for recently makes you a higher risk of filing a claim, according to the people who figure this stuff.

  154. Milo, we have absolutely no military connections at all. I don’t think we can use USAA.

  155. “That was sarcasm, just so you’re clear. ”

    It didn’t come across that way to me.

  156. “Apparently having outstanding debt (in this case an auto loan) that you applied for recently makes you a higher risk of filing a claim, according to the people who figure this stuff.”

    Another reason to pay cash.

    LAGirl, you reading this?

  157. You’re not winning a championship against your classmates. If you made the team and then rubbed that fact in the face of someone who didn’t, everyone would (rightly) think you’re an asshole.

    I’m not seeing how wearing a sweatshirt of the college you are going to attend is rubbing it in. But it appears I am in the minority on this.

    When I in HS, they posted all the acceptances outside of the guidance office. Do people think that is acceptable or is it rubbing it in the face of the kids who were rejected from those schools?

  158. “I want my kids to go to school where Kate went to school. I certainly never thought of being smart with something to be celebrated, I don’t remember the smart kid awards.”

    Yeah, my kids’ school has academic awards, but they’re not a huge deal. They have an awards ceremony to announce the awards, but only the award winners and their families are invited.

    The awards do get posted somewhere on campus, and published in the quarterly school magazine.

    My HS didn’t have any academic awards or recognition. But NMSF did get their pictures in the school paper.

  159. Rhett, the issue isn’t my FICO, that’s great. It’s that my “outstanding finance company installment debt is $23,000 or greater.”

    I mean the real FICO not the one you can get online.

  160. Maritime College ranked first, with an average income of $144,000, surpassing M.I.T., Harvey Mudd College and Princeton University

    How can the MIT, Princeton etc. incomes be so low? I can never wrap my head around it. Are there really enough policy wonks, English teachers and Assistant United States Attorneys to drive the numbers so low?

  161. …and we had awards for academics in high school, college and beyond…

    I think many/most schools have these. My original point about the road signs is they all seem to be for sports and not academics.

    i.e. it’s cool/important to publicly celebrate sports but academic achievement is only done intramurally.

  162. “I’ve never felt particularly smart since leaving high school.”

    Then you need to get out more. Work retail or (IMO a much more interesting industry) in the trash business. I was definitely smarter than tons of people in those places, and smart enough to keep my mouth shut about my academic credentials.

  163. DD – we have Amica for car/home/umbrella. I also have a life policy with them but life is separate from Property/Casualty. We’ve been very happy.

  164. Rhett, I disagree with the “so low” — they are all in the range of 130k. DH is from one of those schools and many of his classmates found very good jobs right after graduation and have gotten a solid 5% increase every year. Except for the ones who are in Academia and they had to work 8 more years before they got their 70k job and are now getting solid 4% increases every year.

    It is sufficiently rare to make >200k (and these schools need a lot of 200k earners to balance out the ones teaching public school, doing social work, or *gasp* staying home with babies) that raw academic ability is not enough to put you into that range. Getting into the most selective school in the country/region does not require the same skill set as getting into the most high paying job.

    140k (according to some online random calculator) puts you in the 97%ile for income. I think we fail to recognize how rare that is here.

  165. A colleague’s kid went to SUNY Maritime. Graduated in 2012 I think. Makes ~$500/day when he works. He doesn’t want to do full time, so he takes a 2-3 month assignment, comes home for a spell then takes another assignment. He’d make more if he took longer gigs.

    Rhett- remember, as much as HYPS give need based aid to kids from relatively high earning families, plenty of their graduates can afford to pursue their dreams in low paying positions because of family money. Unlike Maritime grads who, if they pass their licensing exams, are qualified to do something for which companies pay a lot (but you have to get your hands dirty).

  166. My DS school has a big pep rally on a college campus for all high schoolers in the charter chain in Houston where the seniors come out on stage one at a time and announce where they are going to school. This actually makes me cringe if he decides to go to CC next year. My niece goes to an elite private school and they encourage parents not to ask the juniors/seniors about college plans because the pressure is too intense. It’s a very different environment.

    I’m someone who got into much better schools than I attended. I was a NMSF in mid-America in the early 80’s, so geographic diversity gave me a significant advantage. I was making my decision during the recession of 1983, my dad’s employer announced they were laying off 75% of the workforce, my brother was a. Illegal freshman and my sister a freshman in private high school. My dad said there was no way he could commit to that much tuition. I went to a school where my scholarship covered more than tuition, and it was fine. The fact that I didn’t get more out of it was a function of me being pretty shy and still at a point where I didn’t like people to know I was smart, not entirely because of the school choice. In hindsight, I was not ready to go across country on my own at that point. I do not tell people I got in somewhere “better”, and generally roll my eyes at people who go out of their way to name drop their school if they are over 25.

    My friends that ranch don’t talk about the size of their property, but those who bought property to hunt do. Maybe it’s because they don’t make a living with the land?

  167. Im on my phone – that correction was funny. My brother was a college freshman. All perfectly legal.

  168. This week has been match day – I’ve seen lots of local stories about it. Graduating medical students are given an envelope with their fate in it – the name of the program (both location and specialty) they have matched in. Usually these are opened publicly. Classes are small enough that you know Jim always wanted to do Internal Medicine back home at UCLA, so you get to share his shame and embarrassment at a Family Practice residency in Bakersfield. I didn’t match through the official channels (one of 3 in my class of 150). I took my envelope, held it to my forehead and stated its contents – everybody already knew how my story turned out, as I had sorted it out the day before.

    http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/2017/03/17/ui-medical-students-learn-their-fates-match-day/99305562/

  169. “On Friday, he found out where these goals will take shape — the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., where he will take his next step toward becoming a neurosurgeon.”

    This is one of our two health systems and expanding rapidly. They just opened a cancer institute and I think they got accredited (if that’s the right word) to become a teaching hospital. I know families who had to take their kids to Duke because there wasn’t that type of research/teaching hospital here.
    Happy to see the expansion of medical facilities here.

  170. Lauren, thanks for posting that Maritime article. Who knew? And not surprising that the graduates do so well on the pay chart. It’s a relatively small school, with no fluff majors and 86% male so far fewer of those graduates will be scaling back their work mid-career for family reasons. But not many kids with rich parents to bankroll their dream of running a coffee shop or becoming a video game designer. And the sorting mechanism even to consider a school with uniforms (but no instant name recognition) means that those students are not the typical 18 year old.

  171. I forgot to post that an episode of The Americans was filmed earlier this month in my parent’s neighborhood. They were filmed in/near a park that hasn’t changed much since it opened in the 70s. Some locals were extras, and they were told that they were filming scenes in Russia.

  172. “Lauren, thanks for posting that Maritime article. Who knew? ”

    Well, I knew, at least. I went through nuclear power training with a couple of them. Our MIT grad struggled with the material and the exams more than they did.

    Fred – logically, I recognize the percentiles, and that with different peers, I would feel differently. But my point is the same. I’ve never had a reason to feel academically distinguished or particularly smart since the night of my high school graduation.

  173. I thought more people, at least locally, were familiar with SUNY Maritime. And Scarlett nails some reasons for the high pay compared to other schools mentioned..

    “And not surprising that the graduates do so well on the pay chart. It’s a relatively small school, with no fluff majors and 86% male so far fewer of those graduates will be scaling back their work mid-career for family reasons. ”

    Also, Payscale numbers are self reported.

    “I’ve never had a reason to feel academically distinguished or particularly smart since the night of my high school graduation.”

    Stop hanging around with totebaggers. :D

  174. I really should shop around for a better insurance package. My dad was in the service so I think I qualify for USAA.

  175. I browse a Dave Ramsey board on Facebook. There was a post that reminded me about Rhett’s comments about average level of intelligence. A person asked the following question, “If I’m making $10/hour, how many hours a month would I have to work to clear $1,000 after taxes?”

    I don’t think of myself as very smart any more, although I was told all the time how smart I was as a kid. I know I’m not nearly as smart as most of you on here, but I feel pretty dang smart after reading that question.

  176. Yes, after taxes takes another step of basic algebra. The person was completely clueless about how to figure it out.

    Reading the DR thread, so many people are struggling because of medical bills. I get a much better view of the world outside my bubble reading it.

  177. I priced Amica and it’s actually more than our new progressive premium. Geico is almost as low as the old premium. Nationwide is in the middle. I don’t know if these include all the possible discounts. I need to price auto insurance as well.

  178. That takes some cipherin’.

    Oh, yeah, some real cipherin’.

    How hard is it to divide one’s NET PAY by the # OF HOURS WORKED to get NET/HOUR and then divide that into $1000?

    Maybe this is just another example of DS1 being smart and not too inclined toward book learnin’ but when he got his first full (2-week, 80 hour) paycheck from his new job he said he’s now making $x/hour net, which is y% more than what he was making at his old place. And that I live in a bubble.

  179. DD – when you bundle home + car you should get a lower cost on both.

    I just got something from my employer re a program they have with Metropolitan so I may call them just to see (1) if they’ll cover me at all given our driver profile and (2) at what cost.

  180. Fred, we have that with Met through my employer. They were much cheaper than our current policy with Travelers, but a little more than the Safeco quote. I’m giving up accident forgiveness but it’s $2300 cheaper than the new, higher quote from our existing insurer.

  181. I had Metropolitan for years through work. I was NOT satisfied with it at all. (DH has whole life through them – not the same animal.) My daughter had Progressive in LA and now in MA and was satisfied. We have condo (covers the interior and contents only – Condo assoc has its own insurance for the structure and exterior) and umbrella, DH and I each have separate auto policies, all with Liberty Mutual. I am very satisfied. My auto premium went up $25 dollars a month for going from a 2K blue book beater to the new one (list over 30K). 1K deductible. No loan. Can’t complain.

    Regulation of insurance is one of those powers that has in general “been reserved to the states”, so your experience is local. People swear by Amica, which is based in Rhode Island but claims to offer insurance nationwide. I don’t know how it well it works out of the region.

  182. “’I’ve never had a reason to feel academically distinguished or particularly smart since the night of my high school graduation.’

    Stop hanging around with totebaggers. :D”

    I’m with Milo on this. How do you ever know you’re smart? Your brain is the only one you get to experience. If something seems obvious, well, it must be obvious to everyone else; if you can pick things up with a reasonable about of effort, well, everyone else must be wired that way too. It is only when you are confronted with repeated objective evidence that other people can’t see/do those things that you start to figure out you’re smart.

    Although for me, it was more like a “U”-shape curve. HS/college/law school provided a fairly constant stream of reinforcement by way of grades, professor comments, etc., so by 25, I was pretty solid. Then you get out in the real world, and you are the low guy on the totem pole surrounded by people who have been doing this for 20 years, and, holy cow, you must be really stupid; meanwhile, the affirmations (reviews, salaries, etc.) are more private, so you have almost no context for how you’re doing (other than “well, they haven’t fired me yet, so I must not be a complete idiot”). I think I was about 38 before the idea of being “smart” took more permanent root.

    I guess you could argue that if I were working at a job that surrounded me by actively stupid people I’d have figured it out more quickly, but all I can say is that has not been my experience. “Smart” is one of few things that you can assess only through external validation. I have been in jobs where I was a horrible fit, where I routinely argued with people about how we should make this argument or follow this approach, and been berated for being wrong and clueless, etc. The irony is that in the particular example I am thinking of, I was completely correct — years later, the state S.Ct. agreed with me on the issue I was trying to raise. But when people who have been doing property tax assessment appeals for two decades literally toss out your brief and write a new one from scratch because you missed the boat entirely, well, I think you’d have to have a really strong sense of self not to doubt your ability.

    OTOH, I can calculate correct change in my head, so there’s that.

  183. @DD — I think I mentioned on the other thread that I have the State Farm bundle, which has almost always been cheaper than pricing policies indiviudually. FWIW, however, CO was the one state where that was not true, and we ended up with I think Farmer’s for the house. So worth calling around and pricing both individual and bundled options.

  184. “Also, Payscale numbers are self reported.”

    Ah, I missed that. Good point. That’s most of it right there. Survey methodology is everything. It’s amazing how much the mainstream media just passes along the results of these “studies” without the slightest attempt at analysis.

  185. “I guess you could argue that if I were working at a job that surrounded me by actively stupid people I’d have figured it out more quickly, but all I can say is that has not been my experience.”

    That raises a question — in how many professions could a totebagger be surrounded by actively stupid people? My experience at the law firm mirrored the one LfB describes — I was surrounded by wickedly smart people and always felt like the dumbest person in the room. (It was always a little amazing that they trusted the results of my research.) Our clients were often attorneys themselves, either the corporate general counsel or the executive director of a nonprofit.

    Maybe it happens for academics who have PhDs from top schools but find themselves teaching at directional universities? Even then, their students aren’t actually actively stupid, but simply not as brilliant as their own classmates had been.

  186. “I think it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate any achievement, whether that’s winning a sports championship, getting into a HSS, getting a new job or promotion, etc.”

    I do too.

    FWIW, my PhD father will correct people if they call him Mr Ivy vs. Dr Ivy. And yes, it sounds kind of pompous, but he’s an academic! He sounds pompous a lot! It really doesn’t happen all that often though. When does anyone call you by your full name + title these days? At the Four Seasons? They probably don’t even do it anymore since they’ve gone downhill under new ownership…right Rhett? ;)

    My dad is the first in his family to graduate HS much less get a PhD. Worked FT overnights to pay for his own bachelor’s degree at the local commuter U. And Midwestern to boot. I wouldn’t say that he is much of a braggart by nature, but he is proud of that title. And I am not going to say he shouldn’t be even if it comes off poorly on occasion.

    The kinds of questions that our payroll department gets really blow my mind sometimes. Although figuring out your tax rate can be kind of tricky depending on the circumstances.

  187. In small organizations you wind up working with other smart people, but also with the accounting clerks who can’t learn Excel and the receptionist who is both dumb and passive-aggressive, and so on.

  188. “Maybe it happens for academics who have PhDs from top schools but find themselves teaching at directional universities? Even then, their students aren’t actually actively stupid, but simply not as brilliant as their own classmates had been.”

    I guess it depends what you mean by “actively stupid”. If “actively stupid” means less than 95th percentile SAT score and “scraping by financially” means less than 95th percentile income/wealth, then I suppose this example and lots of other regular professional jobs would qualify. Or maybe a 2nd tier law firm. (the horror!)

  189. That raises a question — in how many professions could a totebagger be surrounded by actively stupid people?

    Healthcare. You are in an environment with people at all different levels, similar to what RMS said. I work with everyone from low-level caregivers and CNAs to MDs.

  190. Maybe it happens for academics who have PhDs from top schools but find themselves teaching at directional universities? Even then, their students aren’t actually actively stupid, but simply not as brilliant as their own classmates had been.

    This happened to my friend. He was at Carneige Mellon for grad school and I think also got his PhD there. Then he had to get a job and got one teaching at a Directional U, somewhere in the Southwest. He hated it because he said the students weren’t at the CMU level. From there he decamped to Los Alamos and then on to Goldman. Eventually to a hedge fund where he found his niche.

  191. Saac, I have a bitchy mode, and that was not it. :)

    Even in law firms, there are people who are not as smart – some of my colleagues are VERY smart, and some are just so-so on smarts, but really tenacious fighters. The staff are made up of people who are all A+ on the soft-skill scale – some of them are book-smart as well, but the soft skills got them their jobs.

  192. DD beat me to it. Healthcare. I gave up a few arguments S this week: you can’t read the following number as “two thousand and seventy nine” – 200079, also an about 3 foot child is neither 50cm nor 150cm tall (no matter what secret formula you were taught) and no need to apologize while you Google this.

  193. Most people I work with are decently smart. The level of soft skills varies. Many years ago there was one super smart guy I interacted with. He go drill down into the details or be at a very high level. He really disconcerted people because, in his presence you could feel data being processed and calculations happening in his brain.

  194. So Met Life (1) would actually cover us and (2) quoted me ~10% higher on auto and ~50% higher on home than my current policies with Amica.

  195. “you can’t read the following number as “two thousand and seventy nine” – 200079, also an about 3 foot child is neither 50cm nor 150cm tall”

    I thought I’ve worked with some average people, or maybe people with below-average reasoning or math skills, but I’m realizing that I probably never have. I suppose I’ve worked with technicians who appear average and blue collar and working class in background, appearance, grooming, demeanor, language, and overall carriage and deportment, but this example makes it apparent that they were still skilled technicians in some form or other.

  196. 140k (according to some online random calculator) puts you in the 97%ile for income

    Exactly! If you went to MIT or Princeton you’re in the 99.9th percentile of (at least) academic ability. The Dark Edge talks about a med school prof making $310k plus a few 100k consulting, that would seem more the median I would have thought.

  197. ” If you went to MIT or Princeton you’re in the 99.9th percentile of (at least) academic ability.”

    That’s not necessarily true. You passed a threshold of 99.9th percentile of selectivity. That’s not the same thing at all, because many people who are smarter than you didn’t compete for whatever reason. You didn’t compete with WCE for admission, or some of the kids in the SUNY Maritime article. You didn’t compete with the kids from Norman, OK who would rather be Pistol Pete at football games.

  198. ok, one exception. and for someone else who was on the waitlist, her decision to not go is the only reason he/she got in.

  199. Milo,

    Also we’re talking academic ability not intelligence. Many people are smart enough, they just can’t be bothered by Spanish, history or gym.

  200. Everyone here really should watch Blue Collar Millionaire (although I’m disappointed lately that my DVR doesn’t seem to be grabbing any new episodes; maybe the show had a limited run and that’s it, or they’re waiting for a new season.)

    What surprised me was how many of the profiled people open up in the interviews that they were “definitely not one of the smart kids in school.” One guy even said he was “voted least likely to succeed” which sounded odd to me but could be something that the kids did among themselves alongside the official senior superlatives. But it becomes evident that there’s still a little bit of pain or hurt there. Whereas Totebag parents who are so eager for their kids to not even associate with those types for fear that a little bit may rub off tend to push the idea that they simply don’t care about school or they’re “not academically oriented.”

  201. Milo – I am frequently astounded at the resilience of your self image as a regular middle class (5M nest egg retirement at 53 and NOT counting the expected large inheritances) middle intelligence (attendance at one of the most prestigious, elite and hard to get into institutions of higher learning in the country) guy. Bless your heart ;)

  202. Comments re: not feeling smart since graduating high school likely reflect not only your choice of adult cohort, but your level of humility and appreciation for others talents. I often feel the same way in the workplace and consider it a blessing. The opposite is not appealing to me at all.

  203. My job involves dealing with a wide variety of people and I can easily believe Ada’s example of someone not getting that 200079 is not two thousand and seventy-nine. Some people just. can. not. understand. things you would think were simple. Just. can. not. You just have to do your best to deal with them as they are, because they’re not changing.

  204. But meme, you understand what I’m saying. When you spend every day in environments populated by such people, if you’re no longer in the top 5 or 10%, there are simply no more accolades. You just exist. You wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed. (Some nights you get lucky).

    Nobody ever says “you can do multi-variable calculus. How impressive!”

    It’s not a complaint, just a comment about life and different environments.

  205. And then you have kids, who question you constantly and make you question your own sanity, and your confidence in your intellect drops even further. =)

  206. @Kerri: :-)

    Just wait — it does get better. This AM, DD totally snapped at me — it was “spirit wear and team picture” deadline, she had blown it off last night, she remembers right as we are leaving, so we drop everything to do the paperwork and write the check. And then I go to give her a hug and get “don’t touch me” as she storms out the door. So, yeah, normal morning.

    And then an hour later I get a text that says “I’m sorry for being rude earlier.” She apologized! And no one even made her! It was a self-correction! [insert happy little mom dance here]

    And once in a while she will even admit that I am right about something or other, as long as it is sufficiently clear that we are joking and she has plausible deniability. It’s all almost enough to make me think that maybe I even know what I’m doing a little bit.

  207. “gotten into four military academies”. I didn’t even know that was feasible. They got four separate appointments. You would think those admission groups would talk to each other given how extensive the application process is for the service academies. Do you do one physical that applies to all? Do you have to get 4 separate congressional nominations?

  208. “Do you do one physical that applies to all?”

    Probably?

    “Do you have to get 4 separate congressional nominations?”

    I would think so. But congressional staffs probably have a standard application for all of them, so I guess you’d just be asking for a nomination to three. CGA dispensed with the whole nomination nonsense and accepts direct applications.

  209. “I’ve never had a reason to feel academically distinguished or particularly smart since the night of my high school graduation.”

    This suggests your life choices have not been consistent with your past advocacy for choosing big fish in small pond situations.

  210. “Exactly! If you went to MIT or Princeton you’re in the 99.9th percentile of (at least) academic ability.”

    Not if you got in for a non-academic hook, which I believe is fairly common at Princeton and the other Ivies.

    I’m not so sure if that’s common at MIT, whose academic reputation suggests that anyone below that level would struggle (which is not to say that those above that level don’t struggle).

    Probably the closest academic competitor to MIT is Caltech, who does not use URM as a hook. I speculate that is, at least in part, because of their intense academics and lack of soft majors.

  211. “This suggests your life choices have not been consistent with your past advocacy for choosing big fish in small pond situations.”

    That’s true. Which is all the more reason why I can appreciate the distinctive advantage of the small pond.

  212. “That raises a question — in how many professions could a totebagger be surrounded by actively stupid people?”

    I’m thinking that happens to some lawyers, e.g., public defenders.

  213. How can the MIT, Princeton etc. incomes be so low? I can never wrap my head around it. Are there really enough policy wonks, English teachers and Assistant United States Attorneys to drive the numbers so low?

    I think part of this is that your perspective is skewed by geography – average incomes are lower outside of the northeast.

    I also think this shows that getting into a HSS isn’t the golden ticket that many totebaggers make it out to be.

  214. Heisenberg was speeding down the highway. A cop pulls him over and says, “Do you have any idea how fast you were going back there?” Heisenberg says, “No, but I knew where I was.”

    I like this version better:

    An electron is driving down a motorway, and a policeman pulls him over. The policeman says: “Do you realize you were travelling at 90 miles an hour?” The electron goes: “Oh great, now I’m lost.”

  215. A number of the teachers at my kids’ school are HSS alumni, and I’m pretty sure they bring down the average.

    But faculty and staff get free tuition for 1 kid, which is worth somewhere around $35k pre-tax, depending on bracket.

  216. I’ve found quickly assessing the aptitude of my audience to be critical. A trick my German literature/statistician friend taught me is to ask everyone to add two fractions with unlike numerators and denominators and to walk around the room and look at everyone’s answers.

    I remember teaching an “Introduction to Photolithography” class to people who ranged from high school graduates without chemistry to PhD chemists. I decided to include one slide on the chemistry (Wolff rearrangement) and introduced it with, “This slide includes the chemical reaction for how photolithography works. If you had chemistry in high school, I think you’ll enjoy learning about the “why” at the core of our process. If you never took chemistry in high school, this would be a great time for a water break.”

  217. I’ve found quickly assessing the aptitude of my audience to be critical. A trick my German literature/statistician friend taught me is to ask everyone to add two fractions with unlike numerators and denominators and to walk around the room and look at everyone’s answers.

    I’m trying to imagine the circumstances in which this would be socially acceptable. So far I’ve got: 4th grade math class.

  218. RMS, I was trying to picture doing it at the beginning of a presentation or training. Never mind a training for a general audience, say a training for fellow lawyers. It would not go over well. In fact, it’s really worse the more specialized / presumably smart your audience is because they’re just going to be more annoyed and embarrassed at you making clear that they don’t remember how to do something they know is elementary school math.

    Most people, even smart people, just are not interested enough in math to keep doing this sort of thing after the last time they were tested on it some decades ago. Most people do not get curious about something and spend half an hour doing algebraic scrawls on the back of something to prove their hunch.

  219. RMS, that was my thought exactly. I was trying to picture meeting with a patient and their family and asking them to do that.

  220. Part of her job is to teach process control/statistics classes and everyone knows she has a mix of ability and education level in each class. Even if you have forgotten how to add fractions with unlike denominators, what steps do you write down to figure it out? Do the steps you write down suggest you were educated in the U.S. or in another country? Do you pull out a calculator on your phone and give the answer as a decimal?

    It sounds like some of you have a less diverse mix of people in your corporate classes.

  221. WCE, I present material to people with widely varying levels of knowledge and basic ability. I get a sense of where they are from watching them as I talk, and from the questions they ask.

    Perhaps what your friend is teaching is actually math-related? You mentioned statistics. If that’s the case, then her pop quiz may be relevant as a way to measure baseline knowledge. But for Denver trying to pass on medical information to patients’ families, or for me trying to explain how a particular law works to laypeople and lawyers both, a random math quiz would be irrelevant and inappropriate. Just as you wouldn’t start a presentation by asking the attendees to list as many state capitals as they remember or write a one-paragraph summary of early European colonization of North America — also topics that are covered in fifth grade, and also requests that would give you some insight into their general aptitude to learn material.

  222. My own little trick when helping people at the library is to sit them down with a pencil and a blue book and have them address this essay question: “William James wrote that ‘The comparison between Jane Austen and Shakespeare, suggested by both Macaulay and Mr. Goldwin Smith, is ingenious, and, within the limits drawn by these great critics, just; but Thackeray affords us a closer comparison. The spirit of Jane Austen is entirely the spirit of Thackeray.’ Do you agree? Why or why not? Please use examples from at least three of Austen’s novels and three of Thackerey’s, and do not fill more than this one blue book.” I mean, if they can’t do that much, what’s the point of helping them?

  223. William James Dawson. Sheesh. Dawson. Yeah, not that William James.

  224. WCE, the point is that most of us aren’t in situations where we need to know our audience’s math skills in order to appropriately tailor the information we are conveying. I can see if you are teaching a class on statistics that it would be germane, but for the rest of us it would a totally ridiculous exercise to ask of people.

  225. I understand what all of you are saying. Because she is teaching statistics, the question is relevant/appropriate. I thought other people might have other “tricks” they use in other situations to help them teach people with a range of aptitude. Perhaps Saac asks people what state or national capital they find most interesting and why, for example.

  226. The funny part to me about this conversation is that she and colleagues spent over a year interviewing statisticians without finding anyone who is as good at relating to a range of people as my friend is. She’s getting ready to retire, I think.

  227. Exactly! If you went to MIT or Princeton you’re in the 99.9th percentile of (at least) academic ability.

    Not true at all. A good portion of Princeton grads are NOT NMSF, which means they are below the 99%ile. (Or is it 99.5?) Anyway, there are a lot of solid 95%ile kids at the ivies. (And lots of 99.9%ile who are turned away).

  228. “Not true at all. A good portion of Princeton grads are NOT NMSF, which means they are below the 99%ile. (Or is it 99.5?) Anyway, there are a lot of solid 95%ile kids at the ivies. (And lots of 99.9%ile who are turned away).”

    You mean, the actively stupid?

    @RMS – LOL. You’re the best.

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