It's college admissions week!
April 5, 2017 8:30 AM   Subscribe

As teenagers check their email even more obsessively than usual for college acceptance letters, it's been a pretty good week for some particularly high-achieving ones. Ifeoma White-Thorpe was accepted at all eight Ivies (plus Stanford). The Wade quadruplets Nick, Aaron, Nigel, and Zach each got in to Harvard and Yale (and a bunch of other places among them). Ziad Ahmed wrote "#blacklivesmatter" 100 times on his Stanford application and got accepted. (via the Root)
posted by Etrigan (65 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ziad Ahmed wrote "#blacklivesmatter" 100 times on his Stanford application and got accepted.

Oh great, we're going to be hearing about that headline forever.

(There is more tobit if you click through, but let's face it the people we'll be hearing about it from won't.)
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2017 [10 favorites]


Just the Ivies and Stanford, eh? Couldn't get into Oxford and Cambridge?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:44 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


The head of my kids' high school college counseling department tells parents of juniors that the kids who get in to all the Ivies clearly (in her mind) don't really know what they're looking for in a university, because they're all different schools with different approaches and ambiance and all the stuff that makes a university a community.

Then again, I might just be bitter because my 12-years on the honor roll, first chair in his section for two years in the city's elite youth orchestra, 35-score-on-the-ACT-first-time-taking-it son didn't get into his top 5 choices when he was applying to colleges.
posted by cooker girl at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


Hey cool, just in time for the "I didn't go to a good college and am therefore not actually smart or well-educated" freakout I, a 38-year-old man, still experience bi-monthly.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:03 AM on April 5, 2017 [22 favorites]


As teenagers check their email even more obsessively than usual...

My experience leads me to doubt that teenagers check their email much at all.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2017 [26 favorites]


I remember going to an informational thing for one of the Ivy League schools, as a high school senior. It was disgusting; most of the kids were only interested in finding out if their SAT scores were higher than yours. Except one, who had already taken early admission to a different school, and came to brag about that.
posted by thelonius at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Kirth beat me to it. It's the parents that are checking the email. And not more obsessively than usual, because there is no way to be more obsessive when you are already staring at your phone 24/7. Teenagers won't look at/acknowledge/respond to email unless it's a retailer coupon for $25 off the Addidas they have been envying.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hey cool, just in time for the "I didn't go to a good college and am therefore not actually smart or well-educated" freakout I, a 38-year-old man, still experience bi-monthly.
Don't worry: that just means that you don't have to deal with the "wow, I don't have very much to show for my fancy education" freakout that many of your peers are currently experiencing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2017 [57 favorites]


It used to be you'd watch the mail and hope for a thick envelope rather than a thin one. Now people watch their inbox and hope the email has an attachment?
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Darrin Wade, who works for General Electric, and his wife, a school principal, have saved some money for their sons’ educations. But the father said it’s not enough to fully fund four sets of tuition for four years at full price at elite private universities. The mother and father are mindful of their own need for retirement funds, too.

I'm probably a crusty old woman for saying this, but I take issue with this approach. I graduated from Cornell myself, received the maximum financial aid possible for my situation (2/3 of total), and still had to borrow a considerable amount of money for my education. Quite honestly, I think any college student, and especially an Ivy student should have to work for (i.e. put some of their own money into) their education. It's kinda like the idea that what you don't have to pay for, you don't appreciate as much. But I came from a low-income family and I still don't earn very much. So there's that.
posted by strelitzia at 9:29 AM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


I got into 2 Ivy League schools, but, mostly because of money, took a full merit scholarship somewhere else, where I promptly stepped on my dick in a a way that has yet to be equalled in the history of academic failure.

I could have been a contender!
posted by thelonius at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


Just the Ivies and Stanford, eh? Couldn't get into Oxford and Cambridge?

The average American would prefer to go to a third-tier state school than some dirty foreign "university". It's just parochialism.
posted by GuyZero at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2017


The head of my kids' high school college counseling department tells parents of juniors that the kids who get in to all the Ivies clearly (in her mind) don't really know what they're looking for in a university, because they're all different schools with different approaches and ambiance and all the stuff that makes a university a community.

This... makes no sense to me.

What those kids are (probably) looking for is an Ivy-class credential and the associated networking opportunities. The strategy of applying to all of them is sound because the admission rate is so low.

I have no idea what "makes a university a community" is even supposed to mean. It's a place to buy an education and degree.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2017 [10 favorites]


I think any college student, and especially an Ivy student should have to work for (i.e. put some of their own money into) their education.

Tuitions are so high now that you can't make that much of a dent by working part-time or summer jobs. And I don't think that taking on debt is all that likely to make kids value their education more - debt is very abstract, especially at that age.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:01 AM on April 5, 2017 [21 favorites]


Oh great, we're going to be hearing about that headline forever.

Apparently he was surprised that he got in after this. And Stanford knew it would come out. Clearly both parties are happy to be provocative. Whether either or both were wise or foolish is open to debate.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Couldn't get into Oxford and Cambridge?

No UG can get into both Oxford and Cambridge in a single round of applications.
posted by biffa at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


What you're experiencing is a sharp different in class.
Ahmed’s father, Shikil, is a former investment banker and now runs his own hedge fund called Princeton Alpha.
Power to the dude for fighting the good fight, but I think someone that well connected had a lot of freedom to troll admissions :P.
posted by pmv at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2017 [15 favorites]


No UG can get into both Oxford and Cambridge in a single round of applications.

Explain for this American?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:18 AM on April 5, 2017


Apparently he was surprised that he got in after this. And Stanford knew it would come out. Clearly both parties are happy to be provocative. Whether either or both were wise or foolish is open to debate.

Alternate hypothesis: admissions officers are so deathly sick of reading the same stock essays about how a week of community service changed a young scholar's life and caused him to reevaluate his priorities and embark on a crusade to {neuter all the stray cats/feed the homeless/build a full-scale replica of the Enterprise D out of discarded styrofoam wrappers} that they're willing to cut some slack to a student whose application otherwise demonstrates that he's extremely socially conscious.

Source: briefly dated college admissions officer who used to complain about social-consciousness essays. Was also accepted into Middlebury on the strength of an admission essay about what would happen if you strapped buttered toast to the back of a cat and used the resulting violations of the laws of physics to power an antigravity monorail
posted by Mayor West at 10:32 AM on April 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


No UG can get into both Oxford and Cambridge in a single round of applications.

Explain for this American?


You're not allowed to apply to both in the same admission round.
posted by monocot at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2017


Those quadruplets are gonna get hella financial aid grants in the ivies, the parents would probably be on the hook for less than one kid worth of full tuition.
posted by ghharr at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2017


The average American would prefer to go to a third-tier state school than some dirty foreign "university".

The average American can't afford much more than a third-tier state school, and that's with financial assistance.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:55 AM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


You're not allowed to apply to both in the same admission round.

But...what's the point? Sorry to be dense.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:56 AM on April 5, 2017


debt is very abstract, especially at that age.

Debt and bills usually are abstract when one is not familiar with them. At any age.

All I was trying to say is that when one has to fund their own education at least in part, in puts a completely different spin on the value of a degree. I know this personally every time I sign a check to make a payment to the Feds for my student loans.
posted by strelitzia at 10:56 AM on April 5, 2017


If the Stanford application works the same way as it did when I applied about a decade ago, you submit a main long-form essay (usually one that you use for many different applications) as well as a set of short-form responses to questions unique to the Stanford application. Ahmed's response looks like it's probably a response to a question of the latter type, and to me it seems like an awesome way to answer for a format which usually elicits trite or boring responses. I'm a little worried people reading only the headlines will assume it's his only essay for the application and accuse the approach of being lazy / undeserving. Here's hoping not!
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2017


Was also accepted into Middlebury on the strength of an admission essay about what would happen if you strapped buttered toast to the back of a cat and used the resulting violations of the laws of physics to power an antigravity monorail

Was accepted into Vassar on the strength of an essay about [finally] beating my father at a tank battle strategy game, and a list of everything in my bedroom that was green
posted by Lucinda at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2017 [4 favorites]




I work at a private college, and I also have a daughter who just chose her school (St. Anselm in NH) for next fall. It's pretty hot competition the year to get those incoming freshman.

There are fewer high school seniors this year, and the date of depositing for the fall has moved to May 1 for most of us colleges, so schools are scrambling to get responses out and deposits back in. (It's very difficult to budget for the fall if we wait until May to find out how much tuition income we'll have for a budget year which starts July 1, and also it's hard to schedule classroom, hire adjuncts, etc. etc.)

For example, all four of my daughter's "possible" schools have had multiple Accepted Students Days where they get breakfast and tae another tour and hang out with current students and receive a free water bottle & string backpack & pen & ID lanyard (all identical -- was this at some admissions officer seminar?), and we get letters and emails, and one place said that if you deposited on the spot they would give you a sweatshirt!

One school had her submit a video for a new scholarship program, and another one offered we parents a chance to write a letter explaining any useful information that the application forms had missed. (You know I wrote one.)

Knowing how much many kids will have to borrow to go to school makes me scared for them, especially since I don't think they really understand what the payback is going to be like. They can be excited about all the water bottles, but damn are those loan payments going to hurt.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:23 AM on April 5, 2017


... first chair in his section for two years in the city's elite youth orchestra...

What instrument? My son was told that playing the viola would increase his chances greatly, since there are never enough college viola players to go around. Likewise I’ve heard the same about the oboe, the bassoon, and maybe the harp. He only played the viola because his school required it, gave it up as soon as possible, and got into a good college the regular way. Turned out to be a perfect fit for him, which is much more important than how prestigious the campus happens to be.

(on preview: what Mr.Know-it-some just linked.)
posted by LeLiLo at 11:31 AM on April 5, 2017


I feel like these articles get sucked into a lot of the same fallacies about cost and financial aid that hamper other highly capable, low-income kids from even applying to elite private schools.

First, that article quotes the sticker price as if that's what they're definitely going to pay. That's so far from the truth for many families - I don't know about this family's income specifics, but it's a poisonous fallacy in general. Low-income and working-class families often pay less at rich elite schools than they would at large public schools. The people I know who ended up deepest in debt from my high-sticker-price school were people with upper-middle-class to high-income families who were not able or willing to pay as much as the school thought they could, despite their incomes, so the students made up that gap with five to six figures in student loans. On the flip side, I know plenty of low-income people (including one emancipated person who could easily demonstrate their lack of assets) who graduated with little to no debt. I even know one person from a working-class family who chose an Ivy over their state flagship despite preferring the state flagship because the price at the Ivy was significantly lower. So I don't know what this family will pay, but it's not like everyone is paying $60k+ for Harvard - well-qualified students who definitely can't afford that shouldn't hold themselves back from applying just because of that one number. Look at this list of the highest-debt-load universities - they're hardly the first schools that come to mind when one thinks of an expensive education. Only one is even nationally ranked.

Schools like Harvard meet 100% of "need" (I believe they award grant-only at this point) so they calculate the amount they believe the family is "able to pay" (which is still pretty aggressive a lot of the time) and they make up the difference between that and the expected cost of attendance (incl tuition, room, board) with grants. When siblings are in college simultaneously (not even necessarily at the same college), the "able to pay" number doesn't change much (any?) so the financial aid per child gets much, much better. One of the best things you can do to optimize financial aid is to time college years so siblings attend simultaneously, actually - I know several people, including myself, saw our family's "ability to pay" adjusted by tens of thousands of dollars as siblings started or finished college. They're so lucky to be quadruplets, rather than 4 in a row, when it comes to paying for college. Also there's a rumor that many schools have a policy of always awarding the same admissions decision to twins or other multiples, idk if that's true though).
posted by R a c h e l at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


How to be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out

1. Do less stuff.
2. Go narrow and deep instead of broad and shallow.
3. Do stuff that's hard to explain, not hard to do.

Do interesting stuff that you find interesting.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:42 AM on April 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


The average American would prefer to go to a third-tier state school than some dirty foreign "university". It's just parochialism.

I'm sure there is a huge demographic of students turning down Oxbridge in favour of third-tier state schools. And now American parochialism has infected the students making a full sweep of the Ivies! They'll just have to do a taught Oxbridge Mst course like all of the other non-EU profit centres students.
posted by Svejk at 11:44 AM on April 5, 2017


> "I didn't go to a good college and am therefore not actually smart or well-educated"

I was accepted - by what must have been the skin of my teeth - by Queen's, at the time one of the hardest schools to get into in Canada. When I started I was under the assumption that I was almost certainly the dumbest person there. It didn't take long before I realized that this was...not true. I'll never forget the girl from Toronto I met in frosh week who had never even heard of Lake Huron. She was in Con Ed.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:53 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]



I have no idea what "makes a university a community" is even supposed to mean. It's a place to buy an education and degree.


It means what it says, it's not a metaphor. Universities are communities in the most literal sense possible, in that they are physical places where undergrads go to live and work and sleep with a hand-selected group of other people. Most students are of an age when four years is a quarter to a fifth of their lifetime, and most of them select most of their friends and lovers from this pool of university-selected peers. so if you enjoy a particular type of person, you will want to pick a school that attracts and accepts such people.

the kind of soul that considers "networking" as a future career benefit and picks a school on the basis of what kind of quid pro quo business his schoolmates will be able to do for him is the kind of depressing 45-year-old in a teenager's body that I do not like to be around, and thus I am not too upset about lack of such benefits from the place I did go to. but you do not have to be that kind of person, or have parents who are that kind of people, to take an interest in where you are going to live, who you are going to live with, what it looks like, and how you feel about it. Even commuters have to spend about as much time at school as other people do at work, and most people have preferences in where they go to work.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:55 AM on April 5, 2017 [18 favorites]


(all identical -- was this at some admissions officer seminar?)

Probably!
posted by ghharr at 11:57 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


This... makes no sense to me.

What those kids are (probably) looking for is an Ivy-class credential and the associated networking opportunities. The strategy of applying to all of them is sound because the admission rate is so low.


*shrug* Just passing along what I've heard. This was corroborated by several admissions officers who come to the school's mock admissions workshop.

I have no idea what "makes a university a community" is even supposed to mean. It's a place to buy an education and degree.

It's not solely about getting a degree/networking anymore. Students are all about looking for the best "fit," which includes what the atmosphere is like: is it conservative or liberal, does it have acapella groups I can join, what kinds of clubs are there, what does the dining hall look like, are the dorms nice or sketchy, what are the people in my possible department like (will I get along with them?), is the university in a city or a suburb or in the middle of nowhere?

This is honestly what the majority of high school students look at these days. The biggest adage going around now is "it doesn't necessarily matter where you go to college, what matters is what you make of what's given to you once you're there."
posted by cooker girl at 11:58 AM on April 5, 2017


What instrument?

Classical bass. We were told the same baloney about viola and bass. In my experience, not true. It may help them if the school's orchestra is semi-good, in that they aren't going to want 47 violists or whatever, but rarely are there music scholarships for non music majors, and if the school's music department is any good, they'll already have their pick of students.

My point in mentioning the orchestra he was in during high school, though, was to illustrate that he had the depth of extra-curriculars that schools are looking for these days. So he did everything "right" but still didn't get in to schools that were a match on paper.

It's truly a crapshoot for most students. Really and honestly. It's all about what kind of class the university is trying to build for that year, how many students there are applying, how much money they have to give away, etc. We were told by several people that his ACT score would automatically qualify him for a full ride at one of our state schools. 10 years ago, yes. Not anymore. They offered him a total of $3,000.
posted by cooker girl at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2017


the kind of soul that considers "networking" as a future career benefit

I think that might be a little harsh. I've encouraged my bright niece to apply to Ivies, Chicago, and Stanford in addition to the state schools, and one of the reasons I had in mind was the networking. My thought though wasn't of some cold business exchange, but rather that she'd make friends normally along the way. Drinking partners, lovers, someone to dance with in the pale moonlight. And some of them would end up being successful. Or she'd be successful and she'd have smart people she knew she could trust who could work with her.

But, then again, the majority of Ivy League grads I know are not substantially better connected than the state school grads. So perhaps it really doesn't matter. And maybe a place like KU would be better for her than Stanford in the sense of less culture shock. She'd meet other smart kids escaping their dying prairie towns and feel right at home, and thus do better in classes.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Quite honestly, I think any college student, and especially an Ivy student should have to work for (i.e. put some of their own money into) their education. It's kinda like the idea that what you don't have to pay for, you don't appreciate as much.

This is absolutely reasonable, and I remember from my own college years how other students whose parents were paying the full cost of their tuition weren't taking it very seriously. But I did take it seriously, precisely because my parents were paying for it, and I wanted to show them my gratitude. I made dean's list every month, graduated magna cum laude (would have been higher if not for some early classes over which I'd struggled), and took the prize for top honors thesis in my major. (This was at a major state university, not an Ivy League, so not all that impressive, really...and in the decades before skyrocketing tuition, $6000 annually for in-state tuition and board was a pretty sweet deal, in retrospect.)

The real drawbacks, though, are the sense of being beholden and of not really being in charge of one's big decisions...like changing one's major to something fascinating and challenging and utterly outside of one's parents' experience. And instead of parental pride over one's achievements, one might get inexplicable envy and resentment, for which one ends up feeling terribly responsible and guilty for soul-stunting decades.
posted by tully_monster at 12:16 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there is a huge demographic of students turning down Oxbridge in favour of third-tier state schools.

They simply do not apply. The top-of-the-top students at my kids' reasonably-well-to-do US high school simply don't bother applying to international universities in spite of the fact that many of them would be cheaper than their US counterparts.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Then again, I might just be bitter because my 12-years on the honor roll, first chair in his section for two years in the city's elite youth orchestra, 35-score-on-the-ACT-first-time-taking-it son didn't get into his top 5 choices when he was applying to colleges.

It'll matter WAY more where he does his graduate work, believe me.

I'm glad I did my undergraduate work at a state school instead of an Ivy and saved the academic angst and impostor syndrome for graduate school. Despite the size and apparent anonymity of such places, it's easy to stand out and get noticed if you're in any way exceptional. Professors like to find serious students they can mentor among the unwashed, beer-sodden masses. I don't know where your son will end up (or ended up), but I'm sure he'll shine there.
posted by tully_monster at 12:29 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I certainly would have given an international school more consideration if I'd understood at the time how it can be a good way to get in and start working towards a dual citizenship, and how much harder that can be later. Not that I'm necessarily looking to do that now, but it might have been nice to put down some roots somewhere else and have that option.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:32 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


They simply do not apply. The top-of-the-top students at my kids' reasonably-well-to-do US high school simply don't bother applying to international universities in spite of the fact that many of them would be cheaper than their US counterparts.

Unless you know for sure the financial status of the families, travel costs can be prohibitive, especially overseas travel costs. Sure, the tuition might be cheaper, but if you can't come home for holidays and/or your parents can't visit you because it costs too much to fly out...that can be a real deterrent to going overseas.
posted by cooker girl at 12:54 PM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


I live in Silicon Valley. True, I don't know the exact details of every family. Numerous kids don't even go to college for a bunch of reasons, we're not in Palo Alto or Menlo Park or something. But there are plenty of families who can afford to send their kid wherever they want and very, very, very rarely is it outside the US. But regardless, it's anecdotal, I don't have hard numbers.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on April 5, 2017


They simply do not apply. The top-of-the-top students at my kids' reasonably-well-to-do US high school simply don't bother applying to international universities in spite of the fact that many of them would be cheaper than their US counterparts.

US Students are not turning down foreign schools out of 'parochialism', but rational decision making. Oxbridge tuition and college fees for foreign students are greater or equivalent to what a grant-aided student could expect at the Ivies, and far greater than in-state tuition+board at first tier public uni University of Wisconsin. Less competitive foreign schools that are significantly cheaper for US students (after taking travel into account, and the fact that students on visas are often excluded from work and internship opportunities) generally deliver a substantially worse experience (larger lectures, oversubscribed labs, instruction in a non-native language) with fewer networking opportunities relevant to students expecting to work in the US market . The quality drop-off between the first and second tier in Europe and Asia is much steeper than in the US.
There are several Canadian unis which provide good value for money, and they do get a number of US applicants.
posted by Svejk at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


On one hand we have:

I feel like these articles get sucked into a lot of the same fallacies about cost and financial aid that hamper other highly capable, low-income kids from even applying to elite private schools.

First, that article quotes the sticker price as if that's what they're definitely going to pay.


On the other hand we have:

...rational decision making. Oxbridge tuition and college fees for foreign students are greater or equivalent to what a grant-aided student could expect at the Ivies, and far greater than in-state tuition+board at first tier public uni University of Wisconsin.

There is a certain amount of rational decision making going on, but there is a lot of non-quantitative decision making going on too.

Sure, a lot of international schools are more expensive overall given that the Americans will be paying foreign student rates. But it's not like they're making strictly rational economic decisions when it comes to their domestic university selections.
posted by GuyZero at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2017


American universities are structured pretty differently from UK universities, and students who have been preparing for American ones (with the according admissions criteria, schedule, and lack of specialization) may not have the easiest time applying for UK universities. Who would ever want a conditional offer when they could have the bird in the hand of a US admission? What about admissions differences for students with less-than-perfect grades but amazing extracurriculars? How many students have grown up relying on the idea that they can experiment in their first year or two before they decide on a major? It's not that easy to just apply elsewhere.

That said, I do know a fair number of Americans who went to Canadian universities, so it's not like it doesn't happen...

I also reject the idea that it's typically cheaper. McGill says cost of attendance (tuition+room and board) for international students runs $33,618-$63,516 ($25,014-$47,262 USD). Oxford is £24,796-£36,427 ($30,962-$45,485 USD). Costs of US universities vary wildly because of financial aid and in-state university options, but the majority of students at, say, UCLA or Harvard pay significantly less than that. That said, compared to less-well-endowed US private schools like GW or Occidental, they're fairly reasonable.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:04 PM on April 5, 2017


In addition, at OxBridge, etc. uni is 3 years instead 4. Applying to OxBridge (etc.) requires applicants to know exactly what they want to study, which isn't a given when coming from the U.S. system. (The degree at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, for instance, is 4 years, but it's my understanding that it has less of a liberal arts focus than many U.S. universities.)
posted by oceano at 3:05 PM on April 5, 2017


But...what's the point? Sorry to be dense.

I'm not sure if there's an official reason, but this lowers application numbers as people have to choose one or the other. And I know that Cambridge at least will interview all/most applicants with predicted grades above the cutoffs, ie a majority of the students applying. All interviews are on site with professors from the subjects they've applied for, so they have a lot of incentive to discourage application inflation.
posted by monocot at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2017


American universities are structured pretty differently from UK universities, and students who have been preparing for American ones (with the according admissions criteria, schedule, and lack of specialization) may not have the easiest time applying for UK universities.

In the past it must have been hard, but nowadays, with all information easily available and the application process online, not so much. Given that many kids have their eye on college admission from freshman year anyway, if you think you might be interested in applying in a different country it’s not hard if you are willing to look for yourself.

One of my kids, having attended a large Midwestern high school, decided that he wanted to go to university in the UK. No information or advice was available through the normal high school college application channels, but he spend time online and worked out how to do it easily enough. Yes, the deadlines and requirements were different, but everywhere wants international students nowadays, so they don’t try to make it harder than it needs to be. He chose a program at a Russell Group university.

As far as he was concerned the best part was that grades were irrelevant as they were only interested in test scores: SAT, subject and AP. They made him an unconditional offer based on those — they didn’t need a final transcript and I don’t think they actually cared if he graduated (he did so I never found out if it would have mattered if he hadn’t). His teachers, used to having grades to hold over senior slackers, couldn’t get their heads around the fact that he just didn’t care what his grades were for his final semester of senior year of HS.

The big caveat here is that you need to know what you want to study as you are applying to a specific programme; no floundering about for a year getting used to the whole college thing, then changing from pre-med to international relations.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lots of kids simply just do not grasp the applying-to-college thing. Lord knows that I didn't. The fact that I had the same guidance counselor as Bam Margera probably contributed largely to that, as we both benefited about equally from that guy's advice.

I was a senior in high school with great grades, mediocre activities, plenty of writing skill for my essay and absolutely no idea where I wanted to go or wanted to do when I got there. My estranged mother had big dreams -- apply to Carnegie Mellon! apply to Duke! -- and no intentions of helping to pay for it. (I actually got accepted to CMU, and she was dancing until I asked "okay, it's $X per year. Now what?" as if she thought that the Full Scholarship Fairy was going to wave her sparkly wand.) Beyond that, I ended up basing it on geography more than anything else -- a school far enough away to get some space, not so far away that I couldn't come home at intervals, and I wasn't going on a whirlwind tour of satellite campuses of Penn State like half my classmates were. That was all I had. I was too busy holding my shit together week-to-week to try to figure out years from then, which is a pretty natural state for a teenager.

So I sat on my application to Chapel Hill 'til the last minute and got waitlisted, then got in at NC State and that was it. If they'd denied me for some reason I'd have had to get a job because I had no other applications out there. And even then I didn't figure out an actual major I liked 'til my junior year, and it was weird enough that the Dean of Humanities ended up being my advisor because no one else there grasped its requirements.
posted by delfin at 4:34 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that I was applying to school in a much less competitive age. I had a 2.5 GPA in high-school, exactly zero activities and didn't even bother to fill out the essay and managed to get into Penn State. Not the greatest school but I doubt that such a slacker as myself could have managed to get in. Plus it was like $2500 a year.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've gotten past the point of being bitter that modern kids have access to so much more information about applying to colleges then we did back during the War of 1812 when we had to rely on gatekeepers like provincial high school guidance counselors; they have so much other s*** to deal with that they deserve what advantages they can get.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:54 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I work at a state university that doesn't care at all about activities. Literally not at all. They admit students based on a formula that adds together the following things: percentile of class rank; 2 x ACT composite score; 20 x GPA; 5 x number of years of high-school courses completed in core subject areas. You get a score, and if it's above a certain cut-off, you're in. There's a slightly different formula if your school doesn't rank. You can feed your numbers into an online calculator and find out if you're going to get in. A lot of students use the calculator, realize that they're definitely going to be admitted, and don't bother applying anywhere else. This is really not smart from a financial aid point of view, but it's very, very common for in-state students.

In conclusion, articles about Ivy League applicants really don't get at the experience of many (I would say most) college applicants in the US.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:07 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I applied to a few places, got rejected by MIT, and ended up at Colorado College (go Tigers!). Why? Scholarship (Barnes Scholarship)! If I hadn't been offered that, I'd have gone to CU Boulder most likely. And probably had slightly less stress, but taking one class at a time definitely focuses you!

And, as many said here, undergrad probably doesn't matter as much as grad school for a future job. Had much the same experience there (thanks for the rejection, Harvard...and then BU rejected me for a job...oh man...Boston hates me), but went to CU Boulder and had a great time at JILA.

But, all that said, I really am glad I'm not applying to college these days. It seems so intense, comparatively, to my experience! I still remember buying one of those big books o' colleges to read through!
posted by Fortran at 5:35 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


College kinda sucks anyway. I had much more fun once i flunked out and became a retail wage slave. Learned more too, at least about people.
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


My daughter passed on incurring debt at numerous tier 1 schools that wanted her to take the full ride scholarship that a Tier II State U offered her. So far I can't see any evidence that it is hurting her. She has gotten the internship she wanted every summer, and she is currently on Study Abroad in Europe.
posted by COD at 7:06 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


But...what's the point? Sorry to be dense.

Universities want to attract the best students, and they want to minimise time talking to not-so-best students. The best students have grades that permit them to be selective. Not-so-best students have to hedge their bets by applying to more than one university. The best universities have a reputation and clout that lets them be selective about who they'll talk to.

This way Cambridge gets people who really want to go to Cambridge (probably because that's where Mum or Dad went), and are probably good enough to get in. Oxford gets people who really want to go to Oxford (probably because that's where Mum or Dad went), and are probably good enough to get in.

People who just want to go to a prestigious university probably neither of their parents went to have to put their credentials on the line instead of annoying two universities they probably won't get into.

The smarter ones say 'fuck this' and go to other perfectly good universities like Exeter or Leeds or really any other UK university because they're all fine, really, nobody else in the world knows anything about them but Christ don't they look impressive on a CV, was it just like Hogwarts, please say yes, I desperately need to believe that there's somewhere like Hogwarts.

And when there's a gap between graduating secondary school and you turning up to Oxford, they get to ask 'missed out on Cambridge, did you?'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:07 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


In the past it must have been hard, but nowadays, with all information easily available and the application process online, not so much. Given that many kids have their eye on college admission from freshman year anyway, if you think you might be interested in applying in a different country it’s not hard if you are willing to look for yourself.

In 2003, you got to the the final page of the UCAS guide after it had given instructions for filling in the form if you lived in roughly half the countries in the world and found the page that said more or less "if we haven't given you instructions, just write your qualifications down, ignoring this nice grid we've made for you to fill in", complete with example. (That said, that was only marginally less user-friendly than the UC application was to someone not from California.) The other notable thing was the King's College prospectus touting their progressive credentials while every American university was trying their damnedest not to look left wing.

FWIW, in 2003 St Andrews was actively recruiting in the US with a direct application process, so I think they're an outlier. I think someone the year ahead of me went. The only people who braved the actual UCAS application had British parents. They're accepting the Common App now, for god's sake, so they're all in American students.
posted by hoyland at 7:25 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Are we not talking at all about the cost of applying and/or is this not a thing anymore? I applied to 9 schools, oh, 15 years ago and it was around $80/school. Even at my private school most people's parents weren't willing to drop that much money just for apps, never mind the hundreds to visit just a few of those of schools on top of the app fees.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:35 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Are we not talking at all about the cost of applying and/or is this not a thing anymore? I applied to 9 schools, oh, 15 years ago and it was around $80/school. Even at my private school most people's parents weren't willing to drop that much money just for apps, never mind the hundreds to visit just a few of those of schools on top of the app fees.

Common App fee waivers are available for low income applicants, but I don't think this is as well known as it should be, and the cost of visiting is definitely a lot in both time and money.

But yeah, the number of apps some kids do seem crazy now. I applied to 4 schools in 2002, and I don't think any of my (high-achieving, upper middle-class) classmates applied to more than 10? Now I regularly hear of 15+.
posted by ghharr at 8:06 AM on April 6, 2017


Speaking as a complete failure from a 3rd-world country, I'm ultraviolet with envy.

And I'm still the black sheep of my family because I never helped myself to an Ivy.

And no, I'm not trying to write poetry -- just a coincidence of rhyme and imagery.
posted by runcifex at 9:15 AM on April 6, 2017


Another of the college counselors at my kids' school used to be an admissions officer at an east coast university and she tells us that east coast and west coast students typically apply to 15-20+ universities, and no one bats an eye. Midwestern and southern kids usually apply to no more than 10; if admissions officers see that a Midwestern or southern student has applied to 20 schools, they start to give the side-eye.

Same thing goes for the number of times a kid takes a standardized test for university admittance. East and west coast kids "can" take a test lots and lots of times and the admissions officers are like, "Eh, it's the coast. It's what they do." If a Midwestern student takes a test more than maybe 3 or 4 times, they start thinking the kid (or the parents) might be a little tightly wound.

(Over) Thinking, two of my daughter's friends went on college visit sprees over spring break: 10 colleges each. And that's on top of the four or five they have already seen. This is not atypical in my experience. We'll end up seeing probably 10 by the time she's done, but we're doing this in lieu of taking a family vacation this year (and we squeezed in two Chicago schools while we were there for an unrelated reason). Also, some of them are totally within a day trip drive. But yeah, it's expensive.
posted by cooker girl at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's funny - because I joined mefi as a high schooler, a fair amount of my college-application anxiety is well-documented in ask. I opined above about how I think high schoolers feel about applying to university abroad, but it turns out I actually documented my questions at the time with US High schooler would like to go to university in UK (maybe). Has numerous questions about the system. Help?. Then, I shared one tale of high pressure on a friend in Pressure on high schoolers about getting into college: how to deal?. Finally, after I narrowed things down, I asked What was your experience at a women's college?. It's funny to look back on now, but damn, that was hell. And I was asking those questions in ADDITION to using resources like collegeconfidential.com, a private "college counselor" that helped me identify appropriate schools, a tutor that helped me when I panicked about my admissions essays, and supportive parents...
posted by R a c h e l at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Common App fee waivers are available for low income applicants, but I don't think this is as well known as it should be

Boy, howdy. Back when I was graduating from Hayseed Central High School, in the days before the Internet and the Common App, and the only information I had to rely on was from my guidance counselor who was some combination of drunk on patriarchal power, a total dickhead, and/or just not worth the paper he was printed on, I had no way of knowing that an application fee waiver was anything you could even ask for, let alone get. I could only afford one application fee (and it was a real hardship to scrape that together) so I applied to the one university I knew I could get into and get paid for.

Years later, when I worked at a university and saw all the categories of students for whom we automatically waived application fees, I went home and had a good cry.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:21 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


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