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Question for those whose students applied Ivy or Super Competitive...


hopskipjump
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I learned a lot of things from my oldest daughter's college apps in '13 that were definitely applied to my 2016 grad :-) Part of the process.

 

That said, are you sure you couldn't substitute another sort of recommender, perhaps by sending recs directly to the school? I suppose the due dates are getting awfully close, but might be worth a call to the admission office. Some of the AP Homeschoolers teachers are willing to serve as recs too. I know my daughter had one recommender from there. I suspect Derek Owens would do it as well!

 

My daughter was one of the recent Princeton admits. Honestly, I think our location was probably a huge hook for her; they did not have any students from our state last year. She had an interesting sport that related directly to our location as well.

 

I made sure she did several SAT subject tests to validate the grades I gave, and she did several AP exams as well.  She had a few dual enrollment classes through our local university, but, like your daughter, it is quite difficult to work in college classes with her extracurriculars. I do think the testing and the few college courses did help to give some credibility to her accomplishments.

 

I know you said one thing, but I'm going to add another thought :-) Leadership development is going to be important. If you can find ways that the kids can serve as leaders in some capacity, be it as a captain in a sport (homeschoolers here can participate in high school sports, so my daughter was able to serve as a team captain) or a leader in one or more of their extracurriculars, that will strengthen their application (and contribute to character development as well!) My daughter really does not have a strong leader personality, but served as an instructor in her sport, a youth supervisor in the church coffee shop, as a board member for her sport's club.

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I'm not sure that my dd qualifies as an applicant to a super competitive school but FWIW-she had one recommendation from an online teacher, one from an employer and one from the individual in charge of one of her most time consuming volunteer activities.  No one complained about her choices, nor do they seem to have hurt her.  Keep in mind that different schools will allow different types of recommenders.  Not all would allow her volunteer supervisor while most allowed her employer. I'd check that all out ahead of time before listing them in particular categories.

 

Edited to add:  She also had no SATIIs or DE.  She did have AP exams and a strong senior year schedule with many more AP classes.  I think much of the application process for these schools has to do with how well you package everything.  A clean and clear transcript, good course descriptions and book lists, portfolio items where applicable (i.e. art, music, creative writing, etc.), a well written and engaging essay set.  A well thought out statement of your educational philosophy and plan as part of the school description.  And a good counselor letter that explains anything that your other documents cannot highlight.

Edited by JumpedIntoTheDeepEndFirst
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If you are considering Oxford or Cambridge, it's important to show passion in the particular subject that the applicant wants to study.  Calvin had placed in a national poetry competition, and had spent a summer voluntarily learning Ancient Greek - he applied for English and Classics.  Excellent grades in in-school work would probably not have been enough.   And wide reading in the subjects but outside of school work was also crucial for passing the interviews.

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ONE thought? Do not get invested emotionally in the application process (easier said than done). Select a wide range of schools. Make sure the student does not tie her self-worth to the elusive admission to a selective school.

 

The most valuable asset for DD was most likely her dual enrollment at a 4 year university, starting from 10th grade. We selected subjects she was interested in (Physics, literature) or which I could not teach at home (French). She wanted to be in an actual classroom with a real teacher. So, we opted for DE instead of AP exams. She has not a single AP, but 32 college credits and a 4.0. She took four SATIIs to satisfy all requirements of even the pickiest colleges, but we ditched the chemistry one because she was not interested in spending that much time on a subject she loathed.

Some form of strong outside validation is necessary - I don't think anybody gets into a top tier uni with just mommy grades.

 

Also, we were mindful that highschool is valuable life time, not a limbo in which one waits for college admission. Do not tailor extracurriculars and coursework solely to the goal of looking good at admissions. Have them take the courses they are interested in, challenge themselves, do extracurriculars that enrich their lives and souls instead of just looking good on paper.

Having selective colleges in the back of your mind when you plan the standardized testing is OK; having it at the forefront every waking moment is detrimental, especially if the student ends up not admitted.

Edited by regentrude
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1) Encourage your kid to pursue his/her outside interest(s) PASSIONATELY.

 

Flying kites sounds silly. But colleges were really impressed that ds had won a national kite-building competition, been flown to India (expenses-paid) for an international kiting event, and ran his own kite-building company. (And the fact that he had scratch-built a few kayaks was a non-stop source of wonder at college admissions interviews!)

 

Playing the organ sounds like a good thing to do if you are interested in a conservatory, but the LAC's my dd applied to were THRILLED to have a strong musician who also had top-notch academics apply.

 

LEADERSHIP is great, but I think even more important is a kid developing their interests and getting a real feel for who they are, what difference they want to make in the world.

 

2) Colleges do a very poor job indicating that they will bend academic requirements for the "right" candidate, but our experience is that they will. Of course, the "right" candidate may also need to have 5's on several AP exams, top SAT and SAT-2 scores, etc., but the "right" candidate does NOT need to take fourteen AP's and volunteer thirty hours per week and belong to multiple honor societies. The "right" candidate can just be a strong student who is passionate about one thing to the point where questions about leadership, volunteer hours, and years of a foreign language, and even number of lab sciences are moot.

 

If I had known that colleges wouldn't care that dd2 and ds2 only had three years of a foreign language or that dd1 only had three years of science (and only one year of labs!) I would have slept better during their senior years! (BTW, the kid with only one year of labs will get her Ph.D. in engineering from the #2-ranked program in her field in the country this spring!)

 

3) One last thought -- sometimes one interest that can seem mundane and dead-end can be a stepping stone to another skill. For example -- my dd is totally inflexible (no matter how much she tries) so her ballet career was dead in the water before she was 5, but several years of ballet led to several years of Irish step dance led to not only amazing pedal skills on the organ but also great swing dancing skills!

 

So if you don't see your student as a (fill in the blank) but she/he wants to pursue this area, let him/her -- the activity may be the skill he/she needs to succeed in another seemingly unrelated area that hasn't crossed the radar screen yet.

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I always tell moms to look at some college apps in ninth grade.  Think about what you're going to put in all those blanks. :)

 

As far as recommendations, we don't have a good four-year university less than an hour from us, so our kids took classes at the CC.  We encouraged them to develop a relationship with their profs and when possible we did more than one course with a prof.

 

We gave our kids a rigorous education from the beginning.  We started French and German in a very low key and fun way in preschool.  By eighth or ninth grade, they were ready for AP exams.  Our kids all did Calculus BC in ninth or tenth grade.  This let them do higher math at the CC where they were in small classes and really got to know their profs.  We aimed for National AP Scholar (8 4s and 5s) by the end of 11th grade.

 

We did test prep steadily from middle school on -- a 25-minute section several times a week.  Our kids all had scores above 2300 on the SAT and were National Merit Finalists.

 

We made sure they had awards to put on the application -- look for competitions to enter.

 

They all did an internship in their senior year.

 

They all played sports and had some kind of community service.

 

This is certainly not the only way to do it, but it worked for our kids.

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I don't have any experience (unless you count that Harvard rejection 30 yrs ago LOL) but looking ahead for my kids, I find these helpful for a big picture:

 

MIT blog Applying Sideways

Newport's How to Be a High School Superstar

 

With those ideas in mind, just the other day I noticed this random discussion regarding how many AP-level (I mean to include DE) courses:

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/1813507-ap-courses-exams-a-double-edged-sword.html

 

There are also a few helpful threads here on AP vs DE:

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/546384-ap-class-vs-the-actual-class-at-a-college/

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/473400-ap-vs-dual-enrollment-at-4-year-schools/

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/424190-ap-courses-or-dual-enrollment/

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/502755-advanced-placement-vs-dual-enrollment/

 

SAT 2s: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/540226-sat-2subject-test-strategy/

 

I imagine that the most difficult part for my kids will be determining possible majors and then coming up with a school list; while it may be less difficult to know what the very top schools are for a particular major, the next group of schools that are excellent-but-not-tippy-top might not be all that clear.  Throw grad school possibilities into the mix and I'm petrified of helping my kids come up with an ideal strategy.  I feel like we can't do anything meaningful until we have test scores in hand.  Only if scores are high enough might they be able to use an ever-so-slight advantage of legacy status at two highly-selective schools - it counts for so little but it may be worth a try if those schools have a program the kids want.

Edited by wapiti
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1) Encourage your kid to pursue his/her outside interest(s) PASSIONATELY.

 

Flying kites sounds silly. But colleges were really impressed that ds had won a national kite-building competition, been flown to India (expenses-paid) for an international kiting event, and ran his own kite-building company. (And the fact that he had scratch-built a few kayaks was a non-stop source of wonder at college admissions interviews!)

 

Playing the organ sounds like a good thing to do if you are interested in a conservatory, but the LAC's my dd applied to were THRILLED to have a strong musician who also had top-notch academics apply.

 

LEADERSHIP is great, but I think even more important is a kid developing their interests and getting a real feel for who they are, what difference they want to make in the world.

 

2) Colleges do a very poor job indicating that they will bend academic requirements for the "right" candidate, but our experience is that they will. Of course, the "right" candidate may also need to have 5's on several AP exams, top SAT and SAT-2 scores, etc., but the "right" candidate does NOT need to take fourteen AP's and volunteer thirty hours per week and belong to multiple honor societies. The "right" candidate can just be a strong student who is passionate about one thing to the point where questions about leadership, volunteer hours, and years of a foreign language, and even number of lab sciences are moot.

 

If I had known that colleges wouldn't care that dd2 and ds2 only had three years of a foreign language or that dd1 only had three years of science (and only one year of labs!) I would have slept better during their senior years! (BTW, the kid with only one year of labs will get her Ph.D. in engineering from the #2-ranked program in her field in the country this spring!)

 

3) One last thought -- sometimes one interest that can seem mundane and dead-end can be a stepping stone to another skill. For example -- my dd is totally inflexible (no matter how much she tries) so her ballet career was dead in the water before she was 5, but several years of ballet led to several years of Irish step dance led to not only amazing pedal skills on the organ but also great swing dancing skills!

 

So if you don't see your student as a (fill in the blank) but she/he wants to pursue this area, let him/her -- the activity may be the skill he/she needs to succeed in another seemingly unrelated area that hasn't crossed the radar screen yet.

 

This! My ds followed his passions for Comp Sci and Scratch and was invited to speak at the Scratch conference in Barcelona in 2013, at MIT in 2014, and in Amsterdam in 2015. He also had awesome recommendations because of his work with Scratch and the programming team. We also found that having him spend time teaching under privileged kids about Comp Sci was a huge door opener. These paid out in huge scholarships and acceptances to elite programs.

 

For our twins, we have them taking outside classes earlier than our oldest did. We are having them be purposeful in following their passions and realizing that some monetary expenditures now can really pay off in scholarships.

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<snip>

 

Then, we got to the Common App and realized that she hasn't had enough outside teachers to have 2+ strong teacher recommendations. She has a DOZEN non-teacher recommenders who have been chomping at the bit to write strong LORs for her... but the applications require two teachers. So - that was my lesson learned. :/ (Lots of reasons outside classes never synced with her schedule... I'd just thought it wouldn't be that big a deal, so we never pushed the issue)

 

 

So, if your ds applied to an Ivy League or super-competitive university - if you had ONE primary thought to share - what would that be? Just one thing off the top of your head that you (on the other side of the application process) felt made a significant contribution to your dc having all the pieces into place for applying to those schools. :) This question has been on my mind since reading the Accepted thread where Muttichen mentioned a few things she ensured her kids did while in high school - that's got me making a little checklist of things to keep on my mind. :) (PLEASE feel free to add MORE than one thing if you would like to! By allllll means! My ears are WIDE open! :)

I think you are reading too much into the LOR requirements.  A teacher does not necessarily have to work in a classroom.  My son self-studied the vast majority of his classes his last two years of high school.  The schools on his list required a LOR from a math or science teacher.  His research mentor was more than happy to write this letter. He was accepted everywhere he applied, including two schools that are considered highly selective.

 

I would not let the lack of "teacher" recommendations prevent your daughter from applying.

 

Good luck

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My daughter was accepted to Cornell this year. I can't write it better than Gwen in VA:

 

"2) Colleges do a very poor job indicating that they will bend academic requirements for the "right" candidate, but our experience is that they will. Of course, the "right" candidate may also need to have 5's on several AP exams, top SAT and SAT-2 scores, etc., but the "right" candidate does NOT need to take fourteen AP's and volunteer thirty hours per week and belong to multiple honor societies. The "right" candidate can just be a strong student who is passionate about one thing to the point where questions about leadership, volunteer hours, and years of a foreign language, and even number of lab sciences are moot."

 

My dd had no AP classes but she did have 6 hours of dual enrollment at Cornell. We moved every 2 years and had to take advantage of whatever was around the Bases we lived. She volunteered in things she was passionate about but no more than 8 hours any week. She did have an excellent ACT score and non-credit summer classes that showed her interest and aptitude (and got her recommendations) in the area of her interest. So she had very few outside classes but had big name recommenders. Her essays were unique in that they were written by her, a 17-year old girl on the cusp of her life. They were passionate, funny, and what you would expect from a well-read seventeen-year old girl.

 

No one is happy when I say this but I think it came down to marketing. When my daughter wanted to study AP classes but didn't want to take the test, I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I had to step back and think about her as a job applicant or a product and plan on showing her off to the best advantage. The knowledge is there but her "paper" was very light. So I labelled her as a maverick and wrote an 18-page course description on her school and summer activities.  It showed surprising drive, interest, and individuality. I also wrote a great deal about my own education and how I was qualified to teach the subjects that I did and why I only sought out specialists in the classes I could not teach. I thought that would not hurt.

 

Whether the above helps or not, I don't think just one thing is involved that will work with every kid. My plan worked for mine - she was accepted to seven out of seven colleges she applied to before she had to start withdrawing. Was it luck, marketing, essays, recommendations, or ACT scores? I can't tell you but I think it was some combination that made them look at her twice.

 

 

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Agreeing with those who are saying that LOR rules are not very strict: colleges do make exceptions for homeschoolers. It is not unusual for us to have different types of recommendations from the norm.

 

Not sure I agree with OP that all high achieving kids should take a shot at the "big league schools," though my second DD will probably try one or two due to the nature of her interests.

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Not sure I agree with OP that all high achieving kids should take a shot at the "big league schools," though my second DD will probably try one or two due to the nature of her interests.

 

Oh gosh, I sure wasn't intending to insinuate or say that!! I'll re-read my posts (I was posting in the middle of the night, and might not have phrased something as clearly as need-be) - absolutely didn't mean to convey that at all. :)

 

We didn't start actually researching ivy league schools until fairly late her junior year, and didn't know the application requirements until she started her Common App (later than she should have started it, in retrospect). So, we were looking through all of them comparing the application requirements. The one she was planning to apply to was specifically-chosen due to a specific program of interest they have as well as that they have her sport and she would have had a solid shot at being a part of that team -- (we didn't go through the coach first due to a variety of other reasons not related to this topic).

 

So, we weren't willy-nilly choosing random Ivy League schools to apply to just because she "could" - we were trying to learn all about all of them (because I'd spent exactly zero minutes researching that beforehand) and had found a couple that would have been a decent fit for her on several levels.

 

My next two kids may not apply to a super-competitive school at all - but I sure want to be prepared in case they do! So, trying to make sure I'm not omitting an obvious item from the list like I did for dd#1 so that if THEY choose to apply... we won't hit a roadblock right out of the gates.

 

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A couple thoughts.

 

Remember that the Ivy League is a football conference, not the ultimate branding of highest quality education.  Not only are there some outstanding and highly ranked universities that are not Ivy League, but there are some great educations to be had at lower ranked schools.  Another way to put this is that while there is a significant difference between the education at the #3 school and the #300 school, there is much less of a difference between #3 and #30.  Also the larger the university, the more you have to consider the individual colleges or departments.  

 

If you have a student who is interested in the highly selective colleges, then spend some time reading their admissions expectations.  If they say that they want SAT Subject Tests, then plan on taking them.  If they have particular requirements for homeschoolers, know what they are.  If they have a physical fitness test or performance auditions or recommendations, it helps to know that.  One reason that we sent DS to CC for math as a junior was so that at least one of his required teacher recommendations would be from someone else.  Trust but verify what other parents or other homeschoolers tell you.  Even verify what you hear from college counselor professions.  I've had too many people tell me thinks they were sure were true that didn't pass scrutiny - even people running businesses advising highschoolers.  I cannot count how many wrong things I've heard about service academy applications.  

 

However, do realize that homeschooler applications are not the norm that admissions websites are written to address.  It might be possible that a selective school would accept less traditional recommendations sources from a homeschooler.  Don't be afraid to contact admissions - in your role as counselor - and ask questions about what they want from homeschoolers or what they would be willing to accept in lieu of the requirement listed on the website.  The common thread I've heard from college admissions officers is that they want to have solid explanations of what a homeschooler's education experience included.  They aren't interested in hand-waving, nor are they going to consider homeschooling as a trump card that is superior to public or private school.  It does seem that they are willing to consider a homeschool applicant seriously and genuinely.  But that application will still be in competition with a ton of other high quality applicants.

 

Remember that very selective schools are not looking for students that meet a certain minimum.  Once school DS is applying to has a middle 50% math score of 750-800.  That means that 25% or more of the class had 800 on the math section of the SAT.  It also means that plenty of kids will get turn down letters who have great SAT scores.  Schools with single digit acceptance rates turn down hundreds and thousands of great, qualified students.  It's not as if they take all the 780 students, but not the 760 students.  There will be some kids that have lower stats, but bring something else interesting and important (might be sports or music or science competitions, but could also be experience as an immigrant or expat or ranch hand or community activist).  I do interviews for my alma mater.  There are high stat kids who seem to be applying because the school is on some list (low tuition or strong engineering or schools my parents told me to apply to), but who can't tell me anything they know about the school or why they want to attend.  There are other kids who have lower stats, but are able to convey that they have thought about my school for a couple years or have spent serious time learning about it and have considered why they think it's a good fit for them.  

 

I don't think that there is a clear answer for AP vs DE.  Too much depends on what is available or possible locally.  My kids have a combo of AP classes that I designed and taught, online AP classes and DE classes.  The DE classes for math have been pretty good so far and chemistry has been wonderful.  My son's DE English class wasn't as challenging as what I taught him at home as a 10th grader.  Some families live in areas where DE is free or reduced cost.  Others live in areas where high schoolers pay full tuition or aren't allowed to enroll at all.  

 

Don't neglect the possibility of an honors college or special scholars program within a less selective university.  That can be a way of placing a highly capable kid in a good academic fit without attending a super selective school.

 

Don't beat yourself up too much over not applying to Ivy League schools.  If there are applications she can still do and wants to do, then go for it.  If not, don't feel like this is cause for dismay.  

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I think you are reading too much into the LOR requirements.  A teacher does not necessarily have to work in a classroom.  My son self-studied the vast majority of his classes his last two years of high school.  The schools on his list required a LOR from a math or science teacher.  His research mentor was more than happy to write this letter. He was accepted everywhere he applied, including two schools that are considered highly selective.

 

I would not let the lack of "teacher" recommendations prevent your daughter from applying.

 

Good luck

 

We very likely are reading too much into the LOR requirements. :p In retrospect, if the LOR-writer had MAILED in their letter ... they wouldn't have had to fill in all of those teacher-specific questions on the Common App.

 

But - why would a school list specifically that they require two *teachers* and either 0 or 1 *other* recommender? Why not just put one teacher and up to 2 or 3 "others" if they aren't going to be strict about the teacher requirement?

 

I'd just assumed that the more selective a school was, the more strictly they would hold to their rules. But now that we are a few-weeks removed from that decision, I'm thinking perhaps it's just the opposite. The more selective the school... the more open they are to the out-of-the-box students. . .

 

Things to mull over during the wee hours of the morning... :lurk5:

 

Edited by hopskipjump
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Thank you all for the input! It's great to see things we are already doing naturally (the following-their-passions, intellectual curiosity, networking), things that I need to ensure we "check off the list (the necessary testing)," as well as things that are just out of our control (ie. I can't write about my own education in the school report because neither dh nor I attended college. It's even difficult for dd to emphasize her first-generation status to a highly selective university, because they will wonder wth an under-educated mom was even doing homeschooling her kids without a college degree!! lol).

 

And again, I surely did not mean to insinuate that every high-achieving student SHOULD apply to a super-selective school. My sincere apologies if that was the impression given. :)

 

I simply want to ensure that Kid #2 and Kid #3 are prepared to apply to ANYWHERE that THEY think will be a good fit and is financially feasible. IF they are prepared to apply to a super selective university --- then that will only help their case if/when they apply to less selective universities.

 

I already have a file box set up for each kid where anything we've printed off goes into the folder for whatever school and they have their own bookmarked webpages of universities they are checking out. It's made a world of difference just dragging them along to visits with dd#1 - they are seeing a much bigger picture than dd#1 was at 12 or 15...

 

 

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ONE thought? Do not get invested emotionally in the application process (easier said than done). Select a wide range of schools. Make sure the student does not tie her self-worth to the elusive admission to a selective school.

 

I was surprised at how emotionally draining the entire process was. The farther we get from the early application dates, the more I see how intense it all was. The not-knowing was step was next was tough!

 

The most valuable asset for DD was most likely her dual enrollment at a 4 year university, starting from 10th grade. We selected subjects she was interested in (Physics, literature) or which I could not teach at home (French). She wanted to be in an actual classroom with a real teacher. So, we opted for DE instead of AP exams. She has not a single AP, but 32 college credits and a 4.0. She took four SATIIs to satisfy all requirements of even the pickiest colleges, but we ditched the chemistry one because she was not interested in spending that much time on a subject she loathed.

Some form of strong outside validation is necessary - I don't think anybody gets into a top tier uni with just mommy grades.

 

Also, we were mindful that highschool is valuable life time, not a limbo in which one waits for college admission. Do not tailor extracurriculars and coursework solely to the goal of looking good at admissions. Have them take the courses they are interested in, challenge themselves, do extracurriculars that enrich their lives and souls instead of just looking good on paper.

 

Having selective colleges in the back of your mind when you plan the standardized testing is OK; having it at the forefront every waking moment is detrimental, especially if the student ends up not admitted.

 

This is the BEST part of high school, imho! Seeing the kids develop strong interests in their own things has been so much fun to watch. And enabling them to pursue off-the-main-track paths toward furthering those interests has been a ball!! Loving every minute of this part of homeschooling!!

 

But yeah, I dropped the ball on the testing and outside-validation portions. Dd#2 will be starting DE classes this summer (so, before her junior year) on computer/programming topics she's highly motivated to learn more about.

 

And agreeing that setting the bar so high where ONLY a highly selective school could bring joy into one's life is to be avoided. The schools dd#2 is looking at are mostly 30-50% acceptance, except for the local state flagship which is probably 70% (and happens to have an excellent program for the major she's currently most interested in).  DS is looking at some Ivy League schools and daydreaming a little bit. :)

 

 

 

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And again, I surely did not mean to insinuate that every high-achieving student SHOULD apply to a super-selective school. My sincere apologies if that was the impression given. :)

 

 

 

And, it could be me, too... I'm also in bleary-eyed application mode and could have read something into your post that you didn't say.

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And again, I surely did not mean to insinuate that every high-achieving student SHOULD apply to a super-selective school. My sincere apologies if that was the impression given. :)

 

 

 

And, it could be me, too... I'm also in bleary-eyed application mode and could have read something into your post that you didn't say.

 

 

:cheers2:  This chapter in our lives is almost over!! (for now, at least... ;) )

 

I'm coming out from bleary-eyed application mode (dd is finally finished!) and just now sharply seeing all the things I DIDN'T do as well as I would have liked. Wanting to learn all about those things now, while I have it all fresh in my mind and can make a reasonable checklist. If I wait - I will forget I ever had a question and will find myself in the same boat two years from now. :scared: 

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She says she is done, done, done. I just want to ensure I'm not missing *obvious* steps for the next two kids. (except for one particular university... they required something like 6 or 9 SAT IIs for homeschooled applicants. lol The kids aren't allowed to apply there, because that's ridiculous! :lol: )

 

 

 

You might consider contacting this university and suggesting that they revise their admissions requirements regarding homeschoolers.  Doing it now means that you don't have a dog in the fight, so to speak.  It may allow you to be less emotional about your questions and suggestions.  Their response may also tell you a bit about the admissions office.  I had some email exchanges with Drexel this year.  They said they were revising their policy, but then missed their estimate for releasing the new policy by several weeks.  In the end the new policy is not only not much better than it was before (GED or Accredited diploma or now 24 college credits) but also requires more than much higher stat colleges do.  DS crossed Drexel off the list because of this, even though he will graduate with enough credits.  Frankly, he was a little insulted.

 

On the other hand, Worcester Polytech was super quick and helpful about clarifying their requirements for homeschoolers.  They were content to take a detailed Common App submission instead of their homeschool supplement, as long as they got similar information.  Their admissions rep responded within 12 hours, even on Saturdays and had enthusiastic and competent responses.  Night and day compared to Drexel.

 

One thing I would point out to a college is that more than 3 subject tests requires multiple test dates.  It is also more than Stanford or other highly selective schools require.

 

I'd love to know which school you encountered.

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I'm going to add one more thing: the essays are quite important at some schools, and particularly if the student has taken a non-traditional path. The essays showcase writing ability, but also give the schools an opportunity to see the parts of the student that are not necessarily obvious in the other parts of the Common App.

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I'm going to add one more thing: the essays are quite important at some schools, and particularly if the student has taken a non-traditional path. The essays showcase writing ability, but also give the schools an opportunity to see the parts of the student that are not necessarily obvious in the other parts of the Common App.

 

ESSAYS! Yes! I have a question... (for anyone reading, not just Gr8lander!).

 

For these questions, assume that the teacher-mom is more of a novelist than an academic writer.

 

1) How many OTHER people (other than your dc or yourself) read over the essay(s)?

 

2) Would you recommend paying someone to read over and evaluate/give feedback on the essays?

 

3) How much importance did you give to other peoples' input?

 

Essays were absolutely another thing I was unprepared for. Because dds path took a wild divergence midway through her junior year, my time was spent researching other aspects of her future college possibilities (NCAA/sports-related). I had spent NO time really investigating what college essays were all about (again, I never went to a university... therefore, I didn't have any IRL experience to draw from).

 

I had assumed she would simply write about her "passion projects." When we got TO the application, however, we realized that her resume covered that quite a bit and realized that they would ask her questions about said projects during an interview session -  and so she needed to pick something... more precise - AND a topic that was NOT about her projects OR about her sport (which, combined, account for approximately 90% of her non-school-related hours!). This was exceedingly difficult for dd (again, my fault, because I hadn't prepared her academically for this much talking-about-herself).

 

When it came time for someone else she knew to read the essays, she and I both balked at the idea. I considered paying a stranger to look over her resume, transcript, and essay to see if they were cohesive and painted a complete picture of a person they had never before met... but just plain ran out of time to do this before the Early Application date was upon us.

 

In the end, I think she had a solid "main" Common App essay that shed some light on her personality (but the topic was probably not as academic-minded as it maybe should have been?), some solid personal statement essays - - - and a couple wild cards that were written in a very short amount of time and we have both vowed to never re-read unless those universities accept her despite the hastily written short essays.

Edited by hopskipjump
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For these questions, assume that the teacher-mom is more of a novelist than an academic writer.

1) How many OTHER people (other than your dc or yourself) read over the essay(s)?

 

None. And I only saw some of her essays  - the big CA essay, and the one for UChicago on their quirky prompt.

She had to write a ton, since she applied to 12 schools, and almost all schools had a "writing supplement", i.e. their own essay questions in addition to the Common App essay.

 

2) Would you recommend paying someone to read over and evaluate/give feedback on the essays?

 

We did not. I would feel that paying somebody to edit/feedback her essay was crossing into a rather grey area ethically.

 

 

3) How much importance did you give to other peoples' input?

 

There was none.

 

ETA: I don't know what you mean about "academic minded". They don't want a scholarly treatise - they want a better idea of the student's personality. My DD wrote about her experience living abroad on sabbatical and encountering our family language as environmental language of same age peers.

Edited by regentrude
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Calvin's personal statement/application essay draft was read by a friend who had previously worked in admissions at a university.  She told him to make it less list-like (he was trying to fit too much in) and also to play up what made him distinctive - not to try to sound like the all-rounder that he wasn't.

 

So, there was no input on the actual writing - more general advice on what admissions officers were looking for and how he could best sell himself.  She didn't read his final version.

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We made sure they had awards to put on the application -- look for competitions to enter.

 

 

 

Can you (or anyone else) suggest how to find out about competitions? Are you speaking strictly of academic competitions? or other? Oldest DD didn't have much to list in this category, so I'd like to be better prepared for future DDs' applications.

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Can you (or anyone else) suggest how to find out about competitions? Are you speaking strictly of academic competitions? or other? Oldest DD didn't have much to list in this category, so I'd like to be better prepared for future DDs' applications.

 

Not Muttichen, but these suggestions from MIT might be useful

http://mitadmissions.org/apply/prepare/enrichment

Edited by JoanHomeEd
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We had Cindy Marsch of Writng Assessment Services check over the big CA essay and several others. I read all of her other essays (for all sixteen colleges). I suggested a comma and word change here and there but she almost never changed anything. She had a lot of practice writing all kinds of essays from middle school up and had made a 100% on a Cornell summer school essay. So, whenever I would suggest something,....you can guess how it went. I think it was more important that she had the life experiences to write about than the actual writing itself. She really gave some quirky answers to those essay questions -- totally unique, opinionated, and individual -a "diamond in the rough" where you could see the essence of her character shine through the experience she was relating.

Edited by Teacher Mom
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Oh, and one last thing---she applied to Cornell because it fit her. She loves it. But she also applied to fifteen other universities in four different majors. In other words, she dreamed but she had backup plans. She fit the major to the university and all the majors would have equally led her to her ultimate goal. She would have been upset had she not gotten Cornell but she knew the odds were not in her favor and was ready to deal with reality. Always explain to your child that rejection from any school is not personal; that it is not a means of defining them. That way they can get up, dust themselves off, and move on to the next step.

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Dd read over her own essays as well as dh and I (dh and I have very different perspectives on writing so this gave her two very different POVs) then she asked a trusted (adult) friend to read over the essay and offer critiques.  I know there are places where hiring a professional college counselor is the thing to do.  We didn't choose this route for many reasons but primarily: first, we felt we had enough of a handle on the process and time to devote to it that this was probably unnecessary and second, it can cost enough money that we would rather put those funds to college itself, other applications, or supplies for college. 

 

Keep in mind that Common App releases their essay topics in spring or early summer for the following year so you can have plenty of lead time on those.  Schools release their essays and short answer questions at different rates.  I don't think the essay has to be academically minded.  I am of the opinion that the essay is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate their writing ability and provide an insight into their personality and interests.  

 

My best advice for highly selective schools is two fold: first, years ago I was advised that if I wished to attend Harvard (for sake of argument) for med school or law school I should seriously consider if I want to apply for undergrad at that school since they only accept a few of their own students.  I would definitely research that topic if the student in question intends to go on to grad school.  Second, be sure the applicant is actually interested in that school.  Yes, it can be great to have a Harvard degree hanging on your wall but be sure that they are actually offering the academic and social experiences you and your kids are looking for.  If the school in question doesn't suit your student's needs then it isn't a good fit-even if it is Yale.  Please don't think I am in any way against highly-selective schools, I'm not.  I just think too many people get wrapped up in the name and forget to evaluate the school as critically as they might their state university. 

 

On the topic of schools that require excessive amounts of AP tests and SATIIs, etc.  My dd was so offended by schools that seemed to require ridiculous (and expensive) amounts of extra tests and validations for homeschoolers that she refused to apply to them.  I think there are plenty of fine schools that ask homeschoolers to explain their academic program and often, in test optional situations, ask that they provide a SAT or ACT.  That isn't unreasonable.  Those that think homeschoolers have plenty of extra funds and time to fulfill their wish list of academic requirements are being unreasonable and clearly still have (IMHO) a certain level distrust and possibly dislike for homeschoolers. 

Edited by JumpedIntoTheDeepEndFirst
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ETA: I don't know what you mean about "academic minded". They don't want a scholarly treatise - they want a better idea of the student's personality. My DD wrote about her experience living abroad on sabbatical and encountering our family language as environmental language of same age peers.

 

It's reassuring to see a few of you say this. I am less apprehensive about her essay in that case. :) Her essay definitely expressed HERself, and was interesting to read (at least for me...) so I guess she achieved the goal. :)

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It's reassuring to see a few of you say this. I am less apprehensive about her essay in that case. :) Her essay definitely expressed HERself, and was interesting to read (at least for me...) so I guess she achieved the goal. :)

 

DS 2 is looking at a couple schools that are pretty selective.  We went to an info night for a consortium of Duke, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and one other school (Yale maybe).  That was an interesting experience.  

 

The room was totally full of students and parents who were interested in one or more of these schools (and perhaps a laundry list of similar schools).  There were easily 1000 people in the room.

 

One thing that the Stanford rep said several times in several different ways was that what they wanted to know is what was special about that student.  She said that a friend ought to be able to pick out your essay from a dozen essays because no one else could have written it.  That individual voice was more important than a perfectly crafted essay.  

 

That isn't to say that it's not worth having someone check grammar and punctuation.  It is also helpful to have someone else read it to see if you get across what you're trying to get across.

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Keep in mind that Common App releases their essay topics in spring or early summer for the following year so you can have plenty of lead time on those.  Schools release their essays and short answer questions at different rates.  I don't think the essay has to be academically minded.  I am of the opinion that the essay is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate their writing ability and provide an insight into their personality and interests.  

 

We definitely didn't find the Common App essay topics that early. So many things I didn't know to look for in advance. I'll know next time!!

 

My best advice for highly selective schools is two fold: first, years ago I was advised that if I wished to attend Harvard (for sake of argument) for med school or law school I should seriously consider if I want to apply for undergrad at that school since they only accept a few of their own students.  I would definitely research that topic if the student in question intends to go on to grad school.  Second, be sure the applicant is actually interested in that school.  Yes, it can be great to have a Harvard degree hanging on your wall but be sure that they are actually offering the academic and social experiences you and your kids are looking for.  If the school in question doesn't suit your student's needs then it isn't a good fit-even if it is Yale.  Please don't think I am in any way against highly-selective schools, I'm not.  I just think too many people get wrapped up in the name and forget to evaluate the school as critically as they might their state university. 

 

That is great info to think about. This particular dd WILL be going to grad school, so she'll be going through the selection/application/waiting process all over again in a few years!! (With, hopefully, someone other than me to show her the ropes! I am assuming that the university connections she makes herself should assist with that when the time comes...)

 

 

 

 

 

DS 2 is looking at a couple schools that are pretty selective.  We went to an info night for a consortium of Duke, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and one other school (Yale maybe).  That was an interesting experience.  

 

One thing that the Stanford rep said several times in several different ways was that what they wanted to know is what was special about that student.  She said that a friend ought to be able to pick out your essay from a dozen essays because no one else could have written it.  That individual voice was more important than a perfectly crafted essay.  

 

That isn't to say that it's not worth having someone check grammar and punctuation.  It is also helpful to have someone else read it to see if you get across what you're trying to get across.

 

And stuff like this is why this board is SO incredibly helpful - the sharing and generosity of information here is so appreciated.  :001_wub:  I learn so much!!

 

Sometimes it seems that we live in an educational wasteland - there are very few info nights where Duke, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, or Yale would be presenting any information - and if they ARE here, it's most always an exclusive event for specific private schools.

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And stuff like this is why this board is SO incredibly helpful - the sharing and generosity of information here is so appreciated.  :001_wub:  I learn so much!!

 

Sometimes it seems that we live in an educational wasteland - there are very few info nights where Duke, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, or Yale would be presenting any information - and if they ARE here, it's most always an exclusive event for specific private schools.

 

The 5th school was Harvard.  I should have remembered that.

 

These five are part of the Exploring College Options tour.  You may be a couple hours from a presentation, but it does look like they try to hit most states once a year.  We're in Hawaii, so I definitely see the issue of limited presentations and ability to tour colleges.  

http://www.exploringcollegeoptions.org/

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Can you (or anyone else) suggest how to find out about competitions? Are you speaking strictly of academic competitions? or other? Oldest DD didn't have much to list in this category, so I'd like to be better prepared for future DDs' applications.

 

We found competitions mainly by googling.  Our kids did many academic competitions -- things like National History Day, the local science fair which is a qualifier for ISEF, Siemens, Intel's Science Talent Search, Young Epidemiology Scholars, the American Math Competition, etc.  My kids enjoyed the projects and most of the competitions have various levels, so you end up with plenty to list.  For example, at National History Day, youngest dd was first in our county all three years of high school so far (there often were no other entries in her category, so that was an easy one!), first in the state all three years, and sixth in the nation in 10th and 11th.  She wrote an amazing college essay about one of her projects.  It's something she thoroughly enjoys and is passionate about even though she is more of a math/science kid. :)

 

About essays -- only dh and I read dd's essays, but I see no ethical problem with paying someone to look it over.  I have done that for many kids.  Mainly what I do is let them know what colleges are looking for.  I encourage them to let their voice come through, to add specific details to make it more interesting, etc.  I'm not writing the essay; I'm making a few suggestions.  I also check for grammatical errors.  At every college info session I've been to, admissions people have encouraged kids to get this kind of help.

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You can also find the names of specific compeitions in the book What High Schools Don't Tell You written by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross. Suffice it to say, she is thorough in her suggestions. LOL. Overwhelming, even.

Edited by MBM
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ESSAYS! Yes! I have a question... (for anyone reading, not just Gr8lander!).

 

For these questions, assume that the teacher-mom is more of a novelist than an academic writer.

 

1) How many OTHER people (other than your dc or yourself) read over the essay(s)?

 

2) Would you recommend paying someone to read over and evaluate/give feedback on the essays?

 

3) How much importance did you give to other peoples' input?

 

Essays were absolutely another thing I was unprepared for. 

 

This depends on your dc the applicant.  Essays can sometimes be very personal, and your dc may not want to share openly.  However, given that you appear to have little personal experience with competitive admissions, I would find someone who does and ask them to read it.  I would encourage you to find as many people as possible actually.  Ask them to mark it up with suggestions.  Then your dc can decide whether to incorporate them based on the credibility of the reviewer and what your dc wants to communicate.  

 

Back in another era (1980s) I did not have anyone look at my essay and I was admitted to a top 5 college.  It was a pretty good essay.  But for med school, I had several people read my personal statement, and boy am I glad I did.  I just didn't appreciate how my words would appear to physicians academics.  Rewriting my essay helped me gain admission to a top 5 med school.  So, yes, I'm in favor of getting feedback when possible.  

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One thing that the Stanford rep said several times in several different ways was that what they wanted to know is what was special about that student.  She said that a friend ought to be able to pick out your essay from a dozen essays because no one else could have written it.  

 

This is quite true of my essay.  I filled a niche they didn't know they had.  

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My best advice for highly selective schools is two fold: first, years ago I was advised that if I wished to attend Harvard (for sake of argument) for med school or law school I should seriously consider if I want to apply for undergrad at that school since they only accept a few of their own students. I would definitely research that topic if the student in question intends to go on to grad school.

This is actually not true. Harvard and other large selective grad schools get most of their students from their undergraduates or those of peer institutions. In my class at Stanford Law, we had a huge number of Stanford, Harvard, and Yale undergrads, but not a single student from the very large Cal State system.

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Don't listen to local homeschooling moms, that's my advice. :) Or even people here whom you don't know well. ;)

 

My oldest was admitted to a selective school and middle is in the middle of the process. The main thing I did was to secure outside validation in all academic areas. Oldest also had two international awards, so that made her more attractive (one ultimately was the reason she was accepted despite less than stellar test scores.)

 

A lot of what fills out their applications isn't anything I could plan for, other than in encouraging it. They eah have a passion for making a difference in a specific area, and I think that is attractive to colleges. They can say honestly "this is how I'm going to us this education to make others' lives better." And they have the experiences to back it up. It all writes a story of a student ready to take the next step in a continuing plan.

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One book I found very helpful on essays-- and interviews-- is What You Don't Know Can Keep You Out of College by Don Dunbar. DS really wanted to go East for college-- he definitely wanted to get out of the Midwest. So starting freshman year we looked for summer opportunities for him to do programs in other parts of the country as a way to signal to East Coast admissions officers that this homeschooled kid from flyover country had the social skills to thrive outside of the Midwest. What High Schools Don't Tell You is an excellent resource for these types of programs.

 

He did 4 APs and took 9 DE classes at a local CC. His LORs were mostly from CC faculty, although he did have one homeschool LOR, a biologist who taught him AP Bio. He hit it off with his CC profs, and as a result one of his philosophy papers was accepted into the CC's biennial journal of best student writing. That was a big deal.

 

I also second the PP with the kite expert to allow your children to pursue their deep interests. My son wants to make movies. He made films in his spare time and entered film fests all over the world. One film was screened at 2 film fests in India (as well as accepted into festivals in the Midwest) and he traveled to India twice, once as a student juror for a film fest there and once to teach filmmaking to middle school kids in Mumbai. His ACT composite was on the low side for his chosen school, but with his academic accomplishments (published paper, summer programs) and the filmmaking, he fit in with his first choice. He just finished his first semester and is very happy. Tired, but happy.

 

Maria

 

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oh, and DH and I did help DS edit his essays. He is VERY long-winded (like his mom!) and would write twice as much as was needed, or would fit in those annoying CA windows. For him writing is very collaborative-- every essay, even now, has to start with a conversation so he could think outloud. So the editing was very collaborative.

 

Going to church now!

Maria

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This is actually not true. Harvard and other large selective grad schools get most of their students from their undergraduates or those of peer institutions. In my class at Stanford Law, we had a huge number of Stanford, Harvard, and Yale undergrads, but not a single student from the very large Cal State system.

 

Admittedly, the conversation was more than 20 years ago so it would be nice if things have changed.  It was advice from a Harvard law grad.  He agreed with your statement about peer institutions but recommended against trying to go from a selective undergrad to the same school's graduate program.

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