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How many universities should you apply to? And how do you choose backups?


lewelma
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So DS is going to apply to elite universities, and I know that these things are always long shots even though ds has the qualifications to go.  DS has American citizenship, so will not be treated as an international at most universities, which is a good thing as their acceptance rate is lower. But as we are laying out the college tour list for this summer, I'm starting to wonder which non-elite universities ds should apply to as backups, and how to choose them. There are just so many, and we are out of the USA so we don't have a State Uni that he would prefer or would give him a definite entry.  DS will major in math.

 

Suggestions?

 

Ruth in NZ 

 

ETA: Currently we plan to tour:

MIT (his top choice)

Harvard 

Princeton

Duke

University of Michigan

University of Waterloo

University of Toronto

 

We have family in Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky -- hence the choices listed above. We are very hesitant to put him in California as it is far from everyone, so that knocks out a lot of top rated programs. 

 

Should we consider: Columbia, NYU, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, University of Maryland?  Are these ok for backups for my ds? I'm just searching based on math department rankings.  How do I find a backup?

 

Is University of Chicago good enough at Math to be worth trying for *another* elite uni?

Edited by lewelma
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Thanks 8 for those details!

 

Finances are definitely a factor for backup universities.  If ds does not make it into an elite university, we would like a decent scholarship or he might as well stay here and go to Auckland.  If the university is of the same caliber as Auckland, it needs to be cheaper for us to want to send him to the USA.  If the University is better than Auckland, we are willing to spend the money it would take to have him go.

 

We need to come up with some options for second tier universities with good scholarships available for out of state students, that have good math departments, that are generally near KY, MI, OH, PA, NC, or VA. Family is willing to drive or fly in case of emergency, but basically we are talking east of the Mississippi.

 

DS may be considered in state for OH as that is where we vote out of.

 

ETA: how important is alumni status? DS has 9 family members who have gone to Duke, including both parents and grandparents.

Edited by lewelma
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Should we consider: Columbia, NYU, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, University of Maryland?  Are these ok for backups for my ds? I'm just searching based on math department rankings.  How do I find a backup?

 

Is University of Chicago good enough at Math to be worth trying for *another* elite uni?

 

 

No, I don't think that's a good backup list.

 

Columbia is another lottery school, with a 6% acceptance rate. 

 

Michigan, Maryland, and NYU do have higher acceptance rates, but still mostly well under 50% with pretty high ACT ranges. Basically that means that a good number of high stats kids will not be accepted for one reason or another. 

 

Penn State is the only one I might consider a backup; their acceptance rate is also right around 50% but their ACT range is lower. 

 

Remember that most American universities don't look only at stats, they want to build a diverse campus in terms of interests, origins, personalities, and so on. It's like a coach building a team - an excellent pitcher may not be accepted, because the team already has an excellent one plus backups, and what they need is a good shortstop. And at most of the schools on your list, pretty much everyone has excellent stats, so that doesn't guarantee admission. 

 

Below is a link to an international ranking of top mathematics universities, it might be helpful in finding new schools to explore.

 

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities/search?country=united-states&subject=mathematics

Edited by katilac
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Please don't quote.

 

Thanks for that detailed analysis. So how do I know which one on the list is a back up? Basically, how low down do I go?

 

DS's stats
First go on the SAT for practice (under time pressure) having never seen the SAT was 1540
unweighted GPA: 4.0, this is from his nationally moderated NZ school exams, AoPS, Royal School of Music, and his university classes
Attended International Math Olympiad at 15 (meaning top 6 kids in NZ)
He has all the extracurricular, community service, recommendations, etc.

What is a back up? I just have no idea! If it is ranked lower than University of Auckland, he should go here as he has already been admitted. Auckland is ranked somewhere between 50-100 in world for both holistic university and math department.

Maybe University of Waterloo is his backup. They have 4 full ride scholarships for students who have medaled at the IMO in 11th grade. DS is likely to medal this year as he was only 4 points off last year.

Edited by lewelma
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I think Auckland is your backup.  The cost of travel for a second-tier US university that isn't, on the whole, better than Auckland, is kind of silly.  I mean, you could send him to the Northwest State University of Wherever for free or close to it, but what is the point if you'll spend thousands on travel, be a zillion miles away in case of emergency (or just homesickness), and still not be at a better college than Auckland?

 

I think, on the other hand, that you should apply to as many lottery schools (also big state unis with very good programs) that you'd be happy to send him to and pay for, as he might get into Columbia and not MIT for no particularly great reason, or something similar.

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I think Auckland is your backup.  The cost of travel for a second-tier US university that isn't, on the whole, better than Auckland, is kind of silly.  I mean, you could send him to the Northwest State University of Wherever for free or close to it, but what is the point if you'll spend thousands on travel, be a zillion miles away in case of emergency (or just homesickness), and still not be at a better college than Auckland?

 

I think, on the other hand, that you should apply to as many lottery schools (also big state unis with very good programs) that you'd be happy to send him to and pay for, as he might get into Columbia and not MIT for no particularly great reason, or something similar.

I've been thinking the same. But if he could get a full scholarship to a lower tier school, that would be cheaper than Auckland which would be about US$23K per year because housing is crazy expensive up there. 

Edited by lewelma
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NZ schools don't have merit aid, I guess.

 

With airfare ($1000 one way?  is my guess, since he's not coming from California) you'd still be looking at a difference of what, $15K per year at least.

 

And does he care to get off the island?  When I was there a lot of boys (especially the boys) at high schools seemed very keen to get out of NZ, which seemed strange to me as NZ is pretty much a paradise - but might feel limited if you are young and full of spit and vinegar.

 

Will he participate in the National Merit competition or does that not work as he's not in the US (though he is a citizen)?  That can bring a list of pretty guaranteed full rides or close at decent state schools.

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There is merit aid to NZ universities, but it is based on the Scholarship exams which ds does not want to take.  He can't compete with kids from schools that have special 7:30am classes to prep for them.  Plus they are very prescribed, and ds and I are both pretty done with those types of exams!

 

I didn't know about the National Merit scholarships giving more than just a couple of thousand dollars. No idea they led to big money.  DS will take the SAT for the first time in June at the end of 11th grade.  Isn't the NMS based on PSATs?  I'm not sure they are offered here.  But sounds like I should look.

 

DS has said that he doesn't want Auckland as a backup.  Once he decided to apply to the American elites, I think he now would really rather go to the USA. A large percentage of the IMO kids go to elite American, Australian, and British universities.  So ds is feeling like he is up for it and keen. He has friends at Harvard, Princeton, and Cambridge, so I think he thinks he has a good chance at a lottery school.  

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Well then he should apply at all the lotteries your wallet can afford to visit :)

 

Yes, there are US schools that give big money for National Merit. It is based on the PSAT.  You can look them up.  Generally it is state schools, often flagships.  It is how I went to school for free (but that was 15 years ago, almost)

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Thanks 8 for those details!

 

Finances are definitely a factor for backup universities.  If ds does not make it into an elite university, we would like a decent scholarship or he might as well stay here and go to Auckland.  If the university is of the same caliber as Auckland, it needs to be cheaper for us to want to send him to the USA.  If the University is better than Auckland, we are willing to spend the money it would take to have him go.

 

We need to come up with some options for second tier universities with good scholarships available for out of state students, that have good math departments, that are generally near KY, MI, OH, PA, NC, or VA. Family is willing to drive or fly in case of emergency, but basically we are talking east of the Mississippi.

 

DS may be considered in state for OH as that is where we vote out of.

 

ETA: how important is alumni status? DS has 9 family members who have gone to Duke, including both parents and grandparents.

 

 

Ohio State? Not sure how accurate this info is, but wondering if you have given it a look.

 

I think in-state admittance is high.

 

 

I'm not sure how the residency requirements work for this. Have you kept a "home address" in Ohio (like a relative's house)?

 

[i also vote from Ohio  :seeya: ].

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He will not be in-state for any school. Laws vary by state, but typically you have to live there for a yr prior to attendance and some make you prove you didn't move there for in-state tuition.

 

A few things. Are you familiar with the common data set? It gives a lot of info about the profiles of students at individual schools and what schools view as important. Collegedata.com is an easy site to use. So for your Duke question, family relation is considered. On a 4 pt scale with 1being not considered, it is a 2. http://www.collegedata.com/cs/data/college/college_pg02_tmpl.jhtml?schoolId=1026

Duke's on that site doesn't include breakdown of scores, so if you simply Google common data set school name, you will find the actual school report. https://finance.provost.duke.edu/sites/default/files/u24/CDS_2015-2016.pdf. (You'll see in that report that 66% scored between 700-800 on the CR section and 73% in math with the 75th%ile score 760 in CR and 790 in math.)

 

I am not sure you have a clear vision of admissions at really competitive schools. Many kids attending top schools are crazy qualified with jaw dropping accomplishments. A back up school is where that is less the norm. Typical scholarship schools are where you kid isn't just like most of the other extremely qualified students, but rises to the top beyond the accomplishments of 90%+ of the other kids. (When applying, I want my kids to be in the upper quartile of that common data set and have qualifications that stand out.)

 

Also, here kids are admitted 1st to the university, not just the dept. You need to keep in mind the admission rate in general. UChicago is #3 in the country. It isn't a back up school for anyone. There are kids on CC whose deferrals can leave you scratching your head. Kids you think for sure will get admitted and then.....they aren't. Kids with near perfect test score (things like 1580, multiple 800 subject tests), research with a professor at top university, amazing awards and summer experiences (tippy top competitive academic camps)=deferred.

 

Not only is he going to have to have it all(grades, test scores, accomplishments), he is going to have to package himself in a way that makes them want to say yes. Essays matter. LOR matter. And as amazing as his accomplishments are, nothing is a sure thing. He is stellar and he has very high odds, but admissions is a strange beast where you don't know until you know. A back up school is when you do know. You aren't concerned about their being accepted bc you are pretty darn sure it isn't a question. Competitive merit might be a question, but admissions itself isn't.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Another Ohioan here, and I was also going to recommend Ohio State  :hurray: 

Tuition is also affordable for in-state, though there isn't much merit aid. And maybe Case is worth looking at, also (though not a state uni, they have some generous merit aid).

 

 

 

Ohio State? Not sure how accurate this info is, but wondering if you have given it a look.

 

I think in-state admittance is high.

 

 

I'm not sure how the residency requirements work for this. Have you kept a "home address" in Ohio (like a relative's house)?

 

[i also vote from Ohio  :seeya: ].

 

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Totally outdated and anecdotal...

 

About 20 years ago I applied to many of the same universities as your son is considering.  I had very high SAT and ACT scores, a 4+ GPA, national recognition, etc.  The University of Michigan and Michigan Tech were my safety schools (I live in Michigan, so I was an in state applicant).  I applied to a total of 10 schools, got accepted at 9 of them, was offered a full ride at three of them (including both my safeties) and chose to go to MIT.

 

I don't have a clue how things have changed since then.

 

Wendy

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I have no idea (see age of my kid) but in your shoes i would expand list of "lotteries" and "slightly less then lotteries", add Duke in, and use the NZ school as safety.

So if you're visiting Princeton, go over the bridge to Penn, etc.

This is the approach I take with my own kid thus far. I will pay if he gets into an amazing school, but barring that, there's a local lib arts school he can go to (not nec much cheaper but his DE credits might shave off a year) and he can stay at home.

Pls don't quote as I change my mind hourly ;)

Edited by madteaparty
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1)  Being from NZ should help with the "lottery" schools - I doubt they get many applicants from there

2)  Try doing virtual tours on the internet to help down-select - you could Google Earth their campus to see them

3)  Since you have a specific major in mind, Math - rank the schools by that (not the easiest task)

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DS has American citizenship, so will not be treated as an international at most universities, which is a good thing as their acceptance rate is lower. 

 

 

Be aware that the acceptance rate may be lower because the overseas students don't have good information about whether they are good candidates.  I process applications for a Masters in the UK, and a good percentage of the overseas applicants apply without the basics (required GPA, level of English, etc.).  The applications often come through agents some of whom seem to have a very undiscriminating attitude - maybe they get paid per application rather than per success, I don't know.

 

And then there are stunning applications from overseas too.

Edited by Laura Corin
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It's a lot of work to dig into this info - set up more spreadsheets - but it seems to me that seeing the whole continuum of options (with varying costs) is really important to preventing regrets later.  A lot may depend on whether you can afford the number that comes out of the NPC on each school's website.  Look at how those programs compare to the current safety, for (1) program strength, (2) cost from NPC and (3) his interest in living on those campuses.  Schools where acceptance rates hover in the 25-30% range are not true safeties for anyone either, but naturally admission is a bit more likely and some of these types of schools may also have a small number of *highly-competitive* merit scholarships.

 

Then I'd do that again with schools another notch down from there, or wherever the focus shifts from need-based financial aid to chasing merit.  If those programs aren't superior to the safety option for factors 1, 2 and 3, then you can stop moving down the list.

 

This student may have a top score in any case, so this is less of a concern, but a thought about the Common Data Sets - there is a bit of uncertainty regarding how selective schools are treating the New SAT.  Some schools are probably using the CB's concordance tables whereas others are not, because the tables might well be....wrong.  The most recent CDS publish middle 50% SAT scores for the Old SAT.  My rough understanding is that this will reverse for the data coming out of the current admissions season (and published early this fall?), with any Old scores concorded to New via the CB's concordance tables and then mixed in.  Personally, I think this makes the CDS less reliable.  Instead, I'd look for data published directly by the school.  So far, only a few have separated out Old and New scores for last fall's Early admissions data, though the implications of that are unclear as well (are the New scores similar or lower than the Old because the tables are wrong or because the applicant pools are different?  The reported New scores should be significantly higher than the Old according to the CB's concordance tables). There's a thread on CC discussing this issue.  Just throwing this out there for those chasing merit who are trying to figure out whether their scores are above that 75th percentile for a particular school.

 

On NMS, I thought I read just yesterday on CC that it may be possible to apply for NM for a student who missed the PSAT.  I'll try to find the appropriate link.

 

Kathy's suggestions for undergrad math programs.  I don't know how valid the US News math rankings are, but it gives different rankings for different specialties within mathematics - whoops, that's the grad school list!  I'd make a spreadsheet by going down the list for geographic distance from relatives and then add cost, admissions rate, etc.

Edited by wapiti
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I think competition both for admittance and for merit aid has gotten much tougher even since I was in school 10-15 years ago; the university that gave an out of state student full ride + cash now only gives $10k/yr towards tuition for the same accomplishments.

:iagree:  AND tuition has risen so much in the last decade that 10K will not make much of a dent in the overall price tag.  

 

Another item to consider, even with schools that meet full-need, is how is that full need met?  Some schools consider themselves to be "meeting need" if they offer you a loan.  The Common Data pages will have this information.

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Unfortunately there may be schools in NZ that offer the PSAT. https://ordering.collegeboard.org/testordering/publicSearchCont  Maybe they're unreasonably far away?


AUCKLAND INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE
AI 703078
PO BOX 3966 SHORTLAND STREET, AUCKLAND 1140, NEW ZEALAND, NEW ZEALAND
 
PSAT/NMSQT® Fall 2016
Wed. October 19, 2016
 
KRISTIN SCHOOL
AI 703070
PO BOX 300-087, ALBANY 0752, NEW ZEALAND, NEW ZEALAND
 
PSAT/NMSQT® Fall 2016
Wed. October 19, 2016
 
WELLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
AI 703099
TARAMAKI ST-WELLINGTON, PO BOX 4035, WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND, NEW ZEALAND
 
PSAT/NMSQT® Fall 2016
Wed. October 19, 2016

 

http://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/images/gid2/editor_documents/student_guide.pdf

 

Unable to Take the PSAT/NMSQT?

 
If you do not take the 2016 PSAT/NMSQT because of illness, an emergency, or other extenuating circumstance, you may still be able to enter the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. To request information about another route of entry after the Fall 2016 PSAT/NMSQT administration, write to NMSC as soon as possible but no later than March 1, 2017. Please include your home mailing address. Do not delay; the earlier you write, the more options you will have for scheduling test dates.
Fax your request to:
(847) 866-5113
Attn: Scholarship Administration
Or you may mail your request to:
National Merit Scholarship Corporation Attn: Scholarship Administration
1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 200 Evanston, IL 60201-4897
Your fax must be received or your letter postmarked on or before March 1, 2017, for your request to be considered.
 
Edited by wapiti
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Totally outdated and anecdotal...

 

About 20 years ago I applied to many of the same universities as your son is considering.  I had very high SAT and ACT scores, a 4+ GPA, national recognition, etc.  The University of Michigan and Michigan Tech were my safety schools (I live in Michigan, so I was an in state applicant).  I applied to a total of 10 schools, got accepted at 9 of them, was offered a full ride at three of them (including both my safeties) and chose to go to MIT.

 

I don't have a clue how things have changed since then.

 

Things have changed a LOT.

 

In 1997, MIT admitted 23% of its applicants.

In 2016, MIT admitted 7.8% of its applicants.

 

In 1997, Princeton admitted 12.9%.

Current acceptance rate is 6.5%.

Edited by regentrude
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A backup school is the nuttiest part of the college search process. Sometimes schools reject perfectly qualified kids if they do not think they are serious about attending.

 

Ideally it is a school that offers rolling or early action admission, so you can get it out of the way early.

It should be a school which accepts 50% or more of applicants, and where your test scores are in the upper 50% of accepted students.

The net price calculator should be up to date and return a price that you can afford to pay. (I'm guessing your income and assets are not in American dollars, so I would even ask the financial aid office for an early read, since this is not a situation NPCs are meant for.)

And, your child should be happy to attend there if the reach schools do not accept or if the finances at the reach school do not work out.

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There is merit aid to NZ universities, but it is based on the Scholarship exams which ds does not want to take.  He can't compete with kids from schools that have special 7:30am classes to prep for them.  Plus they are very prescribed, and ds and I are both pretty done with those types of exams!

 

.  

If these exams are available to homeschoolers, will it put your son at a disadvantage with US colleges if he doesn't have these Scholarship exam scores?  (I obviously don't know the answer, but your son may be competing in admissions with kids who do have these scores, and admission officers may wonder why your son doesn't have these scores, too, if homeschoolers are permitted to take them.)

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I'm going to venture that since you don't have a state residency advantage here, your ds will have an easier time getting admitted to a name school than to a state school that is typically viewed as a safety.  I think what you need to figure out is where do IMO champions end up?  

 

My sense is that the MITs and CalTechs and similar schools will see "IMO medaler" and say "He's in.  No question."  And bonus points for being from NZ since that adds to the uniqueness and diversity of his class.  

 

The state schools will say "He's not from Ohio, he's not from North Carolina.  He's out."  Or they might say, "He's from overseas so he's paying full freight, and we need the money for a new stadium.  What's IMO?"    

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I believe that  your son will be and should be considered an "International student" and that is a "plus" for him. My DD is also a U.S. Citizen, like your DS, but she was born and raised in Colombia. What your DS and my DD  bring to a university is "Diversity".  That is a plus.

 

I believe that you should reduce your list of potential schools a lot.  I believe that if you tour more than 5 universities, they are all going to blur together. Narrow your list and plan your time carefully. 

 

What is your DS looking forward to doing after getting a B.S. degree?  

 

I work with someone in MI whose older DC is a Sophomore in Michigan. Engineering.  They are MI residents.  There are lots of excellent schools. Your DS will hopefully end up in a school  where he is happy.

 

You might also look at Alabama schools.

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for your son I would consider anything with an acceptance rate of 20% a safety

 

Just learning as I go, I think this is a bad assumption.  I would have really high hopes for this student, sky is the limit, but for safety options, I would not depend on a school with that low of an admissions rate to be holding down the fort at the end of an unlucky admissions season.  It isn't safe enough IMO.

 

It's really hard to assume admission where the acceptance rate in the 20s even where the student's grades and test scores are above the 75th percentile for the CDS. The pool of applicants at schools with acceptance rates around 20% are *extremely competitive* with many students having similar grades and scores.  Even around 30% acceptance, say Rochester for example, the 75th percentile for SATs for the Old SAT is around 1490 - and even with a score on the New SAT in the 1500s acceptance is by no means a sure thing (even moreso if that school uses the concordance tables).  According to a quick google, 75th percentile for math is 760 or 770, such that an 800 is virtually the same score.  There's no room up there at the top that would render it a safety.

 

And then there's the tricky business of "Tufts Syndrome," where the intended safety school rejects super-high stat kids if they seem unlikely to attend, in the interests of protecting the yield.  And then there's the possible merit-chasing angle, a whole other ball of wax.

 

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Wow!  Thanks guys.  Nothing like a 16 hour time zone difference to get a bunch of responses.  

 

*Love* the idea of the spreadsheet.  I've been scratching my head as to how to keep all these notes organised.

 

Will add Chicago, Columbia, UNC, and Cornell to the list to look at. And I will ask ds again how he feels about being far from ALL family, because then we can add Texas (direct flight to NZ from Houston now!), and the California schools. 

 

I woke up this morning and thought that maybe ANU (Australian National) or University of Sydney could be the safety schools.  ANU is typically top 20 in maths worldwide, and I think that ds has *guaranteed* entrance there I think because of his NZ exam marks (but I will check!). And the honors program is likely to take him because of his medals in the AMO (Australian Maths Olympiad) and hopefully IMO. Main problem is that ds sees Australia as a foreign country, but does not with the US because he has been there to see family for most years of his life. So going there would be a bit scary for him, I think, even though it is closer. But on the good side, the effort to apply can be delayed until after ds is rejected from *every* university he applies to in the USA because Australia has the southern hemisphere calendar, so 6 months shifted.  

 

Snowbeltmom, very astute of you concerning the scholarship exams.  I am aware that other kids applying would have them and ds would not.  We could argue that ds is applying as an 11th grader so has not yet had time to take them.  (they are usually taken at the end of 12th grade) We are 6 months off schedule here so either he applies in the summer after 11th grade or the summer after 12th grade. I would assume that there would be an even mix of the 2, so that some kids wouldn't have them not just my kid.  I've had some advice on this board to write about this lack in one of the additional documents (not sure which one), saying that he prefers to do dual enrollment for the personal interaction than to take scholarship exams through the correspondence school.  Or something like that. I think it would ruin the rest of ds's highschool days if he were to have to study for those exams.  And for him to do well, I would likely have to quit my tutoring job and put those 15 hours a week into studying *how* to do well on them.  I think it is just a no go. If it ruins his chances at *every* school, then that is just sad, and ds will have to lump it and go to Auckland.  But I will talk to him about this choice and make sure he is ok with the possible outcome. 

 

ok, more soon....

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And then there's the tricky business of "Tufts Syndrome," where the intended safety school rejects super-high stat kids if they seem unlikely to attend, in the interests of protecting the yield.  

 

I'm just starting to understand this.  Basically, he is overqualified, so safety schools are not safe?  ug!

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8FilltheHeart has good advice. Essays will certainly matter, as will other qualifications apart from grades and test scores.

 

You seem to be somewhat in the situation we were last year, as we live geographically remote from most schools. My daughter was also very uncertain about what she wanted in a school, which led to a rather large list of diverse schools, that we narrowed down once the acceptances were in via visits. She is a freshman at Princeton now.

 

It sounds like you have missed the window for the National Merit competition (fall of junior year), though it may be worth contacting them directly to see if you could substitute an SAT. That would open up some safety school options for you.

 

The safety/backup school is one in which you know he can be admitted to, and that you can afford to pay for.

 

Your local schools would be great options for safeties.

 

If you really want a US school, it might be worth browsing College Confidential's Search and Selection forum. Check out the Parent forum there specific to your son's class (the Class of 20XX boards); there are generally some highly knowledgeable parents posting there.  Parchment.com also has a college search tool that analyzes an individual student's chances at various schools. I just signed in there now to see how they did with my daughter's outcome, and it turned out they were pretty right on/realistic. The College Board has a tool too that suggests colleges based on interests, location, and such. All these things can be somewhat useful.

 

Good luck. The college app season last year was a lot of work for student and parent here!

 

 

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I am not sure you have a clear vision of admissions at really competitive schools. Many kids attending top schools are crazy qualified with jaw dropping accomplishments. A back up school is where that is less the norm. Typical scholarship schools are where you kid isn't just like most of the other extremely qualified students, but rises to the top beyond the accomplishments of 90%+ of the other kids. (When applying, I want my kids to be in the upper quartile of that common data set and have qualifications that stand out.)

 

Also, here kids are admitted 1st to the university, not just the dept. You need to keep in mind the admission rate in general. UChicago is #3 in the country. It isn't a back up school for anyone. There are kids on CC whose deferrals can leave you scratching your head. Kids you think for sure will get admitted and then.....they aren't. Kids with near perfect test score (things like 1580, multiple 800 subject tests), research with a professor at top university, amazing awards and summer experiences (tippy top competitive academic camps)=deferred.

 

Not only is he going to have to have it all(grades, test scores, accomplishments), he is going to have to package himself in a way that makes them want to say yes. Essays matter. LOR matter. And as amazing as his accomplishments are, nothing is a sure thing. He is stellar and he has very high odds, but admissions is a strange beast where you don't know until you know. A back up school is when you do know. You aren't concerned about their being accepted bc you are pretty darn sure it isn't a question. Competitive merit might be a question, but admissions itself isn't.

 

Thanks for the frank talk, 8.   :001_smile:   I clearly do have some confusion about what is a safety school, but be assured that I completely understand ds's chances at the lottery schools.  I've been reading here long enough! So here is what we are doing to package him:  

 

1) I've talked to his English teacher, who is *very* good, and at her request sent her material about what great admissions essays look like.  And she has offered to guide ds through the process, and help him find a good angle. 

2) In addition, his English teacher is willing to teach him how to write the SAT essay as it is very very similar to the NZ national exam. So I have sent her all rubrics and she has been studying them.  Not all universities use them, but Princeton and Harvard do.  

3) DS and I have found great LORs, including a humanities one (the above teacher who loves ds)

4) DS has started his community service, by tutoring kids taking AoPS classes, and tutoring a kid here in competition math

5) We plan to hire the admissions adviser that Quark used, who specializes in unusual cases.  I've been in contact with her and she thinks she can guide us even though ds is educated out of the USA.

 

As far as I can tell, that is about all we can do to pack the court in our favor. The rest of his application will just represent *who* he has worked so hard to be. 

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Gr8lander, I so wish we could wait to visit, but I'm not sure it is possible.  I will run it by my dh.  It costs us $2,000 per ticket so we were doing the university visits in the same trip as when we are seeing family. But perhaps it would be better to visit in the northern hemisphere winter/spring of 2018.

 

I've told ds not to put all his hopes on just one, as he may not get in to his favorite and *any* of the elite universities will give him a good math education.  At this point he would like to go to MIT, as this is where most IMO kids go it seems. I have been in contact with MIT admissions and have been given advice from one of the head people as to how to package ds. 

 

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Mike, how can you tell if a university that has a good grad school program, also educates their undergrads with equal effort.  When I look at the lists, different universities come to the top if you search by undergrad vs grad.  So University of Waterloo for example is often top for Grad schools, but down around 40-50 for undergrad.  How do I sort this out?

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I'm just starting to understand this.  Basically, he is overqualified, so safety schools are not safe?  ug!

 Yes, it is called yield protection. You apply to a too-easy school and not because they have the prettiest campus and say, your kid wants to surf all day, and the school automatically rejects because they think no way will he attend there if they admit him.

 I am told Midwestern lib arts colleges have this issue with a student applying from (say) the east coast.

 

I think there is a ceiling to unluckiness. If you apply to (say) 20 schools with an admit rate of 20%, will you get 20 times unlucky?

 

Anyway, don't listen to me...I seem to have barely informed views for someone whose kid has zero interest in American schools unless he can enroll tomorrow...

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There is merit aid to NZ universities, but it is based on the Scholarship exams which ds does not want to take. He can't compete with kids from schools that have special 7:30am classes to prep for them. Plus they are very prescribed, and ds and I are both pretty done with those types of exams!

 

I didn't know about the National Merit scholarships giving more than just a couple of thousand dollars. No idea they led to big money. DS will take the SAT for the first time in June at the end of 11th grade. Isn't the NMS based on PSATs? I'm not sure they are offered here. But sounds like I should look.

 

DS has said that he doesn't want Auckland as a backup. Once he decided to apply to the American elites, I think he now would really rather go to the USA. A large percentage of the IMO kids go to elite American, Australian, and British universities. So ds is feeling like he is up for it and keen. He has friends at Harvard, Princeton, and Cambridge, so I think he thinks he has a good chance at a lottery school.

Call the US embassy. They will have figured out how to have their students take the PSAT and can share that with you.

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I think generally lottery schools are lottery for the majority of people, but for kids like your son, they aren't really lotteries. If my kid were on a math Olympiad team, I would consider MIT somewhat of a certainty. I would also expect Odds for schools like Princeton to be 80/20 in my favor. So I guess what I am trying to say is he will most likely get to where he wants, but just in case go one step down (Emory? Georgetown? Not those in particular since I know nothing about math departments there, but schools in that league).

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Mike, how can you tell if a university that has a good grad school program, also educates their undergrads with equal effort.  When I look at the lists, different universities come to the top if you search by undergrad vs grad.  So University of Waterloo for example is often top for Grad schools, but down around 40-50 for undergrad.  How do I sort this out?

 

Good question!  I don't trust published lists a whole bunch, to be honest.  Instead, I look to publications generated by the schools themselves - how often are they cited, how many of the classics originate at the school, etc.  With math, classic publications tend to be old, but traditions are held with pride.

 

Giant schools will not provide the same educational quality at the undergrad level as at the grad level.  That doesn't mean their courses are for slackers, however.  If there are "honors" sections available, then you can scratch this comment - smaller classes REALLY matter!

 

The good thing is, for math, the differences in undergrad education is not that significant until you compare the elites to, well, anyone else.  You can move from a solid second-tier undergrad program to an elite graduate program.  Go with the school which provides adequate challenge and a comfortable, engaging experience.

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I think generally lottery schools are lottery for the majority of people, but for kids like your son, they aren't really lotteries. If my kid were on a math Olympiad team, I would consider MIT somewhat of a certainty. I would also expect Odds for schools like Princeton to be 80/20 in my favor. So I guess what I am trying to say is he will most likely get to where he wants, but just in case go one step down (Emory? Georgetown? Not those in particular since I know nothing about math departments there, but schools in that league).

 

Unfortunately, I disagree with this assessment - believe me, I wish I didn't.  MIT (accept 7.9%, 75th percentile for reading 800, for math 800 on Old SAT) is not a somewhat-certainty for students on national olympiad teams (or anyone else) and no one has 80/20 odds for Princeton (accept 6.5%, 75th percentile for reading 790, for math 800).  The landscape is competitive to an extreme and grades and scores are only what gets applications past the first cut and then on to a holistic application review.

 

Georgetown, as another example, is not a safety for anyone either.  Last year's 75th percentile for reading and math for Georgetown were both 750.  The overall admit rate at Georgetown is 16%.  Emory has similar SAT stats but a higher admit rate around 25%.

 

ETA, I saw a video interview with a former long-time adcom from Yale the other day.  IIRC, he implied that more than half the applicants had sufficient academic qualifications.  Yale admit rate is 6.3%, so after a first academic cut of half the apps, they would be picking, say, 1 out of 5 of the remaining academically-qualified apps to accept.

Edited by wapiti
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Thanks for the frank talk, 8. :001_smile: I clearly do have some confusion about what is a safety school, but be assured that I completely understand ds's chances at the lottery schools. I've been reading here long enough! So here is what we are doing to package him:

 

1) I've talked to his English teacher, who is *very* good, and at her request sent her material about what great admissions essays look like. And she has offered to guide ds through the process, and help him find a good angle.

2) In addition, his English teacher is willing to teach him how to write the SAT essay as it is very very similar to the NZ national exam. So I have sent her all rubrics and she has been studying them. Not all universities use them, but Princeton and Harvard do.

3) DS and I have found great LORs, including a humanities one (the above teacher who loves ds)

4) DS has started his community service, by tutoring kids taking AoPS classes, and tutoring a kid here in competition math

5) We plan to hire the admissions adviser that Quark used, who specializes in unusual cases. I've been in contact with her and she thinks she can guide us even though ds is educated out of the USA.

 

As far as I can tell, that is about all we can do to pack the court in our favor. The rest of his application will just represent *who* he has worked so hard to be.

I was only addressing the role of a safety. Janet gave a great definition of the role of a safety: know you'll be admitted, know you can afford, and know will be happy to attend. Any school with a low % admissions rate is not a safety.

 

Apply strong. Be confident. It may be that he is accepted everywhere and then you can rejoice and thrilled. But, it really is prudent to also be cautious and know he has schools he can afford and will be HAPPY to attend where you know he will be accepted. (And that safety may mean he has to be willing to compromise on some of what he wants.) Knowing where he is willing to compromise is the biggest part of finding a safety.

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Unfortunately, I disagree with this assessment - believe me, I wish I didn't. MIT (accept 7.9%, 75th percentile for reading 800, for math 800 on Old SAT) is not a somewhat-certainty for students on national olympiad teams (or anyone else) and no one has 80/20 odds for Princeton (accept 6.5%, 75th percentile for reading 790, for math 800). The landscape is competitive to an extreme and grades and scores are only what gets applications past the first cut and then on to a holistic application review.

 

Georgetown, as another example, is not a safety for anyone either. Last year's 75th percentile for reading and math for Georgetown were both 750. The overall admit rate at Georgetown is 16%. Emory has similar SAT stats but a higher admit rate around 25%.

 

ETA, I saw a video interview with a former long-time adcom from Yale the other day. IIRC, he implied that more than half the applicants had sufficient academic qualifications. Yale admit rate is 6.3%, so after a first academic cut of half the apps, they would be picking, say, 1 out of 5 of the remaining academically-qualified apps to accept.

Yep.
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Well, he doesn't have to get into ALL the schools, just 1, right? That makes the chances much better than 8%.

 

I have read a lot of arguments over on CC about computing the statistical odds of applying to multiple highly-selective schools.  The arguments seem to boil down to the admissions decisions being independent events, so the odds cannot combined, but the independent events each depend primarily on the same group of factors, so it may make sense to expect some degree of similarity in the decisions (and then we go inside the black box of admissions to see how they determine who has the special sauce).

 

This isn't for you, Ruth, but for lurkers especially.  Helping kids put together a list is daunting, but knowledge is power.

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I read all the replies. I personally think your son's chances are substantially higher than some posters make out but not as good as a few assume. I would add more elite schools to your list and be fairly confident he'll get into one, but I don't see MIT as a shoe-in. If all the best math students want MIT, then MIT might not choose your son but others will. IMO achievement is not the same as "academically qualified' for the Ivies; it's substantially more desirable. (I think your chances for Duke, as a legacy, are incredibly high, btw). I feel like the best strategy with the elites these days is the shotgun approach.

 

Also keep in mind that the elite universities with their endowments and generous financial aid packages (but no academic scholarships) might represent your overall best financial package for whichever you get in compared with non-resident state universities.

 

ETA: on the math of independent events, the probabilities can be combined and the odds do go down. For him not to get into any of the schools, if they are independent, it would require not getting into A and not getting into B and not getting into C, etc. Those get multiplied together and the percentage goes down.

Edited by debi21
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I think the experience of his peers (kids on his math Olympiad team) will be more relevant for him. If his friends' with similar stats are were they wanted to be as you mentioned above, that tells you something. You DS is not just a math guy, but a great violinist as well. I would have him talk with him team friends and see what their experience with admissions to selective schools have been.

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<snip>

 

Below is a link to an international ranking of top mathematics universities, it might be helpful in finding new schools to explore.

 

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities/search?country=united-states&subject=mathematics

 

Interesting list!    Interesting to me, with strong ties to Texas, that UT and Texas A&M ranked above Cal Tech.   :hurray:

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