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How do you cull the list?


prim*rose
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16 yr old dd has a list of around 28 schools of interest on her list. Some massive, some medium-sized, some tiny. Mostly in the midwest, southeast, northeast, mid-Atlantic and two outliers on the west coast. They all have degrees in which she is interested. We can't afford to visit every. single. school. We can do the ones within a 4-5 hr drive (maybe 4-5 schools total). We can fly to one or two cities to visit a few schools (that would knock off 4-5 more schools, but these would be quick visits and she wouldn't have time to attend a class or stay in the dorms). But what about the others? How in the world does she narrow down her list if she can't visit them, and they all seem equal to her on paper? Are there other factors she should be looking at that we might be missing?

 

She's only ever been homeschooled, so she doesn't understand what it is like to be in a class of 35 or 300 or 1000, so she doesn't think she can narrow down by size because she's just not sure what she wants or what would be a good fit for her. Is it expected that your child will visit all the schools they think would be a good fit? 

 

I'm having serious anxiety over all this because I just don't know how to help her narrow her focus. Any BTDT stories or strategies to calm me down and tell me it will all work out? 

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Well, first of all, on the "it will all work out" front, the vast, vast majority of college students end up loving wherever they go to go school.  It's kind of like having a kid--you didn't pick your daughter out, but you love her because she's yours.  Usually.  :)

 

Second of all, to continue the family analogy, remind her that it will not be necessary to date every man in the universe before she knows she's met "the one."  You date a representative sampling or, instead, you marry the first man you date.  Either way, you don't date everyone.

 

Finally, I would pick the three schools that are the easiest to visit, and then visit those.  That will often give a student a better idea of what she wants.  If it does, then narrow the search from there.  If she can't find rational reasons to narrow the field, and I would pick "finances" first, then narrow it irrationally.  I personally would drop schools on the West Coast first.  Although students cross the country to go to school every year, there would need to be a compelling reason for me to deal with the logistics.  

 

It's great that she's excited, though--probably better than the alternative!

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You are correct in recognizing that 28 is ridiculously many and needs to be culled. My DD applied to 12; that was already a lot, but since she was applying to several extremely selective schools, it was necessary to have many. She did not visit all schools, and I do not consider it necessary. 

 

First, it would help to find out how she came up with those 28 schools. What prompted  her to select them over others?

Criteria for narrowing down the choices::

Degree program:

is the degree program she wants unnusual? Many common degree programs are offered by many institutions.

How are the degree programs ranked? Is she interested in, and suitable for, a top academic program? Or is she looking for a less rigorous program?

This is where we started our list making. We went down the ranking lists for her major from the top and eliminated schools that were in undesired locations

 

Admission rates:

How are the admission rates? Where do her standardized test scores fall relative to the school's admitted student population? It is good to have a mix of reach, match, and safety schools, but it makes no sense to apply only to reaches or to 20 safeties.

 

Geography: 

Are there areas/cities she can exclude or seek out because of the weather, the city, the activities?

How difficult and expensive would be travel home?

 

Finances:

how much is cost of attendance? do the schools give merit or need based aid? special scholarships in her intended major?

It makes no sense to apply to schools that are outside your family's financial ability.

 

After it has been narrowed down by these, look more into  the academic program. There are many things that can be found out from the school's website. Specific questions can be directed to the academic department.

Are there opportunities for undergraduate research?

Graduation rates/placement after graduation

unsusual specializations

specific student organizations she might be interested in

 

Edited by regentrude
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Once my son visited some schools and then found one he really like, we were able to narrow down the choices and direct our search better. I would visit the ones you can do reasonably and fly to at least one. I know some kids - once they fly and visit they realize they really don't want to go away that far.

 

Decide how many it is reasonable to apply to. It might be reasonable to apply to an extra 10 rather than spending the money to fly and visit - maybe not. The hard part is also applying to scholarships at all those schools. Hopefully as the year goes on you can start culling the list. Of the schools you have visited, force her to remove some "bottom" choices. 

 

There are many ways to help her if needed. Do you as a parent have any instinct on what is best (or worst) for her? Is distance a factor - pick what is easy to travel back and forth from. You can wait until you get financial aid packages - this might help narrow the search considerably. 

 

I would NOT let her get to April and still have a huge list. At that time you need to be down to just a couple of schools that you might revisit if necessary. It is overwhelming if you have too many still at the end. 

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I would NOT let her get to April and still have a huge list. At that time you need to be down to just a couple of schools that you might revisit if necessary. It is overwhelming if you have too many still at the end. 

 

Actually, many students don't have any list until the summer before senior year :) That's still plenty of time.

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I agree that you have lots of time here.

 

Run the net price calculators - they seem to be reasonably accurate for most unless you are competitive for top scholarships. You can cut some of the choices based on your calculated net price.

 

As the year goes along, cull the list. Some schools will let you know admissions and finances early. Throw out the bottom ones or the most expensive ones.

 

It will work out.

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Once my son visited some schools and then found one he really like, we were able to narrow down the choices and direct our search better. I would visit the ones you can do reasonably and fly to at least one. I know some kids - once they fly and visit they realize they really don't want to go away that far.

 

Decide how many it is reasonable to apply to. It might be reasonable to apply to an extra 10 rather than spending the money to fly and visit - maybe not. The hard part is also applying to scholarships at all those schools. Hopefully as the year goes on you can start culling the list. Of the schools you have visited, force her to remove some "bottom" choices. 

 

There are many ways to help her if needed. Do you as a parent have any instinct on what is best (or worst) for her? Is distance a factor - pick what is easy to travel back and forth from. You can wait until you get financial aid packages - this might help narrow the search considerably. 

 

I would NOT let her get to April and still have a huge list. At that time you need to be down to just a couple of schools that you might revisit if necessary. It is overwhelming if you have too many still at the end. 

 

:iagree: A friend and her son just went through this.  He had been accepted to many of the schools he applied to and was traveling to the admitted students days for all of the schools.  It was a stressful April.

 

ETA: OP, do you have other colleges in driving distance that you could visit just to get a feel for whether your D prefers a large or small school?  You may be able to narrow down the size of the school this way without visiting the actual schools on her list.

 

Edited by snowbeltmom
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Ds1 was required to have a huge list the summer before his senior year. This was fine with us, because it actually became easier to cut schools. People laughed at us, but we set up a bracket of all the schools, using index cards on the dining room wall. The early rounds were similar schools against each other (small vs. small, big vs. big, similar price schools, etc.) That way we cut the list in half. The later rounds were determined by price, size, and location.

Once we got to the elite 8, we assumed that he would get into all of them (he did, but it didn't matter for this round) and the final 4 would be the ones to visit. After visiting, he pretty much knew what he liked, so the last decision was easy. This is also to say, he applied to our favorite safety (financial and academic) and with their rolling admissions, he was accepted there in September, so he had a place to go if everything fell apart.

 

Our other kids have had very different requirements, so they are both easier and harder than ds1 was.

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1. Cost. Cost. Cost. Not all, but the majority of ds's list needed to be in our price range. 

2. Major. Ds is headed into a major where it can be very heavily male. He wanted a school that was balanced.

3. Sport. He wanted to continue his sport in some way. An intramural or club experience would be fine.

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When schools are far away and kids really have no idea what they want in "fit," it's often easier to look at schools close to you even though they aren't on the list.  See what small, medium, and large schools are like - the same with urban/suburban/rural.  This could cut many others that are similar.

 

For schools still on the list:

 

Definitely check NPCs to see if they are likely to be affordable.

 

Also check stats for students to see if test scores match up with safety/match/reach.

 

The combo of those two are the biggest concerns.  If places meet those needs, then:

 

Look at professors' specialties to see if they line up with areas the student thinks they'll like.  See too if you can get a list of where recent grads with that major have gone.

 

Consider climate.  Some don't like heat/cold or wet/dry - even green vs desert or city can make a difference in preferences.  

 

Consider ease of getting somewhere.  Car?  Bus?  Flying?  Two of mine have easy airports near them at school with cheap flights back and forth.  That's a ton easier than my guy who only had expensive flights to get to the small airport near him.  Some schools are out in the middle of nowhere so can take a bit of travel arrangements.

 

There are a gazillion ways one can cut a list.  

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Oh my goodness, thank you so much, everyone! I feel loads better. It sounds like it will be a natural process of eliminating some schools (though right now it doesn't feel like the list will ever decrease in size!). She's only visited one school (McGill), so her experience is very limited and I think she's in the phase of everything being new and shiny and amazing. It sounds like after the 3rd or 4th visit, schools will start to lose their luster, and as she figures the criteria important to her, she will hopefully remove more of the schools. If she can cut 15 schools, I'll be very happy.

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DD had no idea what she wanted in a college and totally undecided as to major so we did the visit the small, medium, large/rural, suburban, urban approach. Once she found a college she liked, we were able to build a list of appropriate colleges. Another thing we did is that during the summer prior to her senior year, DD did a 4 week pre-college program which gave her a feel for college living. For DD1, the important points were ACT range (selectivity), liberal arts, small but not ultra small, highly involved faculty, inexpensive flights, andcost.

 

DD had a number of schools on her list that she did not visit prior to applying. They were selective and on both coasts so the plan was to visit them if she got in. When April came around, 3 schools were still on her list. She revisited one local school and flew out to visit the remaining unvisited selective school. This process saved us a lot in flights and proved an effective way to cull her list.

Edited by Arch at Home
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I think I'm one of the youngest boardies to have older kids (I'm 27 and the step-parent of a 7th grader), so I've been an undergrad at a university relatively recently. One element that I think is important to take note of is--what exactly do the schools require in terms of core classes? This will tell you a lot about the school's "mission"--what the university, as a whole, defines as important to education. And this, in turn, will tell you a lot about what kind of culture the university is cultivating, whether inadvertently or very advertently.

 

I would recommend two resources to get a sense of this "climate/culture" element. The first is http://whatwilltheylearn.com/. This is a ranking from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. They grade universities according to how well-rounded the core (Gen. Ed.) curriculum is. Universities that require students to take courses in 6 or 7 of the subject areas ACTA focuses on, receive "A" grades. A kid with 28 schools might do well to eliminate any from the list that have "D" or "F" grades.

 

The other resource is very new. It's Heterodox Academy's Guide to Colleges. HxA's goal is furthering viewpoint diversity, so their guide has to do with how free students, grad students, and professors are to question established wisdom. Places where student riots have taken place in response to professors challenging the students' entrenched viewpoints are graded based on the university administration's response. Was the professor fired? Low grade. Etc. Are students allowed to express and defend their beliefs, or are they shut down by social pressure, legal pressure, and even violence because professors and other students are afraid of different ideas and have never learned how to defend their own beliefs? It's worth knowing, because homeschooled kids often come into university life with viewpoints that are, in some people's eyes, dangerously unorthodox. .

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I would recommend two resources to get a sense of this "climate/culture" element. The first is http://whatwilltheylearn.com/. This is a ranking from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. They grade universities according to how well-rounded the core (Gen. Ed.) curriculum is. Universities that require students to take courses in 6 or 7 of the subject areas ACTA focuses on, receive "A" grades. A kid with 28 schools might do well to eliminate any from the list that have "D" or "F" grades.

 

YIKES!  No to the underlined!  Well, make sure you know what you are looking for first.  One of the things my guy LOVES about U Rochester is the lack of core requirements.  It draws many students there.  Not having a core allows students to study what they love and makes double majoring easy - something many students opt to do.

 

A good high school education provides a nice core.  It's certainly not necessary for college, though of course there's nothing wrong with it IF it's something a student prefers.  My other two chose LAC's and one of their "wishes for difference" would be fewer required core classes after comparing theirs to middle son's school.  Slots filled with required courses means there is FAR less time to study things one just wants to study outside their major.

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ps  To compare the three schools my guys went/go to, Covenant is not graded, Eckerd gets a C, and U Rochester gets an F.  I'd hate to be saddled with an A or B school if Eckerd gets a C, but YMMV.  There's a definite difference in the amount of "free" course time available.

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YIKES!  No to the underlined!  Well, make sure you know what you are looking for first.  One of the things my guy LOVES about U Rochester is the lack of core requirements.

 

Okay, it was just a suggestion :001_rolleyes:  I'm a fan of serious core requirements, of the type described by ACTA on their website. I believe that a baseline education in economics, political theory, philosophy, history etc. is absolutely essential to civil discourse. I went to a highly political university without core requirements, among other things, and I was constantly getting into arguments with people who didn't know how to argue  and who were unaware of the baseline of knowledge I left high school thinking literally everyone had about politics, international relations, and ethics. I found it stressful and exhausting to be constantly battling people who didn't even know what a fallacy was, much less that they were using them. The level of discourse was shamefully low. It's not the most important thing about a school, necessarily--but their approach to Gen Eds can say a lot about the school's culture, as I originally stated. I guess a person who disagrees with me about the importance of the core curriculum could use the tool in the opposite manner from the way it was intended, and cull schools from the list that way  :001_smile:

Edited by egao_gakari
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ps  To compare the three schools my guys went/go to, Covenant is not graded, Eckerd gets a C, and U Rochester gets an F.  I'd hate to be saddled with an A or B school if Eckerd gets a C, but YMMV.  There's a definite difference in the amount of "free" course time available.

 

The ratings in the list are ridiculous. My DD's school is ranked #3 in the nation and is renowned for its extensive core requirements that take up one third of all credits required for graduation. But they get a B???

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Okay, it was just a suggestion :001_rolleyes:  I'm a fan of serious core requirements, of the type described by ACTA on their website. I believe that a baseline education in economics, political theory, philosophy, history etc. is absolutely essential to civil discourse. I went to a highly political university without core requirements, among other things, and I was constantly getting into arguments with people who didn't know how to argue  and who were unaware of the baseline of knowledge I left high school thinking literally everyone had about politics, international relations, and ethics. I found it stressful and exhausting to be constantly battling people who didn't even know what a fallacy was, much less that they were using them. The level of discourse was shamefully low. It's not the most important thing about a school, necessarily--but their approach to Gen Eds can say a lot about the school's culture, as I originally stated. I guess a person who disagrees with me about the importance of the core curriculum could use the tool in the opposite manner from the way it was intended, and cull schools from the list that way  :001_smile:

 

Economics, political theory, history, and logic were all part of our high school courses - to the point when oldest had to take an Economics course at his school he was bored stiff because it covered the exact same stuff.

 

At middle son's school he was free to study what he wanted in his spare time and parlayed that into a Sign Language Minor, two majors, another Psych minor (that was related to his major with some courses), and then he got accepted to their Take 5 program where the 5th year tuition is free just to be able to study something you want to study for no other reason than wanting to study it.  He chose Western Influences on Success and Wealth in Africa - tons of extra political knowledge there - a bit of it he's shared with us.  He's certainly not hurting due to his school getting an F in required courses.

 

But if he'd wanted Art History or Music or Laser Optics or whatever, it's really nice having choices of things to study for the amount of money college costs.  Not everyone cares deeply enough about politics or history or math - and that's ok TBH.  I don't expect everyone to be an expert on any one particular subject.  I'd rather they delve more deeply into things they love.  High school should cover the basics.

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Oh, and it gets even more ridiculous: the school where I teach which is an Engineering School gets listed as having no math requirement.

85% of our students take math through calculus 3. 

 

Yes, middle son's school has only one required writing course for freshmen and needs to take 2 sets of courses in various fields (tons of options), but majors have required courses/pre-reqs for their major.  An Engineer isn't going to be able to skip math.  Math is just not required for other majors (I suspect things like English or History).

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Well, my son's highly selective school (Vanderbilt) gets a "D" and both of us LOVE the core requirements there. Most of the reason for such a low score is because their core requirements are very flexible and can be molded to a specific student's interests while still being pretty broad and well-rounded.

 

I agree that you should look at the requirements of schools and degrees. This absolutely helped my son reorder his list as he wanted to double major in engineering and other and some schools make it easy to do and others make it almost impossible. There are schools that require a broad range of core classes, but give you a lot of flexibility. Others make you take almost set classes for the core classes. There are schools that have very few required core classes and let you focus on STEM degrees. There are schools that require foreign language, while others don't. Any of these can be a positive or a negative depending on the student.

 

Also look at the degree requirements. As you look at departments and a typical four year schedule, you'll find that some look very exciting and others tend to go in a direction you might not like. When my son was looking at schools, "I" looked at the degree plans of the departments. We discussed them, but at first it didn't mean much to my son as he didn't have a good basis to compare. As we were further into the search, looking at degree requirements both made more sense and became more important.

Edited by Julie of KY
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My son's school gets a C on that rating. It happens to have an extensive core of odd classes that don't transfer in or out so most students really don't like it. The chart has it lacking composition and literature requirements. That is not true. His two freshman core classes were combined comp/lit. All of the core classes require extensive reading and writing. So , no, there is no "comp" or "literature" requirements but there are 8 core required classes that all emphasize reading and writing.

 

That is really an odd resource!

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Perhaps in addition to the ACTA list, you take a look at a list that might be meaningful to you, as long as you take them with a grain of salt.  Many of them are written up to be little more than click bait, but they are still interesting to read.  For example:

 

Want to work in Silicon Valley when you graduate?  Here's is a list of top schools whose students get hired there.

 

Want to work on Wall Street?

 

Is your student an aspiring novelist?

 

Okay, it's mostly click bait.  

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Perhaps in addition to the ACTA list, you take a look at a list that might be meaningful to you, as long as you take them with a grain of salt. Many of them are written up to be little more than click bait, but they are still interesting to read. For example:

 

Want to work in Silicon Valley when you graduate? Here's is a list of top schools whose students get hired there.

 

Want to work on Wall Street?

 

Is your student an aspiring novelist?

 

Okay, it's mostly click bait.

You know what is interesting about the Silicon Valley list? San Jose State is in the lower rung of state schools, the Cal States (vs University of California, UC). However, it's geographically very close and they've built great relationships with tech companies. In state tuition is under 7k a year.

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I think I'm one of the youngest boardies to have older kids (I'm 27 and the step-parent of a 7th grader), so I've been an undergrad at a university relatively recently. One element that I think is important to take note of is--what exactly do the schools require in terms of core classes? This will tell you a lot about the school's "mission"--what the university, as a whole, defines as important to education. And this, in turn, will tell you a lot about what kind of culture the university is cultivating, whether inadvertently or very advertently.

 

I would recommend two resources to get a sense of this "climate/culture" element. The first is http://whatwilltheylearn.com/. This is a ranking from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. They grade universities according to how well-rounded the core (Gen. Ed.) curriculum is. Universities that require students to take courses in 6 or 7 of the subject areas ACTA focuses on, receive "A" grades. A kid with 28 schools might do well to eliminate any from the list that have "D" or "F" grades.

 

The other resource is very new. It's Heterodox Academy's Guide to Colleges. HxA's goal is furthering viewpoint diversity, so their guide has to do with how free students, grad students, and professors are to question established wisdom. Places where student riots have taken place in response to professors challenging the students' entrenched viewpoints are graded based on the university administration's response. Was the professor fired? Low grade. Etc. Are students allowed to express and defend their beliefs, or are they shut down by social pressure, legal pressure, and even violence because professors and other students are afraid of different ideas and have never learned how to defend their own beliefs? It's worth knowing, because homeschooled kids often come into university life with viewpoints that are, in some people's eyes, dangerously unorthodox. .

 

The first list seems to produce grades based on a very narrow set of requirements.  Just looking at Virginia - Univeristy of Virginia, College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech get D, C and C respectively.  I'm most familiar with VA Tech.  They may not require the exact courses that this site thinks they should, but they do have a solid set of core requirements, and also outstanding degree programs in engineering and science.  I think an evaluation that puts them at a C but Regent at an A is a very blunt instrument.

 

If that core is what you want, fine.  But be familiar with the grading criteria.  For example, I have to question if a specific composition course is necessary for every single student.  Or are there plenty of students who are better off using their current composition skills in classes where they are called upon to write within a content area?  

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Nevermind posting bug on iPad. Will edit post later.

ETA:

My kids are a few years away from making a list. However they eliminate choices based on size of campus, accessibility to good public transport, not rural, being mainly flatlands and not sports crazy. Also how good the engineering and library facilities are.

 

ETA:

You know what is interesting about the Silicon Valley list? San Jose State is in the lower rung of state schools, the Cal States (vs University of California, UC). However, it's geographically very close and they've built great relationships with tech companies. In state tuition is under 7k a year.

Google company bus stops by outside SJSU campus. They are aiming to build a Google village near Diridon Station.

 

"All told, Google-linked investors have spent about $135 million purchasing an assortment of properties on the western frontiers of downtown San Jose.

This month alone, the TC Agoge group has bought properties at six different addresses.

 

Mountain View-based Google could potentially occupy 6 million to 8 million square feet of office and other space near Diridon Station and SAP Center, according to a recent memo issued by San Jose city staffers." http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/29/google-partner-trammell-crow-buys-more-downtown-san-jose-properties/

Edited by Arcadia
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Okay, it was just a suggestion :001_rolleyes:  I'm a fan of serious core requirements, of the type described by ACTA on their website. I believe that a baseline education in economics, political theory, philosophy, history etc. is absolutely essential to civil discourse. I went to a highly political university without core requirements, among other things, and I was constantly getting into arguments with people who didn't know how to argue  and who were unaware of the baseline of knowledge I left high school thinking literally everyone had about politics, international relations, and ethics. I found it stressful and exhausting to be constantly battling people who didn't even know what a fallacy was, much less that they were using them. The level of discourse was shamefully low. It's not the most important thing about a school, necessarily--but their approach to Gen Eds can say a lot about the school's culture, as I originally stated. I guess a person who disagrees with me about the importance of the core curriculum could use the tool in the opposite manner from the way it was intended, and cull schools from the list that way  :001_smile:

 

I'm disagreeing that the requirements they are listing are "serious core requirement."  

 

Our state system requires a Composition course.  But having a student who went through the course a couple years ago, I can confidently say that it did not improve his writing ability, did not provide meaningful feedback, and did not represent a serious college course.  But it was required, so this list gives a positive mark for all the system school.  

 

The school I graduated from has the following core requirements: 3 semesters of calculus & one additional math, 2 semesters chemistry, 2 semesters physics, 1 semester electrical engineering, 2 semesters of computer science/cyber security, 2 semesters English, 4 semesters of specific history and government courses, ethics, law, and about a half dozen other courses.  From all graduates - including those with humanities degrees.  But it gets a B, because it doesn't require Foreign Language and Economics from all.  

 

Why require economics but not require a government course?  Why US History, but not World History or State History?  

 

This list grades schools on how well they hew to a blunt list of 7 courses.  Johns Hopkins gets an F.  But there would be nothing to prevent a student from attending Johns Hopkins and taking courses in each of these disciplines as they earn their degree.  Stanford gets a D.  Looking at the score there, they are downgraded for not requiring Foreign Languages (in fact they require students to complete the first year of a foreign language sequence OR have the equivalent mastery).  Stanford also requires students take 11 courses in 8 categories in their "Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing" requirements.  In the course of this, students will frequently take literature, history, science or economics courses, but because the strict core that this list values is not required, they are downgraded on 5 of 7 categories.  

 

I do think core requirements tells you a lot about a school.  For example, don't go to my alma mater - even as an English major, if you can't handle math, science and engineering.  But understand what a specific ranking or grading scheme is marking and decide if that really lines up with your priorities.

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16 yr old dd has a list of around 28 schools of interest on her list. Some massive, some medium-sized, some tiny. Mostly in the midwest, southeast, northeast, mid-Atlantic and two outliers on the west coast. They all have degrees in which she is interested. We can't afford to visit every. single. school. We can do the ones within a 4-5 hr drive (maybe 4-5 schools total). We can fly to one or two cities to visit a few schools (that would knock off 4-5 more schools, but these would be quick visits and she wouldn't have time to attend a class or stay in the dorms). But what about the others? How in the world does she narrow down her list if she can't visit them, and they all seem equal to her on paper? Are there other factors she should be looking at that we might be missing?

 

She's only ever been homeschooled, so she doesn't understand what it is like to be in a class of 35 or 300 or 1000, so she doesn't think she can narrow down by size because she's just not sure what she wants or what would be a good fit for her. Is it expected that your child will visit all the schools they think would be a good fit? 

 

I'm having serious anxiety over all this because I just don't know how to help her narrow her focus. Any BTDT stories or strategies to calm me down and tell me it will all work out? 

 

At 16 is she a rising junior?  I think she has some time.  Try to visit a couple schools that are nearby.  They may be able to help her see what she does want in a school.  For example, my sons realized that most schools had nice gyms (wow, a pool, wow, a climbing wall) and a cafeteria was a multitude of options.  That got them past the Wow College stage.

 

Maybe she would be able to take a dual enrolled course or a camp on a local college campus.  That could help her see what she likes in classroom scenarios.  Try searching the name of the local college and "high school program" to see what comes up.  

 

We visited 3 colleges early in high school.  We tried to visit a school or two when we were on family trips.  Even if it was only for a morning.  My sons had also been DE students on 2-3 campuses.  We couldn't do a lot of visits from Hawaii.  DS1 had seen his college several years back.  DS2 had not seen his school until he visited during accepted students' weekend, which was the weekend before national decision day.  

 

DS2 had a big list.  He applied to over 17 schools.  We knew our FAFSA was full pay, so a lot depended on what merit aid was offered with the acceptance.  This varied from none to $25k.  We also spent a lot of time looking are required courses, degree requirements, study abroad opportunities, dorm availability, and proximity to family or friends (schools that were close enough for him to have a place to go for Thanksgiving or spring break were noted).

 

We actually had big spread sheets with different aspects of the schools noted.  After a while the big list boiled down to 2 he chose between.  

Edited by Sebastian (a lady)
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The first list seems to produce grades based on a very narrow set of requirements.  Just looking at Virginia - Univeristy of Virginia, College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech get D, C and C respectively.  I'm most familiar with VA Tech.  They may not require the exact courses that this site thinks they should, but they do have a solid set of core requirements, and also outstanding degree programs in engineering and science.  I think an evaluation that puts them at a C but Regent at an A is a very blunt instrument.  

 

That's putting it nicely.  I hadn't looked at anything more than my own kids' schools, but um... yeah... it's good to point things out so any reader can know exactly what they are looking at with that site.  If it fits them, fine, we all make our choices of what's important, but if not, don't assume an A means much (or D, or F).

 

At pretty much ANY school one can get a solid "core" education if the student wants to choose those classes with their free electives.  There's no need (IMO) for all of them to be mandated.  It's ok to branch out in college and start to find an individual niche.

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Also look at the degree requirements. As you look at departments and a typical four year schedule, you'll find that some look very exciting and others tend to go in a direction you might not like. When my son was looking at schools, "I" looked at the degree plans of the departments. We discussed them, but at first it didn't mean much to my son as he didn't have a good basis to compare. As we were further into the search, looking at degree requirements both made more sense and became more important.

 

This is a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

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At 16 is she a rising junior?  I think she has some time.  Try to visit a couple schools that are nearby.  They may be able to help her see what she does want in a school.  For example, my sons realized that most schools had nice gyms (wow, a pool, wow, a climbing wall) and a cafeteria was a multitude of options.  That got them past the Wow College stage.

 

Maybe she would be able to take a dual enrolled course or a camp on a local college campus.  That could help her see what she likes in classroom scenarios.  Try searching the name of the local college and "high school program" to see what comes up.  

 

We visited 3 colleges early in high school.  We tried to visit a school or two when we were on family trips.  Even if it was only for a morning.  My sons had also been DE students on 2-3 campuses.  We couldn't do a lot of visits from Hawaii.  DS1 had seen his college several years back.  DS2 had not seen his school until he visited during accepted students' weekend, which was the weekend before national decision day.  

 

DS2 had a big list.  He applied to over 17 schools.  We knew our FAFSA was full pay, so a lot depended on what merit aid was offered with the acceptance.  This varied from none to $25k.  We also spent a lot of time looking are required courses, degree requirements, study abroad opportunities, dorm availability, and proximity to family or friends (schools that were close enough for him to have a place to go for Thanksgiving or spring break were noted).

 

We actually had big spread sheets with different aspects of the schools noted.  After a while the big list boiled down to 2 he chose between.  

 

Alas, she takes classes at the local 4-yr university, and at the community college. Still no idea what she wants in a school. I think the degree requirements mentioned by you and an earlier poster might be a good way for her to determine what she wants. 

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The ratings in the list are ridiculous. My DD's school is ranked #3 in the nation and is renowned for its extensive core requirements that take up one third of all credits required for graduation. But they get a B???

 

My school is ranked as a B too, while more prestigious schools in the state are at a D. The D schools would most certainly give a student a more well-rounded and better education. 

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Oh my goodness, thank you so much, everyone! I feel loads better. It sounds like it will be a natural process of eliminating some schools (though right now it doesn't feel like the list will ever decrease in size!). She's only visited one school (McGill), so her experience is very limited and I think she's in the phase of everything being new and shiny and amazing. It sounds like after the 3rd or 4th visit, schools will start to lose their luster, and as she figures the criteria important to her, she will hopefully remove more of the schools. If she can cut 15 schools, I'll be very happy.

Yes and, do as I suggested my DS ought to do: after a tour or visit, have her note her pros/cons of that school, because the details start to blend together and it is harder to evaluate.

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Sometimes the list will take care of itself as a student starts visits. When my oldest was 16, she had no opinion on where she wanted to go or what she wanted to study in college. We had visited one school on vacation, and she wasn't impressed. She thought she wanted to stay within driving distance of home and she wanted to go to a school larger than her high school, so at least 3,000 students. That was it.

 

The only time that would work for visits was summer, so I made a plan to visit schools in a three-day window that we had. I drew a circle to indicate schools within 4-1/2 hours of our home on a map. My daughter then looked at schools within the circle and picked a few to visit. I ruled out the super close ones since she could visit those on day trips during the school year. I also added the school I had attended, because it was near where we would be starting the trip.

 

That school ended up taking the entire first day. The second day ended up being spent talking about majors with an old friend, and we did not go to visit the colleges we planned to see in that city. The third day was spent visiting the school she was most excited about visiting. After the final visit, she realized that she had liked my alma mater best, but she was interested in seeing the third one again.

 

However, she never did. She did visit our in-state flagship that made the most sense for her interests, but she wanted to go somewhere different from her classmates. The following spring (her junior year) she went back to my alma mater to tour the department with her major. After that visit, she never wanted to visit another school. I did make her apply to 4 additional schools just in case she changed her mind late in the game.

 

She was accepted everywhere she applied, but she did not change her mind about the school she visited. She has now graduated from our alma mater and has a job in her field in the location she wanted. So, in my experience the school search can change/happen quickly.

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Start with visiting local schools, even if they arent on her list. Visit a small, medium, large school. Urban, subrban etc. (it could be a large Urban, small suburban etc.). The purpose is for her to get a feel for what she likes. After doing this my daughter knew she did not want large or big city. That helped us eliminate a lot of schools.

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I would recommend two resources to get a sense of this "climate/culture" element. The first is http://whatwilltheylearn.com/. This is a ranking from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. They grade universities according to how well-rounded the core (Gen. Ed.) curriculum is. Universities that require students to take courses in 6 or 7 of the subject areas ACTA focuses on, receive "A" grades. A kid with 28 schools might do well to eliminate any from the list that have "D" or "F" grades.

 

It is important to understand what this grading is based upon.  Rice University receives an "F" because students who pass a a university-specific writing exam do not have to take a dedicated composition class and because math and science requirements can be fulfilled by courses with little college-level math and science.  Other schools that require a weak composition class and a weak college level math or science class (or require the courses but allow credit for the courses through transfer or AP credit) receive a "B".   

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