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dereksurfs

Reasons to Consider a Less Selective, Less Expensive College

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Strange list, I would be interested in the metric they applied.

Mizzou which ranks #38 cannot really be considered a competetive, high stress university.

 

Yes, I'll admit I thought the same thing when I looked at some of the schools listed versus others which were were not. One of the UCs I attended (only briefly) is known as pressure cooker and it was on the list. 

 

Someone mentioned major may also play a significant role in that level of stress. For example, an English Literature vs. Chemical Engineering major will be a different experience. It seems that they were taking averages across entire campuses. But its really hard to tell without seeing the methodology.

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Does it matter where you went to school for graduate school or PhD admissions? If a kid wants a PhD in math or physics, would it matter?

Is it different for professional degrees (medical school, MBA, Law)?

Is it all about GRE or GMAT scores?

 

I know not everybody cares to continue beyond UG, but what about those who do?

 

Depends on the field.

For grad school in physics, the GRE score and the undergraduate research experience matter more than the school name. But school name helps, of course. OTOH, it's hard to decide how much it helps, since the students who attend highly selective schools are self selected high achievers who naturally will have a good shot at getting into grad school

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The Stressful College List website looked a little click bait-y, with slow load times and lots of ads.  

 

One dad I know wanted his son to attend a college where he would be in the top 25%.  So not the smartest kid at the school, but succeeding relative to most of the students there.  

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Does it matter where you went to school for graduate school or PhD admissions? If a kid wants a PhD in math or physics, would it matter?

Is it different for professional degrees (medical school, MBA, Law)?

Is it all about GRE or GMAT scores?

 

I know not everybody cares to continue beyond UG, but what about those who do?

 

One of the advantages we are considering is that if you go to certain universities for UG, you can move right into grad school in that same major. And sometimes its an accelerated fashion. For example, UC Davis has an Integrated Bachelors / Masters in Computer Science. Students who maintain a 3.5 GPA can move into grad school without taking the GRE. 

 

http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/graduate/integrated/

 

Other UCs have similar programs and since we are so close to UCSC it is a consideration. Because our oldest is very interested in understanding 'why' things work, we're thinking he may want to continue into grad school to conduct further research. Of course, as has been mentioned, much can change in a young man/women's life between 18 and 21. But its still nice to have some of these benefits. So it is a factor we will weigh against other benefits.

Edited by dereksurfs
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One of the advantages we are considering is that if you go to certain universities for UG, you can move right into grad school in that same major. And sometimes its an accelerated fashion. For example, UC Davis has an Integrated Bachelors / Masters in Computer Science. Students who maintain a 3.5 GPA can move into grad school without taking the GRE.

 

http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/graduate/integrated/

 

Other UCs have similar programs and since we are so close to UCSC it is a consideration. Because our oldest is very interested in understanding 'why' things work, we're thinking he may want to continue into grad school to conduct further research. Of course, as has been mentioned, much can change in a young man/women's life between 18 and 21. But its still nice to have some of these benefits. So it is a factor we will weigh against other benefits.

This program sounds marvelous and you have a guaranteed admission to Davis from CC. Edited by Roadrunner
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The Stressful College List website looked a little click bait-y, with slow load times and lots of ads.  

 

One dad I know wanted his son to attend a college where he would be in the top 25%.  So not the smartest kid at the school, but succeeding relative to most of the students there.  

 

Yes, that's actually one of the benefits mentioned in one of the articles. Basically, the student has the opportunity to shine brighter when able to rise to the top versus merely scrapping by or just keeping up. Its sometimes referred to as being a big fish in smaller pond. There are entire threads discussing the pros and cons of this - big fish/small pond vs. small fish/big pond and all the variations (fish size, pond size, pond within a pond, peer group, etc...).

 

The fact this is a multifaceted question or problem means there is no one right answer for everyone. Rather the student should be considered in light on all them to determine a good fit. And let's face it, some kids are motivated enough to do well in a variety situations given financial limitations, etc...

Edited by dereksurfs

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I have not read this whole thread, but I didn't see the most obvious answer listed in the posts I read. In our case, my top 1 percent students attended a top-100 school that they knew they would be admitted to with merit aid, because they wanted to attend that school. That seems to be the reason why my kids friends' choose their schools.

 

My recent college graduate visited three universities while in high school. She attended the lowest-ranked of the three. However, it was the only one she applied to of the three visited, because she liked it best. She knew she would be admitted. I made her apply to some other schools that offered free applications and her niche major, just in case she changed her mind. (She was accepted to all 5 schools she applied to, even the more selective ones.)

 

After she was applied, some friends, who were waiting to hear from more selective state colleges, gave her a hard time about her choice. She decided she wanted to see if she could be accepted to a super selective school to shut up her friends, who were not applying to super selective schools. She decided Columbia best fit her interests, however, she did not have any interest in actually attending Columbia. I refused to pay an application fee for a school she did not want to attend, and she didn't want to pay either. So, she did not apply even though her test scores put her in the top 25 percent for Columbia.

 

My current college student visited four schools. He ended up only applying to the same school his sister attended (which was in the middle ranking of the four he visited. I did not make him apply to any other schools, but I did make him visit the fourth school after he had filled out his one-and-only application.

 

For my kids picking a college has been easy. My graduate had three internships and a summer reu and two years of on-campus undergraduate research on her resume. She was offered a full-time job before her senior year even started. (SHe chose not to do a 3rd year of undergraduate research, since she already had a job.) She loved her time at school and has been back three times since graduation to visit friends. My current high school junior plans to follow in their footsteps and attend the same school.

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I would turn the question around and ask: if the student has the stats to get into a highly selective school and if the family can afford it, under which circumstances would the higher cost be worth it?

 

I think one aspect of this that hasn't been mentioned yet is that even if a family has the full cost of an Ivy education sitting in the bank, any cost-benefit analysis needs to take into account what else that money could have been used for. Is a degree from Elite Private School (full pay) really worth more than a degree from State Flagship (full ride, Honors College, extra perks) plus $250,000 in cash?

 

A student who chose Option B and invested the $250K instead could have a retirement fund worth more than $3 million at age 65. Or he could use the money to pay cash for a starter home or use it as a down payment on a larger house, slashing $250K off his mortgage. Even though the student who chose A could do so without incurring student loan debt, he'd still be taking on debt later, just in the form of a mortgage (that he'd ultimately pay an extra $350K for) instead of student loans. 

 

Obviously there are some families who can write a check for the sticker price at Harvard and buy Junior a nice house, and there are some families whose choices are more along the lines of $10K net price at State Flagship versus $20K net price at Elite Private, but in situations where there is a significant difference in price between options, the assessment of "value" really comes down to School X versus School Y plus the difference in cash. 

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Yes, that's actually one of the benefits mentioned in one of the articles. Basically, the student has the opportunity to shine brighter when able to rise to the top versus merely scrapping by or just keeping up. Its sometimes referred to as being a big fish in smaller pond. There are entire threads discussing the pros and cons of this - big fish/small pond vs. small fish/big pond and all the variations (fish size, pond size, pond within a pond, peer group, etc...).

 

The fact this is a multifaceted question or problem means there is no one right answer for everyone. Rather the student should be considered in light on all them to determine a good fit. And let's face it, some kids are motivated enough to do well in a variety situations given financial limitations, etc...

 

This was our dilemma with my oldest.  Part of the decision was made for us due to some circumstances.  He would have been a bigger fish, and that might have been a perfect situation, but then he found Choice #2 and fell in love and it made it HIS decision.  He will be a small fish.  We are hoping he doesn't drowned.  But the fact that he really wants it makes it more likely he will succeed.  We will see!

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I think parents' own trajectory colors what they want for their kids but this doesn't work when said child is interested in things neither parent has a clue about. I guess that's where neighbors and friends and hours of research will come handy. I also guess this is why engineers make more engineers and lawyers more lawyers. Not here, not yet anyway :)

Edited by madteaparty
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What advice would you give for someone wanting to go to law school or business school?

 

for law school, it's only worth going to a top one unless you are interested in a specific local market, that LSAT and GPA matter, so does "prestige" of undergrad but I think very very few undergrad schools would preclude you from consideration if you have the numbers. So go somewhere that's decent but not so hard core that your GPA suffers).

For business school, I would say rank is even more important especially if you want to go into consulting or investment banking, (especially if you are interning circa 2008 😳)but for admission in addition to the numbers, work experience before applying matters (it doesn't really for law school).

ETA that there was a recent law school post where several posters including wapiti and others chimed in, in which I thought all the advice was spot-on. I can't find it now bc airport lounge/mobile.

Edited by madteaparty
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Beyond the financial aspects, there is the toll on the student while attending a school where they are struggling to maintain good grades based on the level of demand placed upon them? Suicide on campus due to extreme stress is a real factor affecting more college students. While obviously not applicable to all, its none the less a problem. The article referenced above included real life cases of those difficulties. The suicide rates at some of these select schools are the highest in the nation. So it is a consideration. Here's another on the topic: Top 50 Colleges With The Most Stressed Out Student Bodies.

 

Like others, I found this really strange to include considering many of the schools on the list are hardly highly selective schools.  The intro paragraph states:

 

"32 percent of students say they have felt so depressed “that it was difficult to function.†Even so, the rate of suicide among college students is much lower than that of the general population. "

 

Making it seem like students are better off at college than in the general population if one is only going to consider stats.

 

Then too - their admonishment of:

 

"If you know anyone on that go to the following schools or are an alumni please spread awareness about the following schools with the highest depression rates."

 

seems pretty akin to telling people to make their college choices based upon a 3rd rate magazine trying to sell itself and is a huge turnoff to me.  These sorts of stats can vary wildly each year.  How many years did they accumulate data?  Did they check incoming students for depression to be sure the schools screened carefully or are some of these schools (esp the local schools to the student) their "safety?"

 

I'll admit I didn't read your other links because I'm VERY short on time this morning.  I feel a little bummed with myself that I took your clickbait on this one - esp when it's not saying what you seemed to imply it did.  (Highly selective schools are suicide magnets.)

 

This thread seems to be devolving into a Mommy Wars equivalent.

 

All I can add is we have no regrets paying for our guys' college journeys.  We weren't full pay, but none were free either.  I certainly don't wish I'd bought them a car or house or anything else and had them skimp on their journey rather than go to what was an affordable "best fit."  For us, the right college for them is worth paying for.  For us it's similar to travel.  It's an experience.  Sure we could stay home and get a video about the place we wanted to go while just taking "free" day trips - esp since some folks pay to go to Gettysburg National Military Park and it's more or less in our back yard - but we actually wanted something else and have paid (many times) to go see other things.  We want the journey.  We have no regrets.  Each has enjoyed their time and experience.  That's what we paid for - with their contribution coming in basic student loans that can be paid back in 5 years time, similar to a car payment.

 

Just because we want the journey doesn't mean others have to choose the same.  Mommy wars are dumb.

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Does it matter where you went to school for graduate school or PhD admissions? If a kid wants a PhD in math or physics, would it matter?

Is it different for professional degrees (medical school, MBA, Law)?

Is it all about GRE or GMAT scores?

This is something I know about (DH has worked on graduate admissions a fair amount).

 

If you go to a third tier school, a top school may question whether your work had prepared you adequately for their classes. For example, the third tier's highest physics class may be much less challenging. If you want to go to a top grad school, you may need to do a two year masters at a second tier school.

 

Another warning sign is a kid who got all A+s in college. Are they someone who doesn't care to challenge themselves?

 

GREs won't save you here because schools are being pressured to ignore them more and more. They only matter if there is a huge discrepancy between grades and GREs. Some schools (Caltech, for one) are known for producing bad physics GRE scores because the physics GREs don't really test what real physics is. Some schools are known, on the other hand, to teach directly to the GRE. 

 

A friend of mine doing a JD/PhD at a top three law school went to online college and online law school. Then he did a two year masters at a so-so state university before coming to a top law school. Actually, at the so-so state university, he was not given a teaching fellowship because they were concerned he would lack people skills due to the online university (despite having already done online law school and a state judge clerkship). He actually was told to omit info about his online law school in his application by his advisor.

 

All my experiences are at top-10 universities, though, so I don't know about the rest. 

 

Emily

 

Edited by EmilyGF
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I think parents' own trajectory colors what they want for their kids but this doesn't work when said child is interested in things neither parent has a clue about. I guess that's where neighbors and friends and hours of research will come handy. I also guess this is why engineers make more engineers and lawyers more lawyers. Not here, not yet anyway :)

  

My granddads are self employed engineers. My dad is a retired teacher while his brothers are self employed engineers and his sisters helped in their husbands’ businesses. In my cousins generation many switched to business with an engineering degree and there are even fewer engineers among my nephews and nieces. My lady cousin has a chemical engineering degree but works in broadcasting in the censorship dept (doing the PG13, R ratings for shows). My nephews (cousin’s kids) oldest children are near college age so it would be interesting to see what major they choose.

 

What advice would you give for someone wanting to go to law school or business school?

 

The engineers who went on to MBA at Stanford, Santa Clara U did so after working for years and their work experience count more for admission. They have great GMAT scores anyway and commute to school.

All my lawyer friends are 2nd/3rd generation lawyers with affluent parents who already has connections. An engineer in my husband’s workplace took the LSAT without prep and had a very high score. We know a few retrenched engineers who went into patents/intellectual property because they can make a decent living as patent agents while looking for a job. We do have a USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office) in downtown San Jose.

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I think one aspect of this that hasn't been mentioned yet is that even if a family has the full cost of an Ivy education sitting in the bank, any cost-benefit analysis needs to take into account what else that money could have been used for. Is a degree from Elite Private School (full pay) really worth more than a degree from State Flagship (full ride, Honors College, extra perks) plus $250,000 in cash?

 

A student who chose Option B and invested the $250K instead could have a retirement fund worth more than $3 million at age 65. Or he could use the money to pay cash for a starter home or use it as a down payment on a larger house, slashing $250K off his mortgage. Even though the student who chose A could do so without incurring student loan debt, he'd still be taking on debt later, just in the form of a mortgage (that he'd ultimately pay an extra $350K for) instead of student loans.

 

Obviously there are some families who can write a check for the sticker price at Harvard and buy Junior a nice house, and there are some families whose choices are more along the lines of $10K net price at State Flagship versus $20K net price at Elite Private, but in situations where there is a significant difference in price between options, the assessment of "value" really comes down to School X versus School Y plus the difference in cash.

This was the choice my ds had. We are NOT in a position to do both full-freight top college and buy him a house. And, we wouldn't do that even if we could!

 

However, this is only one side of the value equation. The other is ROI based on earnings after graduation. Which is a whole other can of worms about whether top-tier brand enhances one's earnings over a lifetime or not.

 

I'd also like to address the "fish" issue. I'm not sure it's right to assume academic struggles or extreme competition or depression or whatever if one chooses a top-tier school. If one goes into a top school in the lower quartile range of stats, then, yes, it will probably be more challenging academically. Top quartile stats don't guarantee success (or admission for that matter) either. How big of a fish you become depends primarily on your work ethic and grit, IMO.

Edited by Hoggirl
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I'd also like to address the "fish" issue. I'm not sure it's right to assume academic struggles or extreme competition or depression or whatever if one chooses a top-tier school. If one goes into a top school in the lower quartile range of stats, then, yes, it will probably be more challenging academically. Top quartile stats don't guarantee success (or admission for that matter) either. How big of a fish you become depends primarily on your work ethic and grit, IMO.

 

Hanging out with big fish has advantages.  DH attended a name school and met lots of big fish who went on to become even bigger fish in the larger world.  It's not uncommon for me to read a newspaper article and have him say, "Oh, I know him/her," where him/her=CEO/CTO/founder of some company you've heard of/semi-famous professor doing innovative stuff/author of some best-selling book.  

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This thread seems to be devolving into a Mommy Wars equivalent.

 

All I can add is we have no regrets paying for our guys' college journeys.  We weren't full pay, but none were free either.  I certainly don't wish I'd bought them a car or house or anything else and had them skimp on their journey rather than go to what was an affordable "best fit."  For us, the right college for them is worth paying for.  For us it's similar to travel.  It's an experience.  Sure we could stay home and get a video about the place we wanted to go while just taking "free" day trips - esp since some folks pay to go to Gettysburg National Military Park and it's more or less in our back yard - but we actually wanted something else and have paid (many times) to go see other things.  We want the journey.  We have no regrets.  Each has enjoyed their time and experience.  That's what we paid for - with their contribution coming in basic student loans that can be paid back in 5 years time, similar to a car payment.

 

Just because we want the journey doesn't mean others have to choose the same.  Mommy wars are dumb.

No one said or even implied that everyone should always choose the cheapest school or that anyone who takes out loans or chooses an elite school is an idiot. No one has criticized your choice, or anyone else's.  Is there anyone on this thread, or even this whole board, who is not looking for "an affordable best fit" for their kids? Isn't that what we all want?

 

This thread is a discussion of the factors that go into assessing those two very important criteria: "affordability" and "fit." If the highest ranked school a student can get into is also the best fit and the family can afford it (with or without loans), awesome, that choice is made. For most people, that decision will be a lot more complicated, and for some families a lower ranked school may be more affordable, or a better fit, or both. 

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I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or, in a wealthier large family's case, millions) for the experience of a particular college education - any more than there's something inherently wrong in paying for travel or fancy cars or eating out a lot over the years or donating it all to charity.  

 

There is a useful distinction to be made, though, between paying the tens/hundreds of thousands because you want the experience for your kids and paying the tens/hundreds of thousands because you think it is a wise or necessary investment.  I was under the impression, largely, that this thread was about considering in what circumstances the elite university is and is not a wise or necessary investment.  Of course if you have the cash or can take out the loans and that is what you want to spend money on regardless of a sort of empirical value, that's your deal, more power to you!

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...

This thread seems to be devolving into a Mommy Wars equivalent.

 

 

 

Creekland, there are no wars, at least that's not my intent of the thread nor do I think it is of the other participants. Sorry if you feel that way. If you disagree with any particular article, that's fine. They aren't intended as 'click bait' to rile folks up. This is simply a discussion of factors to consider. Feeling overly stressed is one of these factors which some kids will experience. Whether a school will be a pressure cooker or not should be taken into account on a per student basis. Admittance doesn't always equate to best fit. 

Edited by dereksurfs
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I'd also like to address the "fish" issue. I'm not sure it's right to assume academic struggles or extreme competition or depression or whatever if one chooses a top-tier school. If one goes into a top school in the lower quartile range of stats, then, yes, it will probably be more challenging academically. Top quartile stats don't guarantee success (or admission for that matter) either. How big of a fish you become depends primarily on your work ethic and grit, IMO.

 

I agree. I think how stressful an elite school is for any given student is as much a function of personality as stats. Some kids with top stats will feel really energized and challenged (in a good way) in the environment of a high pressure school, while other kids with equal stats would absolutely wilt under the pressure. At the same time, easy-going laid-back kids with lower stats who managed to squeak in with a hook may be fine, while other kids with those stats may feel completely demoralized being surrounded by much higher achieving students. And there can be a wide range in the level of stress and competitiveness even within the ranks of elite schools (e.g. Penn vs Brown). "Best fit" is so much more important than "highest ranked." 

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There is a useful distinction to be made, though, between paying the tens/hundreds of thousands because you want the experience for your kids and paying the tens/hundreds of thousands because you think it is a wise or necessary investment. 

 

 

This is an excellent point.  For example, if your goal is to go to med school and become a physician in private practice (not academia), then probably your best best is to attend the school that's the cheapest and where you can be the biggest fish possible.  And one with some sort of easy access to the state med school.  In that very specific situation, you'll be hurting yourself by paying lots of money to attend a name school with lots of competitive students.  

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I agree. I think how stressful an elite school is for any given student is as much a function of personality as stats. Some kids with top stats will feel really energized and challenged (in a good way) in the environment of a high pressure school, while other kids with equal stats would absolutely wilt under the pressure. At the same time, easy-going laid-back kids with lower stats who managed to squeak in with a hook may be fine, while other kids with those stats may feel completely demoralized being surrounded by much higher achieving students. And there can be a wide range in the level of stress and competitiveness even within the ranks of elite schools (e.g. Penn vs Brown). "Best fit" is so much more important than "highest ranked." 

 

Yes, I can completely relate to this during my college experiences after attending one of our large public Ivys (UCLA) briefly. My father was an engineering alum and a die hard Bruins fan in every way imaginable. While taking some classes there simply to please him, I discovered what a horrible fit it was for me. I pretty much hated everything about the school to my father's great dismay. At that young age I gravitated toward smaller campuses with higher instructor to student ratios. I liked getting to know the staff, student body and not feeling like I was going to school in a small city.

 

Now here's the funny part of this story for me now as a parent. I have to be careful not to project these same preferences onto my children. I find myself, if I'm not careful, falling into a similar trap as my father in a deja vu sort of way. There is the possibility at least one of our kids would like the larger school environment for whatever reason. Certain environmental elements can either inspire or cause one to become very unhappy. It seems like ~18-22 age is more sensitive to these sorts of experiences. Maybe this is due in part to it being the first time they are really stepping out on their own as young adults discovering who they are.

Edited by dereksurfs
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Certain environmental elements can either inspire or cause one to become very unhappy. It seems like ~18-22 age is more sensitive to these shorts of experiences. Maybe this is due in part to it being the first time they are really stepping out on their own as young adults discovering who they are.

My kids tend to be very critical on any summer camps and academic events they attend, which is a double edged personality quirk.

Now we are planning summer camps for 2018. The math camp my oldest attended this year won’t be local next year.

We are in a densely populated area and that swing my kids to only large non-rural colleges. They feel safety in numbers.

 

ETA:

My kids had fun with the Fizz-Buzz test last night after watching Tom Scott on YouTube.

http://wiki.c2.com/?FizzBuzzTest

Edited by Arcadia
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I also guess this is why engineers make more engineers and lawyers more lawyers. Not here, not yet anyway :)

DS11 is doing LSAT test questions from a prep book at Half Price Bookstore while waiting for DS12 to finish his reading. He has more correct answers than my husband so far :lol:

Edited by Arcadia
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DS11 is doing LSAT test questions from a prep book at Half Price Bookstore while waiting for DS12 to finish his reading. He has more correct answers than my husband so far :lol:

 

LOL, what are the questions like?  I heard there are logic questions?  

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LOL, what are the questions like? I heard there are logic questions?

It’s just thinking through the questions logically. Plenty of LSAT prep books at the local libraries. They were doing the one by McGraw Hill.

 

ETA:

We are at HPB Dublin and it’s raining here.

Edited by Arcadia

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Creekland, there are no wars, at least that's not my intent of the thread nor do I think it is of the other participants. Sorry if you feel that way. If you disagree with any particular article, that's fine. They aren't intended as 'click bait' to rile folks up. This is simply a discussion of factors to consider. Feeling overly stressed is one of these factors which some kids will experience. Whether a school will be a pressure cooker or not should be taken into account on a per student basis. Admittance doesn't always equate to best fit. 

 

My problem with posting the article as fact on an education thread is not knowing anything about their analysis.  How many years did they look at?  Stats like these can vary super wildly year to year.  Each school has a small population, so the difference 0 - 2 can make is astounding.  Pulling ANY "stress" assessment from merely looking at numbers is just plain wrong statistically.  Yes, one can get numbers merely by plugging into formulas, but not meaningful "That school is a pressure cooker!  Stay away!!!" numbers.

 

Posting it and recommending it could turn people off from perfectly good schools in the same way one could look at Orlando's murder rate and consider it a highly dangerous city a certain year due to a certain incident.

 

It's known that some highly selective colleges have higher suicide rates (I seem to recall MIT "leading" the pack from something discussed a year or two ago?), but I personally think it's more likely due to Tiger Mom or family expectation "pushing" than the college.  Given the same pushing, I suspect the same personality would also have issues at community college - or anywhere they go.

 

Then, one is in the years of changing hormones and brains.  We have students who commit suicide in our high school.  Does that mean we're too cut throat, esp if we get a student or two in a given year vs our neighbor school who does not - but does in earlier or following years?

 

I seriously doubt "the school" matters.

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I'd also like to address the "fish" issue. I'm not sure it's right to assume academic struggles or extreme competition or depression or whatever if one chooses a top-tier school. If one goes into a top school in the lower quartile range of stats, then, yes, it will probably be more challenging academically. Top quartile stats don't guarantee success (or admission for that matter) either. How big of a fish you become depends primarily on your work ethic and grit, IMO.

I agree any student can go astray and bomb out.

 

For the most part, I like the "middle fish" approach to college selection so the student has access to challenging coursework and smart peers but does not have to feel like "the dummy". But of course some students are natural go-getters and it might be better if they were in the lower quartile.

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I've been kind of watching this discussion with interest.  I don't have a college student yet.  But in terms of the fish thing, I also think this can be really student perception dependent.   My kid is looking at auditioned music programs which is somewhat different than just looking at academic standings.  He is an academic kid too so though he doesn't care right now, I want to balance that piece for him as well.  But what one student might call cut throat another student might call collaborative.  We just toured a program we were warned was hard to navigate and competitive and got the opposite review from several other students and it seemed like it would be no problem for my particular kid.

 

I also don't think ACT ranges are all that when it comes to the vibe and offerings of a particular school.  In particular we've toured some smaller LAC's with ACT ranges in the 26-31 area that are academically rigorous with some fantastic unique opportunities I haven't seen at some more competitive schools.  I've also heard the less academic kids in these programs really work their tails off or end up transferring.

 

I don't think anyone should be made to feel guilty for sending their kid to any program full pay or not.  That said, same thing goes for people trying to balance retirement and finances and other children.  Many kids CAN soar in a variety of programs.  I'm not a huge fan of the concept of a dream school and I'm talking my own kid down from that.  Truly, it's a privilege to have the time and resources to even be touring a variety of programs and balancing needs and cost.  I have adult nieces and nephews who've made very default choices close to home without exploring many options.  Some were high fliers and some were not.  They are all doing great as adults.  I have a niece in her late 20's that just picked our local state school.  She literally looked at nothing else.  She lived at home through college.  I seriously worried about this kid actually.  She has her own business, is starting a 2nd, and owns her own home.   There are many ways to make things work. 

 

And all that said, I have no idea where my kid will end up.  The finances DO matter, but so does balancing fit, academics, etc.

Edited by WoolySocks
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How do you define cutthroat and collaborative?

 

Collaborative

- Forming classmate study groups to work on problem sets or study materials

- Reviewing another student's papers for readability or grammar/punctuation errors.

- Helping another student with a homework problem they are struggling through

 

 

(Obviously all of the above within the boundaries of what would be considered cheating on the assignment. There is a difference between saying, "This is a sentence fragment" or "I don't understand your argument here" or "You didn't square this number" or "You dropped a negative sign" and writing someone's paper for them or doing their homework assignment.

 

 

Cutthroat

- Declining to participate in any collaborative activities, not because you are busy, but because someone else doing well is seen as a threat to your own grade or class standing.

- Hiding resources in the library so that other students can't use them to study.  

 

 

I think a sign of a collaborative, supportive environment would be when students are willing to celebrate the success of their peers and see it as an incentive, rather than as a zero sum competition.  A positive sign my son was describing was that his neighbor, who is studying graduate level physics as a freshman, is willing to help him with sticky problems in calc 1.  Certainly my ds is never going to be his direct competition, as they are not in the same major.  But I'm encouraged by the fact that he's willing to pause in his hard work to help my kid on something he is having an issue with.

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What advice would you give for someone wanting to go to law school or business school?

 

 

My oldest is at a top-20 business school in his field with in-state tuition. I've been very pleased with what they do there. Being a commuter student has kept it doable for us financially. It even has both specialities that he wants including one that is only offered at a handful of schools in the U.S.

 

I realize that not everyone has a good commuter school in their area though.

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Collaborative

- Forming classmate study groups to work on problem sets or study materials

- Reviewing another student's papers for readability or grammar/punctuation errors.

- Helping another student with a homework problem they are struggling through

 

Cutthroat

- Declining to participate in any collaborative activities, not because you are busy, but because someone else doing well is seen as a threat to your own grade or class standing.

- Hiding resources in the library so that other students can't use them to study.

Both sets are present in the same class (as in same classroom) in the elite public all girls middle school (7th-10th) I attended.

 

In the cutthroat category,

- notes and textbooks stolen from bags and lockers of top ranking students. It was so bad the teachers have to patrol the classrooms during recess and lunch breaks as our classrooms had no doors. My classmates notes were stolen. I don’t have notes for anyone to steal.

- teachers who set tests so hard it’s hard to get a score >= 90 on an exam making top students worried about getting all their As.

Edited by Arcadia
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Cutthroat

- Declining to participate in any collaborative activities, not because you are busy, but because someone else doing well is seen as a threat to your own grade or class standing.

- Hiding resources in the library so that other students can't use them to study.  

 with.

  

😱

You must be joking!

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How do you define cutthroat and collaborative?

 

I think this can be somewhat of a subjective experience and therefore answer based upon a number of factors. In my experience, some of these contributing factors which can make an environment feel more cutthroat are:

 

- Weeder classes intended to get rid of those deemed less likely to survive based on a teacher's criteria. Survival of the fittest. 

- Grading on a curve with only a set number of 'As' to give out regardless of overall classroom performance. Grade deflation. 

- Cheating occurring in such environments which throws off the curves because students are desperate to obtain one of those 'A's.

- Large, impersonal classes in which those who attend simply feel like a number with few chances to interact with others.

- Instructors largely unavailable to help students and generally disinterested in anything beyond pontificating.

- Unreaslistic expectations from instructors in terms of time spent on 'their' class (center of the universe) which leaves little time from other classes, sleep, exercise, socializing, etc...

 

Factors I've found which lend more to a collaborative environment are:

- Instructors who want to give out 'A's to as many students who truly demonstrate mastery of the material vs. a cap to meet some institutional limit.

- Instructors who go out of their way to help their students succeed.

- Smaller cohorts who go through a program together.

- Group projects are encouraged and an important aspect of the course and program.

- Teamwork is rewarded with healthy competition among various teams.

 

There are many articles and personal experiences one can find online which share students' stories of what made a particular program feel 'cutthroat.' Whether one agrees with their views or not it does not invalidate the sense of 'cutthroat' environment they felt. For the next student it may not have felt that extreme. Still, I think there are trends and institutional practices which lend to that sense. Here's a quote from one of these students:

 

"A quote from my professor on Day 1 of freshman General Chemistry: "1 in 3 students will enter Emory a pre-med. Of them, 1 in 10 will make it to med school. It's my job to get rid of the other 9." https://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/which-colleges-to-stay-away-from.1196575/

 

You can interpret those methods any way you wish. But for this student it definitely felt cutthroat.

Edited by dereksurfs

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What's the point of an A if everybody is getting it? There is no value to it. Our local high school had something like 15 valedictorians last year. That devalues achievement.

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Roadrunner, there is value in recognizing achievement, even when there are many who are high-achievers.  A student who scores 98% on everything shouldn't get a B just because a number of students score 100.  

 

If 15 students have identical high GPAs, how do you think valedictorian should be determined?  

 

 

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Roadrunner, there is value in recognizing achievement, even when there are many who are high-achievers. A student who scores 98% on everything shouldn't get a B just because a number of students score 100.

 

If 15 students have identical high GPAs, how do you think valedictorian should be determined?

Because they are making classes so easy that the overwhelming majority has an A. It's ridiculous.

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What's the point of an A if everybody is getting it? There is no value to it. Our local high school had something like 15 valedictorians last year. That devalues achievement.

 

Roadrunner, is it possible that your local high school had a lot excellent students and high achievers? I don't know what the national average for those are. But it would be interesting to look at that school's overall performance compared with other schools.

 

Personally, I've never seen classes that grade on percentages in which everyone gets an 'A', have you? Even in those classes where the instructor truly wanted everyone to have a shot at an A, there were still many who had lessor grades. The point for me at least while I was a student is, if students are truly motivated and learn 90+ % of the material, they've earned a good grade. If the question is which feels more cutthroat, for me grade deflation via curves and other practices like cheating which invalidates the curve are higher on that list.

Edited by dereksurfs
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Whether or not the environment is cutthroat, someone having to maintain a certain GPA for scholarships purposes is generally going to feel more stress than someone who has parents footing the entire bill. My husband and I were from the same school of engineering and we had some common modules. He felt the environment can be cutthroat at times while I thought it wasn’t as bad as I wasn’t aiming for a good undergrad GPA. The postgraduate programs I did looked at how I did on their own in-house aptitude test, my resume and my GMAT score.

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This might be a cultural issue, but A is reserved for a few.

I know a lot of straight A student's locally. It's shocking really how many average kids have 4.0.

 

 

Even at work, performance reviews were relative, meaning only certain number of people could get the highest marks, certain number middle marks.... We couldn't all shine. Bell curves and all.

Edited by Roadrunner

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Whether or not the environment is cutthroat, someone having to maintain a certain GPA for scholarships purposes is generally going to feel more stress than someone who has parents footing the entire bill. My husband and I were from the same school of engineering and we had some common modules. He felt the environment can be cutthroat at times while I thought it wasn’t as bad as I wasn’t aiming for a good undergrad GPA. The postgraduate programs I did looked at how I did on their own in-house aptitude test, my resume and my GMAT score.

 

Yes, its funny how some of these concerns and associated threads merge when looking at the college selection process. Each one of these can be a topic on its own, yet they can all affect reasons why one 'might' choose a less selective school in certain cases. Maybe at one school the stress is lower overall due to scholarship GPA concerns. For those students under the gun, it can feel more cutthroat in that they 'have' to get that A to afford college. Add to that weeder classes and grade deflation, and the associated stress levels can really rise.

Edited by dereksurfs

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Add to that weeder classes and grade deflation, and the associated stress levels can really rise.

For the engineering school I attended, whether the undergrad had finished Calc 3 or Calc 2 in high school did affect how stressful semester 1 of freshmen year would be. We did get our engineering acceptance in May so people could do Calc 3 over summer to prep before matriculation week. My faculty requirement was Calc 2 required, Calc 3 expected.

 

My husband would have preferred a lighter first semester to ease into college academics while it doesn’t bug me either way being the workaholic that I am. I think at the moment my younger boy would be happy not going for AP exam credits and “redoing†the modules/courses while my older boy would be looking to optimize the same credits.

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This might be a cultural issue, but A is reserved for a few.

I know a lot of straight A student's locally. It's shocking really how many average kids have 4.0.

 

 

Even at work, performance reviews were relative, meaning only certain number of people could get the highest marks, certain number middle marks.... We couldn't all shine. Bell curves and all.

 

Ah, the high school I went to (which was a competitive one with 4 NMF my year, the IB Diploma program, etc.) did not grade on a curve.  There was only one valedictorian (and to be honest I am not sure she deserved it, and it was she who went to a selective school and dropped out after a semester because it was too hard), but mostly that was because there was also a culture of excellence in music and the arts, so most high achievers in academics also took band or choir or orchestra or drama, etc., which were unweighted courses and thus scored like a B in GPA.  

 

At any rate, in a class of 600+ with those variables, there was unlikely to ever be more than 1 valedictorian, because even taking the top available academic track and getting perfect grades, you were still vulnerable depending on how involved you were with the arts or debate or something.

 

But there was no grading on a curve.  What would be the point?  In math, an A was reserved for anyone who got 95%+ of the questions correct on homework and quizzes and tests.  In English, an A was reserved for anyone who met the criteria for an A on the papers according to the rubric.  They were very difficult classes but we were not graded against each other.

 

 

It must be a cultural thing, because I cannot see why you would grade something like math on a curve, unless your material is so hard that otherwise you'd have all Cs and below in the class.  The students who got As in IB Math 2 (Calculus) got 4s and 5s on the AP test, though, so I don't see what the point would have been of making an A more difficult to attain - the point of the A was you have mastered the material for the point of the class.

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My problem with posting the article as fact on an education thread is not knowing anything about their analysis.  How many years did they look at?  Stats like these can vary super wildly year to year.  Each school has a small population, so the difference 0 - 2 can make is astounding.  Pulling ANY "stress" assessment from merely looking at numbers is just plain wrong statistically.  Yes, one can get numbers merely by plugging into formulas, but not meaningful "That school is a pressure cooker!  Stay away!!!" numbers.

 

Posting it and recommending it could turn people off from perfectly good schools in the same way one could look at Orlando's murder rate and consider it a highly dangerous city a certain year due to a certain incident.

 

It's known that some highly selective colleges have higher suicide rates (I seem to recall MIT "leading" the pack from something discussed a year or two ago?), but I personally think it's more likely due to Tiger Mom or family expectation "pushing" than the college.  Given the same pushing, I suspect the same personality would also have issues at community college - or anywhere they go.

 

Then, one is in the years of changing hormones and brains.  We have students who commit suicide in our high school.  Does that mean we're too cut throat, esp if we get a student or two in a given year vs our neighbor school who does not - but does in earlier or following years?

 

I seriously doubt "the school" matters.

 

This is a topic close to my heart, as my oldest college student (public state flagship) was one of those suicide attempts. Notable that one weekend spent in the ER because of her suicidal ideation (she had multiple episodes of ideation in college, but only one attempt), there were two additional suicide attempts at her school, one successful. This did not raise any particular alarm bells or change in policy at the school, which I found interesting. Just another weekend at college, I suppose.

 

As far as increased incidence of depression/anxiety at some high achieving schools, my personal opinion is that personality types that are more likely to seek out those sorts of schools (and my current college student is at one of those schools) are more prone to mental health issues, like depression and anxiety (and may, in fact, be of the belief that the achievement of going away to this high-powered school will make them finally feel better....thus all the angst on College Confidential.) The Tiger Parent applying the pressure might be a factor, sure, but probably genetic factors impacting mental health are the bigger issue.

 

And, yes, changing brains/hormones certainly are another factor in the stats. The common use/abuse of alcohol and other substances during college probably muddies the statistical waters too.

 

 

 

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Derek,

 

Regarding depression at high school level, quoted from a 2012 Palo Alto weekly’s article

 

“Maggioncalda struck a somber note, describing her weeks of depression and "total exhaustion."

 

The four-sport athlete, straight-A student and homecoming queen told classmates she felt "overcome by total exhaustion and a sense of sadness that I couldn't control.

 

"I couldn't do my homework and I stumbled through basketball practices in a daze. I slept 14 hours a night and woke up exhausted and in tears."

 

She missed three weeks of school.

 

"I would cry and I wouldn't know why. I couldn't stop. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone."

 

Maggioncalda said she got help from her family, her teachers, her doctor and a few friends.

 

When she finally returned to school, she "heard that people thought I wasn't at school because I was celebrating getting into Stanford early," she said.

 

"Let me tell you, the lives of others are not always what they seem."

 

Looking back, Maggioncalda concluded that her four-year obsession with getting accepted by a top college had caused her to miss out on the richness of high school.

 

"I've often felt alone during high school," she said. "How is it possible to feel so alone when constantly surrounded by classmates and teammates?

 

"It's because I felt insecure and I was obsessed with my future. I didn't feel close to my friends or appreciate each moment I was living.

 

"I was afraid -- afraid that not getting into a top school would render my past a failure and my future doomed."

...

"I told them to quit obsessing about the future and enjoy every day they have at Gunn and love the people around them," she said. "I told them I made the mistake of rushing through my four years here, thinking only about my future, and I regret that.

 

"We've learned a lot during our four years at Gunn ... and most of it is important and we should take it with us.

 

"But some of what we've learned is unhealthy and should be left behind. We should not sacrifice relationships with people for a letter on a piece of paper.

 

"So, people, take the good things from Gunn to your new schools next year and make the most of it. All of us will be happy at any college we go to as long as we connect with the people around us and feel like we belong.“

https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2012/06/07/live-now-share-deeply-gunn-grad-counsels

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This might be a cultural issue, but A is reserved for a few.

I know a lot of straight A student's locally. It's shocking really how many average kids have 4.0.

 

 

Even at work, performance reviews were relative, meaning only certain number of people could get the highest marks, certain number middle marks.... We couldn't all shine. Bell curves and all.

 

Grade inflation is a thing at many public (ETA - and private for that matter) schools.  A young woman we know is at Harvard.  Whenever she didn't get an A or A+, her parents called the teachers and insisted the grade was wrong.  The step mom told me because she was uncomfortable with it. 

 

SWB posted this on her FB page a while back titled "Why Suburban Schools Are Inflating Kids' Grades.

Middle-class high-schoolers aren’t getting any smarter, but their GPAs are rising—and that’s pushing their poor peers further behind."  But I do think more colleges are recognizing that a grade point doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.   That said, I don't think class rank is a super compelling piece of data either. 

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/08/suburban-grade-inflation/536595/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-082117

Edited by WoolySocks
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Yes, its funny how some of these concerns and associated threads merge when looking at the college selection process. Each one of these can be a topic on its own, yet they can all affect reasons why one 'might' choose a less selective school in certain cases. Maybe at one school the stress is lower overall due to scholarship GPA concerns. For those students under the gun, it can feel more cutthroat in that they 'have' to get that A to afford college. Add to that weeder classes and grade deflation, and the associated stress levels can really rise.

 

My current student is at a school that practices grade deflation. It's actually provided a valuable life lesson for her Type A self: perfection is not the goal here, and the education is valuable even if one is not at the absolute top of the class. Also, rejection happens, and it's okay.

 

My thought on the big fish thing is that every school is made up of lots of ponds that provide opportunity for...ugh, this is where I hate this analogy. Opportunity for predation? Isn't that what the big fish do? LOL

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What's the point of an A if everybody is getting it? There is no value to it. Our local high school had something like 15 valedictorians last year. That devalues achievement.

 

The point is that all have worked to acheive mastery of the objectives the course and the grade shows it.  

In some subjects there will be other ways to show who actually acheived beyond what was offered in the classroom...Regents Exam results, SAT scores, SAT subject scores, etc.

 

 

 

On weedouts  and curves ...my profs that curved pointed out that the course was for everyone, not just the minimally prepared. If one wanted to improve one's study skills,  this was the opportunity. Otherwise, the C was the most likely grade.  I appreciated the room to grow, and eventually moved from being one of the six or so Bs to an A.  I don't see it as unfair, its not the case where opportunity to learn is restricted to just a handful of people via extra credit or honors seats only available to them, like high school here.  

Edited by Heigh Ho

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