Choices

You know my family just completed a college tour road trip- 7 colleges, 16 states, 2800 miles.  Seeing 7 colleges brought the total up to 15 colleges visited.  My daughter has narrowed down her choices and is now starting the application process.  Here’s how she narrowed it down.

There are about 4000 colleges in the US.  Where do you go from there?  Well, the editor of the Princeton Review “Top 382 Colleges in America” gave a talk at my daughter’s school, and handed out copies of the book.  So we went from 4000 to 382 pretty quickly.  (Let me add, this is how we did it- you can narrow down the field anyway you want) But, along side this book, we had done a few tours of college campuses.  We spread the field a bit- we visited a few different campuses- state schools, private schools, undergrad enrollment less than 5000, between 5 and 10000, and greater.  Urban and less urban.  After viewing the different options my daughter knew the following:

  1. 5000-10000 undergrad would be ideal. Larger was better than smaller
  2. Urban or town setting.  When you walked out of the campus gates, there needed to actually be something you could walk to
  3. Co-ed
  4. Strong humanities/pre law  program
  5. No farther west than the mid-west
  6. Law team/club/fraternity
  7. limited social fraternity
  8. limited team culture
  9. Low student/faculty ratio
  10. small class size
  11. classes taught by Professors not TA’s

We then went through the 382 colleges book page by page.  She narrowed down the field to 41 schools.   Of those 41 schools she broke it down into three levels-

  1. reach schools (schools where admittance rate for her was hovering around 15% or less,
  2. target schools (schools which she has a decent shot of getting into, meaning her grades and test scores fall into the middle to high range of where their admitted students are
  3. likely, which is schools where she is at the highest point or above where their students are

After separating them, she got on the mailing lists of any schools not already sending her information.  She attended road shows when available- road show meaning, representatives from the schools come to our area and give a presentation about the school.  She went on school websites and instagrams and whatever social media the school was using to promote itself.

Then she made a list of schools that she wanted to see in person to see if she liked the culture.  Honestly, she knew 3 minutes into an information session if she liked the school.  The person who introduces you to the school is a great barometer of what the school will be like- she separated the types of schools as follows:

  1. Touchy-feely- schools where the advisors have advisors.  These schools are very nurturing and will hold your hand through everything
  2. Cold- schools where they sort of feed you to the wolves- highly competitive atmosphere
  3. Pseudo intellectual- the kids are incredibly smart, and they let you know it at every single opportunity
  4. Quirky- kids that think outside the box about everything
  5. Intellectual- kids really do sit on the common and discuss philosophy
  6. Go team- half the campus will have there faces painted on game day, and students travel to away games
  7. Susie sorority- more than 50% of students are in Greek life and their is greek housing on campus
  8. granola- kids are so chill that literally nothing bothers them
  9. Academic- most kids have at minimum a double major
  10. Commuter- kids leave campus on weekends
  11. Involved- kids are involved in at least three different areas of campus life

Obviously, schools can carry more than one banner, but it’s very easy to break them down into categories.  Know thyself- which type of kid are you?  What are you looking for in a school? Which type makes you comfortable?  Which type of school would you thrive in? What type of people do you want to surround yourself by?

And now the list is down to 15, including two schools she has not toured/info session yet, but will most probably make the cut.  She will most probably apply to 15 schools- her school recommendation is 10 schools, but since she is top heavy on reach schools, she is spreading the field.  With the common app, applying to more schools is very easy- 90% of the work is done.  She has also been waived from admission fees at some of the schools, so cost is evening itself out.

Now- some of you are saying- “My kid won’t do this.” Some of you are parents that are asking the questions when you visit schools.  Some of you have kids who are sitting in the back row of info sessions and are on their phone the whole time.  Here’s what I say to that:

Maybe your child should not go to college right after High School.  No matter what anyone say, college is an option.  No one has to go to college.  College does not mean you will be successful – successful meaning that you will have an enriching career that challenges you and that you love.  If your kid hasn’t been interested in studying, and shows no interest in the college process, let them explore other options.  Colleges report six year graduation rates, because there are a lot of kids (going full time) who require 6 years to get a BA/BS degree, and it’s not usually because they changed majors.  Think about that.  Isn’t it better that a kid gets a job before they go to college so that they could think about what they want to do, instead of wasting time and money?

Also- community college.  Work a job, take a class.  Maybe they’ll find something they love.  Tech school- hello- to be an electrician or plumber or IT guy you have to be really smart, but they don’t require college.  And you will have a career and a skill.

Choices.

You can think about which college you want to go to.

You can decide not to go to college

You can go to trade school.

You can be an entrepreneur. (but please take at least one accounting class so you have an idea about balance sheets)

The only bad option is doing something but not putting your heart and soul into it.  Enter the next phase of life passionate about something.  My daughter is passionate about continuing her education- that is evident by her choices.  But there is nothing wrong with being a 17 year old kid who does not know what they want to do.  i’m 54 and I still don’t know what I want to do.

The choice is figuring out what you want to do next.  If you love something, it always ends up working out.

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Me and Daughter go to Washington

Last month, my daughter and I went to Washington DC to visit some schools.  We had a wonderful time.  Here you get my random thoughts of DC and the schools we saw, and just thoughts in general.

  1. DC is a great city.
  2. Our biggest problem with DC was the transit system.  I know- we know how to commute in NYC.  We figured out how to commute in France.  But DC?  Nope.  Different stations cost different amounts of money.  Two people can’t share one fair card.  The whole city is not accessible my subway.  I’m sure if we lived there we would figure it out.  But we found it frustrating.
  3. The museums are spectacular.  And free.
  4. The art museums were quieter than the other museums.  This was odd to us, because we’re used to lone lines and big crowds at the NYC art museums.  I’m guessing it’s because of the amount of tourists with young children.  Why see paintings when you can see planes.
  5. We never figured out how to get to the Jefferson Memorial.  We saw it.  Just couldn’t get there.
  6. Kennedy Center.  To be able to house a few different theaters in one location, with its perfect location on the water.  Wonderful.  And they have free music in the lobby at 6pm.
  7. Georgetown.  My kid loved this school.  Great pre-law.  The funny moment was when we got to the gates of the school.  We got out of our Uberpool, and the first thing she said was “This might be too rural for me.”  Georgetown.  In DC.  Where you can see the Washington Monument.  Too rural.  I just looked at her and she could see the WTF in my eyes.
  8. American.  She really liked this school.  Phenomenal pre-law school.  Gorgeous campus.
  9. George Washington- Foggy Bottom campus.  My kid did not think she would like this school because she was looking to top out at 10,000 undergrads and GW is larger, but she was pleasantly surprised.  Also great pre-law.
  10. When we visit museums on vacation, we do what we refer to as the highlights tour,  Before we get to a museum, we research which works we want to see.  We find it impossible to look at an entire museum, so we pick our faves and concentrate on 10-15 works.  This worked really well with the exception of National Portrait Gallery.  My daughter thinks Alice Paul is wonderful and she read that NPG had a portrait of her.  Alas, it was not on display when we got there.
  11. Dorothy’s ruby slippers were also not on display.  A little bummed, but life goes on.
  12. Disappointed in the spy museum- thought the NYC one was better.  But, as this is a really popular place, if you choose to visit, buy tickets in advance.  You’ll thank me later.
  13. DC is an awesome food city.  We did not have a bad meal.  Founding Farmers for breakfast and Ted’s Bulletin were our faves though.
  14. If you go to DC, wear good shoes.  We walked about 20 miles a day.  When we got to the hotel my whole leg area was crushed.
  15. Cherry Blossoms.  One of my bucket list items was to see the cherry blossoms over the tidal basin in DC.  A highlight of my life.  It was wonderful.

That is the brief summary of our trip.  I’m going to regale you with pictures tomorrow, assuming my internet isn’t playing the games that it’s been playing for two days.

Highly Selective

My daughter wants to apply to “Highly Selective” colleges.  For my purposes, I will define those as schools that accept less than 20% of the applicants that apply.  They are four year universities that have instant name recognition, and can be found on lists of top schools in America.  They are schools that some will be impressed when they hear that you attended, while others will think you are pretentious.   Getting accepted at one of these colleges is my daughters goal.

Now to get into these schools, you need, at minimum, the following:

  1. high grades- daughter has high GPA
  2. leadership- she’s a captain or holds a leadership role in at least 3 activities
  3. community service- double her schools requirement
  4. awards and honors- yup- those too
  5. high SAT/ACT scores- OK here is the problem…..if you want to call it that

My kid is not a great standardized test taker.  Now- this point could be debated.  97% of the kids in the country would like to have her PSAT score.  I didn’t score that high on my SAT, back in the day (though we can’t compare- I was a lousy student).  But it’s a brave new world now.  A world where it’s 1500 + or bust.

So what do kids do now, to get those 1500 or better numbers?  Well, first off, if you think a kid grabs two#2 pencils and races in the room to take a test- you are mistaken.  Kids read test books.  Kids take prep classes.  Kids get tutors who specialize in how to take the test- they don’t teach algebra or English.  They specifically tell you how to look for clues in the question to help you determine what the right answer is.  I spoke to one of these type of tutors the other day.

Good times.

Now, my kid is a high achiever.  She studies a lot.  She invests much time and energy into her extracurricular activities. I don’t think she has slept since 3rd grade.  You get a picture of my kid?  Now imagine that the tutor basically told me that my kid doesn’t work hard enough, and does not do the right things.

First off- he chastised me for having her prep so late for the test.  She’s taking the test in March and then in August.  He actually said that she is behind and that she will never catch up.  Ok- how much do you think I liked this guy at this point?

Then, he told me that she should cut out all extracurricular that she has no chance of getting a scholarship in.  What.  The. *%^&.  My daughter LOVES her extra choices.  She loves law team, tech crew, tennis and school paper.  Like, these are often the high point of her day.  Give them up, so she can prep for a test, because they don’t “mean anything”?  How about – they fulfill her.  They give her something to dream about.  They engage her mind and body in things other than academia? As her Mom- these things are important.

Then he told me she should apply to at least 20 schools, including the top 12.  First off- applying to 10 schools is hard enough (10 is the number her school suggests)  Secondly- she doesn’t want to go to a brand name school just because it’s a brand name school.  She only wants to apply to 3 or 4 top 25 schools- the ones she really likes and knows would be a good fit for her.  I don’t get applying to schools just to say you went to a top school.  In my mind there is a difference.

He then told me we should hire someone to “work on” her essay with her.  Now he said “work on” but what he means is write the essays for her.  Now- what do you think I thought of that?

My kid is a humanities girl.  Her school limits the amount of AP courses you are allowed to take, so she did a hard target and is only taking humanities AP this year, and then next year- meaning no AP science or math.  He said she should take the science/math AP’s instead next year, because they look better.  My kid does really well in science and math, but she doesn’t like them enough to take the more advanced classes.  I agree with her.

He said some other things that I didn’t like, but at that point I had stopped listening.  My mind was made up about halfway through the conversation.  I did not want this guy anywhere near my daughter.  We had philosophical differences.

But

He was a good prep coach.  And my daughter needs a prep coach.

So I politely got off the phone, promising him that my daughter would consider his online workshop that he runs on Saturdays, 7-9 pm.  (OK- for the record- my daughter is often studying on a Saturday night- but sometimes she is actually having fun.  I know this guy doesn’t approve of fun- so we won’t even go there)

After I digested the conversation and told my husband that the guy was a lunatic (my Husband had gotten the number from a co-worker) I went to talk to my daughter.  At the end of the day, it was her decision.

Remember what I said yesterday about bias?  How it’s almost impossible for someone to relay a story without tipping the scales in their own favor?  How do you think this tutor sounded when I talked to my daughter about him?

My daughter agreed that this wasn’t the right tutor for her.  We would try someone our neighbor used.

So…

I’m good at making decisions.  I weigh out all the options, the pros and cons, and I come to a conclusion.  My gut is telling me this guy is the wrong tutor.  Fine.  But what if the gist of what he is saying is right?  What if she does need to spend a billion hours to move her scores up to 1500?

This is where I hate parenting.  I feel that my daughter already spends too much time studying, but I balance it out with the fact that she has activities that she loves, and a great group of friends.  I think she is as well rounded as someone of her personality type will ever be.

But

I also know how much she wants to go to some of these elite schools

But

I know that even with a 1500, her chance of getting into these schools is still really slim

See- I’m going back and forth.  I don’t think his tutoring method is right for her, but maybe I don’t know everything.  (I know, I know- of course I know everything….)

Did I manipulate the facts when I spoke to her so that she wouldn’t want to work with this guy?

Will this be a decision I regret, down the line?

Parenting sucks……