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College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 08:59 AM   #1
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College Selection

My daughter and I are having a fun time to decide which colleges to apply. She is a national merit semi-finalist. Most of the prestigious schools do not offer generous merit scholarship. They do, however, offer great financial aids for which we do not qualify because of our assets. There are few colleges, e.g., University of Texas at Austin, Miami University, University of Kansas, Texas A&M, that offer very attractive merit scholarships. My strategy is to submit applications to two prestigious colleges, Stanford and Caltech; one school that offers generous merit scholarship: UT-Austin; two local public universities: U of Minnesota and UW-madison (not local but we will pay U of Minn tuition).

Does anyone face similar situation? If so, what are planning to do?
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 09:39 AM   #2
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Re: College Selection

Sure, been there and done that.......

Right now you and your daughter don't know if you are willing to pay a premium for her to attend Stanford or Caltech. You need to make that decision. It sounds like you would like her to attend a so-called "prestigious" school but you're reluctant because it will be more expensive than attending a mid-tier school on merit schlorship or a local school on in-state tuition.

We walked the same path with my son, "the engineer." A National Merit finalist, he had full-ride offers from all the mid-tier schools he applied to and was accepted at our state university but finally went to his first choice, a school held in high regard in engineering. The National Merit folks gave him $2K per year and the school gave him $1K per year merit based, that's it. This was all a decade ago, so I'm sure the numbers have changed by now.

I have absolutely no regrets regarding having allowed him to attend the school he wanted to attend. In retrospect, everything worked out for us despite a few years of eye-watering tuition bills. If the expense would have significantly pushed out retirement, caused other family members to have to give much up, etc., I'm sure we would have thought differently.

You'll get advise all over the spectrum on this subject, but, you have to make that decision for yourself. Your mileage may vary!

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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 09:52 AM   #3
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Re: College Selection

I went to Caltech as an undergrad. It really is a remarkable place, for the young person who wants to "drink from the firehose" of science/engineering learning. But it's not for everyone, even among the very smart. I had several friends who dropped out to "loser" schools like Stanford and UCLA. And had several others who should have -- who lost motivation somewhere in year 2 or 3, and would have been better off in a more rounded environment.

At least the air pollution in Pasadena is a lot less intense now than when I was there, 30 years ago. In those days, you could barely see the San Gabriel mountains 5 miles away because of the smog.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 10:18 AM   #4
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Re: College Selection

I can give you a Texas prospective. I graduated from A&M, which leans more towards science and engineering. UT is better known for its business/law schools. Both are large, public institutions with good reputations. Highly thought of private schools include Rice (Houston) and Southwestern (Georgetown).
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 10:22 AM   #5
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Re: College Selection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
My daughter and I are having a fun time to decide which colleges to apply.

My strategy is to submit applications to two prestigious colleges, Stanford and Caltech; one school that offers generous merit scholarship: UT-Austin; two local public universities: U of Minnesota and UW-madison (not local but we will pay U of Minn tuition).
Are you and your daughter both going to college?

What's her strategy? What's she contributing to her education?
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 10:30 AM   #6
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Re: College Selection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curt
I can give you a Texas prospective. I graduated from A&M, which leans more towards science and engineering. UT is better known for its business/law schools. Both are large, public institutions with good reputations. Highly thought of private schools include Rice (Houston) and Southwestern (Georgetown).
Seems like UT is very well known for its engineering school.

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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 10:58 AM   #7
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Re: College Selection


I wouldn't pare down her application list too much based on anticipated cost. Wait until you get the full picture (which schools she's admitted to, and how much aid they will offer) before deciding. Spending $50/school to keep your options open is probably worth it, especially if she's gunning for places like Caltech.

After you get the award letters, you will be able to negotiate. That's what I did (undergrad in the early 90's). I was able to go to an out-of-state prestigous private school for roughly what the cost would have been at in-state university. It did take some negotiation up front (University X offered my $Y, will you match it?), some more negotiation sophomore year, and digging around for some grant money, but it eventually worked out.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 10:59 AM   #8
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Re: College Selection

I work for NASA and work a lot with CALTECH, it is a great place but absolutely not for everyone, even the bright folks. It has "social issues” because the geek factor is so high. I have heard the admissions director (who also had been AD at MIT) say that these elite schools are not for everyone. The brightest can learn anywhere and some others that are admitted burn out as they cannot keep up. So its sort of like Goldilocks Mama Bear, they are 'just perfect’ for the students who will stretched the right amount. Matching your kid to the right school is more than just picking the highest rated school. A few years ago I thought my kid was headed for a top school but each year he has gone more towards average and I expect he will end up at a California state school. He would actually be a good candidate for junior college except he has hit that mental/social place where it is time for him to move away. Our older son went away to U of AZ and did not make the transition. He returned home finished jr college and now has his Masters, a decent job (wife & our first grandchild!!, but that is a different story). For our younger son being away but not too far is as important as most academic issues. He is good at math and music, he wanted to study music (the Mohawk haired rock drummer :) but I convinced him it would be a “good minor”. He would not go to a school without a good music department. But in any case, if we found the best fit I would support him financially as long as he is serious in his studies. That is our requirement for him. Supporting my son in college is one reason I would willingly delay retirement as long as I see things going the right way.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:11 AM   #9
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Re: College Selection

My take:

Consider her talents, professional goals and personality. As Robert the Red indicated Caltec is a school for leading edge, creative, engineering students. If your gal isn't that scratch the school off your list. Engineering schools have personalities. Fit is very important.

There are all types of engineering programs: software, electrical, electronics, civil, structural, materials, chemical, , ,... In which subset does she fit? Pick a school with a strong and broad program in her general field of interest. Few HS students know exactly what they want to do, pick a school where she can refine her interests.

If you want your daughter to return to work near you look at the employers who she might work for in your area. Contact their college recruiters for their 'hot list' of engineering programs. For example, a highly regarded metals company likes Idaho. Surprised me!

I agree with 4 Beer that cost shouldn't be a screen at this point. However, I wouldn't send out gazillion applications. The schools know how many she sent and if it is a choice between her and another student who has a more refined list they will pass her over if she is on the cusp. Identify schools that will meet her academic needs first.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:48 AM   #10
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Re: College Selection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert the Red
I went to Caltech as an undergrad. It really is a remarkable place, for the young person who wants to "drink from the firehose" of science/engineering learning. But it's not for everyone, even among the very smart. I had several friends who dropped out to "loser" schools like Stanford and UCLA. And had several others who should have -- who lost motivation somewhere in year 2 or 3, and would have been better off in a more rounded environment.

At least the air pollution in Pasadena is a lot less intense now than when I was there, 30 years ago. In those days, you could barely see the San Gabriel mountains 5 miles away because of the smog.
We spent a day at Caltech last summer. The campus is large given that there are only 1,000 students. She did not think much about the dorms - broken furniture, no air conditioning, old toilet, etc. The curriculum as described by the students is rigorous (or intense) and may not be appropriate for those who do not have a passion for science and engineering. Anyway, you can still see the mountains on a clear day.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:51 AM   #11
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Re: College Selection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Are you and your daughter both going to college?

What's her strategy? What's she contributing to her education?
No, I am not. She wants to study engineering. I told her that we have a certain amount set aside for her education and that she has come up with the rest.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:53 AM   #12
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Re: College Selection

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Originally Posted by Will Work 4 Beer
I wouldn't pare down her application list too much based on anticipated cost. Wait until you get the full picture (which schools she's admitted to, and how much aid they will offer) before deciding. Spending $50/school to keep your options open is probably worth it, especially if she's gunning for places like Caltech.

After you get the award letters, you will be able to negotiate. That's what I did (undergrad in the early 90's). I was able to go to an out-of-state prestigous private school for roughly what the cost would have been at in-state university. It did take some negotiation up front (University X offered my $Y, will you match it?), some more negotiation sophomore year, and digging around for some grant money, but it eventually worked out.
That's my plan - apply and then decide based on the offer.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:55 AM   #13
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Re: College Selection

I put myself through two elite Universities and I'm a Professor.

I agree with other posters that the nuisance and cost of submitting many applications is well worth it. There is a certain capriciousness in the selection system, and I've seen exceptional students be turned down by numerous schools that they would easily have excelled in. So get all the advice you can about how to prepare her applications and mail out lots of them.

By the way, one thing about Caltech that makes it unusually competetive is that it is a very small University. Prepare her for the possibility of rejection just on that point. Stanford and Berkeley, for example, are so much bigger that getting in is a bit easier. They are also vastly more well-rounded schools that give people many more ways to fit in. So be sure to include applications to large, general, top-tier schools as well as the tiny specialized ones.

You *don't* need to make the choice until those fat and skinny envelopes start to arrive. However, be cautioned that if a fat (acceptance) envelope arrives from a glamorous school, you will face some pressure to pay the piper!

I personally do think that an opportunity to attend a truly exceptional (A+) school is very valuable and worth considerable financial strain. However, paying top-dollar for an A- school is not worth it over a full ride at a well known B+ school unless money is not an object.

I'd like to caution you that if she is aiming at a career that requires graduate school, it's better to go to a mid-tier school as an undergraduate and then a top-tier school as a graduate student than the other way around. Some people may choke in a place like Caltech and then wind up at a B-grade graduate school. Engineering, for example, is a field where she will absolutely want to go on for a Masters, at least. On the other hand, if graduate school is not a concern, then she should go for the gold as an undergraduate.

A little hint about graduate school: forget everything you know about how to get into Stanford as an undergraduate - being president of the high-school "save the whales" organization, etc., doesn't count. What she needs to do is work with a few professors as a research assistant and (1) get her name on a few publications and so that (2) they can write truly strong recommendation letters as opposed to "I don't remember her, but according to my records she was in my class and got an A."

Best of luck.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 11:57 AM   #14
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Re: College Selection

Quote:
Supporting my son in college is one reason I would willingly delay retirement as long as I see things going the right way.
I would'nt mind delaying my retirement to send her to the school of choice and fit.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 12:30 PM   #15
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Re: College Selection

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Seems like UT is very well known for its engineering school.
It is. All of the departments, with the exception of biomedical, are in the top 15 (NRC & World Distort), with most in the top 10. Stanford and Caltech often are higher in the rankings.

Civil is ranked #4 at Texas. Stanford is ranked higher (Caltech is #17 for undergrad at World Distort. ). Is the extra (probably meaningless) 2-3 rankings worth another $15,000 more? Of course, the "elite" schools have more name recognition, at least to your colleagues and those not-in-the-know.

My sister went to Caltech. It can't be reinforced enough -- it's geek central. If your daughter likes reading the Star Trek technical manual, she'd fit in well.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 12:43 PM   #16
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Re: College Selection

I am always amazed to see so many people who are so unambitious for themselves become so ambitious for their children.

If the goal of life is retirement, and for many it appears to be, why not take the shortest cheapest route to a secure retirement? For a female, seems like there must be places in the Federal for, say, a civil engineer.

Job security for an engineer in industry seems roughly comparable to that of a waitress.

The only thing I can imagine that would amortize any Ivy price bachelor's degree would be Wall Street. And even there, it might be necessary to add another $100,000+ to attend a top tier law or business school.

Plus, at these schools a child will either have to hang around with unbelievable geeks or (at the Ivies) incredible egomaniacs.

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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 01:00 PM   #17
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Re: College Selection

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I'd like to caution you that if she is aiming at a career that requires graduate school, it's better to go to a mid-tier school as an undergraduate and then a top-tier school as a graduate student than the other way around. Some people may choke in a place like Caltech and then wind up at a B-grade graduate school. Engineering, for example, is a field where she will absolutely want to go on for a Masters, at least. On the other hand, if graduate school is not a concern, then she should go for the gold as an undergraduate.
At Caltech, they brags about their curriculum is so tough that graduate schools would automatically add one extra point to your GPA. I do not feel comfortable about that assertion. It's better to be a star at a lesser known school than being mediocre at an A+ institution. I concur that it's better to attain a graduate degree from an A+ college. It's almost mandatory to have a graduate degree to work as an engineer. Our company only hires college graduates with a master or higher. This may not be true in other industries or regions of the country.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 01:02 PM   #18
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Re: College Selection

Some of you may recall my story of how I was hauled into court
and a large sum extorted to pay for my youngest daughter's
4 years at a very expensive private lib. arts College. She's working at Old Navy.
She's a good kid and she did graduate, but oh the money that went down a rat hole!

JG
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 01:09 PM   #19
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Re: College Selection

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Originally Posted by eridanus
It is. All of the departments, with the exception of biomedical, are in the top 15 (NRC & World Distort), with most in the top 10. Stanford and Caltech often are higher in the rankings.

Civil is ranked #4 at Texas. Stanford is ranked higher (Caltech is #17 for undergrad at World Distort. ). Is the extra (probably meaningless) 2-3 rankings worth another $15,000 more? Of course, the "elite" schools have more name recognition, at least to your colleagues and those not-in-the-know.

My sister went to Caltech. It can't be reinforced enough -- it's geek central. If your daughter likes reading the Star Trek technical manual, she'd fit in well.
I agree UT-Austin is one of top engineering school.

I do not think my daughter likes reading boring manual. She's quite creative in arts, music and phorography also. She has some reservations about spending nights and weekends on technical projects at Caltech.
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Re: College Selection
Old 10-12-2006, 01:17 PM   #20
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Re: College Selection

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If the goal of life is retirement, and for many it appears to be, why not take the shortest cheapest route to a secure retirement? For a female, seems like there must be places in the Federal for, say, a civil engineer.
My nephew is a civil engineer for LA county (California). He graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, a public state university. He likes the light workload and the health and pension benefits. A civil engineering job for the government is consdiered as a "golden rice" bowl.
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