Posts filed under ‘admissions’

Not accepted by Harvard? You’re in good company.

Here’s an excellent case study on what lengths parents have to go to in order to find appropriate educational opportunities for their profoundly gifted children by Susan Freinkel, titled “IQ like Einstein:  What is it really like to parent a profoundly gifted child?

If your own student isn’t getting into Harvard, take heart.  The profoundly gifted kids from Davidson Academy often don’t go there either.

“A diploma from Davidson doesn’t translate into automatic admission to Harvard or Yale, says Melissa Lance, communications manager for Davidson Institute. Indeed, with a handful of exceptions, the list of schools that graduates are attending is surprisingly middle-tier. Lance offers several explanations: students may not have that well-rounded resume admissions officers are seeking; they may not have high GPAs; or they may not be seduced by the prestige of a top-tier school, preferring to find a place that simply feels to them like a good fit. Whatever the reason, “not a lot of our students apply to the Ivies,” she says.”

If you’ve agonized about accelerating your student’s education, take heart from this research:

“Studies suggest that most highly gifted kids fit in just fine with older students and thrive when allowed to learn at an accelerated place. For instance, Australian researcher Miraca Gross followed a group of 60 students with very high IQs for two decades. She found that those who were allowed to skip ahead at least three grade levels tended to do well academically and socially; most got PhDs, settled into professional careers, formed relationships, and developed good friends. The 33 who were not allowed to accelerate in school had less charmed lives. Most ended up at less rigorous colleges and several never graduated high school or college. They also had more trouble forming social relationships. Having spent so many years feeling alienated, they had no practice connecting with people, Gross speculated.”


July 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Top 30 Grad School Blogs

Both of my kids are entering grad school in the fall.  Although I have a MBA, I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to advising them about grad school, so I was happy to find some resources they might use today:  a list of the Top 30 Grad School Blogs.  The list includes blogs about particular curriculum areas (math, law, science, psychology) and specific universities.  I thought some of the most intriguing ones were focused on the grad school process:

“22. My Graduate School publishes content on successful methods for applying to and preparing for graduate school. Articles range in topics from selecting the perfect school taking both price and quality into consideration, to avoiding major pitfalls that can hurt your chances for acceptance even after you’ve submitted your applications.
Highlight: Letters of Recommendation for Grad School: Beware the Bad Letter-Writer

“21. The Professor is In focuses on helping graduate students make a successful transition from grad student to professor, especially those who are still grad students when they begin taking on teaching responsibilities.
Highlight: Addressing Search Committee Members

Getting What You Came ForThe My Graduate School blog led me to an article I wish my kids had read a year or so ago, on How to Get In to Grad School.   Oh well, at least I had purchased them a copy of Getting What You Came For several years ago, which is recommended in that article as being “brutally honest”.

March 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Early Birds Win

Pardon me while I brag on my daughter.  She requested an appointment this week with the grad school advisor, even though her application isn’t due for 5 months.  His reaction: “This is why I teach at Clark University, so I can have students like you!”

He says he gets inundated with calls and emails the week before grad school applications are due.  Funny how we worry about our students stressing out about their applications, but never think about what it is like for the people who receive the applications.

I’m betting my early bird daughter gets accepted.

October 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm 1 comment

Buyer Beware on Fifth Year Free

My daughter’s college, Clark University, offers a “fifth year free” program. (My alma mater, Stephens College, used to do this, too, and there are probably other schools that do it to entice their best students to continue on to graduate school.)  No, it doesn’t mean that, if a student fails to graduate in 4 years, he can keep trying to graduate free of charge.  It means that a successful undergraduate may be able to get a Masters degree by staying for one additional year.

But, we’re finding out that there are some tricky requirements.  Sometimes I feel like the admissions department was writing blank checks that the finance office or the faculty don’t want to cash.

  1. You must have a certain (high) undergraduate GPA.  That makes sense as it is an indicator of how well you will do in grad school.
  2. You must major in certain areas for a certain Masters program.  That makes sense, too.   You can’t shorten a Masters program if you don’t have the foundational courses.
  3. You must finish your undergraduate degree in 4 years.  At first blush, that makes sense, too.  If you can’t finish in 4 years, you probably dropped classes you were failing and therefore are not the caliber of student who will do well in the more difficult graduate level courses.  However, here comes the first big caveat:  you also cannot graduate in less than 4 years.  This happened to one of my daughter’s friends.  She came to college with a bunch of Advanced Placement credit and got a full semester of classes waived.  She planned to spend four full years taking undergraduate classes, but she met all the requirements for general education courses and for her first major within 3-1/2 years.   When they found out she wanted to get her fifth year free, they made her graduate in 3-1/2 years, which meant she had not met the requirement of spending 4 years in the undergraduate program, so she couldn’t get the fifth year free.   Ouch!  I could maybe understand if a college said “you chose to graduate early, therefore we didn’t get 4 full years of tuition from you, therefore you can’t get the fifth year free”, but it seems harsh to say we want to make you graduate early so we don’t have to give you the fifth year free.
  4. You must take certain prerequisites for the graduate program, above and beyond the requirements for your major.  In other words, you’re starting the graduate program before you finish the undergraduate program.  This requires good planning in course selection so you can fit everything into 4 years.
  5. You must have a good answer for the question, “What makes you think you can succeed in graduate level courses?”  Luckily, my daughter had been invited by one of her freshman professors to take a Ph.D. level seminar class from her and she took that class in sophomore year.  If she hadn’t taken a graduate level course by fall of her junior year, this would be a tough question to answer convincingly on the grad school application, which is due in spring of junior year, long before most graduate school applications are due.

Her advice:

  • Ask “what if I…” questions about the requirements for the fifth year free program not only of the admissions department but also of the faculty in that department.
  • Don’t fulfill all of your undergraduate requirements until spring of senior year.
  • Take a graduate level course midway through your undergraduate program…and do well in it.

Caveat emptor.  Let the buyer beware.

October 23, 2011 at 7:07 am 1 comment

So You Want to Be a Doctor

Does your student really want to be a doctor?  I”m not talking about someone who wants to be McDreamy or McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy, or whose parents want her to be a doctor for the money or the prestige, but a student who truly is ready to head down the med school track.

Several of the schools we have visited – Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and CalTech/UC San Diego come to mind – offer programs for students who are sure they want to go on to medical school.  Usually these are highly competitive programs in that they only admit a handful of students.

What do they offer:

  • Guaranteed admission to the university’s school of medicine (assuming grades, etc., stay up to par).  In other words, you won’t have to sweat out med school admission…assuming that’s still your med school of choice 4 years from now.
  • A little extra handholding, attention, lectures, mentoring, shadowing, or other opportunities that you might or might not get if you were not in that program.
  • At some schools (such as Northwestern), save an entire year of college, because they condense the curriculum.  This could save you $50,000.
  • Bragging rights, which might help a student get other fellowships or scholarships or research opportunities along the way.
  • The opportunity to start a longitudinal research project as an undergrad and continue work on it through med school.


  • Will a student feel locked into that medical school or not explore other options that might have been a better fit or enabled exposure to a wider variety of professors, more ways of doing things, more challenges – simply because she doesn’t want to hassle with the med school application process?
  • Worse, will a student feel pressure to become a doctor when that’s really not the best fit?  They won’t force a student to go to med school, but I suspect there would be some serious “convincing” going on if a student wanted to drop out of the program.

Note that those drawbacks are things the student can control, so they aren’t real big issues.  I was really reaching to come up with some drawbacks.

Northwestern’s program also offers the option of becoming an MD/PhD and, in general, the program is geared toward more gifted students than the general NU student body, with accelerated courses in the science curriculum.

December 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

Evaluate your own transcript

If you really want to know how colleges review your transcript, or if you’re a visual learner, here’s the actual form that College of the Holy Cross uses, courtesy of the New York Times.

December 1, 2009 at 6:37 am Leave a comment

Who should go to college?

Should more kids go to college?  Fewer kids?

There’s a debate raging now, and an article from Minding the Campus’s website, called “Why Are Graduation Rates So Low?”  provides a good summary:

Two pillars of the Higher Education Establishment, William Bowen and Michael McPherson (former presidents of Princeton University and Macalester College, respectively) have teamed up with Matthew Chingos in their new book Crossing the Finishing Line to apparently argue, according to news accounts (I have not read the book yet) that a major problem is “under-matching”: talented students with lower incomes that fail to go to the best school available, choosing instead to go to schools with low graduation rates and mediocre quality instead of higher quality institutions with low dropout rates.

I would argue the number of unqualified students attending colleges with academic standards exceeding their capabilities or willingness to work is vastly greater than the group identified by Bowen, McPherson and Chingos. Underfunding of poor good students is a trivial problem compared with the overfunding of poor students of all income categories who attend what my American Enterprise Institute colleague Mark Schneider calls aptly calls “failure factories.”

You can read the entire article here.

September 29, 2009 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

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