Posts filed under ‘MA’

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

Yale vs. Harvard

Would a Yalie recommend Harvard over Yale?  Yes.

Surprised?  I was.

My seatmate on the airplane was a former university president who is an active Yale alumnus.  Becaus of his background, I asked for his take on my son’s short list of colleges, which includes Yale.  When he found out that my son is interested in science and math, he said he thought Harvard or MIT would be a better fit than Yale.  Why?  First, because Yale is traditionally stronger (or more focused on) the arts than the sciences.  Secondly, he thinks Boston has more to offer.

Interesting advice, especially since we were intrigued by the seminar that Yale offers (only) for freshmen who have done scientific lab research in the past, which gives them exposure to all the various science disciplines at Yale.   Harvard might have something like that, but we never heard about it.

September 15, 2009 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

My son’s list

As of summer before senior year, here is my son’s short list (in alphabetical order):

  1. Carleton College, Northfield MN – the only small liberal arts college on the list.   A comfortable fit. Size-wise, Carleton is at the bottom of his preferred range.
  2. CalTech, Pasadena CA – Really small, but a fantastic school as long as he doesn’t change direction and decide he wants to major in something other than math or science.  Incredible job placement track record.
  3. Harvard College, Cambridge MA – We were more impressed than we expected.   Strong residential program makes the size manageable.   Financial aid is generous.   Boston is a plus.
  4. Northwestern University, Evanston IL – Has some special programs he wants to explore more.
  5. MIT, Cambridge MA – Like CalTech, but bigger and more widely known.  His original dream school when we started this process 4 years ago.
  6. Stanford University, Palo Alto CA – A little big for my tastes but he loves California and there are more options for majors than at CalTech.
  7. University of Chicago, Chicago IL – The intellectual’s school.   More discussion-focused.
  8. University of Oklahoma, Norman OK – Fantastic financial package for National Merit Scholars and, surprisingly, he feels comfortable at a school with 19,000 students.  Very compact beautiful campus, and he can live on an honors floor and get priority class registration rights.
  9. Yale, New Haven CT – The difference between Harvard and Yale comes down to whether he would take advantage of what Boston has to offer….like pro hockey games.

We’ve visited all of these and now he needs to do more research on their websites to see if he’s still interested in any of the special programs and happy with the course offerings….as well as to get more fodder for the question “Why do you want to attend XYZ University?”.

In case you’re wondering…

  • We never really investigated any other Ivy League schools, other than Penn, so don’t take this as a conclusion that Harvard or Yale are better than the others.
  • The schools with really lucrative merit scholarship programs generally did not appeal to him (which may be why they offer such great scholarships).
  • Originally, he was focused on MIT and CalTech, but, as time goes by, he’s seeing an advantage in leaving open his options for pursuing a non-technical major…even though that’s not what he’s interested in now.
  • My daughter is attending a college that, at one time, was on the bottom of her short list, so I’m well aware that this list could change.

July 20, 2009 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Olin cuts merit scholarships 50%

One of the best buys in the country has been Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA, which has been tuition-free for all students.  However, Olin is the latest example of colleges that have had to take drastic action as a result of the hit their endowments took in the stock market.  Here’s an excerpt from the letter my son received:

Olin was founded on the premise that financial considerations should not stand in the way of an excellent engineering education.  That has not changed.  Olin is committed to providing a merit scholarship to every student we accept.  However, due to the ongoing economic downturn, Olin must reduce its full-tuition scholarship by 50 percent beginning in the 2010-11 academic year.

…Moreover, Olin is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of families seeking financial aid and to restoring the scholarship to 100 percent as soon as financial conditions allow.

Olin is still a good deal for many families.  That 50% off amounts to an $80,000 scholarship.

By no means is Olin the only college making changes…they just are one of the most honest and up-front about it.  It’s ironic that students graduating now are in the midst of the perfect storm….record numbers of students going to college have led to the most frenzied competitive admissions process ever, while colleges – although filled with students – are concerned about their budgets.  Kids graduating in 5 or 10 years won’t have to worry about all this.

If you’re still considering Olin, make sure Olin is truly the right choice for your student.  Engineering is the ONLY  major.  There’s no opportunity to change one’s mind, something that happens with the vast majority of college students.

July 17, 2009 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

College Visit: Harvard

Finally!  We’ve found a college that my low-key, unenthusiastic son describes as “great”!

Harvard Library

Harvard Library

I’ve always been cynical about Harvard’s reputation and I still think it probably has more cachet that it deserves.  And my insight today is that the students probably aren’t as extremely smart as their SAT scores would indicate, because I’m guessing at least half took test prep classes.

We arrived here a bit leery about the residential college approach, based upon what we read on Harvard’s website.  We left feeling that the residential program was a real advantage and part of how Harvard creates the feel of a small liberal arts college inside a major university.

  • Freshmen bonding is promoted by having all freshman housed in one section of campus and eating in a freshmen-only dining hall.  (And it’s  magnificent dining hall that looks like Hogwarts!)  The freshmen have their own drama and music groups.
  • Intermingling of students from all socioeconomic groups, races, geographies, and interests is accomplished by random assignment to a “house”.  (No sorting hat, but yes, it’s a little like Hogwarts.)  No jockeying to get into the “best” house.  No fraternity rush process.
  • But those freshmen relationships are honored by letting students form into “blocks” of up to 8 students who will be “randomly” assigned to a house together.  So they get to stay with their original best friends as they move to a new dorm.
  • The houses have robust social lives and includes faculty that live in the houses and arrange events for their students.  Student eat in their house (but can eat in other houses, too).  Houses have their own libraries & gyms, so you don’t have to leave except for class…which is nice in the middle of winter.

AP credit is only available for scores of 5 on year-long classes, but a student could essentially graduate a year early by using AP credit to replace all of their elective classes.  That’s a little contrary to the idea of a liberal arts college, but at least it helps with the tuition costs.

There are 4 lecture halls like this one, but in different colors

One of 4 huge colorful lecture halls. There is also at least 1 wood paneled lecture hall.

As a teenager, I didn’t like the idea of attending Harvard because the professors in movies like Love Story seemed to be on an inquisition to find students in the big lecture halls who didn’t know the answer, then intimidate and ridicule them.  I wasn’t thrilled to hear that Harvard still has some large classes.  (The picture on the left shows maybe 20% of one lecture hall).  But the admissions department counteracts that by showing a film of the “Justice” class, the biggest and most popular class on campus, in a huge wood paneled lecture hall, and portraying how the professor gets students to participate.  Personally, I’d prefer to be in a smaller class of, say 15, where we each got to participate, but at least it isn’t a boring talking-head lecture.

Bottom line:  impressive brand name, best professors money & reputation can buy, best anything money can buy, diverse student population due to Harvard’s generous financial aid , and a strong residential life.

My husband’s advice:  visit Harvard last or you risk being disappointed by every other college you visit afterwards.

July 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm Leave a comment

Info Session: 2 Ivies + 3 nearly Ivies

5 colleges are hosting the “Exploring College Options” college tour this spring: Duke, Georgetown, Penn, Harvard & Stanford. My son and I attended the presentations in Dallas. Afterwards, we concluded that he was still interested in Harvard and Stanford, admittedly in large part because of their reputation and financial aid offers (plus the California sunshine), but the presentations didn’t get him to add any new colleges to his list or provide any more compelling information about Harvard or Stanford that he didn’t already know, perhaps because they really did not address any majors that are of interest to him.

Here are the key points they covered in their 10-15 minutes presentations:

Continue Reading May 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

Go for the interview!

If you wondered whether, when making a college visit before senior year, you should have your child ask to schedule an interview…yes!

My daughter received a letter saying she is eligible for a big scholarship from Clark University.  (Yippee!)   One of the requirements is to come to campus a particular February weekend or to do an interview.  When we visited Clark a year ago, she did an interview…and that counts.  So we just avoided having to pay for airfare for another trip to the same college.

January 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

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