Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stanford University Visits Seattle

Back in my day, Stanford seemed to what you got if you put MIT, Harvard, and the University of Washington football team all in the same school. Seattle’s late-night show “Almost Live” had a skit where the student went between the U Washington and Washington State table at the college fair and asked “Which college should I go for the best academics” to which both pointed “The Stanford table is THERE”. The Stanford session was at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry. It wasn't a huge turnout, competing with all the other college session out there. Neither of my boys got a mailer, and had to track it down from their admissions website.


One College Prowler complaining about the cost of Santa Clara University said "at least you didn't get into Stanford". Full price is $53,214 with room and board BUT.... if your parents make under $60k, they'll cover full freight. From $60-$100,000 you'll be expected to pay somewhere between 0 and room and board. By comparison, Yale says under $120 you'll pay 10%, and MIT is free if you make under $75k. If you make more than that, you'll pay more, but you can't complain about your income.

Admission rates

Overall admit rate is as low as Yale, about 8%, but even if you have perfect SAT reading it's still a meager 18% even if you ARE Mr/Ms. perfect student. On the other hand, if your math is a "mere" 600-699, you're chances are still about as good/bad as the average Stanford hopeful, so they say go ahead and give it a shot if you're in the range. What goes unstated is when I looked at admissions in the 80s, affirmative action and legacy groups generally get admission rates much higher (2-3X) than the normal rate, but then you have to be in a disadvantaged group to get that “advantage”, but you might keep that in mind if your kid falls under that category. They say what they really look for is something else outstanding or a really good story like teaching kids to play piano in the essay, or somebody from a hardship background since there are so many "perfect" academic kids to choose from. We know one student who was state level athlete, musician, valedictorian and voted most popular in his high school with near-average scores who didn't make it in, so who know what it really takes.

18% Perfect 800 SAT Reading

11% Perfect 800 SAT Math

7% 600-699 SAT Math

9% 30-36 ACT

"Matchless Diversity"

Minorities and African Americans

Now if you're African American, you should pay attention from this Asian writer. There were a few African American students at the session, where I didn't see any for Whitman or Boston University, so they must be doing something different/right in recruiting. They boast under "matchless diversity" 10 percent African American and 12 percent Latino. That's very close to Census parity for the US, while 3 percent American Indian Alaska Native Native Hawaiian. These guys get so many applicants of all kinds they can craft just about any ethnic mix they want, and the US population seems to be what they want (that is if you ignore the lopsided white/Asian mix). What caught my eye under Exchange Programs are, in addition to Darmouth (yawn) they have Howard University, Morehouse College and Spelman College, which if you are at all into Af-Am culture are the 3 powerhouses of historically black colleges. That sounds like they're going to extra trouble to give minority students the opportunity of going to an AfAm college in addition to their own big-name (but majority white/Asian) experience.

I'd keep in mind Thomas Sowell's advice (famous black conservative from Stanford's Hoover institution) that the downside of the top colleges drawing students away from less famous colleges has the effect of mismatching students by ability. so you'll have to weigh the strategy of going to the college with the best name that's trying to fill out their "diversity" requirements vs one that may be better matched with your academic qualifications, since your neighbor's kid would probably struggle even if Stanford offered them a free ride.

Asians & Other

Interesting, they brag that over half of students are of color, but nearly half of them are the Asians. Funny, you include Asians if you want to show how “diverse” your campus is, or leave them out in the case of Berkeley if you want to showcase how badly your diversity needs to be improved. The campus is 23 percent Asian now, which isn't as high as UCLA, Berkeley, Irvine or even the U Washington, but still more than most Seattle high schools, so it's a LOT, even if I haven't heard any clever "too man Asian" joke names. That's good if you want your Asian kid to meet a Nice Asian Boy/Girl (we had a couple of inter-Stanford marriages in my family). I came up with 46 percent anybody else, who would be "White" if they had bothered to print it, so that makes them one of many "minorities" in the population, which isn't so odd for urban California, but might be odd for somebody coming from most other places in the US. Those numbers mean that you're main competition for 70 percent of spots are OTHER Asians and overachieving whites, not whatever affirmative action is doing for the few other groups.

Other Brags

• 98% freshman retention rate (of course, look at who they admit)

• 6.4 to 1 faculty ratio

• 75% of classes fewer than 15 students

• 27 Nobel Prize winners on faculty

• $4M for undergrad research

Some other observations

• I played in the Stanford Symphony and sang in the Catholic folk mass when I was working summers in Silicon Valley as a MIT co-op student visiting my brothers there.

• The chili in the student union was the best.

• I personally ran into Olympic medalist figure skater and African American Debi Thomas at the Stanford Shopping center. She’s doing engineering for a day job I understand. (Kristi Yamaguchi was from Fremont across the bay)

• Connie Rice taught and worked at Stanford before she worked for W.

• I can’t think of any famous musicians (Yo Yo Ma went to Harvard)

• All 7 kids from my generation got into MIT and /or Stanford 1976-1985. Fat chance we’ll be able to repeat that, so far we’re 0 for 1 on the next generation, but who knows.

• Can’t beat the weather or the neighborhood of Palo Alto vs Boston where the MIT half of my family went.

• MIT is still the better engineering school with higher test scores if it’s a contest for ultimate geek school.

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