Sunday, November 20, 2011

Asiamerican Dad's Top 10 College Admissions Myths

Here is the Washingon Post list:

Not my top 7, but not a bad start.
1. It’s best to set your heart on one school and really go for it.
2. The tuition price listed in brochures is what everyone pays.
3. The admissions department adores you.
4. It’s best to crowd your application with a volume of extracurriculars.
5. It’s better to have a high GPA than to take difficult classes.
6. Essays don’t really matter much in the end because grades and test scores are so dominant in admissions decisions.
7. Recommendations from famous people can give an applicant a huge boost.
8. Take all the AP and double-triple Honors you can stand
9. Apply to schools that are popular with Asians

Asiamerican Dad's top 10

Don't apply to an expensive school - what you pay depends on who gives you the best financial package. Some college websites take your financial profile and estimate what you will pay. My 1st 2 college kids so far got deals from private schools with cost similar to University of Washington with dorm, including Seattle University and Santa Clara University, but most schools did not offer that much money.
  1. You can't afford Harvard. Maybe you can't get into Harvard, but if your family makes $70,000 or less you basically get in for free, and that's true of a lot of the schools that are the hardest to get into.
  2. Don't take the SATs in early grades because too many tests count against you. I don't have an inside, but from my standpoint, if you have history of terrible test scores and they only rose because you took it 100 times, then it would make sense. But kids who take the test in 8th or 9th grade (and don't have their heads explode) are actually more impressive, especially if they get even average scores at such a young age. One of my kids got nearly average in verbal and good enough to get into Worcester Polytechnic or most UW engineering tracks in 8th grade.
  3. If I don't get into Harvard or Berkeley I'll Die or My Parents Will Disown Me. That's a common Asian attitude, but it's more realistic to see the world that you can succeed at whatever level you are at. If you're Fitchburg State, then be the best Fitchburg State you can be. I'm MIT and there are plenty of top school grads with less than perfect careers, and people without high school diplomas who own small businesses or own several houses. Go to the  best college you can afford, and if you can't afford any college you can still succeed in life.
  4. Don't think being an academic star will get you into MIT / Harvard / Stanford. I've heard of kids who had top 1% test scores, perfect grade point average and activities and athletics up the wazoo who didn't make it in to Stanford even after they paid a bunch of money for the summer program. Perfect test scores and grades only improve your chances of getting in from 8% to 10%.
  5. Applying to several low-admit-rate schools improves your chances of getting into at least one. All my kids got into the schools they were qualified for, but not much higher, even the one that got a letter from Harvard and invites from other nearly Ivy league schools. Try for one or two, but more than that is a waste of time.
  6. I'll never get into Harvard because of my scores are too low Inversely, I knew one student who got into every school she applied for, and even got a free vist to campus at Wellesley even though she was from the west coast and had not even applied yet. Apply to two schools harder than is easy for you to get into, two that aren't hard, and two that are easier. If you are Yo Yo Ma (the #1 cellist right now who graduated from Harvard), you don't need top scores, which won't get you in anyways.
  7. Don't just apply to one school, even a public university. Places like Univerity of Washington now admit fewer than 1 in 2, and even less if you are a resident because out of state students pay more. I know one student who only applied to U Washington and ended up having to transfer from a community college. In the 70s, places like this admitted anyone who was remotely qualified, now being qualified is no guarantee of admission.
  8. Take all the AP and double-triple honors you can stand  If you actually like being a kamikaze academic and doing way too much reading, AP can be a challenge and help you effectively skip your freshman year. But experience with my kids is that things like AP history don't matter at engineering schools and do way too much reading and memorization. It can give you an edge in admissions, but fact is most schools where this would make a difference are impossible to get into anyways. Taking 4 AP classes at one time is a sure recipe for a year in academic hell.
  9. Apply to schools that are popular with Asians One problem with Asians is that they all apply to same damn top dozen schools, where AvgAmericans will generally apply to schools where they actually have a chance of getting in, and are ok with that. There are great schools with great test scores averages that are relatively easy to get into, and most of them DON'T have piles of Asians. These include Vanderbilt in Tennnesee and Macalester in St. Paul. Macaleseter took in a girl I knew who gave her a full ride including transportation, but she went to Wellesley instead because it is much better known, but neither has much visibility in the OMG my kid has to get in Asian parent game.
  10. Leave suggestions in comments