NYTimes article on impactful college essays

May 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm 104 comments

College essay

I clicked on this one today just out of curiosity and realized I really know NOTHING about this college essay thing.  I don’t think I ever did one and I know things have evolved a lot in 30 years, but I was surprised at how… free-range these essays seemed.  These are all around the theme of money/economics, but I thought it was interesting to see the feedback on what made them successful.

Obviously good writing skills help.  Having a good story arc helps.  Showing you’ve overcome something in a positive way helps.

What do you think of these? Does this fit with what you thought a good college essay would be like?

Four Stand-Out College Essays About Money


MAY 9, 2014


Talking about money is hard. Writing well about yourself may be harder still. So trying to do both at once, as a teenager, while addressing complete strangers who control your future, would seem to be foolhardy.

But each year, plenty of high school seniors who are applying to college give it a go. Many skip the story of the sports team triumph or the grandparent’s death and write essays about weighty social issues like work, class and wealth, or lack thereof. Perhaps that’s what affects them most. Or maybe those are the subjects that they think will attract an admissions officer’s eye.

In any case, for the second year, we put out a nationwide call for the best college application essays about these topics. With the help of Jennifer Delahunty, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and an accomplished essayist and editor herself, we picked four to share here.

They are a diverse lot, touching on topics ranging from work at McDonald’s and thrift store shopping to homelessness and reckoning with a parent’s job loss. What they share, however, is a quality that admissions officers crave but don’t see as often as they’d like: The applicant’s brain, laid bare on the page, wrapping itself around a topic that most people don’t write enough about or don’t write about in a deep or moving way.

“It’s the one part of the application where they completely control the voice, and that makes it a really valuable document for us,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions. “When you’re applying to an institution with thousands of students who have the same general academic and testing credentials, those things only get you in the door. The rest of the application will separate you out.”

Mr. Quinlan accepted Viviana Andazola Marquez, who lives in Thornton, Colo., into the class of 2018. Her short, matter-of-fact essay about the logistics of homelessness was the most powerful one we read.

“There it sits, sullen in the passenger’s seat like a child in time out,” she wrote of her frequent attempts to get her homework done using borrowed computers. “Here we go again — someone else’s laptop to navigate, another Wi-Fi network to hack, another stubborn connection to overcome. After a frustrating drive through the neighborhood and careful identification of a network, success is stated simply: connected.”

Ms. Delahunty was struck by two things in this essay. The first was the language. “This is almost like a poem, it’s so laconic and compressed,” she said. “ ’I fill the cracks in the road to success made by forces beyond myself.’ What a beautiful line.”

The second was the lack of bitterness, which Mr. Quinlan picked up on as well. “She uses the story to her advantage but she doesn’t lament it,” he said. “Lots of people write about obstacles, but there is a forward-looking nature to this. It’s a look at what she’s overcome without her steeping in it.”

Clare Connaughton steeps readers in her financial struggles a bit in her essay, noting how hard her mother has worked cleaning houses to keep them in a middle-class neighborhood. But much of it is about the joy she eventually found in shopping at thrift stores with her mother near their home in Mineola, N.Y. “We woke up early and are now waiting on a long line behind Brooklyn hipsters,” she wrote. “Our beloved thrift store is now trendy and popular. My mom and I laugh about it all the time during dinner.”

Ms. Connaughton will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. “There is a real sense of enlightened awareness in this one,” Ms. Delahunty said. “The idea that necessity became trendy is such an interesting perspective on how she lived her life.”

If there was an underdog in this group, it was Griffin Karpeck. The Darien, Ill., resident did a fair bit of telling and not quite enough showing in his essay about working at McDonald’s and what he learned from his colleagues. A job at McDonald’s is an ordinary thing, and teenagers tend to not make it a goal, let alone build a college application around it. So perhaps that’s why Ms. Delahunty, who has read over 15,000 application essays during her career, had never seen one about working under the golden arches before.

Neither had Laura Schutt, the assistant director of admission at Butler University, where Mr. Karpeck will matriculate this fall. She was thrilled to see it, however, given how often she tells prospective students that they shouldn’t be afraid to discuss their part-time jobs. “When I got this I thought ‘Oh my gosh, somebody finally wrote about something I talk about!’ ” she said. “It jumped out at me.”

I asked her whether this might be too big a risk, and said that a snooty admissions officer would wonder why an ambitious teenager would choose to write about selling hamburgers instead of literature. “No, it’s opening us up to him,” she said. “Him getting beyond that bubble of the suburbs and seeing how a job at McDonald’s is so important to various individuals and the meanings it has to them — he’s already dealing with the topics that you can carry forward onto a campus that was founded on liberal arts principles.”

Mr. Karpeck might have missed one big opportunity because of timing. One of the children of the chief executive of McDonald’s happens to be in one of his high school classes this school year. That would have made for a zinger of an opening line had it happened sooner, but he sent his application in before he realized who was sharing a class with him.

Andy Duehren, who will attend Harvard, took a different kind of risk, writing about his father’s job loss and depression and his own uncaring response to it.

“I became more critical, more attentive to his flaws and shortcomings,” he wrote of his father. “He lost his glasses, got linguini when we asked for rigatoni at the grocery store, and forgot my friends’ names. At family dinner he sat largely silent until he interrupted with a non sequitur or unrelated question. I promised myself, with all of my naïve bravado, that I would never make myself vulnerable like he did, that I would never wallow in past regrets or failures.”

In the essay, however, he makes himself plenty vulnerable. “I do love that, when a writer self-implicates,” Ms. Delahunty said. “And then comes this point of redemption. It’s a loving, honest portrait of a breadwinner that was operating on so many different levels.”

One thing that we’ve never seen in our two years of soliciting these essays is a great one about what it means to be rich. Bad ones abound at Kenyon, alas. “We see a lot of essays about students who have studied abroad and they recognize either their own privilege or that the poor brown people are happier than I,” she said. “That’s always the ending. I absolutely hate those essays, though I sound like a cynic.”

Ms. Delahunty allows, however, that it is hard for teenagers to write about privilege without sounding like they’re bragging. And it’s complicated, given how seldom affluent children are encouraged to acknowledge their class status and how few of them ever dislike the comfort and experiences that wealth can bring. Mr. Quinlan adds that given how hard many top colleges are working to attract the best lower-income students, applicants may be getting an implicit message that it’s better to write about struggling financially.

Still, plenty of parents are paying full freight at $60,000 a year or more. Here’s hoping that one of their children sends in an essay about an underexplored aspect of that life next year. We’ll be looking for them again in the mailbox at moneyessays@nytimes.com starting next winter, and we’ll publish a new batch in the spring.

Entry filed under: College!.

Shift in Racial Demos at 4 Selective Enrollment High Schools On the verge of summer

104 Comments Add your own

  • 1. APmom  |  May 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Yes, that is consistent with what i believe a college essay entails. I believe it’s critical to have an outstanding essay. One reason (esp if applying to ivies) is that basically the kids that your kids are competing with for seats are very similar, almost the same on paper: Straight As, very high ACT and countless service hours. Therefore the schools only have a few things to define who they are and their fit for their school. One girl from NCP just wrote abt her experience vying for a seat at Brown University. She asked the admission counselor what made them chose her and he/she said it was her love of Latin and her essay. Sounds reasonable~the essay is the only thing that can make a student shine from from another.

  • 2. Chicago School GPS  |  May 10, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Well known and self-professed on their website: “The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.”

    2013-14 Essay Questions:
    Essay Option 1.
    Winston Churchill believed “a joke is a very serious thing.” From Off-Off Campus’s improvisations to the Shady Dealer humor magazine to the renowned Latke-Hamantash debate, we take humor very seriously here at The University of Chicago (and we have since 1959, when our alums helped found the renowned comedy theater The Second City).

    Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.

    Inspired by Chelsea Fine, Class of 2016

    Essay Option 2.
    In a famous quote by José Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher proclaims, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia” (1914). José Quintans, master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago, sees it another way: “Yo soy yo y mi microbioma” (2012).

    You are you and your..?

    Inspired by Maria Viteri, Class of 2016

    Essay Option 3.
    “This is what history consists of. It’s the sum total of all the things they aren’t telling us.” — Don DeLillo, Libra.

    What is history, who are “they,” and what aren’t they telling us?

    Inspired by Amy Estersohn, Class of 2010

    Essay Option 4.
    The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain.

    Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu

    What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?

    Inspired by Tess Moran, Class of 2016

    Essay Option 5.
    How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.

    Inspired by Florence Chan, Class of 2015

    Essay Option 6.
    In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.

  • 3. KL  |  May 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    We paid tutors to “help” our kids write their essays. They would bring a tear to your eye. English majors need work too.

  • 4. HS Mom  |  May 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    The article is very helpful. Writing style, humility and the ability to pick up on the nuances in life are definitely winners, as shown in the examples.

    My only problem with tutors is that many times they want to edit to the point of taking the personality away.

    We had a review “team” of 3 people who were friends that I consider highly versed and educated. The comments were minimal and the essay sounded exactly like it should coming from an insightful teenager with abstract opinions and ideas. Didn’t want to stifle a word of that.

    It also seemed to me that schools that required the Common App plus addendum were more creative in their writing requirements. Some of the bigger universities were more cut and paste.

  • 5. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    4. HS Mom | May 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Did you think your ‘team of 3’ was crucial in the essay dept? I am wondering bc I wasnt having my child use a tutor or anyone…I had wanted the essay to really focus on my kid’s narrative. Should I rethink this?

  • 6. HS Mom  |  May 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    SSI – Not crucial but it really helped to get the response of non-vested parties that weren’t parents or teachers. One of the team was an author who said that she didn’t necessarily agree with certain points of grammar but could see that it was part of his style and it added to the story that she thoroughly enjoyed reading. Another thought it was fantastic and the third thought it wasn’t his best work. One person of the three found a real grammatical error after it was submitted and we were actually able to notify the school and change it.

    Overall, between the guidance that he received at school and our own unique process, we were pretty pleased and confident. A good essay needs to be your own unique idea and dressing it out does not necessarily need to become a science project…..IMO, others may have a different experience/opinion.

    As pointed out in the article, the canned story with the predictable ending is what you’re looking to avoid.

    Good luck!

  • 7. HS Mom  |  May 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Oh BTW (and this is a common thing that I hear) the worst part of the process is getting them to do the essay.

  • 8. Family Friend  |  May 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    I tried to get my kids to read essays by Anna Quindlen and others who make topis of general interest personal. Daughter no. 1 went to Ignatius, which provided absolutely wonderful college application support. One of the first assignments of her senior Religion class was to write an autobiography, that would not be shared with anyone but the teacher and the college counselors. This ensured that the essays, which were vetted by the counseling department, reflected the authentic voice of the student. Her essays were terrific. Daughter no. 2 had a harder time sounding like her authentic self, and rewriting from a more open and honest perspective was the only suggestion I made other than routine grammar corrections, (I was her editor). She wrote one of those learning-about-how privileged-she is essays. I don’t think everyone hates them as much as the article says. Spending a month in a remote Chinese village (no road into the village) teaching English to poor children (who had to pass an English exam to enter high school, and whose English teachers had never heard the language spoken), in oppressive heat, during a drought that affected the supply of food, was a real eye-opener for her. It changed the way she viewed her life, and is still having an impact 12 years later.

  • 9. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks HSMom & Family Friend~I there is strong support re: essays at school, but now I believe it will be invaluable to have non vested people read and give feedback! Thanks again!!!

  • 10. newbie  |  May 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Last month, Kwasi Enin, was accepted to all 8 colleges he applied to…
    Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania !

    Here is his essay:


  • 11. Maureen Kelleher  |  May 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    SoxSideIrish4, I have read and edited college essays for high school students in the past–as a volunteer for the old Big Picture HS in Back of the Yards (now closed). I’m thinking about getting back in the saddle with it. I also used to do alumni interviews for Yale (stopped after I had a baby because I didn’t have time) but it gave me some insight both into what the high schoolers are like and what the Ivies are looking for. Happy to serve as an impartial reader and offer some feedback. Email me at mekelleher67@hotmail.com.

  • 12. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 10, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    11. Maureen Kelleher | May 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you!!! I may take you up on that~IF he ever starts it!!!

  • 13. loop side  |  May 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I heard about Mr. Kwasi Enin. He looks like a truly remarkable young man.
    I just read his essay — its great. But I’m not sure it knocked my socks off like it did 8 ivy league schools. ??

    More of his story,

  • 14. reenie  |  May 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    It wasn’t his essay. It was the complete package. African immigrant male with stellar grades and scores, plus he’s a musician and has a heart for community service. Wants to be a doctor. The essay was OK, and he’s a science guy so if they’re going to cut slack anywhere it would be on the essay part.

  • 15. HS Mom  |  May 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    @14 – that kind of brings up an interesting question. If colleges look at the whole package, how important is the essay (or essay’s) if all 8 schools passed it over. The essay shown is the common app essay. Guessing these schools had other essays as well.

    We had one college actually comment on the essay – beyond that I have no idea how strongly it weighs in. Same college also commented on willingness to take a challenging course load.

  • 16. klm  |  May 12, 2014 at 7:32 am


    I agree. From what I recall when I woorked in college admissions, and from what anybody that reads up on these things will know, there are certain candidates (especially URMs [under-represented minorities]) for whom admissions officers will go out of their way to make the “whole package” look positive, even if one or two areas are kinda’ weak (relatiively speaking –for the Ivies this may mean only the 95th percentile instead of the 99th in some area).

    This kid was a black male in the top 2% of his class with 2,250 SATs.
    Frankly, I’d have been amazed if there were any Ivies that DIDN’T accept him, no matter his essay. Even if his essay was just OK, he was the dream candidate for any college in terms of demographics.

  • 17. CPS Parent  |  May 12, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Regarding Kwasi Enin my kid met him at Yale (he chose Yale) and he is super nice/charismatic. I’m sure his teacher recs conveyed his personality.

    Teacher recs are the second most important aspect (after transcript) for the highly selective schools and, thank g_d, parents can’t manipulate/tutor/”team” review those.

  • 18. klm  |  May 12, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I’ll add another comment that I believe is important. The “college essay” has become such a big deal that every college admissions officer at any college that’s selective knows certain kids are like to get “help.” This may be with a private college counselor, the college counselor (all ‘good’ HSs have them now) at their school, parents (who’ve researched like crazy), friends, friends of parents that went that college, teachers, mentors, ……..etc.

    Accordingly, I wonder if essays carry as much weight as they may have before everybody was on the “perfect college essay” bandwagon.

    By now, everybody knows (or should know) that upper-middle-class kids building schools in Guatemala for two weeks is a total joke to college admissions officers, given that any kid with parents with enough money can buy an opportunity like that with any one of the dozens of private companies that arrange these kinds of things (for a profit, of course). These kinds of companies exploded a few decades ago when people started to feel that their kids needed to do charity work in a Third World country for their college essays and “extracurricular” stuff on their college aps to stand out. Two weeks doing anything can’t change one’s life view and create a Mother Theresa-type outlook, sorry. It’s hard to imagine that there are still people out there that don’t know this, but I’ve met people at parties who tell me about how they’re arranging such a trip for their daughter, so that she can write about it on her essays to Mt. Holyoke and Vassar. There’s also the volunteering related to “inner-city” kids that is obviously contrived to impress an admissions officer, or rather will like seem that way. Same with working at a homeless shelter, etc.

    The other mistake I think people make is having their kid talk about some other experience that they’ve arranged foor them, like an internship with the Governor’s Office, etc. Everybody knows that these kinds of things are “who you know” and “what kind of disposible income you have to afford the travel, expenses, etc,” not generally something kids can do on their own. Any parent with connections can arrange this, so yawn with a frowny face. Again, there are also private companues that arrange these kinds of things (internships with gov’t and the private sector –‘Summer in Washington DC!’) –people within certain zip codes are the target market (they have money and the desire for their kid to experience stuff that will make them stand out).

    Don’t get me wrong, if there’s an experience that a working-class kid arranged on their own (e.g., paper route to save money for a service trip to El Salvador, a kid has been invited to work with an elected official after winning an essay contest, etc. ) that is different, but it’s important/essential for a college admissions officer to know this.

    Colleges want to know about what kind of a person an applicant is, not what their parents are able to arrange for them with money and/or connections and not what kinds of obviously makes-me-look-saintly-for-Northwestern volunteer work they’ve done. If a kid cares about animals, read books about the philosphy behind it, get involved in writing state representatives to shut down “puppy mills,” attend community meeting about dog fighting, volunteer with an aminal shelter, write animal cinics to see if they can see how animals are cared for and volunteer, get a part-time job and give money to a shelter, have a real committment to working at a shelter for a long period, care for an animal of a person with less mobility, maybe help arrange for a program of volunteers that walk dogs for those with less mobility, etc. –all that’s a real package of somebody that not only cares, but does something for the welfare of animals. They can incorporate their philosophy about ethics, the treatment od animals in human care, etc., in their essay if they so choose and it will mean something.

    If a kid’s parent calls their friend who’s on board at PAWS for a 4-week unpaid internship the summer before 12th grade (oh yeah, and they make a nice donation, too), it does not a saintly person that has a profound interest in animal welfare make.

    Admissions officer will see the difference within 15 seconds.

  • 19. IBobsessed  |  May 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

    klm Thanks for pointing that out. I have been getting depressed reading the posts about the success of “Learning how priveleged you are” from foreign country “volunteer” experience essays. Ironically you have to be at a certain threshold of privelege to have these kind of attention getting ‘go to a Chinese village’ experiences that allow you to demonstrate you know how priveleged you are. Middle class kids whose parents could never come up with the airfare to China, will never get to write such an essay. So I hope you are correct about admissions officers seeing through them. Furthermore lower and middle class kids are less likely to have the time during summer to do lobbying to close puppy mills because they are stuck taking care of younger sibs or working a job. They must get much more creative and thoughtful to spin their life experience in a way that shows their insight and generosity. (How can admissions officers really tell that a summer volunteer internship was arranged by a parent with connections?)

  • 20. klm  |  May 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm


    Admissions officers never really know, but many become expert at connecting the dots. Remember, they’ve been examining thousands of applicants for years.

    Some people are “genuine.” Others are not.

    Yes, some kids have the luxury of spending their summers figuring out how to get rid of puppy mills and nothing else, other than going to the beach or the mall, when they’re not packing for the family’s annual “big trip.”

    Other kids help with their siblings (because they have to), work part-time at The Dairy Twist (because they need the money) AND still work to get rid of puppy mills –that’s the kind of kid (Oh, yeah, and a 4.0 GPA w/ tons of APs and a 34 or 35 on the ACT, plus a great athlete, class VP AND a peer couselor at the local community center) that will appeal to an admissions officer at Princerton, Harvard or Yale.

    Again, I know I sound like a broken record, but WHO is like that?!

    That’s why the admissions rate at Harvard is 5% –and that’s 5% among a highly, highy qualified applicant pool..

  • 21. local  |  May 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Read Early Decision, a novel about a “real-life frenzy” —- crafting the college essay. Set in Chicago, too.

  • 22. Chris  |  May 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    “That’s why the admissions rate at Harvard is 5% –and that’s 5% among a highly, highy qualified applicant pool..”

    The whole applicant pool has been messed up by the common app. There are not really 80% more “highly highly qualified” HS seniors than there were 15 years ago (and they were far from all HHQ, even then), but all the “top” colleges get 80% more applications.

  • 23. Family Friend  |  May 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I need to defend my daughter’s Chinese village experience. During that time, I worked a second, part-time job so I could provide educational support to my children. I used it for their travel, for immersive language classes (bad language program at Payton at the time), and the like. (My husband and I did not take vacations for years.) This was not arranged by a company targeting upper middle class parents. My sister-in-law is a Quaker. A member of her meeting was from that village and knew how desperate the need was. Quakers had been going there for several years. My niece had gone the previous year, then worked on organizing the program after school during her senior year of high school. She suggested that my daughter should go with her the next year. The money we paid was primarily for transportation – there was a contribution to food, but since there really wasn’t much food available during the drought, I think it went to help the village with other issues. Just getting to the village was an ordeal — fly into Shanghai, then an overnight train ride, then a bus that left them by the side of the road near the dirt path that, after an hour’s walk, would get them to the village. Nobody hovering to handle problems.

    I wasn’t thinking of college essays when I agreed to this. I was thinking that my privileged, materialistic, younger daughter needed a reality check. All her life she had gone to school with people who had more than we did, and she didn’t realize how good her material life was. While she was gone, one of my coworkers asked me what I wanted her to bring me from China. My answer was “a new attitude.” And I got what I wanted. She was active in student volunteer groups while in college. As an adult, she continues to volunteer in her community in a meaningful way.

    I think that marketers overstate the impact of just about anything you buy for the purpose of improving a college application. But things you do to improve your kid can only help.

  • 24. klm  |  May 13, 2014 at 11:17 am


    That (China trip) was genuinely a wonderful experience and was “genuine.” It’s true that travel open one’s eyes and seeing how hard other peoples’ live are give one new perspective. AFSC arranges wonderful trips based around the Quaker ideas of essential human equality, serving God/faith by serving humanity, etc., which is wonderful in its own way. Didn’t they win the Novel Peace Prize several decades ago for their humanitarian efforts? (Full Disclosure: I attended a Friends meeting semi-regularly for a year or 2)

    What people make fun of/deride is the “buying” of “credentials” to supposedly improve their child’s changes of getting into a “good” college. That falls flat, but your family’s experience was not that at all –quite the opposite.

    Sorry, I hope that you don’t think anybody was targeting you (I sure wasn’t).

  • 25. IBobsessed  |  May 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I did not intend to imply that your daughter’s trip is an example of do-gooding for appearance. I used “a trip to China” as shorthand for a trip of privilege, only because it is connotes seldom seen and exotic to most midwesterners , and it came to mind because you had mentioned China in your post. It sounds like you are fully aware that it does take a particular level of privilege to be able to devote a 2nd parent’s part time work iincome for the kid’s educational experiences. Hearing what parents sacrifice for their kids never stops amazing me. You gave up a trip to ??? so your daughter could have a trip that might change how she sees things.

  • 26. 2nd grade parent  |  May 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Not to be too skeptical here… but I don’t believe that the college admission folks can spot those that have purchased their experiences vs. genuine interest pursuit. And more importantly, I think the colleges will continue to reward this trend of privilege.

    The moneyed class has this sewn up. Yes, the colleges will be able to always find their ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ stories… but I think it’s small potatoes compared to those who truly had it ‘rough’ & lack an opportunity to develop their gifts at these type of institutions.

  • 27. klm  |  May 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm


    There’s been quite a bit of discussion in higher education circles lately about how the more prestige colleges have become more top-heavy with the offspring of the winners in a a country that is more and more bifurcated economically — with the “haves” doing a whole lot better than the”have-nots.” Up until about a decade ago, “diversity” in higher education almost always meant the number of black and Hispanic enrollees, with maybe the numbers of males in the nursing school and females in the engineering school thrown in. Compared to a generation ago, there were fewer kids from the bottom half attending schools like Harvard, Amherst, etc. Some people in Congress started mumbling about how these schools get all kinds of tax-free help with their endowment portfolios, but were increasingly bastions of the privileged not paying taxes (to build luxury dorms for rich kids?!), etc. Why should regular Americans be paying more in taxes to subsidise the multi-billion dollar endowments for schools like Harvard and Princeton, when they seem to serve mostly rich kids? There were articles and quasi-exposes about how screwed, relatively-speaking many Asian and working-class white kids were, without family money, connections to alumni, upper-class-money-related sports that help get upper-middle-class kids get into schools like Duke and Johns Hopkins (lacrosse, field hockey, etc.).

    Schools like Williams, Brown, etc., started looking at the number of kids that qualify for Pell Grants, as well as the number of URMs.

    Schools look at applicants differently, with the recognition that smart, non-URM kids from blue-collar backgrounds simply don’t have the same opportunities, that their peers from professional-class families do, in terms of buying airfare and supplies,housing, etc., for service trips. Many admissions officers at selective schools are more interested in how working at McDonald’s part-time shapes an applicant (IMO this could be a great essay –think of all the struggling immigrants one would get to know that get up early every day to make an honest $8.50/hour to feed their kids –this is more eye-opening that filing some papers a few hours a week at some charity where a kid’s neighbor is on the board), rather than what unpaid interships their parents arranged for them.

    Selective colleges are looking to make their admissions more accessible to students from low-income and working-class backgrounds. Accordingly, they understand that many kids have to help with siblings, work part-time at Subway, etc. Kids like that don’t have the money or time to plan service trips to Third World countries, except when it’s a sacrifice, etc., in which case it really is something worth talking about. Before a decade or so ago, it was mostly only URMs that were given this consideration, but now, from what I can see, many schools are widening their admissions lense.

    Don’t get me wrong, selective colleges are not going to bend standards much for non-rich white and Asian kids, but I think that they are more aware that they often can’t be expected to participate in three sports, spend a month every summer in El Salvador building schools, start a charity, etc. –these things all take money and time that most “regular” kids don’t have.

    What people sneer at is the idea that some people with money feel like they can just “buy” their kids an experience that will win them fans at the Undergraduate Admissions Office At Northwestern. A good admissions officer can’t be duped, even with the most expensive private college admissions counselors.

    Also, in terms of public service, etc., admissions officers want things to “flow.” If a student suddenly volunteers outta’ nowhere at a homeless shelter, it won’t seem as “genuine” in its impact in terms of telling him/her about the applicant’s real character.

  • 28. Parent  |  May 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    KLM – what would your advice be for the middle class and upper middle class white kids? They won’t have a compelling story line about overcoming adversity and won’t add to the diversity numbers, but if they study hard, surely they should have the ability to go to college somewhere? What should they do to get themselves admitted, given that admissions officers can see through the “fake” padding of the resume-type activities. Is there room for kids who just want to focus on studying and participating in sports or other activities that interest them? Or does everyone need some kind of hook now to appeal to colleges? Is the answer to focus on less selective colleges?

  • 29. CPS Parent  |  May 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I concur with klm – Any extracurricular program that you pay for has no value for admission purposes at the very top level schools. The admissions people at HPY etc. are good at figuring out where the truth lies. We just had a bunch of my kid’s new Yale friends visiting and none of them were from the “moneyed class”. The two kids going to Yale next year from Payton are both URM’s, one came in through Quest bridge.

  • 30. CPS Parent  |  May 13, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    28. Parent – The middle class kids going to HYPM that I know are first of all academically pretty much 4.0 GPA and 35-36 ACT. In addition, a long focused 3 or 4 year track record in an academic or arts extracurricular plus leadership in those activities plus a genuine record of community service within or outside of school. Sports does not seem to be pivotal although many of these kids do a sport but others not at all.

  • 31. klm  |  May 14, 2014 at 9:42 am


    I do think that just plain smart, hard-working, “good” kids are kinda’ screwed in terms of getting into the HYP schools. They really do need a “hook,” otherwise they won’t bring anything to a carefully sculptored freshman class. Acadmeically, to stand out, a kid really does need lots of AP’s with 5’s, a 36 or 35 ACT, etc., —otherwise, they’re just another of the tens of thousands of other highly qualified kids in the same “group” applying for their share of the 1st year class of 1,600 with ACTs in the 32-34 range.

    I’m not saying kids shouldn’t go ahead and apply, just that they need to know how things are, in terms of not being disheartened when the rejection and wait-list emails come in.

    Over the years, all the kids that I’ve directly or indirectly known that got into Harvard, Yale, etc., did have a hook (URM, national-class athletes [not just really good, but Big-Ten-full-scholarship-good]) PLUS amazing SATs, Class President, Captain of the Soccer Team, etc. The ones that didn’t really obvious hooks were the kind with 2,400 SATs, all 5s on a dozen APs, etc. –that’s, what, 1 in 25,000 students?

    Consider Stanford. It really is an Ivy school with amazing sports teams. By the time the take all the nationally-ranked athletes (who still have to be really smart, maybe just not near-perfect-SAT smart), there’s only space for wunderkids, I’m guessing.

    I do think many people find it unfair, but it is what it is. Also, guess what? If somebody gets 34 on the ACT and really wants to go to Harvard Law School in 5 years, It won’t matter much where they went to college –Stanford or UIUC– since grad school’s much more about test scores/GPAs, etc., than undergraduate admissions. As long as they keep the UGPA (way) up, do well on the LSAT (which is likely with a 34 ACT), etc., they’ll be good to go for a “name” law school: Harvard,Chicago, Michigan, NYU, Stanford, etc….. Long-term it won’t have mattered where they went undergrad, other than who their “friends from college” are.

    I’d bet good money that most braniacs that get into competetive grad programs at MIT, Harvard, U-Chicago, etc., never would or could get into HYP for college, since they often were too narrowly academic-focused in HS.

    Some colleges are kinda’ known for having lots of smart-Ivy-high-SATs kids that couldn’t get into Ivy League schools because they were too nerdy or not “perfectly rounded” superkids in non-academic areas (e.g., Carnegie-Mellon, Carleton, Caltech….). U of Chicago still is considered a school like that by some, but now that it gets so many applicants, I’m thinking maybe less so than, say, 10 years ago.

    Also, from what many of us have read, the best bets for any one of our CPS kids to get into a highly selective college are U-Chicago and Northwestern. Those schools have come out publicly supporting and expressly promising to increase the numbers of CPS kids in their freshman classes –that means a thumb on the scale for even non-URMs and non-faculty offspring.

  • 32. Parent  |  May 14, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks, KLM! Very helpful.

  • 33. local  |  May 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Just think of the essays that could be issued by southside kids traveling to the northside and northside kids traveling to the southside. Talk about at home he’s a tourist. 😉

  • 34. Maureen Kelleher  |  May 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I actually rode the Ashland bus north one morning behind a Whitney Young kid from Back of the Yards who was writing an essay for her English class about “Sock Man”–the notorious crazy guy who rides the bus selling socks. I peeked over her shoulder and the essay was funny. Hope she saved it for her college applications!

  • 35. karet  |  May 17, 2014 at 10:15 am

    This Malcolm Gladwell article on getting into Ivy League schools from the New Yorker is old (2005), but I think it’s still interesting / relevant:

    My favorite line is towards the end:
    Élite schools, like any luxury brand, are an aesthetic experience—an exquisitely constructed fantasy of what it means to belong to an élite —and they have always been mindful of what must be done to maintain that experience.

  • 36. klm  |  May 18, 2014 at 5:52 am


    That was a good read. I’ve read many similar articles over the years. It does a good job of explaining how the most ACADEMICALLY qualified kids are often not the ones that get into the HYP schools for undergrad. It seems like that there’s a (very high, yes, but not crazy high) minimum “score floor” on SATs, GPA, etc., then once one meets it, one must have 1 or more “hooks” which needs to include things like being a URM, rock star athlete, multiple “leadership” qualities, having a from-homeless-to-valedictorian life story, having a parent (or 2) deported for being an illegal immigrant,but stillhaving managed to graduate in top 2% of class while helping to raise 4 younger siblings, etc. up-from-the ghetto life story, —-anything that makes one’s life story more compelling and worthy of a Lifetime Network movie, is a HUGE plus. White kids from Lincoln Park or Wilmette who get a 32-34 on their ACT are a dime a dozen for these schools.


    Just plain, normal smart kids that worked hard for good grades and have ambitious career goals aren’t “special” enough, no matter how much they make their parents proud. No matter, they’ll still become compter scientists, doctors, finance whizes, patent lawyers, etc., just not with an andetrgraduate degree from Harvard or Amherst. So what? These are some of the undergraduate/graduate degree combinations of people that I actually know in real life: B.A. Grand Valley State University/J.D. Harvard, B.A. Michigan State University/J.D. Yale, B.S., UIUC/ M.D. Northwestern, B.A. Western Michigan University, M.B.A University of Chicago, B.A. University of Toledo/M.D. Michigan –these are just some that I know personally (all of whom are professionally just as successful as if they had gone to Dartmouth or Williams for college, but they didn’t–they went to colleges that make certain upper-middle-class parents wince with despairing certainty that their kids ‘won’t make it’ to ‘real’ professional succes). A quick Google search will point out many,many others with similary non-Ivy undergraduate degrees with ultimately academicically impressive and highly successful careers.

    If anybody’s kid gets into UIUC, they need to count their blessings and forget about Yale. If your kid’s smart, they’ll untimately do just as well (unless of course their life’s amition for you kid is to be an Upper East Side socialite, but who wants that rather than med school?).

    People in the know realize that the SMARTEST people often don’t end up at schools like that (Einstein would never been admiited to Harvard or Princeton, I’m sure, given his personality, etc. –he was no ‘leader’ in school, I’m sure he wasn’t Class President material). I recall an editorial written by a mother several years ago whose son scored a perfect 36 on the ACT lamenting all the HYP-type schools that didn’t accept hger son (again, crazy smart, but no ‘hook’). He did end up going to U-Chicago. He’s probably in his 3rd year at Johns Hopkins.

  • 37. karet  |  May 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

    @36, What I found interesting about it (and maybe the reason I’ve remembered it all these years) is the idea that they are looking for people who will be super stars after college — not just successful people. And, test scores + grades aren’t a very good measure of that. (Actually I think the real reason I remember the article is the vision of Ivy League folks “shuddering” at the type of student that goes to University of Chicago — ha ha!). Anyway, it reinforces a lot of the things you’ve been saying … although my personal takeaway is that there is no practical reason these schools should be more desirable than U of C, Northwestern etc.

  • 38. HS Mom  |  May 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    KLM and Karet – thanks for all your in-depth comments/articles. You provide really good information that high school parents need to consider.

    Not to burst anyone’s bubble, even with initiatives to open up these schools to more CPS students, there were a boatload of kids that did not get into U of C and NW who had very high scores. I guess that’s why they remain exclusive schools.

    A typical college decision for a high scoring academically successful student might look like this:

    for 4 year bachelor degree (not 5, not 6), middle class, ACT 29-32, A/B student with AP etc

    University of Chicago – deferred then declined
    Carnegie Mellon – $200,000
    University of Michigan – $230,000
    UIUC – $120,000
    Privates (Beloite, Lawrence etc) – $100,000
    Michigan State – $180,000
    UIC (with apartment) – $100,000

    Add any extras – extra year, extra summer or 2, study abroad
    Deduct college savings allocated to this child

    This will give a good approximation of the types of schools to look at and an idea of what kind of debt you’ll need to go into.

    This is based upon feedback from friends and experiences, not at all scientific. Feel free to correct or add.

  • 39. APmom  |  May 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    HS Mom~that is so depressing but accurate. I have a friend and her daughter received an extremely generous $$ package from Ball State, and not a penny from University of Michigan. Her daughter will be attending Michigan in the Fall and she’ll be coming out with major debt. I just can’t allow my kids to come out w/debt like that. I read an article recently (if I find the link, I’ll post it) where graduates were so loaded with debt they couldn’t even buy a car!

  • 40. HS Mom  |  May 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    @39 – I hear you. As an FYI, our award letter from Michigan State not only detailed our cost but contained some eye opening general information. They explained that the average salary for a Michigan State grad was $45,000 or $3,750 per month. The average student loan is $27,000 or $272/month PLUS average parent/private loans of $108,480 for a monthly payment of $1,226. A $1,500 monthly payment coming out of $3,750 gross pay…..is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?

  • 41. Cost  |  May 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    For how many years? How long do families have to make those payments?

  • 42. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I thought students had abt 10yrs to pay those loans back…seems like they’d need more than 10. It’s outrageous that kids are saddled with this debt. My child will be applying soon to schools but I think after all the offers/packages have been looked at, we’ll have to go with the one where my child will graduate with the least debt. It’s overwhelming just using the net price calculator.

  • 43. local  |  May 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    My oldest has started the college search, and the kid is aiming for minimum debt. After running NPC and calculating our EFC (no way around that except for the rare full-ride), it’s no looking as if this kid is going to be staying in Chicago and living at home. NOT what any of us had hoped for, but without college-savings, there is no money for room & board. Career goal is in a low-paying field, so college debt is a no-no. Sad face.

  • 44. local  |  May 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    noT looking…

  • 45. HS Mom  |  May 18, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    @41 – good question. I think the small student loan portion is about 10 years and the larger private loan is same as a home loan or refinance (and many times is a refinance). The frightening part is that our out of state award would put us well over that “average” number.

    Local – your child will likely be accompanied by friends. There is good reason that such a large block of kids go to UIC with DePaul, Loyola and Roosevelt popular scholarship moves.

  • 46. klm  |  May 19, 2014 at 9:16 am


    I know –it’s depressing.

    The person I know that that attended Grand Valley State (before going to Harvard Law School) did so because it offered a full-ride. I remember over after-work beers (I temp-ed once at a law firm) him saying how he was from a blue-collar family without extra money for living expenses, forget college. The University of Michigan’s package would have required debt, a “family contribution” (which was not going to happen), etc.

    If the same guy was from an upper-middle-class family, he’d have gone to Michigan at the very least –or maybe a school like Kenyon, Middlebury or Northwestern.

    Also, I know U-C is no school for sure thing for even smart kids. There was the annual NYT series following a group of kids applying to college: where they applied, where they got in, where they got the most financial aid, etc. There was one student (I think last year) that was an immigrant from Mongolia, I think. She got into Princeton and Brown, but NOT the University of Chicago or even Grinnell College (WTH?!).

    UIC has a Phi Beta Kappa chapter –some really smart kids go there and do great things (lots of pre-med students). Yes, it’s nice to go away to college, but huge amounts of debt can (and will) make some people miserable for years and prevent them from being able to settle down, buy a home or even get married and start a family (Who wants to marry a 32-year-old pastry chef making $30k/year with $130k in cumulative, deferred, non-dischargable debt from their B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Religion from Ohio Northern University? Yes, I know that person –if people miss payments, defer year after year, etc., things can get pretty ugly, debt-wise.). If a motivated kid wants to be a doctor, pharmacist, physical therapist, teacher, police officer, social worker, chemist, etc., UIC is as good a school as any, given financial considerations. Lots of small private colleges convince 18-year-olds that theirs is a college worth the debt, since large state schools are full of 1,000 student lecture halls, uncaring quasi-bureaucrats-for-professors that don’t meet with students, etc. By contrast, their school is full of warm, caring faculty, wonderful, community-inspired dorms where people meet the most interesting people that become friends for life, which is not possible at low-cost state schools, etc. I guess it’s a nice way to sugar-coat the tens of thousands of dollars in debt, cooked up by careful marketing, in many cases.

    Yes, it’s probably worth having a little debt to go to Yale (Although HYP schools all now have no-debt financial aid policies, now –and why shouldn’t they? They’ve got billions of dollars invested in tax-free funds managed by finance whizes that create huge amounts of income.) over UIC, but is it worth going into $60k in debt to attend Poduk Private College surrounded by soybean fields that hardly anybody’s heard of? No way.

  • 47. klm  |  May 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Oh yeah, I should also add: My own wonderful physician (affiliated with a world-class hospital [NMH] and in a practice with other doctors with medical degrees from schools like Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Northwestern) has a M.D. from Rush and an undergraduate degree from…….Eastern Illinois University.

    I can’t imagine his parents are any less proud of him, despite the fact that he went o EIU, instead of Northwestern or Duke for college. I’m sure that there are some parents in Lincoln Park and Winnetka that wouldn’t feel as proud to have a “Eastern Illinois University” decal sticker on the back of their Volvos as they would a “Northwestern” or “Vassar” one, but NIU worked for my doctor and he’s about as successful as one can hope for a child, so who cares?

  • 48. klm  |  May 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I meant to say “EIU” worked for him not “NIU.”

  • 49. Chris  |  May 19, 2014 at 10:24 am

    “Although HYP schools all now have no-debt financial aid policies”

    Only for kids from families below an income threshold. The UMC kid (with family income of say $150k to $250k) who you imagine would have no issue with funding is going to end up with loans unless the family saved a *ton* for college/retirement and can draw on that w/o jeopardizing retirement savings.

  • 50. H  |  May 19, 2014 at 11:20 am

    “Only for kids from families below an income threshold. The UMC kid (with family income of say $150k to $250k) who you imagine would have no issue with funding is going to end up with loans unless the family saved a *ton* for college/retirement and can draw on that w/o jeopardizing retirement savings.”

    I thought that at a school like Yale, loans were not expected of any student as part of a financial aid package. Not that there’s any real hope of getting in someplace like that.

    http://admissions.yale.edu/financial-aid-prospective-students#101 (“Yale does not require students to take out loans for their education. Instead, Yale meets 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students with a financial aid package consisting of need-based scholarships, term-time employment, and a student income contribution.”)

  • 51. CPS Parent  |  May 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Yale financial aid starts at $190,000 annual family income and at $65,000 or below it’s a full ride – tuition plus room and board At about $100,000 it’s full tuition – $44,000.

    Yale (nor any of the Ivy’s) offer merit nor athletic scholarships.
    All the aid is without loans. The student is expected to work during the summer and during the school year.

  • 52. IBobsessed  |  May 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    KLM-“Who wants to marry a 32-year-old pastry chef making $30k/year with $130k in cumulative, deferred, non-dischargable debt from their B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Religion from Ohio Northern University?”

    Ok, you are probably using hyperbole to make a point. At least I hope so, because surely you don’t believe that no one could have the depth to see beyond this person’s financial circumstances and fall in love with them. It’s possible that someone will commit to them based upon who they are, not what they have or the prestige of their job.

    This is a thread about college/job prospects, I know, BUT, let’s not lose all perspective, our ultimate goal is to have children who become HAPPY, responsible, well functioning contributors to the common good. Isn’t it? Not sure one has necessarily ruined one’s life for forever if they choose the wrong college path or are over indebted.

    This thread is making me miss my time in other countries, where it is much less common to define success and happiness by what you do for a living, and where you get an odd look if you conversationally ask what someone’s job is when first meeting them.

  • 53. klm  |  May 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm


    Oh no, I swear on my life that this is a real person.

    Some colleges are famous for getting kids to sign up for loans, etc., then, when people don’t pay their loans for a several years, interest still adds up, etc.

    And, no, I’m not saying a person should choose who they fall in love with and decide to marry by their income and credit score. I am saying that even when people file for bankruptcy, their student loan debt is not discharged, so they’re “stuck” with it, plus all the interest for payments not paid, maybe late fess, etc., ….$60k or $70k can turn into $130k pretty fast in such a case.

    If somebody has that kind of debt relative to their income, it feels like they’ll never, ever, ever get ahead, which makes having a child or getting married and buying a house feel like a distant dream.

    Also, I’ve lived in Western Europe, have a brother-in-law that’s European (my sister tell me that her European step-kids drive her crazy with their desire to have the ‘right’ clothes that are invariably crazy expensive) with whom I’m close, I host host exchange students, teachers, etc., Contrary to what some may think or hope, people in France, Belgium, the UK (there’s no class-consciousness in the UK?), etc., care about other people’s stuff,” relative to one’s own –I’d say maybe even more so in some places. Try to live in France (trying walking into a fancy store in Paris or Lyon with cheap clothes on and see how you are treated) for a while and tell me people don’t care how much one spends on clothes and shoes or which neighborhood ones lives in –they totally, totally do. They may not talk about it, but they do care about having the “right” clothes, hair, neighborhood, vacation destination, clothing size (small), food on the table, wine at dinner parties ….. Maybe even more than Americans. They’re maybe subtle (which for them is a sign of sophistication), but they care about money-related things –a lot.

    Do you really think a BCBG/haute bourgoisie-type French family cares less about who their kids marry, in terms of money/class/education, etc., than a similar American one? Almost anybody who’s spent time in France will likely say the the French variety cares more than the American one.

    Yes, Americans start out conversations at parties with, “So, what do you do?” not because they’re “judging” as much as, well, Americans talk about things. We’re “open.” Maybe too “open” for people from Norway or France, but that’s the way we are.

    I remember reading once a British author saying, “Americans tell strangers things an Englishman wouldn’t tell their friends on their death beds.”

  • 54. Chris  |  May 19, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    “All the aid is without loans.”

    “Yale meets 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students with a financial aid package”

    “Yale financial aid starts at $190,000 annual family income”

    Ok, so at $190,001, there is (in typical circumstances) zero “demonstrated need”. Do people really think that a family can dedicate 50% of its after tax income ($63,250 cost of attendance is half of $127k, after tax net) to a single child’s college education? Sounds like loans are on the agenda.

    We can have a silly argument about what constitute the U in UMC, but so much of the discussion of schools and costs are based upon unlikely scenarios–like that all the families that don’t qualify for any aid at Yale, can easily pay 100% of the CofA. That the family with $150k income can and will just pay the family contribution (which is *not* ‘demonstrated need’ and *is* frequently done with loans).

  • 55. IBobsessed  |  May 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    You misunderstood what I was thought was hyperbole, but never mind.
    Never stated that all Europeans are nonclassists nonmaterialists. The cultures do give far more support than ours to “I am not my job” .

  • 56. CPS Parent  |  May 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    54. Chris, I would imagine that at above the $190,000 level the institution believes that a family should have been able to accumulate money for college over the years.

    The $190,000 threshold is at the very high end for all schools.
    About 50% of students at Yale qualify for aid. The average award is about $43,000.

  • 57. Counterpoint for discussion  |  May 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    To 55: You are what you eat. You are what you say….ex:Sterling. You are what you do for a living. That’s the reality of life. I don’t go to the dish washer for medical advice or bio ethics decisions.

    Your philosophy that “occupation does not define self” is progressive/Socialist. Please teach that ideology to a country that we want to conquer, but not in America.

  • 58. H  |  May 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    “Ok, so at $190,001, there is (in typical circumstances) zero “demonstrated need”. Do people really think that a family can dedicate 50% of its after tax income ($63,250 cost of attendance is half of $127k, after tax net) to a single child’s college education? Sounds like loans are on the agenda.”

    Well, according to the info below, at $200k, you’re paying something like $40k. (I’m too lazy to try out the calculator.) I think that (a) on its face it’s not implausible to make some “sacrifices” for four years to do this if you want to just pay it out of income and (b) you probably would have partially saved up in advance (which I realize will work against you in terms of financial aid).


    “Families earning between $65,000 and $200,000 (with typical assets) annually contribute a percentage of their yearly income towards their child’s Yale education, on a sliding scale that begins at 1% just above $65,000 and moves toward 20% at the $200,000 level.”

    “There is no strict income cutoff for financial aid awards. Many families with over $200,000 in annual income receive need-based aid from Yale.”

  • 59. klm  |  May 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm


    I didn’t mean to snap.

    I’m sorry.

  • 60. IBobsessed  |  May 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Oh, I didn’t take it as a ‘snap’. No problem.

    I do think European cultures traditionally placed more value on on enjoying leisure; dining, the artsc, social life. (This is changing)They are willing to be taxed at a higher rate to get 4 weeks vacation, paid maternal leave etc. (at least in France), healthcare. Work to live, not live to work…. which supports the idea that your identity is more than your job. The culture of this country is arguably more influenced by the Protestant work ethic.

  • 61. Debt & Marriage  |  May 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    52. IBobsessed | May 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm


    Of course debt matters.

    Not sure what planet you are living on, but debt matters. I think you are living in a fairy tale that debt wouldn’t impact a decision to marry or even to delay marriage.

    I personally made it clear that college debt had to be paid prior to marriage and it was. People who make good financial decisions or who are lucky, don’t want to be dragged down with crippling debt. Hard to sleep at night and not good for a marriage to start out that way.

    Why pretend that money does not matter? How many divorces due to finances? Better to face the issues head on before marriage.

    I’m with the parent who would send their kid to Ball State if the scholarship dollars were there. Had a friend whose child turned down a full scholarship at a very good school for another equally good school where no money was offered ’cause they liked it better. Parents took out major loans, kid dropped out, and still stuck paying for that 1 year. Kid at a community college right now. That’s just dumb to trust an 18 year old with that kind of huge financial decision that you in fact will have to pay for. Parents don’t have any experience with college. Pretty sad.

    This website is so helpful in keeping me on target to avoid debt. So easy to get sucked into what everyone else is going for.

  • 62. IBobsessed  |  May 19, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    @61 We live in different universes.

  • 63. HS Mom  |  May 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Regarding college need based aid….For all these schools who put forth that they will cover “100% need”, there is a strict definition of “need”. These schools will require more than the Fafsa. They typically ask for a CSS financial profile. This “profile” is extensive asking about all yours and students assets. They even ask if you have someone that you could get/borrow money from. They require the form from both parents (even in a non-custodial situation), both unmarried co-parenting partners living together, both same sex partners, step parents etc. They will also require the information to be confirmed through the IRS.

    They have the ability to deny aid based on suspicion that you are hiding assets. The schools we applied to also required submission of the CSS along with the application. We were afraid of being denied admission based upon financial position and wound up telling them about every family member that we thought we could get money from.

    FYI – the large universities are very “cut and dry” (to use their words) when it comes to scholarships. X GPA with Y ACT = Z dollars. Some use weighted GPA or recalculate themselves. They offer little if any need base. They will offer departmental scholarships to stellar students (ACT’s in the high 30’s in engineering, maybe others)

    The best way to get money is for a college to want you. As KLM says, the privates are alluring with their small class size and alum network …for a price….BUT they will also give you money if they like you and want to compete for your acceptance. High scores helps but also going on their tours, speaking to people in admissions when they are at your school or in Chicago and pursuing them with a passion. We contacted one such school out west letting them know that we couldn’t afford to fly out for an open house. They were more than happy to meet at Starbucks. The accepted student invitation came later.

  • 64. HS Mom  |  May 19, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    “There is no strict income cutoff for financial aid awards. Many families with over $200,000 in annual income receive need-based aid from Yale.”

    Yes, I think this falls under the “if they like you, they will court you” scenario. “Liking” you means they will throw you a bone to say yes. I know of an extremely wealthy kid who was offered a $60,000 sports scholarship at Case Western.

    And, agreed, from what i hear, if you can get into HYP type school you should find the money however you can because it will payoff. With the Ivy’s it’s not about the money but about getting in, but let’s face facts, for other than a very few people (who all seem to post on this blog) this is not the likely scenario for our kids.

  • 65. CPS Parent  |  May 20, 2014 at 8:40 am

    64. HS Mom The Ivy’s do need-blind admissions – no one is courted with financial aid. No one gets aid based on high school performance – academic or athletic. The “need only” basis for financial aid for athletes is the same as for non-athletes.

    The situation at Yale is that if you are in a position of “needing to find money” your admitted kid just has – Yale gives it to you.

  • 66. JLM  |  May 20, 2014 at 9:39 am

    @65 – Not sure how it is now, but this wasn’t exactly true when I attended an Ivy 20 years ago. They officially gave only need-based financial aid, but if they wanted an athlete, they would grant them financial aid regardless of the need (or lack of need) of the family.

  • 67. need-blind admissions  |  May 20, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I think it would be logically possible for a school to maintain–and advertise–need-blind admissions (ie, financial need does not play any role in admission decisions) while not practicing the inverse, what we might call admission-blind financial aid (ie, recruitment can influence financial aid packages), right? The point of need-blind admission is that your financial contribution will not impact your chances of getting in. And of course, need-blind admission is also perfectly compatible with special-interest (e.g. sports/legacy/arts/diversity/) impact on admission.

    These days, about the only ones who still do truly need-blind admissions are the Ivies and the like. Note this is separate from loan-free financial aid (all aid comes in the form of scholarships/grants), which is more recent and exclusive to very well-endowed institutions:


  • 68. H  |  May 20, 2014 at 10:43 am

    There was litigation maybe 20 years ago against the Ivy League schools over their alleged collusion in agreeing on similar financial aid offers for students that were admitted to multiple schools. I believe that practice had come about specifically to limit competition for athletes and was then extended to cover non-athletes. The Ivys agreed to stop that practice as part of settlement. I’m not sure if any of them currently pledge not to consider the student’s non-financial characteristics in setting financial aid offers (which would actually seem more feasible than truly being need-blind in admissions, as you probably have a decent picture of a candidate’s family’s financial situation from his/her admission application).

  • 69. Student Loan Help  |  May 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

    FYI, some scary stats on student loan debt in the U.S.:

    * There’s an estimated $1.1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, of which more than $100 billion is past due.
    * 37 million Americans have student loans.
    * Total student loan debt has exceeded the national credit card debt and it’s growing.
    * An average four-year college degree costs $22,000 per year.
    * 1 in 5 households have student loans.
    * 1 in 10 borrowers defaulted on loans.

  • 70. klm  |  May 20, 2014 at 11:32 am


    That’s so true re: the kind of package a school offers. Certain superstar kids (world-class athletes, URMs with high SATs) have their pick of schools, each competing with the most generous financial aid to get that student enrolled.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but a college where I worked, one year
    after all the demographics of those that accepted offers were added up, there were hardly any black males. Some black male candidates that were at first denied, were contacted with an admissions offer and a pretty sweet financial aid package. It worked –some enrolled that fall with pretty much full rides, after having first been rejected for admission several months before.

    I recall several years ago a ‘Trib’ or “Sun Times’ article about high-achieving black student at Payton and all the schools that offered them really generous scholarships. There was a black female with a 34 ACT score that had her pick of schools, was being flown out to schools for all-expense-paid tours, etc. –Harvard, Swarthmore and Brown were all “fighting” over her. That year’s class president was a black male with an ACT of 27 and A’s and B’s –he didn’t get into his first choice (Harvard), but Penn offered him a very generous package and that’s where he went.

    I imagine it’s the same for “top 25” national position recruits in football with high ACTs, swimmers who made the finals at the National championships, etc. .

    Some applicants are a “hot commodity” and if they’re part of the 95%+ that can use financial help paying $60k+/year for school, I’m sure that the pleading of a coach, Dean of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Head Director of the Athletic Department, etc., can help sweeten the deal after talking with the Dean of Admissions.

  • 71. local  |  May 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    “Demonstrated need” from a college’s POV can be VERY different from what you calculate your family’s real need is. They look at your FAFSA or CSS and they tell you what you can pay, even it that’s a crazy number. And, an offer of a Parent PLUS loan is not “aid” from a school, although the school might suggest you get one. Man, I wish I would have started a college fund in addition to the retirement funds. SIgh. Hindsight. I hope CPSObessors with little kids are currently and aggressively saving for kids’ college education.

  • 72. local  |  May 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    When you’re looking at national student loan debt you want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If your kid is aiming for a 4-year college and not just a bit of community college or a proprietary school, then you want to carve out those numbers. Hope this makes sense. So much student debt is from the non-4-year student loans.

  • 73. Debt & Marriage  |  May 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    72. local.

    Would you please elaborate on how so much student debt i from non-4 year student loans? Community college not that expensive compared to 4 year, no?

  • 74. HS Mom  |  May 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    @65 CPS parent – thanks, I don’t profess to know much about Ivy admissions and may have erroneously grouped them in with other highly selective colleges. In the real example I mention, this “near Ivy” school was likely less interested in what a “great athlete” this kid was (because he was not exceptional) but in the the fact that both parents were Harvard grads and brutally wealthy/connected. I mean what better way to get the wealthy students than offer them reduced tuition? And, he did not get into Harvard.

    Regarding blind admissions. Speaking from our own experience in applying to a “near Ivy”….can’t see how admissions can be blind when they ask for estimated financial information and preliminary CSS to be submitted at the same time as an early action application. And, if you get in, it seems that the ability to find additional money to reel you in is all within their control. Some schools gave us additional money at award letter time and others did not.

    I’m trying to be realistic yet offer some positive solutions to getting into a good school within the budget. Chose your schools wisely and include a couple that are not just “safety schools” but schools that you have a vested interest in that will contribute academically and monetarily to your success. They exist and depending on scores etc will depend on how high or low the ranking will be (and don’t put too much stock in ranking). Remember too that 20 years (or so!) ago college entrance for Ivy’s was very different and gone are the days when UIUC was automatic.

    @71 – yes local, agreed I hope kids now do not have our same problems – college (all) savings earning negative interest, loss of savings and retirement funds as people needed to live without jobs or save homes and schools public and private lacking the funds to give.

  • 75. IBobsessed  |  May 20, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    @71 and @74 The future is traditional live on campus college only for upper upper middle and upper class kids and 3rd rate degrees earned online for the rest. That is, unless we wake up and demand an accounting of why tuition increases continue to outplace inflation and especially why banks are permitted to charge the kind of interest rates they do on low risk loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

  • 76. local  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    @ 73. Debt & Marriage | May 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    72. local.

    Would you please elaborate on how so much student debt i from non-4 year student loans? Community college not that expensive compared to 4 year, no?

    IIRC, it’s not the per-person debt, but the source of the debt, where more comes from non-4/non-grad schools.

  • 77. klm  |  May 23, 2014 at 9:23 am

    There are some real horror stories. The Ohio Northern grad (boyfriend of one of my HS friend’s kids –tell me it’s not a concern if they get married: He has a low, low credit score, they’ll never qualify for a mortgage, they’ll have to pay a lot for car payment b/c they’re ‘high risk’ for defaulting, etc. This stuff matters, just as having enough money to live and raise kids matters. To act like it doesn’t is like putting one’s head in the sand.) grad with over $100k/year in private college loan debt is a prime example –especially in light of the fact that he makes so little, income now. He will never get ahead.

    I read an article about a 23-year-old who recently graduated with a degree in “jazz guitar” music and performance with $75k in private loans and $25k in gov’t ones. Since he didn’t have a real job making much (now, there’s a surprise) his private loans are now at $85k, so he’s in his early 20’s and has $110k in debt. How was he ever allowed to borrow so much for such an obviously non-money-making degree?

    Accordingly, is it worth it to graduate from Boston University, Northeastern, George Washington or American University (all schools famous for loading up kids with debt, but popular b/c it’s fun to go to college in Boston or DC) with $60k in debt at 22 years of age when one can go to UIC or UIUC with little or no debt? Nonetheless, I know people whose kids are doing just that to go to similar “good”, but by no means “top” private schools for undergrad.

    Then, what if they want to go to grad school? There’s no end! Some people will be way into their 40s before their finances are OK.

  • 78. IBobsessed  |  May 23, 2014 at 10:16 am

    “This stuff matters, just as having enough money to live and raise kids matters. To act like it doesn’t is like putting one’s head in the sand.-”

    I wonder if there is anyone on here thinks this stuff doesn’t matter? What informed person wouldn’t avoid massive educational debt they will pay for over a lifetime if they see an alternative they can live with?

    Clearly, it will be increasingly difficult in the future for lower/middle to UMC kids(ie. mostly everyone) to earn a bachelors and some kind of graduate degree without significant debt unless, as klm points out, you choose the least expensive local option (and have parents who are willing and able to provide room and board through age mid 20s.)

    I think there has been a difference in values expressed. Some view as such pariahs that they are unmarriageable (the hyperbole to which I was referring in above post) people with large educational loans and an unpromising career future. Some apparently recommend young people screen their dates by their debt. (Back in my day, if a romantic prospect had “made it clear” to me that college debt “had to be paid prior to marriage” and waxed about how, “People who make good financial decisions or who are lucky, don’t want to be dragged down with crippling debt…”, I would have been underwhelmed by such ‘charm’, thanked them for telling me who they are, and would have run in the other direction.) Others view debt as unfortunate, but not as a deal breaker and look at the total “package”.

    Significant college debt is the new normal and is much more due to systemic economic factors than due to unwise choice about where to attend.

  • 79. RL Julia  |  May 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    GIven the level of debt that some kids have, I think that while it is an unsavory thought, it does become a consideration. Of course everyone would like to believe that their child’s crushing college debt shouldn’t reflect poorly on their marriage prospects but what if your kid went to college, paid off their debts and at the age of 27 wanted to marry someone who with $120K in debt at 6% and who want to pursue their career as an artist and had a full time job that paid $35k annually – but was planning on going back to graduate school. Would you feel comfortable with a marriage where your kid (marital property being equally shared) is now on the hook for this debt? People love who they love but marriage is both a spiritual union and a legal/financial one. If both parties don’t make a ton of money or if there is a huge discrepancy between the two parties in terms of earnings, debt on one party’s part can be a difficulty.

  • 80. klm  |  May 23, 2014 at 3:40 pm


    Amen to that. I’m old enough to know that all the things that “shouldn’t matter”: money, being fat or thin, credit score (one can make $10/hr. and have a good one, or $1m/yr. and have a bad one –it’s how one handles bills and lives within one’s means that determines this), etc., at some point will matter in life,…eventually.

    I’d love to eat donuts for breakfast (althoug I’d love to), but I didn’t because I don’t want to have health problems and be physically less mobile when I’m 65. never mind how it makes me “attractive” or “unattractive” now. It’s not about vanity, it’s about being healthy.

    I don’t max credit cards, drive a more expensive car than I can afford, live in a house that I can’t afford, etc., because I want to be financially healthy and not have to eat cat food for dinner when I’m 78. I didn’t go to a private college I couldn’t afford, borrow tens of thousands of dollars from private lenders, that can never be discharged even in bankruptcy, then decide that I want to be a chef, then borrow tens of thousands more. Why? It’s not about finding or attracting the “right” spouse to show off. It’s about being financially healthy.

    I’d never care who one of my kids marry, in terms of money, since I know money can’t but happiness and I want my kids to earn their OWN money.

    On the other hand, having your wages garnished, a credit score that’s so low that one can get a loan for anything, an inability to save for next month, never mind retirement, etc., because of a huge private loan for college (and some people are in this situation) will make many people miserable —I guarantee it. It’s silly to pretend that these things don’t matter except for “superficial” or “shallow” people.

    People really need to sit down with their kids and explain all this before they sign their lives away when they’re 18, 19 or 20.

  • 81. anonymouse teacher  |  May 23, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Ditto what #80 said.
    I was talking to a young teacher at my school today who told me about her loan amount (which was HUGE). I was wondering, how many years do people have to pay off school loans?

  • 82. anonymouse teacher  |  May 23, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    So, I don’t know what thread to put this under, but what is talked about in this article was openly talked about in staff meetings at my school.

  • 83. cpsmommy  |  May 24, 2014 at 7:44 am

    I teach in a CPS HS. Here is what I tell my students. Pursue a major that excites you…but also add practicality (e.g., if you major in art, then minor in business). Try to get as much money as you can through scholarships for undergrad. If that means going to a school that isn’t the top one on your list, then do it. Maybe the first choice won’t give you a ton of money, but your second choice (a lower rated school) might, so go for it. But then make it your mission to excel and get stellar grades. It is my personal belief (and I have seventeen years of work experience in the private sector to back this up) that grad school is becoming more and more important for this generation of scholars. It sounds daunting to many kids (in terms of the $$$), but many, many employers will pay for grad school. You will have to work full-time while earning your degree (which is tough….I know, I did it), but you will graduate without debt and be in a very good position for life. I also provide my students with a spreadsheet that I created that shows them what any debt they incur will cost them over the course of their life (for the finance people out there, I calculate the net present value of the debt). It is really eye opening…they simply plug their info into the spreadsheet and see what it means to their future.

  • 84. HS Mom  |  May 24, 2014 at 9:29 am

    @83 – thank you – great advice 🙂 On a personal level, you have just reinforced our own choice. We really feel good about going into this. Is it possible to post your worksheet?

    @80 KLM – “I didn’t go to a private college I couldn’t afford….” I’ve noticed a few comments about expensive private schools. I’m not sure how this played out in the past because I went to a public school that was cheap (which is no longer the case), but we found that private schools were almost uniformly cheaper that the better public universities because they offered much more in the way of scholarships. If your sole strategy is to apply to Ivy type schools that will pick up what you can’t afford or top tier universities you may be disappointed in the end in terms of the schools that you do get into and what the cost will be. There are many private colleges that make excellent pre-professional programs, allow for double majors within a four year program AND offer excellent scholarships. One school we spoke to had a “3-2” program meaning graduate in 5 years while taking masters courses in one major ending with a masters degree. There are so many more options with private schools.

  • 85. Levski  |  May 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Beaubien RGC 1st graders parents for 2014-2015 – we are starting a Facebook group for incoming families. If you would like to network, get to know each other, please join us!


  • 86. klm  |  May 24, 2014 at 10:35 am


    Obviously, if somebody gets into the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Yale, Swarthmore, etc. paying and debt are not a real issue. I knew of a regular-income family that was amazed that it would be cheaper to attend an Ivy-type school than the flagship state school, so generous was the financial aid, with no debt at the end.

    However, if one is a “regular” student and wants to go to certain private colleges that aren’t “debt-free” focused in their financial aid, then one could get into real trouble. It’s very often the case that private schools offer enough aid for students (Obviously students that goes to DePaul and Loyola aren’t from wealthy families) so that they can be a viable option compared to say, UIUC ot UIC, Illinois State, etc. However, some schools really seem to suck 18-years-olds into signing up for all kinds of debt. It does happen. These schools have marketing department, etc., to convince kids that their school is worth the debt.

    There have been investigations by journalists (the NYT had a whole expose-type series about graduates of certain private schools drowning in debt, working extra jobs just to not fall further behind, despairing now that they’ve graduated and understand what they’ve got themselves into financially, how stupid they were at 18 and 19 to sign up for so much debt, etc.) and even the Education Department, in some cases has started investigating, since certain private colleges were having so many graduates with huge amounts of debt –those are the schools that people need to be aware of and avoid. Just Google “private colleges where students graduate with lots of debt” –these aren’t even schools that seem worth it.

  • 87. HS Mom  |  May 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

    @86 – KLM – we are thinking along the same lines. I would call the “regular” student also the “regular plus” student and further suggest that the no-worry prestigious name brand school student is the exception.

    In addition to the DePaul, Loyola and out of state equivalents, there are the small liberal arts schools whose programs are about getting your kids into grad school and offer a network of jobs. I have also seen kids get exceptional packages by going to top regional schools like Villa Nova, Highpoint or Butler.

    Tried your google and found this…..more horror stories


  • 88. SoxSideIrish4  |  May 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    87. HS Mom | May 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I read that link the other day ~ YIKES!!! I don’t know much abt Grand Valley State University in Michigan but I know that Naperville hs kids have been attending there bc their families don’t want them to have debt.

  • 89. anonymouse teacher  |  May 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    @87, I have to wonder about DePaul and Loyola being good options. Maybe for some programs. My friend’s kid is going to one of those schools, and even with her 32 ACT, 4.0+ GPA and more, she only got 50% in scholarships, leaving her on the hook for 25K per year. Half paid for is awesome, but the other half she owes is awful. She’ll have 100K in debt when she graduates. Her prospective field will only pay her about 50K a year.
    Of course, this student was offered a free ride somewhere else. I’d want to kill my child if they did that. But, I also understand some people have to learn the hard way. Sometimes smart people can be so foolish.

  • 90. HS Mom  |  May 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    A. teach – totally agree. This may sound surreal but many of these schools reward 33+ ACT’s with 33/34 not good enough for Ivy type. There are full ride options at this level. The biggest problem is knowing which to apply to since the schools themselves are very evasive on the front side as they tell you that they “take the whole picture” into consideration.

  • 91. CPS Parent  |  May 24, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    @89 DePaul and Loyola are not known for generous merit scholarships and a kid with 32/4.0 is not going to be very stimulated at either.

  • 92. IBobsessed  |  May 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I had the impression that the scholarships awarded to Chicago area HS students by U. of Chicago and NWU cover tuition only. Room and board are not covered. Any one know 1st hand for certain? After giving a pitch that they want to make U of C. affordable for everyone, U. of C website is coy on the topic of exact tuition and R&B costs and what the scholarships for local kids cover. There are scholarships for children of local police and fireman, too . Website has the applications for these, but no info on what they cover. I know of student from a downstate small town that went to U. of Chicago on scholarship, don’t know the specifics of what it covered, but she graduated with over 50k in debt.

    “Obviously students that goes to DePaul and Loyola aren’t from wealthy families”

    I’m puzzled by this remark. Neither Loyola or DePaul come to mind as a mecca for students from wealthy families like Vassar, Princeton or Bennington College might, but on the other hand, don’t kids from wealthy families attend all kinds of schools? You find wealthy students at state universities.

  • 93. klm  |  May 25, 2014 at 8:47 am


    I should have said “Not ALL students that go to Loyola and DePaul are from wealthy families.” They’re both schools with big student populations, so sure lots of kids will come from families with money.

    Oh, yeah, there are obviously all kinds of kids at big state schools. Some (Michigan, UVA, UNC, Wisconsin…etc.) are famous for attracting lots of kids from families that can easily afford full out-of-state tuition, since they’re considered so good,academically.

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  • 95. UChicago  |  May 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

    92: Yes, you are correct, at least from U of C. Full tuition scholarships from the University of Chicago cover only tuition. The student is still responsible for room and board (about $15,000) and books and other fees (about $2,000-plus). Tuition itself from UChicago is about $45,000. I don’t know about Northwestern. Anybody know?

  • 96. HS Mom  |  May 26, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    @91 – “a kid with 32/4.0 is not going to be very stimulated at either”

    A dilemma for some families, wouldn’t you say?

    We know of one student with the same exact score who will be going to UIC. They figure they can get a bachelors in 2 years with all the AP credits they have. Going into honors program and will have the opportunity to do research. Yes, another high achieving student doing the same has reported getting straight A’s. Will be in an excellent position for grad school and will be able to cover costs while getting a head start on grad degree.

    Another student with 34 ACT and everything that goes along with that – no Ivy offer, no (or not enough) money offer from other schools going with DePaul with scholarship.

    Other problems (as if money isn’t a good one), kids bound and determined to enter a certain major/field and researching and applying to colleges known for that particular study then either changing their minds or finding that they can’t get into the top math or engineering or pre pharmacy school – winding up with their safety school.

  • 97. HS Mom  |  May 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    @93 KLM – Some (Michigan, UVA, UNC, Wisconsin…etc.) are famous for attracting lots of kids from families that can easily afford full out-of-state tuition, since they’re considered so good,academically.

    I know from attending college open houses that there seems to be plenty of Chicagoland kids looking at paying full price to attend out of state schools (although the ones you mention seem to be really close to UIUC, so why unless money doesn’t matter at all). Thinking out loud, I wonder how true that continues to be. A suburban friend with 2 kids has sent one to UIUC and one to Bradley and refinanced their house, twice. They are sitting in this huge suburban house with no kids, stuck. Same with another family, 4 kids, 3 schools at the regular price and now he’s sick with cancer, their life in turmoil. Do they have enough stashed away – don’t know but the debt is really large for uncertain future.

    I just don’t think people are going to be able to refinance or downsize their homes that easily now.

  • 98. klm  |  May 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm


    I don’t think it’s at all “typical,” but are there are enough people willing to pay “full” out-of-state tuition at these schools? Yes. If one examines the kinds of out-of-state kids that attend Michigan, Wisconsin, UVA, etc., many come from homes with family money. Lots of outta’ state kids that go to Wisconsin or Michigan are from the North Shore, Westchester and Begen County, for example. Maybe they’re not from mega-wealthy families, but often upper-middle-class ones that have put money aside for college, so their kids can go to school in Madison, Ann Arbor, etc. Something like 40% of the freshman at Michigan are outta’ state, so somebody’s obviously willing to pay the Northwestern-like tuition there.

    I agree in the sense of “Why pay so much more to go to Wisonsin if one can go to UIUC in-state?.” However, lots of people do it, apparently.

    If one wants to be an engineer, there are very few schools in the country that most people that know about engineering schools would say are definitively “better” than UIUC (but getting in is that hard part).

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  • 101. IB Obsessed  |  January 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Is this a good college admission planning outline for HS? HS Mom? Others who have been through it? Any additional tips? I’m over the HS admission drama and just ready to move on to the next stage of obsession.


  • 102. uiuc mom  |  January 20, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    extracurricular stuff is important. The colleges are looking for depth, so have your kid start thinking about what they like and start volunteering or working in that area this summer, so they can be more of a leader of other volunteers the summer after or during 11th grade.

    We didn’t spend early years looking at schools. We didn’t even have an idea of a major. But, we weren’t really expecting to apply to Ivy league schools.

  • 103. HS Mom  |  January 25, 2015 at 11:36 am

    101 IBO – That is certainly quite the game plan. I have some comments.

    College tours – I’m not sure how important or productive this is in 9th grade unless maybe you’re driven on a particular school (which could very well change later) – in particular the long distance trips that the article advises. Maybe visit your own college. Our school had bus trips beginning 10th grade that certainly served the purpose of getting them excited about college if they weren’t already. It’s tough to know what schools you should be looking at in 9th grade without grades and test scores. The schools certainly don’t want to invest their time and effort into unknowns. The tours and events that colleges hold are geared toward 11th and 12th graders. I would encourage you to attend as many as you can since the colleges track your involvement and level of interest. That being said, we decided not to attend any long distance tours until after acceptance due to cost (we had 2 west coast and 1 east coast school). For those schools, we contacted the regional rep and set up appointments for interviews, attended any local events the college held and spoke to the reps again when they came to our school or to college fairs.

    Extracurriculars – I’m not sure how important this is. We did not have a lot of “extras” because my son needed to focus on the academics during school (without which you have 0 chance). We made sure to sign up for enrichment at colleges every summer. He walked dogs for a shelter one summer – which was a hard gig to get and needed connections. A friend of mine suggested that we join them in helping out at a soup kitchen for the holidays only to be told there was a 3 month waiting list!!!!! He did BTW get into UIUC but not his first choice reach school where you needed to be stellar in every category.

    Letters of Recommendation – Excellent advice in the article. Get them early and frequently. If you wait until application time (like we did) the teachers are swamped and even possible they will turn you down. I also wonder about the quality and how “gushing” they will be when they are under the gun. Our teacher recommendations are given blind through Naviance – meaning we couldn’t see them.

    Sounds like this mom has bases covered – a good thing. Our school had a system through Naviance that spelled out procedure, monitored deadlines and contained an abundance of information on colleges. It’s up to the parents/students to use it. One last piece of advice (and I know that this is not applicable to anyone on this site) if you leave it up to your kid to handle all the details, research, applications – it’s a recipe for disaster. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are micro managing the process and that they need to learn how to do it on their own.

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