College Admission

February 27, 2016 at 9:24 pm 95 comments


For parents looking to start discussing college, here’s the place.  Feel free to post questions/info in the comments section.

Readers have mentioned the forum as a “CPSObsesssed of college.”  There are threads on every conceivable topic (test prep, financial aid, essays, etc.) here as parents share pointers and angst about the deep unknown of applying to colleges.

I took a look at the U of I admissions page to see how that looks.  This is the data on the middle 50% of students there.  Fairly high scores, no?  Does the reputation of the school match the entry requirements?  Is this different than typical Midwest Big 10 schools?

ACT Score: 27-32  /  SAT Score (no writing): 1320-1470

High School Class Rank*: 84-97%

Here’s what they say about admission:

We consider many factors when making an admission decision. Most applications receive at least 2 readings, and we check all preliminary decisions to ensure a high level of consistency.

We evaluate the strength of your academic record.
We review your highest ACT or SAT composite score.
We consider why you’re applying to a program.
We assess your essay.

Not only do we consider your strength of writing, but we also look at how you tie your academic interest to your desired major and how you showcase that passion in your life. If you select a second-choice major (which we highly recommend!), we want to know why you’re interested in that major, too. If you apply to the Division of General Studies, we look at how you explain your varied interests and need for exploration.

We look at your achievements outside the classroom.

We analyze the opportunities given to you.

We consider your background.



Entry filed under: College!, Uncategorized.

High School Letters “Pre-Show” 2016 High School Letters 2016

95 Comments Add your own

  • 1. robin in wrp  |  February 28, 2016 at 6:52 am

    I have a college junior at U of I; she was accepted as a freshman, and as a sophomore transfer. It seems that ISU in Bloomington has turned into the U of I “overflow” school; we know a handful there who didn’t get into U of I.

  • 2. Chicago School GPS  |  February 28, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Another interesting site for basic data is College Scorecard

    You can view undergraduate size (gives you a rough idea of freshman class size), graduation & retention rates (indicates percent that return after freshman year), Student Body, Test Scores, Costs, Financial Aid & Debt (shows typical debt and percentage of students w/debt after graduation), Earnings After School, etc.

    It’s basic info that is put out by the US Dept of Education but can help dip your toes into the whole college reality scene.

  • 3. Chicago School GPS  |  February 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

    For those Ivy-centric folks, lots of stats to be found at

    It’s an eye-opener to discover things like Dartmouth’s freshman class is similar in size to Lane Tech’s (approx. 1,100 freshman). And it confirms that applying early decision/action absolutely helps one’s chances (in many cases it triples the acceptance rate, albeit it’s still ridiculously low at 16% instead of 5%). It’s also interesting to see how much of a freshman class is filled by the early pool (Penn filled over half their class with early applicants).

    Thanks for starting this thread, CPSO; another phase to continue our obsession!

  • 4. robin in wrp  |  February 28, 2016 at 8:26 am

    If your child does opt for a (n over-price) private, liberal arts school offering a lovely financial aid package, be sure that child applies to other schools for the second year. I am speaking from experience! My daughter spent her freshman year at American in DC; American offers need-based financial aid to 35% of freshman, 18% of all students. We didn’t know those numbers, but we had heard the horror stories. Frankly, she’s happier at U of I, as it offers so many more options for classes and school-based activities.

  • 5. pantherparent  |  February 28, 2016 at 8:28 am

    My experience with is that it’s too much of the “everything sucks” mentality that permeates the web. Sure, we complain here but it’s intermixed with mostly very helpful stuff. I recommend visiting the site but be prepared for frustration.

    As a U of I graduate with friends that have graduated from other Big 10 schools I feel that all the schools, with the exception of Northwestern, are pretty much the same.

    Sure schools rank higher here or there, but put graduates from Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in a room and you won’t be able to tell them apart.

    (The Michigan alumni will disagree with the above as they are universally regarded as the arrogant a**holes of the Big 10. Sorry. Thought I was posting on collegeconfidential for a second.)

  • 6. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 28, 2016 at 10:16 am

    If you are looking for real number data, then I think the best place to glean info is College Data. Please take College Confidential with a grain of salt. Many posters are actually from schools degrading other schools and some review with NEVER stepping foot on campus. It’s good to read, but realize it’s an open forum.

    Also, some SEHS report on where their students’ first choice of school is ~ NOT where they have been accepted. It’s one thing to look at a school and see that ?# of kids got into the ivies, but it’s another to realize it’s their first choice university, not where they were accepted. WY only records the universities you’ve been accepted to attend.

  • 7. robin in wrp  |  February 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    At the end of the year, Whitney publishes where each student is attending, and what awards, grants and scholarships each was offered (even if they are from multiple schools, making the total larger than reality)

  • 8. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 28, 2016 at 10:21 am

    7. robin in wrp | February 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    All schools do that.

  • 9. HS Mom (Now College Mom)  |  February 28, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    @3 – I have also heard that it may be a disadvantage in applying “early decision”. Reason being, you are applying against a different pool of applicants – presumably those who have focused early on getting into these schools and have the grades/scores/hook/activities sought by these colleges. Applying with the regular pool gives a kid with less than perfect stats a chance to fill some hole that remains open. I don’t know this, it didn’t help us, but this is what I’ve heard.

    To again challenge the “overpriced” label that some want to put on private schools….there are many exceptions and opportunities. All you have to do is apply. Kids that qualify to get into UIUC are also getting 4 year scholarships at private schools. There are also 4 year art scholarships at these schools. Check out the “40 Colleges That Change Lives” for some very unique, affordable options. Quite honestly, it would have been a real stretch for our family to attend UIUC (of which I am an Alum) even though it’s “in state” tuition – especially now with no state aid. Now money saved can go to grad school.

    Someone mentioned it before and it’s very true that small colleges are great for kids who don’t know what they want to do. He has developed positive relationships with his professors receiving tons of guidance. He will have not one but 2 majors when he graduates and will be able to spend time studying abroad without skipping a beat.

    Small colleges aren’t for everyone…..I wanted him to go to UIUC and he applied Gen Ed. That would likely have been a mistake. It’s too big for him.

    Another consideration for small privates is the alum network. He is looking to settle outside of Illinois and the school has some great connections west and northwest. Not that a large university doesn’t, it’s just that not everyone will see it.

  • 10. robin in wrp  |  February 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I agree, it definitely depends on your child. Would my daughter have done as well freshman year at U of I? I suspect not, but there’s no way to tell. This school year, financial aid was about 15% less than last year; we’re expecting next year (fortunately her last) to be about 25% less, though she may get an additional scholarship from her major or sorority (fingers crossed!).

  • 11. JuniorMom  |  February 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    @hs Mom
    Thanks for sharing! I have a junior who is interested in attending a small liberal arts college or university. However, as I’ve investigated it seems that many of the top liberal arts schools have admission statistics similar to the Ivy’s. Even with a strong application it seems unwise to assume a high likelihood of acceptance. Any suggestions for a small liberal arts school with quality academics that a student with high stats should look as a “safety”?

  • 12. cpsobsessed  |  February 28, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    My sister went to Lawrence in Appleton WI which is a small liberal arts school with a good reputation. She said the acceptance rate is currently 75% and the campus is very nice.

  • 13. Boilermaker  |  February 28, 2016 at 3:36 pm


    Umich is in a different league compared to other Big 10 schools. Sure, plenty are successful from others schools but as a whole, Michigan grads stand far above the rest. I graduated from Purdue (BSEE and successful) and think this without resentment. It is what I experience in the workforce and recruiting.

  • 14. CLB  |  February 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    @9 At least at highly selective colleges, early acceptance _is_ the way to go if you want to attend that school. The pool is smaller because only those who prioritize that school apply.

    For example, Williams College filled over 44% of its 2019 class with early decision applicants, and 41% of those applying for early decision were accepted. By contrast, in the regular pool, less than 15% of those applying were accepted. Nevertheless, the good news is the yield. Only 32% of those offered admission in the regular pool actually attend — that is, Williams issues 915 offers to fill 291 seats in its regular pool.

    Don’t think about the odds that your child gets accepted _a_ school; think about the odds that your child gets admitted to _any_ school, which are much higher even among a small set of schools.

  • 15. Edgewater Mom  |  February 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    @JuniorMom (11) — Birmingham-Southern College is a small liberal arts college in Birmingham, AL, that is a really fine school. A little far from home, but a lovely place.

  • 16. HS Mom (Now College Mom)  |  February 28, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    @11 – We looked at schools up to 100 in ranking and only because we needed a stopping point. There are several in middle with much to offer and will meet the financial need. Lawrence (mentioned)), Beloit, Illinois and Ohio Wesleyan, Kalamazoo, both Colorado College and Cornell College are unique.

    We have a friend whose son took a highlighter to the 40 CTCL book, and came up with 10 colleges that he applied to. They ranked all over the board. We know someone else who is applying – 3 big and 3 little based upon location – east, south and west

  • 17. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 28, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    1. robin in wrp | February 28, 2016 at 6:52 am

    You’re right ~ it does seem ISU is the kids that aren’t getting into UIUC. It appears that they are the only 2 universities in IL that can sustain themselves as of right now without help from the state~due to their endowments.

    10. robin in wrp | February 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I hope your daughter gets the major or sorority scholarship. A 25% cut in $$$ is so much to lose, especially if you weren’t planning on it. I hope she gets that money~my fingers are crossed!!

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  February 28, 2016 at 11:06 pm


  • 19. robin in wrp  |  February 29, 2016 at 6:17 am

    No, Illinois State University in Bloomington/Norma Illinois.

  • 20. 8th grade mom  |  February 29, 2016 at 8:52 am

    @robin in wrp are you saying that the freshman receive aid that is routinely not renewed? That is awful. I read an article about law schools doing this as a matter of course…law schools grade on a curve so a percentage of students will have gpas below what they achieved as undergrads and anticipated receiving in law school. But I did not know this was also an undergrad issue. Something to look out for…thanks for posting!

  • 21. robin in wrp  |  February 29, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Yes, that is correct. And she was on the Dean’s list, so we know it wasn’t for academic issues.

  • 22. JuniorMom  |  February 29, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for all the suggestions…

    @CLB – You bring up an interesting angle on the whole admissions game…just hopeful that it is true (i.e. that if he applies to enough schools – even though the acceptance rates are highly selective – he will get in somewhere) Yet, I’m still not comfortable relying on that strategy…just in case…call me obsessed😊

    @HS mom – Do you have a child at Colorado College? A good friend has a current freshman there who is very happy.

  • 23. HSObsessed  |  February 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Well, we’re diving into the college search this spring. So far, it seems it’s even more varied than high schools in terms of what people’s journeys are, with wildly different views of what’s important in college: Size? Proximity? Cost/financial aid? National ranking? So many factors, in addition to the general atmosphere of the school (academic v. party scene) and of course, availability of the desired area of study.

    Also, depending on a kid’s grades and ACT scores, one student’s “safety” school is another kid’s stretch school, obviously. For example, Colorado College above is mentioned as a middle-of-the-road school for some, but the scores they post would make it hard to get in for many applicants: Average ACT score of 30 from enrollees, 62% of enrolled freshmen graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, and an overall applicant acceptance rate of 18%.

    For us, the focus now is choosing schools to visit (and apply to) that are 1/ acceptable to student and parents on all or most of the factors listed above, and 2/ has a level of selectivity that gives the student a decent chance of getting an offer.

  • 24. robin in wrp  |  February 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Honestly, I think that actual visits are highly overrated. The virtual tours are quite good

  • 25. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    23. HSObsessed | February 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    That’s so exciting to be looking at colleges in the spring. We plan on it as well. There are so many factors bc each kid is different and thrives in different environments. Here’s a very interesting article you may find of use.

  • 26. HS Mom  |  February 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Colorado College is tough to get into. We opted for Cornell College in Iowa. Same block schedule format, closer to home, generous scholarship. We also know of a student at Colorado – loves it. If rankings are not a hang up, look at both.

    As far as tours go. In person is not only a fun road trip but also a good way to get in front of the people who are running the school. They do track level of interest in candidates. It’s a good idea to get your name on as many sign in sheets as possible for the schools that you are really interested in.

  • 27. JuniorMom  |  March 1, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Many thanks for your response. Will definitely look at Cornell College (might of missed a great option…so thank you!) Glad to hear your child is thriving at Cornell! Please feel free to share any other ideas or thoughts😊

    And yes, I *know* that Colorado College is very selective…it goes with my prior post that upon investigation I was surprised just how difficult it is to get into a top liberal arts school (generally very small number of students = low acceptance rates) or so it seems.

  • 28. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    These colleges (although some are very hard to get into) provide the most financial aid.

  • 29. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom)  |  March 1, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I have a Junior and a 7th grader this year!!! The crazy thing is that I am no where near as worried as I was when I went through the dreaded 7th grade with my other daughter. Now the college search is quite consuming. I went to city college and never even looked at other options. Since I didn’t go through this for myself it is both exciting and nerve racking. I look forward to reading through this thread.

  • 30. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 1, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    29. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom) | March 1, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    The list below is from 2011 but still relevant. I have a freshman in college so I just completed all of my research for him, but have another child and the search begins again…dif areas of study, dif kids!

    For your junior, you should start thinking about college now. Find out what she wants to pursue. I always feel that one should attend the best college for their degree and graduate with the least amount of debt. Kids coming out of college now have crushing debt, it’s insane!

  • 31. Mom of College Son  |  March 2, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I read this blog regularly, but have only written in occasionally. I have a son who is a freshman in college and spent several years researching college admissions, so I think I have some things to add to the conversation.

    First, I don’t want to be disrespectful and say your should not look at schools with strengths in areas that your child wants to pursue, but students change their minds all the time about what their major is and what they want to pursue. My son changed his major after his first quarter at college and I know several people whose children also changed their minds. It can be “not a big deal” as it is in my son’s case or very traumatic as I have seen in a few cases. The people who seem to have a very hard time are people who have gone to a specific college/university with a set path in mind. I think it is better to find a school with many options or a strong liberal arts curriculum.

    Also, regarding early decision at highly selective colleges, there is a very good book to read called “The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College”. This explains that since early decision is binding that these colleges and universities are looking to secure those students who are going to be “full pay”. We all like to think these are wonderful institutions don’t care about money, but the truth is, they are businesses. For us, I knew that we needed financial aid, so we did not apply early decision.

  • 32. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:22 am

    @ Mom of College Son ~ I agree also abt a good university with many options. Unfortunately, if your child is going into science or has a specific science major, LAC’s don’t offer those degrees. He knew he always wanted to go out east for college, now my next one wants to major in so many things that a LAC will probably be where he’ll end up (but hopefully closer to home)!

  • 33. Amazed  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Not so @32 Liberal arts colleges do offer a variety of B.S. degrees. Locally, if you want to do engineering, you’d apply to U of I, but that does not mean you cannot do a Biology or Computer Science degree at most LACs. Wouldn’t be liberal arts if they didn’t offer that.

  • 34. Amazed  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:46 am

    What do you all think of the IL switch from ACT to SAT? How is the content of the test different? Why did IL do that?

  • 35. robin in wrp  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Why? Money, of course

  • 36. Mom of College Son  |  March 2, 2016 at 11:13 am

    I actually disagree with you on the science degrees. Sciences are a huge part of the liberal arts. Schools that focus on the liberal arts have some of the best undergraduate science programs in the country. If you are studying science and you go to a school that focuses on undergraduates, many times you will be able to do research as an undergrad. Going to a large, state research institution, most of the time, the research is done by graduate students. I don’t necessarily mean that by going to a school that focuses on the liberal arts that I am specifically talking about small schools either. There are many medium sized schools that focus on the liberal arts and sciences.

    The one exception to the rule above is engineering, where it seems that you need to get into the program right away and end up taking pretty much math, science and engineering classes your entire four years.

    My personal experience has been that I know 2 different students who chose a school specifically because they had a good engineering program, but did not necessarily like the school or the other programs. When the engineering major did not work out for them, they were devastated and transferred schools and it ended up being hard on them and their families. My point is to find a school that you like, can afford and can offer other options if the first one does not work out.

  • 37. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Mom of College Son True. I think LAC are ok for some science majors, but my son was going into a specific engineering degree. He wanted to go to one of the best schools for his degree. Some LAC have dual degrees (3+2), but he wasn’t into that. I think it has to be the right fit and hopefully graduate not too badly in debt. Because debt is crushing college grads. I also think in the future many LACs will close and there will not be as many choices for university students, thus making it even harder for kids to get into university.

  • 38. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Amazed-I think it’s terrible IL decided to go with SAT. I don’t like the new version at all. Recently, ACTs took over being the test of choice and now just because Rauner’s friends are Tied to SAT and will benefit financially, IL gives the contract to ACT? INCREDIBLE! Also, I think it’s such a disadvantage to IL kids~it’ll make it much harder to get into universities and awarded scholarships on merit.

  • 39. Vikingmom  |  March 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    @24 I respectfully disagree. We really got a feel for the schools we visited — academically, but more so even the cultural/social aspect. For example — here was a school she was jazzed about but it’s in the middle of nowhere with nothing much to do outside of on-campus parties, which didn’t appeal to my city born and raised daughter. Here was a school I pretty much dragged her to where she found the small urban and more diverse climate much more appealing. On one trip home my daughter said more or less “Mom, I know I complain about these visits, but I am grateful for them.”
    RE: UIUC, don’t let the 27-32 ACT scare you off — my daughter was admitted with a lower ACT score (she doesn’t test that well) but had very good grades in the IB program.
    As far as the scholarships she has been offered, they all indicate the same dollar amount will be given for four years, with the caveat that she maintain a certain GPA. I would not anticipate that those would be cut unless she did not meet the ongoing criteria?
    @10 I hope your daughter is able to make up the monies that she may lose! This is precisely the reason I feel uncomfortable about sending my daughter to the school, even though I am an alum.

  • 40. Conspiracy theorist  |  March 2, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    For the highly selective colleges, do admissions people negotiate with other schools? Do they say, “We want this kid so please reject him and in return we will reject another kid you guys want?” I’m asking because it seems like many kids will get admitted to one or tw Ivy Leagues, but get rejected from the others (for no apparent reason.) Since they want to preserve a high yield above all, I can’t believe they aren’t discussing (and possibly bargaining) the blue chip applicants.

  • 41. Jen  |  March 2, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    @40, I somehow doubt it. A more likely scenario? There really are that many incredibly high scoring, high grades, athletically talented, civically minded, volunteering, legacy connected, and on and on students out there. There are just a ton of them. There has to be some kids that get accepted to most schools.

  • 42. Jen  |  March 2, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    re: UIUC. My cousin just graduated from there this past spring. She went on a full ride scholarship. I always wanted to know how she did that, what test scores she brought to the table, etc. Her parents make a lot of money, so it wasn’t need based. She’s 50% minority so not sure how much that helped. I do know she was accepted at Harvard and turned it down.

  • 43. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    @Jen~did your cousin graduate from the engineering school? I know they give a lot of money to girls/minorities/first generation. Also if she is an outstanding student, they probably didn’t want to lose her. I know 2 ppl who turned down the ivies for uiuc…they wanted to stay in state and close to home.

  • 44. Jen  |  March 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    No, she was a psych major who went into marketing!

  • 45. College Mom (HS Mom)  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    @31 Very good thoughts and oh so true. There’s so many interesting choices of majors at LA schools, even something called Business Engineering. The liberal arts banner has come a long way.

    I think that having some kind of “hook” makes it easier to research colleges and helps narrow down the overwhelming possibilities. For us, our “hook” changed frequently fueled by where our research was taking us and the college tours. We started looking at majors, toured UIUC business school and decided he hated it. Study environment then became an issue. One school out west had a private tutoring/study area (private meaning extra fee) appropriately called the mountain room that looked out over the mountains (would have been worth every penny). We started finding out things like this about different colleges and steadily the path became more focused. Through our journey we figured out the following:
    – He didn’t want a party school (my jaw dropped at that one)….HE thought it would be too much distraction;
    – wanted liberal arts so that he could test the waters and exercise his creativity or go the Computer Science route;
    – wanted an environment that was safe, not a big city, where the campus was a community and kids in their off time could travel to fun places;
    – wanted a place where the average kid could realistically study abroad and not worry about schedules or tacking on graduation time
    – found a couple schools with very unique features (namely a block schedule where students take one class at a time)

    ……and, it just could not break the bank.

  • 46. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 2, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    @College Mom~I like the blocking schedule as well. We r going to several colleges with this schedule during ths summer. That might be a better fit for this son. It wasn’t what my other son wanted. However, we really want this boy to go to a Catholic university, so we gave to consider those as well.

  • 47. MustangMom  |  March 3, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I would suggest the newly released Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be – An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni of the NYT. Having two kids in college now and two more a couple years away, I learned a great deal from this read (and am actually reading it for the second time right now.). Looking back, we as parents were a bit too intense and anxious about the process. It’s tricky to stay well-informed and supportive yet sane and not too pushy. Bruni’s book reassures us that really it’s going to be okay – amazing colleges with good fits do exist for all of our kids.

  • 48. Newcomer  |  March 3, 2016 at 9:51 am

    ^^^^ Frank Bruni will be speaking here in Chicago at the Wolcott School in April. Check their website for details.

  • 49. Newcomer  |  March 3, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Some interesting info here about the new SAT. I didn’t know that many schools, including “test-optional” ones, buy results from the test administers to see who the top scorers are.

  • 50. Newcomer  |  March 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    This is a great read and includes facts about out-of-state tuition: for example, you might get an exemption if you are an academic superstar!

  • 51. robin in wrp  |  March 3, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I don’t know if it’s still the case, but University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) had free application for CPS students, and their financial aid package was quite generous.

  • 52. mom2  |  March 3, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t think Minnesota offered free application for any CPS student. Only those with higher ACT scores.

  • 53. Mom of College Son  |  March 3, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    @50-the program that applies to Illinois students is MSEP ( Students from Illinois get very reasonable tuition from neighboring states. Usually, the schools are not the flagship schools, but there are some nice schools on the list.

    There are also some very nice public liberal arts colleges in the midwest that are very reasonable. University of Minnesota-Morris, Truman State University in Missouri and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

  • 54. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 3, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    My son’s friend received a very generous scholarship from University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I think it was a merit scholarship.

  • 55. Newcomer  |  March 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Hi. Is it better to send a recommendation written by an alum of the university? If my daughter has a teacher who went there, for example?

  • 56. Our last HS Ordeal  |  March 7, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Fun fact: a student at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire was a 2015 Rhodes Scholar. Further proof of : where you go is not who you are.

  • 57. SoxSideIrish4  |  March 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Newcomer~Yes, esp. If the university asks the teacher to rate the students she’s recommending, if more than one. The teacher could say as an alum, blah, blah, blah and give her alum #.

  • 58. Chris  |  March 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    “give her alum #”


    Should I be asking my alma maters for a secret code?

    Seriously have *never* heard of that.

  • 59. karet  |  March 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    @55, I don’t think it matters for undergraduate admission. The one exception would be if the alum was a huge donor — so big that the name would be recognized by admissions.

    Let’s say your daughter is choosing between two teachers to write her a recommendation. One knows her very well and could write a very detailed personal letter. The other doesn’t know her as well, but is an alum. I would certainly choose the first.

    For admission to graduate school, it does matter if the student is applying to the department where his or her Professor went to graduate school. The Professor’s name is likely still known among the faculty, and he or she can even send a personal email to one or more faculty in the department to recommend the student.

    Chris, I also have never heard of an alum #.

  • 60. Fam  |  March 14, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Just wondering aloud if it is a good strategy to enter college in a school/major at the university, that admits applicants with lower SAT scores and lower high school GPAs and then changing majors once you’re in college for a while. I note that the College of Biological Sciences is harder to get into at U of Minnesota than the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

  • 61. College Mom (formerly HS Mom)  |  March 15, 2016 at 6:40 am

    @60 Probably depends on the school. When we toured UIUC students need to apply and be accepted into another college (meaning internal not transfer). So you are now applying for a major based upon your college grades vs. HS. The college of business had about a 60% acceptance rate. At other schools you are free to change majors (I presume with some limitations based upon student performance). This would be a very good question to ask the schools that you visit/communicate with.

  • 62. Chris  |  March 15, 2016 at 11:30 am

    “At other schools you are free to change majors (I presume with some limitations based upon student performance).”

    Speaking *very* generally, the schools that let you switch majors don’t admit you to a given major/department/school unless it’s specialized, like music performance.

  • 63. LLL2005  |  April 7, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    A few random thoughts/comments after reading these posts:
    1) IL changing to the SAT really isn’t a big deal. Just sign up and have your child take the ACT on his/her own. You don’t need to send the SAT score (or the ACT score if you’re not happy with it) to any school. It’s all up to you.
    2). I believe that prospective college students get misled by the high acceptance rate of early admission at the elite schools. You have to remember early admission is used by schools to fill their various buckets: the athletes, the legacies, the underrepresented groups etc. With so many “superstars” applying early, the above-average student who is thinking he/she is going to get accepted just because they applied early is wasting his/her time. Any chance they have would be during regular admission.
    3). While it can be helpful to visit a school before applying there, I think that waiting until you’re accepted and going for the admitted students weekend makes more sense. Then you get a real sense of the school, who your peers would be etc.
    4). The most important thing is that your son or daughter is happy at the school they select. It seems as if more and more kids are transferring after their freshman year because they made a choice based on what they thought was the “best” school even if it didn’t feel like the right school.
    You really want them to go someplace that feels right.

  • 64. cpsobsessed  |  April 12, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Did anyone read this humorous essay about Costco that supposedly helped get this girl into 5 Ivy League schools? (along with other good credentials, of course.) I like that they appreciate hearing her voice come through as something that helped it stand out (although I read another critique that the essay alone doesn’t have enough substance)

  • 65. HSObsessed  |  May 9, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Well, following up from my February post @23 — we’ve now done about 10 college tours, at everything from tiny colleges and big state universities in the Midwest to a couple private colleges and universities in cities on the east coast. A few of my random impressions:

    The weather and the quality of the student tour guide makes an inordinately deep impression on a 17-year-old kid, LOL. I’ve mentioned this to other parents and they agree, and I guess there’s even data that backs this up.

    However, air temperature and tour guide skills aside, there really is value in visiting a campus in person, IMHO, because you get a sense of the energy of the campus, that even a video tour can’t provide.

    Colleges are really big these days into talking up: 1/ the number of a cappella singing groups they have 2/ the strength of their Quidditch team (yes, there are Quidditch leagues) 3/ the fact that they have dorm rooms that are mixed gender/nongender specific, or they are earnestly working on getting them into place.

    The amount of need-based aid that various private colleges and universities will give you vary enormously. You can check these on the “financial aid calculator” that they have on the school’s website. I plugged in our numbers and have gotten results ranging from “You can afford every penny of the $65,000 it takes to enroll here” to “We’ll reduce the cost from $55,000 to $30,000 for you”.

    I went to public schools all my life, from kindergarten to grad school so touring these private colleges and universities was pretty eye-opening to me. The difference in class sizes and amount of help getting internships and jobs, and making connections post-college was pretty astounding, tilting in favor of the privates, of course. The question is, whether the huge price tag is worth it.

  • 66. robin in wrp  |  May 9, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Be careful with those generous financial aid offers from private schools. My daughter spent her freshman year at American University in DC. American essentially offers aid to 35% of freshman, and 18% overall (including the law school). While we didn’t know the numbers at the time, we had been warned. She transferred to U of I for her sophomore year, and has been surprisingly happy in Champaign.

  • 67. HSObsessed  |  May 9, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    @66, yes, we’ve heard that it’s important to require that the college specify in writing that the aid is for all four years, and that it’s not conditioned on maintaining some unrealistically high GPA.

  • 68. cpsobsessed  |  May 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    That seems so bait and switch

  • 69. robin in wrp  |  May 10, 2016 at 5:25 am

    My daughter was on the Dean’s list, so it was not related to GPA.

    It is very bait and switch, and very common

  • 70. College Mom  |  May 10, 2016 at 7:38 am

    @65 – I know I’ve mentioned our experience before. My son goes to a small private college which we never would have expected up front. Going into year 3 and still loving it. He has made multiple connections with profs who almost bend over backwards to give guidance and help. The environment is really close knit with both students and faculty and supports a very healthy combination of learning and social life. We had a brief time where he thought he might transfer due to a unique major he was considering but has since changed his mind (again). He’s very fortunate to have an advisor who has been helping him a great deal. That said, it is very challenging but well worth it. Some kids transfer for a variety of reasons – money, major, social, grades. One student said she was transferring because she didn’t want to attend class all the time (which says something about the advantages of a small school).

    For us, the scholarship not only made it possible and affordable but will be graduating basically debt free which, needless to say, is huge. We never felt like we were sacrificing anything in the way of college to take advantage of the scholarship….in fact it’s more the opposite.

    My son will be studying abroad in Japan next year (yes, some extra cost) but now affordable. His college world, like many other kids today, is so different from the one I had at U of I years ago. I’m really happy for him and feel that he has made some great choices.

  • 71. College  |  May 10, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Thanks so much for the post. Are you willing to share the name of college? My child is leaning towards small liberal arts college so I’m very curious (nice to see such a positive post)

  • 72. luveurope  |  May 10, 2016 at 10:33 am

    66. “surprisingly happy in Champaign.” Why? Most kids who choose UIUC love it in Chambana.

  • 73. HSObsessed  |  May 10, 2016 at 11:38 am

    @70 – I personally had visions of my kid studying in a small liberal arts college nestled in the rolling hills of Ohio, LOL, but sadly, I realize that won’t be happening. We visited a school like that, and the kids were smart and creative, the campus beautiful, the personalized attention on the students obvious, etc. However, the general environment is just not for everyone: It was quiet, serene, orderly, and … well, it would get boring for some students. I think especially if you have a kid like mine who is used to and thrives on the activities, noise, crowds, exploration, diversity, etc. of a large urban high school and of city life in Chicago, an idyllic campus in Galesburg, Illinois or Wooster, Ohio just doesn’t appeal, at all. Obviously lots of students do love it, and that’s a great choice for them.

    It’s also become apparent that my kid is set on getting a specific degree in an area that not all colleges and universities offer, because she just can’t get excited about any school that doesn’t offer it as a bachelor’s degree. So that has also focused our search.

  • 74. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom)  |  May 10, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    @70, I am also curious if you wouldn’t mind sharing the name of the college. My daughter has been focused in much larger universities in our college search, but I would love cast a wider net! 😉

  • 75. Newcomer  |  May 10, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I highly recommend Frank Bruni’s book “Where you go is not who you’ll Be.” It’s a level-headed study on why the college admissions process has gotten out of hand. Using solid statistics, he explains how to make better choices, and he lists a ton of programs that you might not have heard of that have paved the way to success and happiness for many American superstars: CEO’s, writers, entrepreneurs, artists, political heavyweights, etc.

  • 76. cpsobsessed  |  May 10, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    ^ thanks for the reco. I just ordered the Audiobook.

  • 77. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom)  |  May 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    @75 I ordered it yesterday after reading some of the comments. Can’t wait!

  • 78. College Mom  |  May 10, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Love to share. Cornell College in Iowa (not the university in NY that everyone knows). Also looked at Beloit, Knox, Colorado College, University of Denver, U of I and Michigan State. They all had great things going on. Cornell has a block schedule where kids take one class at a time (so no skipping class and easier to study abroad), kids from all over the US and small size classrooms. They are very generous with the scholarships.

    Yes, the environment is very different from the city, but that is not necessarily a bad factor. If anything, I worry about him when he’s home on break going out at night and taking public transportation late. The class time is intense and no real time to ramble around a city anyway. It’s very comforting to know that your kid is safe with all the crazy stuff you hear in the news. It’s very much a community with most kids living on campus. You would never have a kid drunk and wandering around alone. It’s not a “party” school by any means but the kids certainly have the options for Friday nights. Block breaks are an opportunity to get off campus – rafting, skiing, hiking, travel back to Chicago or just sleeping and doing nothing.

  • 79. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom)  |  May 10, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    @78 College Mom ~ Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I have a lot of research to do. We started with what she said she wanted, but I know we have to look at other schools she would have never thought to check out.

  • 80. JenFG  |  May 11, 2016 at 9:04 am

    @75 I recently read the Bruni book and also enjoyed it. Very enlightening.

  • 81. @78  |  May 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

    This must be kismet! I mentioned to my son who is a Junior that I think we may need to start looking at private colleges. I told him I though we could get more tuition covered at a private vs public university. A couple of months ago he went on a college tour to some schools in Iowa. He exclaimed if I go to a private college I want to go to Cornell! I didn’t know anything about & have been researching it all last weekend! It looks like a great place. I was concerned about OCAAT but now you have laid those fears to rest. He even said he thought he would do better focusing on one class at a time! I’m a little obsessed now with the place and it has quickly become my first choice. We just have to get in. It’s very tiny & that’s a perfect fit for my son. His HS isn’t very large & the class sizes are small. He’s extremely reserved & quiet and I don’t think Cornell will let him be an observer. He will have to participate in class. Thank you for this information. If you have more to share about Cornell please do!

  • 82. College Mom  |  May 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    @81 – I’m chuckling…this is exactly what happened to us. We took a tour and my son got hooked on the one class at a time. Our tour was great, not a canned act, he had an interview (be prepared for him to meet one on one with them) and we talked at length with our student guides about life at Cornell. They were very genuine, offering their experiences with classes, campus life and plans for graduation.

    Pluses to OCCAT – (1) Not having to juggle multiple classes with the potential of letting one slide (2) The overall depth and quality classes taken seems richer because time (and money) is not spent having to take a “blow off class” to balance a tough schedule (3) The opportunity to bond, creating a more satisfying learning experience that encourages students to stay on track (4) Work like hours, prep for the real world (5) Intense focus, potentially better outcomes (6) live your projects, organize one defined set of tasks (more similar to a real job) (7) study abroad done during the school year without sacrificing the rest of your school schedule plus a savings in tuition (8) Study abroad a better experience because there are no other colleges there at the same time.

    It’s a fantastic experience and opportunity but many of the same challenges exist. College is a big adjustment. In many cases, kids don’t do as well the first year as they acclimate to a new environment and more responsibility. Some kids do leave for a variety of reasons – like everywhere else. Some do blame it on the one class schedule. There are a lot of variables.

    The school is small. To me, it seems like a mini version of a big university. The food is fabulous – farm to table – does make a difference. It has everything on a smaller scale. The important thing is the fit.

    People are amazed when I tell them about the school. A typical comment is “I wish (or I would) go back to school if it was like that”.

  • 83. robin in wrp  |  May 12, 2016 at 5:21 am

    College Mom – I think that it’s wonderful that your son found the best fit for him!

    That said, most jobs are environments where mono-tasking does not lead to success; most jobs require multi-tasking, and being able to reprioritize as the demands change.

  • 84. @robin wrp  |  May 12, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Robin I think you are missing college mom’s point. The students must also multi task but it’s related to multi tasking on one class. I’m not sure if you went and looked at Cornell’s website before making that comment. It’s pretty intense completing one class in 18 days then having a four day break before starting a new class. The students are immersed in the subject and must complete many assignments, projects etc but only have 18 days to do it. Of course in order to do that you would have to multi task.

    Thank you College Mom! It’s sounds wonderful!

  • 85. College mom  |  May 12, 2016 at 10:01 am


    Yes, I think it’s a given that a school like UIUC is great. Everyone in Illinois and beyond knows that. The name on a resume will get you that first job – that’s how I got mine.

    I’m not sure how you associate “mono-tasking” with OCAAT. I was asked about specifics, which I’m happy to provide given that we have real experience. I could have said much more, but tried to relay some basic information, subject to people researching and actually checking it out themselves.

    To be more clear, when I make comparisons to real world job training (which I consider college to be), I consider the best training for the unknown job – beyond mono or multi-tasking. These days, a number of employers choose to save costs by requiring staff to work multiple tasks outside of their regular duties in order to create savings on an associate, admin or HR person. I’ve heard this referred to as “rolling up your sleeves”. I’ve had this job. Then there’s the job where the professional is allowed to concentrate on their job and specialty, including the multiple elements within that position (scheduling/attending meetings, managing, performing tasks, dealing with clients and customers etc). I’ve had this job too. I’m not sure how taking one class that may require writing a paper, a project, performing tasks (homework) and attending “meetings” (class) all within a specific time frame, would preclude either of these 2 types of jobs.

    Speaking of jobs. One advantage to any of the smaller private schools would be the alum network which may have a wider reach than having to be in the top X% of kids at a large university.

    To be clear again….I am not saying that all colleges should go to a block schedule. There are only a few colleges doing it. Cornell happens to be one doing it right.

    A statement about college choice in general – Make sure you get the right fit and that the money part makes sense. Even the best student can get distracted and fall off target. Transfers are always an option, but can also be complicated. The idea is to make the transition to the degree as easy as possible. Some times things like rankings, expectations and choices of major interfere in that process.

  • 86. @college mom  |  May 12, 2016 at 10:44 am

    I’m the parent that has posted twice about Cornell. This is spooky! Guess where I graduated from??! UIUC!!! Lol

  • 87. College Mom  |  May 12, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    @86 – Oh wow, that’s awesome this is quite uncanny. We looked at a variety of options and came right back to it. In “CPS Obsessed” style, I put together an analysis of all our final offers…..4 years college, books, R&B, an extra half year (just in case), travel, study abroad, less guaranteed scholarships only. We told our son not to let the money be the driving factor that of the 5 we narrowed it down to, we could make 4 work. His response was “do we really have to do this, just go with Cornell” which happened to be the lowest cost. Still laugh about it.

    Give them a call and set up a tour. They’re really nice people.

  • 88. cpsobsessed  |  May 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Well I started listening to Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be – An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni of the NYT on audible.

    It’s interesting, but I don’t think I’m the target. I’ve never had the ivy-or-die mentality nor is it even remotely relevant to my kid (as far as I can tell yet.) Probably will be to my niece who has that kind of drive.
    I do think that the SEHS process helps make the college admission process seem much less stressful. Most parents don’t have to go through any admission process until college time so they don’t have our “practice” with it.

    I did enjoy his counts of how few top CEOs and politicians went to Ivies. That was insightful. Really very very few.

    However, it’s kind of funny with the recent election under our belt to even think of politicians as aspirational. He mentions Chris Christie a lot (tried for ivies, went to Delaware. And look at him now! So successful!) Hee hee. It’s hard for me to think of him in any other way but his shifty-eyed appearance next to Donald Trump.

  • 89. cpsobsessed  |  May 28, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I saw this one TV today – a site where kids can make an online portfolio with photos, videos, recommendations, etc about themselves to include in their application. Not sure how I feel about it…

  • 90. HSObsessed  |  May 31, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    @88 – I think it’s actually kind of a liability to attend an Ivy League school because the rest of your life, you have to think of ever more creative ways of dropping that fact into the first 10 minutes of a conversation any time you meet anyone new! LOL.

  • 91. JuniorMom  |  December 31, 2016 at 11:17 am

    It’s been awhile since anyone has posted on this thread. As we are now approaching the deadline for college applications (and the ea/ed decisions are out) does anyone have any exciting college news to report or advice on college applications?

  • 92. HSObsessed  |  January 3, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    @91 – My kid is in the throes of it all right now, with many applications in and one more to go. She’s already been accepted to two schools, with a very generous scholarship to one of them. They are her so-called “safety” schools, but nonetheless both very solid educational options, so hey, good news: She’ll definitely be going to college somewhere! All kidding aside, there are many good colleges out there, but the process of visiting and applying is fairly nerve-wracking.

    I’ve learned that applying to private institutions is very different from my experience of just submitting ACT scores and high school transcripts to U of I 30 years ago. Especially for creative programs like the one my kid is applying to, they ask some pretty outrageous stuff for the essays. One was, ” What is a problem that you see in the world, and what have you done to solve it?” Ummm, hello? These kids are 17 years old? I thought they learn to solve world problems once they, y’ know, get to college? I’m expecting she’ll get a thin envelope from that one. 🙂

  • 93. IB/IB mom (formerly IB and AC mom)  |  January 3, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    @91 Yes. We cast a wide net as my daughter who worked hard, but wasn’t a straight A student thought she wasn’t going to get accepted anywhere. I thought she would have no problem getting accepted to the colleges she was looking at especially with all the advanced classes and her extra circulars, but her ACT wasn’t as high as we would like it to be. Soon I started to worry so we applied to a bunch of schools that offered her free applications as well as the schools she was really targeting. My daughter has around 13 acceptances, and only one school that she didn’t get into. There are a couple we are waiting on still. I am thinking my lack of knowledge, her anxiety, and remembering the whole SEHS process made us go a bit overboard with applications. She also did receive scholarships at pretty much all of them. The only one we don’t have any scholarship offers from yet is UIUC. I hear they don’t give out much and that is the most recent acceptance she had received.

    My advise would be prep for the ACT, start visiting schools early, look at the schools website to see automatic scholarship GPA and ACT criteria, apply early, and if money is a driving factor, get to know the schools that offer the Midwest Student Exchange Program.

  • 94. westrogersparkmom  |  January 3, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    We are in the throes of it right now. It is much more overwhelming than the SEHS process when there were a finite number of options even if you cast a wide net. Even when you know what you want to major in there are so many options of schools that fit your child’s profile. I shudder to think of how much we have shelled out in application fees.

    My daughter is ‘in’ to many schools but still has to ‘audition’ for her major for most of them. I have stayed out of it except for nagging her to make sure she got things done. I haven’t even looked at her pre-screen or her common app essay. She has read me snippets of a few essays and with the exception of telling her she should not write an essay about striving not to get ‘C’s her senior year have pretty much stayed out of it. I must admit that there hasn’t been much urgency to the process since she was accepted to UIUC in her major. Because my husband and I purchased College Illinois back in the day it is going to be extremely difficult to beat that financially. The problem is she really wants musical theatre, which they don’t offer.

    We have been pleasantly surprised by her acceptances so far and there has only been one rejection that was an unpleasant surprise. I do think her common app essay rocked and her grades and the fact that she took the hardest classes she could in her school helped.

    It does seem that the private schools give enough aid to bring the cost down to that of UIUC. One school that was 60k gave her 30k a year.

    In the beginning of the process her guidance counselor told me two things: 1) don’t force her to major in something she doesn’t want to do (which is why she is trying for fine arts); and 2) don’t apply to schools just because they waive the application fee unless you would have applied there anyway. She said schools do that to decrease their acceptance rates and seem more competitive.

    Good luck all!

  • 95. robin in WRP  |  January 4, 2017 at 6:59 am

    A word of warning regarding private schools. My daughter received a very generous financial aid package as a freshman from American University. We also discovered that while they provide aid to 35% of freshman, they provide aid to 18% of all students, including the graduate and law schools. Despite being on the Dean’s list both semesters, she was offer no aid for her second year, and transferred to UIUC (where she is surprisingly very happy).

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