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Not sure how to go about a college search for son

3bound3bound 23 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
Hi all. I'm new to this board and not sure how to help my son search for a college. He's a junior looking to major in chemical engineering. We live in Texas but he's mostly wanting to go out of state. He is only slightly interested in UT Austin and possibly Rice but not sure if he's eligible.

Asian male - interested in chemical engineering
GPA 5.57 (I don't know what weighted or unweighted means)
He's ranked in the top 1% of his class
Hasn't taken the SAT's or ACT's yet
Involved in various honor societies
Eagle Scout - has leadership position
Band - has leadership position
Various other activities

Are the US College and News rankings reliable? How do we determine which schools are a reach/just right/are a safety? With this resume, would he be eligible for any merit scholarships?

Thank you!
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Replies to: Not sure how to go about a college search for son

  • Hokie_gl32Hokie_gl32 186 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Weighted GPA's factor in whatever grade "bump" stuff like honors or AP courses add to their grade. Sometimes when you take an AP course they add 0.5 or 1.0 to your final grade, giving it "weight" over other courses, and pushing your overall GPA above what it would be without the bump "unweighted". A 5.57 is more than likely a weighted GPA (most GPA's unweighted are out of a 4.0, though idk maybe your son's HS has it out of 6 or something).

    Standardized exam scores are going to be important, as well as AP courses (math and science particularly if he wants to get admitted to engineering). Anyway, is money no object? Texas has some great engineering schools, and if you arent flush with money I would really recommend staying in state. Scholarships are fickle, it's hard to say.
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  • 3bound3bound 23 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Reading your reply, it sounds like it's a weighted GPA. That's exactly what they do, add something to give them credit for an advanced academic or AP.

    I agree! It would make the most sense to stay in state. I would say at most that we could afford $40k for tuition, room and board.
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  • carachel2carachel2 2952 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,975 Senior Member
    $40K per year or $40K total?

    What's your EFC?
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  • 3bound3bound 23 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    $40k per year. I don't know what EFC means. We are just starting out...
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5218 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,219 Senior Member
    Unweighted GPA tops out at a maximum of 4.0, or at a few schools 4.3 (if the school gives a 4.3 for an A+). Weighted GPA is computed so differently at different schools that it doesn't mean much and is nearly impossible to compare between schools. 5.57 is way above the highest possible score at our local school. On the other hand, "He's ranked in the top 1% of his class" is helpful information and pretty much answers the GPA issue.

    The first thing that most students have to figure out is the budget. University can be *very* expensive. Some schools cost over $70,000 per year, and while 4 years might be considered normal, quite a few students take 5 years to graduate. Thus at least in my opinion it is a good idea to have a "non catastrophic" plan if university goes 5 years.

    Each college and university in the US has a "net price calculator" which you can use to get a guess regarding what any particular school will cost. If you are divorced, or own a small business, rental property, or a farm then the NPC tends to be not accurate. Otherwise they are usually relatively accurate, but they don't take inflation into account. Some will ask information that will be taken into account when deciding upon merit scholarships, and will report on likely merit scholarship.

    I don't put much faith in USNWR rankings.

    You have very good options in-state. I wouldn't spend much more to go to an equivalent school out of state. "I want to go out of state" is a common opinion of high school students, which can be an expensive opinion.

    If you have more younger kids, then whatever you spend on your first kid is a precedent that you really should live up to for your other children.

    You can learn a lot on college confidential.
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  • Hokie_gl32Hokie_gl32 186 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Well, you would want to check what your son's unweighted GPA is. Many colleges take away the weights in order to have a more apples to apples comparison among applicants. I've never understood the fascination some people have with going out of state, especially if they aren't wealthy to pay it all out of pocket. I get like if the college is right in your hometown and you feel like you haven't gone anywhere, but travel like an hour or two away to campus and honestly it may as well be another state. Anyway, feel free to look at rankings, but don't get caught up on them. I would suggest looking at which colleges have good compsci programs, comparing them to your son's gpa/SAT, and visiting some campuses. Don't get overly hung up on rankings.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76099 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,762 Senior Member
    edited February 2018
    5.57 looks like a weighted GPA with very exaggerated weighting (with +2 or more weights for some courses). However, class rank is used instead of GPA for Texas public universities. You can calculate unweighted GPA on a 4.0-point scale by adding up the grades (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F = 0) and then dividing this sum by the number of grades. Unweighted GPA with context of what kind of courses (regular versus honors/AP/IB/college) is more easily compared and understood by those outside your high school.

    Best to take the SAT and ACT this school year so that he has scores before senior year (would give him a retry opportunity in senior year if desired). Reserve the last SAT date of this school year for SAT subject tests if any school of interest wants them. Rice recommends "Two SAT Subject Tests in fields related to the proposed area of study", which means for engineering applicants "Math + a science (preferably chemistry or physics)". Note: a student can take up to three SAT subject tests on one test date.

    But it looks like he has automatic admission to all Texas public universities, so then the main concern at Texas public universities is whether he will be admitted to his desired major. Top 1% rank certainly helps, but strong test scores may be necessary as well at UT Austin.

    Why does he want to go out of state? Have you told him the price limit? (Remember to consider any younger kids' college money and your own retirement before deciding what to promise him.)
    edited February 2018
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  • 3bound3bound 23 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    I've recently begun poking around this site and it's overwhelming. He will be the first one to go to college. Have 2 more behind him. I'll call the counselor tomorrow and find out what the unweighted GPA is. He's probably looking out of state because we're not from here. Hopefully he'll come around.
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  • carachel2carachel2 2952 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,975 Senior Member
    Go to the Financial Aid forum and learn how it all works in regards to your EFC and different schools. Do that now before you get started on this journey. It can really help you focus. If your EFC is $65K and he gets into a school that costs $65K/year then you will likely have to pay that amount/year and that could be painful if you only have $40K per year to spend.

    Here is a quick reference chart (although to make it more complicated, some schools like Rice, etc. use a more complicated and detailed method to determine financial aid called the CSS profile). Find your income and then match it to your EFC. https://www.google.com/search?q=efc+quick+reference+table+2016&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9w_vrpMXZAhUHHqwKHXYlAIUQ_AUICigB&biw=1440&bih=776#imgrc=HXPDcCnAUsCkAM:

    If he has test scores to match his awesome rank he will get into UT engineering most likely. He will need ACT 32-33+ and continued high rank and rigor.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76099 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,762 Senior Member
    3bound wrote:
    I've recently begun poking around this site and it's overwhelming. He will be the first one to go to college. Have 2 more behind him.

    When you mentioned $40k (per year?), are you willing to make the same offer to the other two kids? If not, then you may want to re-evaluate your financial plan and how much you are willing to offer each kid in terms of college money (though note that the later kids are likely to see somewhat increased costs for the same colleges due to higher college price inflation than general inflation).
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29297 replies169 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 29,466 Senior Member
    For engineering, provided the program is accredited by ABET, it will be fine. ABET has a lot of control over the curriculum, so there is much less variability between engineering programs than for other majors. You have several absolutely terrific engineering colleges at the public universities in Texas. Take your son to visit them so he can learn more about his options there.

    Depending on how he scores on the SAT or ACT, he migh have good options out of state or at private universities in TX. While you wait for the test scores, do run the Net Price Calculators at the in-state public universities, and for any other places he thinks might be fun. Talk the numbers through with him so that he understands your limits. The sooner you are on the same page about the money, the better. Many families find that the first places the kid has heard of are way out of budget, so don't be surprised if that happens to you too! Just kick the unaffordables off the list, and move on.
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  • Hokie_gl32Hokie_gl32 186 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    @3bound I get it, your son is young and likely doesn't understand the cost difference, or what tens of thousands in student loans means to a young adult fresh out of college trying to start a life. Anyway, like you, I am from a state with a lot of great in-state schools (VA), and almost everyone I knew went in state. Trust me, once your son moves into his dorm and is on some amazing campus surrounded by people his age and everyone is giddy to make friends he won't give a second thought as to what zip code he's in.
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  • 3bound3bound 23 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    I'm listening :) Every one of your comments has been eye opening and thought provoking. Need to do some real number crunching. We are probably going to have pay a ton more for the second kid (freshman) who wants to go to vet school.
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  • amNotarobotamNotarobot 264 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 266 Junior Member
    Are the US College and News rankings reliable?
    Not reliable for applicants and their parents to know if a school is a fit for them, but is pretty accurate in determine the level of difficulty to get in, the higher the rank, the less of chance to get accepted.

    Asian male - interested in chemical engineering
    GPA 5.57 (I don't know what weighted or unweighted means)
    He's ranked in the top 1% of his class.
    Look like your son is in very good academic standing, but unfortunately, there are tons of other Asian males probably also fit your description of your son,applying to colleges that you son will be looking to apply. The distinguish will be the personal essay likely. Suggest you and your son to go to Youtube looking for college essays from past applicants and school administrators on this topic. You should be able to figure out what schools are looking for (elite schools; otherwise, most state schools are most likely using the GPA and test scores to decide acceptance/rejection/honor college/scholarship...

    How do we determine which schools are a reach/just right/are a safety?
    Make an appointment ASAP with your son's HS counselor and ask what past students from your high school with similar academic standing as your son's on where they applied, where they had been accepted/rejected, and where they ended up (most schools have systems to track that, such as Naviance);from there,it will paint a big picture of group of schools that are reach, match, safety for your son.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76099 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,762 Senior Member
    Note also that, at some schools, admission to engineering majors may be more selective than admission to the school generally.
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