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How much harm is it to aim too low?

CatriaCatria Registered User Posts: 11,349 Senior Member
edited November 2012 in Parents Forum
I got into an argument with my parents about the quantity of reaches I should have. And, while my reaches were affordable, they told me that I shouldn't waste my money on applying at reach schools back then, since they were such long shots. They told me that I shouldn't have a reach school at all, although a match or two (preferably low matches) was just fine with them. Their model of school selection was like 0-1-1...

Perhaps some of you have dealt with that kind of situation with your kids.
Post edited by Catria on

Replies to: How much harm is it to aim too low?

  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,986 Senior Member
    In retrospect, my D1 applied to too many reaches and not enough match/likely schools. It turned out fine, as she got great merit aid to a "likely" school and loved it (graduated in the spring). But it could have gone differently... I know now that we were lucky.

    D2 has quite a few more matches & likely schools on her list. I would say that her list has 3 reaches, 5 matches, and 2 likely (safety) schools on it.

    Now, if my kids had a school on their list that was clearly unattainable (below the 25% range in scores with a very low acceptance rate, or completely out of reach financially based on the financial calculator at the school website), then I would have discouraged them from wasting time and money on that application.

    Your post is a little confusing... "back then"? "0-1-1"? Do they have other reasons (location? affordability? school atmosphere?) that are part of their logic? If not, maybe you could just offer to pay for those application fees yourself.
  • DeskPotatoDeskPotato Registered User Posts: 1,329 Senior Member
    I'm not sure every student needs to "reach."

    What does it mean to reach? To apply to a school that is more prestigious? More challenging? More selective? Now, I'm not talking about straight-A students applying to Ivies (because "Ivies are a reach for everyone" due to the sheer numbers), I am talking about a student "reaching" up to an echelon where he/she is in the bottom quarter as far as grades/test scores/etc.

    If it's a reach for you, and you're kind of at the bottom of the applicant pool, unless that is for some reason that is about to change (you had low freshman grades but then got your act together; you're actually a top-notch student, e.g.), that means you are anticipating bringing up the rear as far as talent and ability go for the next four years. If that's o.k. with you, great. Harvard calls that "the happy bottom quarter." Some kids thrive being among the most accomplished peers, and are spurred to greater accomplishments trying to keep up.

    But some kids get discouraged. Or lose out on opportunities because they are never the star-bellied Sneetch who gets picked for the plum role in the show, the teaching assistant job, the summer research fellowship, or whatever. Every school has competitive opportunities--at the "reach" school, will you be completely out of luck competing for these things?

    My daughter decided she'd probably have a better experience at a school where she was top of the class (e.g., invited honors program, etc) than where she squeaked in under the wire and would always have trouble standing out. She had one "reach" on her list and didn't see any particular reason to add others. (Nice upside of this strategy--merit scholarship.)
  • CatriaCatria Registered User Posts: 11,349 Senior Member
    When I was applying for undergraduate schools, 0-1-1 means that I had no reach and I had 1 safety for every match I had.

    For grad schools my parents have location-based objections for my reaches. (Tufts and U Toronto are too far from home while my matches and safety were not) They also didn't want to waste my money on the GRE and the TOEFL, which are requirements for my American reach school.
  • MSNDISMSNDIS Registered User Posts: 240 Junior Member
    As a parent with a senior in high school, I can understand why your parents don't want to pay for schools you most likely will not get into. My D wanted to apply to CMU but after attending an info. session last month, it became apparent that she does not have the test scores to get into that school. If I recall correctly, the application fee is $75 and it costs $22 to send her SAT and ACT scores to the school. In addition, it is $2 to send her HS transcript (although it is uploaded to the CA so that $2 covers three schools) and a little over $5 to send her community college transcript. We already have an older daughter in college and are paying as she goes (that takes ALL our disposable income) so the approximately $100 to apply to CMU is wasteful, in my opinion, and something we can't afford to throw away. Now, if she wanted to pay for it herself that is a different story and she is free to throw her own money away. However, she decided not to waste her own money (no surprise there). I suggest you pay for the reach school yourself and that way you don't have to worry about if your parents will let you apply there or not.
  • boysx3boysx3 Registered User Posts: 5,164 Senior Member
    what kind of graduate programs are you looking at? In some field, prestige of degree matters; in others, not so much. And what is the reason for geographic restrictions? Do they wish you to live at home to save expenses in an unfunded program?
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,836 Senior Member
    I hesitate to ask this, but why are your parents involved in a grad school search for you?
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,548 Senior Member
    Catria, I'm confused.

    Are you applying for college or graduate school?
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,836 Senior Member
    Are the TOEFL and GRE required for admission to any of your grad school choices? If so, you will not be considered for admissions until the schools receive the scores.
  • CatriaCatria Registered User Posts: 11,349 Senior Member
    what kind of graduate programs are you looking at? In some field, prestige of degree matters; in others, not so much. And what is the reason for geographic restrictions? Do they wish you to live at home to save expenses in an unfunded program?

    I'm looking at physics graduate programs; if Canadian, a MSc will do (not that I have the research experience for direct PhD admission in a Canadian school, even if, like American schools that offer both MSc and PhD, Canadian schools automatically consider MSc applicants for PhD admission), if American, PhD or I'm better off not applying. Is physics a field where prestige of one's degree matters, for a given specialization?

    I did my research about funding; while Canadian schools are usually transparent enough about funding to do financial planning with the data they give out, since all my Canadian MSc choices are fully funded, I had to rely on third-party info to find what funding Tufts offered doctoral students ($22,660/year for five years, plus tuition remission, for physics PhD students) so they can't claim it's to save on an unfunded program.
    I hesitate to ask this, but why are your parents involved in a grad school search for you?

    As an autistic student, my parents have additional worries about how my autism would hurt if left to my own, away-from-home devices. They are afraid U Toronto or Tufts aren't exactly willing to help out autistic graduate students either.
    Catria, I'm confused.

    Are you applying for college or graduate school?

    Grad school. Although their objections about having too many reaches apply to both undergraduate and graduate admissions.

    Tufts is already a reach since I don't have research experience, yet Tufts has an abysimal yield (4 who attend out of the 22 who are admitted for 2012, compared to ~40-50% for the top programs) and an average or even subpar graduate program (unless Marchesini can redeem it in my eyes, since Marchesini is the one I want to work with at Tufts) when compared to my Canadian options.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 25,487 Senior Member
    Grad school admission is an entirely different thing from undergrad admission. Ask your professors for their advice on your list, and go get some pointers from the people in the Grad School Forum. Your list depends on your career goals. An MSc so you can get a job doing X and a PhD program where you can prepare for a research career working on Y will result in completely different college lists.
  • LBowieLBowie Registered User Posts: 1,726 Senior Member
    I have more experience what grad admissions to biology and chemistry programs, but I would agree with you 100% that two schools is probably not enough. I also have not really heard the terms "match" and "reach" applied to graduate programs as much as undergraduate. Your letters of recommendation will play a huge role in admission to MS/PhD programs, so choose your letter writers wisely. Prior research experience, whether through independent study or work experience, definitely helps, and most students who are admitted to PhD programs have some coming in (though again I am more familiar with chemistry and biology than physics). Be careful stating negative opinions of the program you are applying to in online forums.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    Graduate school is one area where paying attention to prestige of the institution/program does count, especially if one is going into a highly competitive academic or professional field.

    This is doubly important if you're looking into becoming a Prof. at the college level considering the increasing glut of PhDs from top 5-10 programs in their respective fields...even in the STEM area.

    Granted, a top grad program may not necessarily be located in the most prestigious university as the top 5 philosophy PhD programs at Rutgers or UPitt can attest to.

    It's even more so for competitive pre-professional programs like law as several of my law school friends found to their chagrin due to the post-2008 economy.

    A few are still kicking themselves for turning down admission to a T-20 or even T-10 law school to attend a tier-3/4 law school as they've now find themselves hardpressed to compete with graduates/experienced lawyers from those top-tier schools for the few available jobs and heavily in debt due to being trapped by the bait & switch scholarship practices common among lower-tiered law schools.*

    * Placing minimum class ranking/GPA requirements to keep scholarship and then deliberately placing all scholarship students in the same sections so at least 50% or more lose their scholarships after 1 year.
  • CatriaCatria Registered User Posts: 11,349 Senior Member
    Please, I think this thread has been hijacked.

    But perhaps there are parents (other than the parents who want their kids to attend "reach-for-anyone" schools) who would actually discourage their kids from applying to certain reach schools...
  • LBowieLBowie Registered User Posts: 1,726 Senior Member
    In what way do you feel the thread has been hijacked? You have gotten some good advice here.

    Also, I think parents are often far less involved in graduate school admissions. Not only are students more independent at that point, but it is harder to counsel our kids because the programs are so field- and subfield-specific that it can be hard for parents to be good judges of quality. There can be great, world-class programs at second tier institutions, and there can be fabulous faculty researchers at many different places. Students and their undergraduate faculty mentors usually know much more than parents do.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,986 Senior Member
    Agree, don't think it has been hijacked at all. They are discussing whether it matters to attend a prestigious program or not. Although an analogy was made to another field (law), the discussion is still relevant.

    Did you live at home or very near to home during your undergrad? Your mention of autism probably puts this in a different light, too. It gives a reason why your parents have some concerns about you going further away. But I do think you are getting some good advice to apply to more than a couple of schools, and to work with your undergrad faculty to determine what is an appropriate list.
This discussion has been closed.