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Tracking journey, thought-process, for kid whose safety is currently #1

cypresspatcypresspat 438 replies10 threads Member
edited June 7 in Parents Forum
After discovering CC a few months ago, I've been reading rather obsessively and occasionally posting a snarky comment here and there. I haven't contributed much actual knowledge or insight to the board. What I have found most helpful is reading posts about kid's/families experiences, often tracing back a couple of years, where we get to learn the 'end' of the story. So, in the hopes of helping someone else one day, here I will begin to document our journey. If you are reading this in mid-2020 and are just starting out, good luck!

Background: Youngest kid is s20; older kids went to state schools, are launched and are doing fine. Neither were particularly good students so the acceptance to those schools were met with whoops and hollers. Current s20 ruined our plans for another pretty easy college-search-acceptance thing, as he turned out to be a good student. 4.0UW/4.6W; 1510 SAT (790 Math); two varsity sports and pretty accomplished musician (goes to a very diverse high school which is ALL about the music program). Will have 7 APs when done (all of the lab sciences; Calc BC, CS) Has gotten 5's on AP tests so far. Took Math and Chem SAT subject tests last week - won't have scores until July. He's done none of the other ECs (impossible to do with his sports team demands). His two sports teams were top ten in the state - very competitive and time consuming. (has received some outreach from D3 schools for one of his sports; he's not interested). Summer/vacation job=construction (works for a house flipper for past 3 years). Tutors young kids in math about 5 hours a week during the summer (which is more about their getting to hang with one of the HS athletes for a while every week). Desired major: chemical engineering.


Kid personality: Quiet rule-follower. He is very resilient (has never complained about a single thing about school - seems to be able to weather storms with bad teachers, bad classes, bad (jerk) coaches, etc.). He has this intense sense of fairness - anything he sees as unfair is a real turn-off for him. We have visited a few schools already (Michigan, UCLA, USC, UCSB, and UCSD). These visits helped form his process of deciding about colleges (see below). His "loving" a school has everything to do with the chem eng dept, and pretty much nothing else. [and he spent a whole year job shadowing, etc., to get to chem engineering, so while the 'chem' part of engineering might not stick, pretty confident the 'engineering' part will]. Schools off the list: USC, UCSB and UCSD. Schools still on list: UCLA and Michigan.

Kid desires in college: He is ALL ABOUT the facilities, curriculum and accomplishments of the professors in the chem engineering dept. He's read the recent pubs of all of the chem engineering professors for any school on his list. He did this both to judge the overall flavor of the dept. but also to know how many of them are prolific researchers. All that being said, our state flagship, which is a safety for him, is his #1. Reasons being the dept. is aligned with what he wants to see in a chem eng dept., it is the closest of his potential schools (2 hours drive), his brother went there and so we already own all of the t-shirts, it is reasonably ranked for Chem Eng, his best friend is likely to go there, it meets his strong desire for racial diversity, and you can't beat its price tag. He knows the school's personality well having been to 15 million football games there.

That being said.....he is not immune to the prestige factor. So, his plan is this: apply early to flagship and get that in the can as early as possible. Spend the summer identifying/visiting schools which satisfy the prestige factor for him to solidify his list. He has created his current list based on the chemical engineering departments (and sometimes there is only a single professor there who makes the cut, but there has to be something else awesome about the school in order to overcome that problem). If he is in love with one of the non-flagship schools AND our EFC shows something less than full-pay, he might go ED for that school (if it has one). If that happens, we'll have to have the 'you really want to go here full-pay?" conversation early on (see below, I don't think he could bring himself to ask his parents to pay $70K a year for his college). We are ok with that.

So now let's talk about $. We have been uber-nerdy 401K people our whole careers (maxing out, always) and we are knocking on the door of retirement age. Husband works full time but I technically work part-time (but in reality, I 'work' full time because half of my time is devoted to an important community project which I am pro bono on. I can switch back to full time pay - I'm a consultant - if need be, making us comfortably 'full-pay' if that is what is needed). So the calculators for the private schools (and one of the publics, curiously) have us getting around -$20K at all of the schools he is targeting right now based on current income and assets.

Current list: and, YES, I know, these are all reach for him and pretty much anyone else. But that is the idea. He loves his safety school but likes the chem engineering depts. for these schools, too, so they are getting a good look:

Michigan
UCLA
UVA
Georgia Tech
University of Rochester
Cornell
Notre Dame

He is fully aware that the chances are quite strong that he gets one acceptance and 7 rejections. I have begged him to get another safety, but no luck. If he does not get into our flagship, he will be the one outlier from his high school in 5 years, by .6 GPS points and 75 SAT points, to not get accepted. HIGHLY unlikely. He has at least agreed to do that app first so he can do a great job on it. Small victory. All arguments to apply to one or two more safeties have been futile because he insists he would go to a CC and transfer to the flagship before he would go to any of those other schools. He says it isn't a safety if he wouldn't go there. He has researched DOZENS of chem eng depts. to death.

So while he is Mr. Rational when judging a college (I think caring about the professors and curriculum and not the quality of the dorm rooms is pretty smart), he does occasionally make offhand comments like "It would be so great if I could go to ______ (fill in blank with any of the schools above)." And that is all about the cache, I assume. But I really doubt that if faced with a full-pay Prestige College and the state flagship he would insist for the full-pay option. Again, he has been fully briefed on the vagaries of financial aid and merit aid and all that. We can't really tell if he knows he has a great thing in his back pocket and is giving these other schools a try for the heck of it, OR, that deep down he REALLY wants to not go to the state flagship but, being a pretty self-less and easy-to-please kid, would never ask his parents to spend $200K more for something just because he likes it better. It would be really out of character for him to think that way. He is a really old and caring soul in many ways and has never asked for a single thing from us, really. In one way I'd be thrilled for him to get acceptance to one of those schools (I am secretly rooting for that outcome, to be honest), but deciding between a full pay option and the state flagship would be agony for him. The ideal outcome would be he gets into one (expecting more than that is unrealistic) where he does get at least some financial/merit aid. Time will tell.

So, pending visits: Cornell and U of R. July will bring Georgia Tech, UVA and Notre Dame. My husband and I are fighting over who has to take him to Notre Dame (5 hour cornfield drive) and Georgia Tech (what, 99 degrees in the shade in July?). Will report back.
edited June 7
143 replies
Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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Replies to: Tracking journey, thought-process, for kid whose safety is currently #1

  • SouthernHopeSouthernHope 2075 replies209 threads Senior Member
    I love these kinds of stories...thank you and I will be following!
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  • cypresspatcypresspat 438 replies10 threads Member
    Yup, all accounted for.
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 1882 replies13 threads Senior Member
    I hope for a happy outcome! But I am curious - if your state flagship / safety has an awesome Chem Eng department, why wouldn't you want him going there? Nothing wrong with opening up the list a bit but most parents would be thrilled to find the "best fit U" is both cheap and close :). Some in-state schools (like UMich, UCB, UIUC, Purdue) have better engineering reputations than the some of the schools on your reach list so is it just you want a school with more prestige for him than your in-state?
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23371 replies17 threads Senior Member
    I think your son's plan is good if the instate flagship has an early acceptance date. Get in, get the sure thing, then play with house money on a few reaches. However, I think you will be full pay (according to your description) so if he won't be willing to pay $70k, he should review his list to more schools that give merit.

    Some state schools have moved back their early acceptances. Florida schools used to have a very early application and acceptance in December but I don't think that's still happening. Colorado had the first round of acceptances out before Thanksgiving but doesn't do that any more.
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  • TheodenTheoden 227 replies7 threads Junior Member
    It sounds like you have a gem of a kid. I wish him and your family the best. It's going to be exciting to watch your journey.

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  • cypresspatcypresspat 438 replies10 threads Member
    I have NO problem, at all, with his going to the state flagship. But, he is communicating through his willingness to put the effort into all of the other apps, that he might want something else. And, since is our last one, I'd kind of like something different than what his older sibs got. He's my favorite child, you see (just kidding). After all of the visits I may come to conclusion that in all important ways the flagship actually IS better, but I suspect that won't be true. I hope it is, though!

    And yes, I hope I made it clear in my post that we are 1000% aware of none of the non-flagship schools being anywhere near slam-dunks. He researched chem engineering programs TO DEATH and can tell you the specialty of several faculty members in chem engineering in about 50 different colleges. He eliminated almost every school from his list for one or another reason related to chem engineering specifically (and it wasn't always ranking - it often had to do with the particular specialties of a department - Berkeley came off the last for that reason). But there is something to the rankings because using objective measures, the schools which had what he wanted just happened to all be more elite schools. If he found a school which had what he wanted, major-wise, but wasn't one of the fancy-schmancy schools it would be on his list, for sure.

    I know he is an odd case. You don't reach about his approach very much here on CC. I am a researcher by occupation, and maybe he gets it from me. But I have zero concerns hat he hasn't gathered the right info he needs to make these important decisions or that he hasn't thought this through very carefully. He knows exactly what he wants, and can get it at the flagship but also understands that these other schools have something slightly different to offer. Until he goes to those schools, sees the facilities, talks to students and chats with a professor or two, he won't know which one he REALLY likes the best. You can only tell so much from reading peer-reviewed journal articles and college department websites. He has been emailing a chem engineering professor at a college (which he ruled out, by the way) for about six months who has been guiding him with that (e.g. which journals are most prestigious to publish in? that kind of thing).

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  • hophop 986 replies2 threads Member
    I would add in UC Berkeley and U Minnesota-TC to the list of excellent ChemE programs.
    Did I miss which is your safe state flagship?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78986 replies701 threads Senior Member
    cypresspat wrote:
    He has this intense sense of fairness - anything he sees as unfair is a real turn-off for him.

    What does he see as unfair? E.g. would it be college admissions related (e.g. legacy, development, URM admission preferences)?
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7810 replies65 threads Senior Member
    If you are going to road trip to ND...I'd encourage you to visit Purdue. They have wonderful facilities and their chem e program is ranked a tie with Cornell.

    If you are heading to see Cornell and Rochester, RPI isn't far and has great facilities.

    (My D is a chem e and visited some of the schools on your S's list - Cornell, ND, Michigan)
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 1882 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited June 6
    @cypresspat - my eldest was the same way. She took every single degree offering university in the US and narrowed them down in a spreadsheet by broad and objective criteria and then further by our input and additional, more subjective, criteria. She wanted a combination of programs that was not easy to find and her final list came out as 3 reaches, 1 match and 2 safeties. The good news is once an applicant has developed a college list via a detailed understanding of what's offered there any school on the list will be a great fit. My D was rejected by one reach, waitlisted at the 2 others and accepted at the rest of her schools. She ended up at the flagship "safety" (which is no longer much of a safety) and it truly ended up a better fit than the more prestigious reaches would have been. I'm sure your son will end up someplace great!
    edited June 6
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  • bopperbopper 14135 replies100 threadsForum Champion CWRU Forum Champion
    I hope you live in California with all of the UCs
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  • 10s4life10s4life 2222 replies47 threadsForum Champion UCLA Forum Champion
    What’s the instate flagship? If you have any questions about UCLA feel free to tag me?
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  • thumper1thumper1 75469 replies3310 threads Senior Member
    @cypresspat

    Did I miss your financial considerations? You mention that the schools on your sons list all gave him $20,000. I’m curious what sort of aid UCLA gave him...since they don’t give need based aid to OOS students.

    How much can you afford to pay annually...or will you stretch your budget for a reach school your son deems perfect in every way.

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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13500 replies110 threads Senior Member
    edited June 6
    Agree with looking at Purdue and Delaware. Has he looked at UMD? Pitt?

    Know that engineering admission stats are often much higher than the overall freshman pool. (UMD's freshman engineering program average was 4.463 W, 75%tile SAT 1510,75%tile math 790, 75%tile ACT 35.) UMD offers merit $$$.

    He has a reachy list, even with his outstanding stats. There is no one perfect school. He'll need to be flexible.
    edited June 6
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7810 replies65 threads Senior Member
    Seconding UMD since he liked Michigan.
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  • cypresspatcypresspat 438 replies10 threads Member
    @thumper1 . Didn’t bother running EFC for UCLA because I know it will be zero. Michigan, $0. Oddly, UVA was not zero (but it wasn’t $20k either, can’t remember). Georgia tech was $0 but the OOS tuition is relatively low, so that one is a fav l because it is a bargain!

    @countingdown and @momofsenior1. Purdue,Delaware and UMD all off his list because the dept. does not match his interests.


    We are not looking for more schools to apply to. He took the list (which is not hideously long) of all schools in US accredited for chem engineering. He could cross about half of them off of his list because they were in a state he refused to go to, or couldn’t hold a candle to the flagship. Of the remaining, he looked up the specialties of the departments on their websites and some engineering education website he found. He was looking for specific leanings (some are heavy industrial; some biomedical, etc.). He cut some that way. THEN he started researching the faculty. He was looking for experts in very specific things, most of which I cannot pronounce. He gave me some books to read so I could understand. Didn’t help.

    From that smaller list, he started reviewing the faculty’s publication record. He didn’t expect all of the faculty to be cranking, but if most of them hadn’t published since before he was born, the school got cut. (And let me tell ya Michigan CRANKS out publications).

    And that brings us to the current list. There is no accredited program in the US which he didn’t consider. I promise.

    I love my money as much as the next guy, but we are weird in that department, too. I kind of have discretion over how much $ I earn. So if I need to crank that up to accommodate a full pay situation, I will.



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  • cypresspatcypresspat 438 replies10 threads Member
    @twoinanddone. For sure, EA will help my sanity through this. He has already started his online application thingy, and several of his essays are done. He starts his Fall sport in August 1 and he knows that he must get as much done as possible this summer . And he is taking the SAT again because he hates his verbal score. So he’s prepping for that now, too.

    Your phrase ‘play with the house money’ is exactly as he is looking at this. He knows that all he has to lose is $500 or so in app fees and the time (which is non-trivial) for each application. Sometimes I secretly think that he just wants to know if he can get in.

    But honestly, the hard part for him is kind of over. He has been wringing his hands over what career he will want since he was five years old. He has been studying bureau of labor stats since middle school. He has interviewed dozens of professionals. The day he found chemical engineering was the happiest I have ever seen him. So THAT was the big play for him. Where he goes to college, m’eh.....not that big of a crisis. Picking a major? That drove him insane. If he was still unclear on that he would be a total mess.
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