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Would you comment on son's list of colleges?

MissouriGalMissouriGal 109 replies20 threads Junior Member
edited July 2009 in Parents Forum
No particular order. He is a total math nerd and wants to major in physics or mathematics, and that's all he cares about. Has he left out any obvious contender? Thanks for your help.

Harvey Mudd
Caltech
MIT
Stanford
UC Berkeley
Princeton
UMichigan
Carnegie Mellon
UChicago
UWisconsin-Madison
UIllinois-Urbana-Champaign
Our State Flagship (Financial and Admission Safety)
edited July 2009
31 replies
Post edited by MissouriGal on
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Replies to: Would you comment on son's list of colleges?

  • gadadgadad 7471 replies302 threads Senior Member
    Nice list - does he need all three of Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois?
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  • LurkNessMonsterLurkNessMonster 1932 replies83 threads Senior Member
    Will you be needed any merit aid in order for him to attend? If so, I recommend including a school or two known for its financial aid. OOS publics are usually bad in that regard. The tippy-top schools on your son's list like Stanford and MIT don't give merit aid at all.
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  • nngmmnngmm 5613 replies95 threads Senior Member
    It is a good list, as far as school quality goes, though it is strange to see Harvey Mudd and CalTech on the same list as Berkeley and UWisconsin-Madison...
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  • maritemarite 21343 replies243 threads Senior Member
    S's total math nerd chums (all graduated now) attended:
    Harvey Mudd
    Cornell
    Chicago
    Duke
    MIT
    Princeton
    Harvard
    Caltech
    Yale

    Other schools to consider:
    Berkeley
    Michigan
    Wisconsin
    Rice
    Brown for applied math
    NYU for applied math
    Wlliiams
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  • thumper1thumper1 78278 replies3527 threads Senior Member
    Good list I suppose. Without knowing your son's stats, it's very hard to say whether this is a good list or not. The schools look highly competitive to me (even the OOS publics). I'm wondering what he thinks his match schools are...and I hope he loves that instate flagship safety. My guess is there are others that could be added but without knowing your son's info, that is hard to determine.

    Marite's list is excellent...but only if your kiddo has very very good standardized test scores, GPA/class rank. Those schools are highly competitive (and excellent).
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  • AnudduhMomAnudduhMom 747 replies36 threads Member
    + Rensselaer + RIT - Berkeley maybe (UC schools for Out Of State applicants >3% acceptance rate, lower than most Ivy League schools)
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  • mathmommathmom 33186 replies161 threads Senior Member
    Marite's list is just a list of where the students actually attended. I'm sure they all had safeties. My son had both small and large schools on his list. He was adamant that all he cared about was the quality of the academics in his field. When he pronounced both Caltech and Berkeley as equally fine, I decided to believe him. It looks like a good list. My son is majoring in computer science and minoring in physics at Carnegie Mellon.
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  • midmomidmo 3715 replies5 threads Senior Member
    He is a total math nerd and wants to major in physics or mathematics and that's all he cares about.

    1. I wonder how much he would like UChicago's required core curriculum if he has little real interest in a wider range of topics.

    2. I have the same question as LurkNessMonster regarding merit money. I don't think UIUC or UW-Madison are offering much in the way of financial aid or merit money to OOS, MI is very tough to get OOS, and a student I know who was admitted to top IVYs got nothing at UC-B. How about including Rice if merit money is of interest (I know students offered half-tuition who got nothing from some of the public unis on your list)? Some of the other top privates are also a better source of merit money for really top students than OOS publics--and they are also more generous with need-based aid because there is not a preference for in-state students.

    3. I think nngmm's comment is worth thinking about. UCB, WI, MI, UIUC are huge campuses. They even make your own flagship public look cozy. Harvey Mudd and CalTech are smaller than many high schools. Some students prefer large, some prefer small, but I don't think the size factor is entirely irrelevant for most undergraduates.
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  • MissouriGalMissouriGal 109 replies20 threads Junior Member
    Mathmom, does your son like it at Carnegie Mellon? When I saw that name on son's list I went to their website and the computer program looked so fascinating. I still have no idea what my son may wind up "doing" after he graduates.
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  • ModadunnModadunn 6178 replies85 threads Senior Member
    Niece was total Math nerd and attended Reed.
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  • pixeljigpixeljig 1220 replies208 threads Senior Member
    what would be good safety list for such a student? My reason for asking is DS loves Math and Comp Sc but the list above is not going to be within his reach. We are looking at GT, UT, SMU, Vandy....................he wants to stay away from cold.
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  • maritemarite 21343 replies243 threads Senior Member
    For comp sci, I would look at other schools besides those I listed. CMU;UIUC;RPI;WPI come to mind.
    Among LACs, besides Williams and HMC, I should have added Reed and Carleton.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13733 replies113 threads Senior Member
    The schools S1 (math/CS major) had on his list were:

    UChicago (attending)
    Mudd
    MIT
    UMD
    Cornell
    CMU
    Caltech
    UMich
    Stanford
    Harvard (applied at last minute when new FA was announced)

    S picked Chicago because he wanted the Core -- he knew this was his opportunity to dip his toes in other waters. Other schools he considered: Reed (loved it), Berkeley (math grad students told him don't come for UG), Swat, Pomona, Williams, Princeton, Carleton. Other good math programs: UCLA, NYU, Grinnell.

    If your math major has significantly more work under his belt than BC Calc, do some serious investigation as to whether a school's program can keep him busy for four years. At one school, S was told that the last time a student had come into their program with the amount of math S did, he wound up transferring to Harvard (obviously, this was a few years ago, since H no longer accepts transfers). While S liked smaller schools, he found that the resources of a research U were essential. Even within that limitation, the ability to move on a faster track was crucial. By way of comparison, Analysis is a junior (or even senior) year course at many schools, and it is generally considered the make-or-break for math majors. At some of the top schools, it is possible for freshmen to place into Analysis or beyond.

    If you search on "math major" in the 2010 parents thread, we covered a bunch of this same ground and I posted some links for math major types.
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  • MissouriGalMissouriGal 109 replies20 threads Junior Member
    Counting Down, what schools were the ones your son determined he would be actually challenged at for four years of math? This is going to be important for my son as well.

    If you don't mind saying.
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  • MidwestParentMidwestParent 807 replies45 threads Member
    As someone else mentioned, it is hard to comment on a list without knowing stats. College admissions can be very tricky. Might want to add more "safeties". Case in point - my nephew. Brilliant kid - NMF, SAT 2390 (one and only sitting), Pres Schol semi, IB diploma, val, played a sport, lots of ECs including an internship at a national museum, etc. etc. Rejected at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Accepted at Harvey Mudd, CalTech, WashU, and Northwestern (and some safeties offering four year free rides). Ultimately decided that he wasn't 100% sure he was "all science" and is attending Northwestern. Good choice in that he changed to a nonscience major his sophomore year!
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13733 replies113 threads Senior Member
    Here's the beginning of the math discussion I mentioned previously -- goes from p. 619 through page 621.
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/544629-parents-class-2010-a-619.html

    S had BC Calc, Calc-based stat, multivariable, differential equations, lin alg, discrete math, complex analysis and a proof course, plus he self-studied complexity theory and other areas of theoretical comp sci (which is heavily applied math) while still in high school. Basically, he didn't apply to a school unless he felt the department would be able to offer what he needed. At some schools, this would have involved some independent study with a prof; in others, there are multiple levels of analysis/abstract algebra courses offered; some offer early graduate work; at others, there was generous placement/options to test into courses. We know tippy-top math folks who have attended each of these various options.

    S's top three going into senior year were UChicago, Mudd and MIT (in that order), and he was fortunate to be accepted at all three. Each has its pluses and minues, both in the math dept. and in the school itself, but these are the schools that spoke most clearly to S. Depending on someone's other interests, specific fields of interest in math, etc., there are a number of excellent choices.

    His experience is NOT typical. His college search was very department- and program-focused and he wanted strong CS as well. There were many, many excellent schools (UW-Madison for math and UIUC for CS in particular) that simply weren't on his radar due to size and that he really, really, really liked the UChicago/Mudd vibe. The fact he liked UMich was astonishing to us.
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  • mathmommathmom 33186 replies161 threads Senior Member
    My son loves Carnegie Mellon. He has no regrets about being there (and he turned down Harvard to attend.) My one reservation about Carnegie Mellon is that, more than most schools, you can be a 100% computer geek there. The generous AP policy means he's only had to take a couple of courses outside his interests. They tend to assign roommates with similar interests - his freshman roommate was in engineering and it seemed like most of his floor were either in engineering or computer science. I'm told that if you want to it's easy to branch out and meet other people, but it's also easy not to. Given that my kid was likely to go find his own crowd no matter where he was, it's nice for him to feel like he's normal and not a rareity. Academically he's been challenged - and he's got a good well-paying internship this summer - which he found through the CMU grapevine.

    From the feel - I'd say CMU is a little more pre-professional than most colleges. It has a lot of kids who already know what they want to be when they grow up and is particularly strong in those fields. (i.e. engineering, computer science, drama, music, art and architecture.)
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  • maritemarite 21343 replies243 threads Senior Member
    Missourigal:
    We had the exact same concerns as Countingdown for S. We regretfully eliminated LACs for the reasons Countingdown cites: not enough advanced courses offered on a regular basis. The universities listed in this thread all offer the range of courses that an advanced student (someone who has already moved beyond BC-Calc while in high school) would want to take. S eliminated Chicago from his list because he was not sure about the Core :).
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  • midmomidmo 3715 replies5 threads Senior Member
    do some serious investigation as to whether a school's program can keep him busy for four years.

    MissouriGal, my initial reaction to this post by CountingDown was that most universities (as opposed to LACs) will have plenty of math to offer advanced undergraduates because of the availability of graduate level courses. However, upon thinking about it a bit more, I agree that your son should ask specific questions about curriculum flexibility, rules related to enrollment in graduate level courses, etc. My son is a computer science and math major at a private university that has very different rules for students enrolled in the College of Arts and Science and those enrolled in the School of Engineering (which is where computer science is found, in this case). As an "engineering" student also majoring in math, he gets to follow the rules of the engineering school, and in this case, those rules are far more flexible than those dictating curriculum for students in A and S. As a result, he has been allowed to enroll in advanced courses from the start, including topology as a freshman--not such a hot idea, BTW, even for a student with several post-BC courses taken at a university while still in high school. (Son likes math to the extent that it serves his interests in cs and A.I., unlike most math majors who love it for its own sake.)

    So, yes, encourage your son to make appointments and ask pointed questions of undergraduate program directors in the math and physics departments, if those are his probable majors.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13733 replies113 threads Senior Member
    Midmo -- S has also found that the CS department has been very flexible about placement whereas math departments are a little more sequence-oriented. (At UChicago, they are both in the same school.) S is a theoretical CS guy, so where his interests lie straddle both CS and math. He's majoring in math to support the CS, too, though he is also very fond of pure math (geometry, not so much).

    Will agree with mathmom that there are some schools (for S, Mudd and MIT in particular) where S felt he would be able to settle into a life of happy social geekdom and live in his comfort zone. With Chicago, he felt like he'd be challenged to break out of that zone, and it was a pivotal point in his decision. OTOH, he is working at MIT this summer and has absolutely loved it.
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