Any advice regarding a precocious 10th grader?

<p>Thought I'd ask the parents here (having lurked a while) for their thoughts regarding our son, who is just finishing 10th grade. He's in most respects a very normal, unpretentious midwestern kid. The "problem" is that he's very bright. He's a 4.0 type at a very solid suburban public high school that sends a handful of kids each year to top schools. He'll start taking pretty much all AP and advanced courses next year and I expect he'll handle those just as well, because he's very diligent (without, thankfully, being obsessive) about his coursework. The teachers love him although he's not naturally effusive, partly because of his natural personality and partly because his speech was very compromised during his younger grade years due to some serious birth defects (too much surgery to recount here, but he's doing very well now). So while he's not quiet or particularly shy, he's simply not wordy, and not a kid who looks for leadership roles in ECs. He does well in academic competitions but his ECs are otherwise pretty thin, and we're not inclined to push him to that just to stuff his resume. </p>

<p>He is particularly good at standardized tests. He pulled a 2090 (1430) on the SAT as a 9th grader, and this year got a 35/10 on the ACT. His prep for these tests was as minimal as possible without being no prep at all (he looked at sample questions online the night before).</p>

<p>So what's the problem? Well, we're really trying to collect opinions on what his college aspirations should be, and the problem in that respect may lie more with us than with him. We fall in that financial category where we make just enough to qualify for no financial aid but not nearly enough (as we see it -- we understand ymmv) to send him to a "top tier" school at full price without developing some serious financial heartburn. (We're a little older and not entirely sure how solid our jobs are.) So we're not at all enthusiastic about steering him (or allowing him to gravitate to) such schools, although we aren't quite prepared to rule it out.</p>

<p>His interests are of course not fully formed at this age, but he seems to gravitate to the quantitative, doing well at things like accounting and math. So business, engineering, computer science might all be interests. At the same time he is just as capable in humanities. He's a voracious reader, is developing at least a spectator's interest in politics and (unknown to us until he had been doing it for quite a while, because he thinks it's no big deal, while we were amazed) has been moderating several message boards on the internet that grew out of an interest in video games. (Much like this site, the forums he works on have off topic boards that range far beyond their nominal original subject matter.)</p>

<p>So, last few facts. He is, as I said, very unpretentious, very un-preppy, very midwestern. This is a kid who does not now and never will care about the labels on his clothing. A place like Princeton or Duke (yes, we know his chances at HYP type schools are inherently unlikely as they are for just about anyone; I'm just saying) would be a culture shock that would make for a very unhappy college experience, we think. But he's not Reed or Wesleyan, either. He's probably a big University kid rather than an LAC kid because his interests are polyglot at this point and he doesn't really need much hand holding. He is not athletic, has no interest in playing sports and virtually no interest in watching sports. He might be happy at a "nerd" school (said with affection) such as MIT or CM, but we'd, well, prefer he was somewhere the M/F ratio is a bit more in his favor. We have nothing against state schools, but are we selling him short to look that direction? And finally, it sure would be nice if he could get some merit aid somewhere. Assuming he was to make NMF (who knows, but his testing proficiency certainly points to it), would we be really selling him short to look at "second tier" state schools that have big NMF awards? Do "Honors" programs at places like Michigan State, Indiana and Oklahoma really provide a good experience?</p>

<p>Thoughts, advice, even brickbats are welcome. We certainly have our own ideas, but we appreciate the value of collective wisdom (even though we may have to factor the peculiar demographics of this site's members).</p>

<p>Oh, and here's a last random question: Is there any reason at all for him to take the ACT or SAT again? What would be the point? Obviously he'll take the PSAT next fall. </p>

<p>Sorry for the wordiness!</p>

<p>For some reason, after reading your post, I thought of Carleton and Haverford colleges right away... Whitman college, too (they have merit aid and are happy to dole it out to out-of-state male applicants). You say your son does not want a LAC. Hmmm...</p>

<p>What state do you live in? If you are in a state with a strong public university system, then you might do fine with the state U -- keep in mind that the state U's are often where most of the best & brightest students end up for financial reasons.</p>

<p>How about mid-sized universities like Brown?</p>

<p>"he doesn't really need much hand holding"</p>

<p>I think the issue (at the extremes) is more sitting in the back to not get called on vs. being more-or-less forced to participate in conference-style classes; given his background he may prefer the former, maybe not. At LACs he'd be expected to develop relationships with his teachers, vs. perhaps never meeting them at the big U. I think it shouldn't be about needing the hand-holding, but rather benefiting from the closer relationships, if it fits his interests. You could be missing the perfect school for him by eliminating the LACs as a class.</p>

<p>Your best opportunity is get him some test prep materials. On line, books, tutors, etc. If he can qualify as a national merit scholar with the PSAT the fall of his junior year - there are many great schools that give full rides, or large scholarships. With light EC's - this would be your best bet for merit money and admission. I would consider some of the honors programs of the state schools - I think one of the best indicators is what happens the first two years - are they stuck in classes of 600 or will they have access to the best teachers even during those first two years? Colorado School of the Mines comes to mind - with your son's interests. Graduates make very good money and are highly recruited. Wichita State University has an excellent business program - and they give some big scholarships (inlcuding full rides) for top applying students. Washington U in St. Louis might also be a good choice based on your description. Just other thoughts - that might not be on your radar.</p>

<p>Always remember that this is your son's life- ask him his ideas about possible majors, schools, ideas he has for after HS. He may surprise you. This summer would be a good time to see the top public and private schools in your state and neighboring ones- driving distance and a good starting point in knowing what to look for. He can use these schools to get a feel for college campuses and use his instate likely safeties as a comparison basis for other schools. He should, of course, make a father-son (or mother-son, not family) trip during spring break junior year to see far away schools on his list while school is in session and use the summer before senior year as well to see schools that appeal to him. He is likely to be inundated with mail from colleges based on check off boxes on the standardized tests- read these with a large grain of salt. Often the schools that advertise the most are the least strong- the best schools do not try as hard to get the best students, they come without any hype. Beware of schools making a big deal of their honors programs, places like Michigan and Wisconsin have overall high scoring student bodies and aren't looking for NMFs to bolster their scores. Each school has its own "flavor" and your son will "click" with some and not others.</p>

<p>There are so many factors to consider in HIS choosing a college- a good place to start is to buy the US News and World Report annual college ranking magazine later this summer. The purpose is not to go for the top rated schools for the prestige but to use the wealth of information found in compact form (reading the megapage books is overwhelming). There are usually some good articles about starting the college search for both parents and child. Another useful piece of data is the 25-75%ile test scores- he won't want the ones where they are much lower than the best public colleges since they are unlikely to be a good fit for him.</p>

<p>The key word is fit- have him explore many types with high academic caliber to see which suit him. Weather, distance, liberal/conservative tone, strengths in his possible majors (remember that many change majors, he may prefer the next best school in his proposed major that has better overall academics)... Your son reminds me of mine- strong math/science interests but all round good grades and test scores, so many like them will end up at flagship U's, in the Honors Programs. </p>

<p>Go to the college information sessions offered by your son's HS. Get books from your public library on college searching, these will help and all my ideas would be a reiteration of that material. Do not bother with test prep materials, he has done fine without them. He can always retake tests spring of junior year or fall of senior year, he can decide then. Do make sure he takes any SAT subject tests as soon as he finishes/nearly finishes the course- the material will be freshest; the review of math at the beginning of Calculus, unlike my son's view, is not complete preparation of all that precalc math (there's a long story here- he ended up retaking the SAT I instead of the math SAT- a 2400 does not guarantee an elite college admission).</p>

<p>I could go on forever, but I see some posts have been written while I've been working on this. I do understand the wish for large schools, especially for science types- so many more like-minded students and opportunities. We can all give our favorite schools but your location will be a big determinant in which schools you consider in the vast heartland - very few Michigan or Wisconsin residents will bother going through Chicagoland just to be at the school on the other side of the lake.</p>

<p>Feel free to "PM" me- ie send me a private message. Also, please ID your state, that won't reveal too much personal info and would help us help you.</p>

<p>I'm thinking Carleton might be a good fit for him. It has a good math program and is excellent all around. I visited it many years ago and found it extremely appealing. I believe it gives good financial aid (I see BunsenBurner has the same idea).
Lawrence in WI is also a good possibility. I would not rule out Chicago. It has one of the strongest math programs in the country.
If he likes big, what about WI-Madison, UIUC or Michigan? All excellent state unis.</p>

I'm thinking Carleton might be a good fit for him. [...]
Lawrence in WI is also a good possibility. I would not rule out Chicago. It has one of the strongest math programs in the country.
If he likes big, what about WI-Madison, UIUC or Michigan?

Wow, Marite. My thoughts exactly. I'll throw University of Indiana into the state school consideration. </p>

<p>A 35 on the ACT is great and not worth re-taking, in my opinion. I don't think it matches with a 2090 SAT score, though. If he's interested in sending SAT scores to colleges, I think that he should retake them.</p>

<p>Skip Lawrence- consider UW-Madison if Wisconsin is on your radar. Small campus and town (son did summer GT camps on that campus- boring place) versus great campus in dynamic city... especially for sciences there is no comparison.</p>

He might be happy at a "nerd" school (said with affection) such as MIT or CM, but we'd, well, prefer he was somewhere the M/F ratio is a bit more in his favor.


<p>In his favor? I couldn't help chuckle and think back to my MIT frat party days with several women for every guy. That was when MIT was about 30% women. Now it's more 50-50.</p>

<p>As a side note, I would encourage you to not rule out schools simply because you think they might be "preppy" until your son himself visits and judges for himself. I know, for example, that a lot of people view the Ivy's as universally preppy and as a place where you have to have brand names in order to fit in---this just isn't true. While there are certainly some really stylish individuals on campus, on the whole college students are perfeclty happy walking about in sweatpants and sweatshirts or a t-shirt and jeans or whatever. Also, most kids by that age are mature enough to stop choosing their friends based on their clothing and based on personality.</p>

<p>And, also, as noted, the gender ratios are somewhat even as some tech schools.</p>

<p>I'd look very seriously at Rice. It's a very respected university with extremely strong science and engineering programs. It is a school with quite a lot of merit money for great students. It's alumni do very well. We just had an extremely positive impression of the school when our senior went through the applications season this past year. Culturally, Texas is probably not as much of a shock as the Norhteast or West Coast for a southern or midwestern student.</p>

<p>I've got lots of relatives in the midwest, I don't think the culture shock will be nearly as big as you anticipate, and I would argue college is an ideal time to get to know another part of the country that you don't know as well. As someone else pointed out the MIT M/F ratio is just about 50/50. The Ivy's are full of public school kids of middle class backgrounds. But mostly I'd say 10th grade is still very early to be think about what type of school your son should be looking at, but to throw out a name, how about Washington University in St. Louis?</p>

<p>If you think he might prefer the large school experience, have him check out the Lyman Briggs program at Michigan State---it's a great program and would give the best of both the big school and small school experiences. My son's friend absolutely loved it. </p>

<p>With his scores, he'd probably do quite well with merit money as well.</p>

<p>University of Michigan, Carlton (for smaller size), University of Chicago, Kalamazoo College, Lyman Briggs at Michigan State, University of Illinois, Purdue. If he wants to venture forth I agree with Colorado School of Mines or maybe even someplace like Michigan Tech if he's committed to a technical education/career path.</p>

I would argue college is an ideal time to get to know another part of the country that you don't know as well.


<p>I agree with this. I think a good rule for a first cut on colleges (yeah, I know smart parents disagree with me on this) is to apply to colleges more than 500 miles from home. We will except two colleges from this rule: State U, our son's presumed "safety" college, and the U of Chicago, which is just too good to pass up even though it's a day trip away. Other than that, the plan here is to apply to colleges far away, the better to learn about new places and learn from people who grew up in different regions.</p>

<p>^ 500 mile rule? That's a lot easier if you are in Minnesota than if you live in the Northeast! (Easier still if you live in, say, Utah.) I notice, however, that many people seem to have a 300-mile rule the other way: no applications more than a five-hour drive away.</p>

<p>Rads, the universe of colleges that might be appropriate for your son, based on what you know so far, is pretty much . . . the universe of colleges. He clearly will be up to a challenging college, but there are lots and lots of those. It looks like he would do well at a LAC, mid-size or large research university, or even a tech school. Lots of places that would be appropriate are very selective and difficult to predict for admissions, but some aren't so bad.</p>

<p>I would join others in recommending that he retake the SAT. Even though his ACT is great, a lot of selective colleges will be getting his SAT scores anyway, and his are certainly good but just low enough across the board to raise a little question, except that he took them in 9th grade. Also, if you wind up chasing substantial merit scholarships, you will really want test scores a level higher.</p>

<p>Finally, remember that there is a way to go yet in his high school career. Don't let your expectations become a burden on him, and remember that boys grow A LOT between the end of 10th grade and the middle of 12th. You will know a lot more about him, and he will know a lot more about himself, by the time he is actually submitting applications and making decisions.</p>

<p>Carleton is certainly a great school, but I would not characterize it as a school that gives particularly good financial aid, based on our experience, anyway. And in fact, Carleton is 90% need-aware. The U of Chicago is also a "love the school/hate the FA" place for many, including us. </p>

<p>I'd suggest that you consider Pomona. The Claremont consortium might well give him exactly what he needs, intellectually and socially, and Pomona really does have excellent financial aid. Amherst is another school to consider, for the same reasons. The question is, do you need merit aid or need-based aid? The need-blind schools with big endowments are going to define "need" more broadly than others. I would suggest running Amherst's online calculator to see what they say. (Although don't assume that schools will necessarily meet your EFC, especially if you own a business or have any assets such as real estate, even if they are not liquid assets.) </p>

<p>My relatives by marriage in the midwest tend to have a major attitude about the east. I'm a pinko-commie-intellectual. Everyone is a "snob," especially if they don't drive an American car. They aren't "real" Americans. (Some people have taken that "heartland" crap to heart. Newsflash: being located in the center of the country does not make you more American than people who live where the Revolution was fought and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written!) I'm not saying that you have a mindset that is that extreme--I would strongly doubt it :) --but do be wary of making assumptions. (I agree with post #12.)</p>

<p>Re the SAT/ACT: I doubt that a 35 is worth retaking. (For someone who scored a 35 on the ACT, IMHO a 2090 with no prep would be worth another shot--WITH PREP, which can be self-study--although others may disagree.) He will need two, or possibly three, SATIIs for quite a few schools, and if he retakes the SATI that score will appear on his score report when he sends his SATIIs to college. (I am 99% certain that an SAT taken freshman year will NOT appear.) So your best course of action would appear to be to take the PSAT for NMSQT, and to take a few SATIIs: probably Math IIC (at the end of the year that he takes pre-calc) and a science (after finishing's too late to sign up for this year, but if he did well in whatever science he took this year he COULD consider brushing up and taking the SATII in October, just to get one out of the way.) and something like history/foreign language/English.</p>

The U of Chicago is also a "love the school/hate the FA" place for many, including us.


<p>That has been the rap on Chicago for quite a few years. Is that still true this year after the Odyssey Scholarship program was announced?</p>