Need Help from Ivy Parents

<p>I believe that S2 (rising senior) is a credible candidate for the Ivies, but I have little to go on in terms of helping him develop strategy at this point, so I am reaching out for some help. So let me provide some particulars:</p>

<p>GPA: 4.0 UW (school doesn't weight);
Rank: 1/450, probably val. based on school's approach
10 APs by end of HS (2 soph., 4 jr, 4 sr), all full year APs in core subjects, and this is about all that can be fit into a schedule. I expect a mix of 4s and 5s on the tests.
ACT 36
PSAT 222 (almost 20 points above the NMSF threshold for the state)
SAT I 2360 (760 CR, 800 M, 800 W (80/11)
SAT II USHist 740, BIO 740, Math II 780</p>

<p>ECs are all "performance" related
Debate (Event Captain, 11,12), has won State in his event
Mock trial (President, 12)
MUN (President, 12)
Theatre, mostly community, including one role with a professional opera company
Founding member of a community youth Shakespeare company</p>

<p>Smattering of volunteer activities, probably around 100 hours.</p>

<p>Will be participating in the TASP program this summer.</p>

<p>His likely college focus (this week) is international relations/politics/comparative cultures. HPY would offer him unparalleled opportunities in this arena. </p>

<p>We have two strikes against us in terms of developing and impementing an Ivy/High Reach strategy. First, the local HS and its guidance staff have very little to offer regarding selective school admissions advice and their time is devoted to far more pressing issues (like helping kids graduate, avoiding jail, drugs, and gangs, etc.). So we are on our own on this journey. Second, we are in the financial aid dead zone: too much income for a sweet need-based deal, and too little to handle a $40K EFC. I think that some of the T20 LACs would be a great fit for him, but since so many are need-based FA only, they aren't very feasible.</p>

<p>So the top Ivies, with their 10% of income formula, are looking like a super combination of incredible academic experience and affordable for our family. Does anyone have any suggesting on what to do next? Campus visits are out of the question until next fall, and would be really hard (and expensive) to pull off, given that they are two timezones away. Are alumni interviews offered even in out of the way locales? Are the interviews set up after application, or before?</p>

<p>At any rate, my son has pulled together a set of academic accomplishments that certainly surpasses my own at his age. Now I feel a profound obligation to carry my end of the bargain and help develop a credible application strategy for the High Reach portion of his applications. </p>

<p>Thanks, in advance, for your help.</p>

Congratulations to your son on his outstanding accomplishments!
Have you read any books about it? Start with "A is for Admission".
That being said, the Ivies want leadership and intellectual passion. He needs to demonstrate this beyond his grades and scores. He should start something - a new club, project, community service plan, or something. He should win some contests or awards - at least regional, if not state or national.
Alumni interviews are offered if there are alumni to give them, but they don't count for much. They can hurt, but they don't necessarily help.
Also, have you considered some schools that offer merit aid like Duke (Robertson scholarship), Washington University in St. Louis, University of Virginia Jefferson Scholars?
Make sure to have a safety - like an honors college at your state flagship.
Good luck!</p>

<p>As a many time Yale interviewer, I have doubts that they matter much at all*. But that said, there are alumni for these schools most everywhere and so they'll likely be able to match up with you. Geographic diversity is a plus, as would be coming from a situation where kids are having issues. Interviews are usually done after an application because what happens is admissions sends out a list to the local / regional alumni coordinator and that person then assigns kids to local interviewers. A file is setup online on a protected site for each interviewer's kids. I remember typing (and a few times handwriting) reports but now you type in a box on a form. If you're in North Dakota, there will still be someone. Maybe a drive away, but what else would you expect?</p>

<p>As for money, the best possibilities for paying the least are probably Harvard and Yale because they seem to have the most far reaching aid programs - and sit on mountains of money. </p>

<p>I'd apply to all the ones that he thinks he would want to go to. If he draws the line at HYP fine, but why not include Columbia or Brown or whichever - if the cost isn't prohibitive. Problem is that acceptance rates are so low, there is that element of a casino involved. </p>

<p>A number of LAC's do offer merit and financial aid. If some schools stand out in your kid's mind, then do some research and see if they have specific scholarships that he can apply for. He'd be competitive. You can find some scholarship information online - not my area of knowledge - and maybe you can find some help in his high school on that. You may then build a list of possible scholarship opportunities and go for some of those.</p>

<p>*Or rather, as acceptance rates have dropped, it's no longer possible to gauge an applicant's chances. Which kind of sucks when you spend time with a great kid who gets rejected.</p>

<p>Another school with very very generous need based aid for families with incomes over $100,000 a year is Stanford...another tough admit but worth a look.</p>

<p>As mentioned above...these reaches are reaches but certainly your son should apply to some. He has as good a chance of admittance as others who apply! Just make sure he has a balanced list of schools.</p>

<p>With those high school stats, he also would be a candidate for very substantial merit aid at some other schools and this might also be something you might want to consider if finances are a significant consideration.</p>

<p>While a child with your son's stats would be a star at a high performing HS, at a low performing HS they are more of a superstar. (Although....given your comments about time allocation of the GC's, I'm a little suprised the school has so many AP offerings.....)</p>

<p>HYP will have many debate/mock trial/MUN applicants with your sons stats, but, many of them will come from enriched HS environments. Maybe he has had to "work" harder to achieve in these activities. Some of his other EC's might really stand out, too.</p>

<p>He will need his GC comments and teacher recs to really point out his unique and outstanding characteristics (academic and non-academic.)</p>

<p>I know that TASP is not designed to help students craft good college applications, but...with the exposure he'll have to outstanding teachers, administrators and other students, they may help your son develop how to express his unique qualities.</p>

<p>I appreciate the comments.</p>

<p>We will have a full range of High Reach/Reach/Match and Safety schools to which he will apply. But it is the high reach schools that confound me the most. Given that he is a rising senior, I doubt we will be able to check off the "found a non-profit/save a 3rd world country" box. I realize that for even the best students, there is a Wheel-of-Fortune dimension to elite school admissions these days. </p>

<p>Current list of schools is</p>

<p>High Reach

Duke (double legacy)

A fluid set of mostly mid-west LACS (Kenyon, Macalester, Carleton etc.)</p>

In-state flagship
A school with a killer NMF package.</p>

<p>First off, find a college your son loves that will guarantee him a full-ride scholarship. For our S, it was the well-regarded state U (which guaranteed a full-ride based on his grades, scores, and NMF status) which S liked and would have been happy to attend. Once the kid has that in hand -- a Golden Ticket that your S will be happy cashing in if none of the "lottery tickets" pay off -- he can take a gamble on some other possibilities.</p>

<p>Our family is like yours, in that we made too much to get lots of financial aid at most $50,000+ schools, and we could not afford to pay huge amounts of money to send the kid to an expensive college without FA. As a result, the kid picked three schools (two Ivy, one other) that give exceptional FA (and that had programs that interested him) and applied to those three schools. No one from our son's high school has ever attended an Ivy League college, and the guidance counselors and teachers were completely clueless about SAT2s, EA vs. ED, etc. Any info he and we had about that stuff came from CC.</p>

<p>The kid put the "lottery ticket" applications together and submitted them (regular decision), won the lottery, and will be a junior at Harvard in the fall. He did not do any last-minute things (starting a club or non-profit, etc.) to package/market himself to look better.</p>

<p>Your kid can do it, too -- although acceptance is certainly not guaranteed for anyone. That's why you want to make sure your son (who has excellent stats) has a safety in hand that will provide a very attractive alternative if he is one of the kids with excellent stats who does not win the lottery.</p>

<p>Campus visits are not necessary, and two of the schools that do alumni interviews made arrangements for those to happen in our middle-of-nowhere location. (One was via phone; the other involved about a two-hour drive.)</p>

<p>Good luck.</p>

<p>He's a great candidate. Don't worry about starting clubs at this point in the game. Ideally you build on what you have. If there's anything he can do with the activities he's already involved in to step it up a notch, that would be great, but he could easily get in based on what you've outlined here. (He could also easily be rejected at all his reaches too.) Good recommendations and good essays can help. If he connects with someone at TASP he shouldn't hesitate to ask if they'll provide an additional recommendation. If he worked with someone in the summer who can attest to his virtues (especially ones like initiative, drive, taking responsibility that would be a plus.) Except for Stanford, most schools are happy to get one or two extra recommendations.</p>

<p>I'd definitely check out the merit aid threads - your kid is a very strong candidate for merit aid. Not just at the NMF full ride places.</p>


<p>The school context undoubtedly makes a big difference. The GC's each have about 400-500 kids to keep an eye on. Utah spends the least per pupil of any school in the nation--you would have to add about $400/pupil/yr for us to catch Mississippi (last time I looked at the numbers.) Even so, they do what they can; my son's HS made the Newsweek list of top high schools. It just barely snuck in, but it is the only one not in the Salt Lake City urban area to do so.</p>

<p>I think TASP will be unbelievably good for him, in so many ways. For one thing, it may convince him that he either does--or does not--want to spend the next for years with people like his fellow TASPers. That could have a big influence on our college search.</p>

<p>Sure sounds like a great candidate for Duke / Robertson's scholarship to me.</p>

<p>Try to find some match schools that offer significant merit aid; he'd be a great candidate for merit aid.</p>

<p>I think he has a very good chance of admission to an ivy league school but I am worried about how he will finance an ivy league education.</p>

I really like the "step it up a notch" idea with his existing ECs. These are all things he does because he truly enjoys them, and has strong friendships with the other kids that do them. I would rather he really enjoy them during his senior year, and devote time to do something simply because of how it might look on what are low probability applications for even the best student.</p>


<p>Your concern is exactly mine--there are a lot of schools that might take him, but might not offer much aid. My fear is that he comes to my and says "I have fallen in love with NYU, and they are giving us a $10k grant per year. PULEEEEASE?" We have had the serious talk about what the family can afford, so we are hopefully all on the same page.</p>

<p>Congratulations! Your son will have wonderful choices if you cast your net fairly wide. I agree that you shouldn't have him "start something" at this point. His accomplishments are very impressive as it is, and it would be better to build on them.</p>

<p>Don't turn your nose up at USC in California. They give a very generous aid package based on the NMSF- full ride in some cases and they have become much more academically oriented these past ten years. Pomona, my personal favorite ;) on your list, is as generous as the ivy league schools with financial aid, and your geography will help a lot with them as it will with most LACs that are looking for diversity of all kinds.
Princeton has been scooping up a lot of performance majors in our area. It seems they are trying to increase their "artsy" population, so that may work in your favor. Of all the schools on your list, however, Yale would be a wonderful fit as they already have a great artsy population and stellar academics as well. My oldest attended Yale several years ago, and loves it dearly to this day. If your son were to apply to one school EA (Early Action), Yale would be worth considering. Don't even consider applying Early Decision anywhere, as you will want to compare merit and aid packages- and my bet is that he will have several nice offers to choose from. </p>

<p>If you keep up with the CC board through the process, you won't need a college counselor. The folks here have most of the answers you may be looking for. Good luck!</p>

<p>We were in the same situation with our son. We bought used books about admissions to top schools (Hernandez books and others). Don't believe everything they say but you can get some information from them. I would also suggest that he start the application process now by writing a number of the essays. Show passion and leadership. We were looking for merit as different schools and we got some but other schools didn't offer any where near enough. Son got into Yale and the FA is great. The best we could have hoped for. He also was No 1 in his class.</p>

<p>Also, Find the teachers that know him well and know how to write a great LOR. It should tie everything together.</p>

<p>UT84321, tell your son to take the work in the TASP seminar seriously. I went to TASP way back when, and a lot of the kids--faculty brats from NYC and NJ who rightly assumed that they were headed to Yale or Harvard no matter what they did that summer--spent most of their time socializing wittily, going to arty films, and playing volleyball and Risk. I liked doing those things too. However, in the third week of TASP, the factotum let drop the interesting information that Telluride gives room and board scholarships to Cornell to the most successful kids in the TASP. I was from a tiny high school in a rural area, and had been assuming I'd go to the local state teachers' college near my house, but my summer in Ithaca and my contact with hyperambitious students was leading me to raise my sights. I had no particular talent in the area of my TASP seminar, but I hit the Cornell library, wrote a well-researched final paper, and won the scholarship, which changed my life.</p>

<p>At least in those days, if Telluride awarded a TASPer a scholarship, admission to Cornell was virtually guaranteed, despite the lack of formal connection between the two institutions. Nowadays there is a Telluride house at Michigan as well.</p>

<p>Also, if you're looking seriously at Kenyon, Carlton, etc., don't overlook Grinnell. They are known for nice merit packages for their tippy top admits.</p>

<p>Something that may be important is whether he gets the val.. that may be something crucial that if he doesn't get 1st in the class it may hurt your already small chances. Sorry to be such a damn pessimist but I thought I just had to remind. I'm sure he's well on his way to doing that though.</p>

<p>Question: does he have any specific interests/major or career goals in mind (ie medicine, law, some STEM career)?</p>

My fear is that he comes to my and says "I have fallen in love with NYU, and they are giving us a $10k grant per year. PULEEEEASE?"


<p>If you have told him what your financial limitations are, why would he even be applying to NYU? A school that is that notoriously stingy with merit and financial aid should not even be on the list of possibilities.</p>

I forgot Grinnell when I was typing the list; it is definitely in play.</p>

<p>hadsed--No specific interests have been identified because he wants to do it all (4 languages, 3 majors, 2 studies abroad, etc.)</p>

<p>whatever4--NYU is not in play. I merely was using it as an example of a school you better not fall in love with because of the very reputation you mention.</p>

that may be important is whether he gets the val.. that may be something crucial that if he doesn't get 1st in the class it may hurt your already small chances.


<p>The implication here is that he MUST be a val to be a contender for any of the Ivies or Stanford. We know a bunch of Ivy students and grads and NONE OF THEM were vals of the high schools. We do know several vals who did NOT get accepted at the Ivies.</p>

<p>This student is who he is. He has a terrific resume going into the applications. He has as much chance of getting accepted to these top schools as the other 10% of the students who get accepted. The odds are not terrific for just about everyone. BUT being a val is not a deal breaker.</p>