Teacher's College Suggestions

<p>This afternoon, my daughter and I ran into her AP European history teacher from last year. The teacher mentioned she had just finished sending off the ED recommendations for this year's seniors and then told my daughter that she should seriously think about applying ED if she has a clear first choice next year. Daughter said that she had one choice in mind - Goucher - but was still looking. At this, the teacher kind of made a funny face and said "I think you could do much better than that." She then proceeded to list schools she thought would be "great" for daughter. Schools like Smith, Kenyon, Oberlin. All terrific schools, yes, but all schools that I think would be major reaches for my daughter. When I mentioned this to the teacher, she looked at me and told me that I was too much of a worry wart, that she knew my daughter's academic capabilities better than I did and that she did not think any of those schools were out of reach based on students from the high school who had gone to those colleges in the past. She then told me that she thought I was encouraging daughter to aim "too low." I walked away feeling totally confused. Daughter is a good but not stellar student with so-so extracurriculars, honors and some AP classes, 3.5 or so unweighted average, SATs not yet known but probably in the high 1200's if 10th grade PSATs are any indication. Am I missing something?</p>

<p>Carolyn. it may be that you are becoming too analytical, but my guess is that the teacher does not know the SAT scores or class standings for students. She has an impression of what the students can do based on what the students did in her class, and perhaps in other classes (and may have on her rose-colored glasses).</p>

<p>Of course, your D's SAT scores might come out higher with the right preparation (call Xiggi?). And there's nothing wrong with a couple of reaches in the pool. </p>

<p>Anyway it looks like this may be the teacher to ask for recs.</p>


<p>I strongly suspect that your D's SAT will be much higher than 1200s. More importantly, your D's teacher is very likely correct; with her support, your D could apply to schools that do not require the SAT if the scores do indeed come in low, but are still excellent: I'm thinking of places like Bowdoin, Bates, Mt. Holyoke. I know nothing of Goucher, but I have high opinions of the three I listed. My S almost went to Bowdoin, by the way.</p>

<p>I had the same thought about asking this teacher for a rec. </p>

<p>The problem I see is the teacher saying all of this in front of your daughter. I suspect you know a heck of a lot more about admissions and about your daughter than this teacher does. I think you're definitely on the right track.</p>

I think there are a couple things to consider here. First, I think from the bits you have shared along the way, that your D is a stronger student and candidate than you might think (it is hard reading sometimes on CC of kids with the most stellar "stats" but believe me your D sounds quite solid and well above average). I can't recall her ECs. But anyway, I think that every kid can have reaches. The reaches need not be so FAR out of reach but just a bit higher than you would say she had a strong chance at. As long as she is in the range of certain schools, even if in the lower half of the range, the school can be appropriate as a reach. Obviously going after all reaches is not good. But it seems like schools like Goucher are a match for your daughter, not a reach. So, she could apply to a few schools that are appealing to her interests that ARE a step up from Goucher (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with Goucher, mind you), and then these schools would be reasonable Reaches, not Far reaches. It does seem she could try for an Oberlin, Kenyon, Smith, Colby, Skidmore, and some other pretty selective schools in that range. </p>

<p>The thing with the teacher is hard to gauge. Good news is she thinks really highly of your D! Some of what she is saying might be valid given that she is going by where students with similar stats from your high school have gotten in, not sure. The part that I would not weigh too heavily is a bit to do with what others wrote in that she knows your D as a teacher in school, not as a candidate for college admissions as much. And we don't know how much she knows of the college admissions scene currently. I liken the comments a bit to when teachers here will say, oh, your D could get into any school she wanted (SOOOO NOT true, given the state of elite admissions today that they are simply not current on). Even our GC just said the other day for the umpteenth time in passing, that he will forever scratch his head as to how my D did not get into Yale when WE understand why or let's say NEVER assumed she would because we know the odds today. So, your D's teacher is not coming as much from a current view of college admissions in terms of her perspectives necessarily, though on the other hand knows how other students in your school have fared. She is not likely the best predictor of your D's chances at certain schools as she does not deal with this in terms of her expertise. However, I would agree with her that your D COULD apply to some schools a step up from a school like Goucher (does not mean she SHOULD) as appropriate reach schools. My guess is that Goucher is more of a match. So, a couple reaches are reasonable to have. Keep the reaches one or two steps up, not ten, lol, and it makes sense to me. The schools she mentioned are reasonable reaches for your D and she would have a chance there. I like that you have found many matches for your D cause that is crucial but certainly schools like the ones her teacher mentioned are reaches in your daughter's ballpark on her higher end, but definiteyl not far fetched AT ALL. </p>


<p>Not only might not the teacher have the most up to date information about college admissions and competitiveness in general, but the teacher only knows the bit about your child that they see in their class, or in an EC if there is some overlap there. </p>

<p>I had felt from your posts over the past few months that you were backing off from managing your daughter, letting her have more space, etc- in response to a concern you perceived. Is there something this teacher said which changed your impression of your understanding of your daughter on that level (not on the "can my daughter get into a "better" school level?)...I am not sure if I am being clear here, but I think that before you start a more specific college search of "better" schools, it would be good to revisit what it was that brought you to your current understanding of your daughter and her needs- I for one have been impressed with your comprehensive approach to your child.</p>

<p>hi Carolyn - </p>

<p>The teacher is right, those schools would likely be "great" for your D. And Goucher could be great for your D, too. However, we all know that adcoms weigh other criteria quite a bit more heavily. </p>

<p>Your D does have the opportunity to bring up both her GPA and score 1300+ on her SAT, and if that happens, the schools the teacher listed (and others) become realistic reaches and possible ED options. As an added bonus, she would be absolutely in RD at all of the schools you have zeroed in on. </p>

<p>Regardless, you and your D have put together a good list of schools with a range of selectivity. And it is not a given that Kenyon, Oberlin or Smith would be a better school for your D than Knox, St. Olaf, Earlham or Goucher, even if her stats end up higher than projected. </p>

<p>I guess I would interpret the teacher's comments as a nice compliment to your D and as dadofsam and over30 note, put her on the list for a rec.</p>

<p>Thanks everyone. You've confirmed what the realistic part of me thought but the crazy-mother didn't quite buy. I think I will just take the comments as a nice compliment and not read more into them than that. This is, after all, the teacher that nearly drove my daughter to a mental breakdown last year. The teacher may think she knows my daughter but Robym's comments made me realize once again that the person who really knows my daughter IS my daughter. She has been happy (so far) with the level of schools she's been investigating and I have growing confidence in her ability to decide if she wants to look at higher or lower levels of schools. Just slap me on the side of the head if I get crazy again. :)</p>

Since this discussion took place in the context of where your daughter might apply ED, could it be that the teacher's reaction was at least partially based on the idea that Goucher is not really a reach for your daughter, and therefore she might not want to lock herself in there ED when she might get into other schools that are more of a reach? I concur with everyone who sees this teacher as a great source of recommendation. But I think she is reinforcing what all of us learned about your daughter in her AP Euro experience last year: your daughter seeks a challenge and sticks to it even at some potential cost. This is a tremendous quality in college (not to mention life). And, it is much rarer than you think. This is a teacher who really challenged your daughter and saw what your daughter could do when challenged to the max. She ignited a real intellectual spark in your daughter and knows that not every student has that capacity to "catch fire." So, I would take it as more than a compliment. I think this teacher really knows and cares about your daughter and would like to make sure she is sufficiently challenged in college, as well. I don't know Goucher, so I don't know whether it is a place that would do that. But I think there's nothing wrong with putting a variety of colleges on the list, including some of the reaches that the teacher mentioned, if your daughter likes them, and if she understands that they are, in fact, reaches.</p>

I think it is important to have reaches and I think reps are looking beyond SAT scores. Your D sounds like she has many strengths and I wouldn't totally discount what her teacher is saying. She will have many great options ahead of her whether it be Goucher or Kenyon.</p>

<p>Carolyn, I think there are two issues at play here: schools that are reaches for your daughter because she may not be able to get in and those that are reaches because she may not be able to do the work. If you and your daughter are satisfied that she could do the work and in fact may benefit from the intellectual challenge, then yes, she should stretch a bit in her apply-to list. I sense that the teacher feels that your daughter is more capable than her grades and scores may reflect. There's a fine line between getting her hopes up over a school that may ultimately reject and striving for the best that she can achieve. Only your daughter can gauge her comfort level at an individual school (with you of course as a guide). It's still early on in the process for her. Nothing wrong with widening that net again.</p>

<p>The school my son ended up at was definitely a stretch on the able to get into scale, but I never doubted that he could do the work. Academically it's been rigorous but overwhelmingly positive. I would lean toward the aim high strategy. With her ideal safety in the bag, she has nothing to lose.</p>

<p>I can only go by my own experiences with my own children.My son has a 1300 SAT and similar stats, maybe a little higher, and is getting admitted hands down everywhere he applied. I wouldn't let assumptions dictate where you apply. It's all a matter of how much time (and money, like appl. fees)you want to give this.You could apply 4 more colleges, and see where the cards fall, visit the schools after you see if admitted and how much they may give you in aid.
We eliminated prestigious colleges seeking my son for often arbitrary reasons. ( Like it was too far from home or 30% of the freshman class usually drops out.)There were teachers who suggested colleges which we felt were too expensive or had programs we thought too obtuse ( I won't name the college because I'll get clobbered).Yeah, I'd give it 4 more colleges, if you have the time and money and are interested in them,- see what happens.</p>

<p>Sounds great for your son, BHG....already hearing from colleges and all positive! Congrats so far in his process.</p>

<p>Carolyn's daughter is a junior, not sure you knew that.</p>


<p>I agree with Momrath's analysis. Your D's teacher, a former college teacher herself, has confidence that your D could do very well in college. The 5 that your D earned in AP-Euro as a 10th grader is validation of this confidence. In our school, AP-Euro is open to seniors only, and this is likely true of many other schools; so your D competed with students that had more experience dealing with AP-level work and were older than she. It is true that the incredible demands that the teacher put on the students caused your D's work in other courses to suffer and her grades to drop. That will have some effect on her chances of admission, though very strong letters of recommendation could mitigate that effect.
You will get a more accurate reading of your D's chances not only when you get the PSAT results but especially after your D actually take the SATs.
At any rate, I do not think it is a good idea for your D to tie herself down with an ED unless she absolutely loves the school and you and she think that she can get an excellent education there. It would be preferrable, in my opinion, for her to have a mix of reaches, matches and safeties. If she wishes to apply early, let it be EA. Give her time to grow personally and academically. She may change her mind, she may also develop greater confidence in her academic abilities and do far better than you and she could have predicted at the beginning of her junior year.</p>

<p>Carolyn: she's just a junior, her thinking about college will likely evolve at an accelerating rate over the coming year. While I think it was wrong of this teacher to express disrespect for Goucher, a highly respect-worthy institution, the confidence she expressed in your daughter's academic potential is a very good thing for her to hear. There's plenty of time left, lots will happen over the next year.</p>

<p>Carolyn: This points out such a dilemma for parents -- the very real differing abilities amongst their children. The reality is that my twin-daughters have not met their academics with the ease that my son did, although they mostly get As and Bs. But my son got a 1500 on his SAT I, and that is hard act to follow even for very good students. So, how does a parent balance between encouraging their child to "reach," yet not having the goals too far out of reach. I will be watching as you travel this road to learn as my daughters' time comes in the next two years. Good luck.</p>

<p>Carolyn, approach looking at these schools in the same thoughtful way that you and your daughter have looked at other schools. The truth is her SAT may go up from PSAT predicted or go down, hopefully her GPA is stable or improving, and the teacher probably is assessing her ability correctly - she would handle the academic work at Oberlin, kenyon, etc just fine. Heck, she'd most likely do well at schools even more selective than those. The question is what is right for her, are they, in her estimation, that much better than Goucher.
I guess my point is that you two have been so wise and sure in this process, that it won't "hurt" her to look at a few schools that at this point may or may not be realistic reaches, she doesn't sound as if she is going to "fall in love" unexpectedly. The more important decisions can be made when all the numbers are in - trust your instincts.</p>

<p>Carolyn: </p>

<p>I agree with Cangel. You and your D have provided a lot of insight and information with respect to the college admissions process that has helped more than a few kids. Maybe, it's just that the teacher thought that Goucher would be a match or match safety for your D. Perhaps, one or two reaches might not be a bad thing. Again, to echo another post, your D might want to look at schools like Bowdoin, Lewis & Clark, Bates, etc...in which scores are optional. Or, she could look at some schools that have amazing resources for women like Mt. Holyoke. Smith, Bryn Mawr, Scripps, etc...</p>

<p>You have always been thoughtful and considerate here, so I'm sure your D has a good handle on how she feels, and what is realistic for her. But, it's funny...when applying to schools, kids tend to under estimate their chances (I know that I do--as I sometimes feel undistinguished) and play it a little safe. I guess the rule of having Reaches is as important as having Safeties. I guess we tend towards the Matches, and sometimes just give Reaches and Safeties a cursory glance.</p>

<p>I think you and your D will do well, no matter what choices are made. Again, my 2 cents would say to have a few reaches, EA at a few colleges like Goucher, and ED/SCEA at a Reach school. You never know how admissions offices will look at your D. Plus, ED/SCEA does benefit an applicant. With an EA acceptance in hand, it makes things easier to deal with (a definate psychological relief).</p>

<p>Anyhow, I hope this is helpful to you and your D. :)</p>

<p>Carolyn, You and your D are so far ahead of the game psychologically, having focused on match schools first. The field is wide open as to what you can do. The usual experience is that parents with kids who are good students, liked by teachers and who score a 5 or even a 4 on an AP exam this early are already buying their HPY bumper stickers. When the SAT1 results come, they are then shock when reality hits. Even those kids who score high on the SAT1 have to do a reality check when an assessment of their profile shows nothing that stands out coming from an oversubscribed area geographically. Kinda hard to peel off that Harvard sweatshop and replace it with a more realistic choice. The psychological adjustment for both parents and kid can be rough in this scenario and it happens too often. You, on the other hand, can now say, "lets look at some reaches and see how they compare with the schools you like that are matches."</p>

<p>My girls had stats very similar to your D. My niece was an outstanding student and I am pretty sure that her counselor was shocked that she did not score higher on her SATs. She stayed at the low 1200 range. Though she applied mainly to schools that were matches, she did take a lottery ticket with Cornell. And she got in off the wait list, I am sure from much intervention from her school and counselor. I say this because they seemed to feel that she had a chance of getting in there even when she was waitlisted. She chose to stay with a small catholic college with an excellent premed program that is associated with a med school because she felt that it would enhance her chances to become a doctor which was her goal. She also got a great fiancial package with a nice scholarship at the college of her choice. She will be finishing med school this year whereas her classmate and best friend who was a very bright young lady with high test scores in addition to the stellar transcript did not get into medical school from Cornell. My niece's MCAT scores were not that great, she got just a point above the minimum needed for the program she wanted, so it would have been a tough go to get a spot without the affiliated program. </p>

<p>D with high 1200 scores did get into Smith and Oberlin which were her reaches, but chose to do as my niece did, and is in a small college in the Midwest, hoping to get into med school. Her MCAT scores were not great either, so the med school affiliation will make or break her application. She is nervously waiting. </p>

<p>Until she takes the SATs, there is no telling what she is going to get on those scores. You might well want to check out some of the schools the posters are suggesting in terms of not needing SATs, and take a look at some schools that will be a reach as well that fit her. You still have time. S did not even start looking until spring break of junior year. </p>

<p>It's impossible to tell if her teacher has a handle on the process or not. I think the posters have brought up several possibilities where she might not know how the admissions picture has changed in the past few years. But then again she might know. I know that when my kids were in catholic school, the trend there was to recommend catholic colleges. It seemed some of those teachers could not think out of that box and you had to step gingerly if you were going out of that niche so as not to offend them. The counselors were great in assessing chances at Catholic colleges, but were useless when it came to the elite schools. So I do take any comment with a grain of salt, but at the same time I am humble enough to accept that someone might know something that I do not.</p>

<p>I suppose I should clarify a bit: Teacher is an alumni interviewer for Smith. According to my daughter, she is also known as "the best college recommendation writer in the school" In fact, when we met up with her yesterday, she mentioned that she had just finished the last of 50 Early Decision recommendations. Again, does this means she has a handle on the admissions process? I don't know. At the opposite extreme, my daughter's guidance counselor, who also knows my daughter well, and seems to like her, has recommended she apply to: Regis College in Colorado and Seattle University in Washington, both of which I would see as real safeties for her. (But yes, Jamimom, you're right - they're both Catholic schools being recommended by a Catholic school guidance counselor.) So, who knows? I think maybe my daughter should just listen to her Mom...and the wise folks at CC in terms of judging her chances. :) Thanks everyone for the input. It is always so wonderful to have this place as a sounding board.</p>