UD over Ivy/UD to Ivy

I’m writing to try and convince some of you higher-stat kids (National Merit Semifinalist-level) to give UD a chance over whatever “more prestigious” schools you might get into in the coming months.

I use those quotes intentionally, because despite being an Ivy grad myself (Penn), I am of the opinion that prestige is largely illusory. When it comes to the brand of your degree, your wristwatch, your car, etc. It’s 99% marketing and image curation. Too many people fall for it, IMO.

Why choose a state school like UD over an Ivy (or other “prestigious” school)? There is the matter of money, of course. A high-stat applicant to UD will probably qualify for merit aid, up to a Full Ride+ (for Eugene DuPont Memorial Scholars). Maybe money doesn’t matter to your family, but it certainly did for ours (despite me being an Ivy grad!). A high-stat applicant to Penn will just be another applicant…and since Ivies do not award merit aid, you’re really just dependent on your FA package in terms of financial assistance.

Another great reason to choose a state school like UD over an Ivy is if that school specializes in a field that you want to pursue. My daughter was a Chemical Engineering major at UD. According to the latest US NEWS ranking, UD’s undergrad ChemE department is #10 in the country. The closest Ivy is Princeton, at #12.

Also, as a high-stats applicant, keep in mind that you will be at/near the top of your class at UD. This can have many benefits, including getting first dibs on opportunities like working in a lab, mentoring by a professor, etc.

My daughter chose UD over Carnegie Mellon for her undergraduate degree. It’s a choice she doesn’t regret. She’s now at Penn for her PhD in a STEM field…it can happen.

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I’m glad things worked out for your daughter and for some majors, like Engineering, it might not matter as much where you went to undergrad, but for other majors like Government, Finance, English, etc. it might make a difference going to a highly ranked college like an ivy (if you can afford it?).

You seem to focus on “prestige” as only marketing and discount the fact that an ivy league education involves classes with your high-stat academic peers, taught by bright faculty who are leaders in their field, with smaller class sizes, excellent facilities, and great internships and on-campus recruiting opportunities.

Maybe I’m in the minority here but I believe that the quality and experience of the 4-year education is just as important as the final destination (degree) and that ones undergrad education will stay with you the rest of your life no matter what you end up doing.

Which environment below if more likely than not to challenge and push that high-stat (99th percentile) student?

University of Delaware (2017/2018):


University of Pennsylvania (2017/2018):



@SevenDad and @socaldad2002 I see both of your positions and I guess my view is that attending a public university like Udel, or Clemson where my older daughter goes, and being in the honors college gives you the best of both worlds. You get the ability to get a very good education with like minded high academic achieving students but do so at a financial acceptable rate.

My D18 had a 35ACT and a 4.0 UW and 4.46W GPA. She applied to and was rejected at Princeton, Brown, UNC, UVA and waitlisted at Vanderbilt. So obviously she was clearly chasing the elite top schools. However, if she would have gotten into one of those do I think the 70K full pay that we where going to be paying would have been worth it? I personally don’t think so. How many times in your professional career has anyone asked or cared where you got your undergraduate degree. None for me…

She was accepted into Clemson Honors with 15K merit scholarship and a 24K a year merit scholarship in UD honor college after being invited to the Distinguished Scholars weekend where she competed for a full ride. She ultimately went to Clemson for the better weather and big time sports. Additionally at Clemson (and I believe UDEL has the same type of system) they accepted 35 AP credits for college credits which will allow her to have a double major and graduate in 3 which saves even more money for graduate school.

My take away is that the honors college at the public university like UDEL is a great value and gives you the best of both world.

And although my older daughter chose Clemson over Udel. I would love to see my D21 Daughter go to UDEL.

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@socaldad2002: “an ivy league education involves classes with your high-stat academic peers, taught by bright faculty who are leaders in their field, with smaller class sizes, excellent facilities, and great internships and on-campus recruiting opportunities”

You think Ivy League schools have some monopoly on any of the above?!? They don’t.

Smaller class sizes? Have you sat through a class in College Hall 200 at Penn?

Excellent facilities? Have you seen the ISE Lab at UD? Clark Hall at the University of Maryland?

Furthermore, if these things were truly important to people, LACs like Williams and Swarthmore would be the ones drowning in applications, not Harvard and Yale. I stand by my POV that most folks targeting Ivies are in some part chasing prestige and/or buying into mythology.

@burghdad: I totally agree that “honors colleges at public universities” are a great (and in my opinion, overlooked) option. The point of my post was to encourage high-stats kids to give these programs (including UD’s) a chance.

My D is another chem e at a public flagship honor’s college (Purdue). We looked at Cornell but she didn’t like the vibe as much as Purdue, Michigan, and Maryland. No other Ivy’s engineering program made her cut to even visit.

Look I get it, if the ivies and other prestigious colleges are not a good “financial fit” for families than there are some great college options, including honors colleges at public universities, but for the OP to say the below is extremely disingenuous:

“It’s 99% marketing and image curation”

This is always a hot topic and big debate among parents, especially among ones who can and can’t afford an Ivy. I see both sides of the coin.
I’m just curious why you chose UD (my alma mater, and I hope my daughter gets accepted and decides to be a Blue Hen) over another school, e.g. UMD ? Do you work for UD?

It’s all brand marketing with these colleges. If you don’t believe me, look at Popeye’s chicken sandwich. It’s a just a stupid chicken sandwich, and it’s not even that good…but if you restrict supply and pair it with an effective advertising gimmick, you can get people trampling over each other for just about anything.

You think Black Friday is bad now, you should’ve seen it 10 years ago before Amazon stepped in, no doubt saving many lives. The media had a death toll every year from people getting trampled.

We had no financial constraints. That wasn’t part of the equation at all.

D felt the big public flagships were a better fit for her personality and career goals.

Yep, the quality of a college education is the same as marketing a $5 chicken sandwich…smh…

@socaldad2002: If by disingenuous you meant “Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.”, I reassure you that I am being extremely candid, and only a tad hyperbolic in making that statement.

And my gosh, if anything, I’m generally accused of pretending to know MORE about the matter than I really do. Though I have read extensively about the subject since my first child started the college process about six or seven years ago…

But, going back to your assertion about working in Government necessitating an Ivy undergrad education: I believe that the former Vice-President, Joe Biden is a UD grad. And just to show bi-partisan support, so was Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign.

As for your assertion that Ivy classes are made up of only Mensa members, this also part of the mythology. IMO, the only people who would believe this are people who did not attend an Ivy themselves.

@ptptmom: I do not work for UD. I am a parent of a recent graduate…I thought that was clear in my original post.

Again, my motivation in writing the post was to encourage…“higher-stat kids (National Merit Semifinalist-level) to give UD a chance over whatever ‘more prestigious’ schools you might get into in the coming months.” You can look at my post history (mostly in the Prep School sub-forum) and see that my “Look past the big names” POV is long established and deeply entrenched.

I know this is a perennially hot topic, and I generally stay off the general college admission forums (mostly on the athletic recruiting forum these days)…but it’s been on my mind to post about for a while. I have no skin in the game anymore…both of my kids are thankfully through the process…which I believe to be extremely dysfunctional.

Would love to keep this thread to the topic…that State Schools like UD can be great places for even “high stats” kids to go undergrad. And yes, for reasons other than finances.

@SevenDad I completely agree with you and have long recommended students think beyond the elite privates. My D, a high stats student, did not look at any elite school. She is receiving an excellent education and having a great college experience at the flagship she attends for free. The question has never been whether there are great opportunities available to her, but why there aren’t enough hours in the day to take advantage of everything that interests her.

UD was also on her list, she visited, but it wasn’t the right fit. I have no doubt, however, that it’s a great option for high stats students. I was impressed.

@itsgettingreal17: Glad to hear that your D is doing well at college. More proof that there’s more than one way to bake a cake!

Again, my intent in posting was just to share something that I’ve had on my mind for a while…to try and reassure high-stats applicants (and their parents) that going to a state flagship can be, in many cases, an equally smart choice as attending [INSERT NAME OF SINGLE-DIGIT ADMIT RATE SCHOOL HERE].

I chose the UD subform as my vehicle simply because that’s where my high-stats kid went to school undergrad.

@SevenDad my last post on this thread but I think the issue was when you said an elite education is all marketing and “don’t fall for it”. This statement is not sincere especially from someone who has been researching colleges for 6 or 7 years and came to the conclusion its 99% marketing? IMO, we need to be careful with our words as thousands of HS students visit this site and we need to attempt to be objective and truthful with our analyses.

I think the tone of the original thread would have been better if you said that there are other college opportunities for students who can’t afford (or can’t get into) “elite” colleges but instead you basically said their is no difference between the education of elite colleges and UD (it’s all just marketing right) and these top ranked colleges are pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

I’m not sure why it’s too difficult to acknowledge that ivies and other elite colleges offer an outstanding world-class education but one can also get a very good education at public universities if they cannot afford or get into the former.

There is even one poster in particular who slams Harvard every chance he gets, while at the same time neglected to tell us his kid actually toured H but was not accepted. It all just comes across as sour grapes to me…

Hmm, I guess my use of the phrases “I am of the opinion that…” and “IMO” in my first post got lost in the shuffle for you?

FWIW, I’m pretty sure CC is mostly just people’s opinions and sharing of life experiences. Exhibit A: The ever-popular “Chances” threads.

And what’s up with challenging my “sincerity”? Did I admit to hyperbole? I think I did. But don’t ever doubt my sincerity.

IMO (see what I did there), the whole concept of “elite” colleges is dumb. And yes, both my kids attend schools (one grad, one undergrad) that would be considered “elite” by most. No sour grapes, here.

Why do I champion State Schools (and lesser known boarding schools in Prep Forum)? It’s pretty simple…because nobody has to champion Ivies.

@socaldad2002 My problem with your posts is that you always take the position that if one can get into an elite school and can afford it, going elsewhere makes no sense. That I absolutely disagree with and that elite or bust attitude causes so many families and students so much unnecessary anxiety. My D got in to H, I could afford it, yet it would have been an absolute terrible choice for her for undergrad. In addition, there isn’t $80k a year value in attending H over her current school. Not even close.

@SevenDad wrote “Smaller class sizes? Have you sat through a class in College Hall 200 at Penn?”

LOL, late 70’s Penn grad here.

The most important thing I picked up from my time at Penn and passed on to my son when he started at Yale many years later was: Place out of as many of those huge intro classes as you can, and start taking advanced and preferably grad level courses as soon as possible. That’s the best way to end up in small seminar classes with the hot shot professors that the kids (at least in theory) want to go to the top schools for. Otherwise, the student’s main interaction is with a TA.

I’m frustrated with the attitude that a public flagship is “settling” for kids who can’t get in to an Ivy or for people who can’t afford it.

There are plenty of kids who are turned off by the vibe at the Ivies, mine included. And for certain majors, like OP’s child’s, they aren’t even in the T10.

Our whole family is comprised of Ivy grads. Our D was the first to say “not for me” and her cousins are following in her footsteps. H thinks D is getting a way better, and more personal, engineering education than he did.

I’m in agreement with @SevenDad that it’s mostly marketing – and imo the Ivies have an agenda and being chosen out of some “buckets” was nearly impossible in 2019, even with top SAT/ACT scores and grades. Therefore, there are many very strong students at state universities. And, in Engineering, many state schools are stronger than Ivies.

My only nagging question about UD is that from our HS, it’s viewed as a “party school”, though I did not get that vibe when we visited.

@sunnyschool: FWIW, I think that reputation is valid (if you are into that sort of thing, which my D was mostly not into).

But as with small class sizes, great profs, and smart peers, no college has a monopoly on this sort of thing…I (seem to) remember having more than a few drinks during my days in West Philly.