should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

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fredflinstone
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should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by fredflinstone »

My nephew surprised me on his SATs: 780 on verbal, 760 on math. He has good grades and is a nice, well-liked kid. He is hoping to avoid incurring debt by winning a merit scholarship at a second-tier school. (He will be a good Boglehead someday.) Question: Should he even bother applying to top-tier schools like Stanford, Yale, and Harvard? Do such schools offer merit scholarships?

Is this one of those rare cases where taking on debt would be worth it?

If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law. I am encouraging him to pursue a STEM field as I think the opportunities there are better.

Thoughts?
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by livesoft »

He should apply so that he never wonders whether he would have been accepted or not. If accepted, he doesn't have to attend if he doesn't want to.

I understand he has a rich uncle that can pay for everything because these places do not give merit scholarships. OTOH, local civic organizations give scholarships for which he should apply. That might mean 10 to 20 applications for $1,000 here and $500 there.

Let's just say that my life was changed significantly because I applied to an elite private university.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by VictoriaF »

Stanford and Harvard have a much higher threshold for financial aid. It's definitely worth applying but note that many applicants have perfect 1600 on SATs and still don't get in.

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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by abuss368 »

Someone once told me it is not so much where one goes but what one does with the degree after the fact in their career.

I always thought that was excellent advice.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by bsteiner »

He might also apply to some of the other Ivy League schools, and also a couple of good schools that are a bit easier to get into than the Ivy League schools.

It's hard to predict any given case. I know of one person who applied to many top schools and got into all but X, and another who applied to many top schools and the only one she got into was X (with X being one of the Ivy League schools). However, if he has good grades, excellent SAT scores, and is a good kid, he'll probably do well.

As Victoria pointed out, while the Ivy League schools don't offer merit scholarships, some of them offer financial aid at income levels higher than other schools. On the other hand, some excellent non-Ivy schools offer substantial merit scholarships to students they think are likely to be accepted at Ivy schools.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Riceman »

Ivy league schools have a formal policy of not giving merit scholarships. Stanford may be different.

And I can personally vouch for the fact that a perfect SAT score (and very competitive application overall) does not guarantee admission. I was 1 for 3 with Ivies and also rejected from Standford. Like your nephew, I chose a good pubclic school. If he has no intention of choosing an ivy, applying is a lot of headache for little reward.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by abuss368 »

There are so many great public schools that I seriously wonder why anyone would want to pay for an "Ivy League" school.

Is that the Boglehead way?
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by VictoriaF »

abuss368 wrote:There are so many great public schools that I seriously wonder why anyone would want to pay for an "Ivy League" school.

Is that the Boglehead way?
Jack went to Princeton.

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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by abuss368 »

VictoriaF wrote:
abuss368 wrote:There are so many great public schools that I seriously wonder why anyone would want to pay for an "Ivy League" school.

Is that the Boglehead way?
Jack went to Princeton.

Victoria
Good Point. My concern is tuition today and how university inflation has climbed over the years. The cost of some of these schools as noted in the Wall Street Journal is crazy!
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by berntson »

I know that Harvard and Princeton both have very generous need-based scholarships. Something like: If your family makes less than $80,000 a year, your education is free.

Victoria is also right about the application pool. Applications from valedictorians with perfect SAT scores are a dime a dozen at top tier schools. Students tend to get accepted because they write interesting essays, have interesting life experiences, are especially articular, have been involved with interesting organizations, and so on.

And yes, Jack Bogle most certainly went to Princeton! He first came up with the ideas that would later become Vanguard while writing his senior thesis. He gives generously to the university and one of the student hall is named after him.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by BigFoot48 »

Malcolm Gladwell, who has a new book out, “David and Goliath”, was on 60-Minutes Sunday and had this to say about going to an Ivy League school.
Malcolm Gladwell: Even if you are. Right? It doesn't—if you're last in your class at Harvard, it doesn't feel like you're a good student, even though you really are. It's not smart for everyone to want to go to a great school.

Anderson Cooper: So if you had a child, would you want them to go to Harvard?

Malcolm Gladwell: No, of course not. I'd want them to go to school in—to a state school in Canada where their tuition would be $4,000 a year.

Malcolm Gladwell: If Harvard is $60,000 and University of Toronto where I went to school is maybe six. So you're really telling me that education is 10 times better at Harvard than it is at University of Toronto? That seems ridiculous to me.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by abuss368 »

BigFoot48 wrote:Malcolm Gladwell, who has a new book out, “David and Goliath”, was on 60-Minutes Sunday and had this to say about going to an Ivy League school.
Malcolm Gladwell: Even if you are. Right? It doesn't—if you're last in your class at Harvard, it doesn't feel like you're a good student, even though you really are. It's not smart for everyone to want to go to a great school.

Anderson Cooper: So if you had a child, would you want them to go to Harvard?

Malcolm Gladwell: No, of course not. I'd want them to go to school in—to a state school in Canada where their tuition would be $4,000 a year.

Malcolm Gladwell: If Harvard is $60,000 and University of Toronto where I went to school is maybe six. So you're really telling me that education is 10 times better at Harvard than it is at University of Toronto? That seems ridiculous to me.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/malcolm-gla ... -underdog/
That is awesome. Good points. I have been reading alot about the next credit crisis in terms of student loans and the alck of jobs to pay them back! Sad.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by momar »

BigFoot48 wrote:Malcolm Gladwell, who has a new book out, “David and Goliath”, was on 60-Minutes Sunday and had this to say about going to an Ivy League school.
Malcolm Gladwell: Even if you are. Right? It doesn't—if you're last in your class at Harvard, it doesn't feel like you're a good student, even though you really are. It's not smart for everyone to want to go to a great school.

Anderson Cooper: So if you had a child, would you want them to go to Harvard?

Malcolm Gladwell: No, of course not. I'd want them to go to school in—to a state school in Canada where their tuition would be $4,000 a year.

Malcolm Gladwell: If Harvard is $60,000 and University of Toronto where I went to school is maybe six. So you're really telling me that education is 10 times better at Harvard than it is at University of Toronto? That seems ridiculous to me.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/malcolm-gla ... -underdog/
If Malcolm Gladwell is saying this, you know Harvard must be worth it.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by goodenoughinvestor »

Yes, he should absolutely apply to a top-tier university. He shouldn't expect to be accepted but he should certainly apply--and apply for financial aid.

Merit scholarships are almost impossible to qualify for in this category, but financial aid is available. The trick is getting aid that doesn't include loans. Here is a list of so-called "Top Tier" schools whose financial aid packages do not include loans, only grants and work/study, so the kid graduates without debt. I'm only listing the schools whose no-loan policies include ALL kids receiving financial aid--including middle class kids (ie, not just the very low income ones). Of course, the school's idea of how much financial aid to give a particular student, and the family's sense of what it can afford to contribute, don't always jive. But if your nephew is a talented student he should at least apply. (Financial aid policies are subject to change so it's worth doublechecking with these schools.)

Vanderbilt, Princeton, Davidson, Amherst, Harvard, Pomona, Swarthmore, Haverford, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Bowdoin, Stanford, Wellesley, Columbia.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Bengineer »

I think he should apply to the schools that most interest him, regardless of cost. He can then balance cost, scholarship opportunities & debt considerations among the ones that accept him.

I got high scores for the time and chose a good, but not spectacular engineering school my parents could afford. I've always wondered if I could have gotten in MIT or Stanford.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by jay22 »

Not sure about other schools, but I am hearing that my alma mater, USC, has significantly increased scholarships in the last few years. My experience there was absolutely amazing and would not hesitate to recommend applying there to any bright kid.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by jf89 »

Have him sit and think about whether he'd actually accept an offer from these schools. An application fee is not nothing... that stuff is expensive.

Look at his major and the school's programs. Going to a prestigious school is great, but it's useless if they only have his projected major because they are big and have every major. Less expensive schools very often have much better (and more respected within the industry) programs than what the general public views as "Top Tier" schools.

Also SAT scores mean far less than people think. Schools look way more at the long history of grades, types of courses, etc. rather than one day of testing. He should be very proud of those scores, but don't let that inflate his expectations beyond what is reasonable.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by jackholloway »

Apply to the best schools you can succeed at, and the schools you fit at the best. Being the worst student at Harvard may not be a win, nor the best student who failed out, but being in the bottom third still, results in any ivy degree.

It is not worth a quarter of your fortune, but it very well may be worth a tenth - I would not be making anywhere near what I do today without a degree from one of the top STEM schools.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by StormShadow »

fredflinstone wrote:My nephew surprised me on his SATs: 780 on verbal, 760 on math. He has good grades and is a nice, well-liked kid. He is hoping to avoid incurring debt by winning a merit scholarship at a second-tier school. (He will be a good Boglehead someday.) Question: Should he even bother applying to top-tier schools like Stanford, Yale, and Harvard? Do such schools offer merit scholarships?

Is this one of those rare cases where taking on debt would be worth it?

If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law. I am encouraging him to pursue a STEM field as I think the opportunities there are better.

Thoughts?
Why not apply and just see what happens. Heck, if he does get accepted and decided to save by going the second tied in-state/scholarship route.... He can still save those acceptance letters for nostalgia's sake.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by TTU »

Tell him to apply to a service academy. Outstanding education, free, and a guranteed job afterwards :)
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by MathWizard »

If he's interested in Engineering, try Georgia Tech.

My son opted to stay instate at the flagship Univ because they would give him a full ride
(full ride just means tuition, I'm still paying most of the cost.) He wants to go somewhere
more prestigious for grad school.

Did he take the PSAT and was he a National Merit Semifinalist? Unless his writing scores wre horrible
I woudl think he would now become a finalist.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by nisiprius »

Bengineer wrote:I think he should apply to the schools that most interest him, regardless of cost. He can then balance cost, scholarship opportunities & debt considerations among the ones that accept him....
Hear, hear.

1) Even though he is too young to be making these decisions for himself, he should be making these decisions for himself. Or at least genuinely participating in them.

2) As others have noted, I can't see the downside in applying, provided that it's a school he really want to go to (not a school that someone else thinks he should want to go to).

3) College is an education, not an investment. Even though he may not know what kind of career he wants to pursue--or may think he wants to and be wrong. If he is interested in creative writing and law, he should look for schools that seem to provided a fostering environment for those interests. Let young Steve Jobs go to Reed College in Portland if he wants to, let young Bill Gates go to Harvard if he wants to.

Life is what it is... even though college costs what it costs, it is what it is. I said "college is an education," but that's wrong. College offers an opportunity to get an education. No matter what college a kid attends, he or she may "major" in partying... or worse yet, bridge, do people lecture their kids on the evils of bridge-playing, surely as big a cause of flunking out as any?
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Valuethinker »

nisiprius wrote:
Bengineer wrote:I think he should apply to the schools that most interest him, regardless of cost. He can then balance cost, scholarship opportunities & debt considerations among the ones that accept him....
Hear, hear.

1) Even though he is too young to be making these decisions for himself, he should be making these decisions for himself. Or at least genuinely participating in them.
He needs (as we all did at that age) help vis a vis using the right criteria. What matters is that he goes to a school which stretches him mentally (but not too much-- one has to be careful of the CalTech scenario (see 'Pacific Tech' in the movie 'Real Genius')-- a very bright kid can wind up in the bottom of his or her class at a place like that, and that is probably going to be hard), but where he is socially comfortable and develops some friendships and interests which will probably last his lifetime. I still have better friends from undergraduate college than any other time in my life.
2) As others have noted, I can't see the downside in applying, provided that it's a school he really want to go to (not a school that someone else thinks he should want to go to).{/quote]
I agree with that, especially the underlined bit. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale give, I think, a different complexion on life than just about any other US undergrad school-- your classmates will rule America, literally (and other countries). They will be the tops of their fields in law, medicine, academia, politics, finance etc. (stats show with CEOs, this is less clear). But that does your child no good if he's very unhappy there.
3) College is an education, not an investment. Even though he may not know what kind of career he wants to pursue--or may think he wants to and be wrong. If he is interested in creative writing and law, he should look for schools that seem to provided a fostering environment for those interests. Let young Steve Jobs go to Reed College in Portland if he wants to, let young Bill Gates go to Harvard if he wants to.
Both Gates and Jobs dropped out without finishing. Real entrepreneurs tend to do that. For the rest of us, who are more likely to work for other people, finishing is very important.

Life is what it is... even though college costs what it costs, it is what it is. I said "college is an education," but that's wrong. College offers an opportunity to get an education. No matter what college a kid attends, he or she may "major" in partying... or worse yet, bridge, do people lecture their kids on the evils of bridge-playing, surely as big a cause of flunking out as any?
[/quote]

Bridge has declined as a social pasttime. I think I read in 1960 about 60 million adult Americans regularly played bridge, it's now down to about 1 million I believe. The point is germane, but I imagine this generation does something else (online poker?).

I believe the data shows that the top 4 year liberal arts colleges give just as high participation in top level JD, medicine, business, Phd programmes as the big name Ivy universities. My impression is that places like Reed, Swarthmore, Wellesley etc. provide a much greater commitment to undergraduate teaching and individual attention which means students actually *learn* the things you are supposed to get out of college-- how to write, how to think, how to analyze, how to make your case. 'Synthesize and criticize' as my tutor at university would have said.

But they are expensive and don't provide the obvious social capital of Harvard/ Princeton/ Yale/ Stanford.

If his nephew is interested in law then what is *really important* is a high undergrad GPA (wherever) and an excellent LSAT-- at which point, it *really matters* the ranking of his law school. Your entry to a firm, and therefore your legal career, is dependent upon being in the upper two thirds, say, of the class of a top 10 or top 20 law school.

This ranking (of law school) matters more than where he went to undergrad. Podunk U is fine, if it gets you into Chicago, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown etc. law school (picking names off the top of my head).

(I have this from a friend who entered law after an academic career. His Phd was from the most prestigious institution in that field in the country, if not the world. He managed 'one of the bottom of the top 10' law schools. He said had he been much lower, given his age, he would have struggled to find a job. He graduated about midway through his class I believe).

I would also say if nephew is interested in law his family need to pull out all the stops to get him an internship at a law firm. A couple of years as a paralegal would be even better. There is no point spending $200k going to a top law school if you then decide you really hate Big Law. Like medicine, it is a completely all consuming career.

Law is too often the default for 4 year liberal arts undergrads with no idea what to do. The distribution of law school graduate incomes is bimodal, with perhaps 10% in the 'Big Law' category ($160k first year out?) and then a very long tail with a much lower starting salary. Whilst there are lots of productive and interesting things a lawyer can do outside of practicing Big Law, it's such a huge investment of time and money that it has to be entered with eyes open-- there are too many law graduates out there.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Valuethinker »

fredflinstone wrote:My nephew surprised me on his SATs: 780 on verbal, 760 on math. He has good grades and is a nice, well-liked kid. He is hoping to avoid incurring debt by winning a merit scholarship at a second-tier school. (He will be a good Boglehead someday.) Question: Should he even bother applying to top-tier schools like Stanford, Yale, and Harvard? Do such schools offer merit scholarships?

Is this one of those rare cases where taking on debt would be worth it?

If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law. I am encouraging him to pursue a STEM field as I think the opportunities there are better.

Thoughts?
1. on STEM I think Tyler Cowen's book is good. There is a lot of discussion of this. Remember, it's a lot easier to offshore a STEM job to India, than it is many creative jobs. In the age of the Internet, what is a marketable 'career' has shifted.

What is most important is that your nephew excel in whatever his undergraduate subject is. That will determine his access to law schools, business schools and even employers.

2. I believe SATS have changed since I wrote them (late 1970s). I believe that very high scores are now much more common (I had a friend who had double 800, got into MIT, Renselaer). On that basis, as I understand the situation, your nephew will have to distinguish himself in other ways on his application

3. he should visit some big name schools with a mindfulness that Harvard/ Princeton/ Yale/ Stanford really are special in terms of what their undergraduates do with their lives (which doesn't mean they are right for him). And if he likes one of them (or more than one) he should apply. I would add (although the cost benefit ratio is less clear) that some of the really top liberal arts colleges (Swarthmore for example) might also be worth considering: I think they have a very student-focused education whereas my *impression* (not knowledge) is that at a place like Harvard it is easy to get lost in the masses (given the professors are there to do research).

It's always good to have options and there is nothing wrong with 1-3 'reach' schools. The Early Admission game may be worth playing in this regard-- over to our American confreres.

The quality of education he would receive as an undergraduate at Oxford or Cambridge would be exceptional *if* he could get in, particularly in the liberal arts. Foreign students pay higher fees, so have a small advantage over domestic students due to funding issues (the universities of course deny this). Cost would be similar to a top US university when you include cost of living etc. Be warned, the comparable top British 18 year old is usually a long way ahead educationally, there is a gap there that would need to be made up (more again on the arts side than the science and maths side, although the Further Maths at A Level (high school) is the equivalent of North American first year undergrad).
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by MnD »

fredflinstone wrote:My nephew surprised me on his SATs: 780 on verbal, 760 on math. He has good grades and is a nice, well-liked kid. He is hoping to avoid incurring debt by winning a merit scholarship at a second-tier school. (He will be a good Boglehead someday.) Question: Should he even bother applying to top-tier schools like Stanford, Yale, and Harvard? Do such schools offer merit scholarships?

Is this one of those rare cases where taking on debt would be worth it?

If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law. I am encouraging him to pursue a STEM field as I think the opportunities there are better.
Thoughts?
Does he want very badly to to go to one of those top schools? if not he should not bother applying.
His test scores are nothing special for elite colleges. He will need fabulous test scores, top student or few top student GPA standing in his high school, leadership roles in extracurriculars and outstanding and unusually advanced outside accomplishments to gain acceptance.

There are some elite schools that offer a very few merit scholarships, but not the three schools you mentioned. There are also a few incredibly competitive and sought after high value independent merit scholarships. Keep in mind that private schools can direct their merit aid to whomever they want. It is often to the children of someone that has a very significant relationship with the University. To have a chance of winning one actually on merit, figure the student has to be in the top 1% of an incoming class that is in the top 1% of college-bound students. In other words, don't get your hopes up.

How much do his parents make and what are they willing to pay for college? If they make too much for need aid and the student is admitted and attends, figure $250K for one undergraduate degree, perhaps in creative writing which is what you indicated was his interest. If they are genuinely middle income or below, a student may be able to attend an elite college for "free" with 100% need aid with no loans. For the middle class and below, elite colleges represent a tremendous opportunity, but it's admittance that is the hurdle.

If need aid isn't in the cards, the risk of applying is that the student will be accepted, parents and student contract "elite college syndrome" and the parents will wreck their finances so precious snowflake can have the privilege of dropping a quarter million bucks on a B.A. These colleges are experts in separating households from huge amounts of cash they may have saved for a lifetime. There is no debt a student can take out in their name to pay for a quarter-million dollar undergraduate degree. Parents, either through Parent Plus Direct Loans or private loans can typically borrow to the hilt, but six-figure debt for a household perhaps in their late-40's early 50's can be financially life-ruining. Kids can promise to repay these loans all they want, but private loans and parent Plus loans are signed or co-signed by parents who are fully on the hook. Students can borrow something like $6k per year through the federal student loan program, mostly subsidized interest rates if they have demonstrated need and non-subsidized if they cannot show need.

Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.

One of the best deals for typical Bogleheads that aren't rich but won't qualify for need aid are the top flagship or top "niche" in-state schools. Depending on the state, this student might receive a partial merit aid award and that's on top of significantly subsidized in-state tuition rates. Are the parents not willing to help at all in this situation? The net household price might be very reasonable. Merit aid at state schools is distributed much more democratically than at private schools. They often use a matrix formula of GPA and test scores to determine merit awards if any.

Law school is not cheap anywhere and ones terminal degree is more important than where one earned their undergraduate degree. So the student might economize on their undergraduate degree, do extremely well and still be able to attend an elite college for the professional degree.

A student with these scores would likely get a very substantial merit aid award at a 2nd-tier state school. I would think long and hard about this. The student will be in the top few % of his incoming class. Many students will be poorly prepared, marginally college material as far as aptitude and many will drop out or drag out graduation well beyond 4 years. Many top students can look right past this and do very well well in less selective state schools. I know one "top student" that's doing well in this situation but in retrospect is a bit disappointed for having "settled" with a "bargain" 2nd-tier school as opposed to going to the flagship State U which she was accepted to and highly qualified to attend. it also may be a bridge too far to go from east central State College to acceptance at an elite school graduate program. The best fit for a 2nd-tier state school is a student that doesn't have the grades or scores to get into an elite school or the flagship State U, but still wants the traditional "go away to college" experience.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by 2stepsbehind »

Valuethinker wrote:I would also say if nephew is interested in law his family need to pull out all the stops to get him an internship at a law firm. A couple of years as a paralegal would be even better. There is no point spending $200k going to a top law school if you then decide you really hate Big Law.
I agree with basically everything you said except this. As you note, there are so many other things you can do in the law besides Biglaw so having to make copies/put together binders and tables of contents for a couple of years will not expose nephew to the actual practice of law. Nor will it put the nephew at a greater advantage to work at a law firm than if he does something that interests him. If he goes to Biglaw for a couple of years to pay down his debt he may be more focused as to what he eventually wants to do which is helpful in making the transition.

People should not be under the impression that students in the top law schools are just dying to go into Biglaw and to work hard to make partner or that everyone who doesn't make partner either burned or crashed out and had to settle for something else. While I'm sure that is the story for some, I would say most of my law school classmates were hoping to do a stint of 2-5 years at BigLaw to pay off their debts/build a nest egg and then transition to work that interests them more (in-house, government, nonprofit work, academia etc). What has made the market so difficult is not so much that Biglaw has slowed its hiring (although that certainly is true), but that the other areas are not hiring or have seriously pulled back on hiring which means a lot of individuals who would have left after year 2 are still there at year 6+.
Last edited by 2stepsbehind on Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Kosmo »

fredflinstone wrote:If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law.
It definitely matters. I wanted to go to engineering school and didn't think twice about not applying to Harvard and Yale.I wouldn't worry about law so much since that's a graduate program and (in my experience) is usually preceded by political science or history.

Location also matters. I wasn't going to leave the east coast, so that ruled out a lot of schools. Aside: I applied to a handful of schools that I never seriously considered attending because the application fee was waived and I wanted practice writing essays on obscure topics.

In less words: Apply if he would seriously consider going there and would be in a program he wants to be in. Consider the location (north/south/east/west), atmosphere (rural/urban), and "extras" (sports, clubs, etc.). Do not apply for the sole reason that it's a top tier school.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by 2stepsbehind »

MnD wrote:
Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.
Agreed 100%
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

MnD wrote:Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.
+1. STEM fields can be difficult even for those who are "into" them. An eventual career might emerge out of a blending of STEM and writing, for example: my ex-wife made a great career out of technical writing for engineering departments, based on strong writing skills and the ability to listen to engineers and semi-understand what they were talking about. OTOH, she would have died as a STEM major.

Regarding financial aid, Ivy league schools are need-based on financial aid, giving essentially no merit-based scholarships. However, and it varies by school, they are usually liberal in their interpretation of need. A family earning less than $200k (with a corresponding level of assets) will most likely get some aid. As someone mentioned, a family earning less than $80k (or with more than one child in college at the same time) is likely to get a full ride.

Elite schools are mostly need-blind in admissions (i.e., they will not favor, or so they say, students whose families can pay full tuition over those who can't).

SAT scores and grades are almost universally high at elite schools; even the recruited athletes do relatively well. For example, at Harvard:
Average GPA 4
SAT Math 700-800 range of middle 50%
SAT Critical Reading 690-790 range of middle 50%
SAT Writing 690-790 range of middle 50%

If your nephew's school has Naviance software, he can use that to see how kids from his school have done with comparable grades and scores. I can never remember how to show a photo (i.e., where do I upload it to in order to remain anonymous), but they have very informative scatter diagrams that are particular to the student's high school, the college he's considering, and the outcome for previous students with particular GPAs and scores.

One way to think about it is that an application will cost $86/school for most schools ($75 application fee and $11 test score fee). Some of the schools have very similar applications (Yale and Harvard, for example, require little additional effort once you've done one) and some are really time consuming (University of Chicago, for example, has essay questions that are known for their quirkiness and uniqueness). My son will be applying to many of these "unpredictable" schools; we hope that he gets in. On an optimistic day, I think he's got a 20% chance. You have got to be in it to win it (and the reference to a lottery slogan is very intentional). I say to try; you never know.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by denovo »

VictoriaF wrote:Stanford and Harvard have a much higher threshold for financial aid. It's definitely worth applying but note that many applicants have perfect 1600 on SATs and still don't get in.

Victoria
Get with the times; its out of 2400 now :happy
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Calm Man »

abuss368 wrote:There are so many great public schools that I seriously wonder why anyone would want to pay for an "Ivy League" school.

Is that the Boglehead way?
I have never heard this question from somebody who went to the Ivy leagues.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

denovo wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:Stanford and Harvard have a much higher threshold for financial aid. It's definitely worth applying but note that many applicants have perfect 1600 on SATs and still don't get in.

Victoria
Get with the times; its out of 2400 now :happy
Although some schools still use the Math+Critical Reading scores for a combined 1600, rather than the 2400 scale.

On a related note, my son, who got very close to a perfect SAT 1 score (but no cigar), found the silver lining: Since college adcoms love to brag about the 4.0/2400 candidates that they rejected, he figures that he actually has a better chance because his application won't provide that temptation to them.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by denovo »

TomatoTomahto wrote:
denovo wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:Stanford and Harvard have a much higher threshold for financial aid. It's definitely worth applying but note that many applicants have perfect 1600 on SATs and still don't get in.

Victoria
Get with the times; its out of 2400 now :happy
Although some schools still use the Math+Critical Reading scores for a combined 1600, rather than the 2400 scale.

On a related note, my son, who got very close to a perfect SAT 1 score (but no cigar), found the silver lining: Since college adcoms love to brag about the 4.0/2400 candidates that they rejected, he figures that he actually has a better chance because his application won't provide that temptation to them.

I know people who have worked in Admissions at an Ivy League school: no one penalizes someone who gets a 2400 or brags about it. That being said if someone got a 2360 and retook it to get a 2400; the committee may not like that because of what it says about the person. I'd also add there's really no difference between a 2360 and 2400 or 2320, that won't be a decisive factor in admitting an applicant.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Kulak »

Valuethinker wrote:The quality of education he would receive as an undergraduate at Oxford or Cambridge would be exceptional ... particularly in the liberal arts.
Could you elaborate on this? And are you distinguishing Oxbridge from even the elite American schools?
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

denovo wrote:
TomatoTomahto wrote:
denovo wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:Stanford and Harvard have a much higher threshold for financial aid. It's definitely worth applying but note that many applicants have perfect 1600 on SATs and still don't get in.

Victoria
Get with the times; its out of 2400 now :happy
Although some schools still use the Math+Critical Reading scores for a combined 1600, rather than the 2400 scale.

On a related note, my son, who got very close to a perfect SAT 1 score (but no cigar), found the silver lining: Since college adcoms love to brag about the 4.0/2400 candidates that they rejected, he figures that he actually has a better chance because his application won't provide that temptation to them.

I know people who have worked in Admissions at an Ivy League school: no one penalizes someone who gets a 2400 or brags about it. That being said if someone got a 2360 and retook it to get a 2400; the committee may not like that because of what it says about the person.
I guess that I should have added a smiley face to make it clear that my son (and I) were just kidding around. FWIW, I have warned more than one poster on College Confidential that retaking a 2360 would likely raise a red flag with Admissions regarding a problem with perfectionism. My son reacted very differently. Rather than considering a re-take, he figured that it was "one and done," and he could spend his energy on more productive things.

That said, I have to slightly disagree with your impression of "no bragging." Maybe they weren't bragging, but rather trying to let the prospective applicants know that there are no guarantees, but I can't recall a presentation by an elite school that didn't somehow slip in the fact that they reject 2400s every year. To my 17-year old, it sounded like bragging.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by kaudrey »

MnD wrote:
fredflinstone wrote: Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.
+2 My father is a retired engineer, and my sister is an engineer. I am no slouch and I like numbers - I am a finance professional with a CFA charter, but there is no WAY I wanted to have an engineering career. You are going to work for 30-40 years; much better to find a path to something you can do for that long happily.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by goodenoughinvestor »

I am going to repeat myself and mention again, in this same thread (because I think it's so important for students and their parents to be aware of this), that truly top students who fall inbetween low-income and my-parents-can-spare-$250000-no-problem should look at the top tier schools that offer no-loan financial aid. In some cases, such awards can make attending one of these schools arguably competitive with the state flagship. Case in point: Vanderbilt University. Sticker price: $61,000. But 40% of freshmen received aid (again--grants, not loans) totaling at least $33000 and an additional 20% received lesser awards. And it's not just the lowest income students who are receiving aid. From their website:

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/financialaid/ ... umbers.php

"There is no specific income that will automatically disqualify a family from receiving need-based aid at Vanderbilt. Income is only one consideration when determining eligibility for need-based financial aid. Other significant factors include, but are not limited to, family size; number of children in college; private elementary and secondary tuition expenses; and family assets. Applying for need-based aid is the only way we can determine your eligibility for such financial assistance."

I assume you can find similar stats for the other schools on the list I posted earlier in this thread. Much too often families of very talented kids scratch prestigious private colleges off the list for financial reasons. Investigate before making this decision. No, these schools aren't right for all students and are extremely tough to get into. (Vanderbilt's admission rate is about 12%.) But they are a great fit for some students who may not realize they could afford to attend after all!
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by denovo »

TomatoTomahto wrote: That said, I have to slightly disagree with your impression of "no bragging." Maybe they weren't bragging, but rather trying to let the prospective applicants know that there are no guarantees, but I can't recall a presentation by an elite school that didn't somehow slip in the fact that they reject 2400s every year. To my 17-year old, it sounded like bragging.
I guess it depends on the situation of the listener. It may be a sign of encouragement to someone with a lowly score of 2200 (gasp: sarcasm) that they shouldn't be discouraged from applying because of scores .
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Professor Emeritus »

A lot of excellent comments here, let me throw in mine. I've taught in the USA, the UK and Germany. Ive taught at Engineering schools, law schools and Consumer Economics departments and been a visiting researcher at Medical and public health schools. DW is a physician.

1) Everyone should study and learn enough STEM subjects to contribute meaningfully to the public debate on STEM related issues. Unfortunately stem specialties are among the most "outsourced" jobs. Exceptions are high school teaching, stem management and product design.

2) An elite college is no guarantee of admission to an elite law school. One anecdote. I had a young friend who made the "mistake" of playing football at an Ivy League school. It was unfortunately a distinct negative when he applied for law school, since it was assumed he was a"special admit". He finally got letters from the school that indicated he was a "walk on" and had not been recruited for football skills.

3) There are excellent liberal arts educations at many 4 year colleges , but only a handful where the schools own selectivity and policies really add to the usual resume fodder. These are mostly schools where even the "bottom student" is still amazing. 4 year colleges in this category are Swarthmore, Reed, Amherst, Williams etc

4) The schools who are suffering today are second tier expensive private universities that are heavily dependent on students paying expensive tuition. Check the world ranking of Universities to see where they stand in the wold of bubble academic reputation.
http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU2013.html

5) The top 60 or so American Universities are the real "players" in the USA game of academic reputation. I FULLY AGREE THAT GREAT EDUCATIONS ARE FOUND AT OTHER SCHOOLS but in any such case the school will not be much of a boost to the resume.

good luck
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by 2stepsbehind »

Professor Emeritus wrote:
2) An elite college is no guarantee of admission to an elite law school. One anecdote. I had a young friend who made the "mistake" of playing football at an Ivy League school. It was unfortunately a distinct negative when he applied for law school, since it was assumed he was a"special admit". He finally got letters from the school that indicated he was a "walk on" and had not been recruited for football skills.
I can't see any law school treating that as a negative unless his GPA/LSAT were well below the admissions standards of his target law schools. Most law schools would love to brag about the athletes among the class.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

VictoriaF wrote:
abuss368 wrote:There are so many great public schools that I seriously wonder why anyone would want to pay for an "Ivy League" school.

Is that the Boglehead way?
Jack went to Princeton.

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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

kaudrey wrote:
MnD wrote:
fredflinstone wrote: Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.
+2 My father is a retired engineer, and my sister is an engineer. I am no slouch and I like numbers - I am a finance professional with a CFA charter, but there is no WAY I wanted to have an engineering career. You are going to work for 30-40 years; much better to find a path to something you can do for that long happily.
+3 If digging ditches paid $200K a year and the same amount of vacation, I'd still pass - swinging a pickaxe in the hot sun, rain, wind, snow 40 hours a week makes for a short life, even if you do get paid that. Life is too short to willingly be miserable. Besides, that's what rich uncles are there for...... :)
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

Valuethinker wrote: If his nephew is interested in law then what is *really important* is a high undergrad GPA (wherever) and an excellent LSAT-- at which point, it *really matters* the ranking of his law school. Your entry to a firm, and therefore your legal career, is dependent upon being in the upper two thirds, say, of the class of a top 10 or top 20 law school.

This ranking (of law school) matters more than where he went to undergrad. Podunk U is fine, if it gets you into Chicago, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown etc. law school (picking names off the top of my head).


I would also say if nephew is interested in law his family need to pull out all the stops to get him an internship at a law firm. A couple of years as a paralegal would be even better. There is no point spending $200k going to a top law school if you then decide you really hate Big Law. Like medicine, it is a completely all consuming career.

Law is too often the default for 4 year liberal arts undergrads with no idea what to do. The distribution of law school graduate incomes is bimodal, with perhaps 10% in the 'Big Law' category ($160k first year out?) and then a very long tail with a much lower starting salary. Whilst there are lots of productive and interesting things a lawyer can do outside of practicing Big Law, it's such a huge investment of time and money that it has to be entered with eyes open-- there are too many law graduates out there.
+1 Boy! You let the secret out of the bag - there are too many law graduates out there. The nephew should do a search of the WSJ front page from sometime this year talking about the glut of law students, the number of lawsuits against the various law schools accusing them of understating the lack of demand for law graduates (basically how they've been sold a bill of goods at a very expensive price!).

If money is an issue, go to the best low cost college, then apply and get into the best of the top 10 schools for what ever major he decides will be his career. That is the approach many in my class had taken, and I can say it worked out pretty well for most of us.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by VictoriaF »

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
kaudrey wrote:
MnD wrote:
fredflinstone wrote: Forcing someone who is interested in creative writing and law into STEM is not likely to succeed. He'll hate it and do poorly in school and/or in his career.
+2 My father is a retired engineer, and my sister is an engineer. I am no slouch and I like numbers - I am a finance professional with a CFA charter, but there is no WAY I wanted to have an engineering career. You are going to work for 30-40 years; much better to find a path to something you can do for that long happily.
+3 If digging ditches paid $200K a year and the same amount of vacation, I'd still pass - swinging a pickaxe in the hot sun, rain, wind, snow 40 hours a week makes for a short life, even if you do get paid that. Life is too short to willingly be miserable. Besides, that's what rich uncles are there for...... :)
With the name Grt2bOutdoors, digging ditches for $200k should be Nirvana {smile},

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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by inbox788 »

Riceman wrote:Ivy league schools have a formal policy of not giving merit scholarships. Stanford may be different.

And I can personally vouch for the fact that a perfect SAT score (and very competitive application overall) does not guarantee admission. I was 1 for 3 with Ivies and also rejected from Standford. Like your nephew, I chose a good pubclic school. If he has no intention of choosing an ivy, applying is a lot of headache for little reward.
Absolutely apply! Finances shouldn't make too much of a factor as many of these schools, especially at the college level meet financial needs. You may be right about (rare) merit scholarship vs (plentyful) need scholarship. Being able to pay for it, but not willing to because one doesn't think it's worth it may be being money smart, or could turn out to be penny wise, pound foolish.

Attending depends on whether he's dreaming of being a supreme court justice some day and what his personal drive to achieve is compatible with the school. Some people believe the school helps make people successful, others believe success is really up to the individuals, and schools don't matter. There are examples of both. Maybe it's a combination of both.

Applying to any school is a lottery. Your chances are improved if you have the right stuff, but sometimes, schools will actually discriminate against a candidate that is overqualified. "Safety school" might deny a spot to a candidate that is clearly going elsewhere, so they can accept someone who might be attending, and boosting their comparative stats.

Isn't Yale Law still topping Harvard Law in the rankings/popularity contests?
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by MoonOrb »

Will he incur debt to go to a top tier university? If the answer is No, then he should apply. If the answer is Yes, then it's a trickier question.

Look, high school seniors, even really mature high school seniors, just don't make the best decisions about these types of things. I had a choice between a very good public university and a marginally better, fancier, snobbier private university, and I remember the exact moment I chose the private university: I was visiting campus, it was a beautiful autumn day, and I heard someone playing Van Morrison's "Moondance" out of the window of their dorm room. I thought, "This is where I want to go," and nothing moved me off of that. Reader, I wound up transferring to the public university and was much happier.

The point of that parable about my own experience is that it might not really be worth even putting into his head the idea that mabye he can go to the top tier school if he's going to incur comparatively larger debt to do it. Maybe this is something he won't know until he applies, but the risk is that he's accepted and he decides, like I did, by gum, he's going to that more expensive private school even though it costs tens of thousands of dollars more per year.

Note--I would not forbid him from applying to these schools. That would be awful. But I wouldn't push them on him, either.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by inbox788 »

Professor Emeritus wrote:2) An elite college is no guarantee of admission to an elite law school.
The converse is also true. Looking at the students at elite law schools, you will find a vast majority of elite colleges well represented. It's like the 10% of private school high school students who make up about 30% of the elite colleges are disproportionately represented. And if you look at the elite college prep high schools, that number is even more skewed.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by VictoriaF »

Many anti-Ivy league comments seem to imply that there is some kind of a linear scale in the college quality, and one should find an optimum price/quality combination. In fact, the quality of colleges is a curve that rises almost asymptotically for Harvard/Princeton/Yale/Stanford. Not just any "prestigious" college, not just any "Ivy League" college but one of the top four I've mentioned is a pass for much better career options than the alternatives.

H/P/Y/S provide a lifetime value. The graduates are more likely to get a job, to get a better job, and to find another job. If one decided to work internationally, employers in China and France will recognize the H/P/Y/S names, but they would have no idea about the difference between, say UPenn and PennState.

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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

inbox788 wrote:Applying to any school is a lottery. Your chances are improved if you have the right stuff, but sometimes, schools will actually discriminate against a candidate that is overqualified. "Safety school" might deny a spot to a candidate that is clearly going elsewhere, so they can accept someone who might be attending, and boosting their comparative stats.
The dreaded "Tufts Syndrome." Tufts maintains that they do no such thing, but ...
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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Re: should my nephew apply to a top-tier university?

Post by inbox788 »

fredflinstone wrote:Is this one of those rare cases where taking on debt would be worth it?

If it matters, he is interested in creative writing and law. I am encouraging him to pursue a STEM field as I think the opportunities there are better.
Yes, in some instances. Despite the hype, there is something to the college experience and elite college experience that some kids benefit from or is a beneficial rite of passage. But also others suffer from the experience. There's really no way of knowing until you're well past it and no redo, so each student just has to make his/her best assessment and choose wisely.

There's always patent law, which is very lucrative, if the abilities are there. It's a very creative field from the discussions and decisions I've come across which often have no rhyme or reason, since often it covers uncharted territory.
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