Selective Colleges

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psteinx
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Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:21 pm

To manage the length of this essay/thread, I'm splitting things across several posts within this thread.

Introduction
Key Changes in Last Few Decades
Cost Outline
Merits of a Selective School
Admission to Selective Schools
Education in a Broader Context (Pre-College)
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Introduction

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Introduction:
For many of us, the collective amount we spend on our kids' college education is among the highest, if not the highest, single set of consumer expenses, exceeding cars, houses, etc. The non-financial consequences can also be quite momentous - we want our kids to be well-educated, happy, productive citizens and people.

Many college threads on BH are focused on an OP's particular situation - "How should we approach college for my daughter with these attributes?" The goal of this thread is to be more general, but not TOO general. In particular, I want to focus on items that were of particular interest to me, but also likely to many BHs, relative to the general public - selective colleges (and admissions), and financial options for prosperous familes less likely to get need-based aid.

While I'm not sure there's a uniform definition, generally, selective colleges are those which reject a substantial number of applicants, and have a relatively high bar to get in - significantly higher than just a HS degree and the minimum SAT/ACT that is considered "college-ready". As a rough guide, think of a college where you might want a ~25 ACT and a 3.3 uwGPA as a rough starting point for "selective", but much of the emphasis of more anxious parents (like me), is on schools significantly harder than that (highly selective schools looking for low to mid 30s on the ACT and a ~3.8+ GPA, plus various other attributes.)

There are other resources for this material. But one such resource, www.collegeconfidential.com, did a major, very bad web redesign a few months ago that makes it much more difficult to navigate, and, I think, has cut traffic severely. Also, many "official" type resources (including the colleges themselves), offer less-than-frank information. Parents may draw on their own experiences as students, but the student view is not the same as the parent view, and in any case, a lot has changed (and continues to change), since ~30 years ago. HS guidance/college counselors, thinly stretched at many public HSs, may be less useful on topics outside of their wheelhouse (local and in-state options and costs).

Also, the goal here is not how these processes *should* work, but how they *do* work. Please minimize political commentary and the like.

My qualifications to discuss this: I've got two kids in college now, one more in HS. We did not do everything perfectly for the 2 older kids, and while the oldest is at a USNWR top ~20 private, the 2nd is at our state's primary public engineering college, that, while good, probably reflects admissions underperformance relative to his stats. Going through the process, I've read widely - lots of stuff on the internet, but lots of books as well. There's a lot of conflicting and/or incomplete information. What I post is my synthesis of what I've seen/read, and my best guesses. I may be wrong or incomplete, and welcome others to add their own facts and opinions.
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Key Changes in Last Few Decades

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Key Changes in Last Few Decades:
OK, so you probably went to college yourself, ~20-40 years ago. You know this stuff already, right?

Maybe. A lot has changed.

College attendance rates: Way up
International kids: Up. Can be around 20% at some schools.
Applications to selective schools: Way up
Acceptance rates at selective schools: Way down. More kids applying for arguably less spots (in some cases). Acceptances in the ~5% range at several, like Harvard, and effectively lower than that if you're not in a few key categories they target.
List costs (tuition, etc.): Way up for privates, somewhat up for publics
Net costs (after scholarships): Down for some, but probably up to way up for most BHs
Standardized test scores: Changed over the decades. Recentered and the value of various tests have changed. I would say that generally, the kid with OK grades but who knocked the lights out of the SAT has weaker prospects, now.
HS GPAs: Up
HS Weighted GPAs: Barely a thing ~3 decades ago, now a bit of a confusing mess.
Applications per kid: Up (due to ease of the common app)
Extracurriculars: Probably more obsessed on now as a differentiator

Many of these things will be discussed in greater detail, below.
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Cost Outline

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Cost Outline:
There's relatively little variation in the headline cost of top privates, from Harvard down through the lower Ivies and into the top non-Ivy privates. Tuition + R&B is in the low 70s $K. Cost increases have slowed, and I'm modelling about 3% cost growth. So you're looking at around $290-310K, full freight costs for a kid entering now, and inflate that by about 3%/year if your kid is a few years off. Ivies don't give ANY merit aid. Many of the non-Ivies have some merit scholarships, but they're a quite small % of the freshman class size, and given the already sky-high admissions requirements, assuming your kid will get a merit scholarship seems overoptimistic.

Once you get further down the USNWR list, prices, both list and net, tend to come down. Merit scholarships become feasible, but are more likely if your kid is "overqualified". i.e. if your kid has a 34 ACT, and GPA/ECs to match, and gets into a ~50th ranked private, the list rate may be lower than Harvard et al, and there may also be some "merit" money available. $35-55K/year is perhaps a reasonable range to have in mind.

Public schools can of course be MUCH cheaper still. State flagships, in state, may be from about $15-25K, before any scholarships. In my state, my kids get a basically automatic scholarship, from the state itself, basically for having a 31+ ACT and staying in-state. And my 2nd child, going to the public engineering school, with stats well above their averages, qualifies for a further $7K/year in scholarships.

A still cheaper option is community college (for ~2 years) -> state public.

It's also possible to rack up a LOT of college credits in HS, through APs, DEs (dual enrollment classes with a local college), IB, and even programs where the last 2 years of high school are done in conjunction with a college, to produce an associates at about the same time as one's HS graduation.

Note that the higher end privates tend to be much fussier about all these options for college credit while in HS - more stingy in their awards, and possibly with a hard cap on how much they'll allow, overall...

Attending a premier OOS (out of state) public used to be an economical way to get a top ~25 college at a much lower rate than a top private. But, from a pricing standpoint, this is less appealing than it used to be. OOS rates at premier publics like Michigan, UC Berkeley, UVA and the like are quite high - somewhat below Harvard and the like, but not by THAT much. And need/merit scholarships at these are less likely if you're OOS. There are some options for OOS publics at reasonable costs though.

Several regions have tuition exchanges, allowing you to attend an OOS public in your region at in-state, or at least reduced rates. But mostly the schools that offer this are sub-flagship level.

The military offers various options for helping with college. Thx ncbill for reminding me/us of that, and for posting some details downthread.

There are some flagships that offer more or less in-state rates, or other strong financial incentives, to OOS kids with high test scores. Alabama and Mississippi are notable for this, and I think there are others. No, those 2 are not at the level of Michigan or UVA, but they may have appeal for some, especially when the in-state option is fairly weak too. (Among other things, Alabama offers warm weather and a very "big school" feel, with big-time sports.)

There are 3rd party scholarships of various sorts. We didn't really pursue these, but they could be worthwhile. My wife read essays to help awards a local scholarship or two, and said the quality and quantity of entries was thin. Aim for obscure local scholarships not likely to draw much interest. If only 5 kids submit the essay for a $1K scholarship, and if the essay takes 2-3 hours to write, then the potential reward to effort ratio is high.

Some teen employers offer surprisingly generous scholarships. I was chatting with a McDonald's manager, and was surprised to learn that they had a more-or-less automatic scholarship of, IIRC, $2500, for employees who'd worked there for ~90+ days. Yeah, McDonald's may only pay $9.50/hour, but if you work perhaps 400 hours in spring/summer leading up to college, you might get an effective ~$16/hour with scholarship add-on. This kind of thing is not unique to McDonald's.

OK, all that will still leave residual costs. While there are various ways to save for college, the generally preferred way now is a 529. If you stick money in a 529 and ultimately use it for qualified purposes (basically, tuition, R&B, and books) at an acceptable institution (most US colleges), then the GROWTH is tax-free. i.e. If you put $50K in, and it grows to $75K, then that $25K in growth will be untaxed, if you use it right. Furthermore, many/most states have their own sweeteners, so if you factor in the deductions/credits you get from your state when you put money into the 529s, that $50K you put in may have really only cost you $46K. Downsides include slightly higher fund costs than you'd get going to Vanguard directly, and some flexibility issues (with the possibility of penalties if you withdraw 529 amounts for non-qualified purposes - i.e. if you withdraw a surplus). Overall, there are a lot of nuances to 529s, with considerable debates as to their merits and best strategies - I'd suggest you look at other threads for more detailed discussions...
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Merits of a Selective School

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Merits of a Selective School:
A common argument is that, for all the hassle and cost of getting into and going to a highly selective private, attending such a school (versus, say, an in-state flagship) doesn't really matter much in the long run. i.e. The kid who got into Harvard, but attended Ohio State for cost or other reasons, will turn out about as good, statistically, as her peer who DID attend Harvard.

This line of thought arose in part based on some academic research from ca. 2002, that basically concluded as much, with a minor exception or two (IIRC, black/minority kids got more benefit from the likes of Harvard).

I won't go linking to all the relevant studies and debates - you can look themselves up yourself if interested.

To some extent, I bought into the skepticism about elite schools, but I'm not completely sold, and probably lean more the other way now.

Some thoughts:

Consider all of these as comparing elite privates (top 20ish), to good but not great publics (Flagship/near flagship). The principles should apply to various other comparison combinations.

1) Expenditure per student is almost surely MUCH higher at the elite privates. They have massive endowments, that they spend ~5% of, per year, on the institution. This amount can be ~$100K+ annually. Plus, despite the generous aid packages for needy students, a high % of attendees are full pay or nearly so, tossing big tuition dollars at the school. Publics may get more government support, from their state or other sources, but spending per kid is probably 3X+ at the elite privates.

2) This gap has probably been widening. As a higher % of a state's kids attend college, mostly at publics, state support for public colleges is spread more widely. College endowments have had a great run in the last few decades. I'd guess the ratio of elite private to public spending is significantly wider now than it was 20-30 years ago. In particular, it's likely wider than during the timeframes at which the cohorts studied in the "elite colleges don't matter" studies were undergrads.

3) Filtering is stronger. MANY more kids apply to Ivies and similar schools, and the lackadaisical rich kid who got into Harvard with his Bs and so-so SAT, because of dad and granddad's connections/legacy status, is an endangered species, to say the least. And while not all smart kids from humble origins apply to or go to elite schools, I'd venture that it's much more likely that such kids now find their way to the doorstep of Harvard (or at least Northwestern). (i.e. Easy to apply, internet spreads the knowledge, the colleges recruit widely, especially among kids who score well on the standardized tests).

What this means is, the spread between the average academic potential of the kids at Harvard vs. State U. is likely significantly wider than it was 30 years ago.

The spending gap manifests in various ways, some meaningful, some not. Yes, there's a lot of criticism of lazy rivers, climbing walls, and endless Deans of this 'n that. But I'll say from first-hand observation - the physical appearance of the campus at my oldest's elite private is MUCH nicer than at my second's public. Her freshman room was bigger. The number of RA-types and support people was higher, per kid. The food was probably better. The campus greener. The buildings fresher. OK, so that's all the physical stuff. I have less insight into the faculty, because I'm not sitting in the classes. But I'd be surprised if the differences didn't carry through to the classroom.

Will my second kid get a good education at the public engineering school? Yeah, I think so. And he'll (likely) be an engineer when he graduates. And, IIUC, the engineering grads at his school are well paid, and heavily recruited around this area, and probably further afield. And it's costing us a LOT less for him than for his sister. But I think at least some of that higher cost for his sister is translating to a variety of useful outcomes, including peer effects.
Last edited by psteinx on Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Admission to Selective Schools

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Admission to Selective Schools:
OK, admissions, eh?

It's a tricky topic because, frankly, the quality of information is pretty poor. Yeah, some stuff is obvious - good grades, test scores, ECs, essays and the like help. But colleges have various incentives to be purposefully obscure. Folks on websites like collegeconfidential.com often speak authoritatively, but I suspect that much of their wisdom is more folklore than reality. And there's little doubt that the admissions picture has been changing a lot in recent decades, and that there's signficant variation among schools. What's true for Harvard may not be true for Chicago, Cal Tech, or Michigan.

Colleges want you to apply. They really want you to apply. Their college is great, and would be great for YOU! With a good or even not so good PSAT/SAT/ACT score, your kid will be bombarded with mail. If your kid takes one of these tests as a sophomore, it'll start soon after - otherwise more probably as a junior.

Colleges have an incentive to make their schools look not only great, but achievable, not only by the ~2000 kids they'll accept, but by another 38,000 kids they'll reject to get a 5% acceptance rate.

A general problem is that it's hard to differentiate, with precision, the academic merits of high caliber students.

Grade inflation leaves little headroom in HS GPAs (how much difference is there between a 3.92 and a 3.94?), and in any case, colleges may have difficulty comparing kids across HSs. High Schools increasingly obscure class ranks, so a kid with a 3.9 may actually be only 27th in a class of 100. Weighted grades have become more ubiquitous, but weighting systems are inconsistent. And, as a parent, if you read online about a kid with a 3.9 who got into (or rejected from) a particular school, you don't necessarily know if that's a weighted GPA or not, and if so, what the weighting system is.

The standardized test environment has been in flux.

The old king was the SAT, and the SAT had a LOT of headroom. It was VERY hard to ring the bell on the SAT with a 1600 or even something close to that. But the SAT was recentered, higher, ca. 1995. It's been adjusted since, probably pushing scores higher. And kids grow up in an environment with more emphasis on standardized testing generally, and more prepping for college admissions tests, bumping scores up higher still. The SAT was moved from a 1600 point scale to a 2400 point scale, and is now, I think, back to 1600 again. The PSAT has its own weird scale - it used to be the SAT, more or less, divided by 10, but that's no longer true.

The ACT has grown in importance. As a midwestern kid aspiring to selectives, I didn't even take the ACT back in the 1980s, but in the same geographic area, our kids took the ACT but not the SAT. They *did* however, take the PSAT, aiming for national merit scholarships and maybe some general test prep. All kids in our state take the ACT (the state pays once, I think). An adjacent state has, I think, flipped between the SAT and the ACT as tests given to all the kids. The ACT has pre-ACT type tests, that can be taken at younger ages, but these haven't caught on as the PSAT did, and may be gone now (our oldest took more of these than the younger sibs, IIRC). The ACT writing section (a mini-essay) has been introduced, then receded in importance as colleges seemingly ignored it.

The format of both tests has shifted, as the test-makers move them from more IQ-type tests to achievement (i.e. knowledge) tests.

SAT Subject Tests (once called SAT IIs), used to be a big deal, but have declined in importance. I took them back in the day, but neither of my older kids took them. (They did try them for practice and to see how they'd fare.)

AP tests have risen in importance. Kids take more of them, earlier. In theory, this MIGHT help college applications (getting 4s and 5s on, say, 5 APs taken through one's junior year). But it's unclear. Colleges don't seem to talk about them much.

So, lots of murkiness. I would guess that, while many aspects of grades and test scores matter, what matters most is what colleges can readily report, on their Common Data Set (CDS), used by US News & World Report (USNWR), and other rankers/data aggregators. The colleges tend to report a 25th/75th percentile spread on the ACT and SAT (but not the SAT subject tests), and a bit of information about GPAs and HS rank (though, as said, many HSs don't report that). Here's Harvard's CDS, for reference, with the key information being in section C

https://oir.harvard.edu/files/huoir/fil ... 017-18.pdf

It's usually fairly easy to find (internet seach) a recent CDS for most selectives - browse a few target schools to get a feel.

What else matters?

What matters:
Readily controllable:
Grades
Test Scores
Curriculum/classes
Extracurriculars
Athletics
Maybe Essays
Early decision/action

Non-controllable things that matter:
Race
Sex
First Gen
Legacy

Lesser points, that may be controllable:
Demonstrated interest/interviews
Other - Development cases, celebrity kids, etc.

OK, each of these points could be the subject of a much deeper dive, but I'll try to resist. I'll note a few things though:

Colleges want to project that it's mainly a matter of how the kid did in HS (grades & curriculum), some test scores, and a smattering of outside/special talents (ECs and the like). But, particularly to the extent that things have been disclosed outside of normal channels - in lawsuit discovery, some obscure academic research, books by former admissions folks, and the like, it seems that some of the other stuff is QUITE important. Race matters a lot. Athletics (recruited athletes, mainly), matters a lot. Legacy status matters a lot at some places.

Again, the emphasis of this essay is things as they ARE, not as they SHOULD be (perhaps), but be aware that, if your kids has some of these tips in their favor, they can perhaps overreach, and conversely, if your kid does NOT have these tips in their favor, then you should probably assume that your kid is a long shot, at best unless their stats and the like are around the 50th percentile, and perhaps even the 75th percentile or above of matriculating students.
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Education in a Broader Context (Pre-College)

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Education in a Broader Context (Pre-College):
So, most of this essay has been about the college undergrad years. I'll skip grad school for brevity, and because I lack special insight there (my oldest is a college sophomore). But I want to issue a reminder that education is not a 4 year thing that happens from ages 18-21. It's a lifetime thing, and the years from 0-18 matter a lot too. In particular, from ages 6-18 or so, you can:
1) Buy a wide variety of books and read them to them, or for them to read on their own, as they get older.
Books are CHEAP compared to college.
2) Buy workbooks for subjects like math and science. Encourage your kids to improve their math during the summer. I was able to get a lot of mileage out of some homemade math worksheets, plus a simple reward system (candies and special treats for the kids) and a bit of competition between my two oldest.
3) Art supplies for the budding artist (again, cheap!)
4) Microscopes and the like (ok, not so cheap, but still...)
5) Athletics, to your kids' interest. (No, it doesn't have to be travel teams. Your kid is probably not going to be a major league-er).
6) Advocate for your kid in school. Attend parent-teacher nights. Listen to the teachers (but don't take it all as gospel).
7) Summer day camps in elementary school
8) Sleep away outdoor camps ca. late elementary school to middle school
9) Academic oriented day and/or away camps from ~6th to ~10th grade. These can be pricey, and may require pre-qualification (various standardized test scores). Offered by many universities, with notable systems (multiple campuses/locations) by Duke TIP, Johns Hopkins CTY, and I think others.

7-9 are NOT so cheap. But still, spending $1-5K/year on summer camps for your kids for a few years is peanuts compared to private universities down the line. Especially if your kids are not fully challenged in their regular school, surrounding them for 1-3 weeks with bright, inquisitive peers can, I think, be quite helpful

10) Challenging courses from middle school on.
11) Some real work experience, especially when they're 16. Lots to learn their. Working a fast food joint or similar, for a summer, can be a motivator and offer various lessons about life.
12) Parent modeling - they'll learn from you, good and bad (and no, I'm not holding myself out as a perfect parent, by far, here.)
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm

Bravo to you if you've read this all the way through, or even mostly. I could have gone into more depth on some of this stuff (heh). I could provide links/references to backup sources on at least some of it. I hope to provoke some discussion. Thanks for reading.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:38 pm

I’m going to go back and read this carefully, as I can no longer use College Confidential. If I were a parent with kids applying, I’d be up a creek without an Internet paddle.

I hope they fix the CC site. A resource has been obliterated.

Now, I’m agonna read each post.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:46 pm

I read this and enjoyed it. I agree with all except that I now believe that some state flagships are on par with selective private colleges (top 25), but some are not. I came away from reading that you probably would rank UC Berkeley, UMich, UTexas as out of the top 20 universities private public in the US. I would not.

Both my children are now college graduates with masters degrees (OK, one has a couple more semesters but will get one). One went to private elite (i.e. selective) university and one went to a state public (near, but not flagship) university. So I have experienced what you have written. I'll be linking to this in the future.

Added: Even at the private elite university, my daughter graduated early saving big bucks because of all her HS AP credits. So I don't think all these places are so stingy about that.
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:52 pm

livesoft wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:46 pm
I read this and enjoyed it. I agree with all except that I now believe that some state flagships are on par with selective private colleges (top 25), but some are not. I came away from reading that you probably would rank UC Berkeley, UMich, UTexas as out of the top 20 universities private public in the US. I would not.
Lots of extra detail and equivocations I could go into. Perhaps my posts should have been longer? :)

For simplicity and consistency with how others view things, I'm mostly going with USNWR (and similar) rankings. They have their issues on a variety of fronts, and #19 could be rather similar to or quite different from #20 and #21. That said, I'd guess the highest rated 3-5 publics are fairly different from the privates clustered around them (at similar ranking levels) in various ways.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by almostretired1965 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:03 pm

Well, the standards have certainly gone up in terms of "achievements" you need to stand out in the applicant pool for the most selective institutions. I reached out to a friend recently from my undergrad days who is now a tenured faculty member at our alma mater on behalf of a nephew who was visiting the school. My friend, who is considered one of the 4 or 5 top experts in the world in his academic specialty, joked that neither of us would have a prayer of getting in today, and we thought we were pretty cool [edited by Moderator Misenplace] back then.

It is astonishing to see how driven some of these kids are these days. Back in the early 1980s, I took 5 AP exams in high school, which was two more than anyone else at my high school. Today I would be considered a piker.

Now, I don't actually think they are any more intelligent than we were, or better prepared, really for life at or after college. Near as I can tell, they are simply more purposeful (or regimented, if I was less charitable) in their extracurricular activities. Some of the crap I "wasted" a lot of time on, like playing video games at the arcade on my way home from school, marathon (war) board game sessions with my friends, working weekends busing tables at a local restaurant, etc. would probably be frowned upon today for the academically ambitious. To be honest, I'm kind of glad that I grew up then and not now.

Now get off my lawn :wink: ,

A

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Re: Merits of a Selective School

Post by Ben Mathew » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:15 am

Good observations. Thanks for posting.
psteinx wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm
3) Filtering is stronger. MANY more kids apply to Ivies and similar schools, and the lackadaisical rich kid who got into Harvard with his Bs and so-so SAT, because of dad and granddad's connections/legacy status, is an endangered species, to say the least. And while not all smart kids from humble origins apply to or go to elite schools, I'd venture that it's much more likely that such kids now find their way to the doorstep of Harvard (or at least Northwestern). (i.e. Easy to apply, internet spreads the knowledge, the colleges recruit widely, especially among kids who score well on the standardized tests).
A paper by Caroline Hoxby looks at this, and it's pretty clear from her graphs that this is true: The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges

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Re: Merits of a Selective School

Post by BernardShakey » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:03 am

psteinx wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm
Merits of a Selective School:

Will my second kid get a good education at the public engineering school? Yeah, I think so. And he'll (likely) be an engineer when he graduates. And, IIUC, the engineering grads at his school are well paid, and heavily recruited around this area, and probably further afield. And it's costing us a LOT less for him than for his sister. But I think at least some of that higher cost for his sister is translating to a variety of useful outcomes, including peer effects.
Great post. Enjoyed reading it! I think you are spot on with your observations and conclusions. My experience (one kid in elite private and one in flagship public) and my own research found me nodding in agreement. One clarification...what do you mean when you say "peer effects?" I feel my kid in flagship public is probably getting a better education --- though my kids' majors are so different from each other it's hard to compare.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:56 am

By "peer effects", I mean that the average kid at my oldest's elite private is significantly stronger academically (probably both in raw talent and in focus/drive) than the average kid at my second's public, and that that will provide better modeling for my oldest, and just a stronger group to hang around with, interact with, and so on.

FWIW, my second JUST started his program - is basically wrapping up his orientation week as I write this, so I'm being somewhat speculative about the effects of this.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by Ben Mathew » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:30 am

psteinx wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:56 am
By "peer effects", I mean that the average kid at my oldest's elite private is significantly stronger academically (probably both in raw talent and in focus/drive) than the average kid at my second's public, and that that will provide better modeling for my oldest, and just a stronger group to hang around with, interact with, and so on.

FWIW, my second JUST started his program - is basically wrapping up his orientation week as I write this, so I'm being somewhat speculative about the effects of this.
What might ameliorate this is that in a large public school, the bright kids end up finding each other somehow (maybe through taking the same tough classes). So the personal bubble of a top student might be more similar at private and large public than the average SAT score for example would indicate.

And if you include, in peer effects, the effects of learning from the top professors in their fields (though they are not strictly peers), flagship public schools start to look even better--they are often comparable to the top research universities. University of Washington computer science department for example is ranked much higher than Harvard and Yale. Arguably the best mathematician around today is Terence Tao. He's at UCLA, and, yes, he teaches undergraduates.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:13 am

I suppose a difference between top state flagship universities and top 25 private elite universities is that generally the PEU a great in many/most areas while top state flagships might have some truly dud departments. Thus, a student's expected major might be more important with a state flagship. I don't have a strong opinion on which kind of school would be better for one switching majors half-way through college.

I'll give what I thought was a strange example of a PEU strong in diverse areas: Carnegie Mellon University is known for computer science and engineering, but did you know (from Wikipedia):
"The undergraduate business program is ranked 2nd for management information systems, 2nd for production/operations and quantitative analysis, 8th for supply chain management, and tied for 6th as an undergraduate business program overall.[45]"
and
"In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter ranked the School of Drama 3rd in the world among undergraduate drama schools.[51]"
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:16 am

livesoft wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:13 am
I suppose a difference between top state flagship universities and top 25 private elite universities is that generally the PEU a great in many/most areas while top state flagships might have some truly dud departments. Thus, a student's expected major might be more important with a state flagship. I don't have a strong opinion on which kind of school would be better for one switching majors half-way through college.

I'll give what I thought was a strange example of a PEU strong in diverse areas: Carnegie Mellon University is known for computer science and engineering, but did you know (from Wikipedia):
"The undergraduate business program is ranked 2nd for management information systems, 2nd for production/operations and quantitative analysis, 8th for supply chain management, and tied for 6th as an undergraduate business program overall.[45]"
and
"In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter ranked the School of Drama 3rd in the world among undergraduate drama schools.[51]"
How many hiring managers are impressed by “#2 in MIS”?

How many employers even look specifically for MIS majors?

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by Watty » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:42 am

When my son was in high school and going through the process of figuring out which college to go a couple of things really stuck with me, especially one quote.
Selecting a college is not about selecting the best college, it is about selecting the college that is the best fit for your kid.
I wish I could remember where I picked that up.

A few other things that stuck with me were;

1) By the time your kid starts high school you should be talking with them about how much you are able and willing to pay for college. Some people find it hard to talk about money with their kids but you really need to do this. Also let them know any conditions that come with the money, like which majors you will pay for. This gives then time to learn and figure out how to pay for things that you will not be paying for. Sometime kids will have parents that are willing and able to pay for expensive colleges but the kids don't realize that so they mentally prepare themselves to go to less expensive colleges.

2) College rankings mean little and are not what you should be looking at. The problem is that overall a college might have a good ranking but have a lousy chemistry department. If you will be working on a chemistry degree then look to see what colleges have the best chemistry departments.

3) When looking at a college, especially a selective college, also look at how hard it will be for your kid to change majors if they decide they want to after they get a taste of what their first major was. Some selective programs will make it much harder to change majors into that program than it is to be admitted into as an incoming freshman. Some do this intentionally since people were using a planned major change as a way to circumvent a difficult acceptance process. It will vary a lot but some state universities may make this a lot easier. It was a long time ago but at I changed majors after my sophomore year at a large state university and it mainly just a matter of filing out some forms even though I was switching to a different university campus within the same state university system.

4) Some universities will allow a freshman to start with an undeclared major which may make transferring into a degree program easier. If a student is not sure what they want to major in this may be better than selecting a major they are not very sure about.

5) It is good to have your kid start out college working on a very strong minor or even a double major in some situations. People often don't really think much about a minor. By the time they are a sophomore or junior they may decide that they want to focus on their minor and switch majors to that. The major and minor might also work well together in their career. I was majoring in Geology with a strong minor in Computer Science and those would have worked well together. It turned out that I was not very good at Geology and an oil bust hit so the job market for Geologists was very bad so I switched majors to Computer Science which I was pretty good at.

6) The "not very good at" part is important since they may be interested in something but once they are get into it they may find out that they are not very good at it. I saw this a lot in the computer field. There is no way to really know until you try so be sure that there is a good "plan B" if this turns out to be the case. It is a lot easier for your kid to change paths in the first year or two of college than later in life.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:48 am

Ben Mathew wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:30 am
What might ameliorate this is that in a large public school, the bright kids end up finding each other somehow (maybe through taking the same tough classes). So the personal bubble of a top student might be more similar at private and large public than the average SAT score for example would indicate.
It happens at all kinds of schools. "Birds of a feather flock together." My son attended an elite private. He decided to get a 4 year combined Masters and Bachelors. So did his girlfriend. So did most of their friends. I took this as evidence that most kids at elite privates get a combined MS/BS or MA/BA in 4 years. At graduation, I was surprised to discover that very few kids received both degrees. I think the actual percentage is 2%.

Additionally, while just about every kid at the elite private is doing well post-graduation, the smaller cohort of the combined degree students is doing noticeably better, "killing it."
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by Ben Mathew » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:52 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:48 am
My son attended an elite private. He decided to get a 4 year combined Masters and Bachelors. So did his girlfriend. So did most of their friends. I took this as evidence that most kids at elite privates get a combined MS/BS or MA/BA in 4 years.
Were they in similar departments/programs, or did this happen across very different majors?

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by ncbill » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:56 am

Like most college threads here, when discussing scholarships the OP misses the military option (for U.S. citizens & legal residents)

There are several ways to leverage the U.S. military to pay for undergrad:

1. Enlist & use GI Bill benefits afterwards, even for private schools (if they participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program)
2. ROTC scholarships...either right out of high school or during undergrad.
3. Join the state National Guard, which covers tuition/fees in many states at their public schools.
4. Service academies...if your kid is competitive for HYMPS they are also competitive for the academies.

Our kids all used one or more of the above to pay for (most of) their undergraduate educations.

And military money is not just for undergrad:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Pr ... ip_Program
Last edited by ncbill on Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:00 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by sd323232 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:58 am

psteinx, thank you for the post. it was very interesting info to read.

My opinion, college is as expensive as people want it to make. Just like driving from point A to point B, you can drive a used toyota corolla for 3K or you can drive a Lamborghini for 300K. But you still gonna end up in point B, and noone is gonna care how you arrived to point B ( but your personal choice with leave you with 3k loan or 300k loan).

College major is more important than rank of a school, engineering degree from a cheap state school worth alot more than liberal arts degree from top school.

I wish high school taught kids this:

1. Take college classes in high school if possible.
2. Go to a community college which has partnership with local state school, for example an engineering program. Complete first 2 years in community college (or 1 year if some approved classes were taken in high school). Maintain GPA above 3.0 (or whatever is transfer requirement)
3. Transfer to 4 year state school and graduate in 2 years with a 4 year engineering degree.
4. Total years in college - 3 years ( 1 year in comm. college, 2 years in state school). At 21, your kid can be a fresh engineering graduate working for big corporation. (or 22 years, if he did all 4 years, still good!)
5. Final cost of college, around 20K-25K (or cheaper).

Heck, he can be millionaire by early 30s with your guidance. And this is not something extraordinary or impossible, just little bit of planning ahead, dedication, and good work ethic.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:01 pm

sd323232 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:58 am
College major is more important than rank of a school, engineering degree from a cheap state school worth alot more than liberal arts degree from top school.
I studied philosophy at a “top school” and am now making $300k in tech at age 33.

My same age brother in-law studied EE at a “cheap state school” and is making $120k as an engineer.

If one wants to make money, one will find a way, regardless of what one chooses to study.
Last edited by HEDGEFUNDIE on Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:03 pm

Ben Mathew wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:52 am
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:48 am
My son attended an elite private. He decided to get a 4 year combined Masters and Bachelors. So did his girlfriend. So did most of their friends. I took this as evidence that most kids at elite privates get a combined MS/BS or MA/BA in 4 years.
Were they in similar departments/programs, or did this happen across very different majors?
My son majored in CS, and most of his friends were in CS, Math, Physics, etc. Since I knew mostly my son's friends, I don't know if it happened in Literature and other non-STEMy departments. That said, my son in CS and his girlfriend in PoliSci are pretty different majors.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by sd323232 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:10 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:01 pm
sd323232 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:58 am
College major is more important than rank of a school, engineering degree from a cheap state school worth alot more than liberal arts degree from top school.
I studied philosophy at a “top school” and am now making $300k in tech at age 33.

My same age brother in-law studied EE at a “cheap state school” and is making $120k as an engineer.

If one wants to make money, one will find a way, regardless of what one chooses to study.
Hedgefundie,

Completely understand. But your brother is still doing really good with 120K as engineer and he paid less for school. I would count it as success!

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by Ben Mathew » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:17 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:03 pm
Ben Mathew wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:52 am
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:48 am
My son attended an elite private. He decided to get a 4 year combined Masters and Bachelors. So did his girlfriend. So did most of their friends. I took this as evidence that most kids at elite privates get a combined MS/BS or MA/BA in 4 years.
Were they in similar departments/programs, or did this happen across very different majors?
My son majored in CS, and most of his friends were in CS, Math, Physics, etc. Since I knew mostly my son's friends, I don't know if it happened in Literature and other non-STEMy departments. That said, my son in CS and his girlfriend in PoliSci are pretty different majors.
Interesting. There must have been some strong peer effects.

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Re: Cost Outline

Post by celia » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:06 pm

psteinx wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm
Public schools can of course be MUCH cheaper still. State flagships, in state, may be from about $15-25K, before any scholarships. In my state, my kids get a basically automatic scholarship, from the state itself, basically for having a 31+ ACT and staying in-state. And my 2nd child, going to the public engineering school, with stats well above their averages, qualifies for a further $7K/year in scholarships.

A still cheaper option is community college (for ~2 years) -> state public.
Without being political, it should be noted that if you apply for admission to a California public college, it is unlikely you will get any financial aid if you are out-ot-state (unless you bring it with you, such as a scholarship you applied for) since non-citizens who have lived in the state for several years are eligible for state aid and aid is based on need. This was approved by the voters several years ago based on the premise that residents pay state taxes, so should be able to benefit.
It's also possible to rack up a LOT of college credits in HS, through APs, DEs (dual enrollment classes with a local college), IB, and even programs where the last 2 years of high school are done in conjunction with a college, to produce an associates at about the same time as one's HS graduation.
We have found that at many selective private colleges, these "extras" are basically required for admission because of the competition to get in. All the others admitted turned out to have similar advanced classes and then the general ed requirements usually are met with other advanced classes (not level 101). Many (most?) of the students still take a heavy load for 4 years and either pick up a second major or a masters at the same time.
Attending a premier OOS public used to be an economical way to get a top ~25 college at a much lower rate than a top private. But, from a pricing standpoint, this is less appealing than it used to be. OOS rates at premier publics like Michigan, UC Berkeley, UVA and the like are quite high - somewhat below Harvard and the like, but not by THAT much. And need/merit scholarships at these are less likely if you're OOS. There are some options for OOS publics at reasonable costs though.
Many students find that it is less costly to attend a private college with financial aid (grants) than to pay full price at their in-state public college. For example, ten of the top students in my son's class (at a private high school) applied to one of our top public universities and were admitted, the most ever for the high school. But none of them ended up going there as other colleges ended up costing them less (but a few went to another top-ranked in-state public university).
There are 3rd party scholarships of various sorts. We didn't really pursue these, but they could be worthwhile. My wife read essays to help awards a local scholarship or two, and said the quality and quantity of entries was thin. Aim for obscure local scholarships not likely to draw much interest. If only 5 kids submit the essay for a $1K scholarship, and if the essay takes 2-3 hours to write, then the potential reward to effort ratio is high.
My employer's union at the time raised different amounts of money each year for scholarships for employees and their children. Even though they went through the usual application and interview process, it turned out that they just divided that year's money among all who qualified. It was meant more as an employee benefit than merit scholarship.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by GCD » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:31 pm

psteinx wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm
I hope to provoke some discussion. Thanks for reading.
Nice essay, but this thread is going to go all over the place unless you specify the topic a bit. What do you want to discuss?

Just latching on to one thing, I have always been struck by the difference in prestige and education. How schools are ranked is quite a variable and trying to get your kid into a highly ranked school might not be that important if you look at the actual criteria used to create the ranking.

This article by Malcolm Gladwell is dated (2011), but still on the money IMO.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011 ... -of-things

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:38 pm

sd323232 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:10 pm
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:01 pm
sd323232 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:58 am
College major is more important than rank of a school, engineering degree from a cheap state school worth alot more than liberal arts degree from top school.
I studied philosophy at a “top school” and am now making $300k in tech at age 33.

My same age brother in-law studied EE at a “cheap state school” and is making $120k as an engineer.

If one wants to make money, one will find a way, regardless of what one chooses to study.
Hedgefundie,

Completely understand. But your brother is still doing really good with 120K as engineer and he paid less for school. I would count it as success!
It’s only a success if his passion was actually EE, instead of history or literature or philosophy. I’m guessing EE was something his parents pushed him into.

As far as cost goes, the difference in tuition between the two programs is $37k per year. If we assume (1) that no scholarships or aid are involved (even though elite privates are obviously more generous), and (2) each program takes four years (even though many public universities are forcing students to finish in five years due to lack of space), then the total cost differential is around $150k.

The average college graduate earns $2-3M over a lifetime. Avoiding elite private universities due to the cost is short term thinking.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:10 pm

Re: Schools that punch above/below their weight, within various sub-fields (i.e. MIS).

While I think there's merit in paying attention to broad categories (a school focused on engineering, hard sciences, music/drama, classics/liberal arts), I think focusing too narrowly (our Philosophy program in particular is very well rated) can be problematic, because so few HS seniors are really that locked in.

My daughter has drifted around in her target area/major a fair amount, and is still drifting somewhat. (Started, back in HS, thinking art, later, cog-neuroscience, now, perhaps CS...).

My son was fairly steadily focused on engineering for last 2-3 years of HS, and for some reason that I don't have a clear grasp on, was really interested in nuclear engineering, and the relatively limited # of colleges that offer that specific discipline. Now, as he's starting his first year, nuclear is receding, and he's thinking much more about other engineering disciplines. I hope he stays at least within the broad field of engineering, as his college is pretty focused on that, and quality seems to fall off rapidly in disciplines outside of that (if they're even available).

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:10 pm

ncbill wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:56 am
Like most college threads here, when discussing scholarships the OP misses the military option (for U.S. citizens & legal residents)
Good point, and I've edited the relevant part of my original essay accordingly.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:17 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:38 pm
It’s only a success if his passion was actually EE, instead of history or literature or philosophy. I’m guessing EE was something his parents pushed him into.

As far as cost goes, the difference in tuition between the two programs is $37k per year. If we assume (1) that no scholarships or aid are involved (even though elite privates are obviously more generous), and (2) each program takes four years (even though many public universities are forcing students to finish in five years due to lack of space), then the total cost differential is around $150k.

The average college graduate earns $2-3M over a lifetime. Avoiding elite private universities due to the cost is short term thinking.
But the reason you're making $300K is not because Philosophy is a wildly lucrative field, but rather, because you basically ignored the Philosophy major and got a job in a different discipline. Presumably your cousin could have done something similar. And fwiw, while $300K is quite lucrative for age ~33, $120K is pretty good too. Moreover, while I don't know the particulars for you and your B-I-L, I'd guess that many hedge fund jobs involve more stressful hours, and HCOL locations, moreso than typical EE jobs.

Finally, it's possible that you have more innate ability/drive (higher test scores/HS GPA, got you into more elite colleges and/or with better merit scholarships than your B-I-L, etc.), so perhaps B-I-L could not have easily trod your path even if he wanted.

(Of course, you know much more about yourself and your B-I-L than we do, but if you want to use the two of you to illustrate a point, it's tough for us to really assess that point without understanding all the OTHER variables that may have affected the outcomes...)

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by chipperd » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:49 pm

I must have missed something, is there a question somewhere in this or just a discussion?

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:54 pm

psteinx wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:17 pm
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:38 pm
It’s only a success if his passion was actually EE, instead of history or literature or philosophy. I’m guessing EE was something his parents pushed him into.

As far as cost goes, the difference in tuition between the two programs is $37k per year. If we assume (1) that no scholarships or aid are involved (even though elite privates are obviously more generous), and (2) each program takes four years (even though many public universities are forcing students to finish in five years due to lack of space), then the total cost differential is around $150k.

The average college graduate earns $2-3M over a lifetime. Avoiding elite private universities due to the cost is short term thinking.
But the reason you're making $300K is not because Philosophy is a wildly lucrative field, but rather, because you basically ignored the Philosophy major and got a job in a different discipline. Presumably your cousin could have done something similar. And fwiw, while $300K is quite lucrative for age ~33, $120K is pretty good too. Moreover, while I don't know the particulars for you and your B-I-L, I'd guess that many hedge fund jobs involve more stressful hours, and HCOL locations, moreso than typical EE jobs.

Finally, it's possible that you have more innate ability/drive (higher test scores/HS GPA, got you into more elite colleges and/or with better merit scholarships than your B-I-L, etc.), so perhaps B-I-L could not have easily trod your path even if he wanted.

(Of course, you know much more about yourself and your B-I-L than we do, but if you want to use the two of you to illustrate a point, it's tough for us to really assess that point without understanding all the OTHER variables that may have affected the outcomes...)
My field is Technology Channel Partner Sales Strategy. As far as I know there is no major for that at any school.

Which is actually my whole point...

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by ronno2018 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:55 pm

Good essay, I especially like the parenting suggestions. You might consider mentioning the Washington Monthly school ratings as they have some unique screens/filters --

Since 2005, the Washington Monthly has ranked colleges based on what they do for the country. It’s our answer to U.S News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige. We rank liberal arts colleges—four-year institutions that award almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees and that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs—based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and promoting public service.

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018college-guide

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:00 pm

chipperd wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:49 pm
I must have missed something, is there a question somewhere in this or just a discussion?
There are no questions. The OP put some thoughts down which took some time. Maybe it will show up as pre-print somewhere. Who knows?
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:07 pm

ronno2018 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:55 pm
Good essay, I especially like the parenting suggestions. You might consider mentioning the Washington Monthly school ratings as they have some unique screens/filters --
It sure looks like going by 8-year graduation rate is the thing to do. Just looking at a few of the lists created by them I found it appalling at how low the 8-year graduation rate was for most colleges.
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Re: Merits of a Selective School

Post by Bfwolf » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:21 pm

psteinx wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:22 pm
Merits of a Selective School:
A common argument is that, for all the hassle and cost of getting into and going to a highly selective private, attending such a school (versus, say, an in-state flagship) doesn't really matter much in the long run. i.e. The kid who got into Harvard, but attended Ohio State for cost or other reasons, will turn out about as good, statistically, as her peer who DID attend Harvard.

This line of thought arose in part based on some academic research from ca. 2002, that basically concluded as much, with a minor exception or two (IIRC, black/minority kids got more benefit from the likes of Harvard).

I won't go linking to all the relevant studies and debates - you can look themselves up yourself if interested.

To some extent, I bought into the skepticism about elite schools, but I'm not completely sold, and probably lean more the other way now.

Some thoughts:

Consider all of these as comparing elite privates (top 20ish), to good but not great publics (Flagship/near flagship). The principles should apply to various other comparison combinations.

1) Expenditure per student is almost surely MUCH higher at the elite privates. They have massive endowments, that they spend ~5% of, per year, on the institution. This amount can be ~$100K+ annually. Plus, despite the generous aid packages for needy students, a high % of attendees are full pay or nearly so, tossing big tuition dollars at the school. Publics may get more government support, from their state or other sources, but spending per kid is probably 3X+ at the elite privates.

2) This gap has probably been widening. As a higher % of a state's kids attend college, mostly at publics, state support for public colleges is spread more widely. College endowments have had a great run in the last few decades. I'd guess the ratio of elite private to public spending is significantly wider now than it was 20-30 years ago. In particular, it's likely wider than during the timeframes at which the cohorts studied in the "elite colleges don't matter" studies were undergrads.

3) Filtering is stronger. MANY more kids apply to Ivies and similar schools, and the lackadaisical rich kid who got into Harvard with his Bs and so-so SAT, because of dad and granddad's connections/legacy status, is an endangered species, to say the least. And while not all smart kids from humble origins apply to or go to elite schools, I'd venture that it's much more likely that such kids now find their way to the doorstep of Harvard (or at least Northwestern). (i.e. Easy to apply, internet spreads the knowledge, the colleges recruit widely, especially among kids who score well on the standardized tests).

What this means is, the spread between the average academic potential of the kids at Harvard vs. State U. is likely significantly wider than it was 30 years ago.

The spending gap manifests in various ways, some meaningful, some not. Yes, there's a lot of criticism of lazy rivers, climbing walls, and endless Deans of this 'n that. But I'll say from first-hand observation - the physical appearance of the campus at my oldest's elite private is MUCH nicer than at my second's public. Her freshman room was bigger. The number of RA-types and support people was higher, per kid. The food was probably better. The campus greener. The buildings fresher. OK, so that's all the physical stuff. I have less insight into the faculty, because I'm not sitting in the classes. But I'd be surprised if the differences didn't carry through to the classroom.

Will my second kid get a good education at the public engineering school? Yeah, I think so. And he'll (likely) be an engineer when he graduates. And, IIUC, the engineering grads at his school are well paid, and heavily recruited around this area, and probably further afield. And it's costing us a LOT less for him than for his sister. But I think at least some of that higher cost for his sister is translating to a variety of useful outcomes, including peer effects.
For anybody that would like to read the study referred to themselves, here is the link. https://www.nber.org/papers/w17159.pdf

Here's the relevant conclusion from the abstract:

"We find that the return to college selectivity is sizeable for both cohorts in regression models that control
for variables commonly observed by researchers, such as student high school GPA and SAT scores.
However, when we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score
of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially
and are generally indistinguishable from zero. There were notable exceptions for certain subgroups.
For black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families (in terms of
their parents’ education), the estimates of the return to college selectivity remain large, even in models
that adjust for unobserved student characteristics."

In other words, even controlled for things such as GPA and SAT, more selective schools lead to better post-college monetary returns. However, if you control for unobserved student ability (ability that can't be seen by GPA or SAT) with a proxy of the average SAT score of the colleges the student applied to, this monetary advantage for selective schools goes away except for blacks, Hispanics, and students whose parents didn't go to college. So for most students, there doesn't seem to be anything magical about selective colleges. It's the student's ability that matters, not the selectivity of the college.

The OP provides some reasons for not believing this conclusion. I don't find his rationale particularly compelling.

In my opinion, parents and students get so caught up with the idea of a selective college being the end goal of a successful childhood that we have placed undue weight as a society on which college one attends. And the extraordinary inflation we've seen from the higher education industry is a reflection of this.

livesoft
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:26 pm

^The study doesn't address how the parents feel about themselves nor how the parents compare themselves to their peers. Since often it is the parents who are paying their feelings should be respected. :)
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HEDGEFUNDIE
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:29 pm

“End goal of a successful childhood” or not, here are some fun facts:

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Most popular majors:
Engineering (22%)
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (13%)

Social Sciences (8%)
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (7%)
Agriculture, Agriculture Operations, and Related Sciences (6%)
Salary after attending: $61,500
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... -Champaign

Northwestern University
Most popular majors:
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (20%)
Social Sciences (17%)

Engineering (16%)
Visual and Performing Arts (8%)
Psychology (7%)
Salary after attending: $69,000
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... University

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.

livesoft
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:41 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:29 pm
“End goal of a successful childhood” or not, here are some fun facts:

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
[...]
Average Annual Cost: $18,377
Salary after attending: $61,500
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... -Champaign

Northwestern University
[...]
Average Annual Cost: $24,047
Salary after attending: $69,000
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... University

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.
Since I mentioned a school earlier, let me add it
Carnegie Mellon University
[...]
Average Annual Cost: $31,102
Salary after attending: $83,600
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... University

It looks like a student could recover the cost in just a few years and then stay ahead after that.

But one must be careful as average salaries seem to be tied to the cost-of-living of the area that the school was located in.
Last edited by livesoft on Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by LadyGeek » Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:46 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (career guidance).

Impressive. To keep this actionable, please try to supply examples from your own situation.

psteinx can update each post as suggested by the members.

Update: See psteinx post 4 down from here.
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by Bfwolf » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:01 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:29 pm
“End goal of a successful childhood” or not, here are some fun facts:

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Most popular majors:
Engineering (22%)
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (13%)

Social Sciences (8%)
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (7%)
Agriculture, Agriculture Operations, and Related Sciences (6%)
Salary after attending: $61,500
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... -Champaign

Northwestern University
Most popular majors:
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (20%)
Social Sciences (17%)

Engineering (16%)
Visual and Performing Arts (8%)
Psychology (7%)
Salary after attending: $69,000
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... University

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.
Northwestern students earn more money because Northwestern is able to attract better students. That's the entire point of the study. It's not something magical that happens AT college. The selective schools have just been able to recruit the best students so their students have the best outcomes. If those best students go somewhere else, they do just as well.

otinkyad
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by otinkyad » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:03 pm

I plotted the salaries against the 75th percentile SAT scores of admitted students for 83 schools, and it’s just shy of linear. A few polytechnics and LACs were the only real outliers (I’m looking at you, Reed).

HEDGEFUNDIE
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:08 pm

Bfwolf wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:01 pm
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:29 pm
“End goal of a successful childhood” or not, here are some fun facts:

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Most popular majors:
Engineering (22%)
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services (13%)

Social Sciences (8%)
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (7%)
Agriculture, Agriculture Operations, and Related Sciences (6%)
Salary after attending: $61,500
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... -Champaign

Northwestern University
Most popular majors:
Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (20%)
Social Sciences (17%)

Engineering (16%)
Visual and Performing Arts (8%)
Psychology (7%)
Salary after attending: $69,000
https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/ ... University

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.
Northwestern students earn more money because Northwestern is able to attract better students. That's the entire point of the study. It's not something magical that happens AT college. The selective schools have just been able to recruit the best students so their students have the best outcomes. If those best students go somewhere else, they do just as well.
What you just stated is in direct opposition to the “majors are what matter” thesis being peddled above.

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psteinx
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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:11 pm

My opening series of posts was obviously a lot longer than is typical, but OTOH, a lot of threads are started more for discussion than to ask a specific question. And the topic of college, and pricey selective colleges in particular, is highly important to a lot of folks (including me). College costs can be enormous, and life impacts big too. While I started this thread mainly to share my experiences and spur discussion, I'm also interested in the opinions and discussion of others. I've got two kids barely begun in college, and one in HS, so I am far from done with this as a matter of importance, to me personally.

I may do some further updating of the original posts, within reason, with links to key posts/external resources, but of course, the body of this thread (all the responses) should also be helpful to folks thinking about and researching these issues. College is a complicated, somewhat confusing subject, and as I noted (and TomatoT confirmed), one major resource (College Confidential) has degraded substantially, quite recently. We've got long threads on everything from $5000 watches to brokerage bonuses and the like. A long thread on a topic with both 6 figure financial implications and major life (and ultimately, career) implications does not seem out of order.

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Re: Merits of a Selective School

Post by psteinx » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:39 pm

Bfwolf wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 4:21 pm
For anybody that would like to read the study referred to themselves, here is the link. https://www.nber.org/papers/w17159.pdf
Looking through this now. Didn't realize they'd had a semi-recent update (2011).

Their analysis is based on 2 cohorts, one for those who entered college in 1976, the other in 1989 - that's 30 years ago, and I would guess that any advantages of selective colleges are significantly stronger now than they were 30-43 years ago. For the 1989 cohort, it appears they're using income data from 2007 (so, well after college, but perhaps a little before their peak earnings years.

Even with this, they find "sizeable" returns, with basic controls in the regression, like SAT scores, but when they adjust for what they deem a "proxy of unobserved student characteristics" - the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, the return [for selectivity, IIUC] falls.

But to buy into this approach, you have to buy into the idea that a kid who applies to multiple and/or more ambitious selectives is fundamentally stronger than a kid who doesn't (i.e. the "unobserved student characteristics"), even beyond more readily available characteristics (their SAT scores, etc.). It's not a rock solid inference, IMO.

Also, it appears there was a small N - only 27 colleges and universities in the 1989 part of the study, and a somewhat restricted range (from "Competitive" to "Most Competitive" using a Barron's ranking IIUC), and the majority are in the top 2 categories of "Most" or "Highly" competitive.

Anyways, it's a lengthy study, and I didn't read it all, but what I did read didn't blow my socks off, especially considering how strongly it goes against intuition. Yeah, you could say I'm disregarding evidence I don't like. I'd say I've seen a lot of weak studies in my day, and I don't want to spend TOO much time tearing apart a study that seems to have problems even on fairly casual inspection.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by sd323232 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:58 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:54 pm
psteinx wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:17 pm
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:38 pm
It’s only a success if his passion was actually EE, instead of history or literature or philosophy. I’m guessing EE was something his parents pushed him into.

As far as cost goes, the difference in tuition between the two programs is $37k per year. If we assume (1) that no scholarships or aid are involved (even though elite privates are obviously more generous), and (2) each program takes four years (even though many public universities are forcing students to finish in five years due to lack of space), then the total cost differential is around $150k.

The average college graduate earns $2-3M over a lifetime. Avoiding elite private universities due to the cost is short term thinking.
But the reason you're making $300K is not because Philosophy is a wildly lucrative field, but rather, because you basically ignored the Philosophy major and got a job in a different discipline. Presumably your cousin could have done something similar. And fwiw, while $300K is quite lucrative for age ~33, $120K is pretty good too. Moreover, while I don't know the particulars for you and your B-I-L, I'd guess that many hedge fund jobs involve more stressful hours, and HCOL locations, moreso than typical EE jobs.

Finally, it's possible that you have more innate ability/drive (higher test scores/HS GPA, got you into more elite colleges and/or with better merit scholarships than your B-I-L, etc.), so perhaps B-I-L could not have easily trod your path even if he wanted.

(Of course, you know much more about yourself and your B-I-L than we do, but if you want to use the two of you to illustrate a point, it's tough for us to really assess that point without understanding all the OTHER variables that may have affected the outcomes...)
My field is Technology Channel Partner Sales Strategy. As far as I know there is no major for that at any school.

Which is actually my whole point...
If you are not in philosophy field, why did you get philosophy degree? Like psteinx said, philosophy is not usually a lucrative degree, for example if you take engineering graduates and philosophy graduates, on average engineering graduates do better. I understand you are not the norm at 300k, but I'm assuming here, if someone got engineering degree, that person is working in engineering, and someone who got philosophy degree, that person is practicing philosophy. Otherwise, we can say, for example Mark Zuckerberg dropped out from college and did whole lot of better than those who stayed in college. It does not mean dropping outta college is a winning move here. We talking average people here. Your BIL is great example, average guy got degree and doing pretty good at 120k.

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Re: Selective Colleges

Post by GCD » Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:53 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:08 pm

What you just stated is in direct opposition to the “majors are what matter” thesis being peddled above.
I think you are convinced majors don't matter because you got a Philosophy degree and are doing better than a family member who got a degree in Engineering - traditionally thought to be a higher earning major. Your exceptional personal experience is an aberration.

Chicago State often makes the bottom 10 list of worst colleges in the US. They don't publish their 4 and 5 year graduation rate, but their 6 year graduation rate is a whopping 11%. Yet if you graduate (apparently a big if) with a degree in nursing your starting salary averages $68,600.

Harvard:
Business $54,100
Social Science $56,600
Biology $66,500

When Chicago State has a major that beats out at least 3 majors at Harvard, it makes me seriously consider the "major matters more than school" argument.

I'm not going to bore everyone with a chart of majors and pay per major, but you should really take a look at USNWR (https://premium.usnews.com/best-colleges) They reported salaries by major. It's under Alumni Starting Salaries.

I also wouldn't argue that elite schools don't matter at all. But choice of major clearly matters in initial salary. I have no source for how people are doing 20 years out.

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