Skip to comments.Vanity - College Choice of a Previously-Homeschooled Student - Opinions Solicited
Posted on 04/06/2012 6:23:00 AM PDT by sitetest
I don't engage in vanities very often, but I thought this one might be interesting to some folks, and I wouldn't mind a little (courteous) input.
Some of you may remember that we homeschooled our two sons through eighth grade and then sent 'em off to a local Catholic high school. The older guy, who is registered here as swotsonofsitetest, graduates in June and will be off to college in the fall.
We're now coming to the end of the college application and admission process and it's decision time. I'm interested in folks opinions about that decision.
After eight years of homeschooling, he did very well in high school, received very high scores on the SAT and his SAT subject tests, may or may not be valedictorian this year, and has pretty good (although somewhat run-of-the-mill and not-terribly-exciting, it turns out) extracurriculars. Thus, he applied to some top schools and met with some success.
He applied to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Washington Univ in St. Louis, Univ of Virginia, Notre Dame and the Univ of Maryland, College Park. He plans to double-major in civil engineering (where the school has civil engineering, otherwise mechanical engineering) and classics.
He is quite the classicist, more of a language guy than a math and science guy, but that's only a relative measure. He's very, very good at math and science, just off the charts in language stuff.
After months of application process, filling out FAFSAs, Common Apps, IDOCs, etc., it comes down to: Waitlisted at Washington Univ in St. Louis; rejected outright at Yale and Princeton; accepted to UVA; Notre Dame; Univ of MD; Hopkins and Harvard.
Although UVA is a nice school, it doesn't quite light his fire. We don't expect much by way of financial aid (we live next door in Maryland, and UVA is kinda tight with aid to out-of-state residents). He visited Notre Dame and prefers not to go to a pseudo-Catholic school.
So, it's down to Maryland, Hopkins and Harvard.
Hopkins had been his favorite through the process. Great engineering school, great classics program, great campus feel for him (lots of nerdy kids having a blast studying their hearts out). He met one of the classics professors there and they quickly hit it off.
Maryland had been his "safe school." I hesitate to call it that, because Maryland is not the school it was when I was young (party school that took most folks with a pulse and respiration). Today, the median CR + M SAT of incoming freshmen is over 1300, much higher for their Honors College and school of engineering (to both of which he was accepted). So, I will say it is his safe school in a whisper.
Maryland has a great school of engineering. Their classics program is pretty good, but nowhere near what it is at Hopkins and Harvard.
Harvard, too, was a bit of a dark horse, for reasons with which many posters here would be familiar. But they have a decent engineering school and one of the top classics programs in the country. Plus, it's Harvard. As well, the folks just exude a happy, pleasant, non-bureaucratic competence. And have made him feel welcome and wanted. Which is something Hopkins has not done. However, they only have mechanical engineering, not civil.
Anyway, the money aspect is worth mentioning here. Hopkins is coming in with a decent financial aid package, but it leaves $22K to me to pay per year. Ouch. The loans that my son would need to take out are very modest - a total of $5K over four years. This all includes a modest amount of work study during the school year for my son.
Harvard came up with a substantially-better package - $16K per year to me. Which is nearly affordable, LOL. It includes no loans (unless I want to borrow what I'd owe them) and modest work study.
Maryland is offering a full merit scholarship including full tuition, room and board, books, and a small stipend for educational endeavors such as research, travel, conferences, etc.
So, what do you think? His original first choice with great engineering and classics for $22K per year with modest loans? Harvard (can't beat the brand name with a stick) with good, but not great engineering, phenomenal classics for $16K per year with no loans? Or Maryland, with great engineering, decent classics and, did I mention, absolutely FREE?
Just curious, how did he get access while in high school? Lots of Universities don't allow access to people unless they are already affiliated with the program, or higher-ed faculty.
Also, you mentioned that the Hopkins prof had suggested starting your son with 5000-level courses (mixed grad/undergrad level) in Classics.
Purely nosy on my part -- I take it between the homeschool and Catholic high school he has mastered Latin and/or Greek?
His choice of school is not set in stone. He always has the option of transferring to another college if he doesn’t like where he starts and sometimes it’s actually easier to get where you want once you have a good start at another college.
However, starting out with a strong GPA is essential. Colleges tend to expect the first year GPA to not be so strong because kids are just getting used to college and don’t tend to do as well as they could the first semester or so. If he has a strong freshman fall semester, that will go far.
Exposure to the different courses required for his choice of major will give him an idea of whether or not he wants to pursue a particular career field. Two of my kids thought they wanted to do computer science but after the first semester, realized that that was not what they expected. My youngest was serious about biochem but landed in physics. What they want to do will change.
Since he’s undecided at this point (all my kids were sophomores before they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up) go the cheapest - or free - if you will. That way, he doesn’t end up wasting money simply trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
He also needs to plan out very carefully what courses to take in the event that he may transfer. Courses like calculus are pretty much the same everywhere and will count everywhere. With good planning, he can also double major. That requires being very careful in which liberal arts courses to take. He needs to take ones that will do double duty, fill the LA requirement for the engineer while being required for the major for the classics.
If he can do that, get a MA with 5 years of school on their dime, it's even more of a no brainer.
I would imagine any kid who can graduate from 5 years of college at 23 with both a bachelors AND masters would be pretty impressive to a prospective employer.
I do hear tell that Syracuse University has quite the theoretical physics program and while not Ivy league, is just one step below them in all areas.
However, it is NOT cheap and although it has quite a reputation as a party school, has quite a number of strong religious campus ministries. It's not hard to avoid all the liberal nuts there.
But then again, it is CNY. If he likes snow, there's no better place to be. If he doesn't, look somewhere else.
I think that the University of Maryland permits the general public to use their libraries.
“Purely nosy on my part — I take it between the homeschool and Catholic high school he has mastered Latin and/or Greek?”
He does pretty well with them. He taught himself the equivalent of high school Latin I in sixth and seventh grade. We gave him a couple of texts and Rosetta Stone, and he was on his own. In 8th grade, the high school he currently attends invited him to come take Latin II, to see if he liked the school. He went, took Latin II, got the highest grade in the class, and loved the school. So he was through AP Latin by sophomore year, and the Latin and Greek teachers have been doing independent study with him since. He took Latin VI for the National Latin Exam this year.
He started with Greek I as a freshman, and since there's nothing past Greek III at his school, again, he's doing independent study.
He's good with languages.
“His choice of school is not set in stone. He always has the option of transferring to another college if he doesnt like where he starts and sometimes its actually easier to get where you want once you have a good start at another college.”
Actually, his choice IS largely set in stone. If he chooses Harvard or Hopkins, and decides he would have liked to have gone to Maryland, instead, he will not have the opportunity to get back to Maryland with a full scholarship, including tuition, room, board, books, and an educational stipend.
Similarly, after having been admitted to Harvard and Hopkins, if he chooses Maryland, it will be very, very difficult to transfer to either one of these two schools, especially Harvard. Ninety-eight percent of matriculating freshmen at Harvard graduate from Harvard. There's just very little room for transfers.
“What they want to do will change.”
I think it's more likely he'll end up where he starts - engineering and classics. It's possible he might shift from civil to mechanical, but engineering is where it's at for him, in terms of a career. And classics is his avocation.
“Since hes undecided at this point (all my kids were sophomores before they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up) go the cheapest - or free - if you will.”
I'm not sure why you think he's undecided. He's quite decided - civil engineering and classics. Not one or the other, but both.
As well, if he didn't know in what field he wanted to major, I'd insist on Harvard, as it's the school with the best all-around reputation. No matter the field, no one is going to cast aspersions on a Harvard degree.
You're asking and I'm telling. I don't need to read any further to speak authoritatively.
Unless he is both astrally intelligent and utterly unable to physically qualify for military service, he needs to enlist now for at least two years to round off his ability to gain enough maturity to respond correctly to authority and develop leadership qualities, and have some money from it to pay most of further schooling.
If he only goes on learning how to go to school, when he is finished he will be entrapped in that system, and be as useful as teats on a boar hog, probably for the rest of his life.
Accept this opinion or reject it, but he is far past the stage when you ought to be making up his mind as to how to proceed. What's your problem that you need this FR community make up your mind?
With all truly sincere, concerned, and due respect --
Hopkins or Harvard.
Since Hopkins is the fave, let him go! You will see more of him as he will be closer.
Actually, in engineering, I'm not sure an MA is particularly useful. I know that at the baccalaureate level, Harvard has both an SB (BS - Harvard uses “SB” for Bachelor of Science and “AB” for Bachelor of Arts) and AB (BA) in engineering. The difference is that the SB, like BS degrees in engineering at most decent schools, is ABET-accredited, and thus, the graduate of such a program will be recognized as an engineer. This isn't so for the AB (BA) program.
Maryland's program provides a BS/MS after five years. These programs have become fairly common. Hopkins offers a BSCE (Bachelor of Civil Engineering)/MSCE in a five year program.
Harvard is a little confusing on how they present it, but I believe they have a similar program.
I think you son might become burned out if he studies both classics and engineering. In fact, based on my experiences at similar top schools, I predict that there is at least a 50 percent chance that:
1. He will not graduate with both degrees from Harvard or Hopkins or any similar school.
2. If he graduates with an engineering degree from Harvard, he will not have a career as an engineer. Most of my friends, and my brothers, and me, each with a degree from an engineering school at a top ranked university, do not work as engineers.
3. If he drops the engineering degree and keeps the classics degree, he will end up at law school. Everyone I knew with a classics degree (about 5 friends or so) went to law school.
You have a tough choice, but in our family we would lean towards the reputable state school with the assumption that graduate school is on the way (medical school, business school, law school, doctorate in a technical area).
Reading, now, from the oldest to the latest response, this is the first really wise recommendation I have seen up to this point.
(B. S. Eng'r, M. S., Ph. D., Post Doc; Member of Eng'r Staff - GE Semiconductor Products Dept.; Sr. Research Scientist -- E. I du Pont de Nemours, Electronics Div.; Hon. Disch. U. S, Army, Sgt. E-5 1962-- Infantry, MG Squad Leader)(now 75 years old & learning Koine Greek, 15 yrs exp. as computer technician)
Hillsdale College in Michigan, a no nonsense private Conservative place to educate your kids......
You can go with the big names, and they look good on resume's, but if 3/4 of the stuff they teach is crap, your kid will learn exactly that.
Corporate HR depts. utilize professional recruiters when searching for supervisory, managerial and executive personnel. The recruiters provide HR with resume's and HR then gives them to the dept. manager who is tasked with selecting candidates to fill the position he is looking for.
At that point in time, the manager will likely choose any resume's that show the applicant was a graduate of his own alma mater....So the University of Michigan manager will care less if your son graduated from Harvard or Maryland.......That's not saying the manager will only hire a grad from his university but rather the applicant from his university will have a slightly better chance in getting an interview than someone from another school........that's just the way it is.
With that being said, you need to focus on the education your son is going to receive rather than the NAME of the university he decides to attend.
So in the grand scheme of career employment, it's not where you went to school but rather what you were taught.........
FWIW, I spent 25 years in HR at our manufacturing plant in Detroit then 9 more years at our corporate offices in Troy so I'm kinda aware of how these things work.
OK. I can see that where he starts pretty much determines it. Our financial situation allowed for transfers between colleges. My oldest two did graduate from their first choice. My youngest had every intention of sticking with her first choice but it did not really provide anything she found she was really interested in so she transferred after her first year.
I was thinking of his changing his mind more in terms of between the fields of engineering and I was under the impression that he was undecided about choosing between some engineering and the classics, as an either/or thing. A double major would be very impressive to grad schools.
My son is in engineering and it took him a year to get the flavor of all the fields to pick one. He ended up choosing telecommunications engineering because it was the field which was most likely to provide a job. There’s a general shortage of telecom engineering graduates compared to the other fields. His choice of degree has already landed him one internship already.
My youngest daughter was torn between math and science and art and photography. She’s great in both but what she did, with our encouragement, was choose the science/math related degree simply because it provides a better chance of being able to support herself with it. She can take the art/photography stuff as she wants and just do it as a hobby.
It was intended as a humor.
If he only goes on learning how to go to school, when he is finished he will be entrapped in that system, and be as useful as teats on a boar hog, probably for the rest of his life.
Homeschoolers tend to think for themselves. Their minds have not been programmed by the public school system. He will do fine just as my kids have without military service either, as he already knows how to educate himself.
Yes, there is learning how to tell profs what they want to hear for those courses for which it is necessary, but he will not necessarily be incapable of responding *properly* to authority without military service and I have no doubt that he will NOT be trapped by *the system*.
My son has a hard time with the idea of paying six grand a year more for Hopkins than Harvard, and having loans to boot.
As well, there are some scary aspects to each of these places. Maryland is huge. Harvard and Hopkins are really, really tough (Hopkins has a special reputation for grindingly difficult grading.).
Both Maryland and Harvard have gone out of their way to communicate that they'll do what they can to help my son succeed. It's that, "We got your back" feeling. We're just not feeling the love from Hopkins. It's probably between Harvard and Maryland.
“I think you son might become burned out if he studies both classics and engineering.”
Maybe. I kind of doubt it.
“2. If he graduates with an engineering degree from Harvard, he will not have a career as an engineer. Most of my friends, and my brothers, and me, each with a degree from an engineering school at a top ranked university, do not work as engineers.”
Is it that 1) you wound up with bigger and better (more exciting, or whatever) opportunities, 2) you decided you didn't want to work as engineers or 3) you couldn't find work as engineers?
My personal choice would be Maryland, but I grew up there, plus, it’s free.
Just curious. Had he checked into what those in the engineering field think of a degree from Harvard vs Maryland?
I’ve heard that within the engineering field, an engineering degree from RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) actually goes further than an engineering degree from MIT.
MIT certainly has the better reputation but the person who made the statement found that RIT students had a better grasp of the practical, being able to apply it kind of ability and made better employees.
Those within the fields know the strengths and weaknesses of the different colleges and sometimes a lesser known smaller college can provide just as useful a degree as one from a big name university.
My kids also found that the size of the university is not really always relevant. The size of the department they’re in makes more of a difference because those are the people they will be spending most of their critical time with in pursuing their degree.
With regard to choice of majors, I'm kind of a mean dad. ;-)
I made him conduct a research project last summer, between his junior and senior year. He'd been very unsettled about things. That's not so bad - lots of kids go off to college with no idea in which field their going to major. But it was causing some anxiety. It didn't seem to me to be a productive attitude for his senior year.
As time has gone on, he's become increasingly firmer about his choices, especially as he continues to read about civil engineering.
He thought very long and very hard about what he might do with just a classics degree. He thought seriously about teaching, both on the high school and college level. He thought about careers in law or business (classics majors often go into these fields). None of those appealed.
But he still loves classics.
As well, in part because of credits garnered from AP exams, and in part because of the curricular flexibility at the target schools, he should be able to accomplish both majors without too much extra difficulty.