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 my opinion (way too many factors to account for) but if that was in front of me, I would choose Maryland and take the $16K-$22K per year difference and invest it. He then would have a lot more freedom when he graduates and a nice bank account to start a business, pay for grad school, or whatever.
I have worked in the university “industry” for about 20 years and your son has some great options before you. Here are some additional thoughts that might be helpful or might add to your confusion (I hope not the latter). The poster who asked what a grad would make in 10 - 20 years after graduation is asking a great question.
However, all your options will produce good starting salaries and job choices. It is not easy to predict what engineering positions will be like with 10-20 years experience and most people make significant career changes in that period of time. Consider what your resume will look like in 10-20 years. The Harvard name will glow for the rest of professional career and can open job opportunities in most areas in and outside the engineering profession. If he chooses to become a physician, a diplomat, or a librarian at some future time, the Harvard name will be attractive. People the world over recognize the name. Every day I benefit from having a college name on my resume that is universally respected. It is hard to quantify but it is valuable.
Second, consider who you are in class with. At each school you will be studying with very very bright students. The atmosphere and performance level of your peers will drive much of the experience of getting at degree at any of these institutions. Of course, the students in engineering will have a different discipline and culture than those in other fields of study. You can’t meet them and know who will be your friends till you arrive for study—you can only know they will be very smart and hard working.
Why do you prefer civil engineering over mechanical? As wife. daughter in law, and paernt of mechanical engineers, I think that it is a better program. Certainly it is more versatile. It’s probably just engineering prejudice, but my husband always said that the civil engineers made up the bottom of the class.
PS — none of the engineers in my famly know squat about the classics! LOL.
Congratulations to your son and to you for your achievements.
“What a student would get from their education depends on them, and in some of the other cases you are paying for the prestige of the name, and the connections made there, not necessarily the academic content.”
Yes, and that's the point. The value of the Rolodex one may develop at Harvard is difficult to measure in tangible terms, but it is far from negligible.
Maryland. Why? Well first it is free. It is close to home. It has a five year MBA program. And it is free. Drop that $65,000 or $88,000 savings into a savings account, that will be seed money for his engineering firm after he graduates and gets a few years experience in the field. Or it will pay for his doctoral program at Harvard if he wants to teach. And it is free.
I would instinctively lean toward the state school against the pretentious academies but some might say that the prestige of the Ivy degree would be more valuable in the long run.
Despite their big names I wouldn’t send any of my kids to those uber liberal schools especially where their faith based upbringing would be scorned and ridiculed. There is a top notch, but lesser known engineering school in South Dakota...South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. The School of Mines has been the lead university for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL),which has converted a former mile deep gold mine into a neutrino detector. The School of Mines is internationally known for its mining, electrical and physical engineering programs.
Sounds like Hopkins is really out of the picture.
So between Maryland and Harvard, it’s a no brainer. Look, Maryland might be a good school and all, but it’s not Harvard. At Harvard, his classmates will be future Senators, CEOs, and Supreme Court Justices. At Maryland, his classmates will be future middle managers.
It’s an absolute no brainer. Harvard. Yes, it costs some money, but this is why you saved.
Second: you can't beat FREE. If, as you say, Maryland is no longer a party school, but has good engineering and classics, go for it.
Third: The reason I say the second, is that it's the Master's and/or PhD which counts, not the undergrad. I'll Freepmail you later on that.
Fourth: Remember, that the attitude and treatment you get from the school NOW, is the *BEST* you'll get: they're wooing you. And if Hopkins is treating you like this, they won't get any better later. If it were pre-med, maybe I'd overlook it, but it's engineering. I find it a good sign that Harvard is wooing you more. And don't forget btw the crime issues in vicinity of the Homewood campus.
Fifth: Harvard has a cachet that nothing else on earth does ; and your son can carry "Harvard" around the rest of his life. Keep in mind the limitations on the civil vs. mechanical engineering degree, vs. the possibility of "Harvard" opening the door to management even if his undergrad is in a different sub-specialty. There are some fields for which an Ivy League degree is a prerequisite (e.g. Wall Street). But engineering is NOT among them.
On the other hand, if he goes to Maryland and aces things, he could presumably go to Harvard for grad school.
It sounds like your son is in the enviable position of having NO poor choices here: and I agree with your narrowing down to these three finalists.
The last point would be, did I see you mentioned one other sibling? How much money will they have left for college if you go the Hopkins / Harvard route?
Finally -- recall that if your son is going into engineering, there is a "glass ceiling" of sorts: as I mentioned earlier, it is not Wall Street with an unlimited top end: and as long as he finishes the B.A. / Master's from a "good" school and thus gets offers, the exact name on the diploma won't make much difference to his earning potential -- just the life experience whilst on campus, and contacts / bragging rights thereafter. If he has a few firms or a geographical area he wants to settle in, you might contact the HR department or managers from firms there to see what *their* preference is for incoming grads. Best of luck to the whole family.
Oh, and Happy Easter.
Your reply strikes at the heart of many of the issues and concerns about which we're thinking.
When I went to college, I chose the school to which I was accepted that had the best reputation in my major field, not the school with the best all-around reputation. I dropped out of that major field before completing grad school, and am now in a completely different field.
I always thought that, given my career path, it would have been more helpful to have graduated from the school with the somewhat more recognized and prestigious “brand name.”
As well, I made no life-long business connections in college. Just wasn't that sort of student body. That's Harvard's “Rolodex advantage.”
But Maryland is a better school for engineering, and the university has made it very, very attractive for him to go there. As well, they have added something to his scholarship package that at least partially makes up for Harvard's “Rolodex advantage.”
You've really nailed some crucial questions. Now I wish we could get the crucial answers! LOL.
LOL. We’ve had this discussion. Civil is what excites him. Not gonna argue with that.
Believe it or not, Harvard does carry some negatives outside the Northeat corridor and not because of ideology.
Employers think you will want more money and that you maybe an entitiled elitist snob. I stopped telling people years ago that I went to Harvard until I transfered to a small Southern liberal arts school. Just sayin’
Thank you for posting this. I am very pleased with so much about this, as a homeschool parent, a pseud-classicist, but who works in the “real” world (and is constantly pushing engineering with kids). I follow higher education (in both the classics departments and the engineering departments) very very closely and I think your breakdown is really excellent.
Assuming your young scholar actually wants to be an engineer, I think it is a close call, but Maryland should win in my opinion.
The clincher is the free cost. And the excellence of the classics. (Again, sort of assuming the classics here is about building a life, not pursuing a scholarly career).
I would suggest keeping the cost down, and doing “good enough” in terms of credentialing as an undergrad.
Then, I would say go for MIT or Stanford as a graduate degree. With a classics undergrad (I really love this by the way...), and good marks in engineering, it is very doable to get into a top engineering graduate program and then you have the credential/name that Harvard offers. It would even at that stage be prudent to take on some debt, as the graduate program would not be the full 4 years (masters) and it also would more clearly increase earning power.
So I think that’s the way to go. Maryland for free now. Stanford/MIT for masters degree with the cost less than a Harvard undergrad.
(All that said, I do not think it would be a bad choice at all just to do Harvard now....that would be great, too...just not quite as good, all things considered, as Maryland).
Again, congratulations and bless you for all this...very impressive!
I am going to suggest Maryland, but not for the reasons the others do.
Since you are serious Catholics, your son would benefit from access to real Catholics that is attenuated at major secular and pseudo Catholic schools.
Although Christendom College is unsuitable for an engineering degree, Maryland is close enough to Front Royal, VA, and the various activities that Christendom engages in around D.C., that your son could visit and participate in a number of the events. A lot of Christendom grads would go on to UVa or Catholic U for advanced degrees but still visit the college for camaraderie. You don’t have to be a student or employee to attend a talk by a leading Catholic or conservative political figure or author.
(It isn’t the worst thing in the world that some of the young ladies there are open to an MRS degree.)
By the way, a good conservative friend of mine who attended U of Chicago went on to grad school at U of Maryland (late 80s) and ultimately landed a fine position at Intel. He found U of M no worse than U of Chicago for political climate, maybe even better. Due to those Nobel prize winning economists and lack of party reputation, U of Chicago has a reputation of being comparatively “conservative”. That is not the case.
Believe me, FREE really has a nice ring to it, LOL! My son will come up to me and just out of the blue say, “Did I mention, Maryland is FREE??”
I think that he will want to run a business one day, and I wonder whether with a Harvard degree, he may be perceived at many larger firms as more “management material.” Unfortunately, my crystal ball is broken, ;-).
This is cool.
After reading most of the posts that actually answered the question you posed (and did not recommend schools not on the list), it seems clear.
We are all saying: Maryland for free. There is no downside.
You can rectify the “name deficit” IF (a big if...) that is an issue later.
So I guess it’s Maryland then!!!!
Electrical pays more and is more in demand.
JHU has a good Dominican-run student ministry based at SS Philip and James at the SE corner of the campus.
UVA has an AWESOME CSM program. But I’m prejudiced.
No you can't. You get once chance to go to college, and the fact is that a Harvard degree will open doors that a Maryland degree won't. That's just the way it is.
No you can’t.”
I guess you’ve never heard of grad school.