kitchen table math, the sequel: Rudbeckia Hirta on top-name colleges

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rudbeckia Hirta on top-name colleges

I work with gifted high school students, and I can attest to the fierce competition for the top schools. One of the students I have worked with applied early to a well-known top tier college and was not accepted. This student had an SAT score over 2300, had an A in every single course (and they were all honors or AP except for German), and had all fives on AP exams in several social and physical sciences in 9-11 grades (including Calc BC as a junior), impressive performance in national competitions (spelling bee, science bowl, etc.), and had performed research with a professor at a local university.

This is typical of the applicants to your most prestigious name-brand colleges.

On the other hand, the university where I teach will accept just about anyone with a pulse. I run into a lot of students whose SAT scores are alarmingly low and who had two-point-something GPAs in high school. You can get a damn good education here -- if you choose your degree program and courses well.


Anonymous said...

Thanks you, Rudbeckia. The excellent education is indeed available at a much broader range of colleges/universities than the top 25. And the range of personality types is certainly much wider -- plus the presence of students who are very talented at one subject but terrible at another. I know quite a number of PhD's whose undergraduate work was at third-tier colleges because they couldn't learn foreign languages, or hated the available extracurrucular activities, or were busy earning money to help out the family budget.

Allison said...

Sorry to be a broken record, but people don't send their children to top tier colleges because of the education. They send them because of the sorting mechanism of the elite school.

elite schools simply aren't that good at providing an education to bother wasting 25-40k a year.

They send them because they want better grandchildren. They think (correctly) that their child has a better chance of marrying well, of landing a job on the right career path, of using that credential. When the President of the US changes the current administration, there are thousands of jobs to fill. They are filled by the alumni network of the elite schools, not by personal connections, because *no one knows* that many people. But your school is a proxy for many things, and that you have the right attitudes, values, taste, as well as basic reading, writing and analytic skills is not questioned. This is true at the major banks, major industrial companies, the high tech firms. You want to work at Google and your ring says MIT? You're in. You're the top from Iowa State and have a master's from Univ of Illinois Chicago? No one reads your resume.

People will continue to want to get their kid into the elite schools for those reasons. Until those colleges are completely discredited, it will continue. Even if they teach nothing at all, that they sort for the best in the first place will make them stay elite.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree, Allison. Guess the point of my post was that unless parents are fixated on their children rising to the very top (which should in any case be the child's choice, not the parent's), they should feel free to ignore the stampede to get into the top 25. And, I would add, in plenty of fields it is not a deal-breaker to have graduated from less competitive schools.