kitchen table math, the sequel: First College Visit

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First College Visit

I thought people might like to hear about college visits. (BTW, our son is a rising junior.) Perhaps others would like to add their experiences. We stopped at Oberlin on the way back from Interlochen to see their music conservatory. A tour of the college is a separate tour. You can apply to either or both. You can be accepted to the conservatory but not the college. Only about 20 percent of the total 2800 students are in the conservatory, and of those, maybe 25 percent are doing dual degrees - in both sides. Oberlin is very comfortable. You can see everything in about a half-hour of driving around. The college tours take longer. There really is only one hotel (so-so) in town. After about 10 blocks in any direction, the curbs stop and the farms take over. It's a small school lovers dream. The best part of the college is the complete focus on undergraduates. The downside is that maybe it's a little bit too insular. What feels initially comfortable might end up feeling quite different later on. Then again, it was summer and the place was dead. Also, some non-music students like the idea of going to a college with a conservatory attached. My niece is one of those, and she also went to look at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. My brother-in-law really liked Lawrence. My niece liked Oberlin, but chose the College of Wooster. I think that a little snootiness slips out at times. My niece gave one example about Oberlin, and at a college fair, my son said the recruiter talked to him like a child. However, our tour host (student) was very nice. That variation is probably normal, but my brother-in-law talked about the Oberlin aura that exists in the midwest. We're from New England and Boston casts a bigger influence. I don't think my son sees himself in the very flat middle of farmland. We also did a drive by of Yale. We did their on-line virtual tour, but not the real tour. Our son liked their use of separate colleges and could see himself there, but what are the details? We don't know yet. It seems that one can make very little of any college. The question is what opportunities do you have if you try? How much do you have to compete for those opportunities?


SteveH said...

Darn. I forgot again about the paragraph commands.

ChemProf said...

My sister went to Oberlin (although this is a long time ago now). She applied to both the conservatory (in voice) and the college, but was only admitted to the college. For music students, if you aren't in the conservatory there are kind of limited opportunities. She was involved in the Gilbert and Sullivan group, and it was tricky to get enough people because the conservatory music teachers didn't like having their students sing in "amateur theatricals."

That said, she absolutely loved Oberlin. She lived in French house for a lot of it, and enjoyed that group of people, and she did have some good opportunities to be involved in the English department groups, including being student representative on a search committee for a faculty member.

Cassandra Turner said...

We've done the local schools: CSU, CU-Boulder and now the School of Mines in Golden. My son, a senior, indulged us by touring Mines, which he then fell in love with. We asked the recruiter to talk about admission criteria.

Son's GPA is pretty low. Around a 3.1. His ACT is 32 overall and 35 in Math. The average GPA admitted is 3.8, so I was wondering how much GPA counts vs. test scores. When we mentioned that he had a d on semester in Spanish, she immediately wrote that off. "We don't really care about foreign language courses, in fact, we only require 1 year in high school," she said. At Mines, there is no admissions essay, they don't expect students to take a writing portion of either SAT or ACT. It's a simple calculation of GPA + test score.

Son was excited to get a perfect score on the ACT math and planned to retake it next month anyway. We were advised to apply September 1, as soon as they open admissions to Mines, rather than wait for any improvement at the semester of grades.

Auntie Ann said...

I had a friend graduate from Lawrence's Conservatory (violin) in about 1990. After graduation, she played with the orchestra at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (our home town). She said that if she had known how good the musicians were at UWM, she would have seriously reconsidered her choice.

Anonymous said...

My son is just starting 11th grade, so we should be visiting colleges, but haven't yet (other than MIT a couple of years ago when we were in Boston). We should visit Stanford, Berkeley, Harvey Mudd, and Caltech in California, and maybe University of Colorado, Boulder (we have relatives in Boulder). Other schools that might be worth a visit include Carnegie Mellon and University of Illinois. We should visit some safety schools also, but I doubt that we'll get to all the ones on this list.

Incidentally, on the SAT vs GPA score—there is evidence that the lower of the two is the more predictive of college performance:

Anonymous said...


We have a similar problem with my son--high ACT, lame GPA. I'm getting the impression that GPA is more important.

A friend's son was a mostly straight A student, but couldn't get above 26 on the ACT. He was accepted everywhere he applied (and offered money.)

Also, those of you with Naviance, go to the colleges tab, type in a specific college, look for where the "graph" icon is and click on it. With most colleges it will tell you how many kids from your school got into that particular college over the last 6 years. You can see where the ACT and GPA cutoffs are.

Susan S

SATVerbalTutor. said...

@Susan. Both scores and GPA are important -- it's not an either/or proposition. GPA is always viewed in context of the school: a 3.3 at school x might be harder to attain than a 3.8 at school y. If someone has great grades and so-so scores but clearly has a lot to offer, they'll get taken seriously at lots of schools below the top level. Ditto if someone has ok grades and phenomenal scores. If either scores/grades are clearly there and the person presents a compelling application, they'll have plenty of options.

Btw, a 26 is a higher score than some of the (upper middle class, attending excellent schools) ACT kids I've tutored could even dream of getting. A 26 gives you plenty of options, including places like BU, Syracuse, American, Wisconsin, and Maryland, which have been/are big reaches for some of my students.

Cassandra Turner said...

Colorado juniors all take the test and the results are published. Our charter school average was 27.5 - highest in the state. Not too shabby for our first ever junior class.