Do the calculations match up to reality?
You can find some arguments that the chances of a “qualified applicant” getting into “at least one” elite college are actually higher. But, given the qualifications of applicants listed on Stanford’s own website, and a quote from an article in their alumni magazine that estimates at least 80% of their applicants are qualified to attend and do well at Stanford, and the amount of work and angst involved in applying to multiple colleges, low odds seem more realistic.
Turns out that kids with resumes like that do get rejected. And then there’s the question of financial aid. Among our own acquaintances, we know kids with similar resumes that got accepted to Georgia Tech and Duke University, but didn’t get any financial aid at those schools. And another that got accepted to the University of Texas at Austin but still didn’t get any merit aid or independent scholarships. Now, to be fair, we do know one kid who got into Stanford and did get merit aid – but they have some national awards and belong to a racial minority. This is a great student and a great kid, but that type of aid isn’t going to be available to my own kids. What I’m getting at here is that the numbers I’m researching match up with our own personal experience. So I think there’s some truth in the numbers.
And other parents are telling me that while the total estimated costs on a university’s webpage is a start, in actuality their kids cost per year has been higher. For example, the cost of room and board is listed on the University of Texas’ website last year as about $10,000 per year. (Now, it’s slightly higher at $12,600.) But I had a parent share with me that for the four years of their students degree, the cost of only “room” – and their kid lived in four different arrangements – was always $10,000 per year. In the experience of more than one person I talked to, room plus board was more than the official university estimate.
But maybe an Ivy League education is worth it! Think of the opportunities they’ll get! How could I close that possibility to my children? Can I put a price on my kids’ happiness and well being? Their chance at success?
That’s where I find this article in the Wall Street Journal interesting. People who graduate from Ivy League schools are no more likely to be happy and satisfied in their jobs and life than those who attended other universities. And then after reading Excellent Sheep, going to an elite college looks even less like a good thing. Add to that, that the information in Excellent Sheep matches up to what I’m hearing personally (although second and third hand.)
Let’s look at it another way. If you don’t get into the “right” college are you doomed to be behind for the rest of your life? Have you missed your chance?
I’m trying to internalize, and reflect for my kids, the importance of not looking at things as one shot chances. If by chance my kids do decide at some point that it’s important to them or their career path to attend an Ivy League school, there’s always graduate school. And in graduate school you can find position where students are paid to attend even at the most prestigious universities.
So if I face reality, for our family an Ivy League undergraduate degree isn’t in our future, that still leaves us with the question, what will really be required for our kids to get into a “good” university? I’ll look at that in my next post.