When it does matter where you go to college – yet another viewpoint…

As is the case every time this year around “acceptance letter month,” everyone has an opinion on where to go to college. Or where not to go. Or if to go at all. All I can say is, no one really knows the reasons why some wealthy kids don’t get into HYP (harvard, yale, princeton) or why “poor” kids do not get in either. Is it based on race, grade, gender, wealth, or connections? In my opinion, there is a school for EVERYONE, but it takes time, desire, and understanding to find it. It may not be in the U.S. but rather in Europe, Asia, Canada, or Down Under. Although I do appreciate most opinions voiced by the experts, in the end, we are far from understanding education as it is now, and even further from where it is going.
-Andreas Kristinus
President, EduGate LLC
March 23 at 1:33 PM

My post last week on a new book by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” generated hundreds of comments here and on Facebook. Many people agreed with Bruni, telling their own stories of attending less-selective colleges and turning out just fine. But lots of others mentioned the very real recruiting practices of a handful of blue-chip companies, especially on Wall Street and among consulting companies, that only look at graduates of elite schools.Bruni’s book largely focuses on students who made choices between selective colleges and slightly less selective colleges or brand-name public flagship campuses. The difference between going to Penn State, for example, instead of Carnegie Mellon, or Indiana University instead of the University of Michigan.

Those are the choices most high-school seniors are making at this time of year. They applied to a bunch of colleges that are probably similar in many ways. They are all small, private liberal-arts colleges; or they are all large, public universities; or maybe all close to home or in a specific region. Rarely do students apply to both Yale University and Radford University, for example.

In most cases, as readers pointed out, students mostly make the college experience what it turns out to be in the long run of life. There are plenty of failures at Harvard just as there are plenty of successes at Shenandoah University.

But in some cases, where you go to college does matter. When the primary measure of a degree’s value is actually graduating, then getting the right match between a prospective student and a school is what matters most. In making that match, colleges are the more important player.

It’s called “undermatching.” That’s what happens when smart students, usually low-income, could succeed at an elite college but never apply to one or go to one. The idea has received plenty of attention from researchers in recent years, and even the White House, where officials see it as way to boost the college graduation rates of low-income students. (Some also question the idea).

One of the leading proponents of this theory is William Bowen, an economist and former president of Princeton. In a 2009 book called “Crossing the Finish Line,” Bowen and his coauthors found that the harder-to-get-into colleges that they studied had higher graduation rates for all types of students, even those the admissions office might have worried about admitting in the first place.

There are all sorts of reasons why students pick less-selective colleges. They might want to stay close to home or go to the least-expensive college (this is particularly true of poorer students). Or maybe they are worried they won’t be able to keep up with their classmates.

Bowen and the other researchers studied a rich set of subjects: 60,000 seniors who attended more than 300 high schools in North Carolina in 1999. Not only did they have access to wide-ranging demographic data on those students, but they were able to link them to their college experiences. Of the 60,000, they determined about 6,200 students were eligible, based on grade-point averages and SAT scores, to attend the best college they could have. They found that four in 10 of those students chose not to attend one of those schools, either because they didn’t apply or didn’t enroll.

What is interesting about their findings is exactly who decided not to go to the best college they could have: Just 27 percent of students from the wealthiest households undermatched, but 59 percent of those from the poorest households did. Among those students whose parents did not go to college, 64 percent of them went to the less-selective college.

These are students who could have been admitted to a school like Ohio State (where about 78 percent of students graduate in six years), but instead they went to schools like Youngstown State (37 percent) or the University of Akron (35 percent).

Bowen told me that there might be a good reason for why students pick against their own self interests. The criteria for picking a college often conflict with one another. In his mind, there needs to be a good reason for deliberately choosing not to attend the best college you can get into. Too often the reason students make these questionable choices is a “combination of inertia, lack of information, lack of forward planning for college, and lack of encouragement.” Sometimes students rebuff the best college because they are getting a free ride somewhere else.

The bottom line is this: You should be sure to check out the graduation rates of a college you’re considering, and take particular note of the graduation rates for students like you (for example, they differ between men and women, and even by major). If the real value of college is in actually graduating, then Bowen’s research shows that it really does matter where you go to school.

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For many parents and kids, it’s ‘Harvard, Harvard, Harvard!’

EduGate faces this dilemma on a daily basis… parents simply do not understand that there are over 4,000 colleges in the USA and that Havard is most definitely NOT the best school for their child… it seems that educating the parents is more important than educating the students… albeit, both are blinded by the reputation that precedes Harvard and unfortunately they miss the big picture… on any given day in beijing, i find more students at a starbucks desiring to go to harvard than of students actually getting accepted… yet, i strongly believe this attitude will change in a few years and parents will be open to let their child decide on their own which uni to attend…

for all those students that are looking to find the right school for them, edugate offers summer english learning programs (for credit) extension programs, and assistance with conditional/direct admission and gateway (no TOEFL or SAT required)…

http://www.edugate.us

They are among the top schools in the Ivy League. Yale University took one student.

Yale and Princeton University accepted two other students, a brother and sister.

Other than getting into some of the most sought after universities in the United States, what the three had in common was that their parents are Chinese, all had done extensive prep work to get into their dream college, and all three rejected those universities for the school they really wanted – Harvard University.

“Chinese parents only know Harvard, Harvard, Harvard,” said the owner of a small, private tutoring service that helps children from low-income Chinese families prepare for various college standardized tests, like the SATs and the SAT subject tests. “Parents come to me and say, ‘Our child must get into Harvard. They must get into Harvard, we don’t want them to go anywhere else,” said the owner, who declined to be named.

She has been working with high school students for nearly a decade, hiring teachers to help classes of 15 to 20 students prepare for the SAT exams. Most of the students that attend the SAT classes in Brooklyn began preparing as early as their freshman year of high school.

“Particularly for the Chinese who come to the United States, it’s only Harvard. It’s as if there are no good schools other than Harvard,” she said. “I tell these parents, there are so many good schools in the US, but they don’t even know schools like Dartmouth or Vanderbilt. Obsessing over Harvard is almost a Chinese tradition now.”

Some trace that obsession back to 2000 when Harvard University and Liu Yiting became household names across China after Liu’s parents published a book chronicling how their parenting style led to their daughter’s admission to Harvard. “Harvard Girl” sold millions of copies in China and detailed Liu’s disciplined upbringing and how she became one of the first Chinese undergraduates to attend Harvard on a full scholarship.

The book led to many copycat titles, with different parents trying their hand at detailing their own parenting styles and how it led to their childrens’ admissions to other prestigious higher education institutions.

Bev Taylor, the founder of college counseling service The Ivy Coach, works with parents and their children to get them into the schools of their choice. She helped the family whose daughter and son were accepted by Yale and Princeton.

“They weren’t done. They wanted Harvard. Why it was Harvard? I don’t know. What’s wrong with Princeton, what’s wrong with Yale? And why would you go through that? What’s so different?” she said. “A lot of it is bragging rights so mommy and daddy can say they have one kid at Harvard and one kid at Princeton, instead of saying they have two kids at Princeton.”

Taylor said that about 85 percent of her clients are Chinese and Indian. They pay $995 an hour for Ivy Coach’s services, which range from helping with personal essays to reviewing applications to see where students can improve them and make them stand out.

Billie Wei, who almost finishes up with her first year at Harvard, went to Ivy Prep, one of the most well-known Chinese cram schools in New York.

As for her turning down Yale, “she just couldn’t let go of the reputation of Harvard,” said her father, who said going to the school was her decision.

There are 722 students from China studying across all of Harvard’s colleges, more than 300 of whom go to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with the rest in undergraduate and other graduate programs.

“The number of students from China studying across Harvard University has increased significantly in recent decades,” said Jeff Neal, director of communications at Harvard.

The number of students from China attending Harvard has increased threefold since the mid-1990s, according to the school.

Harvard doesn’t break down applicants by country, but Neal said that the number of applicants from China to the undergraduate program has also grown during that time period, “though at a much slower rate”.

amyhe@chinadailyusa.com

Public vs Private University – picking the school that is right for “you.”

I am a strong supporter and proponent of the public school system. Growing up in Germany, there was no other choice. When I came to America I was first introduced to private education when I attended boarding school. Then, for undergraduate and graduate school I went to private university at Saint Louis University and Webster University.

Why did I not go to a public university?

My reasons were clear – my grandfather used to be the head of the political science department at SLU, and Webster University had four satellite campuses all over the world. This was the a no-brainer. I spent one semester in Vienna and finished school in Saint Louis.

Chinese applicants, however, have a lot of choice and flexibility when it comes to picking the right school – the school that is right for them. America boasts a myriad of excellent universities and colleges (an explanation between the two is forthcoming in another post very soon). Say what you want about our current economic situation and looming sequester, we still have the best higher education system in the world.

There are differences and similarities between public and private universities.

One of the differences is price. Private universities are more expensive and are getting more pricy every year. On average, tuition at private universities increases about 3-4% per year. This does not mean that public universities are not increasing their tuition. They are, but, they start out to be cheaper to begin with. Tuition at Harvard (considered, by US News and World Report’s College Ranking, to be the best university in the country) is about $40,000. Compare that to UC Berkeley (considered the #1 public university in the country) at $11,700 for in-state tuition ($34,000 out of state) one begins to wonder what the attraction is to private universities.

Which brings me to the other difference – prestige or better said “perceived prestige.” I remember on two occasions where a student was accepted into the University of Chicago but the parents decided against it, holding out for their child to be accepted at Harvard. Why? Very simple – recognition and prestige. University of Chicago, a private university, ranked #4 in the country, and, in my opinion, the best overall university in America, is not well known in China. Yet, the education rivals that of the HYP’s – Harvard, Yale, Princeton.

The same holds true for the rest of the best, in what public education has to offer. All of the following — University of Virginia, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of California, Davis, and many more, lack the name recognition in China. The degrees they offer plus the support students receive throughout their education, equals or betters that of the best private schools.

So, is it price vs prestige then? Do we perceive cheaper to be not as good? Expensive to be better? What about name recognition? Do we think that a school with better name recognition recruits better and graduates smarter students? Or did Presidents Obama, a long list of internationally renowned politicians, celebrities, nobel laureates, economists, former Presidents of Northern Ireland and Pakistan, the co-founder of Apple, the executive chairman of Google, just accelerate at the school that was best for them?

Which is my last point – the education is the same. The price and name recognition is not. At EduGate, we try to match each student with the school that is best of them. And, that quite often happens NOT to be the HYP’s of world, but rather the schools who offer excellent programs at a lesser cost and or recognizable name.