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Old 05-02-2007, 06:27 PM   #16
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while this isn't about finances, i think it does a good job illustrating the differences between "kids today" and the kids of 35 years ago:



[q]Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

By MICHAEL WINERIP

On a Sunday morning a few months back, I interviewed my final Harvard applicant of the year. After saying goodbye to the girl and watching her and her mother drive off, I headed to the beach at the end of our street for a run.

It was a spectacular winter day, bright, sunny and cold; the tide was out, the waves were high, and I had the beach to myself. As I ran, I thought the same thing I do after all these interviews: Another amazing kid who won’t get into Harvard.

That used to upset me. But I’ve changed.

Over the last decade, I’ve done perhaps 40 of these interviews, which are conducted by alumni across the country. They’re my only remaining link to my alma mater; I’ve never been back to a reunion or a football game, and my total donations since graduating in the 1970s do not add up to four figures.

No matter how glowing my recommendations, in all this time only one kid, a girl, got in, many years back. I do not tell this to the eager, well-groomed seniors who settle onto the couch in our den. They’re under too much pressure already. Better than anyone, they know the odds, particularly for a kid from a New York suburb.

By the time I meet them, they’re pros at working the system. Some have Googled me because they think knowing about me will improve their odds. After the interview, many send handwritten thank-you notes saying how much they enjoyed meeting me.

Maybe it’s true.

I used to be upset by these attempts to ingratiate. Since I’ve watched my own children go through similar torture, I find these gestures touching. Everyone’s trying so hard.

My reason for doing these interviews has shifted over time. When I started, my kids were young, and I thought it might give them a little advantage when they applied to Harvard. That has turned out not to be an issue. My oldest, now a college freshman, did not apply, nor will my twins, who are both high school juniors.

We are not snubbing Harvard. Even my oldest, who is my most academic son, did not quite have the class rank or the SATs. His SAT score was probably 100 points too low — though it was identical to the SAT score that got me in 35 years ago.

Why do I continue to interview? It’s very moving meeting all these bright young people who won’t get into Harvard. Recent news articles make it sound unbearably tragic. Several Ivies, including Harvard, rejected a record number of applicants this year.

Actually, meeting the soon-to-be rejected makes me hopeful about young people. They are far more accomplished than I was at their age and without a doubt will do superbly wherever they go.

Knowing me and seeing them is like witnessing some major evolutionary change take place in just 35 years, from the Neanderthal Harvard applicant of 1970 to today’s fully evolved Homo sapiens applicant.

There was the girl who, during summer vacation, left her house before 7 each morning to make a two-hour train ride to a major university, where she worked all day doing cutting-edge research for NASA on weightlessness in mice.

When I was in high school, my 10th-grade science project was on plant tropism — a shoebox with soil and bean sprouts bending toward the light.


These kids who don’t get into Harvard spend summers on schooners in Chesapeake Bay studying marine biology, building homes for the poor in Central America, touring Europe with all-star orchestras.

Summers, I dug trenches for my local sewer department during the day, and sold hot dogs at Fenway Park at night.

As I listen to them, I can visualize their parents, striving to teach excellence. One girl I interviewed described how her father made her watch the 2004 convention speeches by both President Bush and Senator John Kerry and then tell him which she liked better and why.

What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.

At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.


Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them.

I took one AP course and scored 3.

Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.

I used to say goodbye at my door, but since my own kids reached this age, I walk them out to their cars, where a parent waits. I always say the same thing to the mom or dad: “You’ve done a wonderful job — you should be very proud.” And I mean it.

But I’ve stopped feeling bad about the looming rejection. When my four were little, I used to hope a couple might go to Harvard. I pushed them, but by the end of middle school it was clear my twins, at least, were not made that way. They rebelled, and I had to learn to see who they were.

I came to understand that my own focus on Harvard was a matter of not sophistication but narrowness. I grew up in an unworldly blue-collar environment. Getting perfect grades and attending an elite college was one of the few ways up I could see.

My four have been raised in an upper-middle-class world. They look around and see lots of avenues to success. My wife’s two brothers struggled as students at mainstream colleges and both have made wonderful full lives, one as a salesman, the other as a builder. Each found his own best path. Each knows excellence.

That day, running on the beach, I was lost in my thoughts when a voice startled me. “Pops, hey, Pops!” It was Sammy, one of my twins, who’s probably heading for a good state school. He was in his wetsuit, surfing alone in the 30-degree weather, the only other person on the beach. “What a day!” he yelled, and his joy filled my heart.[/q]
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Old 05-02-2007, 07:02 PM   #17
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They learn to do really well for the required testing but can they actually think; I know more than enough smart people who can regurgitate facts but couldn't have an original thought or put together the links.
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Old 05-02-2007, 07:33 PM   #18
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Well, having taken the AP U.S. History test last year, I can say that critical thinking skills are required. You have to write 4 essays about different topics. There is, of course, a multiple choice section too.

That article is interesting because my dad and I talked about how much applying for college has changed since he went through the process. I will graduate from high school with around a 3.5 cumulative GPA, and I have taken this entire year of classes at a college instead of my high school. I had to fight to get into our top state school. On the other hand, when he went to college, he had a 3.3 or so GPA, and got into several different state colleges with no problems. He's only 38, and the stress put onto people my age has increased ten fold since then.
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:00 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
They learn to do really well for the required testing but can they actually think; I know more than enough smart people who can regurgitate facts but couldn't have an original thought or put together the links.
I am sorry
But I can not recall the response
to your baseless accusation.
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:05 PM   #20
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It wasn't a slight against them, I don't know them - and they sound like accomplished and intelligent people who fall under a very high bar for whatever circumstance - the first part of the quote is a question without a question mark. The second part is a statement in regards to people that I know who did well in their high school exams but had trouble adapting to university level studies, very well prepared and adept at exams but struggled with lit reviews and all the leg work when it wasn't layed out for them to remember.

Everything is learned - perhaps phrasing it as "With all the effort put into their end of year exams do they gain the skills needed to succeed when they get into university" would be better.
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:11 PM   #21
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Life is a mindfuck.

Every year is an annual life crisis celebration.

Drama. Bring it bitches.
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Old 05-03-2007, 11:23 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
How many parents these days are helping their kids with the sky-rocketing tuition? I'm not talking about parents who are themselves lower class and can't afford to help (although by comparison, we came here as refugees and my parents were not only poor but as Oprah says: "po" and they worked 2-3 jobs so we had no undergraduate debt, and didn't go on a vacation for 15 years...). I'm talking about friends of mine whose parents are at least middle-upper middle class and feel like when that kid hits 18, they're done. I know this is probably a cultural issue, and immigrants treat their kids differently, but I just don't understand at all how somebody can got to the Caribbean twice a year and drive a BMW and live in a McMansion and watch their 22 year old start life out $75K in the hole. It's incomprehensible to me, so I guess it's some kind of culture shock.
I see you've met my parents.
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Old 05-03-2007, 05:43 PM   #23
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The article about Harvard, I believe, ignores the fact that college admissions, and especially graduate program admissions, are often ridiculously politicized; in this instance, the generations preceding that of new applicants creates a great deal of stress and uncontrollable obstacles for the latter.
In any case, debt is also often the result of certain social assumptions- i.e., the only way to happiness is through a lavish wedding, a new SUV, and a spatious suburban house- that are startlingly pervasive. I understand that many are forced into debt simply to have a chance at making their way in the world, but it seems to me that many also place themselves into significant debt based on these assumptions. A friend of mine, for instance, just decided to build a $300k, four bedroom house with his fiance; this is in addition to a $25k car that he recently purchased. To me, all of this is pure superfluity- in his mind, however, this is what young, business-casual type people are expected to do.
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Old 05-03-2007, 06:07 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by cdisantis83
The article about Harvard, I believe, ignores the fact that college admissions, and especially graduate program admissions, are often ridiculously politicized; in this instance, the generations preceding that of new applicants creates a great deal of stress and uncontrollable obstacles for the latter.


can you explain this further?
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Old 05-03-2007, 06:41 PM   #25
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Originally posted by dietcokeofevil
Life is a mindfuck.

Every year is an annual life crisis celebration.

Drama. Bring it bitches.

This says it all and so well!
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Old 05-03-2007, 07:05 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

can you explain this further?
Faculty involved with graduate admissions sometimes allow feuds or personal agendas to influence who will be admitted and who will not. For instance, a student that would work with a specific professor may be vetoed by another professor that is looking to spite him or her, or perhaps to promote the growth of their own program over others, etc. This certainly is not always the case, but I have been assured that it happens more than one would like to believe. Furthermore, with budget cuts and state funding issues, many programs are prioritized by administration, resulting in many qualified individuals being kept out owing simply to the glamour of their disciplines. Realistically, there is quite a bit of luck involved with being accepted into graduate programs, especially those with strong reputations. As with anything else, egos can get out of control in academia.
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Old 05-03-2007, 07:16 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally posted by cdisantis83


Faculty involved with graduate admissions sometimes allow feuds or personal agendas to influence who will be admitted and who will not. For instance, a student that would work with a specific professor may be vetoed by another professor that is looking to spite him or her, or perhaps to promote the growth of their own program over others, etc. This certainly is not always the case, but I have been assured that it happens more than one would like to believe. Furthermore, with budget cuts and state funding issues, many programs are prioritized by administration, resulting in many qualified individuals being kept out owing simply to the glamour of their disciplines. Realistically, there is quite a bit of luck involved with being accepted into graduate programs, especially those with strong reputations. As with anything else, egos can get out of control in academia.


it's for the above reasons that i decided not to go into academia.

but does this happen as much in undergrad admissions? to my mind, being admitted to Harvard undergrad is a much more impressive admit than to any Harvard graduate program, and that includes the Law and Medical schools.
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Old 05-03-2007, 07:23 PM   #28
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Probably not so much with undergraduates, but I would be willing to bet that there is some degree of politicking that goes on with undergrad admissions to somewhere like Harvard. With all of the outstanding applicants that they receive, it is probably unavoidable.
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Old 05-03-2007, 08:11 PM   #29
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Here in Australia there is a similar trend happening. Undergraduate university courses are mainly offered under the HECS scheme, where you can take out what is effectively an interest free loan every semester, and when you are earning a certain wage an extra amount comes out of your tax until the debt is paid off. If you pay up front at the beginning of semester, you pay less. You also get a discount if you make a lump-sum payment later.

I was lucky. My gran saw the value in me going to uni and paid some of my fees up front so my debt wasn’t as large. When I got a good job (only on a six month contract mind you), I paid that debt off in no time, as well my car loan.

However, at nearly 32, I’m not so well off. I’m not badly off by any means – my only debt is the mortgage my husband and I took out last September on a very modest house in a modest suburb. In recent months interest rates have been steadily rising here, and while we can still easily afford our mortgage because we were sensible when we bought a property, it still hurts that we can’t pay it off as quickly as we would like. We have 2 cars because we both work in places where public transport is not an option. We don’t have a McMansion, no big screen plasma tv with surround sound, don’t eat out all the time, neither of us has ever bought a new car, and we haven’t been on holiday since our honeymoon over 2 years ago. Our wedding was kindly funded by my parents, and we came in well under the $10 000 limit we were given.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy with what I’ve got and don’t want all those trappings anyway. (Well, a holiday would be nice ) But in annoys the heck out of me when people assume that all young people today are in huge amounts of debt because they do have all those trappings. And it also annoys me that people running up huge amounts of debt on their credit cards and personal loans buying all those trappings are the ones forcing interest rates up, which has an effect on those of us with mortgages but doesn’t seem to be doing a huge amount to slow such spending, which is what the interest rate rises are supposed to be doing!

There also sometimes seems to be a lack of understanding that not all of us have the option of moving to a rural area. My husband and I lived in a rural area for 18 months. But to work in the field I really wanted to work in we had to come back to Brisbane, and there were also family reasons for returning to our home town.

Sorry if this has turned into a real rant – it is a product not only of some of the comments made here, but also of the kind of rubbish that is frequently spewed out by others here in Australia in the media. I guess I’m just saying we shouldn’t all be tarred with the same brush.
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Old 05-03-2007, 09:52 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
How many parents these days are helping their kids with the sky-rocketing tuition? I'm not talking about parents who are themselves lower class and can't afford to help (although by comparison, we came here as refugees and my parents were not only poor but as Oprah says: "po" and they worked 2-3 jobs so we had no undergraduate debt, and didn't go on a vacation for 15 years...). I'm talking about friends of mine whose parents are at least middle-upper middle class and feel like when that kid hits 18, they're done. I know this is probably a cultural issue, and immigrants treat their kids differently, but I just don't understand at all how somebody can got to the Caribbean twice a year and drive a BMW and live in a McMansion and watch their 22 year old start life out $75K in the hole. It's incomprehensible to me, so I guess it's some kind of culture shock.
I go to college in a little over two years. My family is upper middle class. I am not getting any money for college from my family.

I will say, 95% of the people I talk to, if not more, will receive money for college from their parents. 80% of them are having them paid entirely.

Lucky bastards.
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