Comparing other colleges (non SA's)

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Basketcase, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. Basketcase

    Basketcase Proud mom of 2019 hopeful

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    Since this forum was such a huge help when my son was applying to USMA (current Yuck) I am reaching out for a bit of advice for the college search for my DS. She is not going the SA route, which is perfectly fine. (Not her cup of tea, let's say) So we are looking at several colleges. She has already gotten some acceptances and we are really starting to take a closer look at these schools. This is the hard part. How to compare? There are lots of websites out there, but the data doesn't seem to always be consistent. Where one school is rated as challenging, another website states it is not. Each school presents itself in it's very best light on it's website, during tours, etc. Review websites seem to be full of disgruntled students complaining about the food, horrible profs, etc, but those are far from reliable sources in my mind. So I thought I would come here for any advice you may have working through this process. We were blessed that our son focused on USMA from the start. He had his plan B & C and we knew what order they were in. Easy. Not so this time.....
     
  2. Padre101

    Padre101 Parent

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    Recommend that if it is possible (cost and time) to travel to the colleges where she got accepted and stay the night on campus. I remember when I was a senior in high school that attending classes and staying overnight helped me to learn a lot about the college. For example, I learned quickly that the University of Chicago was academically stressful and the students were not happy and did not feel safe on campus. It helped me to eliminate that college as an option.
     
  3. Basketcase

    Basketcase Proud mom of 2019 hopeful

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    Padre101 that is a definite in our book. She needs to feel comfortable and that the college is a good fit for her. Maybe I am more of a concrete person than that, but I would like some comparisons of academic rigor, capability of professors, tutoring support, etc other than what the colleges party line is about themselves. Maybe I am looking for a parent forum like this one, but where experiences at other colleges are discussed.
     
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  4. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    I have four, count 'em four and my youngest DS is the last one!
    I am also a CFP and when analyzing colleges, there are a billion different ways to evaluate a school.

    Like @Padre101 , I recommend to my clients to always visit each campus that is under consideration. The "vibe" your DS or DD gets is just as important as the multitude of other factors.
    1. Cost - Can you afford this school without going into heavy debt? Almost no undergrad degree is worth going into $100K in debt over. (Grad schools are a different story). Do the math!
    2. Academic fit - Will your DS be the big fish in the small pond? Will he/she be struggling compared to his/her peers?
    3. Location - How hard will it be to come home? Is the area a good fit for your DS/DD? (My DS wanted snow and snowboarding locally....he now works weekends as an instructor).
    4. Culture - Is the area too different? I know a friend who received a full ride athletic scholarship to a school in the deep south. She lasted only one year. She could not adapt to the culture shock.
    5. Academic major - Do they offer a variety of majors? My oldest DD discovered linguistics at one school, but it offered no major in it. She ended up transferring to UCLA and thriving in it.
    6. EC's - Are there a variety of programs and clubs or societies that will keep your student occupied.
    7. Reputation - Not nearly as important as one might think. I know many physicians CPA's and other professionals who received Undergrad degrees from public schools and got into top professional grad schools afterwards.
    8. Food - Not important - No one ever quit school over lousy food. My DS moved out into his own apartment in his second year. Now he cooks for himself and is a lot happier.
    My youngest DS traveled over 4000 miles visiting USNA, USMA, VMI, The Citadel, and a host of local regional schools out west where we live. He ended up at the State School just across the state border and LOVES it there. He also will graduate debt free (me too) even if he were to give up his Army scholarship. He also ranks high in his AROTC battalion and gets to snowboard almost every weekend.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
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  5. time2

    time2 5-Year Member

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    I agree that viewing random websites is probably not a reliable way to choose a college. Often times you only see the disgruntled individual who rants in some anonymous forum without any context about who they are. Perhaps they are people who complain about EVERYTHING..........LOL. People who are satisfied seem to be less likely to post on those college websites, so you might only being seeing one side of the story.

    College rankings from any number of media sources are also arbitrary and depend a LOT on what specific criteria they happen to think is important. Need to visit any college you are serious about attending. It would be a mistake to show up for the first time on the day you plan to move in. Does it fit within the family's budget is another factor. Regardless of any scholarships you might earn, will you fit in with those who attend that school? College is about far more then studying and going to classes and if you don't have much in common with the students, chances are your experience won't be as enjoyable.

    Do they offer the majors your child wants to pursue? Sometimes their interests may change and if they attend a very specialized school with limited options, it doesn't provide any opportunity to change their mind on their field of study. She should NOT pick a college simply because her friends from h.s. are going there. What happens if they grow apart and make new friends?

    Distance from home is a matter of personal preference. Some students WANT to be far from home while others do not. This is not a one-size-fits-all decision. People tend to overstate the differences in various parts of the country or over-generalize the influence of the local culture. Another reason to see the college for yourself and understand where it is located and what factors you think are important. Some students enjoy going to college in an area of the country that is different (culture, climate....etc.) from where they grew up.

    Attending sample classes is probably of limited benefit. Every college has 'good'/'bad' professors (depends on your definition) and you really won't know who you will have as a professor prior to choosing that college. Even with a 'bad' professor, everyone else in that class will probably have similar issues whether they be real or imagined.

    Every college has ECA's, so I wouldn't be overly concerned about that unless she is an avid skier and wants to go to college in someplace like Florida...........LOL.

    People can be successful after college regardless of where they went so don't get overly concerned about the 'sales pitch' any one college tries to put on for you. Since most people can only comment in specifics about the college they attended, it will be difficult to find any website where you can have a meaningful discussion about several colleges.
     
  6. osdad

    osdad 5-Year Member

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    When DD was "in the market" and recalling my own uni experience, one factor we used was: what proportion of the faculty was native speakers of English. I know that that sounds prejudicial but if you're paying $2000 or more for a class ($20k/yr for maybe 10 classes) then I think it important that the professor can be understood. One way we approximated this was to look at where each professor received his/her undergraduate degree. This can usually be found on the CV posted on the department page of the college website. We found, for example, that of the 20 faculty in one aeroengineering department, more than 2/3 has gotten their BS somewhere other than US/UK/Aus. Of course this is not to say that they aren't great professors but it's a data point for consideration. On one tour I asked the nice young man showing us around if he'd ever had a professor that he had trouble understanding because of the prof's accent? He politely said that they (the guides) were told not answer that question. Which of course was an answer in itself.

    Another data point is whether the professors actually teach undergraduate courses. I'm not sure how you'd gather this data but it may be available on one of the review sites.

    All that said, and all the above good advice said also, kids usually end up where they belong.
     
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  7. bookreader

    bookreader Member

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    You may want to check out this website: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/

    It has tons of useful info and helpful people who are very knowledgeable about colleges and the college application process.
     
  8. time2

    time2 5-Year Member

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    ^^ Your mileage may vary, but in the past that website was mostly overrun by h.s. students who seemed to talk like experts and fling out ill-advised opinions on virtually every college being discussed. I know the SA section was so poorly moderated that virtually everyone stopped using it and now posts here instead. Websites where virtually every thread turns into petty arguments over who has a more valid opinion are not ones I would recommend to anyone else.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
  9. cb7893

    cb7893 5-Year Member

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  10. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    So long as we are discussing college selection websites, I recommend evaluating Cappex.com. The website offers a questionnaire that is completed by the student. The website evaluates the student's preferences in terms of location, campus size, culture, majors, and then generates a list of suitable schools.

    It also generates a "scatter" diagram of recent enrollments and how they fall on the GPA/Standardized Test grid. Based on this it gives you a range of odds of acceptance. This is useful in preparing a list of Stretch, and Safety schools to apply to.

    https://www.cappex.com/
     
  11. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 5-Year Member

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    Oh my. I don’t even have words for this one…….
     
  12. Bondo7

    Bondo7 Member

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    We are looking at schools for DD and I have to say that is a great list of things to consider, I just wanted to give you a compliment on the list. Thank you
     
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  13. bookreader

    bookreader Member

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    @time2 - in my experience, the accuracy of the advice varied tremendously. Some posters on that site are incredibly knowledgeable and freely give of their time and expertise. Other posters are full of hot air. A discerning adult should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. And there is good wheat to be found.

    And I completely agree with you about the sub-forum on the Service Academies. Many times I've read on that sub-forum where a poster has directed the student to this forum for better advice/info.
     
  14. time2

    time2 5-Year Member

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    ^^ As I mentioned previously, what some find useful others might find annoying. Personally, I got so tired of looking for the 'wheat', that I just gave up on that other website.
     
  15. Basketcase

    Basketcase Proud mom of 2019 hopeful

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    Thanks for the great responses! It's funny, but what drove me here is the College Confidential website. It seems like the only reviews I found were from disgruntled kids. When the grammar is poor and the comments crass, I figure they are opinions that I would toss out. (Kind of like researching hotels on tripadvisor, I toss out the best one and the worst one and use the rest to form my opinion) There were just too many non-viable ones that it made me feel like nothing on that website was believable. It could just be the colleges I happened to look at.....
    I will check out cappex and princeton review. I recently found colleges.startclass.com that looked good on the surface, but haven't had time since I posted here to dive into it.
    FWIW, before she applied to any school, I confirmed that it would work with our finances and accepted the GI Bill, which she will be using. I have figured out worst case cost scenarios on all based on that. She isn't applying to any colleges without degrees she is interested in. But some are ones with 3-2 plans that mean transferring to another college to complete the coursework, which brings in more colleges to consider!
    Thanks again to all who have chipped in their thoughts and suggestions. I am sure this discussion will be of help to many.
     
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  16. 5Day

    5Day Member

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    If you want any opinions on specific colleges, toss they out. One thing we are good at is giving our opinions.
     
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  17. Jcc123

    Jcc123 5-Year Member

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    Actually I don't have a problem with that criteria. It isn't racist or prejudicial, by definition. I have personally had classes, especially stem classes, where I barely understood a word the professor said all semester. All else being equal, why would you choose to take classes from barely-understandable teachers over clearly understood ones? Makes no sense.
     
  18. usna1985

    usna1985 10-Year Member

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    I'm assuming the OP's DD has already narrowed down the list based on a set of criteria (e.g., location, size, etc.) and now is trying to choose among a group of schools that appear fairly similar.

    Some things that are important in my book (maybe not in everyone's):
    -- Class size and when you get out of lecture-size classes and into classes of 20 or less
    -- What percentage of classes for freshmen and sophomores are taught by the actual profs
    -- Do the actual profs give extra instruction or is it mostly Das?
    -- How many graduate in 4 years? 5? 6 or more?
    -- Are there limits on how many people can choose certain majors?
    -- Are intro courses for popular majors readily available (lack of this can cause students not to graduate in 4 yrs)?
    -- Do most students live on or off campus (compared with what your DD wants to do)
    -- Is Greek a bit part of social life on campus and, if so, is that something that interests her?
    -- Is the school a long way from home such that getting home for vacations is difficult and expensive?
     
  19. QA1517

    QA1517 Member

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    DS actually had to drop a couple of classes due to not being able to understand the professors. One of the classes had a TA that did the lecture class portion then the professor taught the discussion class (smaller). DS just couldn't follow him. He was trying so hard to understand his words he couldn't keep up with the discussion.
     
  20. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    Thank goodness, there are websites like "Ratemyprofessor" that now can post how well a prof communicates. On the other hand, there are some highly fluent non-minority teachers who drone on so badly in a monotone, that a lively but accented professor may actually be superior! Websites like this can clue a student in on the pros and cons of each one.

    Bottom line, like Jcc123 said, this is NOT a prejudicial issue, it is a teaching/communications issue.
     
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