March 29, 2007

Thick and Thin Letters

April Fools Day is the official final date for colleges to send out acceptances and rejections to applicants. That reminds me that the standard advice to apply to six to eight colleges -- two "stretch" schools, two to four reasonable odds schools, and two "safety" schools -- sounds nuts to me. That's what colleges want you to do because it's most convenient for them, and it allows them to maintain a seller's market after April 1st when many applicants find they've only been accepted to one or two (and sometimes, disastrously, zero) colleges, so they are poorly situated to dicker over financial aid (i.e., price). It's not what's in your best interest.

I probably don't have a lot of readers in high school, but to those I do have, I say:

Why not apply to a whole bunch of longshot colleges? And how do you know your good bet middle-of-the-road colleges really are a good bet? And what if both the admissions committees at your safety schools take a dislike to you? Then where are you? And how do you know the colleges that accept you will give you enough financial aid?

The online Common Application system used by most of the more desirable private colleges allows you to apply to a maximum of 20 colleges with no need to re-enter basic information. The incremental cost in application fees of applying to 20 colleges instead of six would be about $500, which is nothing compared to the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars you'll shell out to go to college for four years. Maybe half the incremental schools will require a supplemental essay, so that can mean a considerable amount of extra work, and some want custom financial aid apps, but, still …

The main downside would be if colleges colluded and punished students applying to a lot of colleges. I certainly wouldn't put it past the Ivy League, but I've never heard that they do it on acceptances, although they notoriously colluded on financial aid for many years.

As you may know, applying Early Decision to just one college, in return for agreeing to attend that school if accepted typically gives you a better chance of getting in to your favorite school, but if you don't go that route, apply to a lot of colleges.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Garland said...

>Why not apply to a whole bunch of longshot colleges?

What for? How much does that really improve your odds? A bunch of extra apps from people who won't get in doesn't make a diff, does it? I'm all in favor of rebelling against the colleges' seller's market but I don't see how this accomplishes that.

Anonymous said...

Why not go to your local community college for two years and then transfer? The local CC here has a special program where smart kids doing this get to stay in the same cohort.

As a junior transfer, you'd have less competition to get in, you'd save a bundle in tuition, and -- if you end up going to a large school -- you will have skipped most of the 300-student 100-level classes by taking their equivalent in 20-person classes at the community college.

Steve Sailer said...

That's an excellent way to get into UCLA, which receives more freshman applications than any other college in the country, and yet takes almost as many transfers each year as freshmen. Many tranfers are from junior colleges, and they are replacing high school hotshots with 3.9 GPAs who couldn't take the misery of the first two years at a big public college and flunked out.

Steve Sailer said...

Junior college is an an excellent way to get into UCLA, which receives more freshman applications than any other college in the country, and yet takes almost as many transfers each year as freshmen. Many tranfers are from junior colleges, and they are replacing high school hotshots with 3.9 GPAs who couldn't take the misery of the first two years at a big public college and flunked out.

My wife met an Armenian girl who'd transferred from high school to community college at 16 and was on track to enter UCLA as a junior at 18.

The irony is that huge political wars are fought over the racial ratio of freshmen at UCLA and Berkeley, but nobody even notices that a large number of people get in the back door.

Anonymous said...

Yes, in defiance of my parents I did two things out of high school: I deliberately only applied to schools I knew wouldn't have me or which I could turn down with not too much parental approbation (I actually applied to both Herbert Armstrong's Ambassador College and Maharishi International University!) and I joined the Air National Guard. That was in the tail end of the Carter years and they were very glad to have me. Between the CCAF and a civilian aircraft mechanic school I attended (ANG paid 100%, although my AFSC was avionics technician) and getting commercial pilot licensed cheaply through the Aero Club, I got a bachelor's of aerospace science in less than 30 actual credit hours on campus-and wound up turning down a commission as a maintenance officer.

It worked out beautifully for me, but those were different times. I put in 20 years with Cessna and will get a full pension at 63, and went back to school to study music education. My goal is a second career as a drum corps director and to be able to play both brass and woodwinds (at least the single reeds) to college band level.

Anonymous said...

Its actually nuts to apply to more than one safety school (unless you are mixed on which one you would want to attend). I have never met anyone who applied to more than 5 schools that didn't get into one. The ones who end up going nowehere are the ones who placed all their eggs in one school, or applied to four Ivies, ie no safety schools at all when they probably had a solid shot at a world class public institution. If you look at the statistics of students and percentages that are accepted based on GPAs and SATs its pretty easy to calculate your chances of getting in, and in fact, pretty easy to assure yourself a 99% of getting into the school you want/would accept.

For example, for me, I applied to Stanford, Northwestern, UCLA, Berkeley, and UCSD, getting into the final three. I gave myself a 20% chance of getting into the first two, 80% chance of the UCLA/UCB, and 95% chance at UCSD, virtually guaranteed to get into one of those (ultimately choice Berk). Now if I had a 3.7 and 1200 SAT, than it would be somewhere closer to 1%, 5% and 10%.

Most students choose their colleges based on pretty careful inspection as whether or not they will enjoy it. For example, Berkeley and Cornell are very similar, but I wouldn't just apply to Cornell for the hell of it, because academically they are similar but appealwise they couldn't be further apart. I mean, I figure for an insecure student who just wants to go to the biggest name possible, applying to 40 colleges and picking the best one would probably give him a good shot at getting in somewhere, but really, its like statitics, you can pretty much recreate the S&P 500 index with as few as a handful of stocks, so applying to 30 schools will increase your selection of schools at the same level, maybe find you a great school that somehow accepted you randomly, but not something significant

Anonymous said...

Transferring form a Juco limits what a students major can be. If you want to be an engineer or a biocehmsitry major, going the JuCo route is probably a mistake. The junior college classes are just not on the same level as the large university classes. Anyone trying to do it in a hard science or engineering will probably end up a semester behind and will end up on the left side of the bell curve in their junior level classes.

If you ever want to really look at universities, you can use the review services such as Princetonreview to look up the top three majors, mean SAT scores, etc. It is amazing how many schools like economics, political science, and psychology as their top three.

Anonymous said...

This is another example how post-1965 immigration has made another resource scarcer than it should be.

America's Colleges and Universities have been stolen from the EURO-AMERICAN MAJORITY-this is the racial group group that paid for and built America's Colleges and Universities.

America'colleges and Universites do not belong to the predatory Chinese,hindu,sikh and paki legal immigrant thieves and their spoiled and obnoxious "american" born gene-line.

Chinese,hindu,sikh-Stevie's favorite immigrants-are actively participating in the economic and racial dispossession of ERUO-AMERICANS the racial group that founded and created America.

There are no economic,cultural,ecological and demographic reason to import asians.

EURO-AMERICANS have been expelled out of California. California's state university system exist to develope the asia's youth.

A year ago, the disgusting ugly bull-dyke Provost of the California's state University system jumped to her death.

The bull-dyke provost and her bull-dyke girlfriend were actively involved in handing over the California State University system to China and India.

The protection of Euro-America's youth requires the re-implementation of the CHINAMAN EXCLUSION ACT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Asian legal immigrants are here to conquer US.

WE must repel the asian invaders..what ever it takes.

Euro-Americans are in a fight for their racial surivsl in America. Asians are our mortal enemy

If we are honest, there is a defacto EURO-AMERICAN EXCLUSION ACT operating in California.



If you ever voted Republican, you voted for the death of NATIVE BORN WHITE REPULICAN.


Anonymous said...

Should read:If you ever voted Republican, you voted for the death of NATIVE BORN WHITE AMERICA

Did you all notice how Ed Rubinstien couldn't bring himself to name White Americans as major victims of the H-1B visa program in his most recent post. Ed did mention that Blacks and Hispanics were victims though.



MensaRefugee said...

Asians make up, what? 10% of california?
No crime, high education, high income =high taxes...
Where do you think the taxes go except to lower level groups and to maintain the Universities?

Asians own their fair share of the university.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that the reason for not applying to 20 colleges was because of the difficulty of filling out 20 applications (overwhelming for me when I was in high school).

But then I read about that common application thing. If it's truly as easy to apply to 20 as it is to apply to 1, then there's no reason not to apply to 20.

To comments who suggested community college: very bad idea. They don't understand the importance of a good college permanently setting you on a better career track. If only I knew then what I know now.

Axolotl said...

I took 40 credits of distance courses from the best public university in my state as a 15 year old homeschooler. Did you know that distance courses show up on your transcript like regular courses? It looks like I attended that university for a year. I entered school as a sophomore.

Of course, this was 8 years ago and before internet courses. All my homework was in essay format sent back to the school and edited by hand - I took my exams at the library with the librarian signing off that I hadn't cheated). I'm not sure if this program is in place now.

Anonymous said...

To comments who suggested community college: very bad idea. They don't understand the importance of a good college permanently setting you on a better career track. If only I knew then what I know now.

The idea is that by going to the community college for two years, you then can transfer to a 4-year college that's better than what you would have gotten into as a freshman.

Anonymous said...

I didn't apply to any safety schools or any longshots. The only school I applied to was the college of engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I was told it was an extremely stupid thing to do, but I got in. Thanks to a lot of A.P credit I will probably be able to graduate in my third year. I'm not getting any financial aid from the school, but I do have a National Merit scholarship.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to higher education, as messed up as it is, isn't it nice to have a choice?

Steve Sailer said...

By the way, the Juco transfer back door route can work well for Californians who want to get a reasonably prestigious University of California degree. I have no idea if it works in other states.

Also, don't overshoot in your applications if you are going to major in something hard like engineering. You don't want to go to Cal Tech unless you can do (and want to do) Cal Tech levels of work. But, if you are going to major in English or something else where you can't flunk out, why not take longshots at a whole bunch of more prestigious schools rather than just one or two reach schools?

Anonymous said...

alex (and some others),

The point of the exercise is not to assure one in accepted. That part of the equation is taken for granted. The point is to be able to shop around on the financial aide package.

If you are accepted to five or six schools of equal caliber, then you get to pick the one that offers the best aide. If you are accepted to three schools of varying caliber, you're likely to choose the best regardless of the aide package they offer you.

What I wonder is what are the *real* consequences for filing multiple early admission applications? Yeah, yeah, you gotta break your promise to attend Stanford because Harvard said yes. So what? Is Stanford gonna come to your house and break your pinkies?

Anonymous said...

Don't EVER go the Junior College route. It's a bad deal. Because employers look on it as evidence of immaturity (you weren't on the ball enough to get in to a four year school) and lack of ability (Junior College is for lower IQ people).

That's just a bad deal.

The thing to do is realize that the four years there will go by quickly and all schools will probably teach you the basics in technical and scientific areas, what matters is the a. strength of the alumni network, related to the size and spirit of the school, and b. the continued rep of the school in the specialization you wish for.

Very likely you will have a competitive advantage if you go to a big school (a non-commuter school) with a lot of school spirit (look for successful football programs) and a decent academic rep.

So if you're not an Ivy League material, you're probably IMHO better off in the long run at Notre Dame than UCLA. UCLA's alumni network is not that good, particularly if you are white. Too much racial politics.

You'll look better to an employer coming from Notre Dame (which is a good school particularly in business and a few other fields) all four years (and you probably will be able to leverage ND's legendary alumni network) than coming from only 2 years at UCLA or Beserkley where the alumni are either alienated and apathetic (white students) or minority ethnic nepotists (you're not gonna get anything from a Latino or Black alumni probably given the radicalization and separatism indoctrinated at those schools).

Another bet is to look for private schools out of state looking to balance regional alumni, since the name of the game for schools is their alumni network. Top-flight public schools are also a decent bet there. So Notre Dame, or Alabama, or Ole Miss or Georgia are probably not bad bets: a strong football program generating Alumni unity and school identification (helps with life-long job searches and networking); a good school, and above all a LARGE alumni network.

Schools like Wake Forest or SMU or Emory are all good institutions, but their alumni base is too small.

Harvard and Yale and the like give you the best alumni network, and the most prestige, so they are the most selective and expensive. But you can get the same education and nearly the same alumni network if you choose a Notre Dame or USC or Georgia or the like.

Remember: College is NOT about education. It's about networking and ticket punching.

Steve Sailer said...

Another tactic is to apply to a lot of safety schools in the hope that one will lust after your high test scores and grades so much that they dump a huge merit scholarship on you. It could happen.

Anonymous said...

The idea is that by going to the community college for two years, you then can transfer to a 4-year college that's better than what you would have gotten into as a freshman.

Everyone looks down on the community college. That will NOT help you get into a better school.

If you want to do the transfer route, your best bet is a private four year liberal arts college of the type attended by dumb rich kids. It's easy to get a perfect 4.0 average in that kind of place, yet it looks a lot better on an application than some community college.

Anonymous said...

If you are like me and are so dense you are really intent on pursuing a technical career despite the huge disadvatage our stupid public policies have afforded, the purpose of college is not network building, ticket punching, or even the mythical well-rounding the supposed lineral arts offer. It's training. You want one thing and one thing only: to be able to do something so well that despite your nerdish personality you will be valuable to someone.

Pick a school, such as they still exist, that is rigorous enough to give you a firm foundation while giving you enough free time and energy to do a few outside projects. When I was in school I designed and built my own automotive ignition system and put it on my daily driver. I drove it to a job interview and the interviewer asked me if I could bring in a thing I had designed and built. We went out in the parking lot and I showed him my system, which was radical for 1981-no distributor cap, rotor, points, etc. It used fully electronic advance from RPM and two sensor inputs-manifold and carb venturi pressure. (I conceded I copied the coil fire circuit from the Chrysler control box). I got the job there and then. I'm still there.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the safety school route is good for getting a full ride -- that's what I did. My GPA and board scores were good enough to get me in at Washington and Lee but I went to a less-known liberal arts college and paid nothing for four years of school. And I still got in at a top 20 law school (and I'm glad I don't have those law school loans on top of $100,000 from undergrad!)

Anonymous said...

half sigma,
Please expand on your regrets about community college. I didn't graduate from college, I got my MRS degree and left. However, I LOVED my time at the school (I was going to be a nurse, a career not impacted, of course, by this debate). What were your career choices back then and how do you feel c.c. impeded those?
For me personally, I loved being around middle aged and even elderly people that you find a lot of in c.c's. I thrived in this environment and it was the only time I ever liked school. Character and moral development are very important to me: so many of these kids go to school and are ruined morally, socially, etc. for at least a few years, if not for life. What's the verse: What profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

For my own children: I homeschool them and hope to have them graduate at around ages 12-14 and go into community college (my daughters) as a transition to college. For my son, I'm not sure what to do because we strongly believe in military service, but there will be a good gap between adulthood and graduation.


Anonymous said...

So Notre Dame, or Alabama, or Ole Miss or Georgia are probably not bad bets: a strong football program generating Alumni unity and school identification (helps with life-long job searches and networking); a good school, and above all a LARGE alumni network.

You want one thing and one thing only: to be able to do something so well that despite your nerdish personality you will be valuable to someone.

Exactly. The optimal strategy is not the same for every person. If you are lucky enough to have a good personality the first post above makes sense. (Though I wonder how well a NYC boy would do at Ole Miss.) If you are unlucky enough to have a nerdish personality, the second post makes more sense.

James said...

I thought the consensus was that college is a waste of time most the time. Seriously consider not going to college kids, your parents are out of touch! Carpenters earn more than my molecular biology degree will ever earn me.

Anonymous said...

Emily - I would really reconsider. If your children are smart enough to graduate at 12-14, let them take a couple years off to boost their CV for the higher level schools (summer research project, various intellectual clubs). CC's feed the local public schools primarily, and they may jump on your girls before they have a chance to look around.

My parents did this when the high schools around here failed to provide for me. At the the time the CC was not ready to handle anyone under 16 under state law (my mom would have had to chaperone me) - so a took distance courses for a year (see previous post - this may be a good alternative). Once at the CC, I was recruited into the local state school with scholarship. My parents were too blinded by the offer at my age to look into it critically. I never visited another school, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I entered as a junior.

I graduated without advisement (it was late because I had changed my major a couple times and CC science courses do not count). I took a year off trying to find what to do. I went back to the same school to get an MS because I had no credentials. I am now finally on my way to a top-tier school for my doctorate. However, the time it took to get back on track cost me the time advantage I originally had. I'm now the same age as my fellow classmates.

So please, reconsider.

Anonymous said...

the #1 outstanding feature of education in america, from about grade 5 through undergrad college, is wasted time. after all, how much work really gets done with one leg slung over the arm of a library chair? so you graduated from Stanford? well, you just slung your leg over the chair in palo alto. what difference does that make?

Anonymous said...

to follow up, society is best off if low IQ students drop out of poor schools and pick up some kind of skills in the workforce.

for folks on the ivy track, it's amazing what massive demand their is for legitimization and how much energy is tied up in pursuit of self esteem (rather than, for example, in building an operating system software company).

Anonymous said...

Before extolling the virtues of the trades, consider that immigration is hitting construction, especially residential (read: nonunion) very hard.

Carpentry, welding, mechanics, bricklaying, electrical work, etc. are all honorable trades, but they are also physical labor that puts you outdoors, in cold and heat and sun. Look at a bunch of 50 year old construction workers carefully before eschewing college. They are mottled and walk as though they are in pain-many are. I fix old cars for a hobby and am always tearing up my hands and am sore from crawling under dashboards and on top of engines, and I do it less than five hours a week most weeks. There's a reason so many of these guys are done working by 45 or 50, and why auto mechanics are always in demand-most quit when they pay off their vo-tech loan and Winnebago sized tool box.

If you can go to college, go to college. Get the best financial deal you can, go to community college, but get a bachelor's degree and buy three good suits. One in black for funerals.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why Steven Sailer is putting such a trivial slant on the issue of college admission. Possibly because he and Petey Brimelow have a soft spot in their hearts for asian legal immigants.

Here is the heart of the issue:LEGAL ASIAN immigrants are actively involved in the expulsion of NATIVE BORN WHITE AMERICANS-the majority racial group that founded and created America- from California's state university system and California as a whole.

China,India,Pakistan and Iran-one million Iranians in California at present count-are being allowed by all the traitors in the REPUBLICAN and Deocratic parties to colonize California.

All throughout human history, invaders have beeen repelld with force and violence. At some point in the future, NATIVE BORN WHITE AMERICANS will be justifird in sing force and violence to repell and expell the chinese,hindu/sikh,mexican, iranuan and pakistani invasion of California. There is no way to be nice about this.

If we have to depend upon the marginal debating skills of Peter Brimlow-immigration is bad because legal immigrant cuban economist George Borjas says it is bad(is this the best you could Peter in your debate with the corporate whore Laufter)-WE are in BIG TROUBLE.

At the present time, there is defactoNATIVE BORN WHITE EXCLUSION acy in CALifornia.

America has devolved into a disgusting,evil inhuman rat race.

Asians must be driven out of OUR AMERICA along with the mexicans.

The clock is ticking.


Kick these yellow bastard invaders out of OUR AMERICA. California's State University system does not belong to them.

warmest regards

Anonymous said...

What is the point in applying to colleges I obviously will not get into? That is the worst advice on college I have ever gotten.