Successful application to US Ivy League

(68 Posts)
InvisibleAt53 Sun 28-May-17 20:10:11

DD wants to attend an Ivy League college in the USA. She's predicted the right grades to be considered and has already put some feelers out to Durham and Harvard who have some of the best financial aid packages available. Both responses have been positive but of course, neither are an indication she would get in. She has US citizenship but has never lived there.

Initial discussions have indicated she would get full financial aid - so around $69k a year and come out with zero student debt and a great degree to boot.

Has anyone else DCs gone down this route and how was the experience?

OP’s posts: |
dauntlesscrusader Mon 29-May-17 01:08:00

Hi Invisible. I can't tell you what the experience will be like, but a friend with a DD at Johns Hopkins reckons its costs around $95,000 a year all up and I can't imagine Harvard is any cheaper, so do crunch the numbers carefully. It's not just the tuition, but housing, food, books, phone, travel home etc.

There's a lot to be said for the breadth of a US undergraduate education, Harvard is an international brand and Boston is a great city for students -- but if you can't cover the extras, your DD may still end up with student debt. On the plus side, if things haven't changed since my day you don't actually start accruing interest until after graduation; on the negative side, you really do have to pay all of it back.

shockthemonkey Mon 29-May-17 10:35:08

A close friend's DD is at a respected liberal arts college in the US and is loving it. Got a sports scholarship but is still paying a pretty penny but I'm afraid I don't know exact figures!

I didn't know there was a "Durham" in the US Ivy League.

Has your DD had her first stab at SATs or ACTs? I doubt she'd get in without some very high scores on those (regardless of how good her predictions are).

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 10:48:14

Very close schoolfriend of DS1 is in her last year at Princetown and will emerge with zero student debt. She's a British citizen, not US. Great experience.

alreadytaken Mon 29-May-17 10:56:56

wasn't an option for mine because they wanted to do medicine. However the place to start is here

Those with us citizenship have more funding options but there are a few needs blind scholarships around which can cover everything, incuding some fares home. Extra costs would be for more fares homes and for the usual student expenses like trips with friends. The Sutton Trust now encourages bright students to consider America because it can offer less student debt

InvisibleAt53 Mon 29-May-17 10:58:28

We worked through the calculations with the Admissions officer at Dartmouth and the only thing DD would have to do is work on campus for 5 hours a week to contribute towards the fees. I do know travelling to and from the US will be an additional cost but I'd be prepared to do that. Booking flights in advance should keep the costs to a minimum.

She's done a couple of practice SAT papers and came out with a score of 168 and172. The Sutton Trust have free resources to help kids prepare for the actual exam so she'll use that.

It just seems a great alternative to whatever UK university life offers, including the heavy student debt, although she is aware she'd have to be the best of the best to stand any chance of getting a place.

OP’s posts: |
goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 11:03:31

DS's friend also got flights paid for. Correct about the job on campus - that seems to be the norm.


shockthemonkey Mon 29-May-17 11:37:00

Oh I see that answers my question about Durham

I thought you must have meant Dartmouth but that's quite a few letters out from Durham, eh?

InvisibleAt53 Mon 29-May-17 12:00:10

Yes, Dartmouth. Sorry - touch typist with brain on automatic pilot!

OP’s posts: |
Somerville Mon 29-May-17 12:16:12

My DD is looking into this too. As you know, Harvard and a few others have a needs-blind admission process, so the top candidates get offers, then how much they pay/financial aid they need is worked out afterwards. It's pretty amazing.

The tricky bit is getting an offer in the first place of course. grin DD has chatted with a friend of a friend who interviews UK applicants for Harvard (they interview everyone locally). She knows now that to stand any chance she needs to apply for Oxford/Cambridge here at the same time, and then in her SAT's/essays/interview show off her intellectual ability, leadership skills, passion for learning, AND that there is something she will get from a liberal arts education in the US that she won't get from Oxbridge. And beyond that, through her extra-curricular show what she can offer them. She's now working out whether she wants to go for it because if she does, she'll need to start preparing now (she's year 10).

Part of me is horrified... it'll take a lot of her time, with no guarantees at all. And part of me is proud of her and excited for her.

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 12:31:23

I can't believe that a Y10 needs to 'prepare'. You've either got what they want and can evidence that by your normal range of academic results and activities or you don't. I think it might be possible that my own Y10 DD might have a shot at the US as well as Uk unis but she won't be 'prepping' for either. DS's friend certainly didn't prep at all - just not on her radar - but a lot of kids who did prep didn't get places, or at least not fully funded.

InvisibleAt53 Mon 29-May-17 12:45:30

As far as I can see, the first year of 6th form is when you need to start prepping for SATs and making your applications. There's an event in September for kids interested in going to a US university so that's going to be on our agenda.

OP’s posts: |
Somerville Mon 29-May-17 12:57:51

My DD has more info than I do. But she is pretty certain that to be able to compete with American kids and boys from Eton (the majority of successful Ivy league U.K. applicants are from top public schools) she needs to start putting the work in now. A bit on her SATs prep, but more so on her extra-curricular, to get from county level to national level.

Needmoresleep Mon 29-May-17 13:00:44

goodbye, there may be context. DC have known a lot of kids aiming for Ivy or equivalent, though mainly funded. I think there were eight Harvard offers alone in my daughter's year. These Universities will be looking for diversity, and I suspect there is already adequate representation of bright kids with international backgrounds from Central London private schools, so these kids need to be very good. That said bursary pupils have been known to pick up full funded places.

If we thought the specific cachet allocated to Oxbridge was bad, "School" seems to matter to Americans to a much greater extent and not much is left to chance. Yr 10 is late. Some kids will have been deliberately building their personal statements from Primary. By Yr 10 SAT practice is in full swing. I understand there is a thriving industry of US application consultants, with fees at around the £10,000 mark.

However more leeway will be given to those outside the London bubble and as part of their interest in diversity, American Universities will be interested in genuine, bright and charismatic kids. The caveat though is that competition will be intense.

Somerville's advice sounds about right.

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 13:18:15

Needmoresleep you're one of the posters who always seems to be extremely knowledgeable and to know what they're talking about so I defer to you in the London/ top independent schools context smile

However, for ordinary mortals, it's very clear that a) competition is intense but b) it's not about prep and CV building but about intrinsic talent.

Out of curiosity, when you say mainly funded do you mean funded by parents or funded by Harvard etc?

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 13:21:34

Also, surely the smart thing to do would be to move out of London, skip the school fees, cash in on equity in the house and give the DC a break from CV building and SATs testing at least for an extra couple of years.

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 13:22:42

That last comment was in response to the £10k figure you mentioned.... unreal!

caroldecker Mon 29-May-17 13:34:33

Goodbye The US system places much more emphasis on non-academic achievements which need to be evidenced in the CV. They have no way of identifying 'intrinsic talent'

InvisibleAt53 Mon 29-May-17 13:35:55

From our experience, starting up a dialogue with preferred colleges is a good start. We have only spoken to two but both were really helpful and both offered support and advice.

They both said they look for good all round students with a determination to succeed, academic ability, evidence of extra curricular activity which can include sport, volunteering, working etc. and some experience of being in a leadership situation. They don't care whether you attend one of the best private schools but positively encourage those who don't as to succeed without all the advantages these schools provide perhaps reflects a more determined individual.

OP’s posts: |
goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 13:40:06

Yes I'm aware of what they're looking for carol. I think the all roundedness aspect is overrated on MN though, judging by those students I know personally who've got offers. But lots of stuff about Oxbridge is the same, and even stuff about passing the 11+, so forgive me being a bit dubious about the need to consciously CV build or practice SATs from Y10.

goodbyestranger Mon 29-May-17 13:42:08

I would also say that you might be misunderstanding what I mean by intrinsic talent. The various assessment methods used by the top US institutions seem pretty good for divining real talent, both academic and not.

Somerville Mon 29-May-17 14:21:07

The Harvard interviewer we know told DD that the purpose of the interview is to find out anything else that isn't covered by the CV. But that nailing a great interview won't make up for a lacklustre CV. And that for Harvard at least it really is an extra-curricula at 'nationally top 5' kind of level alongside an amazing essay, showing character and passion for learning at interview, and top SATs scores and GCSE results that is necessary to even be in with a shot.

Earlybird Mon 29-May-17 14:27:55

invisibleat53 - there is something wrong with the scores you give for your dd's practise SAT. The SAT is scored in the thousands, not hundreds. A perfect score would be 1600 (800 for maths, 800 for reading/writing.

I am in America, and have a dd who will be making a college decision in the next 18 months. You all are correct that it is big business here to tutor students in SAT/ACT test prep, and independent college consulting firms cost a bomb (paid by the month, usually).

Can you tell me if the scholarships your dd has discussed are needs-based financial aid or merit based? We've always been told that the American universities seek out International students because they will usually pay full price. Perhaps that isn't true.....?

Fwiw, all of the private high schools here have fully staffed College Advisory departments. Each student is assigned an advisor who guides them through the process. It is a big selling point for parents. Is it the same in the UK?

Needmoresleep Mon 29-May-17 14:28:21

goodbye, I was unclear, but funded I meant that parents are paying. Except in the case of a bursary candidate, where we assume the college is paying.

From what I hear there is very little, if any, money on offer if you have top level sport if looking at Ivies. But it gets you the place and then I guess needs blind admission opens the door to funding.

My observation is that Oxbridge and US admissions can be quite different, though within the context of very able applicants. Oxbridge is very much about the subject, with consideration to the wider contribution a student might make only getting secondary consideration. US colleges are looking for a broader offer, and with a range of criteria. For example one genuinely affluent boy believes he gained traction because he was the first in his family to go to University.

DD had a couple of friends who were able to stay out of the fray a little, confident in their status as "legacy" but some of the rest is almost silly. Kids of 11 at top academic schools, with grade 8 music and national level sport. My observation is that having childhoods which are centered on the child and their achievements does not always encourage talent, self-reliance and contribution. But I am focusing here on a couple of extreme (though successful) examples.

Earlybird Mon 29-May-17 14:40:02

Needmoresleep - your friend's son is correct, according to what we've been told.

If you come from a family / have parents who have not graduated University, you are considered a 'first generation' student, and the schools will look at your application more closely (and perhaps more favourably) as they want to encourage social / economic diversity. It is also believed that these students have achieved / overcome more than the students from wealthy/priviledged families, so should be supported.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in