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Advice needed on US uni applications and SATS( Computer Sc at MIT and Caltech)

(27 Posts)
Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 09:50:45

Ds in year 10 and interested in the above. Yeah I know extremely difficult and unlikely but looking into it before I burst his bubble.

He is v good at coding, maths etc. Codes in spare time was G&T in this area.Bright non sporty all rounder. He has done a load of research himself but I’m not sure how accurate it is. He has sat some Sats on the official site and is getting high 80s. I thought they were supposed to be hard, wondering if he is on a mimic site although he says the site he is using offers free courses in the areas you need to brush up on( Kahn ?)

So what sat scores should he be aiming for?

He reckons he would be eligible for financial help( better had as not a hope in hell otherwise). Is this true?

His extra curricular is mostly coding comps/ courses and a bit of volunteering. I’m guessing not enough. Yes/ no?

I read on a thread some US unis lookvat school l reports from year 7. Yes/ no? What would they expect from these? Can’t see that on the MIT site.

Haven’t done any research on the best computer sci course to look at yet. Are U S courses transferable to UK. May well be better UK and indeed US courses. Might a UK degree be better, cheaper, more likely and then a US masters?

Won’t be shooting down his dreams without a shed load of research and obviously agree you need to be in the barrel but thought I’d start my own research here.

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Thu 11-Apr-19 10:35:26

Not an answer to your question really, but if he is really top of the year in maths, whicha minimum he needs to be to have any sort of chance, the easiest approach might be to consider sixth form at one of the academic independents (Westminster, St Pauls, Winchester or Eton) who have lots of experience in US applications, perhaps on a bursary. They then do the work for you and will be able to advise where best to focus his efforts.

Normally US Universities are looking for breadth: leadership, sport, music etc. However from observation the same does not always apply in the same way for the more techie subjects, where creativity around computing may be acceptable. But even so the level of world wide competition will be extraordinary.

A far easier route (US applications are time consuming especially if trying to do it yourself), would be to look at Cambridge or Imperial for a first degree perhaps with an integrated masters, and then look at both the US and places like Singapore. The advantage of going to the US at post grad is that if they want you, they pay, and top institutions have a lot of money.

A good degree from Caltech, MIT, Imperial or Cambridge should open most doors. A lot will then depend on how good he is.

DS effectively did this, though in social sciences. One wrinkle in his subject was that US Universities don't really offer a standalone Masters, instead it is taken during the first (taught) couple of years of a 5/6 year PhD. But to get onto a good US PhD programme from the UK you effectively need a Masters. It does not matter to much as they are paying, and a bit of repetition when adjusting to a different educational system does no harm.

Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 11:26:14

God he’s not top of his year for maths just top set of a grammar. Naturally good at coding and maths. Couldn’t afford private in a million years and sure his grammar would be good enough for 6th form. It’s not a top London one but is Outstanding. They do send students to top ivy league unis but don’t think any have gone to MIT or the techie route.

I’m thinking the masters route would be a good alternative but if you say they don’t do a stand alone masters that might be an issue. Thought I’d seen some techie ones but don’t know the system if I’m honest.

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Thu 11-Apr-19 11:37:23

MIT is extraordinarily competitive. If he was good enough to have a reasonable shot he probably would be the sort of student a top private would consider for a bursary. Which is why I suggested that route.

pqgh04 Thu 11-Apr-19 11:40:38

The advantage of going to the US at post grad is that if they want you, they pay, and top institutions have a lot of money.

Nobody would do a PhD in computer science in the UK without pay. There are also many possibilities for enhanced stipends for PhD students in this area, through AI initiatives such as the Turing Institute in London.

OP - in the US degrees aren't in specific subjects from the outset. You start with a broad base and only decide on your "major" further into your degree. For somebody who really wants to do a specific subject from the outset, the UK HE system can be a much better fit.

Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 11:54:00

It would need to be a complete bursary, guaranteed.

OP’s posts: |
Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 11:55:06

Pq that’s interesting and reassuring to hear.

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Thu 11-Apr-19 11:58:29

Probably not clear. My comparison was between US UG and PG. Though funding is available at UG level, most people pay...lots. My understanding is that very few pay for PhDs in either UK or the US.

Slightly unexpectedly DS’ PhD offer in the UK was worth more than the one he received in the US, because he could have earned extra from teaching/assisting in research, which in the US is an obligation within the funding deal. (But he apparently could earn more by proving supplementary tuition to college athletes!)

WhateverShallIdo Thu 11-Apr-19 11:59:14

Have a look at the Sutton Trust US programme - if he can get onto that they can give lots of help towards US applications and applications for financial aid.

Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 12:08:32

Think we’re just over the Sutton threshold.

OP’s posts: |
Homefireburn1ng Thu 11-Apr-19 12:09:58

Re the Sats thing he was getting 80% on tests not sure how that translates as a score.confused

OP’s posts: |
WannabeMathematician Fri 12-Apr-19 07:52:51

A couple of things.

I know MIT has needs blind, full needs applications fir everyone but I'm not sure about Caltech for international students. Needs blind means they don't look at if you can pay at the application stage and use the fact you could pay without help to deny you a place. Full need means if you get a place they will assess what you can afford and pay the difference themselves.

Here are some useful stats for MIT:
mitadmissions.org/apply/process/stats/

Note that your son's SAT scores aren't going get him into to MIT or Caltech but if he gets bad scores they will filter him out on that.

mumsneedwine Fri 12-Apr-19 10:28:39

This might help. I know they run seminar things in UK to help applicants to US. And needs-blind Unis are brilliant. We sent a kid to Harvard last year and the parents are contributing the air fare !! Rest is fully funded bu Uni and the student being given a job on campus. Fantastic system for the ridiculously bright (& determined).

http://www.fulbright.org.uk

sendsummer Fri 12-Apr-19 22:36:25

Some of the most competitive universities for computer science etc will offer opportunities for undergraduates to study and do projects at MIT or Caltech if they are ranked highly in their year.
(Not if at Oxbridge though)
www.imperial.ac.uk/study/ug/why-imperial/global-opportunities/mit-exchange/

YeOldeTrout Sat 13-Apr-19 10:31:13

SATs are interpreted by percentile.
My (American) 16yo nephew is in top 1%tile on his junior SATs math exam results. By itself, that is not good enough to get him into Ivy League. He needs to do a grand project or show other terrific signs of leadership and ability in other ways. He was casting around for some kind of community project (that he would design & implement & evidence results for) that he can put on his application (due in this fall).

MIT & Caltech are more narrow in what they consider (they give academic results more weight than Ivy League does). They both still get the pick of the world's best, of course.

University in USA: you work. Even PhDs. Part of the financial package at every level is assumption that you work 8-15 hrs/week. Eg., PhD students will be expected to (paid job) lead undergraduate tutorials (small groups, explaining homework answers, for instance).

eXistenZ Wed 24-Apr-19 21:14:06

The kind of international student who usually gets into MIT or Caltech at the undergrad level is someone who has been on the Olympiad team of his country and is more likely to have won a medal at the International Olympiads in Maths, Infomatics or Physics.
If you're son is good at coding, ask him to try for the IOI team. If he's good at maths then have him take the BMO1 and make it past that round to BMO2. If he does make it past BMO2 then he will certainly not feel out of place MIT or Caltech. If not then these places might not be the best fit for him.

eXistenZ Wed 24-Apr-19 21:14:59

The kind of international student who usually gets into MIT or Caltech at the undergrad level is someone who has been on the Olympiad team of his country and is more likely to have won a medal at the International Olympiads in Maths, Infomatics or Physics.
If your son is good at coding, ask him to try for the IOI team. If he's good at maths then have him take the BMO1 and make it past that round to BMO2. If he does make it past BMO2 then he will certainly not feel out of place MIT or Caltech. If not then these places might not be the best fit for him.

MissConductUS Thu 25-Apr-19 15:30:13

Yank here, with one child in uni here and one applying to start in fall 2020. We used a private college counselor for DS and DD is now doing the same.

The SAT is offered by the College Board and they have loads of info on how the scores work:

collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/scores/understanding-scores

The short answer is that the verbal and maths tests are scored from 400 to 800, than those are added together to get your total score. You can lookup what percentile your scores place you in. It's not possible to get a score of 80.

OP - in the US degrees aren't in specific subjects from the outset. You start with a broad base and only decide on your "major" further into your degree.

This is not as true as it used to be. DS had to declare his major on entry so that they could get his required courses and internships lined up as soon as possible. He can change it at a in the first two years, but with difficulty, and the possibility of a later graduation and extra coursework.

My (American) 16yo nephew is in top 1%tile on his junior SATs math exam results. By itself, that is not good enough to get him into Ivy League. He needs to do a grand project or show other terrific signs of leadership and ability in other ways. He was casting around for some kind of community project (that he would design & implement & evidence results for) that he can put on his application (due in this fall).

Did he skip a year? Most kids don't apply until the summer between junior and senior year (11 and 12th grade) when they are typically 17 or 18 years old.

Only a small fraction of 1% of higher ed students attend an ivy league school, which was originally an athletic conference. What you study is much more important in the long run than where you attend. The IL schools have some downsides too. They are need blind, but that means they also offer no merit aid to bright students, so middle and upper middle class families like ours are effectively priced out. They look at us and say our income is too high to need help (trust me, it's not), and expect us to pay full sticker price of $300k for a four year degree. As a result, the only kids who can afford to go there are either from very poor or very, very rich families.

It might be worth paying for a video consultation with a US based college counselor to discuss your specific situation. I'm also happy to answer whatever questions I can.

MissConductUS Thu 25-Apr-19 16:14:20

OP, here's a bit more about your first question:

He has sat some Sats on the official site and is getting high 80s. I thought they were supposed to be hard, wondering if he is on a mimic site although he says the site he is using offers free courses in the areas you need to brush up on( Kahn ?)

So what sat scores should he be aiming for?

The Kahn Academy website partners with the College Board and is a great tutoring resource. The practice tests on the College Board website are old tests that will give you a very good idea of how he'll score on the real thing.

There are lots of sources on line for info on college admissions and average scores. Princeton Review is as good as any:

www.princetonreview.com/college/massachusetts-institute-technology-1023832#!admissions

You'll see on the admissions tab that the range for the verbal is 720-770 and 780-800 for the maths section. If he gets below the bottom scores on either his chances of being offered admission are very, very low. Like death by meteor strike low.

Caltech is almost exactly the same.

www.princetonreview.com/college/california-institute-technology-1023684#!admissions

Mominatrix Thu 25-Apr-19 18:52:03

Is the 80% number the percentage correct or his statistical score (ie, with his performance he scored better than 79% of people). SAT percentages are given in the latter way. According to the data published by MIT, the minimal SAT score is in the 99%. Seehere for an explanation on how SAT’s are scored.

Keep in mind that your son will also have to take the Math level 1&2 subject SATs, as well as biology, chemistry and physics. Here is a link to the MIT test requirements page.

Unlike universities here, they will be looking for evidence of leadership and compelling extracurriculars. Maths Olympiads participation is not enough - standing out in a good way there is.

In terms of majors, MIT has different schools your son would be applying to (School of Engineer, School of Science, School of Architecture, School of `humanities...), so he would broadly be applying to one of those, then deciding on a specialisation once there.

I know MIT fairly well as my undergraduate school was cocurricular with it and my boyfriend was there, and I knew several people who did graduate degrees there and got to hang out with the Media Lab people. It, more than Harvard, has a really dynamic body of students and the level of intelligence on display was humbling to me - and i’m not exactly stupid.

Mominatrix Thu 25-Apr-19 18:57:05

I think the the PP with the nephew had taken the PSAT (junior SAT), which would make sense age wise.

Mominatrix Thu 25-Apr-19 18:59:52

Oops, wrong link! Here is the correct one.

Mominatrix Thu 25-Apr-19 19:07:32

One other thing I forgot to mention was transcript. uS schools will ask for a transcript of grades from your school (essentially a composite of all your son’s school reports the school has). They will not focus on the number Grade per season as Uk grading is not like US ones, but they will focus on the class rank of your child. They will also hone in on GCSE grades as they will be the only solid numercal evidence of achievement.

MissConductUS Thu 25-Apr-19 19:11:28

I think the the PP with the nephew had taken the PSAT (junior SAT), which would make sense age wise.

That occurred to me too, but PP also said that his applications were due this fall, which would make him a junior (11th grade), same as my daughter. She took the PSAT last year and has now taken the regular SAT twice. She's quite happy with her second set of scores, so I think she's done at this point. They are offered again in May and August, at least in the US.

Boston is a lovely city to study in. DS attends a school about 20 miles north of there and goes in regularly for various things.

MissConductUS Thu 25-Apr-19 19:15:59

One other thing I forgot to mention was transcript.

And letters of recommendation from three teachers he's had. They'll also want, if available, a profile of the secondary school he attended. High schools here put them on their websites.

If he's athletic at all, get a letter from the coach of whatever teams he was on. It will help. DS is now a starting rower on his university's crew team. Their coach really wanted him and I'm sure that didn't hurt his chances.

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