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By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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The Verdicts Are In

Uploaded: Mar 31, 2015
(Written by John Raftrey)

At 2 pm (PT) today (Tuesday) the Ivies released their decisions after all the other schools had released theirs and the college acceptance season is now officially over. As of today, your high school GPA is irrelevant!

Now let's get down to business.

My best advice. Don't spend your time figuring out why you got accepted at one college and didn't get accepted at a similar school.

Admissions decisions sometimes make about as much sense as the Oracle at Delphi or a San Francisco jury. Repeat after me: you didn't do anything wrong.

You gave your high school career and the college application process your best shot. Let me repeat: you didn't do anything wrong.

The acceptance process is not transparent, and among equally qualified students it is rife with serendipity and happenstance.

For example, why does a student get accepted at Berkeley and wait listed at UC San Diego? Schools are reading the exact same application! This is about as close as you can get to a statistically significant experiment to expose the lunacy of the decision process. How about the student who is accepted at Berkeley and Stanford and rejected at UCLA? Or why the student with three AP's is headed to Stanford and the student with 7 AP's headed to Davis? Or my personal favorite, accepted at UCLA and Harvard and wait listed at Santa Clara?

I compare notes with my colleagues all the time and we get more baffled each year.

Focus on the schools that accepted you. If you look at where Paly and Gunn students matriculate, nobody goes to a bad college. They are all at schools that can launch their lives, and help them fulfill their destiny.

Focus on finding your people, finding your tribe. Visit your top two schools and ask yourself, "Can I hang out with these people for four years?" Finding your people will play a much bigger role in your college success than the college's ranking.

If you make it to May with no F's and without getting expelled, you will graduate from what will be one of the most academically intense experiences of your life. This is one heck of an accomplishment. I know a grad student at Stanford who is a lot more relaxed and happy then he ever was in high school.

Congratulations to everybody for making it through the gauntlet. Please let the schools you reject know you are not coming, so they can start to invite students off the wait list. Rest up over the summer and in the fall you will finally be able to really learn what really interests you!

Here is my humorous April Fools present to you: An Honest College Rejection Letter.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Downtown North,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 7:08 am

Great article, and good advice. Thanks for this blog.

I have a child who got into Santa Clara, Dartmouth, Georgetown, UVA, Azusa, WashintonLee, and Gordon. My family income is around $150k, so we qualified for some need based grants. But the costs for the four year bill are all over the place. The total including my kid taking out $22,000 in loans ($5500/yr) and our EFC, the costs after grants are deducted are as follows:
Santa Clara $192K
Dartmouth $118K
Georgetown $110K
Azusa $88K
WashLee $88K
Gordon $118K

Can we negotiate between these schools, and if so, what is the best strategy?

Posted by John Raftrey and Lori McCormick, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:33 am

John Raftrey and Lori McCormick is a registered user.

This is John
You may find this hard to believe, but these are great deals and you are a winner in the financial aid sweepstakes for Palo Alto students. I doubt if you can get more money.

We'll get a longer blog out on financial aid next week. I want to get this out quickly, so I will break down my thinking for you just on your situation.

Santa Clara - They do not give their money away easily to suburban families. It is not surprising they have such a small award. If you call them and say their brother school Georgetown is giving you a lot more money, I think they would say, "Go Hoyas!" If you are a born negotiator you might want to give it a shot for the sport of it, but I doubt you'd get any real money.

Gordon - Gordon probably doesn't have any more money to give away. They have a very small $27 million endowment.

Georgetown and Dartmouth- These two elite schools have valued your student at basically the same amount. This is probably a fair value given your income, his/her test scores, GPA, and special skills or diversity (and not just race). They all know generally what the other guy offers, so it's not like you can bluff you way through this. They will feel they are giving you a private school elite education at the in-state price of a UC and there are thousands of kids who would take that deal. In fact, this is really the sweet spot for Palo Alto families. They would love to go out of state for in-state prices and get away from the UC craziness. If this was a game show, the crowd would be yelling, "Take the deal." If you really can't afford this price, then tell them exactly what you need for your student to be able to attend, back it up with hard data to explain why, and be prepared to walk when they don't meet your amount. Be nice, don't bluff and call them ASAP.

Azusa and Washington and Lee - You kid must have very high test scores and grades and these middle tier schools would love to have his/her stats to improve their USNews rankings. That is why they are reaching deeper into the piggy bank than Dartmouth or Georgetown. This is as close as you can realistically come to going to school for next to nothing. I don't think a negotiation would pass the straight face test when you say you need another $10K a year or you are walking.

This is probably not what you wanted to hear. But right after your phone call to financial aid, they'll get one from a Mission High School student in San Francisco, who has gotten high test scores without a tutor and written a great essay without an editor and is coming from a family with two parents working and bringing in $30,000/year. The school will do everything it can to bet on this student to break the cycle of poverty.

Posted by Ginny, a resident of another community,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:37 am

I wouldn't use the word "Verdict" in my title. The word depicts a very serious, negative decision. Children's lifes are only just beginning.

Recently, I read what Mark Cuban had to say about four year colleges, which I agree wholeheartedly with. Families could save thousands of dollars by using community colleges. Think about the savings of room and board, student and parent travel expenses, tuition, etc. They can then matriculate into a four year college/university. The first two years of college are general education courses.

Also, 18 and 19 year old students are very young. The temptations to "fit in" have shown that many students don't use common sense when attending parties, facing social and societal pressures.

Just recently we have heard multiple stories of college rapes, drugs and alcohol. Helicopters parents have no control over what they kids are doing. I suggest parents consider saving in excess of $100,000 by using the excellent community colleges in San Mateo County. There shouldn't be any shame in spending/saving wisely.

Also, there is no shame in not getting an acceptance letter to a favorite college. I hold a doctorate from a university. What effected my life most was my relationships with people.

Posted by John Raftrey and Lori McCormick, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:50 am

John Raftrey and Lori McCormick is a registered user.

You won't get an argument out of us on this one. We are pro community colleges and feel that students should find their people as I wrote in the blog. Regarding the title, I was just trying to have a little fun with the title. Perhaps I watched too much Perry Mason where verdicts were always a good thing for Mr. Mason.

Posted by Sea Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Advise to @PADAD

Please consider Georgetown.
I have two daughters and a son. #1 went to Berkeley and later to Dartmouth. Now in Switzerland for Roche/Genentech.

Good school matters. Georgetown is where Bill Clinton went; as you know. If your child want to excel, have great friends throughout life; it the best of all.

Cost now does not matter. It is the future potential.

But, do ask your child what is his/her confidence, comfort level.

$150k/year is great. Pile up loans like we all did; It pays off easily.


Posted by sea Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:23 pm

By the way, I totally agree with John and Lori.

School acceptances are like our looks. We are given our look and we just need to make the best of it.

You got what you got; lot of hard work, family help, teachers help and thank them all for your opportunities.

Let me tell you; it don't matter.

Look at some successful CEOs that did not even go to college; or went and did not finish.

Just enjoy the journey.

I have a friend, a UCLA graduate, a co-engineer at Hughes; was all mad, his son did not get accepted at UCLA; and chose to send him to University of San Diego (rich parent from Manhattan Beach).

His son did fine; graduated; worked for big 4 consulting; now works for private equity firm in San Diego and is getting married to a very nice young lady this month.

Please do not dwell; accept the best of the choices and move on!

College choices are overrated in life; what matters is have good learning skills; compassion; eye on the ball; motivation; no drugs/low alcohol and passion for living! Sun rises every day and there is hope every day!

Take on the day one morning at a time and do not forget to count the stars you have glazed.

Study hard though! Keep grandparents interested in you!


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