One thing I rarely blog about is my college experience. I work at a University, and I’ve worked at Microsoft. I’ve designed the admission system used for a prestigious R1 NSF program across 13 different R1 universities. This is the type of program that accepts only 2.5% of applicants( its harder to get into than med school! ), and people who get in to it typically gain admission into the hyper competitive world of fully funded PHd programs and medical programs. I’ve also attended 9 different colleges/universities in some capacity — sometimes just to take a class. Public schools. Private schools. Large schools. Small schools. All of them top schools. I can get myself into any type of college, at any level. Even though I once failed out! I’m currently attending a Tier 1 Law school, and have worked as professional staff at two universities.
So, I’ve learned a few things about college that I didn’t expect. Small, private schools in New England have grade inflation. The schools there give C grades to people who would get F grades anyplace else, and A grades just for showing up. Engineering/science programs in large midwest public schools purposely fail out 65% of their students. They do this because those programs are over-subscribed, and they’re not allowed to control admission to the program, so they design the curriculum to fail people out. Thus, they can stay in budget for their programs. Schools on the West coast are the easiest to get through — it’s very hard to fail out of a west coast school. It’s also very hard to get good grades at them. They normalize to a 3.0 GPA — so everyone who goes will get a “B” average. With this, they can graduate 80% of the people who come. But, getting into the major you want is hard, and more-over, getting into graduate school or professional school from these programs is not very easy. You can determine how much grade inflation there is at a school by looking at graduation rates. Honest schools will have graduation rates of 30-40%.
From my experiences, these are the 3 most important factors to getting through school for the career you want:
1. Knowing yourself. A lot of college success factors have nothing to do with intelligence. The most common problem students have is emotional. This is even more of a problem for hyper-competitive careers, like medicine, law, or the hard sciences. Understanding the emotional needs of the student is the first priority to understanding what school the student should attend.
2. Knowing the school. Large schools tend to be more competitive, but also provide more opportunity. If a student is emotionally strong, then a large school will serve them better than a small school.
3. Knowing the career. Some careers are more competitive than others. What courses does the student need to take to be allowed to enter the career? Is the student’s natural strengths aligned with those courses at the schools (s)he chose to attend? If not, what’s the mitigation plan?
A few things I’ve learned from various sources:
1. Name matters. A “C” GPA from Caltech will beat an “A” GPA from Creighton University. Harvard transcripts carry much more weight than the University of Arkansas. If you have a few thousand dollars laying around, getting a Harvard class is easy.
2. With few exceptions, it is better not to answer race questions in general than to answer them.
3. Writing is a hygiene factor. If you write well, you may or may not get in. If you write poorly, you will be denied admission.
Anyway, good luck to all those looking to go to college! You’ll need it!