College Advice for Younger Olympians

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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby caseyotis » April 27th, 2013, 7:57 pm

Just how stressful is an application? I probably will do mostly SciOly over the summer, as well as my summer job and family time. :) I'm just one of those people who looks really far into the future for everything.
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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby mnstrviola » April 27th, 2013, 8:17 pm

Is it true that employers, for the most part, only look at the last school where you got your final degree? For example, if you went to Cornell for 4 years and then Yale for further education, like an MD, they would only really look at Yale?

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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby paleonaps » April 28th, 2013, 1:45 pm

To those of you who have experience, what SAT prep would you recommend, especially studying all the vocab?
I did a lot of practice packets myself. My advice would be to learn a lot of nitpicky grammatical rules (misuses of common words [irritating technically doesn't mean annoying; you're little brother is only irritating if he gives you a rash] and misuse of pronouns [say "It is I!" not "It's me!", for example] are popular on the writing section). There's no way you could cover all of the vocab they can ask, so I'd advise you to learn a little bit of Latin. I know it sounds cliche, but if a word in English is polysyllabic, there's a good chance it comes from Latin. Learn your prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Because I took Latin, I had no trouble with this section (I got an 800 first try), but I know that there are a lot of websites devoted to studying vocab for the SAT.

TL;DR - practice books, Latin, and online flashcards.
This thread is a fantastic idea, thanks Naps! Of course it is, I came up with it! :D

What do you guys recommend doing over the summer? Also, could you guys talk about SAT IIs a little? Thanks!
Whatever you do over the summer, make sure you like it and that it doesn't burn you out. I know that the Ivies, Columbia especially, are looking for more science Ph. Ds (i.e. not doctors or engineers), so if you want to go to one of them, a summer of novel science research at the local lab or university would be well-spent. Even better, you could enter it into a science competition like Siemens or Intel, and maybe win scholarship money. Some high schools, like mine, have programs to set this up for you. However, if you send out some emails, you could probably find a mentor for yourself. Again, make sure you actually care about what you're researching. If you don't like cancer research, don't do it just because it looks good on your application.

However, this isn't for everyone. If you have strong interests in something else, from film to writing, try to pursue that, especially if you're applying places that need art samples to place you in artistic programs. If you like traveling with your family, go somewhere with them. Maybe you'll have an essay-worthy experience, like being kidnapped by Somalian pirates and having Batman ride a dragon to come and save you. That would make a great essay.

If possible, what you do should be directly tied to what you want to pursue - for instance, I want to be a paleontologist, so I went on dinosaur digs for the last two summers.
I'm very interested in attending Cornell University because I've heard from so many people that it's one of the best - if not the best - schools for veterinary medicine. Would it help me any that my grandfather was the Head of the English Department there before he retired? .-. Also, I have used the Princeton review book for SATs (it has about eighth practice SATs in it, as well as one PSAT).
That's going to be a very big help... as long as they realize. There's usually a place in the supplement for an Ivy to indicate if any of your ancestors had a relationship with the school.
Just how stressful is an application? I probably will do mostly SciOly over the summer, as well as my summer job and family time. :) I'm just one of those people who looks really far into the future for everything.
The app isn't stressful if you don't procrastinate (Latin derivative alert: pro = for, cras = tomorrow) too much. Whatever you decide to do regarding Early Action/Decision, start applying other places ASAP. Also, don't take on too many schools. Z's right - don't apply somewhere if you know you'll never decide to go there. But be careful - I didn't think I'd ever decide to go to UPenn or Brown, and almost didn't apply. But after a month of deliberating, Brown looks like my frontrunner.
Is it true that employers, for the most part, only look at the last school where you got your final degree? For example, if you went to Cornell for 4 years and then Yale for further education, like an MD, they would only really look at Yale?
I've heard this, but I'm unsure how true it is. A lot of scientists I've encountered as faculty at top schools have their bachelor's degree from relatively obscure places, but then again, many have them from very prestigious places. I feel like undergrad admissions are more a measure of how well a student plays the admissions game - with the extracurriculars, SAT, academics, community service, financial aid - but grad admissions are more based on how well you perform in college, and what college you went to originally (if you're in business, a degree from the Wharton Business School at UPenn is going to be very attractive if you pursue a master's or doctorate. In the sciences, however, I think that the graduate degree will be of much greater importance. That doesn't mean you should settle for a so-so undergraduate school if you get the chance to go to a better one (assuming finances work out, of course), but you shouldn't be crushed if you wind up at Johns Hopkins instead of Stanford. Also keep in mind that some schools treat their grads better than their undergrads - Harvard is like that, apparently.
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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby caseyotis » April 28th, 2013, 3:25 pm

Thank you! I will keep this in mind.
So things like "I want to be a veterinarian, so I volunteered at the nature center every weekend to take care of the animals and show them to guests" would help me?
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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby andrewwski » April 28th, 2013, 6:39 pm

If there's one piece of advice I'd give, it's to not put too much emphasis on the name. I know that many people here envision going to top schools - and I can understand why.

Yes, top schools like the Ivy League, MIT, Stanford, etc, may be great schools - but they are expensive. If you get scholarships that cover a decent chunk of it - great! Congrats - you've done very well so far. But, schools like this tend not to give many, if any, scholarships - so any scholarships or financial aid you're going to get will likely be either external or need-based. Which makes these schools very expensive for many people.

There are plenty of good schools that are far less expensive though. Depending on where you live, your state university might have a very good program in your field. I can't speak for all majors, but for engineering, there's many states with top-ranked programs, as well as many states with good programs that may not be at the top of the rankings.

And not being in the top 10 or 20 ranked schools, I've found, isn't necessarily a bad thing - especially if you end up saving a lot of money.

I applied to all the top-ranked engineering schools during high school, got into all of them, and got varying scholarship offers from each - but the general trend was that the top schools didn't give much money. I also got a full scholarship offer from my state university (University at Buffalo) - which I know people that declined to go elsewhere (and pay a lot of money). Coming out of 4 years of undergrad, I find that I've had the same opportunities as these people, learned the same things, and furthermore my classmates are graduating with similar jobs and grad school offers as friends that went to Cornell, Michigan, Caltech, etc. The ones that excelled, that is.

And I have a lot more money in my pocket.

I have friends that took out nearly $150,000 in loans to attend big name schools. Most people that I know who are attending state schools come out with no or little debt - even paying $10k/year as opposed to $40k saves you $120k over the course of 4 years. I'm coming out of 4 years of undergrad with acceptances at many grad schools, no debt, and full funding through my PhD.

Not to say that you shouldn't strive for top-ranked schools - by all means, go for it. But don't be disappointed if you end up somewhere else, and seriously consider the cost when it comes down to decision time. You'll likely end up with the same opportunities at a fraction of the cost. What you did in college (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc) will have far more weight than where you went to school.

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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby caseyotis » April 29th, 2013, 2:32 pm

What you did in college (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc) will have far more weight than where you went to school.
This is where many people get confused. Is this really true? I was always under the impression that going to a big-name school would have far more weight than what you did (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc.), just because it's the first thing people would see. They might not even know or inquire about what you did before you got your degree. Or am I completely wrong and within the stereotype of ignorant middle-school overachiever?
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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby chia » April 29th, 2013, 3:01 pm

This is where many people get confused. Is this really true? I was always under the impression that going to a big-name school would have far more weight than what you did (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc.), just because it's the first thing people would see. They might not even know or inquire about what you did before you got your degree. Or am I completely wrong and within the stereotype of ignorant middle-school overachiever?
Of course I don't have the full picture either since I'm not even in college yet, but it's absolutely untrue that "far more" weight is given to name of the school than what you did while you were there. GPA for sure is still a vital part of your application (esp. for grad school), and I'd think research/work in the relevant fields would definitely be looked favorably upon (esp. for job applications), even if other activities aren't important in that way as they were for high school seniors. The work doesn't stop once you've just gotten in, everything you do while there will matter.
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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby SilverNight » April 29th, 2013, 3:25 pm

A summer of novel science research at the local lab or university would be well-spent. Even better, you could enter it into a science competition like Siemens or Intel, and maybe win scholarship money. Some high schools, like mine, have programs to set this up for you. However, if you send out some emails, you could probably find a mentor for yourself. Again, make sure you actually care about what you're researching. If you don't like cancer research, don't do it just because it looks good on your application.
I'm a sophomore this year, and I live in NJ. I've wanted to do some research at a local university, but I've never really figured out how I should go about finding such an opportunity (my school doesn't have programs for it set up). I don't think there is much chance of me being able to do research this summer, but I just wanted to know if anyone could share some experience about good research programs that aren't nearly impossible to get into, or how to find and contact possible mentors.

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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby andrewwski » April 29th, 2013, 10:01 pm

What you did in college (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc) will have far more weight than where you went to school.
This is where many people get confused. Is this really true? I was always under the impression that going to a big-name school would have far more weight than what you did (GPA, projects, activities, research, etc.), just because it's the first thing people would see. They might not even know or inquire about what you did before you got your degree. Or am I completely wrong and within the stereotype of ignorant middle-school overachiever?
Absolutely true. Your future employer/grad school is not going to stop at the first line of your resume and make a decision from that. Quite the opposite, actually. The fact that you went to a big-name school says nothing about you, other than you got into the school and didn't fail out. What you're going for (grad school or a job) will impact the things that they're going to be looking for to some extent - research experience as an undergrad helps immensely in getting good grad school offers, projects and research will look impressive to employers, etc. This, though, is what says something about you.

Going to a big name school and getting a moderate GPA or not getting involved with activities, etc, will put you at a disadvantage to students who went to a less-known school and have an impressive resume.

Grad schools and employers are not so ignorant that they make the decision based on where you went to school. They'll actually look at what you've done. That's what they want to know - that's what will determine whether or not they want you, either as a student or employee.

In the two interviews I've had in the past three years (got both jobs), I've never been asked where I go to school, why I'm going there, etc. Rather I've been asked about the projects I've worked on, activities I've been involved with, etc. Similarly for grad school - the applications look for that information - and if seeking a teaching or research position, those are the qualities they look for (although GPA means a lot here too!).

Chia hit it on the head saying, "the work doesn't stop once you've just gotten in, everything you do while there will matter." That is absolutely true. Getting there is the easy part - whether it's a top-name school or a state university. It's all up to you from there, regardless of where you go.

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Re: College Advice for Younger Olympians

Postby EpicFailOlympian » April 30th, 2013, 9:55 am

While Ivies and other "top" schools are a bit overrated, I'd still like to rebut a little for their favor. Name does carry weight. There's a reason they're considered top schools. Their reputation is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy - they attract the top educators and thus the top students. Consistently, they graduate the many influential people in the world. The atmosphere is definitely different, being surrounded with an aggregation of people with tremendous intellectual capacity. The people you meet there, in my opinion, is the most convincing reason for going there. Undergrad probably doesn't matter that much academically, but the relationships and connections you develop there is invaluable. Exposure to brilliant people and ideas, befriending future world-changers. These people can change you, in ways you never expected. Ivies, at least UPenn, offer so much aid. Families making $65,000 and under pretty much pay nothing. I mean, just for thought.
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