Sunday, May 13, 2018
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
Our son is applying to several Ivy League schools this fall. He expects to graduate first in his class. We know that the admissions competition is fierce, so he is applying to a number of schools outside the Ivy League, just in case. We expect that he will be accepted to a few top colleges, but we are not sure which schools are best for him. We understand there are rivalries among colleges and that each school has its own strengths and weaknesses. Can you help us decide which schools would be the best fits?
Signed, Anxious Parents
Dear Anxious Parents
There are, indeed, famous rivalries between and among universities. Let's start with the one closest to home: Indiana University vs. Purdue. Which one would be best for your son?
It's generally thought that at Purdue the academic focus is on engineering, while Indiana is the place for pre-med, business and music education. Many students hedge their bets and apply to both because there is far more depth to the curriculum at both than might be apparent from the labels given to these schools.
On an equal footing is the rivalry between Cal-Berkeley and Stanford. If I wanted to attend a top college in Utopia, then Stanford would be the place to go.
When I chose a college I wanted the rough-and-tumble politics of Berkeley's radical social upheaval to keep me motivated -- in addition to being able to study at one of the nation's leading public universities. Berkeley has it all — engineering, science and liberal arts -- in an urban setting where diversity is the norm in every aspect of college life.
Stanford has the same academic standing as Berkeley, but the campus is beautiful to the degree of being almost distracting. I needed the tension resulting from a diversity of ideas. I doubt I could have survived in such a surreal environment.
Both Berkeley and Stanford boast outstanding academic credentials, with the proof being that Apple, Facebook and Google hire many of their graduates at their nearby Silicon Valley headquarters.
On the opposite coast is perhaps the oldest college rivalry: Harvard vs. Yale.
I was privileged to attend Harvard Law School. That rivalry is not just limited to who may be ranked Nos. 1 or 2 in U.S. News and World Report academically. The famous Harvard-Yale football game attracts alumni from all over the country to cheer their teams and drink copious amounts of nostalgia.
I once watched the annual Harvard-Yale football game at a favorite bar in Chicago where many alumni still insist on wearing crimson and blue beanies and sweaters with a big "H" or "Y" on the front. To be honest, each school does have its own identity, even if one cannot distinguish them on the basis of their SAT scores.
Harvard clearly has the endowment advantage with $37 billion vs. Yale's $27 billion. Some believe Harvard runs Wall Street and Washington and is the pipeline to prosperity through the Old Boy Network. Others believe Yale is the place to study to become a professor or future judge. Those aren't the only differences between the schools.
Harvard is thought to be a hotbed of competition compared to Yale's more tranquil environment. Harvard is also reputed to be more politically radical than Yale. There may be truth to that, based on my experience with students at both schools.
One student turned down Harvard because he was disappointed to find a demonstration in progress while touring the campus. He chose Yale after having lunch with the granddaughter of a former president of the United States. Yale's medieval campus setting produced the tranquility he sought. Yale also is known as a powerhouse for producing presidents.
That doesn't mean the rivalry is all about the struggle for power and money. Several members of the graduating classes at Harvard and Yale in 2017 applied to become teachers in the Teach for America program, which focuses on helping kids in underprivileged school districts.
You did not say what your son’s career aspirations are because that will help to guide him in his college selections. I suggest a deep-dive online to seek a good academic fit, and if at all possible campus visits to get a sense of the environment.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
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