packaging for college

Posted by: Wren

packaging for college - 06/26/19 03:56 AM

This is a tangent from Ivy League admissions. Has anyone started "packaging" for college? With this whole Harvard lawsuit, it brings up the packaging done for college. Whether you focus on community development, rowing, specialty interests, is your kid creating a package? There were 2 kids accepted into Stanford from DD's school. Toronto based school. One, is American, a world champion speaker, perfect SAT scores. The other one is Canadian, decent in her extracurriculars, except she was elected co-captain (no president of student council, just 2 co-captains that oversee more than student council) 98th percentile in SAT, essay was OK, but she had been involved in an indigineous people's research project since 8th grade with a professor at the university. So this was definitely holistic admission. Showing leadership and initiative.
I am going to admit, we are packaging. DD is going into 10th grade. She is focused on a specialty area within technology and spending time in a this specialty in a camp this summer. Also sailing competitively. Has a plan. She also has great scores (knock on wood). Was perfect on her end of year math exam. But I hear about others doing rowing, the extracurricular du jour, which was fencing 10 years ago.
Maybe it is a function of starting this process in NYC, where planning starts at birth. And now being in Toronto within an academic private that is 80%+ Chinese.
I will add that the plan has evolved and changed with DD's interests. It just happened that we are on Lake Ontario, she loves sailing and it is a great recruiting sport. And her academic interest is unique and requires certification in certain things so shows your application of effort in your interests.
Posted by: cricket3

Re: packaging for college - 06/26/19 04:37 AM

To be blunt, no. My kids did what excited and interested them and things where they could spend time with their friends, which usually overlapped. Also, there is no possible way my kids would do this, even if there was pressure from their parents.

Please donít take this the wrong way, but this is my take at a competitive public high school with a large number of status-conscious families, including some foreign-born families who move to our area so solely that their kids can attend the high school.


These families do what you are describing here. Parents have strong say in their schedules, both academic and extracurricular. These are the kids who are forced to drop piano after not winning an important competition. They drop out of ensembles if they are not awarded the chair seating they wanted. They participate in the school extracurriculars that are showy or compete on a high level even if their interests are elsewhere (being primarily involved in a science extracurricular and then applying as a business major seems particularly common). Some of them start non-profits, seemingly out of the blue (ie, not following a long-held interest or activity). They often jump from activity to activity, looking for that leadership spot or some other elusive award. They are cutthroat about grades and secretive about summer opportunities and other ways kids can distinguish themselves. They seem extremely grade-conscious, stressed, and view other students primarily as their competitors.

I believe most selective schools can see straight through this for what it is. The kids seem to have little sense of self, and I suspect their essays and interviews (which I know are rare and often not even offered) show this. Most of these sorts seem to go to fine schools, but they are often not the top couple they are aiming for (but sometimes they are). I guess I personally donít understand it at all- how could this possibly be worth it? On top of this, my kids actively refused to look at colleges that seemed to attract this type of applicant- 4 years of high school with it was more than enough.
Posted by: indigo

Re: packaging for college - 06/26/19 07:32 PM

Well said, cricket3.
smile

BTW, Here is the link to the thread "Ivy League Admissions" mentioned by the OP:
http://giftedissues.davidsongifted.org/B...html#Post162144
Posted by: Kai

Re: packaging for college - 06/26/19 08:15 PM

No packaging whatsoever here. In fact, if there is any "package," it is an antipackage. Everything my son has done in high school has been motivated by who he is--not what how he wants to appear to college admissions committees. And if that means that the only places that will have him are second string schools, so be it.
Posted by: Wren

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 06:48 AM

I think it is more of NYC thing. Some of the people we keep in contact with are doing it. Some kids in rowing, a couple at very high levels in tennis. One in diving, from gymnastics. Since gymastics was not strong, but diving is less competitive. I was a little shocked when DD was in 8th grade (the school goes 7-12) and hearing all these mothers talking about US admissions and the talk about consultants. One wanted to push her daughter into sailing, despite the kid not wanting it, to distinquish her from other Chinese ethnic students. Thanks for the link indigo. Wasn't on the board much then. And now that she is getting older, and the whole lawsuit, thinking about it. But I agree you cannot push your kid into any activity they don't want to do and expect them to excel. If my kid didn't love sailing, they would not allow her to race and she wouldn't have a sailing CV. So it cannot be done. My point was taking the things they want to do and making it work. On the link indigo posted, Bostonian mentioned college confidential. I peruse the pages after EA. And it is really interesting the kids that get in with lower scores compared to the kids with high scores that get waitlisted or rejected. It is always a choice to say I don't want to pay the dues to join that club, and that is always something I say to my kid. You have choices to go to a CDN university for much less money with scores being the only determining factor. Since we see that here, it is really competitive for some programs.
Posted by: cricket3

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 07:28 AM

Originally Posted By: Wren
I think it is more of NYC thing.


I donít.

Though in NY state, we are more than several hundred miles from NYC, certainly not an area known for educational excellence (though the further we have travelled this journey, the more I have come to recognize that our school does do pretty well by most students). Many, many schools like ours exist across the northeast and in metropolitan areas across the nation- I know, as our kids met other kids from these schools at national competitions, and we (both our family personally but also our school) were small-time as far as that kind of thing goes. There are families like this everywhere, though I donít think the college consultant thing has really penetrated here yet- most people here donít have the disposable income.

I think itís an SES/status thing, with some desperation/cynicism/realities about the future thrown in.
Posted by: Pemberley

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 08:29 AM

Interesting Ė DD and I were having a discussion this morning that is tangential to this. She is an avid history buff and has been involved in a revolutionary war reenactment group for several years. As a part of this she has engaged in some significant independent research on a topic that has not been typically explored or presented by many reenactors. She is working on a children's or young adult story/book based on this research and has been invited to speak at local museums and schools about the topic. She really wants to be an advocate for special needs kids and I said to her just this morning that if she is successful in publishing the story that she will have even more credibility in her advocacy than just her successful 2E journey. i mean who wouldn't respect a teenager who has done these things?

I think that being a published author and public speaker as a teenager would look like a pretty significant "package" for college application. But this is not the purpose or the intent. It's just something that she is genuinely passionate about doing.

Maybe that's the point and something that admissions officers are probably pretty savvy about. When kids put on a show of being involved in activities they are not really passionate about I doubt it will carry as much weight as the real deal. When a kid has a serious long-term interest in something it is likely to resonate better with an admission's committee just as Cricket pointed out above...
Posted by: ashley

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 11:15 AM

I live in an area where the packaging game has been perfected to an art-form (think paying 5-6 figures to a consultant at 8th grade who will organize trips to third world countries for the next 4 years for community service, help set up non-profits at age 14, send kids over to train with fencing, rowing and archery coaches who have connections to college coaches) etc. These kids write essays about how life-changing it was to work in an orphanage in some unheard-of village in a remote country and think of 30 other kids in that group writing about the same experience and it begins to look repetitive.

With the game being played at that level, chances are that admissions officers can see through all the packaging easily because if you look carefully, there is a formula that is being used to game the system which is easy to spot. I believe that with the admissions scandals ongoing, the elite universities are going to be more vigilant about packaging.

In our case, we are not packaging.
Posted by: Wren

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 12:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Pemberley


I think that being a published author and public speaker as a teenager would look like a pretty significant "package" for college application. But this is not the purpose or the intent. It's just something that she is genuinely passionate about doing.

Maybe that's the point and something that admissions officers are probably pretty savvy about. When kids put on a show of being involved in activities they are not really passionate about I doubt it will carry as much weight as the real deal. When a kid has a serious long-term interest in something it is likely to resonate better with an admission's committee just as Cricket pointed out above...


This is what I am talking about. The kid pretty much pursues their interests, but the packaging, is like this works for college. And yes, it isn't just paying to volunteer in some village in Uganda.
Posted by: philly103

Re: packaging for college - 06/28/19 03:18 PM

I've been reading a lot about this recently and about how the colleges have responded.

My general understanding is that the schools have stopped looking for how much you've done and instead are trying to see how elite you are in something.

So, it's better to be at a national level in 1 activity than to be regional level in 2 activities or state level in 3.

I mentioned in another thread how many kids (in the absolute sense) score in the top 1% of the SAT or ACT. So, to be elite academically ends up requiring so much more than just top test scores.

Athletically, academically, artistically, etc.

I think the whole thing is fascinating. MY kid is 5 so I'm sure what colleges are looking for will change again before I have to start really thinking about it.
Posted by: Lovemydd

Re: packaging for college - 07/02/19 05:50 AM

What happens if a child is interested in many things and pursues them all and is above average but not exceptional in any? Is it necessary that to be gifted, you have to be exceptional at an early age, ie, before applying to a college? What if it takes you longer (say in your 20s or even 30s) to figure out the one thing you are going to pursue and excel at?
Posted by: aeh

Re: packaging for college - 07/02/19 07:32 AM

There is no reason everyone has to follow the same path to exceptionality. By definition. And I suspect there are many of us here who have explored many areas of interest before settling (for the time being) on a field of focus. Nor do I believe that one has to remain on that one thing indefinitely.

This can be more difficult to "package", of course, which is but one of the reasons that packaging is a very low priority for us.
Posted by: indigo

Re: packaging for college - 07/02/19 04:45 PM

Great perspective from aeh, as usual!

There is much to be said for being pluripotent and having multi-potentiality!

Did you see the recent thread You Don't Want a Child Prodigy?
The article discusses the downside of specializing too early, and the upside of breadth.
smile

As it relates to college packaging, a few years back parents were saying that colleges don't necessarily want well-rounded individuals, or students with a sharp point of interest, they want people who are egg-shaped... a combination of well-rounded and developing a general point of interest.
Posted by: Wren

Re: packaging for college - 07/03/19 10:18 AM

There was mention yesterday in a news show that there are 4 million kids graduating in any one year. So 40,000 are in the top 1 % and 4,000 in the top 0.1%. In China, you have 3 X the population. So if you get 120,000 kids in the top 1% that cannot into the top universities in China and apply here, you have a lot of kids with great scores. Now those kids need visas. But even if your have 10K kids in the top 0.1%, how do you differentiate? My kid just finished 9th grade in an accelerated school. 5+ in science, 5+ in math. She also did precalc with cty during the year. Bostonian's kid gets great scores, I imagine most of our kids have great scores. Why is MIT going to take one over another. Last year, a girl from DD's school got into Harvard, legacy, then in the spring MIT and Stanford. Perfect math scores on SAT, but not much else going on, but African American girl with perfect SAT math scores. Her main interests were classics. Classics competitions for four years. Now that is different. I just see so many kids on college confidential in the ED get waitlisted, with perfect or amazing math or science scores. So many, how do they decide which to let in, which to waitlist or reject?
Posted by: ashley

Re: packaging for college - 07/03/19 10:33 AM

Originally Posted By: Wren
There was mention yesterday in a news show that there are 4 million kids graduating in any one year. So 40,000 are in the top 1 % and 4,000 in the top 0.1%.

I remember that when my DS was born, a coworker of mine who had an Ivy League education gave me this piece of advice: there are almost 40,000 high schools in the US. Every one of them has a valedictorian and each of these schools has the top 1% who are presumably very talented (presumably highly accomplished in other things than academics). Add in the genius kids who homeschool, foreign applicants who are the cream-of-the-cream in their countries and financially very well off as well and then, add in the diversity factor, athletic recruitment, seats reserved for staff families, it is very hard to get into an Ivy. So, he told me to let my child follow his passion and that it will hopefully show up in the application process. In my area, a lot of kids get perfect SAT scores (and go to good schools and have college counselors helping them) and they still do not get into MIT and Stanford.
There was an MIT recruiter blog floating around (will post here if I find the link) that advised the same to all students desirous of a seat at MIT: follow your passions and do what inspires you and they will be able to see that in the application.
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: packaging for college - 07/03/19 12:30 PM

Originally Posted By: ashley
Originally Posted By: Wren
There was mention yesterday in a news show that there are 4 million kids graduating in any one year. So 40,000 are in the top 1 % and 4,000 in the top 0.1%.

I remember that when my DS was born, a coworker of mine who had an Ivy League education gave me this piece of advice: there are almost 40,000 high schools in the US. Every one of them has a valedictorian and each of these schools has the top 1% who are presumably very talented (presumably highly accomplished in other things than academics). Add in the genius kids who homeschool, foreign applicants who are the cream-of-the-cream in their countries and financially very well off as well and then, add in the diversity factor, athletic recruitment, seats reserved for staff families, it is very hard to get into an Ivy. So, he told me to let my child follow his passion and that it will hopefully show up in the application process. In my area, a lot of kids get perfect SAT scores (and go to good schools and have college counselors helping them) and they still do not get into MIT and Stanford.
There was an MIT recruiter blog floating around (will post here if I find the link) that advised the same to all students desirous of a seat at MIT: follow your passions and do what inspires you and they will be able to see that in the application.


She is quite confident of her ability. I am not so sure about that.

I think if you have your heart set on going to a specific school or HYP and the like in general, there is a high probability to be disappointed for anyone. These places are more or less putting together a bouquet, who knows which instrument, which sport, and which remote western state in a given year will be their cup of tea. Wren mentioned the probability of getting into a top Chinese university above. I would argue the difficulty to predict a child's chance of getting into a top university in the US is a lot harder than in China.

The good thing about the US is that there are so many colleges. And other than the very top, being good academically is probably enough and you can be not too strategic about the extracurricular and just do what you want.
Posted by: Wren

Re: packaging for college - 07/03/19 01:32 PM

Many Chinese universities are now in the top 20 in the world, so they are now preferable for Chinese students compared to coming to the US, Canada, UK. The Chinese government has and continues to invest copious amounts of money into them. We had the president of Alibaba give a talk at my daughter's school. He is Canadian, went to Princeton, then Goldman Sachs. I asked him speciifically about Chinese universities and he said they were way ahead technically, because the government is investing, why they have the fastest supercomputer, ahead in plans space exploration. The kids that cannot get into those schools apply to the top schools here. I met some people and their son was at a Canadian university, a good one, not top 5. They told me that if you don't get into a Chinese university, you look abroad. But with the trade wars, visas are an issue. Last year, there was a huge drop in kids getting into US schools from DD's school. This year, more than double, probably because Canadians can get in easier than some countries. DD is american so it is not an issue. But I check the trends.
DD is at a marine science technology camp this summer. Mostly kids who want marine science. I notice on the schedule next week they have a chat about admissions. I was a little shocked. But most of the kids are interested in this top school in marine biology. And they want to give them a heads up about applying, I guess.
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: packaging for college - 07/05/19 10:34 AM

Interestingly, the Chinese universities have in recent years discontinued the practice to add points for being proficient at piano, being an elite athlete, being an award-winning artist,what have you to the GaoKao exam. Using extracurricula to get an advantage was prevalent in the last twenty years or so but the universities(ordered by dept of education?) went back largely to admission based on academics only. This is partly because the game of extracurricular activities are largely played by the rich/upper class and seen as unfair advantage.

Another major difference between Harvard et al and Beijing University and the other elite Chinese schools is that the Chinese universities really would like or at least don't mind filling their school with highest academic performers. They believe that academic trumps everything else. So in a way, they are all behaving more like a more extreme version of Cal-tech or MIT. The HYPs are definitely defining talent more broadly than IQ and academics.
Posted by: Wren

Re: packaging for college - 07/05/19 01:23 PM

Canada is all about the grades, but no standardized exams. Hence the universities, except for U of Toronto and Waterloo are not as desirbable as universities elsewhere. Waterloo is totally about grades and you have to have a 5+ to be considered for their CS or engineering programs. Kids get recruited out of their tech programs as easily as MIT and Caltech for Silcon Valley. But because there are not standardized tests, they will weight a kid from DD's school, or some other specialized STEM program higher. Not officially.