College Match Matters

I know it is unfashionable–perhaps heretical–for homeschoolers to care about where or if their kids go to college.

It’s always been my opinion, however, that college match matters. I found college and grad school to be great opportunities for meeting really really really smart people — other students, professors, TAs, etc. There’s a critical mass of ambitious, intellectual people, which is often a missing ingredient in the lives of asynchronous gifted kids, who get serious about intellectual pursuits well before many of their age peers.

There is not, for example, a critical mass of preteens who want to talk linguistics and comparative grammar in our lives right now. But someday . . .

So I want my kids to find the college that is right for them. An article in the NYT today describes the broader consequences of poor college match:

The first problem that Mr. Bowen, Mr. McPherson and the book’s third author, Matthew Chingos, a doctoral candidate, diagnose is something they call under-matching. It refers to students who choose not to attend the best college they can get into. They instead go to a less selective one, perhaps one that’s closer to home or, given the torturous financial aid process, less expensive.

About half of low-income students with a high school grade-point average of at least 3.5 and an SAT score of at least 1,200 do not attend the best college they could have. Many don’t even apply. Some apply but don’t enroll. “I was really astonished by the degree to which presumptively well-qualified students from poor families under-matched,” Mr. Bowen told me.

They could have been admitted to Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus (graduation rate: 88 percent, according to College Results Online) or Michigan State (74 percent), but they went, say, to Eastern Michigan (39 percent) or Western Michigan (54 percent). If they graduate, it would be hard to get upset about their choice. But large numbers do not. You can see that in the chart with this column.

In effect, well-off students — many of whom will graduate no matter where they go — attend the colleges that do the best job of producing graduates. These are the places where many students live on campus (which raises graduation rates) and graduation is the norm. Meanwhile, lower-income students — even when they are better qualified — often go to colleges that excel in producing dropouts.

Granted, so far my kids are not the low-income students the study was tracking. They are statistically more likely, based on their parents’ education alone, to be in the group that graduates no matter where they go.

But the point stands — shooting low is a bad way to get a good college experience. So I’ll continue to keep college acceptance up in the list of homeschooling goals.

I learned of this article from a friend who maintains the Learn in Freedom website, which has a lot of information about homeschool-to-college.



Filed under Gifted Ed, In the News, Why Homeschool?

5 responses to “College Match Matters

  1. I agree that college match is important for the reasons you state — intellectual stimulation and so on.

    I’m feeling uncomfortable about the study you quote and the conclusions reported. For example, colleges with high numbers of low income students probably have higher dropout rates BECAUSE low income students have to stop attending for financial reasons.

    And if good schools are worried about all these good students that aren’t coming to them, they ought to make their financial aid systems less torturous, at least by having staff to help kids through it.

    But that is an aside from your bigger point, which is that for our kids college is likely to be really important. And we need to keep that in mind. I think we can do that, while still supporting those who are trying to resist the “every kid should go to university” pressure for their own kids who would not be well suited to taking that route.

  2. It it’s to heretical to keep admission to the best possible colleges in mind while homeschooling, count me among the unapologetic heretics. That was one of the most exciting times in my life for the very reasons you mentioned. It’s a heady experience to be among a virtual brain trust. If my sons choose to follow that course, I want to have done everything reasonable to keep their options open.

  3. Angela, QueenBee

    We have been struggling with this issue. This first year, Buzz is attending community college in the honors scholars program, simply because he graduated early and has shown need for a year of maturity before going away. The three honors cohort classes show those kids are very driven, and he is enjoying htem. But even three weeks in his non-honors classes he is finding an apathy that surprises him. He sees the benefit of transferring to a more strenuous school now, where before the biggest draw was great tailgating parties. 😦

  4. We have always worked with the goal that not only will Zoe go to college but she will go to a very good college. Of course it all depends on what she wants to study.

  5. I think the notion that college choice is heresy is only true for certain sorts of home schoolers. My kids are definitely going to college, and while that puts me in a minority locally, I feel right at home on your blog.

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