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Thursday, February 7, 2013


Fifty-five years ago I was a senior at McKinley High School in Honolulu and chose to only apply to Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology. Not sure how they were then ranked, but the latest U.S. News and World Report summary has Stanford at #6 and Caltech at #10.   All the others are basically on the East Coast.  Too cold for me then, and even with global warming, still too cold today.

Caltech accepted me, but only on a waiting list for a scholarship.  I would not have been able to attend any college--as I had not bothered to apply to the University of Hawaii--if Stanford had not provided a very attractive financial aid package.  They even gave me a 10 hour per week job in the rare book room.  The books were so rare that no one came, and I was able to get paid for studying.  Clearly, this job was for a freshman, as the second year I was transferred to another department where I could not study, so after a quarter, quit.

While I majored in chemical engineering, I minored in art.  Here, three of my charcoals:

Not sure how much tuition & room/board/fees have increased over the past half a century, but Bloomberg reports the cost of a college degree increased 12-fold, or 1120% over the past third of a century.  One of those numbers is incorrect, but more than a factor of ten is quite a jump, for the consumer price index increase was only about one-fourth that rate.  Food prices only doubled during that period.

So how can you go to Stanford for free?  Well, being really smart helps. First the bad news, from Answers specifically regarding entrance to Stanford:

Many people are surprised when someone who has a seemingly stellar resume is rejected, like a friend of mine who was valedictorian, class president, NHS president, an intern for a corporate attorney, had 1000s of volunteer hours, perfect SAT score, teachers who called her the best student they've ever had, and a double legacy (her father went to Stanford for undergrad and grad, a huge plus for admissions). Nonetheless, she was rejected

Unfortunately, in the U.S., there are 36,000 valedictorians and 36,000 class presidents each year.   Only 1750 or so become Stanford freshmen.  Apparently, too, a high fraction of straight A students don't get accepted.  But grades and stratospheric Scholastic Aptitude Test scores are not everything,  Extracurricular activities, sports, arts, unusual talent, etc., can give you the edge.  I remember Texas Jack Curtis, our football coach when I was a freshman, bragging to The Stanford Daily that he scoured the nation and signed everyone who qualified.  Both joined our class.  THE ONE KEY DIFFERENCE MAKER IS:  YOU SHOW POTENTIAL TO BECOME GREAT!!!   And your family's financial condition need not necessarily be a problem.

Many Ivy League schools and Stanford now charge no fees for the truly needy.  In the latest issue of STANFORD, President John Hennessy (left) indicated that student loan debt across the country last year reached $1 trillion.  Stanford, he says, has become a need-blind institution.  Twenty years ago 40% of students received an average of $10,000/year, but this past year, half of undergraduates averaged $36,000 each.  Stanford students whose family income is below $100,000 pay no tuition.  If below $60,000, no tuition and no room/board fees.  Last year 75% of students graduated debt-free.
Seven percent of applicants are admitted. The cost of attendance for the class of 2017 will be around $60,000/year, but the average freshman scholarship was worth $41,415.

Stanford has 20,000 students, with 7,000 being undergraduates.  Eighty-nine countries are represented.  Ninety-one percent live on campus.  There are 1000 faculty members.  There have been 54 Nobel Laureates.  Stanford has won the former Sears Cup (best college athletic program, now called the NACDA Director's Cup) every year since 1994,   And I repeat, the weather is a lot nicer south of San Francisco than those Ivy League campuses.  Plus, who else has a tree for a mascot?


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