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Anything like the Ada Comstock Scholars Program at MIT?

  1. Oct 28, 2008 #1
    Background: I'm currently taking classes at a local community college with the intention of transfering to a 4-year university after I get my AS (Associate of Science). I'm a non-traditional student in my 30s who has been working professionally in the tech/computer industry since high school graduation (hence the extremely late start on college). Originally, I had my sights set on transferring to the University of Washington, majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Japanese.

    But today, my current Physics instructor (the Dean of the math & science department, actually) invited me to a private recruiting luncheon of sorts. Reps from Smith and Mount Holyoke were there - two of the "Seven Sisters" private colleges that were founded back when the Ivy League wouldn't admit women. I was one of 6 students invited to attend.

    Surprisingly, I was the only one studying any sort of engineering and the only one on the President's List. The Smith representative made a tentative overture for their department there. She was quite persuasive. They have a financial aid package for non-traditional students (the Ada Comstock Scholars Program) that would take care of all my tuition/housing/employment needs were I to quit my job and temporarily move out there after my AS to get a BS.

    It made me wonder.

    Are there any other schools that have a similar aid package (that you guys know of)?

    I basically work full time to be able to afford 10 credits per quarter (including summer) plus rent, bills, etc. If I were to relocate, I'd be incredibly poor and would need some serious assistance so I could devote most of my time and energy to my studies. The ideal situation would be one where I could live and work on campus while finishing a 4-year degree. Since I've always paid out of pocket every quarter, I have no idea how financial aid works.

    From what I've been able to scout out online, it sounds like top tier schools are fairly unfriendly towards non-traditional students. I'd rather go to a school with a well established traditional CS program (Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, etc) but I'm not even sure they would take my application seriously (even with a 3.85 GPA), and what Smith is potentially offering is pretty sweet. Is it worth even trying to apply to these other schools?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2008 #2


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    Smith is a fantastic school. A friend of mine graduated from there a few years ago and went on to get a masters in engineering at Stanford. I don't know about similar programs elsewhere, but I suggest you go check out the campus - I bet you'll love it.
  4. Oct 29, 2008 #3
    Josie, I was an Ada Comstock scholar (started at community college in CA), and I loved Smith. I graduated the year before the engineering program opened, or I would def have pursued that. Lots of financial support, great resources, totally supportive of non-trad students. The valley is a great place to live - five colleges, 1hr 50 mins to Boston and 2 1/2 hrs to NYC. I worked in tech support while I was a student, which, along with fin aid, helped pay the bills. Like most of my friends, I walked away with plenty of loans to pay off, but it was so worth it (and you can take breaks from loan payments if you lose a job, take an internship, or something else comes up). Also, the Smith alumni network is a lifelong resource in terms of career networking. I encourage you to explore it further - it is a life-changing opportunity (it certainly was for me). Best of luck, wherever you end up!
  5. Oct 29, 2008 #4
    Doesn't UC Berkeley have a significant portion of its class that were transfers? In any case, you're right in that the other schools probably don't take many transfers simply because the freshmen retention rate is so high. You also will not get any kind of merit aid at a top school (which it sounds like this Ada Comstock Scholars thing is). Most people at a top school forwent serious amounts of cash thrown at them by even top 20 schools. However, I believe many privates are decent about giving need aid. I know someone who went to MIT for free, for example.
  6. Oct 29, 2008 #5
    Well, that makes me a little less wary... one of the things that's been making me shy away from Smith a bit is that I'm not sure math & science classes at a liberal arts class will be challenging enough. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to talk to some of the people in CS & Engineering there at some point before applications are due next year.
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