Thank you Carolyn, I will
Crewdad, I totally agre with what you say. I have already posted about my own D's disappointing STRIDE, which was indeed a job rather than a research opportunity. On the other hand, I do think that for the most part, Smith, maybe because of its very special atmosphere, pays more attention to fit than other colleges. I know a girl with very high scores who applied to Smith as a safety, and was waitlisted. It was obvious to me that she wouldn't have thrived there, and her essay clearly showed that her heart was elsewhere.
Furthermore, my D and a lot of her friends were pleasantly surprised at how compatible they were with their first year roommates. Once again, I believe that Smith really studies the housing forms to try and minimize the stress of leaving home. Of course there are always exceptions.
On the down side, Smith College overstresses the availability of the 5 college consortium. Unless you have your own car, it is extremely difficult to take classes in the other colleges, unless you are ready to sacrifice half a day for one class. Moreover, Smith, despite its impressive catalogue, is too small to offer the range of classes you could find at an Uni. D was severely limited in her choice of a thesis adviser, and the prof who took her on admitted that she had limited knowledge on the subject and its particular research ressources.
So, yes, Crewdad, it is a question of fit and prioritizing what is most important to the student, as NO institution will be all to everyone. On the other hand, 18 to 22 is a period of intense mental and emotional growth for kids, and it is normal that some feel they have outgrown their college in a couple of years.