Hello, I am a long-time lurker and am now in the process of helping my son to find the right college… and I need some (A LOT!) help. My S17 will be applying this year and have strong scores but also some quirks so I am a little unsure. English is not my first language, so please excuse me for any mistakes and let me know if something is not clear.
We now live in Virginia and S17 attends a VERY competitive high school… that he hates. Hindsight it was probably a wrong decision to have him there, even though it’s a match for him academically, the competitive environment with other kids was not very conductive to make friends and he is not happy there. I don’t want to repeat the same mistake and want to find the best fit for him. That said, he is very smart and has good grades and scores, so I need to consider strong academics as well. He is my only kid and I am will not qualify for any need-aid so I am expecting to be full-pay (but of course, some merit is more than welcome).
Some more info about his qualifications:
-GPA 3.94 (unweighted), 4.64 (weighted)
-ACT 34, SAT 2370 (CR 780, Math 800, Writing 790), top 10% of class
-6 APs (all 4 and 5s), will have 9 APs by graduation
-normal ECs I guess (3 years as a math tutor for ESL kids, writes in the school newspaper, plays sports but not a captain)
-10 years of piano, also plays guitar (5 years)
He wants to study politics + statistics (double major?), he loves Nate Silver and dreams about doing that kind of work (quantitative political analysis) in the future. He’s also very serious about music and would like to continue playing at school (but not necessarily as a major). Since he is interested in politics, he says he wants a school that is more moderate, meaning both sides are equally represented so he can learn from different perspectives.
School wise, his wishes are:
-LAC with small classes, seminars/tutorials would be great (although I’m not sure these are available in US). Big schools are out.
-very smart kids who are intellectual and smart but NOT competitive (does that exist?). This is probably a consequence of his HS years, every time I discuss schools with him, his first answer is “I want to be in a school with NICE kids”. He is shy and doesn’t make friends easily, but is very loyal when he does.
-no Greek life (maybe he can handle a small presence if it doesn’t not impact the campus too much… I guess).
-he is OK with sports if they don’t overwhelm the school. He plays a few sports recreationally and I think he would enjoy watching a few games and cheering for his school.
-cold weather (no California or south), so I’m thinking NE and upper mid-west?
-not urban, he wants a campus with lots of trees and nature.
Another thing… my son is gay and my biggest concern is to find a school/area where his sexual orientation does NOT matter and he is fully accepted. I know most LAC are considered very left, but believe me when I say, I have lived in many liberal places in US where being gay was “tolerated” at a best,... we also had some issues at his current school (a very liberal area). Anyway, based on all this… I am lost. I wish he would consider going to a bigger school/university (more chances of higher courses, opportunity to attend graduate classes if necessary), medium-size (bigger number of students so easier to find a group he identifies with) and urban/close to a major city (so he would have more options socially), but this is exactly the opposite of what he wants!
S17 started researching LACs so we could select a few to visit and so far we got:
-Swarthmore and Carleton: those were my favourites and I think they would be a good match academically if he got in, but everything he read said they are very stressful places… he’s NO for now.
-Haverford: it seems strong and with nice kids, he liked the Honour Code and is interested.
-Maine colleges: don’t ask me how S17 was able to differentiate them from their websites only, but he says Bowdoin is of course (!!!) not a fit but Colby is of course a yes (!!!). He didn’t like Bates.
-other NE colleges (Williams, Midd, Amherst, etc): strong NO, he says they are too preppy/jocky.
-Grinnel and Kenyon: he wants to visit and they seem OK but I worry they are both located in conservative areas… am I wrong?
-Oberlin: he says NO, it is too left… sigh.
-MN colleges: he was so-so with Macalester but says we can visit… but he really LOVED St Olaf, it has a formal statistics program, a very strong math department and excellent music. On paper, it’s a perfect fit for him and based on his grades he could even get a merit scholarship. But it’s a religious school so I worry about his sexual orientation being an issue there (I know nothing more serious will happen, but again, I don’t want him in an environment where he is only tolerated instead of being fully accepted). He said he thinks kids there are nice from online reviews (niche? I guess).
What do you think? I think we need way more schools to visit/apply… He will apply in state as well as a safety but he wants to live in a different area of the country (and I will be moving away in a few years anyway), so we are looking for LACs in other areas of the country.
Planning to visit/apply:
-He likes Haverford, but we’ll also visit Swarthmore since we will be there anyway. Any other school in the area we could visit?
-He likes Colby, but will also visit Bowdoin and maybe Bates, hoping he will change his mind.
-St Olaf and Macalester, will also visit Carleton if I can convince him (for some reason he really dislikes Carleton)
-Grinnel and Keyon… may visit, we’ll see… any other suggestions in the mid-west?