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My wife and I cannot thank you all enough for your generous suggestions, recommendations, advice and insights. Neither of us grew up in the US and so didn't receive our undergraduate degrees here, though I got my PhD at Penn State in Business. My Mech-E degree from 35 years ago doesn't count anymore! Having taught mostly in graduate Business programs and, typical of faculty, being (rightly) removed from Admissions Offices, I was not as versed in things Admissions. Our D is a sophomore in college, but she wanted to do it all herself, which we are, of course, proud of, but didn't immerse us in the process. So, all of your perspectives were immensely informative and helped us, as a family, arrive at a final decision. Even when comments seemed diametrically opposed to one another, the underlying reasoning was instructive. My wife and I had individually made our minds up earlier this week, as did our son, but we insisted on his being thorough with his research and deliberate about his decision. In the end, each of us arrived at the University of Virginia as the top choice, which is where he tendered his deposit last evening. While cost was a consideration for us, academic and other merits weighed more heavily in our thoughts. Since he is likely to attend graduate school, overall reputation loomed large. Besides, if the educational journey is viewed as a pyramid, a broader base serves as a strong and durable foundation for whatever lies ahead; UVa's liberal-arts orientation fit that bill rather well. Another important factor was the selectivity of the schools in play: 30% for UVa versus 66% for UIUC and 59% for Purdue. Of course, some of this results from the fact that Virginia is "endowed" with other fine institutions, such as College of William & Mary, Virginia Tech, GMU and VCU, to name just the nationally-ranked ones, which, in turn, "allows" UVa to be "most selective," a situation not mirrored in too many states (California and Texas being the rare exceptions).
We are humbled by the sheer volume of posts in this thread--and, more generally, on CC. Once again, thank you all.