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Hidden Gem Colleges - PA and Midwest


Replies to: Hidden Gem Colleges - PA and Midwest

  • jcmom716jcmom716 Registered User Posts: 328 Member
    @novicemom23kids, @NJWrestlingmom, @happy1, @londondad and others...sounds like there are some good options to research! It's great to hear feedback on similar schools, gives our family and hopefully others additional information beyond what the websites show.

    @twinsmama Appreciate your comments. That is a possible concern. If he liked larger schools, an honors program would work nicely. But since he wants a smaller school, peers will be important. His high school is diverse in many ways as are his friends. A college with intellectual diversity is okay, if he could find peers somewhere (maybe within math/computer science major?). However it sounds like we may need to ask some questions or get further information if he likes what he hears/sees on the tour.

    How do families deal with this type of situation of finding intellectual peers? So many families in our area go to one of our state schools, we have several to choose from, and I would expect anyone could find their intellectual peers. My son doesn't want a large public school (note he thinks even 14,000 students is large), nor does it fit him. We can afford a private with merit, can't afford $40,000-$70,000 per year. Thus looking for a large list of schools, including hidden gems, and asking for help from the great people on CC :)
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 14,569 Senior Member
    One think to be very careful of at the small schools is the course offerings. If your son is interested in STEM classes, will the school offer enough at the jr/sr level? We found this to be an issue at the very small (1000-2500) unless they were part of a consortium which basically made the school larger, or at tech schools. A few schools were just too small to offer multiple upper level math AND physics AND chemistry. Many classes listed in the catalogs were only offered once a year, or even once every other year.

    My D is at a school on the smaller side (3500) and now that she's in more specialized classes for engineering, most of her courses only have one section (smallest engineering department, civil). I think she's getting a little tired of seeing the same students over and over, same professors for several courses (one she doesn't like that much). At a larger school, she would have had more choices.
  • VAOptimistVAOptimist Registered User Posts: 142 Junior Member
    From what you describe, Lafayette would be a great fit in terms of peers, STEM and great campus life, but I'm not sure he'd get enough merit. If he likes it, worth a try so long as you have other affordable options.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,019 Senior Member
    Someone mentioned F&M downthread. No merit aid. They ended that about three or four years ago.

    Not at all in the geogrpahic area, but the best hidden gem of all has to be Whitman in Walla Walla, WA. Whitman has legions of devoted fans on CC. Good merit aid. It makes Princeton Review's list of happiest students. Not very Greek. Getting there isn't particualrly easy, but they have a fly out program for qualifying students.

    You have much more opportunity when you expand your geographic horizons.
  • surfcitysurfcity Registered User Posts: 1,949 Senior Member
    edited March 19
    Ursinus is not remote. It is in a suburban location - there is a big shopping center 2 miles away with a DSW, Wegmans, Michael's, Olive Garden, etc. The King of Prussia mall is now the largest indoor mall in the USA and it is only 20 minutes away. Downtown Philly is less than an hour (unless you travel at rush hour)

    I reserve the term remote for places that are hours away from a major city or even basic shopping.

    Greek life is all local, there are no national fraternities or sororities AFAIK. Some chapters may have housing in an on campus house, but it is not your typical Greek frat housing.

    I do know Ursinus is strong in certain areas and does send a fair number of kids to med/dental/DO/law schools.

    I do prefer Muhlenberg to Ursinus personally - the students at Muhlenberg seem very friendly and engaged and I believe it may be a notch higher in "intellectual peers."
  • MACmiracleMACmiracle Registered User Posts: 969 Member
    I'm curious if kids from NJ or PA would be of interest from the perspective of geographic diversity, only because it's a dense region whose people wind up everywhere. If my D would be appreciated for that somewhere, I'd be inclined to widen my search.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 3,212 Senior Member
    Yes, @MACmiracle , kids from NJ and PA are interesting to schools outside the region. There are tons of excellent schools that have traditionally been somewhat regional that are happy for geodiversity. It's a great strategy.
  • jcmom716jcmom716 Registered User Posts: 328 Member
    We did read some of the schools are looking for geodiversity, including a few on our tour. We are not from PA or NJ and my son is willing to branch out. Besides one or two schools he really seemed to like in the west, we have been sticking to states in the mid-west, PA, and possibly NY as they seem to offer the best in merit. @MACmiracle we searched "strategic plan xxxxx college" or similar and found if geographical diversity was part of their goals.

    @Lindagaf My son had received information from Whitman and really liked what he saw. However he read somewhere (I think he said Princeton book) that is was about 40% male Greek participation? Between that and the merit scholarships look to be up to $15,000 without need, it would put annual costs about $45,000 per year and we are looking closer to $30,000-35,000. Are there other scholarships available, maybe competitive ones? He really wanted to include on his list and would love to hear if it's more affordable. It does seem to be a hidden gem!

    @surfcity Thanks for the information! I hope to book hotel reservations today for the upcoming trip. We tour Muhlenberg in the morning and Ursinus in the afternoon so was thinking stay in Allentown or Bethlehem. Any advice on hotel/where to stay?
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,019 Senior Member
    edited March 19
    My D, who was very anti-Greek life, applied to Whitman last year and determined that Greek Life wasn't dominant. It does only get a B+ on Niche, and 71% of students say "it's average, no one will treat you differently if you don't join". I do know that everyone lives on campus. Sounds like the issue for you is cost. The largest scholarship last year was $15k. I don't know if there are other scholarships.

    Not to downplay your son's achievements at all, but his ACT score, while great, is probably not quite high enough to get the very top merit scholarships at schools that are generous with merit. He does of course need good grades too. As a comparison, my D was offered several good merit awards. Her score was about 34 equivalent on the old SAT. She was offered the 15k scholarship at Whitman. She was offered 15k also at Dickinson. I know that D'son had larger scholarships available, and there were students with really stellar stats who were offered them. It might help that he is male,of course. I just tell you this to make you aware.

    The really big merit awards at many LACs tend to go to kids with stellar stats. I haven't seen your son's GPA, apologies if it is in this thread. Kenyon has a few merit awards, and they are offered to those who are really on target for top-caliber colleges. My D was offered not a penny there. Much does depend on the endowment. Some less-selective colleges do give higher awards. Your son could consider Clark University. My D, as an example, was offered 20k at Clark.

    IME, with his test scores and not knowing his grades, I think he will have a difficult time getting extremely generous merit awards, but I could be wrong. You might want to look at U Alabama and some other colleges that offer full tuition for kids with certain GPAs and test scores.It's this one:
  • surfcitysurfcity Registered User Posts: 1,949 Senior Member
    @jcmom716 NO specific advice on where to stay in Allentown/Bethlehem as we live about an hour away so have not had to book hotels there. I can offer opinions on hotels near Ursinus. It's about an hour or maybe less between the 2 schools.
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 3,099 Senior Member
    The reality is that to get merit to bring those LAC's into your target price range, your student will need to be in the upper quartile of accepted students. Schools that will have more "peers" will offer merit but will likely put you in that 40K range, not mid or lower 30's.

    While I'd agree that Muhlenberg might have more peers, their top award is 20K so will be outside of your budget. Conversely, Ursinus would offer 30K, Allegheny likely 26-28 (and they have a lower COA).

    You'll have to choose where to compromise. Whitman, while an amazing school, is unlikely to offer enough to be in your budget. West and east coast LAC's will generally offer less than the midwest or more remote counterparts. Bear in mind too that one tour guide or student info session leader can really skew a schools impression. We had a very different impression on our Ursinus tour based on our 2 students and frankly at all schools, the faculty interaction and sitting in on a class, observing the overall vibe at lunchtime, in the library, walking around campuses was more beneficial than any student meeting/tour guide etc.
  • GatormamaGatormama Registered User Posts: 747 Member
    Hotel Bethlehem, @jcmom716 - it's the best place to stay. It's in Bethlehem (doh) and Muhlenberg is not, but Moravian is in Bethlehem (as is Lehigh) and Lafayette is 10 minutes east on Route 22 and Muhlenberg is 15-20 minutes west on Route 22. IMPORTANT NOTE: Those times are meaningless at rush hour. There is a construction bottleneck headed west on Route 22 over the Lehigh River, so if you have a 9 am appointment at Muhlenberg, leave at 8, just to be safe. (There are back ways to avoid all this, but I'm not about to get you lost :)
    The Hotel Bethlehem isn't the cheapest place to stay, but it's gorgeous, and you're in downtown Bethlehem, which has great bars, restaurants and shops to noodle around in, plus some stunning old homes from the 17/1800s.
  • jcmom716jcmom716 Registered User Posts: 328 Member
    @Lindagaf and @eandesmom Thank you and yes, agree on both! We are realistic on budget and he understands he will be contributing if his choice goes above budget. It's been hard to estimate a total cost as my daughter is a freshman in college now. We think we will get need for one or two years, at least according to the NPC's but amounts change depending on the college. It may end up my son is paying $5,000-$6,000 per year. Luckily we have time, although I can't imagine what next year at this time will be like! And agree our son isn't stellar, no great EC's, just a nice kid with strong test scores (I noted 32+, it was a 34), and PSAT which might reach NMSF, will have to wait and see. His GPA has a strong upward trend and may be top 5% by end of this year with several honors and AP's. We are not a family that discusses test scores and ranks with others, thus didn't feel right saying too much here. Plus I am really hoping others reading will get benefits that will help their journey.

    My college roommate was on a full tuition scholarship, double major in math and computer science. She was a great person, very intelligent, and had many job opportunities when she graduated. The only problem was she didn't enjoy herself. Part of it was she had a boyfriend at home (whom she eventually married), part was she didn't have many intellectual peers and didn't care to be part of Greek life. I was in a sorority and while a strong student, not in the top 2% as she was. When I hear my son say he's not interested in Greek life (not opposed to it being on campus though and he may change his mind as I did), I think of my college roommate and worry. I am sure if we continue with casting a wide net, he will find the right one. This forum as already opened up new possibilities and very thankful :) Anyone have thoughts on any other possibilities, even if we open up to a few other states?

    @Gatormama Very glad you mentioned the construction! We will take that into consideration and start looking into Bethlehem hotels!! With others mentioning Lafayette, Moravian, York, and University of Scranton, we are deciding if we can add one into this tour.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,019 Senior Member
    I don't think anyone here wants to snoop in regards to your son's stats. You are looking for max merit money, and if you tell us his GPA and test scores, it helps people here give you better advice. The students with the very highest grades and test scores get the most merit money, simple as that. Colleges don't award merit aid based on ECs, though there may be many specific scholarships awarded for certain talents, etc...

    There is a pinned post here on the parents forum that lists many colleges that give excellent merit aid. There are some colleges that will make kids apply for scholarships. Make a post on the financial aid and scholarship forum for more specific suggestions, but you will get better suggestions if people know what the two main variables are.
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