Just adding, admissions at Denison has changed in the last 5 years -- over 8000 applications this year. Last year's acceptance rate was 37%; middle 50% of ACT scores for HS class of '16 was 28-32, and for HS class of '17, it was 27-32.
That being said, it is test optional and gives merit awards to test optional applicants. It does not have EA, only ED1 and 2 and RD.
An EA acceptance from Wooster, Earlham, Beloit or Lawrence etc. can go a long way to reduce the nervousness of the spring of senior year. Wooster's online merit award predictor actually gets reviewed by people, with a letter going out several weeks later -- I had assumed it was just an online form with an instant answer. My kid's EA merit at Wooster was higher than predicted.
Packaging, to me, is about finding the common links across a student's high school record/activities, to tell a coherent story about who they are and what do they bring to a campus. For my LAC kid, we knew that many schools he was interested in valued diversity. Well, as another upper middle class white male, he was not adding a lot there. BUT -- he could tell a story, in his essay and in the way he framed his experiences for his recommenders - about how he could contribute in a positive way to a campus which valued diversity. So, we reverse engineered his essay -- what did he want to convey about himself, and what he would contribute to campus -- and then brainstormed how he could tell that story in a funny, engaging way. Similarly, he emphasized to his teachers and guidance counselors, in his "brag sheets" what he could contribute. We didn't impose a false narrative -- we looked at what his actual strengths were, and talked about how to communicate that, consistently.
I suggest being thoughtful about what the schools' identified themes/priorities -- what do they emphasize in their mailings, website etc? And think about how your student could contribute to that community.
First -- welcome! Second -- breathe. Denison is test optional, and gives merit awards to test optional kids. Wooster requires scores, but my kid who turned out to be a miserable standardized test taker submitted his scores to Wooster and still got substantial merit award. The beauty of holistic admissions is that it really is holistic -- the whole kid. I think the fact that my kid's portfolio told a story -- from his essay to his recs -- about what kind of kid he was (not at the front of the pack, but a kind, thoughtful person who got along well with all kinds of people) helped with merit. So, for a student who is genuine, and makes the effort to connect, and understand the culture of a school, there are wonderful options. You might also take a look at Earlham, test optional, and just across the Ohio/Indiana border.