How many kids are in their class? 15? 20? 25? Think about how long it would take for the teacher to make sure that each child is zipped up, has her mittens, etc etc at the end of the day. And by time she gets to the end of the class, how many kids would have decided they were too warm and unzipped their jackets, etc. Is this really how you want them to spend a big chunk of their school day? Trying to get a class full of 6 year olds zipped up? Because if it’s the teacher's responsibility for your girls, it’s the teacher's responsibility for the whole class.
Their big sister can spend the five minutes. Or just say "let’s go." When they get cold enough they’ll put their jackets on or zip them up.
WPI's humanities and arts requirement is more than he wants to have to do. Northeastern requires courses that cover creative expression, culture, ethical reasoning etc, etc. and he’s not interested. This is a kid who would be happy to take 4 years worth of STEM courses with maybe an Econ class and a possibly a linguistics class. What look like moderate and fairly flexible gen ed classes to most people look unpleasant to him.
While I’m a big liberal arts person and think there’s a lot to be said for real breadth, I’m also sympathetic. I only fulfilled my Natural Science and Mathematics distribution expectation (gotta love Wesleyan) because my advisor basically told me I had to. Two classes: calculus and philosophy of science. So I’m not going to argue with him about this.
There’s no question that there are plenty of smart kids at Binghamton or any other state flagship. But the spread of ability and seriousness about academics is just wider at Binghamton than, say, at Wesleyan. Early in the process, I asked my son if he preferred a college filled with his academic peers, somewhere where everyone was as smart as the smartest kids in his high school class or a college more like his high school, where he would almost always be in the top 10-20% of kids in the room. He wants the school filled with his academic peers. And if I was going to suggest a state flagship with maybe an eye towards an honors college, I’d suggest UMass, which has a very well respected CS department. Actually, I did suggest it, but he doesn’t like the gen ed requirements. (If only he could get into Brown. Oh, well.)
Some CS majors are ABET accredited, but most of the ones he’s looking at don’t seem to be. This fits with what I’ve read on CC, that the accreditation isn’t important in CS the way it is in engineering programs.
We did a tour at Rochester and I remember walking by Wegman's Hall, but don’t know if we went in. He'll be back in the fall for an overnight and interview and I’ll suggest he see it then. (Slightly funny story - I was looking at a campus map before I took him up to visit last fall and saw there was a building marked Wegman's. So I said to my son, "Oh, look, there’s a Wegman’s supermarket right on campus. That’s unusual, but very convenient." I didn’t realize my mistake until we were on the tour.)
Another thing to think about in narrowing your list is how you feel about general education requirements. Most schools want your undergraduate education to have both breadth (taking classes across various disciplines) and depth (your major). But there are very different approaches to this. On one end of the spectrum is Columbia, with its core currriculum, which prescribes specific classes that take up nearly 2 years worth of classes. The other end of the spectrum is Brown, with its open curriculum. You have to complete a major, but otherwise are free to take whatever you want. Most schools are somewhere in between. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. If you have a preference (some people do, some don’t), you should look at the requirements of various schools. You can generally find the requirements by poking around a school's website, checking on graduation requirements or searching for terms like distribution requirements or general education requirements.
Pretty much every school is going to have sports teams and parties. The question is how much sports and drunken idiocy dominate the social life of the school. But don’t assume that being an athlete or liking drinking are incompatible with serious intellectual interests. You’ll probably want a school with no Greek life or low levels of participation.
I’d quibble a bit with a couple of descriptions of schools above. I don’t think Yale's reputation is for being preprofessional, which is not to say that it doesn’t send plenty of people on to professional schools. University of Pennsylvania's reputation is for being extremely preprofessional (ie, lots of people knowing what job they want or feeling pressured to know and lots of decisions about everything from classes to EC's being made with an eye towards their resumes) and for being the social ivy, lots of parties, lots of emphasis on having a very busy social life. It’s certainly a great school and you can get a terrific education, but I suspect it’s not the school for you.
I would urge you to get your hands on a book called The Fiske Guide to Colleges. Each year they survey students about many of the factors that make up the environment of each school and do a write up. It has a reputation for accuracy. This will help you get a sense of what each school is like beyond what you can tell from numerical data. Of course, visiting is even better, but that will obviously be hard for you. And if you do manage a trip here to visit schools, it will help narrow things down for that.
I went to Wesleyan in the 80's, when it was a bit smaller than it is now and I found it plenty big. Of course what’s too small and what’s too big are very individual tastes, but even a small school of say 2000 undergrads is going to feel big after your secondary school.
Use rankings like US News and World Report, not as the gospel about which school is "best" or because there’s some important difference between #10 and #15, but as a general check to make sure you’re not overlooking any schools with good reputations that you want to learn about. Chances are there are some excellent schools that you’ve never heard of.
I’m a former tax lawyer. I have set up not-for-profits. Setting up a not-for-profit is complicated and time consuming, as are the required ongoing state and federal requirements. There are companies that will do it for you, but it’s going to cost a good chunk of money. Also, while I haven’t looked, I’d be surprised if minors are allowed to incorporate or be board members or officers of a corporation, even a not-for-profit corporation.
Further, what are you, a sophomore or a junior? What are your plans for this entity once you leave for college?