Advice on college list for high stats applicant-Thanks!

Why? Both are on my S24’s list. Just curious as to what we are missing.

Congrats. The list seems balanced to me. I’m guessing multiples will happen including W&M.

If she likes Emory, how about Vandy ? Warner than WUSTL and rated higher than both the others in your field - at least based on the attached. And U of Miami as a mid-size warm school that will be a tad easier admit than most on your list - as a just in case.

I agree Swat stands out as not belonging although I loved the small campus (son didn’t)

Best of luck.

Have experience with Richmond and Dickinson from this cycle. Move Richmond to Target unless you apply ED. Dickinson should be likely with good merit.


Basics include Brown has 4x the number of undergrads and an open curriculum. Swat has quite a few distribution requirements, including PE and a swimming test.

Swat is academically rigorous and intense, and many of the students will fit those characteristics. First semester grades are pass/fail.

Brown is not a pressure cooker environment and student tend to be relatively more social, laid back, extroverted. Brown grads have high GPAs on average.

I am not saying one school is better than the other, nor am I saying the schools are only made up of one type of student. Swat is what I call a fit school, and most students know if it’s a fit or not by visiting, reading the school newspaper, and other typical research activities.


Swat is very very much a “fit” school. It has it’s own intensely intellectual vibe, and ime students know really fast if it ‘feels’ right to them or not. On the other hand, ime a broader range of students feel that Brown is a good ‘fit’ for them, and imo Brown’s affect is almost the opposite of ‘intense’. Both schools have very smart students who are willing and able to work hard, but the campus cultures are really, really different.


I’d consider adding back Cornell and Dartmouth, even if they are “very cold and pretty remote,” because they are superb schools with strong programs in environmental science/ecology/evolutionary biology and being able to make the case for why that school’s academic programs/strengths are right for her is a real advantage.

I’d also consider some top small liberal arts colleges with excellent environmental studies programs, such as Middlebury, Amherst, Pomona, and Colby (all better than Vassar’s, I believe).

Judging by the results for the latest round of applicants, your daughter’s exceptional stats are no longer exceptional — crazy as it sounds, she’ll be up against innumerable others with similar stats and it’s not impossible that she could be rejected or waitlisted by every name on your reach and target list. All of which is a long way of saying she may want to expand her list of target schools without worrying too much about climate at this stage.


Your daughter should consider submitting a music supplement to all that will take one, including Harvard, Princeton, Duke, and WashU.

She has roughly six months to perfect just 7-15 minutes of repertoire, and a supplement (as long as it’s strong) shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile and that’ll you’ll bring something to campus that not all the other 4.0/36s will.


Your schools scoir / naviance / GC- or just your own read as to who got into where from this years class- will give you the best read on the fanciest names. Note that her list is pretty much the standard high-achieving mid-atlantic kid list, and to me is like the kid who says they want to be a doctor / lawyer- they are just names of things they have been told is what smart / successful people do.

Have her research just the environmental science end of colleges, so that she knows which schools have the strongest programs- that are interesting to her! Some of those will be high-end names, others will not, but she should be able to group them by how much each specific program appeals to her- and why. She should be able to tell you why the program at X is better than the program at Y (as a bonus, this will help with the ‘why us’ essays). She should be getting to know who the big academic names are in her field, and who is doing research that is interesting to her. She will discover that some of the biggest names are not in the most famous name colleges.

If at all possible, encourage her to make a policy (starting now!) to keep her thinking on colleges private. At the very least never indicate to anybody (other than maybe you!) what her first choice/favorite or (much worse!) “dream” school is. Instead, share what she is learning about env sci programs, and keep people guessing as to what direction she might go.

For example, the BSc in Environmental Science at Wageningen University (Netherlands) is ranked in the top 5 Env Sci programs in the world- but if she has good results from APs in Calc, Physics & Chemistry she is almost certain to get an offer. It’s a 3 year program, with an option 4th year for a Masters. It’s a wild card- but interesting to think about. A whole lot of the college is this processing of pushing through the simplistic ‘that’s a good name’ to ‘what is that I am looking for beyond the bumper sticker’.

tl;dr- Focusing on programs that she really likes will broaden her list beyond the typical mid-atlantic shortlist and improve her apps- and thus increase the chances of a happy outcome


What about “Little Ivies” like Amherst, Williams, Tufts, Middlebury, Wesleyan et al …Amherst and Hamilton are similar to Brown in the freer curriculum.
Little Ivies - Wikipedia

I also like the Colleges that Change Lives schools- see the website.

Only do a music supplement if talent and commitment warrant it, otherwise it can be a negative. Generally music supplements include a recording/video, a music resume, and a letter or two of recommendation related to music.

She is busy. Make sure she gets enough sleep :slight_smile:

I agree. None of those schools are safeties. UNC seems safe-ish, as an instate student. No true safety on the list though.

Most of the targets are reaches. Emory is a reach. Vassar is a reach, especially for a female.

If your child is considering Vassar and Swarthmore, Dickinson and Richmond, others can be considered. What about Haverford, or some of the NESCACs? This list is reach heavy.

Please don’t think I am being harsh. Your D is a great student and will certainly have good choices, but I’m not seeing anything that makes her a standout. I’d say she is an “average” excellent student. But there are many factors that can make her stand out, including great teacher recommendations and essays.

I suggest getting a Fiske guide and using Niche to figure out what she likes about all these schools. She will need solid reasons for her “why this college?” essays. She needs more match schools and at least one true safety.

Edit: to clarify, a lot of these colleges have under 20% acceptance rates and high yield rates. IMO, any college with an acceptance rate in the 20% range or below is a reach. Dickinson an Richmond are matches.


@gmf001 please read this linked thread. It’s old…from 2007…but is on point…and admissions have become more competitive since 2006 when this story started. As a forward….the student was a NMF, top student at his high school, award winner, top SAT scores, etc. He got no acceptances (and yes, @ucbalumnus will remind me that he really had no sure things on his list the first time). No one expected this outcome for such a very strong student.

He did land on his feet quite well after taking a gap year…but let’s just say…the last part of his senior year of high school wasn’t a happy time.

Please read…and think about those safety sure thing schools…

If I may add one thing - in the past week I’ve heard a UC Berkeley attendee turned down at SDSU.

And an MIT attendee WL at BU.

We could debate why this happened but no one truly knows.

What tells me is when the best and brightest need a safety.

My guess is that is Dickinson and others like Richmond and W&M will likely get in as noted. And I think Miami, if you decided to look, would be a sensible likely.

But the lesson to me, from the last week anyway, is one can never be 100% assured anymore.

The other lesson we see regularly is that an OP has to settle for the safety or likely and then is upset about it, deeming those schools not worthy.

Please make sure your daughter would be happy attending each and every school that she applies to.

Best of luck. I look forward to watching the journey.


I’m with @Lindagaf here. Let others debate the viability/allure of the reaches ( Tulane’s a top 50 for enviro (according to Niche) if you want another thought.) I like locking in the bottom of the list.

Find the best state school that is known for enviro studies that you feel confident that she will be admitted. U Florida is #25 for enviro - research uni, warmer weather, with her stats she SHOULD get admitted. NC State is #46. Again, these are schools she most certainly should get in to and solidify her worst-case scenarios.

Your kid sounds like an absolute rock star who should receive an acceptance from one of the reaches/targets. She has clearly worked hard enough to reach for the stars. Just lock in a couple of likely schools - this whole college admittance dynamic which used to change from decade-to-decade now appears to be evolving from year-to-year.


Richmond’s acceptance rate is below 20% for RD. Watch what decision round you’re targeting if you apply. We realized too late the huge gap.


Take a look at McGill. They love high-stats kids. Note that the prices are in Canadian dollars so be sure to convert to USD.

1 Like

Amherst and Wesleyan have slightly better gender parity:

Amherst M- 50% F- 50%
Wesleyan M- 49% F- 51%*

Hamilton M- 46% F- 54%*

*Class of 2026

Congratulations to your daughter on all of her accomplishments in high school so far. I suspect she will receive a number of offers from colleges next year. That said, I agree that there doesn’t appear to be a sure thing on this list…there are some likelies, but nothing that feels extremely likely to occur. Based on the increasing competitiveness in admissions (in part due to students applying to so many more schools), I’d want to lock down one or two sure things as well that your daughter would be happy to attend (she can prefer other schools on her list, but if this school (or schools) ends up as her only acceptance, she should still be looking forward to attending college there).

Some schools your family may want to consider are:

  • Elon (NC): About 6300 undergrads
  • Florida Southern: About 2800 undergrads
  • Rhodes (TN): About 2100 undergrads
  • Salisbury (MD): About 6700 undergrads
  • Stetson (FL): About 2900 undergrads
  • Susquehanna (PA ): About 2200 undergrads

Almost forgot two of your in-state publics, UNC-Asheville (about 3200 undergrads) and UNC-Wilmington (about 14k undergrads) would be great possibilities!


Painful though it may be to hear, the one thing the top colleges are not looking for are smart kids, especially unhooked and from an over-represented locality. I suggest she evaluates her targets and safeties as carefully as her reaches, and understand that rejections do not constitute judgment of ability


In that case, you should be changing your list.

Forget about Brown, Swarthmore, Rice, and Emory.

Replace Swarthmore with Amherst or one of the more environmental NESCACS (Middlebury, Colby, Bates, or Bowdoin), or Colorado College.

I really think that she should reconsider Cornell.

Harvard is good is she really likes evolutionary biology, in which case, Chicago should be added to the list. If she’s not interested in the evolutionary part, than it comes off.

Yale is up and coming - a decade ago I would have hesitated to recommend it, but it looks like a good place for people who are interested in field ecology.

William and Mary is OOS, so replace it with U Michigan, as long as you are dealing with OOS admission rates and tuition…

NCSU should be on that list.

As a safety, SUNY ESF.

What does she want to do in the future? If she is thinking of working for the government or a non-profit, I would change the list slightly. If she wants to go into academia, the LACs are good.

Next question: what part of ecology/environmental science does she like? If she is interested in oceanography, that list will change, as it will if forestry interests her.


This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.