Any colleges we're not thinking of?

Wesleyan -
A nationally reconized research center:
Home | Wesleyan Media Project

Influential Alumni:
Robert Allbritton - Wikipedia

Two Elected Members of the Senate:
John Hickenlooper Used to Be Michael Bennet’s Boss - The New York Times (

Among The Top Ten Medium-Sized Colleges in NE:
WSJ: Wesleyan Among Top 10 Mid-Sized Colleges in NE - Colleges and Universities / Wesleyan University - College Confidential Forums - Admissions Discussions and Threads

Ohio State “mid sized”, what ?? Great school but cannot be listed with the others … completely different. Maybe I missed something above.


No you’re right. Wasn’t thinking. Classic campus and school spirit checks boxes though.

1 Like

What’s your budget?

Richmond and UVA came to mind first. Maybe NC State. Schools in Boston should be on the list. I would think being near a state capital/large city wouldn’t be a bad option for politics.

That is for sure :+1:

  1. As much as he has time, I’d have him focus as much as possible on improving SAT to increase his chances both for admissions and any possible merit aid he might be eligible to receive. Khan Academy has excellent math resources and lots of instructional things on youtube, reddit, etc.
    Official SAT® Practice | Khan Academy

  2. He’ll want to ask letter of recommendation (LOR) writers before the school year ends so they have a few months to work on it. He can work to prepare his LOR packet for them now and he can ask them/send email requests maybe in late April or early May before things get too busy with finals.

  1. He’ll want to really look at his extracurriculars, if he’s chasing any merit money, to see if there is anything he needs to shore up before applying in a few months. Not a lot of time, but it would be good for him to create his list of activities and see how they align with his passions/interests in college (political science).

  2. It’s never too early to start working on essays and I’d encourage him, as his time allows, to start thinking about these. Lots of sites online that give tips about essays and personal statements including If he starts to jot down ideas, thoughts, etc. now, he can continue to craft them into essays over the summer. Most colleges (not all) use similar prompts each year and the common app there is a simulate option where you can see last year’s app (don’t fill out anything, but can be used for approximate planning and for copying key prompts). It can save a lot of stress in the fall to work on essays in spring and summer. It can also be a fun time to gather information from close friends and family to help bring him self-awareness about himself and what they value in him and acknowledge in him as a friend/family member.

  3. Because of COVID-19, it’s now possible to do online synchronous information sessions/tours and often asynchronous tours, too at colleges. This wasn’t possible even a couple of years ago (only some colleges offered). This is an amazing opportunity that I suggest high school students (especially freshman, sophomore, and juniors) take advantage of as they explore options. With my nephew we explored well over 70 schools via these online information sessions and that’s excessive for what most people may need, but it was very instructive as you get into a rhythm to be able to compare schools among each other. There are various sites that also have college fairs and panels with current students/alums/admissions staff, like
    These can be helpful:

  1. It’s helpful and important, when exploring schools, to look at a range of institution types, especially liberal arts colleges (LACs) and public research universities. And then even with public universities there can be R1 Carnegie level institutions and R2 level institutions (List of research universities in the United States - Wikipedia and Carnegie Classifications | Basic Classification). I think trying to do a range of information sessions with schools of various sizes is good due diligence because very few young people have been exposed to a range of different types of university environments.

  2. These info sessions, coupled with additional research (here on of course, but also browse through,,,,,,, youtube, reddit feeds for each school, student newspapers for each school, etc.). We took an aggregating approach to collect information from many different sources. The other wonderful thing that we really learned to navigate well, was the “common data set” (CDS) at each school. If you search online for the college’s name and then put cds after, it almost always will give you the link. Whenever possible, try to compare the same year among schools. My nephew and I (and his parents) regularly checked among all these sites for information. Together, it can help to paint a picture of each place and help to compare institutions. CC has been especially helpful reading through forums and experiences of parents, students, alums, and AOs.

  3. Explore if he’ll be a serious candidate or not for any possible merit money. We actually started our exploration list here with list of merit schools because he was a good candidate for merit aid and so he combed through these lists and went to information sessions on schools that he was interested in learning more about:

  1. Money. Make sure to fill out the net price calculator (NPC) at as many schools as you’re willing to get an idea of approximate costs for school. This can be a great way to differentiate among schools and to find gems that you might have missed. has a great blog and many helpful articles at understanding how to navigate financial aid. Also, make sure you as parents plan to fill out FAFSA (and CSS, if needed) as close to the beginning of October as possible. It’s also important to look at how solid schools are financially so whenever possible, checking Moody’s is helpful. This document is big, but can be helpful to browse through for more information about financial health of institutions: US Higher Education: Value vs. Vulnerability - Google Sheets
    This is another site to try to assess financial well-being of an institution:

  2. For Political Science, it can be helpful to browse through these:

  1. He can also explore what types of internships are available at local, state, and federal level for government institutions and explore if a college has any special programs or centers that focus on government.

  2. As the list gets narrowed down, make sure to explore the career service opportunities of a given school. It’s really amazing how some schools now offer lifetime access to career services and others it is only while in school. That can be a really nice additional perk. If you can find out, it’s helpful to know how many students in a given department/major had jobs after graduation and any granular level detail about that (such as employers) if possible, but may be hard to find depending upon what a school releases. But usually can ask about this to the department or admissions.

  3. If he hasn’t already, I’d suggest creating a google spreadsheet that you can use together as a family to make notes (esp. after info sessions when fresh) and input information you find from online research. Like everything with this process, make sure he “owns” this document and be responsible for tending it, but you can add feedback/comments to it, especially during the exploration process for schools. The spreadsheet my nephew used had several tabs and one tab was just deadlines. There are so many tasks and deadlines to manage so it’s helpful keeping track of it all in one place. Another tab had a list of schools he wanted to explore via information sessions and various websites.

  4. All of this can overload an email inbox so it can be helpful to use a dedicated college application email for all these sites, info sessions, college mailing lists, common app application, etc. Just make sure to use the same email throughout the process so that things like demonstrated interest can be correlated with your son correctly.

  5. Finally, as he gets to narrow down possible schools into his list (make sure to have enough safety, targets, and reach schools), then he can really dive in and see if there are opportunities for open houses with department faculty/students, alums, etc.

  6. As time allows between now and when he begins college, it can be very helpful if he schedules 15-30 minute information interviews with people in careers he’s considering (in this case, law). Encourage him to do as many as possible. He can send a professional and succinct email to attorneys (or other professions he’s curious about) asking if he can set up time to talk to them briefly to find out about their career. During these calls, the goal is for him to be curious and inquire about what the day-to-day/week-to-week actual life of someone in that profession is. This is to help give more real world anecdotes and information from people actually doing the job he’s thinking about so that he isn’t basing it on misperceptions from TV/movies/Internet/books. I think young people could save a lot of hassle if they did more informational interviews.

  7. You already have children in school so you likely already know all of this above. Sorry to write so much, but all this is fresh on my mind. I really loved the exploration process over the past couple of years with my nephew. It can be stressful for the students with the various tasks/deadlines, but it’s also exciting and fun to think about all the possibilities. It’s a wonderful time to imagine and think through future opportunities. The process itself was enjoyable, no matter the outcomes. And especially the past year with the pandemic, I didn’t get to see my nephew in-person as I usually was able, so this was a great way to regularly connect while he went through his college exploration/application process.


Regarding size constraints, note that the OP currently “wants a medium to large college,” a preference that may extend to include OSU.

S18 applied to a bunch of those colleges (he applied for PoliSci, he’s now doing public affairs). Of the east coast options like GWU, American and W&M, he actually preferred UVA, which definitely had more school spirit too. Though in the end he stayed in CA and got a summer internship in DC instead (unfortunately virtual due to COVID).

I agree with the concept of looking in state capitals where you can be close to the action, and you might look further afield for that too, for example state flagships in TX or UT.

UMD is 30 minutes out of D.C., great poli sci and is a big 10 school, so lots of school spirit. UW Madison is known for their political science department as well.

My teen also wanted a medium-large size school with a great campus spirit. Northeastern was just an odd ball in the mix, and now it’s become their #1 choice amongst their list of acceptances!

NU’s hefty merit $, acceptance into Honors program, flexibility of trying out majors & doing combined majors, and the fantastic coop program to create a solid work resume even before graduating were big factors. There won’t be traditional school spirit, but we think kids can have a good time anywhere, especially in a city like Boston.

My point is, it’s ok to have one or two odd schools in the mix. Your student’s mind could change in 6 months.

Good luck!

1 Like

Might be too small, but thinking of Denison Lugar, Dickinson, URichmond, Wake Forest for poli sci, policy, govt in particular.

1 Like

A lot of this could be dependent on how you define medium and how important the drive is, but 8-10 hours would open up a few other medium to large schools with good poly sci programs and school spirit, like U Michigan, PSU, Cornell.

What about Vassar? Any comments on the school spirit here? I visited it briefly with my daughter a few years ago when she was looking at Marist, but it wasn’t an official visit. It looks gorgeous and is highly rated for both Political Science and Public Policy. Are they good with the merit aid?

Vassar is very good with need-based aid, but AFAIK doesn’t offer merit aid.

1 Like

UVA jumped out to me immediately. Sounds like a great fit to me.

So it’s been a few weeks and we’ve added/subtracted and even visited a few colleges informally. We live near DC so yesterday we went to DC and walked around American, GW, and Georgetown- completely on our own, no tour or anything like that. It was actually an interesting experience. He was extremely unimpressed by American. There was nothing that made it stand out, and there was no little street or anything that had fast food, pizza, or any “college type” stuff off campus. I know the students are mainly home due to covid, but it seemed extra dead. Surprisingly he really liked GW. I didn’t think he would, due to location, but the students we saw were very friendly and helpful, and he liked the hustle and bustle. A lot of them were wearing GW shirts. He also loved the Georgetown campus but it was our last stop and we ran through it really fast. So now he has GW, Georgetown, UMD, William and Mary, UPenn, Brown and (ha, ha) University of Chicago on his list. He got some info from them and for some reason it resonated with him and it is actually the one he is looking at most. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in smaller colleges but I am going to have him at least look at a couple of small schools to be sure- he said he would look at Vassar, Bowdoin, and Macalester. I’m really hoping some of these schools open up for tours soon or we are going to have a very busy fall! Some we won’t go to unless he gets in, but some are close enough we can look at them. Just thought I’d give an update to his thoughts.


So after spending A LOT of time on the computer this weekend and doing all the NPC, it has become apparent we aren’t getting any need based aid, so it looks like UMD is the place to be for him!! Seriously, we can’t justify $70,000 with no merit aid. So I hate to limit him to one school, even though this seems to be a great option- top 25 school and in-state tuition that we can afford. Are there any schools that aren’t top tier that might offer merit aid that have a decent political science department?? Just so he has at least a few other schools to look at. Possibly University of Vermont? A smaller LAC? We looked at Wisconsin, but it looks like they also do not offer much, if any, merit aid. I am avoiding Southern schools- mainly because they tend to be Greek life focused and he is not into that at all, and because as a rule they tend to lean conservative and I don’t know if he’d be happy there. However, I have nothing against the South, so if you have any schools that the social life doesn’t depend heavily on Greek life we would be open to suggestions.
And I forgot, he was looking at the Naval Academy at one point, but then discarded it. Maybe we can have him re-examine it.

1 Like

Kalamazoo is excellent for poli-sci and has good merit. Less merit for Dickinson College but still there are some possibilities. Clark University if he has something for the LEEP scholarship program.
American has merit aid (you have to apply to the Honors program I think).


@Scrapgirl3 , what about Miami of Ohio? They offer really good merit scholarships, and it fits his criteria of 8-10 hour drive and medium to large school. Undergraduate teaching is supposedly very good.

Save your money for law school.

1 Like

I don’t know much about merit aid at larger schools, but you will find that some LACs just below the very top tier are quite generous. Take a look at Denison if he is willing to consider an LAC. Denison has a very strong Politics and Public Affairs department, and the Lugar program offers congressional internships. About | Lugar Program The History department is also terrific. Denison is generous with merit for the students they want. Typically, as soon as Denison is mentioned on CC, someone will mention that there is greek life on campus, so I’ll just try and head that off at the pass here. There are fraternities, but they are nonresidential and not a dominant factor on campus. My son is at Denison and has no interest in joining a fraternity, although both of his roommates are in a frat. It hasn’t been an issue at all, and he loves the school. Denison is small but has a beautiful campus and a lot of school spirit. It is a half hour outside Columbus, the state capital, which might also be of interest to someone interested in politics.