CC Wisdom on junior daughter's current college list

Would love to tap the collective wisdom on 1) whether I’ve accurately categorized the school’s currently on my daughter’s list, and 2) whether there are ideas for additional schools for her to consider that are not in the reach school category! I’d like to find some more options for safeties/targets for her that she could get excited about.

**Demographics: White Female

  • US citizen
  • State/Location of residency: Illinois
  • Type of high school: Suburban public

**Intended Major(s): Not sure yet - potentially business, or possibly something in the social sciences or humanities. Nothing STEM related.

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores
*Unweighted HS GPA: 3.89

  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.45
  • Class Rank: School doesn’t rank, but from the school report that is sent to colleges, admissions offices could extrapolate that she’s in the top 5%.
  • ACT/SAT Scores: PSAT score of 1420. No SAT yet. Didn’t do any prep prior to the PSAT so likely she’ll get something in the high 1400s on the SAT. Scheduled to take the SAT in June and will be doing some test prep this spring.

Will have ten APs by the time of graduation.
APUSH, AP English Lang, AP English Lit, AP French, AP Euro, AP Gov, AP Psych, AP CALC; AP Music Theory, AP Environmental Science

Awards: none as of this year

Heavy musical theatre involvement, choir (school choir and small a cappella group), Varsity Speech Team (three years by senior year- has placed in some competitions); significant part-time work experience starting sophomore year (hostess at a restaurant, and barista at a local coffee shop), takes dance classes; National Honors Society, political internship summer of 2021

Not written yet.

Cost Constraints / Budget: Can afford to send to any school and willing to pay if necessary. Would be nice to have some options with merit aid, but not required. Will not qualify for need-based aid.


  • Safety: ?
  • Likely: Fordham, Loyola Marymount, Maybe Elon, Maybe Indiana (Bloomington)
  • Match: Wake Forest, Occidental, American (would have to demonstrate a lot of interest), Maybe Lehigh, Maybe Wisconsin (Madison)
  • Reach: Barnard, Boston College, Northeastern, USC, Notre Dame (legacy), Tufts, Cornell (School of Hotel Administration)

She’s willing/interested in applying ED to the right school- right now that is Barnard, but she hasn’t seen several schools yet that could displace it at the top of her list.

Looking for whether my assessment of these schools as Likely, Matches, and Reaches seems accurate, or if I’m inflating (or deflating) her chances.

Also, looking for other suggestions. I know this list seems somewhat random, but here’s her thoughts right now in terms of what she’s looking for.

  1. Not sure yet what she wants to study, but possibly business, and loves what she’s learning of Cornell’s Hotel school, but also interested in social sciences or maybe even English. The only thing she knows for sure is no science, engineering, math.
  2. Would prefer to be in or near a city.
  3. Would prefer to be in a warmer place than Illinois (but OK with cold if other factors are there).
  4. Would prefer a larger school (not super interested in small LACs, but there are obviously a couple on her list - she’s toured both Occidental and Barnard and liked both of them very much).
  5. Would like there to be sports - preferably football. She likes that idea of that type of school spirit.
  6. Wants a school that at least has a small campus (she eliminated NYU after touring). So, no NYU, BU, George Washington, etc.
  7. Would prefer to not be in the Midwest, but pretty open to other parts of the country (and this is obviously not critical as she likes Notre Dame).
  8. She doesn’t want to major in theatre or music, but would love to find a school where she could get involved in musical theatre/choir and maybe an a cappella group.

None of these are hard and fast criteria - but the more any school fits the majority of these preferences the better. She’s visited, and likes: Fordham, Notre Dame, Occidental, Barnard. She’s visited, and didn’t like: Santa Clara University, University of Illinois, and NYU. We’re planning to visit Northeastern, Boston College, Tufts, Wake Forest, USC, and Loyola Marymount this summer.

In addition to thoughts on if I’ve assessed her chances at the schools currently on the list accurately, are there other school suggestions, especially in the safety/likely/target zone? We could obviously come up with many more reach schools that meet her criteria, but we’ve got plenty of those already!

Your list is quite reach-heavy. Wake is a reach, not a target/match. You might wish to peruse the current threads on college acceptances to have a better handle on the current context.


I would check out the Colleges that Change Lives website (and fairs). As an example, we really liked Clark.

Barnard seems like a great choice, and yes, reachy for anyone. Tufts has a very active music department. Any interest in other women’s colleges, like Smith or Wellesley?


Lehigh doesn’t make a lot of sense if she isn’t interred in STEM, though they do have a good business school. They are The Engineers, after all!

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Larger school in or near a city not in the Midwest: University of Washington (has a really early application deadline so watch for that).

Check out McGill in Montreal.

A safety may be University of Minnesota (city but midwestern…but cool city).

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You may want to research the University of Richmond.


I know - that’s why we’re hoping to find some additional targets/matches. And, she probably won’t ultimately end up applying to all of those reaches. I’m hoping her final list will be more balanced.

I struggled with where to categorize Wake Forest and Boston College. Both seemed like they could be in the “high target” to “low reach” category. Probably best to think of both as reaches - I’m trying hard to manage expectations. Thanks!

This list is sorted by my very fallible guesses of what your daughter’s chances for acceptance might be. These estimates are primarily based on the overall acceptance rate and where your daughter’s test scores and GPA fall in comparison with admitted students. I’ll be back later with some other ideas of colleges that your family may want to consider.

Guaranteed (100%)

Extremely Likely (80-99%)

  • Elon
  • Indiana University

Likely (60-79%)

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • Fordham
  • Loyola Marymount
  • American
  • U. of Wisconsin – Madison

Possible (20-39%)

  • Wake Forest
  • Occidental
  • Lehigh

Less Likely (less than 20%)

  • Barnard
  • Boston College
  • Northeastern
  • U. of Southern California
  • U. of Notre Dame
  • Tufts
  • Cornell

Thanks - I actually grew up right next to Richmond’s campus, and my daughter has been there quite a bit, but never on an actual tour. She’d like the warm weather, the beautiful campus, the fact that it’s in a city, and the excellent Division 1 basketball team. As well as the awesome academic opportunities. But, it’s another reach, and is a small liberal arts school, so I haven’t pushed it for her. But, it may be worth revisiting.

Thanks - I love your lists, and was very much hoping you would respond!


I hadn’t thought of Minnesota or University of Washington- will check them both out.

I love McGill, and I think it would be GREAT for my daughter. She’s reluctant to go to school in another country, but it’s worth another conversation.

Good to know! I don’t know much about the school - a friend’s kid goes there and likes it, and I thought it might appeal due to its proximity to several cities, but I hadn’t research it very much yet.

I will check out Colleges that Change Lives - I did use it when working with my son on his applications, and for some reason thought if it as more of “small LAC” list which is mostly not what my daughter was seeking.

I’d love to her to consider some of the other women’s colleges - Barnard was an exception due to it’s location right in NYC and relationship to Columbia. She loved the idea of having an all-womens’ small LAC that is also a part of a major university. So, it’s unique. I’ve tried to get her to consider some of those other schools, especially once she realized how much she loved Barnard, but so far, no dice.

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Might be a reach, but Villanova has a lot of school spirit and is a short train ride into Philly. It’s a nice size - not too big or too small…


The foundation of any list should be a safety or two. By definition it’s a guaranteed admit and known to be affordable without needing any luck on financial aid. In addition, a perfect safety is a school the applicant is actually excited about. My son almost picked a safety over a very selective program as his final choice. It may be Carbondale in IL or Truman nextdoor in MO, but before moving forward on anything else, find a safety or two that she’s enthused about.


With respect to UR’s characteristics, consider that its highly regarded business program and its D1 sports are aspects that are not typical of smaller liberal arts colleges. Academically, UR would be great for something such as, say, international relations as well.

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ED at Wake Forest might be a good strategy. They heavily favor full-pay kids with strong academics. Frankly, I would research ED options carefully and even reach out to your regional AO of schools that you think might be good for her.
Southern Methodist University and Washington & Lee could be two excellent options as well. Further south, University of Tampa has a great hospitality program. Would be a solid safety for your daughter.


SMU. Great weather, defined campus, excellent business school, d1 sports with a fun tradition of tailgating, growing city with many employers relocating there, not a reach.


This list is sorted by my very fallible guesses of what your daughter’s chances for acceptance might be. These are schools in warmer climates with football, musical theater, and choral options and located in urban or suburban areas. Merit aid is likely at almost all of these. The honors programs at U. of South Carolina and Arizona State are particularly well-reputed.

There are a few smaller schools (still above 3,000 undergrads), but mostly bigger public schools. Let me know your thoughts and if there are other types of schools you think your daughter might be interested in that this list isn’t hitting.

Guaranteed (100%)

Extremely Likely (80-99%)

  • Auburn (AL)
  • U. of Alabama
  • Samford (AL)
  • U. of Oregon
  • U. of Arkansas
  • Stetson (FL)
  • U. of Arizona
  • Arizona State

Likely (60-79%)

  • U. of South Carolina
  • U. of South Florida
  • Abilene Christian (TX)

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • Baylor (TX)

Possible (20-39%)

  • U. of Miami (FL)

Less Likely (less than 20%)


Reading your post I think your daughter would like BC and should maybe also look into Richmond. If I recall from the tour, anyone can take classes in their business/leadership program and my d20 (who has no interest in business) thought some of the classes sounded great. Unhooked with lower stats and she was offered merit at Richmond.

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