College Fit for my Senior Son

<p>I just found the parent board on CC a bit ago, thought I'd connect to others who might have thoughts for me! My 3rd son will be a HS senior this fall, and he is much tougher than my other sons in terms of the college selection process. First son chose a midwest CTCL school and had a terrific experience; 2nd son very self-motivated and directed the college search process totally himself now at an Ivy. S3 has nearly identical credentials as my son at the Ivy - near-perfect GPA and test scores in a public urban IB HS. He has a delightful personality, friendly, funny, well-liked by peers - not at all intense. His ECs are on the light side. He has poured himself into one main EC, a debate team, been involved in community service not required for his diploma related to global issues, and has had a p-t job the past summers he'll continue into the coming school year. He is shy, somewhat tentative, very midwestern in outlook but is learning to speak up when he has the opportunity - also musical and creative and likes "think outside the box" assignments where he really shines. He has absolutely no idea of what he wants to study, and other than reading the classics on his own, there's nothing that he has become intellectually passionate about. He's not at all into sports, but would join college intramurals for social reasons.</p>

<p>It seems schools in the midwest-east are his preference. And while I'm a fan of LACs, he's leaning toward larger colleges or mid-size universities. He likes Dartmouth, WUSTL, Tufts, and Northwestern. U of C is too intense for him, and he didn't like the campus feel of Brown (too much right in the city). I think a place where there is strong faculty-student interaction would help him grow and learn to advocate for himself. </p>

<p>If any of you out there have some insights both how to work with a son who is not very clear about his own direction, and schools that would possibly work for him given his background, I'd be grateful!</p>

<p>What is your budget like?</p>

<p>Small, but maybe interesting: St. John's College, Annapolis or Santa Fe</p>

<p>Worth a try: His own home-state public universities. Do any of them have honors programs that would appreciate his IB?</p>

<p>Because of the Community Service bit: Any institution that participates in the Bonner Scholars program <a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Because of the Global Issues bit: Cornell Ag & Life Sciences or Cornell Human Ecology</p>

<p>Oberlin? They're great for music and they're very community oriented and environmental.</p>

<p>Cornell's College of Industrial Labor Relations ??</p>

<p>I personally don't think that Northwestern has a close student-faculty relationship. Faculty emphasis is on grads and research, YMMV.</p>

<p>I would think that the larger LACs that have more of a university feel might be the ticket. Bucknell, Lehigh, Richmond, Furman, Holy Cross, Colgate.</p>

<p>Like Haystack, I'm recommending a "crossover" school - Rice.</p>

<p>can I just say that as a Californian I am totally prejudiced toward people from the Midwest? I think there is something really wonderful happening back there culturally that creates incredibly nice people. come to Ca - we need your influence! How about the Claremont colleges?</p>

<p>I know they're LACs, but based on your description I'd like to recommend:
Union College in New York
Pitzer College (part of the Claremont consortium)</p>

<p>Thanks for the many speedy replies, all, with so many great thoughts. To round out our picture a bit, we are in the situation of being a middle-class family with the financial benefit of a 50% tuition benefit at wherever my son goes because of my husband's college teaching job. We live very simply and from the get-go have saved both for our retirement and for our kids' college educations - so we have money reserved for S3's education.</p>

<p>We live in IN and the idea of attending IU does not appeal to my son - too large a place for him. We are trying to walk the balance between giving our son a real say in the college search process, and also offering perspectives and guidance to help him see the "big picture." Unfortunately, the guidance office at our HS is overworked and can't offer much help and they don't know a lot about the range of schools around the country. A smattering of students from S's HS have gone on to the Ivies and/or other selective schools, but not many - IN is a pretty parochial place!</p>

<p>It's hard to get a handle on my son's thinking process in looking at colleges. Although we've shared the perspective of Loren Pope (especially "Looking Beyond the Ivy League") and another book called "Hidden Ivies," he seems drawn to "namebrand" schools. Hence Northwestern, which I'd agree very much had the vibe of little faculty-student interaction when we visited. I don't see him growing in an environment like that.</p>

<p>We don't know anyone who's gone to Rice, but I have read about the school and shared that idea with him - so much sounds very appealing and the size would be perfect. He is kind of funny - saw the architecture of the school on the website, and thought it looked "unusual" or "odd." Funny how the aesthetics of a place strike him so much. I wonder if others have had kids who may have not liked schools for reasons such as this and how you all might have addressed that or helped your kids see other perspectives? Holy Cross and Colgate seem other interesting choices that merit our attention.</p>

<p>We did visit Oberlin on a spring break tour and spent pretty much a whole day there. He was not bothered by the small town atmosphere and liked what he saw of the place. He ended up thinking it wasn't for him after reading something on Princeton Review that said it was a "druggie" school - and then a childhood friend/classmate shared a story about how his cousin did not like it. Again, he is very susceptible to the first wave of impressions and has a hard time of digging beneath the surface to see what might really be going on at a particular place. I haven't explored Princeton Review so I don't know what to make of using it to evaluate a school.</p>

<p>I would be interested in any more input on Cornell. S2 did a summer program there so we've seen the campus, but I wonder about what I hear is the competitive vibe of the place and if that would fit his personality. The IR school/Human Ecology are interesting thoughts - recently when he's been on visits and had to say what interests him, he says "Social Sciences."</p>

<p>Thanks to everyone for all the input.</p>

<p>My nephew loved Rice and really flourished there. The residential colleges are a big plus. I think of it as a science school because of what my study studied there, but I think it's a good choice. My son, who liked many of the same schools also applied to American as a safety (but he was interested in international relations) and Vassar. Vassar is not a medium size university but at 2900 it's a large LAC and is definitely easier for the guys to get into. If he needs safeties Bard, Clark and U of Rochester are all worth a look.</p>

<p>If WUSTL feels OK to him, then he may want to look at Duke. Yes it is in the south, but the culture is not overly southern. I decided to mention this when you mentioned his concern about a competitive vibe. While the students at Duke are often scary smart and high achieving,that competitive thing is just not there (or so minor as to have escaped the notice of my sons and his friends). At 4000 undergrads, it seems to be in the size range of the other schools he likes.</p>

<p>Its a reach but he should add Stanford to his list. And Pomona. Wash U is a great U but has the [ well deserved] reputation for wait listing top students who haven't shown[ by applying ED] their passion to be accepted there.
I agree that Rice could be a perfect match for your son, but it IS smack dab in the middle of a big city-Houston.
My son, who is also shy, eventually decided against Dartmouth because of the drinking environment there- he did not want to be the only one not joining a frat and drinking every weekend, which seemed to be the default activity of choice there, due to the isolation of Hanover. </p>

<p>He ended up being very happy at a bigger, smack in the city- private U, where his social skills developed to an extraordinary extent, and where he found a large enough cohert of equally nice, smart students[ who had also received merit scholarships] . Bigger private U's that have selective honors programs for top students, with small class sizes and close interactions with top professors, can make a big U seem small enough to shyer students.</p>

<p>The inside perspective from everyone has been very valuable to hear - so many helpful replies! I think some of the CA schools might be ones to explore, too - in sync with him being from a very laid-back community, and much of the same feel in CA. We've discussed Claremont McK and Pomona with S, but those seem a world away because of few from here attending those schools - we should re-introduce those places to him! The thought of Stanford as a reach is a good one - some from his HS have attended there, so there's some history of our HS sending students.</p>

<p>He seems very worried about attending places where drinking/drugs are predominant. Is that much of an issue at Duke? He had heard that thru Princeton Review and got concerned, took it off his list for that reason. But the size does really seem to fit.</p>

<p>Has anyone visited the Rice campus and could speak to how it is positioned within Houston? He has no issues with an urban school, just doesn't like the campus to blend so much within the city like Brown's or Yale's does. The sense of a campus adjoining a city, like WUSTL's, appealed to him. Is Rice that way or does it merge more into the city of Houston? </p>

<p>Again, appreciate all your great insights!</p>

<p>Duke: yes it has a rep for partying, and it is not undeserved!Thursday through Saturday there will be lots of parties. There will also be lots of students who are getting together in smaller groups. I am told that there is no pressure. Our son did not go Greek. He sampled the party culture and got bored with it pretty quickly. There is always much more going on than anyone can possibly do: lectures, performances, meetings, sports (including a vary active IM program), and, yes, parties, so that the student makes of the experience what he/she wants. </p>

<p>Please feel free to IM me if I can hep in any way.</p>

<p>Thinking about the campus/town situation you asked about: University of Michigan Honors College may be worth considering, or the Residential College at U Mich. Both are small colleges within the University with their own residences. Ann Arbor is a great college town.</p>

<p>Rice's campus is very separate from the city. I don't think it's an issue. Beautiful campus.</p>

<p>Thanks for this, mathmom - helpful to know! This sounds like what he wants in terms of how the campus is placed in relationship to it's city. Nice to hear it's a physically attractive campus - that's something that does matter to him.</p>

<p>He may want to reconsider college size. It could be the IN schools don't appeal to him but other campuses- Wisconsin, Minnesota or Michigan for example- may. He needs to be sure he doesn't end up at a lesser tier LAC just to avoid large schools. Large schools are a seies of smaller places- like neighborhoods of a city. More opportunities and professors get involved with Honors program students at UW. The party stuff doesn't need to be an issue at UW- easily avoided in a large school without a Greek influence as plenty of peer groups to find one's niche in. Consider academic caliber first and foremost- be sure he can get that.</p>

<p>As mentioned up-thread---St. John's College? It may be too small for him, but when you mentioned that he likes to read the classics on his own I immediately thought St. John's. It's a unique school--I don't know anyone who has gone there, but it has always sounded intriguing.</p>

I would be interested in any more input on Cornell.

My son is a graduate student at Cornell and though he isn't directly involved in the undergraduate program he does interact with the student body, especially the female. :)</p>

<p>I wouldn't characterize Cornell as being especially cut-throat competitive. The students tend to be on the outgoing, extroverted side, strong Greek presence. They are also mostly friendly, down to earth and straight forward. </p>

<p>In the same character basket as Dartmouth and Cornell, I would put Williams, Middlebury and Amherst. All smaller, though Amherst is in a lively town and is part of a consortium that makes it seem larger. If he's looking for informal music performance opportunities, Williams is especially good. All excellent for nurturing faculty and strong social sciences.</p>

<p>I would also look at Emory as an urban, midsize that attracts high achieving, low-key friendly kids. A lot of crossover with Rice.</p>

<p>Case Western would likely be a safety that has some similarities to the schools he likes. Honors at Pitt might also be an option for a safety. It's urban...but...combined with CMU, there's a little more of "campus" feel to the area.</p>

<p>Vassar and Wesleyan for east coast LAC's that attract more of the "outside of the box" students.</p>

<p>Did you have a chance to look at Brandeis when you saw Tufts?</p>