College search

My DD is a senior and applying and searching for schools. She has a 4.5 GPA, 1480 SAT, top 7% of class, 4 year varsity athlete. We live in NC so she will be applying to UNC Chapel Hill and Appalachian. She is also considering USC in Columbia and Clemson. She likes adventure and being outdoors (rock climbing, hiking, skate board, kayaking). She’s a quirky, artsy non-conformist. She’d love to be on a beautiful campus with access to activities close by. She looked at smaller schools Pomona and Colorado College but it doesn’t look like they have much of any non need based merit (we probably won’t qualify for need based aid). Any suggestions on a liberal arts school that has lots of natural beauty and hiking/climbing or other adventure opportunities that may have merit aid to make it at least close to what it would cost for UNC in state?

What is your budget? Are you thinking of something like $25,000 to $30,000 per year?

What is your daughters unweighted GPA? Weighted GPA is calculated very differently in different high schools in the US.

What would you want that would be different than UNC? Are you looking for smaller schools?

From what we saw getting the cost down to something like $40,000 per year with only merit aid was a lot easier than getting it down to $30,000 per year. This was however a few years ago.

Not a LAC, but U of Utah cannot be beat for access to that kind of outdoor adventure, and the Honors College (which she’d surely get into) provides a smaller sub-community. Honors College students can participate in yearly, themed Praxis Labs that take on various social and environmental problems. UofU gives pretty generous merit and also allows OOS students to establish residency after the first year and pay in-state rates thereafter.

Maybe Sewanee for an LAC with merit potential and outdoor recreation in all directions:

What does she want to major in?

St Lawrence in upstate NY is in the Adirondacks, with great hiking and snow sports, strong fine arts and music, a really cozy campus. About 10% greek life so doesn’t overwhelm campus experience. Gorgeous, ski chalet style Student Union building. Merit awards had been capped at $20 or 24k per year when my kid was applying, not sure if that is still true. A bit of a challenge for air travel, as it is about 2 hours from Syracuse airport, though there are “puddle jumper” flights into closer, regional airports.

You should check out Whitman College in Washington. It is a small LAC in Walla Walla, a small city in Washington’s wine country. They have a very active outdoor club, a large climbing center on campus, and I believe they even teach kayaking in the pool several times a week. Outdoor magazine rated them one of the top “Outdoor Colleges” in the country. They also give merit aid, not sure how much though.

Eckerd College sits on Boca Ciega Bay. They have a waterfront with SUP, kayaks, fishing equipment, bait available to all students at no cost. They offer free sailboat lessons as well. Many classes are held outdoors. Students longboard to class and buildings have locking racks for the boards. There is a yellow and white bike program, yellow for bikes on campus and white for bikes that can be taken off campus that is free to students. Many hiking trails throughout the county. Disc golf in walking distance. Eckerd is noted for their mentor/student relationship. They have an honors college and Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Div II and III sports. There is a very artsy vibe, also a new visual arts center/gallery, active theater company on campus and majors in film, theater, visual arts, (new BFA major this year). There is indoor rock climbing in St. Pete-Vertical Ventures and zip lining about 30 minutes away.
Eckerd offers a max of $25,000 per yr of merit based aid, also very generous in financial aid. That award with possible financial aid, work study and 1st yr student loan would bring the COA close to UNC.

Thank you for your replies!

Her unweighted GPA is 4.0. Budget wise we’d like to keep it close to UNC - $25k to $30k…

Berry was also on her radar.
As far as what she’s looking for that is different from UNC:
more outdoor recreation; sibling is at UNC so maybe space; quirky/artsy vibe.
Thanks for the suggestion on Utah! She is considering it.
We have a friend who went to Whitman! Will check it out along with Eckerd and St. Lawrence. We also have a friend at UC Boulder but again it doesn’t sound like much aid there. Thank you.

Berry College (as you noted above) & Seattle University might be of interest to your daughter.

The University of Vermont Honors College may offer an adequate merit scholarship.

P.S. Just checked Vermont’s website. Seems like The Presidential Scholarship of $20,000 per year will not bring total annual COA down to $25,000–which is the total annual COA for residents at UNC-Chapel Hill.

If your daughter is considering Utah, @Twoin18 is a good resource - they have a high-stats kid who chose the Honors College there over the top UC’s, and is taking full advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities.

“We also have a friend at UC Boulder but again it doesn’t sound like much aid there.”
“University of Vermont Honors College… Presidential Scholarship”

With similar but marginally lower stats for us both came to about $40,000 per year after merit scholarships (including the presidential scholarship at UVM). This was multiple years ago.

There are very good universities in Canada which are likely to come to US$30,000 or slightly less per year even as an international student, but they would not be the famous ones.

Yes D18 loves Utah. Merit aid is good (especially with 4.0 UW) and anyone can get instate tuition after the first year which brings the COA down to $25K. It’s also been no problem at all for her being a liberal atheist.

She spends a lot of time in the mountains climbing, rafting, backpacking and skiing and drives all over with her friends: not just the National Parks but also climbing 14ers in Colorado, skiing in Canada and California, their latest trip was surfing in Oregon. She went back for the summer with many friends, it was easy to find a job because unemployment is the lowest in the country.

A friend’s D goes to U of Utah, similar high stats and love of outdoors and is constantly taking part in the above activities, and is absolutely thriving. She got excellent merit.