Colleges Like University of Denver & Elon (3.9/1430, psychology/philosophy, < $50K with merit)

D24 wants to take one last pass at the list of colleges to which she intends to apply. She really likes the vibe of Denver and Elon, which are both schools I learned about here and had suggested they might be of interest to her.

We are full pay and are looking to keep COA under $50K, but more under that is better, obviously. She is top 10% and we live in Texas, but I don’t think she is looking for more schools in state.

I can give her full stats, if anyone needs them, but she will be NM Commended, has done a bunch of APs, and received all 4s and 5s on the AP exams she has taken. She’s very much a humanities kid, and ECs are decent with a lot of choir and musical theater in the mix (but she would probably be looking to do crew/set for college productions rather than being on stage). Ultimate goal is a Ph.D. or PsyD and becoming a mental health counselor.

No other real constraints such as size of city or urban/rural. She’s mainly looking for suggestions of schools that have a similar vibe that she can check out.

Her current application list includes Denver, Elon, Alabama, Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU. But Denver and Elon are the ones she likes the most.

What about Rhodes College in Memphis, TN? It is a very good LAC, with majors in both philosophy and psychology.


My son applied to Elon. We really liked it. If a student meets the academic requirements, they receive a $7500-10000 merit award upon acceptance. Other merit awards are by application only, and the higher awards require interviews and a more extensive application. Their COA last year before merit was just below $60000. Elon University / Undergraduate Admissions / Merit-based Scholarships


merit varies, but your dc sounds somewhat similar to mine. We have also looked at:

Trinity (in San Antonio)
American (DC)
Both Miamis (OH and FL)
Loyola Marymount (might not get below 50)

I’m interested to hear what other suggestions you get!


Following along. We move D23 into Elon on Friday (gulp!) and my S25 is very interested in Denver. He is trying to figure out where else he might start looking.


First school that popped to mind is Christopher Newport with about 4500 undergrads in VA. It’s another of VA’s liberal arts colleges, but much less expensive than William & Mary and a much more approachable admissions rate. Sticker price would be within budget, too. And with proximity to the water, lots of outdoor opportunities available, too.

I’ll keep my thinking cap on.


My older son goes to the University of Denver. He is a finance major so I can’t speak to your daughter’s major, but my son is very happy there. It’s a good size for my active yet introverted kid. He really likes the combination of mountain life and a very accessible city.

They are fairly generous with merit aid, but keep in mind the costs of being far from home. We live in Florida and a plane ticket home for Spring Break was about 1K.

They are big on study abroad and my S21 is heading to Japan in the spring.

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She could aim higher than Elon and Denver. Those will most likely be a safety/target for her. Check out Davidson or Wake Forest.


I also immediately thought of Rhodes.

Have you looked at Sarah Lawrence? The mix of academic and activity interests you described seem like a fit, and I understand they can be pretty good with the merit offers.

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Not OP, but as someone looking at similar schools with a kid who could probably aim higher, the need for merit aid is a concern. When searching for sufficient merit aid, the reachier schools are less likely to be affordable. So my child might try one or two reaches (Tulane might be one for our kid) but with the understanding that the money might not work out.


I think the issue is full pay COA if she doesn’t get merit aid.

Like, Rochester is another I would normally suggest if cost were not an issue, but that SAT may be low for merit from Rochester.


Note on Rhodes - our school used to send quite a few to Rhodes (with good results/happy students). But lately, I have been hearing more concerns about the crime in the area. I haven’t looked into it (my kid ruled out Rhodes early on), but that might be something to look into.


BTDT. I think she could aim higher and might still get some merit. My D22 had a 3.7 from a non-academically challenging high school and a 28 ACT and got a nice chunk of merit aid. Elon and Denver were in the range of her target schools although she did not end up applying to either of those (not her vibes), so since the OP’s kid has better stats than my kid I would suggest aiming a little higher. My kid fell in love with one school initially, but found it academically not challenging enough (this from a kid who didn’t ever try to challenge herself too much) and ended up transferring to another school she had been accepted to because she thought it would be a little more challenging and have better job and internship placements. It is and she’s very happy there.

So consider where she fits academically too.

Elon does have good job/internship placement. I don’t know much about Denver. Would she be interested in Richmond?

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St. Olaf comes to mind as a possibility if she’s open to a larger LAC. It’s in Northfield, MN (where Carleton College is also located), so lots of college students in town. Northfield is a gem of a college town, about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities. Olaf has 3000 students, so a larger LAC and the campus is gorgeous - one of the prettiest ones we toured. It’s a great place for music, especially vocal music. There are so many choirs, acapella ensembles, etc. Plus, they give out great merit aid - your daughter would be likely to get a nice award. I don’t have a kid who is attending, but we were really impressed with the school when we toured, and I know other kids who are very happy there. I kind of feel like it’s “the one that got away” for my oldest.


My kids pretty much applied just to safeties/matches due to finances. A reach school was not affordable (slightly higher stats than the OP, plus tried to keep it under $40,000).


Take a look at James Madison University in VA. She would definitely get in, and the COA is just under $50k at full price, with no merit(tuition, room & board is <$44k).


Ok, after thinking for a bit more, here are some other schools that your D may want to consider. The last 4 are all Jesuit colleges, which have a strong reputation for academics and intellectual inquiry.

  • American (D.C.): About 7900 undergrads. She would need to show a lot of interest, but they could come through with sufficient merit aid. (I think this one would be least likely of these to make budget.)
  • Butler (IN): About 4400 undergrads
  • Furman (SC): About 2300 undergrads
  • Gonzaga (WA): About 5100 undergrads
  • John Carroll (OH): About 2400 undergrads
  • Loyola Maryland: About 4k undergrads
  • Xavier (OH): About 4900 undergrads
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Just to clarify, given that she’s in the first decile, I’m assuming it’s 3.9 unweighted?
So very strong academics.

Assuming there won’t be a change in majors/fields of study between now and sophomore year, then one consideration might be a good access to (ideally full-year) internships in the general area of neurosciences, behavioral sciences, etc.

Due to a major-metropolitan location, my daughter was able to intern as a research assistant at a state psychiatric facility one year, at a different T25 University another year, and additionally as a clinical intern at a private practice in the City.

Between that having demonstrated her “commitment to the field”, and a high overall and major GPA, she was invited to interview with three PsyD programs, rather than having to spend a year or two after college to build up a resume.


Oh yeah, St. Olaf is a good one. I note it usually does quite well in PhD placement per capita lists. Bit of a self-selection effect, but definitely an “academic vibe” if you will.


So yes, the 3.9 is unweighted (it’s a 4.5 weighted, all honors and AP in core classes), and she’s at a fairly rigorous private Catholic high school. She is retaking the SAT on the 26th so we are hoping to get her SAT up another 50 points or so.

Just for further information, she is also planning on applying to the respective honors programs of all of these schools, so quality of that is relevant, in addition to price.

Thank you so much for all of these suggestions to sift through.