Colleges your child crossed off the list after visiting, schools that moved up on the list. Why?

I spent way too many hours at SUNY Purchase. It’s a relatively new campus, so it might lack the charm of land grant schools built in the 1890s. The surrounding area is beautiful though, and it is a lot closer to NYC than some of the other SUNY campuses your daughter visited.

The artsy and accepting vibe of Purchase is a big plus for her. As is the idea of being 20 min from home but in a position to board on campus. We’re also planning to check out SUNY New Paltz, WCSU in Danbury, Montclair State in NJ for some slightly farther but not-too-far public options with reputable theatre programs we’re a little less familiar with. Those out of state ones give in state tuition.

And we’ll likely do a few more road trips - New England for sure and maybe Virginia & Ohio to see more schools. But we’re very high on SUNYs and Purchase in particular, and happy that she is as well. She can definitely see herself there but is keeping an open mind and checking out options.


Is your daughter considering Carnegie Mellon, in beautiful, scenic Pittsburgh? Their musical theater and drama programs are amazing and they have a strong alumni network.


I could talk this stuff forever but we should probably leave this thread to its intended topic before mods feel compelled to step in. But yes, Carnegie Mellon and other well-known theater programs like UNCSA are on the big list we’re paring down. Pittsburgh also has Point Park and is a good chance for a future visit, maybe in a trip with neighboring Ohio.

The challenge with visiting very competitive audition-based conservatories is odds are slim and you can’t “chance yourself” ahead of time. So the more economically feasible approach might be to audition remotely and then visit between best options after seeing where admitted.


We did a Central - North Florida trip recently, and we were pleasantly surprised by UNF! We were like you and almost didn’t go since it was the last tour scheduled and we were exhausted after a whirlwind trip with lots of walking in 90+ temps.

The campus was thoughtfully designed, with a lot of shady outdoor spaces, and the Freshman dorms were quite nice. Jacksonville Beach being a short drive away was a big plus. My only downside was that it was a bit isolated from Jacksonville proper. Compared to some other schools we saw, like Flagler and Rollins, we missed the fact that you couldn’t walk to anything off campus.


Lawrence: Same

Pros: The ease of double major with music is a major bonus. Being near the Fox River was a bonus. Students have to live on campus all 4 years and dorms are close to each other.

Cons: Only one building for meals was a con for my son. He would prefer updated exercise facilities but they did free counseling and $8 medical visits.

My son feels anything 3 hours or less from home is “too close.” But its a very supportive school with great options for someone looking for that type of environment!


Lots of visits for my stem astronomy obsessed kid this spring, we had previously done east coast so this was a cross country track and random other visits.

UW Seattle - a surprise hit, loved the city, the vibe, the gorgeous campus that is not at all urban but close to a large city, extremely strong Astro department, very “cool” progressive and queer (according to kid) vibe and kids he viewed as “his people”.

CU Boulder - also a hit, gorgeous setting, campus, town, good restaurants, amazing NASA connections, great facilities (the engineering and aerospace engineering tours made me want to go!). A bit of a more conventional rich fun kid vibe, but hey nothing wrong with that…

UWisconsin at Madison - kid hated it so much we didn’t finish the tour, hated the town which everyone kept saying wasn’t that bad, the food seemed horrible, hard to get to from us and generally the midwestern vibe of most of the kids we saw did not work for kid. Also we went during very high Covid levels and there were no precautions being taken - yikes. And of course the terrible weather we happened to hit didn’t help!

UMichigan - everyone I know who has gone or has a kid that has gone loves it but was really a miss for us. We were there during March madness which everyone seemed obsessed with and though I am sure in a school this size there are a ton of kids more like mine - nerdy, queer, progressive, into science etc etc we mostly saw rowdy sports focused crowds and a bar-filled town and I couldn’t break through kid’s “this isn’t for me” reaction.

UChicago - we weren’t even going to visit, but kid loved the city of Chicago enough to add it to our list. though still very wary of UChicago’s reputation for intensity the kid really enjoyed the tour and connected with the kids we met. Made its way onto the list.

Northwestern - surprise hit of the trip. Kid loved the lakeside setting, the very brainy but lower key vibe, the campus in a college town that was right next to but not in a large city that he really likes, loved the tour and the tour guide and the ease of double majoring (the tour guide was a double major in astrophysics and theater - similar combo may be in my kid’s dreams) and taking classes in the different schools. Was a bit concerned about its rep for frat culture but seems to think that is more historical. We may have our ED school!


Spring visits with our son ’23 who will study engineering… We’re in the Chicago area so these were day trips. Should note that my kid doesn’t love big cities, and says he’d be fine with being somewhere small/suburban. He also prefers cold weather, so YMMV. He wants good engineering facilities, so he’s mostly targeting schools with PhD programs, as they tend to have more resources. His list is mostly “Tuition Exchange” schools due to parental university employer. Not interested in anything elite, and will be chasing merit aid hard due to low budget.

  1. Purdue — UP: This has been number one on son’s list for years, so I don’t know if I should say “UP”, but we were totally impressed. We attended an engineering-specific session and tour. The student guides were fantastic. The programs and facilities are top-tier. West Lafayette is plenty big enough for what he’d want/need. I was surprised at the diversity of students we saw there, the campus was bustling and had a distinctive vibe. The school spirit is off the charts and is thrilling even for non-athletic kids. The engineering program is huge, and son will have to decide if that’s a plus or a minus for him. It’s clearly a well-oiled and impressive machine.

  2. Rose Hulman — UP: Our assumptions going in held true. It’s small, specialized, full of nerds of all sorts, and very good. It’s outside of Terre Haute, which is pretty small but Indy isn’t too far away. Our kid attended a summer camp there and said he’d be excited to attend school there. I asked him the main reason and he said “I think I’d get a really great education”. He doesn’t love camp-type stuff, but is glad he went and was super impressed by the faculty. Given how small the school is (and no PhD) their facilities are impressive. My dorky son was surprised that he wasn’t among the biggest dorks there, so he’s not worried about fitting in: “Some campers spoke almost exclusively in memes, and I’m not even close to that”. We were surprised at the amount of fun activities the students seem to do, they have tons of energy, and it’s a welcoming and supportive vibe. They said they matriculate ~1/3 of the kids who attend the summer camp, and I can see why. Son recently had a lovely personal zoom visit with an AO and learned helpful answers to some questions he had.

  3. Milwaukee School of Engineering — UP: As this school is small (no PhD), specialized, and urban, we didn’t have high hopes going in. In fact, I thought it would get crossed off the list. Spouse and son went and loved it. The facilities are great, the profs seem dedicated, and it had a surprising amount of fun and nerdy energy. It’s in a nice part of the city with plenty of stuff in walking distance. A kid from son’s HS is there and loves it, and son says he’d be happy to attend despite the urban setting.

  4. Valparaiso U — SAME: This school is small (no PhD) and the town is small. The campus is pretty close to the cute and surprisingly vibrant little downtown and I think there would be enough stuff to do for our kid. The profs were so friendly and helpful, and gave a personal engineering tour for us and one other family. We happened upon several students who were working in a maker space and they were enthusiastic and excited about what they were doing. The programs seem fine and the facilities seem adequate. Son would be happy going here if some other options don’t work out but it’s kind of blah.

  5. Notre Dame — DOWN/OFF: The campus and buildings are fancy and Touchdown Jesus is one-of-a-kind. Of course the school spirit and alumni enthusiasm/connections are huge. The prof who led the packed engineering info session was pleasant, but the session was super boring despite having some helpful info. There was no tour, and no option to even see the engineering facilities. After some sleuthing later, I found out that the facilities are not up to par for what you’d expect from Notre Dame. We came away from the visit thinking “well, I guess they don’t have to try very hard to get good students”. We know someone who studied engineering there and loved it, and got very generous need-based aid (parent income was 100K-120K, and I think tuition was down to 10-15K). Our kid was impressed by the visit, but over time a combo of things has taken this off the list: not on tuition exchange list, extra app essays and low admit rate, a bit fancy for his taste and engineering punches below ND weight, and emphasis on religion (a minus but not a deal-breaker).

  6. Illinois Institute of Technology — DOWN/OFF: This one was surprising as we had high hopes. He’d likely get great aid there, the programs seem good, and the diversity of students is wonderful! The tour guide was friendly and plenty of students greeted us as they walked by on their way to class. But otherwise, the vibe was a bummer. Some of the facilities, while pretty new, look to be run-down and in disrepair. The dining areas we saw had no students. We did not tour many engineering-specific spaces, but I think they’re adequate. The location south of the heart of Chicago is boring and industrial, so I think you’d have to get on the train (which runs literally on top of the student union) to find much fun. There was an absence of energy on campus. It was deserted except some classrooms, and we didn’t see a single person in the dorm that we toured, which was very weird. There are almost no non-STEM extracurricular offerings, unlike any other school on his list. I didn’t want to sway son’s opinion, so I didn’t say anything negative, but on his own he said he wanted to cross it off his list. I know someone who attended and met their spouse there and loved it. For the right student who finds a good group of friends, I think it could be a good option. I think our kid would just end up coming home a lot, which none of us want.

We’ll be visiting U of Dayton, Pitt, Case Western, RIT, and Syracuse next week, and I’ll write another post about those.


I have an incoming freshman in high school who wants to study aerospace engineering or astrophysics. But he also loves history and is an incredible illustrator, so I think he’ll be happy at a place that offers more than STEM subjects. We aren’t thinking about college yet with him but just went through it with his older sister, so I want to take stock while my memory is fresh.

Loved your reviews… I think my DS will love UW, too. And we’ve seen Boulder since we have family there. Thanks for reminding me about UChicago and Northwestern. We looked at both for my humanities/social sciences oriented daughter, but they could be great for my son too. We will keep Purdue in mind too.


Thanks! Astro is its own world! Not sure if reposting parts of my old posts is allowed, but don’t know how to link, so here is the summary of our prior visits for Astro-kid:

Swarthmore - off the list, though perhaps more due to his preexisting view of it as being overly intense than anything we saw on the visit. Gorgeous campus, convenient to Philly. D didn’t like the honors program which he thought created pressure and two tiers of students within a very small school. Just generally didn’t vibe there.

UPenn - way up - our first larger school and first urban school. Did seem a bit impersonal and more sink or swim then the LACs we have been visiting (tour guide mentioned connecting with his advisor once per term by email) but he was very energized by all the amazing facilities, kids that he found very smart but more down to earth than those at other Ivies she visited and really like the campus within the city. Of course getting in, especially without playing the ED card, is another story… still opens up other bigger and urban schools as possibilities.

UC Santa Cruz. Off the list. Probably not a fair visit as we self toured over winter break when almost no students were on campus so very difficult to get any vibe. The location is beyond gorgeous- you literally walk through groves of redwood trees with occasional distant views of the Pacific. On the other hand a very spread out campus - students bike or shuttle between the buildings - very different from bucolic New England campuses we have been visiting and the wear and tear also makes it clear that this isn’t a school with a gazillion dollar endowment like the New England privates.

Wesleyan - Way up. Kid loved the open curriculum, the clever housing system, the progressive vibe that seemed to be lived and not just for show (everyone introduced themselves with their pronouns, lots of focus on social issues, etc) and the kids who seems very bright and intellectually curious and interesting without being over intense or overly single academically minded — everyone seems in a lot of interesting activities and time for fun. The negatives are that the presentation was completely non-STEM focused (with bizarre comments like - ‘woo hoo you never have to take math again!” And similar even from AO. We did the tour with a guide who was a math/earth sciences double major who alleviated his concern that it wasn’t a place for stem kids to some extent but not fully. The other negative is the location - truly in the middle of nowhere and the town is not at all interesting other for a very small and standard strip of studenty coffee shops and similar. Overall he will apply and thinks he could be happy there both academically and socially.

Princeton - off the list - tour left kid somewhat cold - lots of talk about how many Nobels the faculty members, strong feeling of privilege - despite the fact that our actual guide was a first gen kid from economic hardship situation! It is obviously an amazing school but kid doesn’t need more super reaches, he will take a moonshot on some but nothing about this visit changed his mind that it wouldn’t be Princeton.

Haverford - off the list - kid has generally liked the small quirky schools but this just seemed too small and too quirky. It is almost the size of a large high school, and kid found our tour guide to have a “weird vibe” (?). He did like the social activist energy and the ability to participate in research. But ultimately think he wants something at least somewhat bigger.

Amherst - shot up, really loved it. The info session was a snooze but he loved the tour and the tour guide (crazy how much that matters) who was a double major in a science and humanities which is something kid may be interested in. He also got the vibe of friendly and engaged and enthusiastic students that worked hard but also enjoy themselves and have time to do various activities, social stuff etc which is what he is looking for. The town is lively with lots of students. The two concerns of course are the insane difficulty of getting in and that most students were pretty conventional in presentation - my kid is significantly edgier in appearance and doesn’t want to be viewed as “out there”. Also most of advanced Astro courses would be taken at UMass Amherst, so a bit unclear to me what we are paying for exactly…

And here is the summary of tours by older sister who is a physics (but not Astro) kid, note some of these like BC and Georgetown aren’t strong in Astro.

Princeton - got ruled out, the wealthy suburban setting reminded her too much of home, it was miserably rainy, and the senior year and junior year thesis requirements stressed her out just hearing about them - she is a stem kid and wanted to avoid more writing (she wouldn’t have gotten in anyway);

Boston College - way up, she liked the setting and the kids, liked the science presentations, liked the location.

Tufts - hated it for no good reason, I really liked it. Something about the setting and she thought the kids all seemed defensive about not being in the Ivies (unlike BC where she thought the kids seemed like they wanted to be there).

UPenn - ruled out, liked the mix of kids and academic strength and amazing science offerings,but really didn’t like the urban setting

Swarthmore - didn’t like at all, too small, and reminded her very much of her high school in “overly intellectual/very competitive/too serious” vibe. I thought it was great, but there you go.

UVA - ruled out, put off by the vibe, seemed provincial (the tour guide seemed very surprised to have someone from New England on the tour), very conservative/traditional seeming students and had weird traditions and adoration of the Founding fathers that rubbed her the wrong way.

Georgetown- loved everything about it, the perfect not too big and not too small size, the kids, the adorable and historic town, the nearness to DC, the excellent and extremely well funded but not insanely competitive physics departments. Yep that is where she ended up and loved every minute!


Cold, My son was accepted by Pitt, RHIT, Purdue and Case Western, among others and here is what we learned:

As you probably know, engineers apply to a general engineering program and then request their major sophomore year. Depending upon a student’s GPA and available slots in the major, they may or may not get their first choice. The school’s written policy is that if a student earns a 3.2 GPA freshman year, they are guaranteed their desired major. During his second visit to campus, however, the Purdue rep admitted that even if a student makes the required GPA, they still might not get their desired major. The audience was stunned. That was the death knell for Purdue.

This was where we hoped our son would end up, because of the focus on undergraduate instruction. Classes are capped at 30 students, and teachers self select to teach rather than do research. Among schools that do not offer PhD’s, RHIT is ranked first in almost all engineering majors, beating better known schools like Harvey Mudd and Olin. Graduate outcomes from RHIT are on par with UofM. The only reason my son did not choose Rose was its location. As he put it, “Rose would be my hand’s down favorite if it was not in nowhere, Indiana”.

Case Western
Our son chose CWRU over more highly ranked schools to which he was accepted because 1. students were guaranteed their majors, unlike Purdue, 2. there is a good deal of support for students, especially freshman, 3. Case encourages and facilitates double majors and minors, and 4. he liked the campus and surrounding neighborhood. Interestingly, graduate acceptance results for engineers from Case are comparable, or better, than CMU grads.


Thanks for that helpful info! Glad to hear your perspectives. We know folks who have a daughter that just graduated from Purdue engineering. I think we’ll bug her for the real scoop sometime soon, although it seems like it’s a pretty small percentage of students that don’t get their first choice. I believe Purdue is the only school on our list with competitive entry to major, which could be a deal-breaker indeed for some people.

I think that lots of people feel the same way as your son about Rose-Hulman. It’s best for students who either don’t care about it being in “Nowhere, Indiana” (like my son), or who are willing to endure the location, haha. I know a few people who went there and adored it, and are fantastic scientists.

We feel lucky that there seems to be plenty of neato engineering schools. I think the hardest part may be narrowing it down. I’m excited to see CWRU in particular (another place that has produced several fantastic scientists that I know).

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I love this thread! As we’ve started the tours, I’ll share what we’ve gathered so far.

TUFTS — down. It just didn’t feel right to my S24 and my S26. Too small, perhaps. The tour guide makes a huge difference and ours was probably a great representative for Tufts and its student body, but my two didn’t connect with her, so that told them Tufts wouldn’t be the right fit.

BOSTON COLLEGE — Up. Beautiful campus, close to Boston, lots of learning opportunities, and the kids seem to also enjoy being there (a little on the party side, which is actually what my two liked). Lots of talk about building relationships with professors.

AMERICAN — Down. Campus felt like a business park and the presentation by Admissions didn’t appeal to the kids. Great program offerings, though.

GEORGETOWN—Up. It started with the tour guide being from our kids’ high school, so there was an immediate connection. Programs are great. Campus is beautiful and the setting is as well.

D24 and D26 preferred the city of Boston to DC, but both cities offer so many opportunities for internships and life experiences, so we’re going to add more DC schools to the list. Making plans to visit George Washington.


Lol these reactions are twins to those of my older d who just graduated from Georgetown (also was admitted to BC). I could have written your post after our visits with her!

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Has he considered Michigan Tech? I know lots of kids with similar lists as your son who had it high on their lists.

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I don’t know anything about Michigan Tech, so I’m off to learn. Thanks for the tip!

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University of Wisconsin with D23 / UP
After UW’s terrible virtual visits I had to beg her to visit. The location (waterfront) and city itself (fun and buzzing) are big selling points. The info session and tour were standard content but the guides were just right: smart, chatty, normal people with a variety of interests. The student happiness and raging school spirit was clear as well. We got to see a lot including dorm rooms and the rec center sounds pretty great and they are building another now. Downside is that the campus is just huge and dislocated, but at least there’s free and frequent buses. D worries about finding community, but I’m not worried at all. Upside is the lakeside student union, and flexible academics (everyone is working towards 3-4 degrees). There’s also ample evidence that the administration listens to students and implements little things that makes their daily lives easier and better. This is a BIG deal. We also noticed how clean everything was. Not a ton of student diversity but everyone seemed friendly. My D would prefer more variety of people but UW is still a great option and will be on “the list” for Fall.

Colorado–Boulder with D23 / SAME
The mountain views and river running right though campus is hard not to love. The town itself was a mixed bag. The Pearl is awesome-- great shops and eateries and many bookstores. The rest is grungy with homeless encampments and trash everywhere. This is the most casual laid back place I’ve ever been. The campus info session and tour were ok. Info session guy was entertaining and energetic. Tour guides were dressed as cowboys?? She was nice enough but nothing about the tour was amazing except the recreation center which was the best I’ve been. Amazing 3 story rock gym. Campus was very nice and cohesive with tons of green space. We also “toured” the film program. That was weird. Guy clearly forgot we were coming and he didn’t show us much of interest, though it’s a large and renowned program. D is still assessing but it’s one of her safeties so she really needs to find her way to liking it if not loving it.


so interesting! We have toured all these schools in the last year (some this week) and our kids had 100% different opinions. That’s why you visit and that’s why these posts are great-- we get to see a variety of perspectives!

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Tours with my D23, so far. She’s interested in a medium to large school, in or near a city - open to most any geographical region except the midwest.

Occidental - UP. My daughter wasn’t super excited about a SLAC, but the tour did a great job talking about how integrated the school is with LA and how in many instances experiences in LA were part of the curriculum. It felt open, vibrant, and very much a part of the city - which made it feel larger. Plus beautiful campus and fun to see all of the Obama photos and memorializations of his time there. Great, enthusiastic tour guides (there were two).

Santa Clara University - DOWN. I thought this would be a great option for D23 who ideally wants a larger school, and she liked its location in Silicon Valley. However, this school felt dead, and for some reason, they had a tour guide who was a rising sophomore (this was last year) so his only experience as a student was his freshman year when everything was remote and on lockdown. He could barely talk about what campus was like as he’d spent most of his freshman year on zooms. Not his fault, but why was he giving tours? Her comment when the tour was done was “this school just seems like it’s no fun.”

Fordham - SAME. We expected to like it fairly well, and we did. The campus is very nice, albeit in the Bronx so it feels very removed from Manhattan (because it is). But, easy to get to and from Manhattan on public transportation or the Ram Van. Campus was bustling, and it probably helped that we were there on a sunny 70 degree day in February! Our tour guide was . . . not good. Super awkward and nervous, but we were able to overlook this and see what the school had to offer.

Barnard - WAY UP. This has been the sleeper hit, so far, of all our visits. Daughter wasn’t sure about a SLAC and even more unsure about a women’s college. The tour guide did an amazing job of explaining the advantages of a being a small women’s college that is simultaneously a part of a large, and amazing, research university. Daughter loved the small campus, Foundations curriculum, 4 + 1 pathways combined with the opportunity to take advantage of everything Columbia has to offer. She continues to talk about the tour guide on that tour as being one of the smartest people she’s heard speak.

NYU - DOWN. This perhaps suffered a bit by being the same day as the Barnard tour. But, my daughter really did not like that during the whole tour, she never felt like she was on a campus. It felt like we were walking about the Village, looking at buildings that had NYU flags on them. She wants to “feel” like a college student when she goes to college, and she realized that she wouldn’t get that there. I will say that the tour guide there was excellent -one of the better speakers we’ve heard. But, it just wasn’t the place for my daughter.

Elon - UP. We didn’t have too many expectations when we arrived but Elon definitely exceeded them. Beautiful - and large - campus that has a newer section that is more modern and and older more traditional section, but both relate to each other. State of the art facilities and an amazing communications building - my daughter’s not even interested in communications, but it was super impressive. Cute little college town right next to the campus, and not too far away from some medium-sized cities. Again, we had great tour guide who clearly loved the school. Finally - the tuition - including room and board - was around $57,000. That’s before any potential aid, so relatively cheaper than many schools.

Davidson College - SAME. My daughter indulged me by going to see it. She is overall less interested in a SLAC, and the visit didn’t do anything to change her expectation. It’s a very pretty campus, and has a separate “lake campus” a few minutes away where students can sail, kayak, have fun on the beach etc. Lots of emphasis on the relationships that student get with faculty, and quality of the classroom experience. We both liked the strong honor code - you can leave expensive stuff anywhere on campus and no one will take it, plus you can self-schedule all exams. We both thought the eating houses were a little weird, but they probably make more sense once you’re there. There was nothing wrong with it, and I liked it very much, but my daughter really wants a larger school. For someone who wants a SLAC in the south, it has a lot going for it.

Wake Forest - DOWN. This may have been influenced by several factors. It was our third tour in two days, so we were “tour weary.” It was also super hot, and my daughter wasn’t feeling great. Plus, there wasn’t an info session, which I think is helpful to provide some context to the tour, and our tour guide wasn’t great. She didn’t seem super fired up about the school - which even the really bad tour guide at Fordham had been. She also didn’t know certain data points that tour guides should know - percentage of students who go abroad, and the maximum class size, for example. Not knowing basic information about the school made the tour guide feel pretty checked-out. All of this is subjective, but then nothing else about the school really helped us get over the subjective negatives. The campus was really nice, but is gated and felt closed off. We didn’t realize the the football stadium isn’t on campus at first - it’s a mile away. It was also hard to get a good “feel” for the school on our tour- for example we knew Greek life is a big part of the campus experience, but the tour guide didn’t discuss it. Plus, we stayed in Winston Salem on this trip, and we both really did not like the city. It felt dead anytime we tried to venture out. One reason Wake was on the list was because it’s in a city, but this ended up being a negative. Overall, it may stay on the list but it moved down.