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

Let’s move off the off-topic conversation of bottles please.

Feel free to continue it in the off-topic thread, just not here


@tamagotchi started a discussion about tours offering food and drink (or not) on the off topic discussion thread about schools that either have been crossed off or have moved up your lists.

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U Pitt - moved up

They made us feel right at home and gave a drink ticket and tee-shirt to 23. We had a warm feeling from the first moment. Lots of diversity in the staff and lots of smiles welcoming us with people stationed at various points to keep us from getting lost.

Their presentation focused on stories and not just a recitation of rankings as with other schools.

Example: A video shared stories of an engineering professor who talked about jogging as part of self-care and another professor who does astronomy as a hobby (and takes photos of planets in his spare time). With these stories, I felt like we had a peek behind the curtain. They were well done and showed us a bit more about who the people are who work there.

The “pathfinders” are students who are school ambassadors. They had a video showing what the city is like. This was also missing in the MSU presentation. I left MSU knowing nothing more about the surrounding area or any of the professors or their interests. UMD featured professors and referenced their research on banners up around campus. A school should proudly get the word out about what makes them so fantastic!

Pitt did a good job of that.

Some city schools don’t offer much sense of a campus. NYU and BU come to mind. One could make a good argument that Pitt doesn’t either. However, they have some grassy areas (could use more trees, though) and a Florida-like plaza outside the student union (plus a display inside of Jazz-related artists).

The Cathedral of Learning is gorgeous with a large, cozy area on the first floor to study or spend time between classes. I also saw a former athletic association building with its name engraved at the top and wondered if the building had been something else and acquired by Pitt. Just added an interesting touch to the architecture and beauty.

Lots of convenient places to eat in the various buildings.

One dorm is especially new and comes with a fridge and microwave—costs more to reflect those benefits. Fridges can be rented for other dorms, if desired, and that saves having to move it in or out or deal with problems with it.

We saw a room in the towers—dorms. Basic expected situation. The bathroom has several private shower areas, and maybe that is common, too. Apparently, students like the Towers? I thought the security booth and the 1950s prison blue color made it feel cold.

Honors dorm is up “cardiac hill.” You don’t have to live in it if you are in honors program, though.

You get free bus rides, I think, and free tix to take the Duquesne line.

You also get discounts or free passes to various events in the city. Symphony is one.

They accept 3s for physics and calculus (the presenter said she thought this was the case). They accept 4s for many classes.

IIRC, you don’t have to apply for majors unless it’s something particular like nursing.

Pitt has been marketing heavily in the DC area, and it’s worked. I’ve heard they provide less merit than they once did now that they get more applications.

23 is not thrilled (yet?) and will apply anyway. 23 wants a “real” campus with buildings situated around a central area and close access to a city. That is a difficult combo to find.

We live just outside a city and are in it all the time. I’ve taken buses and subways since I was 14, but 23 has not. If you are from a rural area or your kiddo never has taken the public bus or subway, know that Pitt teaches students how to ride the city buses, etc at orientation.

I wonder about security and guns. I see that 20-story dorm and I don’t know…


Glad you liked the University of Pittsburgh. The building you are probably referring to is the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. It was a private social and athletic club. My rehearsal dinner was there decades ago because my father in law was a is being developed by Walnut Capital and underwent an extensive renovation.
Pittsburgh Athletic Association | Walnut Capital


S23 first made his list with engineering in mind and then switched to something in the field of natural resources (wildlife bio, animal ecology, etc). This is a kid that says “I can adapt to anything and be happy anywhere. It’s just finding the place that will give me good options”.

Northeastern - down . This school is fairly local for us and it was raining so hard we wrung out our clothes when we got to the car. We recognized that the programs were great but S23 just didn’t like anything about it and despite all they had to offer didn’t really see a major there that he was interested in. It was the only school we visited where he didn’t say “I can picture myself there” when we let.

WPI - way up, then off. DS didn’t expect to like this school being small and close to home (DS wants to experience something outside of New England). He originally only went to humor me so that we could get a “small school in a small city” visit under our belt but he ended up falling in love with what WPI does well. He really liked all the experiential learning and that it was so student-centered. Everywhere you looked there was a project that students worked on. He loved that rather than hiring companies to design the parking garage or fix a pedestrian issue, they had students come up with the solutions. The information session made us feel like they were really invested in being a student first institution. Ultimately came off of his list because he decided against engineering.

University of Minnesota - stayed the same. This was already at the top of DS list and remains in his top 2. It was everything he hoped it would be. We spent a few days in Minneapolis and he kept saying he could really see himself living there. He loved the research opportunities and that there was anything you could ever want to do both at the university and in the area. UMN has 3 unique campuses spanning Minneapolis (East Bank and West Band) and St. Paul. The School of Natural Resources is housed on the St. Paul campus which we were told was a little oasis from the more congested Minn campuses. He felt it was the best of both worlds. There is a great campus transportation system connecting the 3 compasses and this year they are all giving all students city transportation passes. He basically loved everything about it. This also happened to be our best tour guide. Perky, funny with just the right amount to self-depreciation, knowledgeable and able to answer all questions. She kept the tour moving at just the right pace.

St. Olaf - UP, but never really a contender. Full disclosure. We only went because it was a good stopping point between UMN and ISU and we heard the food was great. This was another visit just to humor me as I really wanted him to see a small school and from what I heard this sounded like an interesting one to see. The school was absolutely gorgeous and we were very comfortable with their social justice initiatives and how they dovetailed with their religion classes (We are not Christian). For such a small school, there was a lot of diversity. I knew it wasn’t really an option as they had no major for DS. He really liked their honor code and that people could leave their stuff anywhere without worrying about it, that they had a cup library and bike rentals that were just an honors system and he even said that if he did go there he would play his sport (which he had decided again at any other schools). Ultimately, it was too small and too much like the boarding school he already attends. We had a private tour as the other family that was supposed to be on our tour didn’t show up and our tour guide even said that a lot of what he was doing in his school are the same things she is doing there. It was a “been there/done that” for him. His take away was “I can see myself being happy here (if they had my major), but it’s not where I want to go. It’s a lot like what I thought boarding school would look like before I applied”. So while the school went up in his eyes and earned a lot of respect from him, it wasn’t somewhere he was ever going to go.

Iowa State University - Up. This was a safety and his first acceptance. He knew he would like it, but he liked it even more than he thought he would. ISU and Ames makes you feel very welcome before you even get there. Their acceptance is legendary and shortly after that you get a letter from the City of Ames to congratulate you and tell you about all the community services and events that Ames offers ISU students. He liked the campus and that everyone in Ames seemed to be a Cyclones fan. They had a great transportation system that integrated with the town’s system. We went for Experience ISU day and there was an information session in the morning where we were able to visit tables of various departments to get information followed by a welcome to ISU presentation including a student panel. After the presentation we were split into colleges and once we got to the Agg and Life Science building we were split into majors. DS was the only one in his major so he had about 45 minutes 1:1 with one of the academic advisors to learn about the program, what his schedule would look like, and what opportunities were available.
He liked ISU a lot but kept comparing it to UMN. Less diverse, not really a city and harder to get to. He also felt that in terms of the wildlife and natural resources they studied, it was more Iowa specific (prairie, watershed) than what he wanted to study. The majority of the students seemed to be more agg or pre-vet focused than natural resources. It’s still on his list as he hasn’t been accepted to his top two choices yet. Even though it’s #3, he’d be really happy there and would never feel disappointed.

Still waiting to visit Colorado State which is currently tied for #1 with UMN based on the strength of its Wildlife Bio and Conservation program, where it’s located, and its reputation for experiential education. I’m sure he’ll love it.

It will be interesting to see how he makes this decision as UMN and CSU’s are so different.


Can a moderator explain when we are allowed to mention other topics and when we are not?

To respond to this, would I need to start a thread elsewhere? Seems rude for me to ignore the reply. :thinking:

Thanks, Sevmom, for reminding me of the name of the building!


I’m not a moderator, but I did see a thread Off-Topic Discussion from “Colleges Crossed Off List or Moved Up After Visiting”(Off-Topic Discussion from "Colleges Crossed Off List or Moved Up After Visiting")

I truly love this thread and reading about the schools people have visited. It’s one of those threads that I feel “off topic” discussion takes away from. If people have questions, comments, or clarifications about a specific school discussed, it’s best to contact the poster directly. I think we all know that what is written here is solely the experience and perception of the person that made the visit.

Oops, hope I didn’t just break the “no off-topic discussion” rule.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

I, however, am a moderator, so let me build on your excellent post.

It’s fine.

It’s an art, not a science.

Remember, the purpose of this thread is the user’s (and / or their kid’s) perception of a school.

It’s fine to respond to a question asking for clarification, but if the exchange goes on for more than a couple of posts, it’s best to move to PM.

It’s fine to say your experience differs with XYZ school, but don’t expect to change the other person’s opinion.

It’s best to avoid discussions of USNWR rankings, or any other rankings - move to the OT thread, if needed.

It’s best not to get sidetracked into any other conversations not related to perceptions post-visit including, but not limited to dorm bathroom policies, quality of food, move-in procedures, roommate issues, decorating policies. Those again are best for the OT thread


MSU way down. D crossed off Michigan State., which had been the first-choice safety.

There was an odd official presentation that stressed how difficult and expensive it is to Uber from the airport to East Lansing (okay?) and why students with ACT scores in the teens should apply but not submit test scores (really want those students?). They also stressed it was an easy application that doesn’t require essays or LORs. Felt like a desperate sales pitch according to D.

There was no real information in their presentation about professors, student life, why to choose MSU over other schools, or about the unique academic programs they offer. The whole presentation seemed targeted to the B student who wants to drink and go to football and basketball games, a huge miss for a serious academic student.

Our tour guide was a poor communicator and didn’t really help add detail or color to anything, but was filled with random facts about winter weather and parking garages. As others have noted, we know all the tour guides’ pronouns, but it was not a diverse group.

The building with the showcase residence hall room was dark and hot. We spent way too much time sweating in a dark hallway while the guide shared facts about how busy the cafeteria was and how early to get there to avoid lines… Not sure those observations are in the official tour guide training manual.

The tour was very long and we were running short of time, so we left the tour early to return to our car. We told the tour guide we had to go and he just shrugged and kept rambling on.

Exploring on our own before the tour, the campus seemed huge, but also beautiful and scenic in spots. Nicer campus in many ways than the University of Michigan and distinct/separate from East Lansing: green spaces, classic brick college buildings, and a nice stream running through campus. The outskirts of the campus weren’t as nice, and some of the athletic facilities were older but functional.

Overall, a hard no and the search begins for a new safety.


Did this person mention that the Michigan Flyer offers a bus ride from the airport to East Lansing for about $20-30, from early morning thru the evening, depending on direction? I believe its only stop is in A2.


They might have. We are in driving distance, so we tuned out. Just about everyone in the room was driving distance (from Chicago, Michigan, or Ohio), so it was maybe not the best use of the first 7-8 minutes of the limited presentation time.

My D commented that we obviously all had already found our way to East Lansing…


Last(!!!) pre-applying visits! Not ideal in extreme heat and not ideal in summer when school is not in session, but can only do what we can do:

  1. Tufts. Way up- possibly to ED2 slot if ED at Northwestern doesn’t work out. Kid didn’t love the campus (nice but not nearly as historic or pretty as some we have visited) or Medford (unless we missed it pretty low on student coffeehouses, restaurants, places to get Boba tea etc) but obviously liked the ease of getting into Boston while not being in it and most importantly really liked what he heard about academics - very smart and academic kids but not super intense or competitive, cool stuff happening at the school, ability to double major, ability to transfer between Arts and Sciences and engineering and even take classes in engineering school as an arts and sciences student. Definitely a hit. There is a continuing wannabe vibe that is a con - and why my older kids didn’t apply. The digs against MIT and Harvard are not a good look, just stop…

  2. BOston University- up, a surprise hit. We did self tour which for us never works as well as guided tours but the kid liked what he saw - campus right in Boston but in part on some beautiful tree lined streets, very high energy and diverse vibe, punches way above its selectivity weight in academics I have always thought. (Not that it is so easy to get into either!). Stayed on the list for RD apps if the early binding rounds don’t pan out.

3 Brown - way up, another hit (so different touring with him than his older sister who hated every place!). Was very surprised by the STEM focus of the tour (largest concentration is apparently computer science now) and loved of course the open curriculum with opportunities to double major and take classes both in and out of engineering. But didn’t dethrone Northwestern as ED choice so unlikely to end up there anyway…


S23 and DH are in Maine looking at LACs. I’m relaying what I’ve gleaned from our texts and calls…

Bates: DOWN
Campus was pretty nice. Lots of trees. DH really liked the info session and the extremely strong sense of community fostered at Bates. Some unique things include the May term (a few required), minor or second major required, and no supplemental essay for admission as well as no interview. I am wondering how they get a sense for the applicant? S23 didn’t really love it. The “town” is small, not close by, not student focused, and the area is kinda run down. Good solid school, but there’s others he likes more.

Colby: SAME
Quite remote and also far from the town but a generally more prosperous area. Campus had a grand feel to it but definitely a mix of the old and the new. Brand new huge athletic complex could be a draw for some I imagine. Other buildings like the library seemed less impressive. The few students around seemed very outgoing, down to earth, friendly. They have an intensive (required a few times) January term and a robust study abroad program including a language-immersive J-term study abroad. S23 liked it pretty well. On the list I think (with no essay, no interview, and no application fee, why would he not apply?)

Bowdoin: UP
A larger and more impressive feeling campus than above. Also lots of trees. Everything seemed old and established, in a good way. They got the feeling that there were no gimmicks here, the college is simply an excellent all around LAC. DH really liked the info session and admin who led it. Big focus on TO. (She says they really mean it. S23 will be sending test scores anyway.) Campus was closer to town and more integrated with town. S23 also had an on-campus interview with a student which he enjoyed.

Getting to Maine from the CA Bay Area was a huge pain. Took 20 hours, 2 airlines, 4 airports, 5 rebookings. Their trip home is going swimmingly however. But with a kid already in the east and not near a major airport, I will say this will be a factor we consider this time around.


We had a similar experience! While we didn’t hear about getting to the airport, we left with absolutely no sense of the campus or who anyone was or why anyone should attend it.

Go Blue, I guess. (Michigan joke.) :rofl:


Last tours for D23:

Loyola Marymount: Same/Up. Very nice campus with a gorgeous view overlooking the bluffs. Really nice buildings/facilities, many newly built. I lost count of the number of times our tour guide mentioned that a certain building has just been constructed. Overlooks “silicon beach” so there would be close proximity to internships and job opportunities. A couple of little things - my daughter liked that students could rent Zipcars by the hour or by the day, and the small, zero emissions robotic carts that deliver food around campus.

USC: Same. We expected to really like this one, and we did. Beautiful - large! - campus, so many different undergraduate schools, but fairly easy apparently easy to transfer from one to the other once you’re admitted (with some exceptions). Loved that there was so much to do and experience right on campus - early showings of movies, demo-ing video games, performances by the world class arts, dance and theatre departments, but with LA also right there at your fingertips. My daughter loved that there was a Target, trader joes, and - of course - Starbucks, right there on campus.


A summary of our visits from last summer, in case it helps anyone. Indoor portion of tours was sometimes limited depending on schools covid rules.

Colby - Same - top notch academics, new athletic facility is amazing, campus is very nice. Drawback for us is isolated feel. Yes town is only a mile or two from campus, but many students probably go for weeks without seeing anything or any person beyond campus. I’m sure that doesn’t matter to everyone.

Bates - Up - we loved the campus and academic options. Campus feels very cohesive. The pond, quad and greenery around campus provide nice variety to a smallish campus. After Colby, the feeling of being in town (at least on the edge of town) felt more comfortable. Tight knit community, all students seem to live on or right next to campus and one main dining hall. There seems to be a good balance of academic rigor with support and collaborative environment. Everyone we talked to was very welcoming.

Bowdoin - Down - I liked it more than D22 did. Obviously great academics, for some reason she didn’t like the campus vibe as much as Colby or Bates, it was summer and very quiet. I liked the mix of newer and historic buildings, along with large lawns and trees. I also like it being connected with the small town.

Middlebury - Up - amazing setting next to the mountains. Beautiful campus and buildings. Campus is more spread out than other small LACs. Quaint little town.

Wesleyan - Down - I’m sure academics are great, but campus wasn’t our favorite. It did not feel cohesive. The brutalist art buildings don’t blend with the main portion of campus. The baseball/football multi-use field in the middle of campus seemed odd. Other athletic facilities are away from campus a bit. Some of the housing looked like old motels.

Lafayette - Up - did a self guided tour. It was the weekend of first years settling in, so there was a lot of activity. Nice setting on hilltop, and Easton is a short walk with some dining etc.

Swarthmore - Down - campus is beautiful, lots of green space and trees. D22 didn’t like the feeling of academic competition, it seems the school almost prides itself on overworking students, not for everyone.

Skidmore. - Up - we were there on a beautiful fall day, students lounging about the quad studying. Seemed like the students really like the school and their classes. Dining hall was impressive. Saratoga Springs is an awesome town. It seemed like lots of students move off campus into town after first year, which may be the reason the school is often described as cliquey compared to other LACs?

Clark (Mass) - Down - campus and many buildings felt a bit run down (library, dining hall, historic academic hall). Not in a great part of town, though not a big issue for us and the school’s community engagement is impressive.

UVM - Same - great campus, clean and modern, with lots of green space, obviously much bigger than the LACs. Short drive to the mountains and walking distance to the lake.


incredibly helpful - thanks!

My son saw the first 5 schools on your list and had similar impressions! And I too liked Bowdoin more than he did!

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I wasn’t crazy about Amherst’s “social dorms” when I visited as a “prospie” back in the day. The irony is that all of those New England campuses had maid service at the time:

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