Critique this college visit list? Astronomy and diverse environment search!

Compiling a preliminary list for my d23 - would love insight on what to add or omit. As she is just starting her search, list ranges over schools large and small, geographically diverse, and from urban to rural. Requirements are : 1. Excellent astronomy department but also strong humanities and not “tech only”, 2. No super intense competitive schools like UChicago or MIT, 3. no red states/conservative areas, 4. Diverse and inclusive student body, 5. Not frat or jock dominated scene, significant “edgy” student presence so she isn’t an outlier.

Harvard ( legacy)
U of Michigan
U of Arizona
U of Maryland College Park
UCol at Boulder
UC Berkley
U of Washington ISeattle)
Yale (legacy)

Poss additions that don’t fully seem to fit:

Carnegie Mellon
Wash U St. Louis


If you are not CA residents, then UCLA and UCB will be full pay at $67K/year with little to no financial aid. If budget is unlimited, also add UC Santa Cruz for their respected Astronomy program.


No budget concerns and thanks



You already have a very long list. I wouldn’t look to add any more but start culling down.

Don’t underestimate the time it’s going to take for your child to write all these essays. (My D applied to 8 schools and had 19 essays to write).

Make sure the list is balanced. Right now it skews way too reach heavy.


Are you planning on visiting all of these? It’s a lot! If she loves BU, she will hate Hamilton as they are polar opposites. We started by looking at a variety of schools within a short drive from home, which gave us a large, urban public school, a small private urban school, and a small private rural school. D20 was able to get a feel for what type of environment she wanted to focus on (small, quiet campus) and we were able to have more of a focus of where to visit.

Also, if she is looking for schools where there is limited frat/jock influence and an “edgy” student body, you can eliminate Colgate as the campus is heavily influenced by Greek life and athletics and the students tend to be pretty homogeneous.


Thanks - this is a list to try to visit, agree will need to be culled for actual apps. In particular I think after a few visits we will eliminate some categories, such as urban or those on west coast (we are east coast). I did think with the state schools we had safeties - if she likes UC Boulder, that is over 50% admissions for example. She will be in at Uof Arizona as well.

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You didn’t share stats but I’m going to assume if she has the academic chops for the Ivies, that yes, she’ll be in at AZ. Depending on where you are in state, some of the other publics are matches, not safeties, based on acceptance rates.

Yes, though, visits will hopefully help cull the list!


100% agree with @helpingmom40 that Colgate University may not be a comfortable environment for your daughter. Also agree that Hamilton College is quite different than the other schools on her list. FWIW Hamilton College & Colgate University are overlap schools.

Agree with OP that Dartmouth College & Bowdoin College don’t fit.

18 target schools remain from OP’s original list.


Thanks much.


You do make the good point I hadn’t thought of - all the safeties here are state schools. If she doesn’t like the larger schools, we don’t really have many/any private schools on the list that are safeties.

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For brief, subjective comments on a few of these schools, see reply #6 in this topic: Struggling with D21's List. ED & ED2: Amherst, Hamilton, Wellesley, Vassar.


Union may be an ok low-ish match, depending on stats. It has some Greek life and some athletics but is not as intense as Colgate. It is definitely smaller than the big state schools you listed and has some merit opportunities.


Thanks. We aren’t in state for any of these - on paper UMd at College Park may most appealing unless she falls in love with the UC’s.

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Thanks. Will take a look at Union.

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Unless your daughter is off the charts top level the list is all reach and no match/safety so I’d expand it downward.

Az, Boulder, maybe UW are the only safety to match for most…don’t know your daughter…but also are vastly different than others. I know you are just starting.

I suggest visiting a few so you can learn preference for size, urban/suburban, aesthetics, etc.

It’s great to start wise but going to visit a variety of schools on quick trips (4 or 5) to measure size, feel, area can help you find a target type and add from there.

Good luck.


Yep agree need more matches/safeties, particularly if she ends up not liking the bigger state schools which are the only safeties we have now. Wesleyan is a likely I would think but not a safety. Suggestions?

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Another recommendation for Vassar.

Swarthmore is known for being very intense academically which is why there are no grades given during the first semester, so it might not be a good fit.


Wow this is a great idea - will add Vassar. She didn’t want all women’s colleges but I know Vassar isn’t that any more and may be a good match in other ways. Also likely safety-ish. Thanks!

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Hasn’t been all women’s since 1969 :slightly_smiling_face: