(*cry*) Opinions PLS: ED-ness, debt, and LACs & Amherst

<p><em>takes deep breath</em> Ok, I need some pointers. Fast, within hours, actually. I have basically one day to make this decision. Not just in telling me whether I fit, but rational constructive criticism about what I'm about to do, in general.</p>

<p>So, I've been accepted into this fairly unknown, but nifty scholarship program for high-achieving, low-income students. It pairs students with a few presitigious LACs and pays for all four years. Yes, all four, for free. </p>

<p>The catch is, if the school accepts you, it is binding. You do get to rank the college partners, so essentially you can choose where you would prefer to go - but overall, the decision is still binding. </p>

<p>The problem is, the six college partners of the program aren't on my list. The six are: Amherst, Trinity, Bowdoin, Grinnell, Williams, and Rice. </p>

<p>But my top LAC picks are (is) more like Swarthmore or Pomona. </p>

<p>I feel like the schools offered are very different from my top picks, which would imply, that by doing this program, I would get steered away from where I really belong. </p>

<p>My parents can't contribute a penny to the 40k a year I'm looking at. I mean, I have good stats, typically decently high like most overachievers on this board, and I could get some scholarships to help, but nothing nearly as great as the opportunity I'm being offered now. I just can't weigh the options... the chance to be super happy with a 50k (or 160k) debt after college or fairly happy with 0 debt. It's driving me crazy cuz I have about a day to decide whether to do the program or not, and even if I accept, I only have a few days to rank the colleges - the colleges that I don't much about.</p>

<p>So it's like applying ED for schools you've never seen and barely heard about, but for free and for free education. I sound very hypocritical - I usually counsel my peers to choose their schools irrelevant of reputation, of parents, of SATs, not to do ED if you can't name your school of choice right off the bat without hesitation, etc. --___--''''''</p>

<p>Right now, I'm leaning towards accepting the invitation to the program, ranking one or two colleges, and just watching what happens. I figure that naming one college probably won't hurt... only about 10% of 300 kids get accepted with scholarship invitations. So all this worry might be for naught, and if I don't get accepted, then all the applications I have already done are my safety net. But if I do get accepted, where would I be then? Cheated out of what was rightfully mine...? <em>c..r..y</em></p>

<p>I'm thinking Amherst as my top. But I've heard it's almost in the middle of nowhere, that the students are rather preppy and obnoxious, and that all there is to do is (mostly) drink. </p>

<p>Trinity is my next choice. But, even though there's more to do in Hartford, I've heard ... yes, that the students are preppy and obnoxious (yes I know this a common stereotype for most private schools), but also that there is a lack of racial interaction and very very cliche, even for a small school, and also they have a bad relationship with the locals. </p>

<p>I want a lot out of my college. Diversity is important - I am a female Asian American, and I don't want to be the only one. I need strong academics; I would like options. I want strength in pre-law, a business-background (Business admin, management, econ), psych... I'd like to be able to take courses in soc, philo, and Chinese culture. Student body-wise, I'm looking for intellectually-geared, but also progressive students; I'd like to do youth-mentoring and service in those precious four years. Social life, I'm not big on drinking and even less on drugs, and I've been pretty geared towards laid-back city life - museums, plays, concerts, movies, coffeehouses. The one plus I really want, usually only available in cities, is that I want to intern during college (hopefully during the school year) at a child-advocacy-oriented law clinic.</p>

<p><em>CRY</em> Help me?</p>

<p>All of the programs that you could go to are excellent, and you are lucky to be offered such amazing opportunities. While the colleges differ to some extent from your first choices, they do not differ extremely from the places that you'd prefer to go. I could see turning down such an offer if, for instance, they wanted you to go to a third tier party school, but that's not at all the kind of deal you are being offered.</p>

<p>I personally think you would get a wonderful education at any of the schools on their list or on yours, and you would be making a big mistake to turn down a free education at a wonderful university and through a program that also seems wonderful.</p>

<p>While diversity is important to you (and I emphathize with your feelings on this), you have the rest of your life to go into diverse environments. The reason you're being offered the schools you are being offered is because they desperately want to improve their diversity.</p>

<p>I have known people who have accepted similar sweet deals to go to LACs that wanted diversity, and who have had good experiences even though these particularly students were among only a small group of nonwhite students on campus. The colleges regarded them as stars, and treated them accordingly.</p>

<p>The 2 people I know who did such things, moved afterward to big cities and have had nice lives that included a varied circle of friends.</p>

<p>I also highly doubt that any of the schools on the Quest list only have students who are into drinking, drugs, etc. I also would bet that you could find a way to do a child-advocacy law internship at one of those schools. You could even contact their career placement offices now to ask about such possibilities.</p>

<p>Your view of the schools also is very skewed. Amherst is only about an hour or so away from Boston. Rice is in the middle of Houston, a city with many cultural offerings. </p>

<p>"But if I do get accepted, where would I be then? Cheated out of what was rightfully mine...? *c..r..y"</p>

<p>Puh-leaze. You have no guarantee of getting into Swat or Pomona, and certainly no guarantee of getting into either with full aid. It's ridiculous to think that either is "rightfully yours." </p>

<p>If you got into one of the other schools, you would have essentially won an education lottery. If you choose to pass on this fabulous opportunity, IMO, it would be your mistake and a big loss -- for you.

<p>It seems to me that you are foolish to not embrace this program. Does it guarantee acceptance to the school? Plus a free ride? That's a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Why couldn't you be happy at one of those wonderful schools? </p>

<p>Your other choice is, what? To apply to your preferred schools with no guarantee of acceptance? To have to settle for a lesser school without the sweet deal? To patch together enough grants and loans to get through four years, then graduate with thousands of dollars of debt? Don't you care about your future?</p>

<p>Life is full of tough decisions. This one seems pretty easy.</p>

<p>Is this the Quest scholarship program?</p>

<p>/have you actually sat down and compared the diversity at these schools? For example, Swarthmore has about 30% minority students...so does Amherst. All of the schools on the list have had active URM recruitment policies for the past decade or more - Only you can decide if this program is right for you, but do your research about each school and see how they compare to your first choice schools both in terms of diversity AND academic opportunities --- good luck.</p>

<p>The differences between Pomona and Amherst are minimal, like in REALLY minimal. They have a huge overlap in applications. They are both part of 5-college systems, though the Mass. one is more robust (in my opinion.) They both have large numbers of students from private schools, and large numbers of students who do not receive financial aid (though Pomona's "entitlement" index is higher.) Their curricula strengths (and occasional weaknesses) are similar. Amherst is more diverse, especially economically, as they have put a heavy stress on that over the past decade, and have 25% more "Pell Grant" recipients than Swarthmore. Yes, there is lots of drinking at Amherst, but there is lots of drinking at Pomona, too (and there is more to do in the Amherst/Northampton area, unless you go into L.A.)</p>

<p>Yes, there are cultural differences among all of these great schools. But if it were me (and it isn't), not nearly enough to turn down a free ride to Amherst (or Grinnell, or Williams - my alma mater, or Bowdoin - though if I had to choose, and I don't, I'd choose Amherst.)</p>

<p>Yep, Quest.</p>

<p>Ok, I needed that bashing. Thanks. Such needless emotional turmoil.</p>

<p>So now that I've determined that I'm going to do it, I have to start ranking colleges. I'm fine with Amherst.</p>

<p>Tell me about Trinity, Grinnell, and Williams. Correct my stereotypes:</p>

<p>Trinity: bad local relations, also a drinking school, not terribly diverse.</p>

<p>Grinnell: even bigger on drinking, cornfields-without a city aura</p>

<p>Williams: very sports oriented.... i'm not even jock-like</p>

<p>Hmmm... full ride to a school you half-fit at?</p>

<p>Very honestly, if you don't have any money, you should be thrilled at the possibility of a full ride to virtually any accredited school. College is such a huge financial investment, and it would be wonderful to graduate debt free. Afterward, you would be in great financial shape to go to grad school or to start a career.</p>

<p>I strongly suggest that you do some real research on the colleges that you might get into through the program. Have you read the colleges' websites? Gone to other sites where you can see comments from students? Certainly you can look at websites and see how diverse colleges are, what the local towns are like, and what ECs and campus events there are.</p>

<p>It also would be good if you realize that most colleges do attract people with differing personalities and interests. Even some of the country's biggest party and sports schools have plenty of students who aren't into those activities.</p>

<p>All of the colleges that you are being offered are excellent and could offer you a good experience --if you put your mind to it and take full advantage of the opportunities the colleges offer.</p>

<p>Here's my opinion:</p>

<p>Trinity: Is actually more diverse than many LACs, just take the time to look at the numbers. Also, Trinity has an even mix of conservatives and liberals on campus, as well as many internship opportunities. It is simmilar to Pomona, although not as intense in workload. Same amount of drinking. Big endowment, and excellent aid, gurentees to meet need.</p>

<p>Grinnell: Definately not a big drinking school, very diverse student body. More liberal than most other colleges but not militant like Wesleyan. Laidback, accepting students who are interested in many things. Large international enrollement. Awesome financial aid, and the location (after a tour) I found was not a negative (I prefer city schools usually). Amazing reputation. Definately like Swarthmore & Bowdoin. Larger endowment than all the others. Amazing aid.</p>

<p>Williams: Like Amherst...pretty good diversity for a LAC. Although a good number of students play a sport, it's also a Division III school. Many people learn a new sport once they get there. Plenty of "non-jock" types. Similar to Pomona on your list, although ranked higher than it. Great financial aid package, since endowment is bigger than Swat or Pomona.</p>

<p>You definately have some ideas about the colleges which are misguided. Maybe you should visit their websites for more input. I myself have Swat, Amherst, Bowdoin, Grinnell, and others on my list precisely because they are similar. I have friends at Trinity and Pomona, and their experiences are similar. Although Pomona is a tad more liberal, both Trinity and Pomona attract a certain kind of student. I thought about applying to both, but they are more middle of the road than I like. Given that I have to pay for each of my apps myself, I believe you should be overjoyed at having such a chance with Quest. I wish I qualified.</p>

<p>Just my 2 cents.</p>

<p>It does appear that your opinions on the Quest schools are either inaccurate or highly stereotyped. I hope you have a more accurate sense of Pomona and Swarthmore. All of these schools are excellent academically. I could certainly make a case for any two as favorites, as there are differences. However, a full scholarship at one and not the others would immediately make it a favorite. </p>

<p>Based on your post, you might fit best at Grinnell. The school is just as intellectually engaging as Swarthmore or Pomona, and certainly just as progressive. (You are correct about the rural location, but not the drinking.)As for the urban/suburban/rural thing, for eight months each out of the next four years you should focus on academics, not visits to the Mall or museums. A few kids at Amherst, Rice, Williams, Trinity or Bowdoin might annoy you, but there are plenty of progressive students at these schools, along with quite a few accepting middle-of-the-road types and plenty of options for community service. As for diversity, all of the schools under discussion are between 63% and 77% white - some difference there, but not a whole lot. </p>

<p>I'd rank as many Quest schools as you can. And if it is not on it already, I'd put Macalester on your RD list.</p>

<p>It is important to be comfortable with the schools you apply to. Unfortunately, it's tough to get comfortable in one day. But I would make a serious attempt to get comfortable with some of the Quest schools and rank more than one.</p>

<p>You are incredibly lucky to have such an opportunity. Those are some terrific schools on the list. I am someone who has posed questions about the culture at Williams on the Williams thread, because I am seriously interested in it for my daughter in the future, but despite my questions, I continue to find it very attractive and think it appears to offer a great education. I know someone Asian who attended Williams and loved it - studied Chinese while there, too. You wouldn't be alone there. And they have what appears to be a pretty nice Asian Studies dept: <a href="http://www.williams.edu/Asian/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.williams.edu/Asian/&lt;/a>. I don't know as much about the other five colleges - I haven't researched them except superficially, but I would think Amherst an excellent bet, as well, if I were ranking them for my daughter. I also have looked at Pomona and Swarthmore some - they certainly aren't different enough from the others to pass up four years of free tuition, R & B. Think about geography and weather when comparing the six, too, but go for it!</p>

<p>My son considered Amherst and Trinity and ended up at Williams. Although Trinity is a fine school with good programs, he really didn't like the physical feeling of the school. Hartford is dismal. Although I wouldn't recommend going to any school without visiting, I really wouldn't recommend going to Trinity sight unseen. </p>

<p>Williams and Amherst are like siamese twins, weaker in one area, stronger in another. Many overlaps in applicants. Amherst is a neat college town with the added value of the consortium schools. Williams is beautiful, but isolated. </p>

<p>Since Williams is the one I know the most about I'll concentrate there, but really, all of these are wonderful schools with dedicated faculty and happy students. Try to spend some time on their websites. Most will direct you to a student whom you can ask about their experience.</p>

<p>Sports are big at Williams, but there are plenty of kids who are not athletes. What the kids are is generally outgoing and active -- as opposed to introspective I guess you'd say. They don't necessarily do team sports but most do something active like hiking, tennis, running, broomball, skiing etc. They are very energetic. </p>

<p>There are no shortage of arts related activities. Williamstown has one of the best private art museums in the country (The Clark) and the college museum and nearby MassMoCA (contemporary art) are also excellent. The school plans a constant stream of intellectually stimulating activities (check out the calendar) and the kids have fun just hanging out together.</p>

<p>They are also very smart and although they have been known to party (most but all drink, but drugs are rare), they put academics first. The academics in many, many areas are topnotch. "strength in pre-law, a business-background (Business admin, management, econ), psych..." is a definite.</p>

<p>Williams class of 08 was 30% non-white. They are actively recruiting diversity. Although not the most politically active campus, there are still plenty of opportunities to do community service and social welfare projects.</p>

<p>Wow, congratulations! What a wonderful opportunity. We were blown away by Williams when we visited -- amazing opportunities for fully funded undergrad summer research, a beautiful environment, new performing arts center going up...</p>

<p>I do want to say a word about stereotyping. On these boards I get the impression at times that anyone who wears a polo shirt is a philistine. Actually, many students I know who dress that way are passionate about politics, active in the performing arts, interested in all kinds of people...and surprised at how harshly they are judged by others who claim to be less snobby than they are! You will limit yourself if you base your decision on surface considerations. Good luck to you.</p>

<p>"?Cheated out of what was rightfully mine."! You need to do some reflecting on the real world, and that includes the world of the poor, the middle class, and even the rasonably affluent. There are thousands of people who attend local public colleges because they cannot afford higher tuition; there are people who work part-time to pay tuition and miss the funand enrichment of being a full-time student at even a mediocre four-year college or univesity; there are people who can pay full freight and are qualfiied for admission but just don't get in and who would jump for joy at the opportunity to be attend any of the participating schools you mention. It is ineteresting that you feel you would you like to attend Pomona or Swarthmore rather thant he schools in the consortium. Yet these two schools are at opposite ends of the country. Had you considered the travel difficulties of being a minimum of 1500 miles from home and not being able to pay even a cent toward your tuition? It seems to me that you have been offered a dazzling opportunity and that if you are intereted in attending an elite LAC, being admitted to any one of them with full tuition paid is a gift that perhaps someday you will have the grace adn maturity and perspective to appreciate.</p>

<p>Agree with everyone else - someday you'll realize what an opportunity this is, and you're just feeling angst.
I agree with Grinnell, but put in a good word for Rice
1) A little bigger than some of the others, which may compensate for lower diversity
2) "Good" urban, most urban of all of these
3) Availability of engineering and music - I know you said pre-law, but Rice has the widest range of "schools" , might be handy if career plans change
4) Travel - Mattmom, makes a very important point, I don't know where you live, but Houston is a major airport hub, and Rice is close to many things in Houston - important if your spending money is tight. If you live in the NE, Williams and Amherst may seem like they are in the middle of nowhere, but wait til you get to Iowa or Tx - the distances and travel times are much, much longer, good to be close to that airport.</p>

<p>Congrats, you are very fortunate.</p>

<p>Bowdoin: This school has been at the top of my son's list since we visited last April. Travel to and from would be a bit of a challenge. But once you get there ... excellent academics in a stunningly beautiful location. No doubt there is drinking. But not everybody does.</p>

<p>Another thing that occurs to me is that you could enquire about 'substance free' dorms - no drinking, smoking, whatever. This would put you in with like minded students if it was available.</p>

<p>One more thought: most of these colleges have discussion groups on <a href="http://www.livejournal.com%5B/url%5D"&gt;www.livejournal.com&lt;/a> - go there and do an "interest search" for each school. The discussion groups are usually made up of current students --- and usually they don't mind fielding questions from prospective students. It's a good way to learn a bit about the culture of each school and it's atmosphere. The best answers I've seen on live journal have been to the question: "What do you like most and least about XXX School?" You'll surely get a variety of answers. </p>

<p>Best of luck and congratulations on this wonderful opportunity!</p>

<p>To me, at least four of the college partners do seem a bit different than the schools on your list. I'd guess they produce a lot more future corporate lawyers than child-advocacy lawyers. So if you're misinformed as the people here suggest, you're not alone.</p>

<p>Grinnell seems more similar but is in a pretty darned isolated location. I've been by there. I know Rice mostly for it's suberb engineering school, but it seems different than the others to me. </p>

<p>I'm sure if you investigate these schools carefully you will find that some of them, while not a perfect fit for you, are "good enough" given the financial situation.</p>

<p>On the other hand you might also pursue with your real "dream" school whether they can come close to matching the deal you're getting from the college partner schools, and how you might go about it. Maybe you can use the scholarship opportunity as leverage to get what you want from the place you really want to go, without messing up your other deal if your dream deal doesn't work out. Like maybe apply early decision to "dream school"and find out before you have to apply to the others.</p>

<p>I echo all previous comments about the fantastic opportunity. If you want some additional perspective of the joy of being able to attend a top college without having to worry about money, check the posts of evilrobot, a student who is attending Vanderbilt on a full scholarship instead of going to what had been his dream school, Yale, but without that scholarship. At last report he was ecstatic. </p>

<p>For information about Trinity you might get in touch with Twinkletoes, who's just begun there (see the thread on her college life on this board).</p>

<p>Some information from me. Pre-law programs are not important for getting into, or doing well in, law school. I would not choose a college based on the presence or absence of a formal pre-law program. If you want to learn some law, most schools have a few courses available to undergraduates, sometimes through the business school or political science department.</p>

<p>If you want to go into child advocacy, taking some child psychology and/or other social science subjects that are child-related will stand in better stead than law course or a pre-law program.</p>

<p>Suburban or rural areas are no less likely to have child-advocay programs than large cities. They have the same problems, just more spread out. So check the localities of these colleges for such programs.</p>