Early in college search - looking for recommendations for colleges


This is my first post. My daughter is a high-achieving rising sophomore. We’re from the Midwest, but she’s interested in attending college out of state. Her current freshman GPA is a 4.3 (4.0 UW) and she took a challenging course load. We definitely need merit aid if she is going to attend college out of state. She hasn’t taken any standardized tests yet, but typically tests very well.

She doesn’t know what she plans to study yet, but her favorite classes are French and journalism. She’s potentially interested in becoming a therapist, although that’s not set.

What we’re looking for:
Friendly, welcoming community (she’s not the sorority or athletic type)
Bright, interesting, motivated students
Supportive professors/mentors
Smaller campus
Good merit aid
Not a party school

I’ve read reviews on unigo of schools I thought seemed appropriate only to find reviews that most of the students are wealthy and/or snobby. We are not wealthy and I don’t see her fitting in well with very wealthy and/or sporty kids. She loves to read and write and loves to learn about other people and cultures. Just wondering if anyone has recommendations for some good “fit” schools to start with.

Schools we’re thinking about:

Thank you for any input!

Have you run the net price calculator on each college’s web site?

Many highly selective private schools will have about half of the students attending without financial aid grants or scholarships. This probably means parent income of $250k per year or higher.

Those small schools which field a full set of sports teams will have a high percentage of the students playing the sports.


These might be worth adding to the research list.

Sarah Lawrence
Bennington College
UNC Asheville
St John’s College (Annapolis) (very unique and not for every student)
St Mary’s Of Maryland

Asheville and St Mary’s are public LACs, like William & Mary but not as incredibly difficult to get into for OOS applicants. Smaller enrollments, beautiful settings, less costly than private LACs.


Barnard, provided she’s ok with NYC.
Bates and Bowdoin

1 Like

Thank you! Yes, we ran NPC on tons of colleges. We’re pretty much only looking at colleges where the NPC comes out at 25k or lower.

What you said about income and sports makes sense.

Thank you so much! I will look into these.

Also - just to clarify - I’m certainly not ruling out colleges with a lot of wealthy people. I know she can fit in and make friends with genuine people anywhere. What I was concerned about was her being in an environment where there is a lot of emphasis put on wearing designer clothing or stuff like that.

What kind of therapist – physical therapist?

You might look at the Colleges That Change Lives website, here: https://ctcl.org/. Some of the schools that other posters have mentioned – College of Wooster, Goucher, St. John’s College – are mentioned on this website. Of the schools on the CTCLwebsite, many of them are in the Midwest, but perhaps not in your particular state.

Vassar doesn’t offer merit, only need-based aid. My D was very interested in Vassar too.


Although most colleges that meet 100% of need are a reach for everyone, they often provide enough aid to afford for a wider range of families, and they are super diverse. It might be worth looking at some of those schools if the NPC is in your favor and you think she might be interested in highly selective schools. I second the CTCL list and would recommend looking at schools with less than 15% in Greek life.


Thanks for this question - I should have been more specific. A mental health counselor or marriage and family therapist.

I’ve heard of this list and just requested the book from the library. I see that it came out in 2006. Is it still worth reading the book? Thanks!

Thank you!

My daughter was looking at dorm tours for her college and was starting to worry about if she’ll fit into an urban outfitters/pottery barn world with her Walmart clothes and target decor… in the end she decided it just couldn’t be a problem she was willing to give space in her mind to. Both my kids ended up at schools that have a large percentage of wealthy students- LMU and Haverford- but both felt at home when they visited the campuses. Both kids are in the only 14% of students who get pell grants at their schools… I would suggest visiting if possible and definitely don’t count anywhere out because of the average wealth of the students. It doesn’t seem to be a day-to-day issue in a lot of places (even when it’s obvious to the “poor” kids).


That is so reassuring! Thank you!

We plan to visit as many as we can. I’m sure that will make a difference.

1 Like

I think that they keep the website updated. There are (or used to be) travelling seminars/presentations by CTCL staffers; I know that they came to our local high school a few years back when my kids were doing their college searches (although obviously this hasn’t happened for the last year or so because of Covid).


Consider visiting different types of schools – big, medium-sized, and small; urban, suburban, and small town – and not just smaller ones that your daughter is interested in right now. My son swore up and down that he wanted to attend a university in a “big city”; and he ended up at a large university in a small Midwestern town. Your daughter may see something she likes in a school other than what she now is interested in, and it can make all the difference in the world.


There is also a great book by Frank Bruni titled, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” which I recommend to all parents (and their college-seeking kids, although the parents are the ones more likely to read it). I’m sure it’s in your local library; and in my opinion it gives a much-needed perspective about the craziness of the college admissions process.


Great advice! Thank you!

Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts is strong in psychology, offers merit scholarship awards, no Greek life, and has about 2,200 students.


Thinking about the CTCL schools (and specifically Birmingham-Southern) also made me think of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, here: https://www.samford.edu/. It might merit a look.

1 Like