Early in college search - looking for recommendations for colleges

I think there are some good suggestions here. Grinnell meets full need and offers merit. By all accounts the students are very laid back, not at all snobby. I think that’s generally a benefit of schools in the midwest. :slight_smile: Is she interested in women’s colleges? Both Mount Holyoke and Bryn Mawr offer merit aid and fit the bill as you describe here. I’d also suggest she check out Connecticut College. Its reputation is that it’s for preppy kids, and that there is somewhat of a party culture, but that’s not what we heard from students there when we toured, or when we did virtual sessions. I think it’s changing. FYI, Conn and Trinity are the only NESCACs that offer merit aid, so earlier suggestions of Bates and Bowdoin might not be a fit, though Bowdoin does meet full need.

I second the suggestion of College of Wooster and would add St. Olaf, Lawrence, Knox, Beloit and Wheaton (MA, not IL) if you’re looking for terrific, under the radar schools that offer great merit aid. Some of these are CTCL, some aren’t. She’ll have plenty of options!


Lots of great suggestions here. I would add Whitmas in Washington State, Trinity University in San Antonio and Rice in Houston, as well as two the Claremont Colleges in California - Pitzer and Pomona - as other schools that offer merit and might be of interest. I suggest not paying too much attention to reviews on Unigo or Niche - the comments seem to come from a kind of self-selecting group of students and don’t always reflect the schools’ character very well, at least based on our experience. This group on CC is far more thoughtful and reliable if you want to get a “feel” for a school. I second @gandalf78 's suggestion that you start by looking at different “types” of schools - large, small, urban, rural. We did a first tour of schools during my son’s junior year from that perspective and were able to narrow things down before we started finalizing the list of schools he would apply to.

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Thank you! We actually live in Iowa and I would love if she would consider Grinnell. So far she has her heart set on leaving the state, but I think it’s a great choice. I plan to take her there to tour next year.

She is potentially interested in women’s colleges. I’d like to take her to tour one too to talk with students!

Thanks for all of the great college suggestions! I will run the NPCs and look into them!

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Thank you for this comment! I wasn’t sure how much weight to put on Niche and Unigo reviews. I just really want her to find her people, feel good about her relationships, and enjoy college.

We lived in Houston for a few years (our daughter was actually born there) so I am definitely going to recommend Rice if her test scores end up high enough to give it a shot! Rice had one of the lowest NPC for us of all of them - comparable to the in-state university.

I don’t know a lot about Whitmas or Trinity or the Claremont Colleges, but I will check into them!

Thank you!

I have found Unigo to be a great resource.

I am skeptical about some Niche posts as they seem to be written by someone from admissions designed to portray the school in a positive light.

I she is interested in women’s colleges, add Scripps to the group of Claremont Colleges she might be interested in.

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The seven sisters are going to be stellar for French (ie., grad students from UMASS Amherst go take jr/sr classes at Smith or MHC that count for their Master’s) and Bryn Mawr is exceptional.
Rather than journalism look for “writing majors, such as Denison’s " non-fiction writing” major.


The school in WA state is Whitman. I think Whitmas was a typo. College of Wooster and St Olaf are great schools, Carleton College is in the same town as St Olaf and might have the campus vibe she is looking for.
You will find your college list will change a lot from sophomore year to senior year. It can be a great adventure researching and visiting schools. Best of luck to you both.


Scripps has a relatively new “Writing & Rhetoric” major that is good for aspiring journalists. The student newspaper is joint among the five Claremont Colleges, and thus operates on a larger scale than you’d typically find at a small college - the paper has a high level of professionalism and launches students every year into careers at nationally-known publications.

Any of the Claremont schools except for Harvey Mudd, where all of the majors are STEM-focused, could be great for what your daughter wants. The Claremont Consortium is unique in that the campuses are directly adjacent and the registration systems fully integrated, so cross-registration is widespread and practically effortless. All of the 5C’s meet full need according to their formulae, but NPC results will vary. Scripps is the most generous with merit, but only to a maximum of half tuition, which won’t get the cost anywhere near your 25K target, so it will come down to what the NPC shows. Pomona will likely be the most generous with aid, but also the hardest to get into. Easier for a Midwestern student than for a Californian, though!


Emory has a great writing program and offers some large merit scholarships.