We are starting the college search with my daughter, who is finishing her sophomore year. I know it’s early, but I also know that people thought they had more time and lost an entire semester, or longer, of making college visits! So, we hope to start making visits this fall.
Can an intellectually curious, driven student find her peers (people who challenge and engage her) at a lower-ranked school? Will an honors program at a lower-ranked school provide the peers and close-knit environment my student is looking for? Perhaps the bigger question is: How low is aiming too low?
Here’s her current background: she’s a bright, motivated student who currently has 4.0 UW in the toughest classes available to her (all honors at this point, starting AP and DE in the fall). She’s never hinted at a B. She has strong ECs and leadership (but hasn’t cured cancer or written a best seller) and a decent PSAT score of 1300 in 10th grade. This was actually lower than I expected, but with no studying maybe it’s about right. She will be taking some prep classes this summer and taking SAT/ACT in the fall.
We are in NC but it’s unlikely that she’s going to be interested in the flagship UNC, even though it’s an amazing school. We walked around a couple of years ago when we were near there, and she just didn’t like it at all. She goes to a small private Christian school now and sees herself continuing her education in a smaller environment. She does not want the school to revolve around sports or a Greek system. Her social happiness is more reliant on close friendships with a handful of people … she’s more interested in a coffee shop and in-depth discussions than the “fun” I had in college ;). She’s a thinker but not just a book worm - she’s a multi-sport athlete and very physically active, but likely will not play for her school. She would prefer a Christian school, but it seems there are few “true, practicing” Christian schools left.
She thinks she wants pre-med, but I would say that is very subject to change. We will more than likely be full pay, and even though we’ve saved since the day she was born we will struggle to pay the 70k per year that the small private schools she would likely be drawn to will cost. She has a sibling who is three years behind her. So, I think our search will come down to lower ranked schools (meaning at least below top 50s) where she can go for some merit money. Obviously, if she does decide on pre-med, she will have to sacrifice and go with the schools that make the most economic sense, even if that means the flagship.
BUT, I think it’s important for her to find her social and intellectual peers. College was the time of my life because I finally found “my people.” I want that for her. She says “I love education, but school has failed me.” She doesn’t ever feel challenged, and she doesn’t ever feel like her curiosity is satisfied by discussion in the classroom. She’s frustrated by slackers, especially if the slacker in the room is the teacher.
Examples of some schools that are on our radar: Stetson (FL), Lipscomb (TN), Samford (AL), Trinity (TX). Or would an honors college in a larger school like UA Huntsville, Texas Christian, James Madison University be better matches? Some of the honors colleges have rather low requirements. We will also look at places like Washington & Lee, William and Mary, Southern Methodist, Baylor, Rollins, and maybe Pepperdine if we feel like her actual test scores would put her in contention for a named/larger scholarship. I see her landing in the southeast/mid-Atlantic or potentially Texas if her wings want to fly further in a couple of years. Pepperdine, IMO, would be a great match if it were closer to mom ;). And to complicate things, there’s a decent chance that we would move to Florida by the time she’s finished with college, and in that case we would also have significantly less income.
Thanks in advance for any insight.