Good private college fits for my DD22: Insights much appreciated!

What about Santa Clara University or Occidental for math Or Chapman for bio?

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I don’t know the majors by school - and where your concern is for geography. I’d say Santa Clara and Occidental are stretches - and you need stretches. I’d throw out names like U of Pacific, and then some up North such as Pacific University in Forest Grove Oregon, Linfield, Lewis & Clark, Denver (maybe a stretch if you want to go bigger), Whitworth (Spokane), Puget Sound.

If you need merit and are willing to go farther - more regional types - Wooster, Eckerd, Tampa (a bit bigger), etc.

Google Niche Best Small and then Best Medium Colleges.

You can also google best math.

I do think the GPA is a limiter but it’s not death. You just need to find 2nd level liberal arts colleges and they offer merit, etc. Why pay full when you needn’t.

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I’d start with Reed College.

What geographic area are you considering?


I would think a lot of the CTCL colleges. Actually, she’d probably be attractive to LACs in the tier above that (like Oberlin and Kenyon).

Obviously her GPA is low but publishing a book may overcome that at LACs at that level. I would have her research a lot to find out which of those LACs she loves.


I have in mind, besides Reed, Oberlin, Denison, and the CTCL LACs, Macalester, Bryan Mawr, MHC, Bucknell, HC, Pitzer, Skidmore, Lafayette, Scripps. The Claremont colleges would allow her a lot more variety in classes. So would the consortium MHC is in.

Sarah Lawrence sends a decent cohort to study abroad at Oxford every year.

Because Middlebury has a spring start and Colby has a start abroad, they may take her (it allows them to hide her stats from USNews but she may be interesting enough for them). Actually, NYU has that too.


Science (particularly biological science) can be a tough field to make a career out of. Math (and statistics) may give more options (e.g. finance, actuarial, operations research, high school math teaching). Writing about science and math takes skill at writing and knowledge and understanding of science and math; not sure what the career outlook of that may be.

GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub can help recalculate GPAs for UC and CSU (CSU uses the same GPA as the UC weighted-capped, except that a semester college course counts as two courses instead of one like at UC).

If weighted-capped GPA is 3.00-3.39, then UCM is probably low match to likely, UCR and UCSC are probably low reach, while other UCs are reach to high reach, according to Freshman fall admissions summary | University of California (click admit rate and HS GPA, then select campuses). These are not major-specific; at some campuses, some majors are more selective. Note that non-California residents must have a weighted-capped GPA of at least 3.40 to be eligible for admission to UCs.

Many CSUs should be match, likely, or safety for admission. Unfortunately, many are not transparent about past admission thresholds. SJSU ( Freshmen Impaction Results | Admissions ) and CSUN ( ) are among the more transparent ones.


Lots of good suggestions here. If I were you, with a D whose profile makes it difficult to guess how schools may react, I would be sure to add at least a couple of good Early Action schools to your list. If you do that, you will likely have some acceptances in before Thanksgiving (or at least before Christmas) and that may give you more freedom to target higher in the RD round. With Early Action, there’s no exclusivity and your D will not have to commit until May, so there’s really no downside, and the peace of mind an early acceptance provides cannot be overstated. If you google “early action schools,” you should be able to pull up a list. You will need to double check, as schools drop and add the EA option from year to year, but there are some terrific schools that offer this. Just among the schools mentioned above, I recall that Wooster, Puget Sound, Lewis & Clark, Santa Clara and Eckerd offer EA (maybe some of the others as well). In some cases, there is also an admissions boost to applying EA, and applying EA does not seem to have any negative implications for merit aid. My son applied to three schools EA, and was accepted with merit at all three. One of those three made it to his final two.

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But if she does find a LAC or 2 she really loves, go ED and ED2. Some of those schools have pretty high ED admit rates.

I believe you may still EA elsewhere as well.


Those sound great, thanks! We did have them in our exploratory list, great to see that you feel the same!

Totally agree, my SO and I are techies and don’t have much of an idea of LACs so this is great! She prefers to stay close to home (CA) and in warm weather. I’m thinking the private colleges mentioned in this thread plus maybe Arizona, Oregon and even Hawaii! I told her not to rule out good options even if they are not in warm places. This is very helpful!

Reed is on our list and we love what we’ve seen virtually, but realistically thinking it may be a stretch. She’ll certainly apply. She’d like to stay close to home (CA) and in warm weather (thinking AZ, Hawaii…) :slight_smile:

Thank you, great pointers! This is the first kid applying in the family and things have changed so much since I went to college, so at my wits’ end! We are just beginning to make our list, so this is great!

Thank you, thank you, this is awesome!! :raised_hands:

This is sound advice about EA, thank you, and Santa Clara U is just a few miles away! We’ve been pretty indulgent of her pursuing her passions so need to find a college where she gets to study her preference (App Math) and that sees value in her unique (hopefully) profile!

Definitely open to that!! Hard to get a full sense of the college from virtual tours, plus she’s very zen about most things, so haven’t found anything she loves or hates yet :roll_eyes: but hopefully we can squeeze in a few physical tours when things open up and before application season to get a sense of it.

There are a number of other EA schools in California. Loyola Marymount is one that seems to have an Applied Math major. Good luck!

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Don’t forget a four hour flight is not much more than a 5 hour drive, etc. There are many fine schools out there - and while you’ve saved for college, many offer significant need.

That said, if you have a school size in mind, a geography type (urban, suburban, rural) - you can start narrowing down. Or we’ll give you 800 ideas :slight_smile:


If you do start to think about publics in the states around California then Utah is worth considering, as it has a strong math program and is relatively good value with WUE or residency. What it lacks in winter warmth it makes up for in skiing. Certainly a better climate (and much cheaper) than Oregon in any case.

Note the initial post said seeking a “smaller” school - so maybe a branch of a campus but not the flagship, etc.

Knowing you want small to mid and out west, here’s some more that might be a solid fit - with the zen personality, there might be some more “thoughtful” schools - and you can probably research - but once you figure out the city/suburban/rural and other things - but maybe:

U of Pacific I previously mentioned
Seattle U
College of Idaho
Beloit - it’s far but might be a good fit
UC Merced

Your head will spin - but once you narrow down some desires and you can get to 20/25 and eventually get to 10-12 to apply to.

I agree that Reed is a stretch, so she’d have to do a good sales job. But in many ways, I think she’s just what they’re looking for and I think it would be a great fit for her. If she & you decided she might be interested, I’d schedule a visit and try to set up an interview while you were there. I’d also try to get an interview with an alum. If we were looking for the cookie cutter credentials that would match a school at this level, it wouldn’t be her. But she has so much else going for her that I could see the right school really taking an interest. Reed strikes me as the school that just might do that. Real life accomplishments mean more than numbers. Intellectual curiosity is a lot more impressive than GPA. She has both accomplishments and curiosity in abundance. A special young woman.

Here are a few others to consider which won’t be as challenging for admissions but have a lot to offer. Look past your initial impression of each to see what’s there.

St. Mary’s College of California
Willamette University (OR)
Whitman College (WA)