Good "target" schools for 1520 SAT interested in polisci/philosophy [IL resident, 3.97 GPA]

Hi! I’m a rising senior from a fairly low-ranked public high school interested in political science and philosophy. My favorite college right now is Emory University, but I’m looking for other good schools with small-ish classes but not a tiny student body overall. Less preppy/wealthy schools are my preference. Thanks for any guidance you might have to offer!

Welcome to College Confidential. You will find that there are quite a few people active here who are quite knowledgeable about various colleges and universities.

However, we can give more accurate advice if we know more about what you are looking for, as well as what you can afford and what your stats are like.

Can you tell us your home state, and your geographic preference regarding where you would like to attend university? What is your unweighted GPA (on an A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 basis)? One issue with weighted GPA is that different high schools in the US compute it in very different ways, which makes weighted GPA difficult to compare.

Also, finances are a major issue for many students who are deciding which universities to apply to. It can be helpful to know what your budget is, and whether you are likely to qualify for need based financial aid.

And can you tell us what you like about Emory? Others here on CC might be able to suggest other schools that are similar. Given that Emory has something like a 15% acceptance rate, some others here might also be able to suggest schools where acceptance is more likely.


Less preppy and wealthy - so eliminate these - they are supposedly the schools with the wealthiest populations. I’d imagine but don’t know that Emory is near.

Colorado College
Washington University in St. Louis
Colgate University
Washington and Lee
Trinity College
Middlebury College
Colby College
Georgetown University
Bates College
Tufts University

Another list shows Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, USC, UCLA, Duke and Penn.

OK - but you want targets. But - I know nothing about you except you’re a good test taker - do you have a GPA and home state?

So I’d say this - the best “target” would be the best schools for you - meaning, perhaps a smaller school like Emory is best. On the flip side, maybe a mid/large like Pitt is good with smaller classes in its Honors program. Or an even larger school like U of SC with its top Honors College.

Staying on line with you good schools and I’ll assume smallish classes - you can research some of the following - but not sure if you have any cost concerns - because that would impact where you can go - and there’s many more than this.

Case Western
Christopher Newport
College of Charleston
Miami (Florida)
SUNY New Paltz
William & Mary

As an aside, some schools have a Politics and Philosophy major. More popular, is the PPE - adding economics.

These aren’t schools for you but just a little snippet of what the major is like.

Really - you can go any direction school wise with your interests - and budget / demonstrated need would likely play a part.

Politics and Philosophy major (

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics | Virginia Tech (

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Based on your academic areas of interest, these sites may offer you ideas for colleges to research further:

You also may want to consider colleges with an available major in public policy, which relies on the fields of political science, economics and philosophy for its foundation:


You can also look at % of Pell Grant recipients and whether they have a policy of free tuition or full ride for a certain amount of family income (often 65K, 75K, 125K).

Do you qualify for Questbridge? (A sort of super ED system that guarantees a full ide for all 4 years at one of the top colleges in the nation.)


Welcome, @Asa1M!

It would be great if we could get some additional information about you, including your GPA, home state, and budget. But just yesterday a student was asking about philosophy programs, and I put together this list of more accessible schools (all admit rates are higher than 20%, with many accepting the majority of their students).

Based on what you’ve shared so far, these are some of the schools on that list that might interest you the most:

  • Brandeis (MA), with about 3700 undergrads
  • William & Mary (VA): with about 6800 undergrads
  • Christopher Newport (VA): with about 4400 undergrads
  • SUNY New Paltz with about 6100 undergrads
  • SUNY Geneseo with about 4100 undergrads
  • Duquesne (PA ) with about 100 undergrads
  • Marquette (WI) with about 7500 undergrads
  • U. of Rochester (NY) with about 6800 undergrads
  • American (D.C.) with about 7900 undergrads
  • The College of New Jersey with about 7k undergrads
  • Case Western (OH) with about 6k undergrads

Thank you all! I am from Illinois, with a GPA of 4.30 (3.97 unweighted) and a 1520 SAT. I have solid extracurriculars (state qualifier in cross country but not running in college, sole high schooler on my district’s school board, on a search committee), but nothing amazing. I am willing to travel away for college. My family has assets that we can’t use to pay for college but are still calculated in our financial aid package (we’ll get close to nothing), so colleges with lower cost before aid would be best.

I know that Case Western is a great school for hard sciences. Is it strong in the humanities as well? Will W&M be less expensive out of state than near-full tuition at selective private schools?

This is one example of a situation where universities that say that they meet “full need” might not actually be affordable. There are a few others.

Do you know what your budget is? Do you know what your parents can afford to pay without taking on any debt?

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No - you need a school like Alabama. $20k all in with those #s. Or Ole Miss or Ms State. U of Kansas and others. AnnArizona would be $30k off so $25k a year with a great Honors dorm.

That’s a cost list - join the Honors College and you’re fine.

If you want the smaller school, maybe a Truman State or FAU Wilkes (really small) or a lower tier LAC with huge merit - an Allegheny or Kalamazoo etc.

A W&M is wonderful but it’s in the mid $60s. To me, Miami of Ohio is the same feel but much larger, cheaper, but more party-ish too but still might be a good choice.

You might look at a SUNY school -larger would be Binghamton. Or for smaller - a Geneseo or New Paltz or others.

There are lots of great Honors Colleges out there and some like a College of Charleston and their Fellows program get aggressive. SMU has the Presidential.

You really need a budget. What’s the target price?

But there’s a reason 1500+ Illinoisans have discovered Alabama. Check out the Randall Reasearch and Blount Scholars to enhance the academic experience.

Are you NMF ?

What is the actual amount your parents can contribute (without any loans)?


So my S24 with a combined sciences and humanities interest ended up not so interested in Case because he perceived the balance as not quite what he is looking for. It does all exist there, he just perceived that, say, Rochester was more balanced.

Yes, within limits.

W&M has an out of state full estimated cost of $67,653. Using Wake Forest as an example, full estimated cost of attendance is $87,622.

For some “full pay” families I know, this is not a trivial distinction. Not to oversimplify, but some will say things like that is sort of like everyone gets a $20K/year merit scholarship at W&M. The point being they see it as basically equivalent to a private university that would typically cost about $20K/year more.

However, that is still a lot of money. It is still going to be way more than even a fairly pricey in-state cost of attendance, and more than various other colleges that would likely provide a lower cost of attendance to someone with the numbers to get admitted to W&M OOS.

Which doesn’t stop a lot of people from choosing W&M. Just understand that at full pay OOS, it is less than full pay for a comparable private, but more than other options.

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