Need help narrowing down college list

<p>Well right now I'm almost done with the common app, and I'm finding it far too easy to just keep adding colleges to the list. Now I'm up to 20:</p>

<p>Amherst College<br>
Bowdoin College<br>
College of William and Mary<br>
Davidson College<br>
Duke University<br>
Emory University<br>
Grinnell College<br>
Harvard College<br>
Middlebury College<br>
Northwestern University<br>
Pomona College<br>
Princeton University<br>
Reed College<br>
Sewanee (University of the South)<br>
Stanford University<br>
Swarthmore College<br>
Vanderbilt University<br>
Wake Forest University<br>
Washington University in St. Louis<br>
Yale University </p>

<p>Ironically, part of my problem is I've visited a lot of these places and could picture myself going there and happy and learning and yada yada yada. I know there's no law against applying to so many but somehow twenty (and that's just common app schools!) seems a bit much. I'm looking at majoring in Chinese but I want a school with a strong English/Creative Writing program and strong liberal arts in general as well. In truth applying to so many LACs is probably superfluous but which ones to cut? Agh! (btw schools not on the common app I'm considering include Chicago, Brown, Columbia, Virginia...).</p>

<p>I live in East Tennessee but I really don't care which part of the country I end up at. Cost isn't really an issue. I prefer mid-sized schools (5,000 undergrads plus or minus) but I'd rather go to an LAC than a big school. I'm gonna be valedictorian out of my class of 550, I have a 35 ACT, mostly 800s and 790s on SAT II exams, I'm a National Merit Semifinalist right now, I'm top 100 in the country for 17-year-olds in chess (tied at 98 right now, heh), I got the National AP Scholar Award after junior year, I'm confident about the essays, I've had poetry published, and I feel like a total braggart right now but that's what CC's all about I guess.</p>

<p>What do you want in a school?</p>

<p>An intellectual vibe? A mellow party vibe? An eclectic artsy vibe?
Libreal? Conservative?
Urban? Suburban? Rural?</p>

<p>Ah, I suppose more intellectual than artsy, and more artsy than partylike. Campus politics doesn't matter so much to me, though the rabid conservatism of places like BJU or Liberty University would annoy me much more than the liberal leanings of a Brown or Cal-Berkeley. Urban>Rural & Suburban</p>

<p>Whoa, you have got way too many colleges! Have you also completed the supplements required ? And Reed and Vanderbilt on the same list? Those schools are just SO different in so many ways! I think you need to step back and break up your list into colleges you would LOVE to go to, like to go to and drop the ones that would just be OK, [as long as you have a safety you love] as you will no doubt be accepted at many colleges. The time to make some decisions is now, instead of leaving it all until April.</p>

<p>Wake Forest is supposedly a big frat/party school. That might be one to eliminate. </p>

<p>Same with Vanderbilt, I guess.</p>

<p>And I hear that Bowdoin has a really isolated feel. </p>

<p>I don't know. Good luck.</p>

<p>So all those universities/LACs listed will accept the same application/essays?</p>

<p>First, choose - urban or rural?</p>

<p>Shameless plug for Pomona - Elite LAC (1,500 students) within a consortium of 5 colleges (with Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, and Pitzer) on the same "campus" with about 6,000 students - best of both worlds for many people. Also 30 miles east of LA, so "urban" is just a train-ride away (although campus is more "suburban"). Many students cross-register with the other schools, so you can experience the "feel" of the more-conservative CMC or the more-liberal Pitzer if you choose.</p>

<p>You are a strong candidate and will get in to many of these schools, but you really need to cut the list down to about 8: 5 reaches, 2 matches, 1 safety.</p>

<p>If you were my D, I'd say Yale, Brown, UChicago, Pomona, Swarthmore (reaches), Grinnell, Wesleyan (matches), and whatever safety you'd be happy with (UTenn Honors?)</p>

<p>For Chinese studies, I suggest you consider Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom.</p>

<p>You should not have a problem being accepted at many (if not the majority of) those schools. For this reason, I suggest you try ranking the schools, either 1-20 or maybe by 5's (five top favorites, second five favorites, etc.) and simply cutting off the bottom of the list. Maybe the bottom 5-10. After you've cut them off, make sure that you still have a few matches and a safety on your list. If you don't, then cut some of what's left and add back in your most highly 'ranked' (by you, not by US News) match(es) and safety. </p>

<p>Since you'll undoubtedly get in to many schools, it just doesn't make sense to keep your 6th favorite 'match' on the list, even if you love it (knowing that there are at least 5 schools that you'll likely get into and rather attend...6 being an arbitrary number for this example). The question should not be "Do I love this school and would I want to go there?" It should be "Do I love this school and would I want to go there over any of these other schools that I'll likely get into?" If no, then as tough as it feels to cut stuff, it's just superfluous.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>

<p>ETA: I think you should also think about what you REALLY want in an environment and try (maybe with a few exceptions to leave a cushion for mind-changing) to stick to it. You have many ivies and decently sized universities here, for example, and yet you seem most interested in a LAC. I know that I applied to some reach schools for various reasons--the advice of others, just to see if I'd get in, , because "all good students in CA should apply to Stanford," etc.--and if I'd been accepted, I wouldn't have felt able to turn them down. But at the same time, I know now that I never would've been as happy in those environments as I was at my tiny LAC. For your own sake, if you feel similarly, spare yourself! Too many great but disinterested students apply to Harvard (semi-random example from your list) "just to see," and I imagine a few of them end up there unhappily every year.</p>

<p>Thanks for all the great responses so far. Though I know Vandy has a big greek scene and its share of partyers, and thus probably isn't the best fit for me, it's two hours down the road and both my parents went there. It's a somewhat safety for me, though a top 20 university can't be considered a true safety for anyone... hence the presence of places like W&M on my list. Thanks for the bit about Wake Forest, I'll take it off my list now. UT... ugh...</p>

<p>I'd rather go to Yale or Princeton than Harvard, but one of my friends (at Harvard now) recommends that I apply to all three so I can haggle for financial aid in the rare event that I get accepted at more than one of them. He got accepted at Yale as well (SCEA), but went to Harvard because they gave him a better aid package.</p>