Need help narrowing down my college list

Right now, I have 21 schools on my list (mostly reaches). I want a more balanced list of around 16 schools.

Princeton (SCEA)
Harvard University
University of Pennsylvania (for the Kelly Writers House)
Vanderbilt University
Dartmouth College*
Cornell University
Amherst College
Williams College
Washington University in St. Louis
UC Berkeley
Columbia University
Georgetown University
University of Michigan (EA)
Boston College
College of William and Mary
Emory University
New York University
Vassar College
University of Toronto
University of Massachusetts Amherst (state flagship)

What do you want to do?

@luvquizbowl at this point: comparative lit, classics (i.e. Latin/Greek) or economics.

Have you run the Net Price Calculator on each website?

@siliconvalleymom my parents have set aside nearly 300k for my college education, so I don’t think money will be a problem (correct me if I’m wrong)

Oh my, that’s quite a list. Try to organize them around “types” (plenty of room to disagree about what that means), and delete the ones that are redundant or you don’t like as much.

Princeton/Harvard: will you do SCEA at either P’ton or Harvard?

Columbia/U Penn: urban Ivies. Why apply to Penn, a school known for its pre-professional vibe if its only because of the presence of a specific writing program? If writing program is a requirement/preference, there are other schools which could be on the list instead. Note that, if a legacy, these both expect ED apps for a legacy bump.

Wash U/Vandy/Dartmouth/Emory/NYU/W&M: I’d suggest picking 2-3 out of this group, and dropping the rest. Almost all of your schools are urban/small cities – which makes Dartmouth a real outlier so consider deleting Dartmouth. Emory is more a match school, do I’d be reluctant to drop it while keeping other reaches on the list, but one consideration is, some people find Emory’s location in Atlanta to be too quiet. Full pay at NYU could be a match. Again, Wash U has a strong pre-professional vibe which suits some, may not suit you. W&M is still a tough admit for OOS student, though a neat school. Perhaps consider Tulane as another match – though requires demonstrated interest.

Amherst/Williams/Vassar: LACs don’t seem to be important to you, since there are just the top 2, and then the outlier Vassar. For someone who has 18 larger schools on the list, these 3 jump out as “not like the other” – and therefore, delete-able. Vassar seems especially out of sync.

Chicago: if you love the vibe, keep it on.

UC B, Toronto, Michigan: Toronto is a fantastic school for the independent student who doesn’t expect typical rah-rah sports which have come to define many US universities. If that works, keep it on. Michigan makes sense, though Wisconsin might be a match which could be added. Cal has specific course requirements, we never looked at it carefully, and a robust curriculum could easily meet it – but check that you have fulfilled the curriculum requirements for applicants.

BC/Georgetown: BC can stay on as perhaps a match. Do you have SAT 2s done for G’town? I believe they expect 3 now.

U Mass Amherst: if this is the only acceptance you get come April, how will you feel? If you are pleased and excited, great. But a lot of people like to have some choice between safeties so consider what else you might add. Holy Cross gets a lot of attention on CC for its classics and writing – I believe – programs. Iowa, of course, is known for its creative writing program.

I think a well made list has a lot of redundancy. For example, Tulane, Vandy, Emory, Tulane, and Pitt are schools that get a lot of comparisons and cover a pretty wide selectivity group. Having them on the same list makes sneak because one student could very well be a good fit at all of them. URochester, Tufts, UChicago or Bryant, Babson, and Bentley might be other examples of groups of schools.

@Midwestmomofboys thank you for the answer. I plan to apply SCEA to Princeton. It may seem like I prefer an urban campus, but I was born and raised in a rural New England town, and I love Dartmouth, William, and Amherst’s campuses (although I’m def. fine with urban campuses too). In short, geographic location/type of campus just isn’t an important factor for me. Also, I think I could be happy at both liberal arts colleges and large universities–I’ve visited both. Re: Penn. Kelly Writer’s House recruits strong writers, so I’m going to send in some of my work and see if I can get its support. Re: UMass Amherst. That’s my biggest problem. I’m not crazy about it. Was thinking about adding University of Maryland College Park as a safety; it takes a ton of kids from my school. Vassar’s an outlier, for sure, and I’m thinking of deleting it, but I feel like I need more matches?

Sorry to be opaque about what I meant by redundancy-- what I meant was, if there are 6 schools reflecting similar characteristics, and they are generally all reaches, then eliminate some of them, and expand the list to add match/safety schools sharing these characteristics.

So, rather than Wash U, Vandy, Emory, W&M – drop 2 and add Univ Richmond, perhaps (as suggested above) and perhaps College of Charleston or Univ South Carolina Honors. Or, if its Cal, Michigan and Toronto, drop Cal and add Wisconsin and maybe Indiana.

For someone interested in writing, I would think Kenyon would be on the list rather than Vassar and even Amherst/Williams (forgive me if I’m impugning Amherst/Wiiliams’ writing programs, I’m just not that familiar with them. I know Amherst has PPE and Williams has Art History, I just don’t have info about writing). To add a safety that has overlapping qualities, consider Sewanee.

Other general match/safeties would include Holy Cross in Ma, Univ Pitt.

It’s great to be flexible, and say a student could be happy anywhere. The challenge is, this list still looks, largely, like the top 20 schools (and top LACs). Identify the essential characteristics, other than reputation, and use that to sharpen focus on preferred reaches, as well as safeties/matches.

I don’t know about the others, but Williams has great writing programs.

Johns Hopkins is well known for creative writing. Brandeis is strong in writing and literature as is University of Rochester…you would be a good candidate at all three however not as a safety. Boston University might be more of an all around school with strong English department and is definitely a match school for you.

Which schools are your safeties, and would you be happy if those were the only admission offers you get?

@ucbalumnus UMass Amherst is my only true safety. Boston College, Vassar College, NYU, and UToronto (?) are matches. I have decent stats, but the top 20 schools are all reaches, obviously. I would be ok with going to my state flagship.

I agree that Kenyon would be an excellent back-up to Williams/Amherst. If you are female, you might want to replace Vassar with Bryn Mawr, which is very strong in classics as well as lit.

Ever since Robert Frost spent decades at Amherst, it has been an elite college for writing. It produces a ton of people who go on to PhDs in English, on a per capita basis more than any other top ranked school. The list of successful writers from Amherst includes David Foster Wallace, Scott Turow, Dan Brown and many others.

Amherst also administers the Folger Shakespeare Library, the largest collection of Shakespeare materials and scholars in the world, and Amherst students get unique opportunities to do research there.


BC, Vassar, and NYU as matches? You must be a very strong applicant! I think you should add 1 more safety and delete 1-2 reaches you aren’t as in love with. Applying to 21 schools is first of all, not allowed (max is 200, and second of all, not advised…

I haven’t done any research on top classics schools, I only known Princeton has a top program in it, but that’s veryyy selective obviously. I feel like if you were to delete anything, it would be Berkeley or WUSTL…some reason Berkeley just seems like for prestige as you aren’t applying to other UCs…does Berkeley have a good classic program even? And it’s going to be very expensive OOS.

@LushLillies I was thinking about maybe adding Indiana University (Bloomington) and University of Maryland College Park as safeties.


CC tip: if you’re going to take the time to type “bump” in a post you might type “thank you” to the posters offering you advice instead.