Preliminary list--would love advice!

Hi everyone! S2 is currently a junior, taking the SAT (with essay) for the first time in March.

Some info:

Unweighted GPA is not given on his report card but weighted is currently a cumulative 99.4. Small rural HS. Rank at the end of last year put him in the top 17%.

Mostly honors classes, took AP Gov last year and scored a 3; taking APUSH and AP Lang/Comp this year.

Has Spanish 3 but is done with language

ECs: band, varsity cross country (only 9 and 10), varsity track, does some video production for the school, NHS, also has a part-time job at a local restaurant, reads a lot in his spare time

Wants to major in English/creative writing and/or History.

List so far: Amherst, Bates, Tulane, Kenyon, Reed, Bard, Emerson, Washington College (MD), The College of Wooster, Hampshire, New College of Florida, Goucher

Some of these are test optional or “considered if submitted” ( Bates, Bard, Hampshire, Goucher). 10th grade PSAT was a 1200 (630 R, 570 M) with no prep so hopefully he would improve on that.

Does his current list look like a good start, or does he need more schools on the match/safety side? At what level of acceptance rate does a school become a match or a safety–or am I looking at the wrong thing in focusing mostly on acceptance rates to determine this?

Any other schools you might suggest for him? Thanks!

Having an average of 99.4% only puts him in the top 17%? Is this Lake Wobegon where all children are above average?

The University of Iowa has an exceptional writing program.

If you are looking at Kenyon and Wooster, then add Denison as one to learn more about. It is test optional, if that becomes a factor, and offers concentrations in both creative writing and narrative non-fiction writing.

Perhaps I figured it wrong; his rank was 26 out of 158 (and that 99.4 is weighted if it makes a difference). I’m not sure if they rank weighted or unweighted but I only know the weighted.

The list generally seems reasonable. The first four schools are very competitive. Most accepted students will be in the top ten % of their classes and will have test scores over 1400 SAT and at least the low 30s, perhaps higher, ACT. There are just a lot of applicants for the limited number of open spots in the incoming class. Not to say these will be impossible, but definitely reaches.

Can he take the ACT as well? Some student do better on SAT, some on ACT.

What state are you from? Admissions is more a matter of specific pools than a general pool. International students are generally in a separate pool and are evaluated relative to each other, not to a student in Baton Rouge, LA. A male student might be at an advantage at an LAC with a large % of female students. A female student might have an advantage at a STEM school with a large % of male students. Schools like geographic diversity. A student from Nebraska might have a better shot at New College than a similar student from New York because of the number of students applying from those states. A student’s specific strengths and skills might make them more attractive at one school and less so at a seemingly similar school. So it helps to weigh those kinds of things as well.

I agree about Denison. He might look at Clark University in Worcester, MA as well.

Good luck!

I third @Midwestmomofboys’s suggestion of Denison and would add Knox as well.

We are located middle of nowhere, PA.

Check for foreign language graduation requirements at the various colleges and for the majors of interest. If he really does not want to take more Spanish or other foreign language, that may be a consideration in the choice of college.

I’ll be That Parent.

Can you can afford all of these at full pay or, if you expect merit or need-based financial aid, have you run any net price calculators to be sure these are affordable?

  1. He is open to another language in college, he just didn’t want to continue in Spanish.

  2. Full pay

You might also look at Elon University in NC. It’s a little larger than most of yours (6000 undergrads) but not very big. The school has done an outstanding job transforming itself from a small regional LAC to a rising mid-size national university. Beautiful campus, nice community, great weather. In my VA county, it’s one of the most popular OOS destinations.

Here it is in a nutshell:

Very disparate list. As noted, many are high reaches, but more importantly, does he want urban charm in New Orleans or rural quaint at Kenyon? Preppy at Amherst or anti-preppy at Reed? Larger, smaller- there doesn’t seem to be a theme here.

@bearpanther, agree with @roycroftmom that fit will be key in compiling a good list of matches, reaches and safeties, so things like size, location, setting and vibe are all important. Probably good to spend some reading school descriptions from Princeton Review.

Regarding a base line to start compiling a list, the PSAT without any prep is a good predictive indicator; the same holds true for taking an ACT practice test. That said, it appears that neither current PSAT, or more importantly GPA/Class Rank/Course Rigor make Amherst or other tippy-top schools realistic Reaches.

Maybe start the Match search with schools where a 29 ACT/ 1370 SAT is in the top-25%, and Safeties where a 26 ACT / 1270 SAT is in the top-25% AND the acceptance rate is 40%. If you used those scores, Reaches might be those where a 31 ACT / 1440 SAT in the top-25% - Amherst’s top-25% is a 34 ACT / 1560 SAT.

With respect to his interest in English/creative writing, the descriptions in these articles might be worth reading through:

The 10 best American colleges for writers | USA TODAY College

The 10 Best Colleges for Creative Writers | The Freelancer, by Contently

The 25 Most Literary Colleges in America | Flavorwire

The list was compiled from the Princeton Review Best 382 Colleges, mainly looking for schools with 1) a more open or flexible curriculum, and 2) schools listed in the beginning section as good for History majors or English majors. I guess that’s the only theme he really has at the moment.

I have not been able to pin him down on things like a location preference (except for no schools in PA, though I am trying to get him on board with Susquehanna given their writing program), but for example, I can say that he kept Tulane because it was listed for History and was in New Orleans, and kept Bard for the flexible curriculum and its location in rural NY. So…not sure what to do about that as far as making the list more cohesive. Both interest him in different ways. He also doesn’t seem to care much about size. I don’t think he would enjoy somewhere very heavily Greek. He may get a better feel for these location/size/social aspects if we pick a few to visit.

He really has been more focused on the educational qualities of the schools more than the environmental or social ones but I’ll try to make sure he gets a larger picture.

As far as rigor, I think his school would call his course load highly rigorous for what they offer/allow. His GPA and rank—well, I admit he is a kid who will get 100 in a class he likes and an 85 in a class he doesn’t. He even has a few C’s sprinkled in there, though not as final grades. So that’s what he’s working with for better or worse.

Also will reiterate that the PSAT score was from 10th grade (fall 2016), not this school year, if that makes a difference. I would hope there would be something of a jump in scores just from having another year + of school under his belt, even without the additional practice he will be doing?

All that said, I did think the first 5 schools on the list were high reaches…perhaps from Bard on down would be a more realistic list to flesh out a bit more.

I suspect when he gets his SAT scores back he will adjust the list to the scores, not retake the test to hit a certain school’s parameters (unless he completely tanks it). I don’t think he loves any of the first 5 enough for that; Bard seems to be his current favorite, and probably still a reach based on an acceptance rate of 32%.

I do very much appreciate the suggestions of Denison, Clark, Knox, Elon and U of Iowa! Denison was actually on the initial list before he made some cuts so I will make sure he takes a good second look since it is recommended by so many of you.

+1 to University of Iowa. Iowa City is a nice small city/college town as well.

@bearpanther, agree that the schools listed after Bard, and those suggested by others, would be good to take a further look at. Its always hard to predict an increase from 10th grade PSAT to SAT, but its generally assumed to be 150+/- for mid-range scorers (much less as you get to the top of the range) - hence the reason why I referenced 1370 as a good Match score to target. College Niche also has good student profile descriptions.

I’d really try to get him to consider schools in PA. He may think that going away to a school an hour or two away is not really going away, but it is. The main difference between a school an hour or two away and one 4 hours away is that he’d come home 5 times a year instead of 3, and you might visit him a couple of times more often.

Pennsylvania probably has a better assortment of liberal arts colleges than any other state. Swarthmore and Haverford are probably out of reach (and Bryn Mawr is not possible, of course), but other PA schools include Bucknell, Lafayette, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Dickinson, Muhlenberg, Allegheny, Ursinus, and Juniata. F&M has a Writers House with writing programs. At Ursinus, he can submit a writing sample to try for a $33,000 a year scholarship and the right to spend freshman year in the single dorm room that J. D. Salinger spent his one semester of college in.

I’m pretty sure at least one of those colleges above would be a low reach or a solid match for him, and would be good in writing and/or history.

Of the list immediately above, all are excellent, but I would say that Bucknell and Lafayette are reaches. How about University of Scranton?