Safety LACs

I am an incoming senior who is mainly interested in liberal arts colleges. Some schools on the top of my list are Swarthmore, Brown, Carleton, Pomona, and as more of a safety Connecticut. I need to find more safety and fallback schools that are similar to the above schools but easier to get into.
Some things that are important to me are that it is intellectual over being fratty or sporty. I have over a 4.0 GPA and got a 1500 on the SAT, and am in full IB. With these stats, does anyone have any suggestions for good safety liberal arts schools that I would like?

If you have Carleton in Minnesota- try Macalester which is 45 minutes away and in the city of St. Paul. Did you look at Grinnell too? They are very generous with merit money for high achieving students and sounds like the vibe you are looking for. High % of students going to grad school too. Vassar has open curriculum like Brown - but not really a safety. What about Trinity ?

St Olaf

Oberlin, Occidental, Lewis & Clark, Bard

Union College and Marist College

Do you have a geographic preference? You should take a look at the Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) website. Lots of terrific schools, most (all?) of which offer merit opportunities. I’d also suggest Sarah Lawrence, Dickinson, Wheaton (MA), maybe Holy Cross and/or St. Olaf as well.

Skidmore and Dickinson perhaps
Goucher or Wooster as super-safety

Skidmore. Hobart. St. Lawrence

In the south: Rhodes. Furman?


Cost constraints?

Academic interests?

To answer some of the questions:
No real cost constraints, although a college that meets need without loans is preferred
I’m mostly interested in humanities, but also in physics and math. I’m interested in lots of different things which is why I want to go to a LAC
For geography, I don’t have a strong preference, but ideally not too far from a decent sized town/city.

Not an LAC but smallish and open curriculum, University of Rochester. Strong in STEM and humanities. Intellectual and interesting student body. Not a safety but a match probs. Down side: expensive.

That suggests that you and your parents cannot pay private college list price. Have you talked to them about what they will contribute? You can only borrow $5.5k first year without a cosigner (and cosigned loans or parent loans are generally not a good idea). Use each college’s net price calculator to see what its financial aid may be like (“meet need” promises mean less than they seem, since each college may define “need” differently).

You can take courses in lots of different things at a non-LAC college as well. The usual trade-offs are that LACs try to have smaller class sizes at all levels (particularly frosh/soph level, where class sizes can get big at larger colleges) but may have more limited upper level offerings. College catalogs can let you compare offerings in the various departments at each college, and college class schedules often show class sizes along with what is actually offered each term.

In terms of freedom to explore, consider whether each college’s general education requirements can provide structure in selecting courses in your varied interests, or are a hindrance in requiring you to check boxes rather than choose what you are really interested in. But note that some subjects like physics and math require starting frosh/soph level course work early due to prerequisite sequencing.

“No real cost constraints, although a college that meets need without loans is preferred”

I think that you need to nail this down more solidly.

As one example, Bowdoin (of course not a safety) current charges $55,822 for tuition. The total cost of attendance is close to $75,000 per year. Of course prices go up from year to year. With a 5% per year increase, assuming that you would start in September 2021, the cost could be getting close to $100,000 per year by the time that you graduate. That is a lot of money.

People here can suggest schools that will cost less than this. Depending upon how Bowdoin computes your need, it too might cost less than this for you.

You should run some NPCs and see how you and your parents feel about the results.

To be a “safety”, a school has to be affordable.

Vassar requires significant out-of-major and out-of-discipline courses and demonstrated non-native language proficiency. More academically flexible LAC options include Hamilton, Amherst and Smith. is a comparison chart of general education requirements at colleges that are frequently mentioned as “open curriculum”. Colleges may have changed their requirements since then.

I’m not quite sure if I understand what you mean by this. All the schools I’ve looked at are basically the same price, because they are all private liberal arts schools. I live in California so I have the UCs, but they are very different to the liberal arts kind of school I am interested in. Are there some private liberal arts schools that are cheaper than others?

Point is an academic safety has to affordable to be a safety. For example, if one needs to win a school’s large, named scholarship to afford it, that safety becomes a reach.

Run the net price calculators of each school that is on your list, NPCs are on every school’s website.

Some LACs give need-based aid only, do you qualify for that? Some LACs give both merit and need-based fin aid. The lower one goes in terms of ranking/status, the higher the tuition/cost discounting that generally occurs.

What is can/will your family pay for college per year?

This sounds like there may be some financial limitations. Run the Net Price Calculator for a few LACs and show the results to your parents. It’s important to know if they’re willing/able to pay their EFC. Also note that some colleges that currently meet need are rethinking those policies due to Covid related financial losses.

Soka, Thomas Aquinas?
Public LACs like New College of Florida, UNC Asheville?