Seeking your wisdom on college list/visits (so many colleges, so little time)

<p>I’m new here, although I’ve been lurking for about a month and reading new and old posts voraciously. I am overwhelmed by your knowledge and advice. I thought I knew a lot about the college application process – your collected wisdom makes me a novice.</p>

<p>My daughter is a junior and we are planning college visits. Here’s the relevant info, and I am curious to see your thoughts.</p>

<p>GPA 3.94/4, taking her school’s most challenging courses. No weighting, but the school ranks; she’s in the top tenth right now. Both GPA and rank may fall, thanks to tough classes and students who decided not to take the tough classes. The school is public and very small, but top heavy with bright kids and routinely sends a bunch to top schools, so it has a good reputation despite its size and remoteness. </p>

<p>No SATs yet. PSATs were not stellar (she gets accommodations but testing isn’t her strong point). 69 CR, 58 Writing, 55 Math. She’s got an excellent tutor now, so I assume the scores will rise. Fingers crossed (and I’ve loved reading stories here of kids whose SATs were significantly higher than their PSATs). </p>

<p>EC: Journalism and public policy/environmental activism. Last year she had internships at the local newspaper and with our state senator. She helped start the school newspaper, designed it from scratch, does all the layout, on track to being editor in chief; she also writes articles for the daily paper. She’s the lead person in her HS’s environmental group lobbying the Legislature to pass a tire deposit bill. A scattering of other activities; no sports although she’s been dancing since age 3. </p>

<p>Academic interests are art history and social sciences: government/media/women’s studies. (I think. She’s still mainly undecided.)</p>

<p>She wants a not-too-small, medium-sized school, preferably urban or in an active college town. One of her main criteria is that it can’t look like Vermont. For example, she liked the academics and feel of Wesleyan, but not the surroundings. She likes Brown (she’s a legacy), Barnard, Tufts and Brandeis. Disliked Trinity (in Conn.) because the kids were too preppy and jocky. Don’t even mention schools like Williams – yes the art history is good, but anything rural and filled with outdoorsy athletes would be a turn-off. A funky, creative, engaged, liberal and intellectual student body is important. As is typical, the search for safeties is the most agonizing. She wants Northeast; I tell her she has to look elsewhere.</p>

<p>From my perspective, I want her to find a school that she loves as much as I loved Brown, where I went. Not only that, but a college with a student body that cares passionately about their school, and continues to care long after graduation. </p>

<p>Thanks in advance!</p>

<p>Given the ECs might be a good candidate for George Washington or American U.</p>

<p>At the some what less selective end of the spectrum, she should consider Sarah Lawrence--near NYC and Goucher --near Baltimore. Skidmore is somewhat rural and near Vermont but Saratoga is a pretty cool town and the school has plenty of creative kids</p>

<p>Also did you know that as Brown alum you can get free college counseling from a former admissions rep at the Brown alumni center? She will spend about half an hour with your D and another half an hour including the parents and discuss your D's chances at Brown as well as recommend other schools. That's what we did--well worth the effort.</p>

<p>P.S. You can cut down on visits by applying to pretty many schools and saving some visits only in case of acceptance when you' re not sure which school to choose.</p>

<p>my rec is to try the ACT as well -- some kids do much better on it.</p>

<p>She might want to take a look at Bard College in New York. For journalism, however, Syracuse U's Newhouse School of Communications or Ithaca College in NY might also be of interest. </p>

<p>I'd also suggest that you look at some schools that make submitting SATs optional, just in case her scores don't rise to match her outstanding grades. There are some very good schools (like Connecticutt College) that make SATs optional, although read the fine print carefully - some will require the SAT IIs instead or submitting a portfolio. You can find a complete list of SAT optional schools at <a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>She might also consider taking the ACT just to see if she does better on that than the SATs. Working with a tutor should help, but may not bring her test scores up into range for the most selective colleges, so be sure to include a wide range of schools in your visits and consideration.</p>

<p>Pyewacket, that is so interesting about Brown's alumni center offering the college counselling. Did you find the recommendations were pretty much on target? (I know your daughter got in ED so you may not be able to answer this)</p>

<p>Thanks for some of the suggestions so far. Yes, she'll take the ACT, probably next month. Bard and Ithaca are too rural/remote, unfortunately. I would like to know more about what people know of Sarah Lawrence.</p>

<p>We're using the college counseling service at Brown, and the advice has been pretty good so far. It's a wonderful service; I don't know if any other college offers it to alumni, but it's worth checking out.</p>

<p>Northwestern IL something to consider, but it is midwest and will not be safety.
Did you and your D read Loren Pope book Colleges that changes lifes?
Some safeties could be picked up from there.</p>

<p>Occidental. It's not a huge, reachy reach and no one would confuse the surroundings with Vermont. :)</p>

<p>Its pretty amazing when you encourage you kid to think out of the box what they might find.</p>

<p>My S had some pretty defined ideas of what type of college and what college he wanted to attend, but was encouraged to "just go look at Kings Point"</p>

<p>He did and he loved it and now is there and is happier than any Plebe deserves to be. My point isn't about Kings Point specifically, it is a great place with unbelievable options upon graduation, but its about not assuming you know what you want if you haven't looked at everything. </p>

<p>Its like saying you don't like Indian food because you have heard its spicy, but have never even gone in an Indian resturant.</p>

<p>How about Vassar ??</p>

<p>Could consider Rochester as a match or slight safety. Haverford and the other Philly schools will not be mistaken for Vermont and give her a big city feel without being in a downtown location.</p>

<p>Okay I won't mention that college in Western Massachusetts that's known for producing the art-mafia that dominate so many American museums :) I do think you're underestimating the intellectual and creative vigor of the students though. The art and art history facilities and opportunities are amazing.</p>

<p>Skidmore and Vassar are good ideas for strong art history departments. I'd also take a look at NYU, Conn College, Bryn Mawr and Smith. If those scores improve, then Yale, Penn and Princeton. Johns Hopkins also has a wonderful art history department and is slightly less selective than the ivies.</p>

<p>From the perspective of one who has been through the process:</p>

<p>I'd strongly encourage looking at colleges that fit the current PSAT profile rather than resting hopes on increasing test scores. The reason is that it is easy to add in more selective colleges down the line, not so easy to adjust to diminished expectations if the scores don't work out. So the Skidmore, Syracuse, Bryn Mawr suggestions are great. I think if you focus your summer visiting on colleges where your daughter is likely to get accepted based on current numbers, if you are lucky there will be some pleasant surprises. </p>

<p>I know that this is easier said than done, and my own daughter ended up insisting on retaking tests (to no avail really) and applying to colleges that are mostly very big reaches. But I think she's setting herself up for disappointment - fortunately she also added some last-minute safeties. I just think the stress of worrying about retesting wasn't worth it; I'm not too happy about the money part, either. </p>

<p>I look at it in terms of efficiency -- if there is a 1 out of 10 chance that a given student will get admitted to an Ivy - and they've never visited-- then there is very small chance that they will have to make a trip on short notice in April. So its safe to apply to reaches without having visited -- the likelihood is that the student won't ever have to visit. </p>

<p>Meanwhile, there is a better chance that a student will develop an affinity to a less prestigious college from a visit than from reading statistics-heavy information on line. It is true that the kid might also have the "no way" reaction my daughter did when visiting her own safeties ... but then there's no point in applying to a college that the kid is certain to get into, but will refuse to attend. You don't want to have to be trying to schedule visits to half a dozen safety schools in April -- and since its a much surer bet that the kid will get in, its also a much greater likelihood that the need to visit will arise. So it just seems to me to make the most sense to focus visits on safeties & match schools. Make it a voyage of discovery. </p>

<p>As noted, this did result in my daughter spending money to visit colleges she didn't like.... but at least I know that she gave them a fair shot.</p>

<p>I'd strongly encourage looking at colleges that fit the current PSAT profile rather than resting hopes on increasing test scores. >></p>

<p>Calmom, that's perhaps the best advice of all. Very well said. :)</p>

<p>What about Oberlin? Not NE, but a geographically diverse student body and not really a midwest flavor to it. Excellent art museum, art history, very quirky, creative, academically engaged students. Bigger than your average LAC. Not preppy at all. Liberal. If it's a fit for your D, it's a wonderful place.</p>

<p>A comment on SAT scores: one of the advantages of coming from a rural state is that many colleges (in other words, perhaps not HYP, but many of the other reaches) actually have lower expectations for what SAT scores should be. I once worked at a suburban HS, and know that prep for standardized tests starts in middle school. That sort of college prep never happened in our school system. Many of the things that kids here on CC talk about as a given have never even been heard of around here. High schools here are a different breed, and most of the colleges know that. </p>

<p>So, while I think my daughter’s scores need to be higher, I don’t think they need to be as high as, say, a kid from a competitive upper class HS in the NYC suburbs. For example, while her HS hasn’t had a National Merit Semi-finalist in recent memory (if ever), its graduates are at all the Ivies and schools like Haverford, Wesleyan, Notre Dame, Barnard, Tufts, etc. I also know that at many colleges, the difference between a 700 and an 800 is not what determines admissions. (It saddens me when I see some deferred students on CC lament their “horrible” SAT scores in the low 700s, thinking that that made the difference in the admissions decision. I know from my volunteer work for Brown admissions that once a kid hits a certain threshold – and that threshold varies depending on geographic location, socio-economic status and other factors – how much higher their score is doesn’t matter much.)</p>

<p>In our visits so far, we’ve gone to some reaches, and more matches. She hasn’t known beforehand which is which, but is able to figure out the difference on her own. (Because her HS is not in the competitive college mindset, she and her classmates don’t even know the “brand names” outside the obvious ones. They couldn’t tell you the difference between Wesleyan and Lyndon State.) While part of me agrees that we should visit based on PSAT scores, another part of me believes that those scores will improve. My scores jumped 250 points between my PSAT and SAT, and I think my husband’s did as well. She didn’t study at all for the PSATs. </p>

<p>However, I admit that the gap between her scores and her grades is frustrating in terms of planning college visits. Her GC’s list, for example, mainly had reaches on it. </p>

<p>We’ve seen some of the school mentioned above. Bryn Mawr and Haverford were ones she wouldn’t even get out of the car for (even after pointing out the train station to Philadelphia). Of course, when we drove into Philly and she saw Penn, her eyes lit up. The first time she saw Barnard was a couple years ago, pre-college search, when we were in the area for a social event, and she had a similar reaction. </p>

<p>Occidental seems like a place to explore. Does Oberlin have active surroundings, or is it in a sleepy town? And I am intrigued with the Johns Hopkins suggestion, just because she’s not the typical JH mold.</p>

<p>Sly, OK, she wants urban. There are good schools in most every big city and if you work on it you should be able to find a range of selectivity. Usually if there’s a good museum, there’s a college with a good art history department nearby: e.g, Penn, Chicago, Tufts, really any school in NY City, Boston or Washington. Most big universities have good on campus museums – some are better than good like H/Y/P, JHU, Brown, Williams, Skidmore.</p>

<p>I agree that SATs in the 700 range won’t keep a kid who is otherwise qualified out of even the most super-selective school; lower than that the student will need to compensate in some other areas.</p>

<p>My problem is that its a long way from a 55 in math, 58 in CR to scores in the 700 range -- I think it is more reasonable to expect that this kid, with prep, will score around 650, maybe 1950 total. I'm not saying that it can't be better... I'm just saying that its a little unrealistic. The other stats that were cited are good but not stellar -- top 10% in a school that ranks is not the same as top 2%, and while I see great EC's, I don't see a really stand-out hook.</p>

<p>Its not that I don't sympathize. I have a daughter with SATs only slightly better than the PSAT scores quoted above. My daughter, like yours, wants urban in a "happening" town -- and that makes things a lot tougher. You love reading stories about kids whose SAT's went up dramatically after the PSAT -- it happens, but I think it is far more common for the PSAT to serve the predictive purpose it was designed for. </p>

<p>The irony is that a kid with mid-600 range scores and an A average with a strong academic program is a shoe-in at scores of excellent colleges that just aren't in the top-20 range. So one downside of aiming for top colleges is that it unnecessarily limits choices - these are kids who would attract merit aid and have excellent choices if they were willing to set their sights a little lower. </p>

<p>I guess one other point is that I've been lurking the college boards for the past 4 years, since my son started college --- and I see the despair every April when the rejection letters come in. Yes, I also see the joy and the triumph - but most of these kids who get into the very top schools also report really amazing stats. </p>

<p>So you asked for "wisdom" -- the "wisdom" that comes from having been around awhile is that the competition at the top is fierce. Sometimes the hard part is to try to be objective and see our kids as others will see them.</p>

<p>Calmom: I take all your points. However, I didn’t come in here saying she (or I) wanted HYP or AWS. In fact, if her scores were in the 700s now, I probably wouldn’t have posted the question at all because then her choices would be a lot clearer. She’ll have a couple reaches, and I think we know what those are already. So where I’m looking for advice is outside that top 20, or top 50, or even the top 100, because I know it’s not realistic for her to apply to HYP or AWS. It's below-the-top schools we need to know about. Perhaps I should have been clearer in my original post.</p>