Several Top LACS + Ivy? How to narrow down between choices

Hello all! I’ve been lurking on CC for a while and now that all my decisions are out, I have quite the choice to make.

I got accepted into Cornell (CAS), Amherst, Bowdoin (Chamberlain Scholar), Colby (Presidential Scholar), and Hamilton. I was also waitlisted at Dartmouth so I’m not sure if I should take it.

Currently, Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton are the most affordable. I am planning on negotiating aid for Amherst and I have yet to hear back the aid from Cornell.

I’m planning on double majoring in English with Political Science or Economics, however, I’m not entirely sure what I want to pursue.

Any tips on how I can start to narrow down my choices?

Congrats!! Have you attended admitted student events at Colby, Bowdoin, Hamilton? Have you seen a four year course plan to see if double majors are feasible at each/or what electives are available at each?

For brief opinions on several of your choices in the context of opinions on other liberal arts colleges, see reply #7: Struggling with D21's List. ED & ED2: Amherst, Hamilton, Wellesley, Vassar.

These analyses will help you compare economics departments:

With respect to narrowing your choices, you are likely to prefer one of the Maine LACs over the other, so you may want to move on from one of the two. Regarding Dartmouth, while an excellent school when considered independently, it doesn’t seem to represent an especially compelling alternative in comparison to your current acceptances.

You may want to try to map out your studies (as you would envision them now) for 4 years – school requirements, major requirements, study abroad, Jan plan, etc and see if 1 has anything that really appeals or is a turn-off. I’d also see what those named opportunities get you and if they change anything – is the opportunity that comes with that scholarship something that excites you?

I suspect that for many students, any of these would feel right. If you have things you really want to do outside the classroom, look at the ease of doing that. (I.e., if you really want to ski a lot, Colby may get an edge for Jan Plan and proximity to Sugarloaf.)

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Given these options, any of your three most affordable options would be excellent choices. Amherst is wonderful of course, but in my opinion Bowdoin is as good a college these days in terms of academic reputation and opportunities. Just to be clear, I go to Dartmouth so I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’d say go for Bowdoin, or Colby if you really prefer it, if Amherst would involve you paying a non-negligible larger amount of money.

I’d advise against Cornell, since it is a large school with far less of an undergrad focus than your LAC options. You’d likely get more personal attention, small classes, and contact with actual profs at the LACs. They are also likely to have most, if not all of their classes, taught by professors rather than teaching assistants, even the intro classes.

Waitlists for the ivies are extreme long shots so I wouldn’t hold out hope for that. You already have a ton of great acceptances so I’d say just choose from among them.

@earlgereytea First of all, Congrats! You have great choices and all are great academically. Look for social fit. Do you like to ski and are athletic, then Colby. Do you mind an isolated campus, then not Hamilton. CC has a lot of information…research each. Bowdoin and Amherst offer a good mix of students, and each has access to vibrant local communities, one coastal Maine, the other Amherst which is home to several colleges and U of Massachusetts flagship campus. You might also want to examine the open curriculum vs. core curriculum for each to determine how each aligns with your interests.

Even without financial assistance, your choices may represent good values:

Hey all, I’m sorry for not updating you guys for a long time.

I just got back my appealed award for Amherst and unfortunately, it’s still too expensive, so it’s safe to say that Amherst is out of the picture.

Two weeks ago, I visited Hamilton with my parents and toured the campus. It was cute, however, my parents and I realized how isolated it was and honestly, I don’t really see myself there although it is affordable and has an open curriculum. That day, we then decided to visit Cornell because both were in upstate NY and I’m glad that we did.

When I went on to the Cornell campus, I think my perception on what college I wanted to go to shifted. Seeing the hustle and bustle of a university, especially after seeing the small LAC environment just hours before, showed me that perhaps, the small environment won’t be the best for me.

Obviously, I know that the draw of an Ivy pulls a lot of people in and it would be wrong not to say that I’m not drawn to Cornell partly due to its prestige, but thinking about it (as an 18 year old), I think that I’d grow at Cornell more than at an LAC. I saw a TikTok the other day about how when choosing a school, you’re choosing the type of person you want to become. Certainly, while I will grow at any institution I choose, being surrounded by so many people at a school like Cornell, I’d naturally be on my A-game and develop skills that I feel I won’t be able to get at a more personalized environment like the LACs I got into. I think I want to be in a competitive environment (kinda masochistic LOL ik), as I’ve been babied my whole life. I am also concerned about how small these schools are. Seeing Hamilton and how small it was compared to Cornell made me realize that truly, you can’t make a small school bigger.

Also, the particular draw that made me apply to so many LACs was the curriculum, and how you can take courses outside your major. This wouldn’t be a concern at the school I got accepted into at Cornell (CAS) because you’d still get that liberal arts education and you’re encouraged to take I think 2/3?? of your courses outside your major (plus you get to take courses throughout all Cornell’s schools).

Obviously, this is all set to change, as I still need to hear back from Cornell regarding my financial aid award, so I may very well have typed this essay for nothing.

Buuut, as it currently stands, my options ranked in preference are:

  1. Cornell
  2. Bowdoin
  3. Colby.

I will update you guys soon. Thank you so much!


You don’t have any bad options. I would say, with regard to picking the kind of person you want to be, it’s less that and more about the experience you want.

If you are a little more nurtured in college, your transition to the real world might be little rougher. If you are less nurtured in college, your college experience may be a little rougher. But either way, you’ll adjust and function fine in adulthood.

Good for you in being able to figure out what you want now!