sorting out a long college list

I have a very long list atm, and my counselor who handles hundreds of students categorized some of them for me but I want to get more opinions. For context, I go to a super competitive and well known NYC high school, and especially when compared to some of my peers, my resume is not very impressive. My school does not do rank or weighted averages. Grades here are not inflated. Ivies and some more popular schools are practically impossible, but I still want to try. Here are my stats and the list:

1430 SAT (took it without studying, with the plan of retaking after studying on my own)
SAT ii World History 800
AP world 4
AP European history waiting for results, took exam without class. Might retake exam if it’s below 5 and my SATIIs for August don’t go as planned.
Planning to take AP English and AP Art History next year.
SAT literature and US history scheduled for fall, as well as the regular SAT. Possibly ACT as well.
92.94 GPA, official transcript does not have this semester in it for some reason. If you include those grades, it’s a 93.59.
I do sailing recreationally in the summer, and plan on joining a club, maybe a team in college. Will be co-president of the school club next year. Had plans to really work on my skills, especially for racing, this past spring at a local college, and to work at a sailing camp this summer. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in the fall/next summer.
Did a few museum programs. Two internships, one at the Met, and just finished a semester long art history forum. Plan on majoring in history, possibly minor in art history.
A few other extra curricular activities, but all either family related or things I didn’t do enough to really mention.

the list (mostly schools I added, some counselor suggestions):

Amherst College - Reach
Bowdoin College - Reach
Colby College - Reach
Middlebury College - Reach
Williams College - Reach
Dartmouth College - Reach
Brown - Reach

Bucknell University - Possible
Colgate University - Possible
Connecticut College - Possible
Hamilton College - Possible
George Washington University - Possible
Trinity College - possible
St. Johns University - possible

Union College - likely
Hobart & William Smith Colleges - Likely
Smith College - likely
Bentley - Likely
Syracuse University - likely
Wake Forest - likely

Wheaton College - Safety
Hollins University - Safety
City College New York - Safety
SUNY Geneseo - safety
SUNY New Paltz - safety

UW Madison
American University of Paris
College of Charleston
Babson College
Sweet Briar College
Lake Forest College
Pine Manor
Mt. Holyoke
Kenyon College

Some I haven’t looked into yet, some I feel like I’m definitely applying for.

I’m also really interested in UK schools, and atm plan on applying to Oxford for history of art (need the exam grades though), St. Andrews for Modern History and History of Art, and Durham, either for Liberal Arts or History. I’m also considering other unis, and signed up for Study Across the Pond, though they only help with a few of the universities I’m interested in. My plan is to submit my UCAS application by late September/early fall, and if I get into any of the ones I really like (Oxford and St. Andrews for now), I’ll just apply to a few reach/match LACs I really like just in case I change my mind by spring. Since none of the US schools will be my first choice, I don’t want to do ED or EA, and want to use that time to focus on the UCAS application. My counselor says that coming from my school, applying to UK unis (besides Oxbridge) gives me an advantage, but I’m not too sure about that, especially with the exams I have so far.

First off, are all these affordable, usually bringing in cost eliminates a few colleges. Hamilton and Colgate are reaches unless your counselor has information from naviance or similar program that they’re possibles. Wake Forest is probably a possible as well. You can eliminate the few non-LACs, also EA would be possible since it’s not binding, but I think most LACs are ED. I would just take a 1 or 2 of the reach and possible, and the rest likelys and safeties and see how balanced it looks. good luck

What can your parents afford?

Now, since you are interested in History, I would replace Brown and Dartmouth with either UChicago or Columbia, but not both.

Of the other competitive LACs, maybe remove Colby and another one.

Of the Possibles, only Colgate is one which you need to have there, Remove any other two that you like the least. Since you like LACs, perhaps George Washington.

Of the likely list, keep Smith and Union. Remove the rest.

Of the safeties, do you mean Wheaton, IL, or Wheaton, MA? Perhaps Agnes Scott of Gustavus Adolphus?

Thanks for the advice.

I meant Wheaton in Massachusetts.

My counselor said to not let price influence my decision, so I haven’t been paying attention to that. For the most part, cost not an issue. My parents wouldn’t be too happy paying a crazy amount for a not so great school, so for the likely and safety schools, lower is better. But for schools higher up on the list, it’s definitely not a problem. Especially the Ivies and most of the reach LACs.

Brown is on my list mainly because I really like the open curriculum. Dartmouth, because of the quarter system. I don’t know about UChicago but I know it’s large and a huge number of kids from my school apply and end up there (making it a reach school). It’s also right inside a big city, which I don’t think is something I would enjoy. For a school I’m not that into, I don’t think it’s worth adding to the list. Columbia is in NYC, so big city, and also right at home. (the CUNY was something my counselor insisted on, since she said it was standard for all students to apply there). I want a little distance from NYC, especially since I see myself ending up there at some point for work/family. Between Brown and Dartmouth, I might end up just picking one, though I’m not sure which yet. Will try to visit both to figure that out.

I’m very into the liberal arts, especially the open curriculum idea, and would be fine if I only took history as a very small part of that. I’d also be fine with dropping everything and just taking history/art history for all four years (hence the UK schools). What I wouldn’t want is to be required to take basic core classes like chem, calc, English, etc.

If I remember correctly, my counselor said Hamilton and Colgate are possibles because few from my school apply, and even fewer actually end up attending. Same story with Wake Forest.

For doing EA, would that provide a significant advantage for any of these schools? I would prefer using the early part of the fall to focus on my UCAS application, which would be due October 15th. But if it would help with my chances, I’ll definitely do it for a few favorites, and it will likely cut down the number of total applications I’ll end up doing, since I do expect to get into at least one of the UK unis (from what my counselor told me).

@MWolf could you explain your reasoning behind taking out the schools you did?

First, for any of the LACs on your list, applying ED can make a very large difference. Although much of the ED boost is because that is when they consider athletes, legacies, and programs such as Posse or Questbridge, for colleges which like a demonstration of interest, a student with a strong application also benefit from applying ED.

Of the colleges I recommended, UChicago has a better History program than Brown or Dartmouth, and, since you evidently have interest in Museum Curating, it is in
close proximity to a large number of great museum. Columbia is among some of the world’s greatest museums. However, since you are avoiding urban universities, I would recommend Cornell over Dartmouth or Brown for history.

Of the reaches, Colby doesn’t have as good a history program as the others, and 7 reach colleges are too many, IMO.

Of your possibles, IMO, only Colgate really has a history program which is better than the colleges which are in your Likely list. Besides, since you are avoiding urban colleges, neither Trinity nor St John’s seems a good choice. As I wrote GWU is not a LAC or even similar to a LAC, AND it is in an urban setting.

Overall, you should not be applying to possibles or reaches which do not match your requirements more than likelies and safeties do, or which have history programs which are not as good as those at Likely or Safety colleges.

I may have been too hasty in recommending that you drop Hamilton. However, Vassar may be a better choice to have in the Possibles than Hamilton. Also, look at @theloniusmonk’s comment on Hamilton.

If you want to keep all of your likely colleges, that’s great, my recommendations only is in regard which can go, since you are looking to cull your list. So, of the Likely colleges, Smith and Union have, arguably, the best history programs, and should stay.

Having few apply and even fewer attend will likely reduce your chances, not enhance them.

Overall, though, you still need to cull, since every one of those colleges likes demonstrated interest, and needs a well-crafted essay. You have too many reaches, so look to reduce that to 5-6 at most, 8 at most with the “Possible” colleges. For the Likely
category, Union, H&W, and Smith are enough, and you really only need two or three safeties at most. The two SUNYs are excellent choices and are financial safeties as well. However, with your stats, you will possibly get merit funding at places like Agnes Scott which may reduce the costs to below the instate costs for the SUNYs.

@theloniusmonk I think that the OP is using “Possible” instead of “low reach/high match”. However, since she writes that there are few applicants to Colgate and Hamilton, I agree that they should be bumped up to “reach”.

I would say Union would be a great choice. D20’s toured there and they are actively looking for history majors because the department has gotten a bit smaller than they like. They did a big push for STEM majors a couple of years ago and it is a big focus of the tours but I know the history program is strong. They also offer decent merit awards and it has a pretty campus.

D is heading to Colgate this fall. My recommendation is to look at the common core requirements and areas of inquiry. It is not an open curriculum but there are some creative ways to fulfill requirements.

We have visited several of the schools on your list, some more than once. Some of them feel very different than others, just an FYI.

Take Bentley and Babson off your list if you want liberal arts…they are both business colleges.

I agree that you should be running net price calculators. Maybe add SUNY Binghamton as a good financial fit.

If you would like to study within a notably flexible curriculum, then Brown, Grinnell, Hamilton, Amherst and Smith represent some of the country’s top potential choices.

edit: Washington college, not George Washington university. I was looking at Washington college and my counselor was the one that added George Washington University, and I guess I confused the two.

If you are looking to cut your list down, I would think about what size school you would prefer to attend. There is a big difference between 1800 at Hamilton and 43,000 at UWMadison. FWIW, there’s also a big difference between both of those and the 20,000 at Oxford. D20 didn’t apply to a single SUNY school because even 8000 at New Paltz felt too big and crowded to her.

I’m surprised Skidmore isn’t on your list. Not that you need more schools, but if you are researching, and like LACs you might research them.

I’d take Sweet Briar off the list. Too much financial uncertainty. Your stats are way above their range.

Is there a reason why SUNY Binghamton is not on your list?

As a potential Art History major, why Smith but not Bryn Mawr? If you like Sweet Briar, feel free to keep it on your list. Its smaller enrollment (all single rooms!!!), larger physical campus, and rural location might be really nice if the pandemic continues. Since you have no problems with women’s colleges, take a look at some of the others here:

Sit down with your parents and run the Net Price Calculators at several of these places. Have a box of soft tissues and some adult beverages handy in case your parents find that they need those.

For your safeties, find out which places have admitted every student like you from your high school in recent years. For truly safe places, find options that flat-out guarantee admission for your grades and test scores. Include at least one of those because sometimes what was a safety for a student like you last year turns out to not be safe at all this year.

With respect to estimating costs, this resource can be especially convenient:

With respect to an academic aspect to consider when screening your tentative choices, colleges that separate their art history and studio art programs into distinct departments may be stronger in these respective fields than colleges at which these programs appear together in a single department.

With size, I’ll probably prefer a smaller school but I’m not completely sure about that, which is why I want to consider a few larger schools, and decide on size later on, hopefully after visiting a few small and large schools. Oxford is large, but is comprised of smaller colleges where you live, socialize, and where your tutors are, so I won’t really have to choose between the two. Durham does the same thing.

UW Madison is out.

I’m iffy on Binghamton. Extremely popular with kids at my school. Compared to my peers, my SAT score is not going to cut it. MY GPA is good, though. Based off that, I would say it’s a match. Likely or possible, I’m not sure. Not a safety, so I don’t think it’s worth adding to the list. Sounds silly, but it also looks kind of ugly.

Bryn Mawr was on the list, but was cut out after I read in multiple places that it was a VERY liberal school, to the point where conservative views are not really accepted, and can even be met with hostility. I want somewhere where controversial ideas and viewpoints can be comfortably shared and discussed, without it becoming hostile.

I’m worried about the finances at Sweet Briar, but like @happymomof1 said, the small size and large space are good for social distancing if the virus really lasts a long time. That’s all I know so far, and I have a virtual tour scheduled for next week, so I hope to learn more then. Was thinking of it as a safety. If anyone has any thoughts/info/predictions on the current/future financial situation there, please share.

On women’s colleges in general: My parents are not too fond of the idea, but they’re letting me make the decision. They think it’s not reflective of the real world, and are worried that I’ll come out of it unsocialized. I know and like the advantages of attending a women’s college, but my parents just don’t get how any of it is a good thing. But I also understand their concerns. For that reason, the women’s colleges will be narrowed down to probably a maximum of 2.

I did run a calculator suggested by my counselor (I don’t remember which one) and have a pretty clear idea of what the expected family contribution will be. Will run a few school specific calculators. At this point, the assumption is no matter where I go, we will end up paying full/near full tuition (based on the first calculation we did and my stats, and just to avoid unnecessary disappointment), so running the calculators will either confirm our assumption or be a pleasant surprise.

Don’t really like the look of the campus at Skidmore. It was on my list before. There might have been other reasons why it was cut, but after I cut a school, I’ll remember that I didn’t like it but won’t really remember the reasons why. Another reason was probably location. Same with Union. Rough estimate, but I would prefer not to be within 30-60 min of Albany, especially if it’s along the Hudson.

Will sort through potential safety schools.

Agnes Scott is not on Naviance. Anyone know why?

Signing off for the long weekend, and will be back with an updated list next week.

You definitely seem to be a very well rounded student that will get accepted into most of the schools on your list. To help shorten it, I recommend that you start with narrowing down your safeties. Do some research and find out which schools will give you the most amount of aid and scholarships. I also recommend that you tour as many of these schools as possible (even if it is just a virtual tour). In my experience, touring schools helped me to cut my list in half. From there, you will be able to figure out what exactly you are looking for in a school (ex. size, location, etc…) and then you should be able to narrow down your list. Good luck!

Davidson is much harder to get into than Trinity or Connecticut College, for instance. I haven’t gone and actually looked at the numbers, but I suspect it is a reach (for anyone).

You don’t need to find more safeties, unless you are hoping to get a large merit award. Get rid of all but two, and maybe even one is fine. After all, by definition a safety is a school you will certainly get into, that you like, and is affordable. You seem to like LACs and that kind of vibe, and you seem to prefer colleges offering a classic liberal arts experience. I think you’re fine for safeties with Wheaton and Geneseo.

Hamilton and Colgate are reaches. They aren’t as selective as Brown or Dartmouth, but they are not really match schools with your GPA and test score as it is. I see nine reaches on your list. Curious if you’ve considered Bates. It seems to fit your criteria and has a sailing club.

I think you should do some serious culling. Eliminate those that aren’t affordable. Eliminate those you don’t have genuine interest in. Try to limit yourself to maybe a few high reaches, a few lower reaches, a few matches, and one or two safeties. 10-12 is plenty, though so many students apply to many more. I think this coming year especially, colleges will look for signs of real interest. Visiting may not be possible, so sing up for email lists, request interviews, and complete all supplemental essays and/or short responses.

Agree that Hamilton, Davidson and Colgate are reaches. Smith and Wake are possibles, not likelies. However, given OP’s concern that Bryn Mawr was an echo chamber, I think they’d find Smith quite similar (though they are superb schools).

Cull the reach list: with Hamilton, Davidson and Colgate, that’s 10 reaches. That’s a lot of potential disappointment in the spring.

Cull the safety list: pick 1 – I’d say Wheaton but that’s just my view – plus CUNY and 2 SUNY schools, and that’s plenty of safeties. Then, matches could be Mt Holyoke, Syracuse, Union, Hobart William Smith and UW. Possibles (high match/low reach?) might include Wake, Kenyon, Trinity, Conn Coll. Bucknell seems to be a bit of an outlier, with both engineering and business school so perhaps could come off the list. Villanova seems an outlier as well, I’d remove it.

On UW – although I haven’t tracked UW admissions the past 2 years as closely as I had – an OOS student generally needs at least an A- unweighted gpa and a 32 ACT to be a likely admit, below that, and it’s too close to call. Also, UW only looks at unweighted, not weighted gpa. It does, of course, have phenomenal academic resources, including History, Art History, a university museum etc., so is an excellent academic opportunity for someone with OP’s interests.

Maximize EA and rolling admissions to get some early acceptances so that OP can remove some overlapping schools entirely.