St. Lawrence University for Highly Gifted Student

Hi! My daughter is highly gifted with an IQ above the 99.9th percentile. She is a very “normal” kid, but most of her friends are adults. She has grades and standardized scores that put her in the range for an Ivy or possibly Stanford, and she’s getting a lot of interest from Swarthmore and a couple of other top liberal arts schools. However she has her heart set on St. Lawrence University. She loves the location and the sport facilities. She has many academic interests but none that really stands out above the others. She’s a good “all rounder,” but she hasn’t yet found an academic niche. She is also very active in athletics, plays several sports, and hopes to play on a sports team at college. She has a thousand other interests including music (she’s a multi-instrumentalist), photography, and religion (she’s agnostic, but super-interested in the topic.) She is very social, self-confident, and outgoing and is definitely a leader… She doesn’t like noisy parties or drinking, but she likes hanging out with lots of different types of people. She gets along best with smart, open-minded, down-to-earth people who are highly curious.

She is EXTREMELY anti-elitist and wants to go to a “non-snobbish” school, which is why she refuses to even look at an Ivy (probably unfair of her.) At the same time, I’m encouraging her to look for challenging academics that would develop her keen intellect. Would St. Lawrence meet the academic needs of someone who is a bit of an outlier?

It seems to me that SLU is “on the rise” and will soon be ranked in the top 20 or so liberal arts colleges in the nation. I hear the professors at SLU are outstanding. I don’t want to be snooty, but I want my kid to have an outstanding education and to have lots of friends of similar ability. I also want her to have the sort of undergraduate experience that would help her get into an excellent graduate school. Any feedback about the strength of SLU academics? And it’s suitability for a super-smart kid?

Would we as parents be hurting her future chances of success by having her go to SLU rather than, say, to an “elite” school like Swarthmore or Notre Dame (my dh’s alma mater – needless to say, he’s encouraging her to go there,)

Thank you!


St. Lawrence itself could be considered elite when considered by its intrinsic attributes, and would be my favorite of the Northeastern over-44°-latitude colleges in terms of architecture and location. At this stage, it would seem to be a good thing to encourage your daughter’s interest in SLU, but her attendance there should perhaps be fully considered within the context of an in depth comparison to similar colleges with statistically (at this time) academically stronger student profiles (e.g., Williams, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Hamilton, Middlebury, Kenyon).

St L is a wonderful place, especially for a kid with athletic and other interests. In researching LACs for my kid, I spent a lot of time (too much, really) researching faculty and academic opportunities at LACs below the top 20. My conclusion was that the faculty at the top 50+ LACs are generally receiving their Ph.D.s from the same caliber of schools, and so are “punching in the same weight class.” The education offered by the professor in the class is not going to be dramatically different. What will be different is the feel of the place, including the attitudes of students in the classes – Swarthmore is a very different kind of place than St L, and I can imagine a kid feeling comfortable at St L might run screaming from Swat. With two in college, I’ve come to conclude that “feeling at home” in a place makes a big difference in terms of that specific student’s ability to take advantage of all the opportunities available. Encourage her to visit schools which are similarly strong in sports in more rural/outdoorsey communities, like Bowdoin, Midd etc., so she has some points of comparison.

I don’t like to seem cynical, but this is unlikely to happen, because SLU lacks one thing: $$. SLU’s endowment is certainly significant, at around $270,000,000. But compare that to other small liberal arts colleges in NY, like Vassar at $928,000,000, Colgate at $820,000,000, or Hamilton at $815,000,000.
And schools like Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, or Bowdoin have even more, in the 1-2 billion$ range. These schools can afford to offer better financial aid than SLU can, and can “outbid” SLU for the most highly qualified students.

If financial aid is a significant consideration – and for most families, it is – then tell your daughter that she needs to apply to some wealthier schools, so that you can compare the financial aid packages. It would be “elitist” to act as though money is not an issue, right?

@Corbett: Would you have an endowment figure for a school such as Bates, which, even as it currently stands, appears to be within range of the top 20?

@merc81: The endowment of Bates appears to be 251 million.

I’m pulling figures from the latest NACUBO tables, at:

This table puts Bates at $251,000,000, which is slightly lower than SLU. On the other hand, Bates has fewer students than SLU (1,800 vs 2,400), so Bates is slightly wealthier on an endowment per student basis, which is actually the more precise measure.

I’m not going to claim that endowment per student accounts for 100% of the variability in LAC rankings, but I think it counts for a lot. It’s arguably true that Bates ranks higher in the USN&WR rankings (#27) than one might expect, based purely on its financial strength. On the other hand, it’s also true that Bates ranks well behind its two rival Maine LACs, Bowdoin and Colby, and this difference appears to correlate with endowment:

6 Bowdoin - $1,340 million

12 Colby - $ 710 million

27 Bates - $ 251 million

I invite you to try this comparison with the LACs in any other state, e.g. NY, PA, MA. I think you’ll find that USN&WR ranking and endowment $$ have a definite relationship.

Your points, as generously offered, appear generally good and well illustrated @Corbett. I might argue, though, that a threshold figure (by the agreed upon measurement of EPS) could be more significant than a relative comparison.

Should SLU, in this case, have access to sufficient funding for its most important programs and initiatives, then its USNWR position – or at least its overall desirability – may not be firmly limited to a relatively narrow range mostly determined by its comparative endowment. Some consideration of cause and effect may also be relevant. Highly ranked colleges may create large endowments as an accrued benefit of their success as institutions, as much as the endowments can be said to have contributed to this success. Though correlations do seem apparent, endowment and general profile can feedback positively over time.

@Apple23: Thank you!

Yes, your D will get an excellent education at St Lawrence and I believe kids will thrive when they feel there is a good fit. But, I don’t think St Lawrence is any less or more snobby/elitist than the Ivies. In fact, the Ivies and some of the very highly ranked schools may do a better job of assembling a diverse class due to their resources and applicant pool.
Also agree with @Corbett that it will not likely rise to top 20 LAC status anytime soon. Currently is is #53 in US News LAC ranking and #73 on the Forbes LAC ranking. A very good ranking, all the same, but too far out of the top 20, to get there by the time your D gets there.

Thank you to all of you! You have given me much food for thought. Midwesternmomofboys, you make a very
valid point that professors at most LACs go to the same schools. I have friends who are university professors, and they feel the quality of education a student can get doesn’t very much from one school to the next. They say kids at Yale and at your local public university use the same textbooks and study the same things. What varies is the calibre of the students. I don’t know enough to know whether that’s true or not. What IS true is that we can’t afford a private school without financial or merit aid, so I will definitely encourage my D to look at some of the schools with bigger endowments. Thank you all again for your very helpful feedback!

SLU is an awesome school for a bunch of key reasons. I am an alum and parent of a 2021 applicant. The alumni network is one of the most connected and loyal alumni networks of any school, there are probably only two others that compare - Dartmouth and Whitman. The alumni really bond for life and also look out for each other. After being out 25 years my best friends are still the 30 or so friends I keep in touch with from SLU. After touring schools with my D on the east and west coast I attribute that to the schools isolation combined with the mandatory on campus residency requirement. Few other LA schools require this which I think pulls their student bodies in too many directions. The students really form a strong bond while they are there.

The students are social experts. You make friends for life and you also learn the value of a network. The network is very strong in the Northeast. The school is very well regarded. They are some of the most confident outgoing people around - this really helps in life. For a gifted student this will help because often they have challenges with communication with others.

Regarding money and endowment, they spent the last 15 years rebuilding the campus with a lot of really nice facilities. They are turning their attention to the endowment now. The school has fantastic fundraising capability and a lot of money to tap into in their alumni base. I heard that they raised $50M just last year alone.

The truth too is that the schools with the high endowments don’t really put it to use funding opportunity / scholarship for others. The new data published in January from Stanford researchers shows that schools like Bates, Colby, Middlebury have more kids from the top 1% of income households than they do from the bottom 60%. They have 20-25% of their kids from top 1% households, they are not using their wealth to create a lot of socioeconomic mobility, they are using it to perpetuate their largesse.

For those wondering about SLU’s financial aid, I believe it is amazing. As an accepted student under ED, SLU gave me the most money from the schools I was accepted in under EA. They even gave more than my state school did. Also I know a lot of current students there that have received an amazing amount of aid as well.

knightbobcat5972 was this need based aid or merit? What about for the student with good GPA, good ECs, well rounded but qualified for no financial need? Will they still get a good financial offer?

Yes. My daughter had a 3.2 GPA from a hard private school, 29 ACT, 1330 SAT, received a good financial offer despite not asking for financial aid.

My S just graduated from SLU this May. He had an absolutely amazing experience in every way. It is truly beyond compare. He technically is a gifted kid. Scored 2290 on the SAT with no prep- refused it. He was just a typical lazy boy who didn’t want to do his homework ( which is common in gifted kids) and had a meh GPA. 3.4 I think … but he came from a VERY rigorous college prep school. Let me tell you, the academics are NO joke. He graduated with a Philosophy degree with honors, Bio minor and finished all of his pre-,med classes. He will be applying to Med School in a few years after he works as a Paramedic. He is in Paramedic school now, with an auto hire after he graduates. He never ran out of stuff to do. He got a HUGE academic scholarship on top of everything else. HIs brother is a Junior at Kenyon and after visiting his brother a few times REALLY wishes he ad applied and gone to SLU. I think all of his friends got jobs right right out of the box. Their Alumni network is remarkable. I can’t remember exact but I think their post grad job rate is something like 95%.

You will find the random elitist type kid, but most of SLU kids are smart, active, socially outgoing, fun, inclusive, and all around confident and happy. Trust me, your daughter will be challenged and will have the time of her life too. I have never seen so many bawling kids on graduation day… so sad that their time there was ending

Odd that she won’t look at an Ivy, as it sound like she might be solid for Dartmouth, for example. It does have students from well off backgrounds, but also generous financial aid, so just calling it ‘elite’ is not quite fair to me. I know St Lawrence is a good school, but I must admit I thought of it as more of a ‘safety’ if you have pretty high scores. But ultimately it is her choice, and I suppose I can see the point of she is getting merit aid or something. Her test scores and grades will be most important for graduate school (if she wants to go) and so she will obviously still be likely to be able to go to a good one.

A student like her will likely get a lot of attention from faculty at a school like SLU. She will likely get chances to research, meet with visiting VIPs and scholars on campus, etc. if she is the type who will excel no matter who is around her, and will take advantage of the opportunities her college offers, then a school like SLU is fine.

Our daughter is also highly gifted, barely functioned in our public school, and begged to move to Nevada so she could go to Davidson. We kept her home, and our district let her “rise till she stopped on her own”, graduating in 2.5 years. We took her to Middlebury, Colby, Harvard, Williams, and some others. When we finally went to SLU, which is only an hour or so from home, she fell hard and fast. It was the best decision she, and we, could have ever made. I can’t explain what’s in the water in Canton, but there is something special there. Magically, they send thank-you notes, handwritten on quality paper and sent in the postal mail. The students catch the eye of, and say hello to, everyone they pass by. Staring down at cell phones while they walk around campus is completely non-existent. They are the most generous and happy people you can imagine. And, on top of it, they are challenged. That was my biggest fear - that my kid who had been bored to the point of wanting to move to Nevada, would be just as bored at college. She isn’t - it’s hard, she does well, and she loves her classes and the school. I can’t explain it. But, living in this area, I know many other kids who have also transformed by SLU. There is simply something special about it. I am so glad I trusted her instincts, when she said that she “just knew” she wanted to go there.

I’d like to put my two cents in. Our daughter is a Sophmore at SLU 33 ACT 5.1 high school weighted GPA cum laude society etc. came from a very competitive public high school. Looked at all the “little ivies type” colleges in northeast. Did not qualify for financial need but SLU gave her a very generous merit aid (the other highly selective LACs only give based on need) and she loved the place from the first visit. She is thriving at SLU more than we could have ever hoped she would! She would be the first to tell you academically she works very hard to stay on the Deans list and is challenged academically all the time. Amazing professors, and the atmosphere is special! I personally have never seen so much school spirit in such a small school. Everyone wears SLU a lot! I truly agree there is something very special about SLU. As parents we are as attached to SLU and the Laurentian Family as our daughter. Can’t recommend St. Lawrence U enough!

Is a 1170 sat score good for SLU with a 590 in math, a 580 in reading and a 650 in writing @intparent