Struggling with D21's List. ED & ED2: Amherst, Hamilton, Wellesley, Vassar

Hello. We’re really struggling with D21’s college list and whether she should opt to apply ED2 to another college. I’m hoping some knowledgable CC people can help.

***Specific questions about colleges are at the bottom for anyone who doesn’t want to read further.

D21 is applying ED to Amherst as it’s hands-down her favorite .

She did a really thorough analysis to arrive at her ED choice. Ultimately, the most important reason she chose Amherst is that it has by far the most interesting courses within the majors she’s considering. Other reasons for choosing it include the diversity, location, consortium, being collaborative rather than competitive, freshman-only housing, strong alumni network, no distribution requirements, and fantastic COVID response.

We’re looking for other small colleges that are reasonably diverse, that have students who are collaborative rather than competitive, and students who are friendly and accepting rather than elitist. D21 is interested in peace & justice studies, or majors like American studies or women’s studies that have courses with a social justice focus.

Stats:
SAT: 1520 (800v, 720m)
GPA: 3.9 unweighted
Classes: all International Baccalaureate (mix of high level and standard)

Activities include:
Model U.N
Amnesty International (volunteer)
ACLU (member/volunteer/intern)
American Sign Language (teach class)
Volunteers for clean lakes organization
Plays tennis

About Us:
Full-pay family
Kid has no hooks
From Nebraska

About D21:
Kind-hearted
Collaborative
Quietly confident
Passionate environmentalist
Social justice warrior
Will watch sports if friends are on the team
Hangs out with friends but not a partier

THE LIST

Early Decision
Amherst ($65)

No supplementary essays (unlikely to be admitted to Colby or Bates but easy to apply)
Colby ($0)
Grinnell* ($0)
Hamilton* ($0)
Kenyon* ($0)
Oberlin* ($0)
Middlebury ($65)
Bates* ($60)

Optional Writing Supplement (we know it’s not really an option not to write it)
Mt. Holyoke* ($60)
Williams ($0)
Colgate* ($60)

Requires Writing Supplement
Wellesley* ($0)
Bryn Mawr* ($50)
Smith* ($0)
Vassar* ($65)

**Also considering Macalester and Dickinson.

College specific questions:

  1. Is Wellesley the intense, academic pressure-cooker environment, full of competitive students, that it's rumored to be? Maybe this is false, or maybe elimination of grade-deflation has helped. D21 already tends to put pressure on herself. I'm uncertain if Wellesley would be a good fit. However, D21 loves the idea of sisterhood and the courses offered are excellent.
  2. Is Bryn Mawr less pressure-cooker than Wellesley? D21 liked it on the tour, and when factoring in courses taken at Haverford or Swarthmore, the selection is decent.
  3. Is Middlebury really as cliquey/elitist as described? I was disappointed to read this more than once as it seems Middlebury could otherwise be a decent fit.
  4. Any thoughts on Hamilton versus Colgate for a kid with my daughter's profile?
  5. Any opinions on whether Williams be deluged with more applications than usual due to lowering their tuition?
  6. Mt. Holyoke and Smith are both online-only. Given I believe this pandemic is going to last into next year, I'm inclined to remove both from the list. Any thoughts?
  7. I'm worried about admissions, especially with so many current freshmen taking gap years. Should D21 consider an ED2?
  8. Of the colleges above and given D21's profile, any thoughts on which schools might be a good fit?

Thank you!

D20 applied ED and was accepted to Colgate. She also applied to Hamilton and Middlebury but had to withdraw. She was not a fan of Amherst and we ditches from the tour early. Hamilton will have a supplemental essay they just email you a separate link to it once you submit the application (or at least that was the case last year). I am going to send you a PM with details about her experience at Colgate so far.

Oh and one other thing. Williams lowered tuition for this year because they got rid of their January term and some activities and fall sports. It was a temporary 15% reduction and tuition will revert back to the original price next year.

That’s a very reach heavy list. What schools are the safeties?

For what it’s worth, Grinnell also has an optional “Why” essay after the application is submitted (like @helpingmom40 mentioned about Hamilton). There is a supplement, but the Bryn Mawr application is free if you apply online (not sure if that was only introduced this year). We don’t have personal experience but have heard it is somewhat less intense than Welllesley, and seems to be a fit for your daughter’s interest. However, housing there is all mixed year, not first-year only. That’s one of the aspects my daughter really likes. I imagine your daughter could find her people at many of the schools on the list you’ve compiled, especially Vassar, Grinnell, Oberlin, Bates, as well as the women’s colleges.

With regard to how colleges are handling this fall, I am paying more attention to if schools are making good, informed decisions, more so than what the outcomes are, if that makes sense. Remote/in-person matter less to me than if they have a well thought out, science and public-health driven plan. Of course it’s up to you to decide if you want take the ones that have gone entirely remote off the list.

@momofsenior1 I agree! Every time we think we’ve found a safety, it turns out they have an acceptance rate in the 30th percentile. We’re looking for some options in the 50th percentile.

Bates. Egalitarian founding principles still appear in student culture. Huge Fulbright producer in recent years. Former-mill-town Lewiston can be overlooked or embraced.

Colby. Classic LAC size. Relatively new president has added dynamism. Prominent and popular environmental studies programs. Central campus fairly far from Waterville. Winter cold suitable for the adventurous.

Middlebury. NESCAC in Grandma Moses country. Views of Adirondacks from Bicentennial Hall. Academically notable for environmental studies, languages, economics. Recent vandalism not inconsistent with an entitled segment among the student body.

Colgate. Beautiful campus, appealing small village. Beyond its popular social sciences programs, offers interesting course choices in physical sciences and humanities. Division I sports and residential Greek organizations.

Vassar. English major and performing arts veneer laid over a generally intellectual liberal arts college. New science building supports continuing academic ambitions.

Williams. Intellectually capable, academically engaged students. Noteworthy athletic presence. Excellent for visual arts. Perhaps too many economics majors. Mountains form backdrop that impressed Thoreau.

Amherst. Strong programs in areas such as literature and government, to name just two. Sufficienty deep to have changed its mascot. Consortium benefits, though with associated gender imbalances. Campus itself, excepting the new science building, might fall a bit short of rarefied academic rating.

Hamilton. Legacy of having been two colleges of complementary characteristics and emphases manifests in enhanced academic, social, architectural and spatial dimensions and balance. Beautiful campus, access to suburban amenities, proximity to Adirondacks. A writers’ college, for those who wish to enhance this skill.

My D19 is a sophomore at Middlebury. Her experience has not been that it is cliquish at all, and it is no more (or less) elitist than any other “top” Liberal Arts College.

My daughter is pretty similar to yours, including being into environmental activism and environmental justice (she’s now part of Sunrise Middlebury). There are, as in any of the colleges with students who are mostly in the upper middle class or wealthier, some kids who are pretty entitled.

However, she truly has enjoyed being there and has an amazing social group, and, as @merc81 wrote, it is gorgeous.

It is also, for now, COVID-19 free.

I imagine that for small colleges who care about representation from all states in the US, being from Nebraska is “hook-ish”.

Some safety ideas:-

More ‘traditional’ NE LAC style
Skidmore
Union
Franklin and Marshall
St Lawrence
Bard

Kind, nice, diverse-ish
Wooster
Denison
Lawrence
Beloit
Clark
Susquehanna

Good for environmental stuff
Allegheny
Eckerd
Juniata

Other ideas
Ursinus
Rhodes
Center

Good list above but Denison and Skidmore are not safeties.

My perceptions:

Bryn Mawr is less academically intense than Wellesley.

Hamilton is more like the other NESCACs than Colgate. Colgate is more pre-professional (fewer SJWs), and more cliquey. I know a handful of kids who have left there because of social status divides (Greek/non-Greek), and others who have thrived there (highly social, achievement oriented, physically very attractive students). Kind of a HS mean girls vibe there. Does not seem like as good a fit for your D.

IMO all of the NESCACs suffer to some extent from a athlete/non-athlete divide. Some will disagree with that. Again, my perception. With that said, I think any of the NESCACs could be fits, would prioritize Bates (of the ones on your list) for an SJW. Partially because there are around 40-50% full pays at the NESCACs, there will be many students focused on becoming doctors, working on Wall Street, and other high paying jobs.

Oberlin, Grinnell, Macalester, Vassar, Bryn Mawr could all work. Many of the schools in #9 could work as a highly likely/near safety. Demonstrate interest where that is considered in the application decision, especially important for a high stats kid at the safety-ish schools.

If she doesn’t want a physically isolated campus, you could use that parameter to remove some schools the list.

I would ED2 only if your daughter has a clear #1 choice, at that point. ED2 will likely offer an admissions bump over RD.

I am not sure I would use response to the pandemic as a decision point to apply, or not. It is difficult to fault a school for making the decision to go online only.

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Oh, to be clear, the reason we’re looking at the pandemic response is because we’d prioritize a college that was able to remain open and operate safely over one that made the decision to go entirely online. This is because we ideally want our daughter to be able to spend at least part of her freshman year on campus. She is likely to miss out on prom and graduation, and we’d like for her to experience the rite of passage of going off to college. There are a number of small colleges who seem to be doing a good job of keeping things under control.

Secondly, looking at the pandemic response also reveals how flexible the college is. Some are reducing the course load, eliminating the need for a campus job in the financial aid package, and so on. It gives an interesting glimpse into a college’s overall operations.

Colgate appears on some lists that may indicate it wouldn’t represent an ideal fit for your daughter:

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=lots-beer

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=party-schools

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings?rankings=lots-hard-liquor

Definitely take a look at Dickinson (in the 45%-50% acceptance range). Pretty campus in pretty suburb/small city. Grad school feeder. I am going to guess not as intense as the others on your D’s list, but a very good school.

While I am not familiar with the diversity of the schools on your D’s list, I have found diversity can be relative. We come from a major metro area so a college that is 70% white is not diverse to us, but could be if a student is from rural VA, for example.

We were on a tour when the student guide answered a question about diversity saying, the school was “so diverse” and I am thinking “it is 77% white”. But I realized that where she came from, that could be diverse.

I would recommend Vassar as your daughter’s ED2 school. It is quite diverse, has an almost open curriculum, and seems more collaborative and less competitive than Wellesley. There would be many opportunities to be involved with environmental and social justice causes. My D is a senior English major there and has very much enjoyed a variety of women’s studies courses. Unfortunately her semester was cut short in the spring when she was taking a course on women, crime and punishment and they were planning on visiting a prison as part of the class. The Vassar president is fantastic and had a long career in public health at Yale before coming to Vassar. They invited all students back this fall and are having much success with their covid plan.

The Williams tuition reduction and COVID generally could impact applications with an increase but these things tend to momentary. Look at Williams if you are applying ED. Amherst does not tend to accept as many ED applicants as Williams.

Your daughter seems to have very clear, well researched reasons why she wants to ED Amherst. What reason does she have to lock herself into another school when she has no such clear feeling about any of them, other than to try to get into a highly selective school? She’s going to be coming off a rebound from rejection with ED2 and without doing the research on schools, she’s just grasping for straws.

The reason I’ve seen that makes for a good ED2 choice is that there is a clear second choice. Sometimes, it’s close between the two schools, which should be ED1 or ED2. Just grabbing another school doesn’t sound like good strategy to me.

The time would be better spent to find some good EA, rolling choices and safety schools. I’ve found that the hurt of being deferred or even rejected ED is mitigated with an acceptance or two from some other early schools. In fact, some of mine pretty much decided that schools on the EA would be where they’d go if they were deferred. One cane with a very nice merit award and possibility of a full ride.

It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of going to a highly selective, name brand school. The real work in college admissions is finding schools guaranteed to take you that suit you. Get rid of the luster of selectivity , and down to the brass tacks of what schools really have to offer is something too few student in the selective school hunt do. Too many end up in schools they simply did not research well because they spent all their time on the high reaches. Those less selective, less known school require a lot more work because isn’t as much out there about them. Easy to roll off the names of the schools on your D’s current list.

Having said all of that, with her profile, she’s highly likely to get into a number of schools on her list even without ED. She’ll have a nice pick of the litter even if she doesn’t get into Amherst ED. It’s also a shame to drop Amherst when she so likes it and has so researched it, if she’s deferred to RD, which is the way it usually works—not an outright denial in the ED season. So she’s going to drop that school and just pick another instead of waiting to see if she gets in RD?

Lots of great advice above. Collegekid2 applied to a lot of the schools on the lists above. Agree that Colgate sticks out from the others as the least-obvious fit. Agree that Dickinson is a great option- but remember to show them some love! they take student interest very seriously (they get tired of being ‘Plan B’- or C).

Collegekid2 applied to one of the schools on your list ED. Her CC tried to push her to ED to a more ‘selective’ school, as the CC felt that the school was a straight match, and Collegekid2 could ‘shoot higher’. But she loved the school, and loved the idea of ‘one and done’ and no competition drama (it was a very competitive HS) and applied ED- only to be deferred. It was crushing- felt like a real sucker punch to her. When the CC called the local rep, the rep said that he had been surprised also, but that there had been a surge in applications from the area, and there were a lot of deferrals.

Collegekid got serious and looked hard at a lot of the schools listed above. She did not apply to anyplace else ED- b/c she wanted the one she wanted more than she wanted the certainty of a similar level of school. It ended happily, with an acceptance in the RD round. Tbh, though I think that deferral was good for her. It is horrible to see your sweet child so gutted, but hand on heart she did some major growing up that day. It was as if she had been snapped awake: she stepped up and put her back into the process in a whole different way. And when she got her acceptance it meant much more to her than it would have ED (this kid had always had things ‘just happen’ way too easily).

Eckerd was mentioned above and I can add info regarding current Covid plan: https://www.eckerd.edu/news/blog/fall-semester-plans-embrace-outdoor-classrooms/

Academic plan: https://■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■/document/d/1rjbBUTyoHhUCNDaHWJBNnAMV2Gqr0cxwORYQZX_K1tE/edit

Most of the classes are held outside. Eckerd went to block scheduling for this year. Freshman finished block 1 on campus and sophomores arrived this past weekend, juniors and seniors will follow in staggered weeks. They have an active dashboard: https://www.eckerd.edu/coronavirus/reports/

Eckerd is a nice safety. It has a strong community spirit, very active in environment issues- https://www.eckerd.edu/green/. There is an active Model UN club. Phi Beta Kappa chapter, honors program, strong mentor/student relationships with students actively participating in research beginning in freshman year. Very generous merit awards: https://www.eckerd.edu/admissions/financial-aid/types/#scholarship
Peace Corps Press program: https://www.eckerd.edu/peacecorps/
Reflective service learning opportunities. Very much a collaborative learning environment.