Suggestions for northeast college visit road trip?

Hi all!

So the last week of April is when D17 has her (late!) Spring Break and it will probably be the best opportunity we have to do a little road trip to visit colleges, as we both work like crazy over the summer. I’d love some suggestions for places to visit. Although we live on Long Island we will actually be starting trip from NYC. We’ve got about 4 days to travel.

Some info about D and her situation: Academically, her current UW average is 97 at an unremarkable public HS. She just took the April ACT so no scores until next week, but her practice tests have been consistent 33/34. Favorite courses this year are AP Chem and precalc. Next year she’s requested AP Calc AB, AP Physics 1, AP Stats, AP Macro, SUPA English, AP Studio Art. She’s science-leaning, not sure about engineering. Ideally would study chemistry and start her own organic cosmetics line, but that’s this week. :wink:

As for ECs, I’m afraid my D is of the dreaded “bright, well rounded” variety. She’s practiced ballet for years but she’s not pre-professional track. She also does student teaching weekly with younger kids at the ballet school. This year her HS started a varsity level dance team, which she joined, and will likely be a captain next year. That’s it for sports. She does drawing/painting (both traditional and digital/tablet) and has shown in student art festivals at local galleries/museums, but nothing competitive. She works summers as a deckhand on a charter sailboat and will have enough sea time to get her USCG captain license when she turns 18 (she’s 16 now.) Other than that it’s garden variety Key Club and NHS type stuff.

She’s never spent significant time away from home and has some anxiety about leaving, so would ideally like to stay within a day’s drive, so let’s say 500 miles or so. We can take ferry to New England. In Manhattan, she frequently puts her hands over her ears because of the noise, so we can probably rule out NYU, Cooper Union, etc. Mostly, she wants to be among smart peers who take school seriously. She’s not a partier and finds them tiresome. She will consider a women’s college.

If you only have 4 days it’s probably best to pick New England or NY/PA.

4 days isn’t enough time to do both and 4 days really isn’t ideal for either.

That much time is probably just ok for Conn and Mass together and PA or NY alone.

Visiting colleges is very time consuming and there is a lot to juggle schedule-wise. It’s probably better to do a greater number of shorter trips on the weekends to be honest.

Can you better describe what she is looking for?

Are you looking for merit aid or will need-based only schools be in the picture? Most of the top LACs don’ have merit but there are plenty that do.

If you plan to do the info sessions and the tour then you can get 2 schools a day if you plan it right. Some schools have Saturday IS/CT and some do not so you’ll have to plan for that if you are using a Saturday.

@OnTheBubble Yeah, I wish we had more time but unfortunately her AP exams start the Monday she gets back to school. This doesn’t need to be the definitive list or anything, mostly I want her to get a taste of what’s out there to help her focus a little better on what she’s really looking for. Either NY/PA or New England would work, if we could see like a small, medium, and large school to get a feel for what the atmosphere of each is like.

So, schools that are strong in science (and maybe engineering - she’s sniffed at that warily like a curious cat.) Places that are not particularly thought of as “party schools”. Places known for bright/curious students. Collaborative atmosphere would be great. She’s also a bit on the goth/arty side, so a place that’s overwhelmingly Vineyard Vines etc. might make her feel a little self conscious.

One idea is to start in PA. Visit the Lehigh/Lafayette/Muhlenberg cluster. You get a very sciency, artsy mix with these three and they are very close together.

Then head south and see Haverford/Villanova/Bryn Mawr/Swarthmore. Again all close together.

Then head west and see Bucknell, Gettysburg ,Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson. Close enough together to make it work.

You can touch all the college bases with this trip. Several have very good engineering and several have big merit award potential. That’s doable in four days.

Like I said if you want the official CT and the info Session then you’ll probably only be able to go to 2 schools a day. If you just want to drive through the campus to see it then you can see more.

Bucknell is described as a party school and very greek. Villanova is pretty preppie in my eyes. Haverford and Bryyn Mawr seem like schools your daughter would enjoy. Swarthmore is known for being crazy rigorous. I’ve heard good things about Dickinson and sounds up your daughter’s ally. A lot of the smaller schools track interest so doing the CT/IS can be useful. You could research the schools from OTB’s list and pick 2 for each day.

If you decide to head north you could leave in the evening to Northampton, MA and stay the night, The next day see 2 of Smith, Mt Holyoke, Amherst and Hampshire. Then see the other 2 the next day and then you have a choice to where to go - might be Maine for schools there or NY/VT for schools there.

I wouldn’t exclude schools now because you think she won’t like them. It’s best for her to see schools she thinks she doesn’t like at this point. Many times the myth about a school’s culture isn’t the reality. Every parent has a story about a kid that visits a school and their opinion changes. This is a fact finding trip.

But you can’t see every school and driving through the campus only tells you a little. You have to make some choices and use your time wisely.

I think based on the proximity to Long Island and the clusters these schools are in you can spend a few hours at each comfortably and get lucky with a tour or info session. The Western part does stretch the time a bit I admit.

The first part is only about 90 minutes from where they live assuming it’s Eastern LI.

@OnTheBubble & @Dolemite Thank you both very much! Lots of possibilities to investigate. For the schools that are clustered together we might pick one to do the formal session/tour at the one that seems most appealing and do a quick drive through of the others in the area to at least see the campus/architecture, etc.

Hm, now wondering if maybe we start with Swat/Haverford/Bryn Mawr cluster then arc up through New York to maybe Binghamton and Ithaca to see a SUNY and Cornell (as D would be in-state for CALS or Human Ecology) then western Mass for Mount Holyoke, Amherst etc. Then home. Does that sound do-able? I don’t want to try to see so many schools that they all become a blur. Mostly get a sampler plate, if that makes sense.

Some the best NE cluster visits we did were:

Philadelphia Area (as mentioned above): UPenn, Swarthmore, Haverford, Villanova and Bryn Mawr. All accessible by public transportation so no need to get in the car once in town. Great, informative visits. Best most practical college trip for ours by far. Just stay near the train and you are set…plus it was a fun city to do some non college things so that the trip was not ‘just’ college stuff and college overload.

Boston Area: Tufts, Boston College, Harvard (didn’t tour, just walked around!) and Northeastern (be sure to meet with honors college to make it worth it for you your D with her stats). Again, no car needed. All accessible via public transport once you are in/near the city.

DC a good joint stop too with Georgetown, GW, Howard, Catholic U and American. However for us only Howard and Georgetown were of interest for a variety of reasons. Georgetown was not near the Metro.

I would strongly advise the Philly trip. Those all can be hit in 2 days with good planning as Bryn and Haverford are just train stops away from one another and Swarthmore was willing to do a quick individualized tour to accommodate us later that day. Then we did Penn and Villanova the other day.

My oldest son liked Swarthmore a lot as it was very intellectual.
Second oldest son liked Villanova best with school spirit and similar to Catholic schools he is in now
D liked Haverford and Bryn best due to small sizes but not as intensely academic a feeling as Swarthmore
None of the older kids loved UofPenn due to campus but little kids liked that it was in the city (others were in the Philly suburbs). Still, several of those schools stayed on oldest son’s list.

So two PA clusters only an hour apart.

8 schools, Penn, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Villanova, Lehigh, Lafayette and Muhlenberg.

The interior of the clusters are no more than 20 mins from each other. Haverford, Bryn and Villanova are basically in the same town.

Is she interested in Architecture?

Since you have limited time for visiting, I think it makes sense to see some of the schools that track or might track interest. Swarthmore has engineering and so I would definitely do the tour/visit and then I would pick one of Haverford/Bryn Mawr to do the official visit/tour and walk through the other campus (possibly stopping at the admissions office to sign in and get a map etc.). That would be a long, but doable day 1.

Day 2 would be Lehigh and Lafayette - both have engineering; both are somewhat preppy and fratty; one is midsized, one is small. You could drive to Muhlenberg and once again do the stop at the admissions office to get a map and sign in.

Day 3 - You could drive halfway up the evening before and then finish up in the morning, but I would go to U Rochester. I think it’s a school your daughter might really enjoy - midsized, with engineering and sort of offers something for everyone. If possible, you might be able to get to Cornell on the same day (the schools are less than 2 hours apart). Then Day 4 would be Binghamton and home.

While I definitely think your daughter should see Smith and Mt. Holyoke, that would probably be a different trip that would include a Boston component.

Consider just a Philly/PA trip as that would allow you to see a range of schools without a lot of distance to be covered.

Haverford/Bryn Mawr/Swarthmore, pick among U Penn/Temple/ Drexel to explore the city/big school vibe, then pick among Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, and Dickinson, then pick among Lafayette/Lehigh/Bucknell, and swing home. I’m not suggesting to do all of those, just that those are geographic clusters that you could chose 2 out of 3 schools to see.

At this point, helping to narrow down the preferences – no city schools, or no LACs, or no greek life, all helps with figuring out the list. It is exhausting to do full visits with tours and info sessions at more than two schools a day for a week, so build in some breaks and look for local dining spots to help make the trip memorable.

You could also do a CT/MA trip
Wesleyan and Conn College likely doable in the same day
Amherst and Mt Holyoke could be done the same day
Wellesley and one of the Boston schools like BU or Northeastern could be done in the same day

I would get a copy of the Fiske Guide to Colleges and review the colleges mentioned on this thread. It will give you a flavor of the schools in 5 minutes, and might save you several half days at schools that aren’t a fit. Read carefully – I find that Fiske usually is on target, and even when I find something I don’t like about a college after visiting, I can see that Fiske hinted at it when I go back.

If you arc through Ithaca, see Hamilton. It’s simultaneously archetypal of its class and diverse beyond it.

Thank you all for the many suggestions! Copy of Fiske Guide is on order from Amazon right now.

Sounds like Philly area offers tons of bang for the buck, so I think we will definitely see at least a few there. I’ll probably sit down with D this weekend armed with Fiske and the web sites of all the schools suggested here, and Google maps and see what we can plot out based on what she responds to. I hope the reality of planning this trip will help to tease a few more specifics out of her. I don’t mind doing the leg work, but ultimately she’s the one who’s going to have to live at one of these places for four years! I know she’s nervous about leaving home, but hopefully having some ownership of the process will give her a feeling of more control. That’s the theory anyway, lol!

Also don’t forget that Swarthmore, Haverford, Amherst, Hamilton, Cornell, UPenn and maybe others that were mentioned are need-based aid only so if finances are a concern run the NPC for each to get an idea of cost.