Where to apply?

My DD is a junior (we live in NY) she is a very smart, good grades, good scores, impressive extracurriculars, (a lot into activism, and changing the world!!) but she is having a very hard time putting a list of schools together, without visiting (thanks COVID) she says it is impossible to get the “vibe” of the school. She is not into big schools, the partying or the greek life, more of a quirky, brainy kind of kid. She has her mind set in Vassar, and she also wants to apply to Brown and Yale but other than that she is clueless. The list changes everyday and is now in the 20s (crazy), Any suggestions? She wants to stay in the north east, relatively close (3-4 hours drive)

If the University of Rochester isn’t on her list to consider, it should be. Run the NPC to be sure it’s affordable if finances are a concern.

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I forgot to mention, she is looking more for a LAC than a university. University of Rochester is too big (over 12K students), she is only applying to Brown and Yale to see “if she can get in” but in reality she prefers a small school.

Gotcha, but I wouldn’t necessarily eliminate it. I’ve seen more than one student exactly like you describe your daughter ditch their LAC plans for UR once they visited, sitting in on classes, and saw what was there.

Regardless, I’m sure others will come up with more options. Most of the smaller schools I know tend to be more into partying of some sort. I’ll be reading to see what schools are suggested.

Seems like she has no issues finding schools on her list. Would she be willing to share others?

The Jesuits tend to be smaller midsize schools and the Jesuit principle is service to others. They could be good fits.

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So far the list is all over the place, she has all kind of schools because she hasnt been able to visit any. Some schools are resuming visits but during the summer, once the students are not in campus, so i am not sure how helpful can they be be. Plus those “student guided virtual tours” are truly a headache.
so far in no particular order
Amherst college
Williams college
Boston college
Providence college
Dickinson college
Holy cross
Trinity college
William and Mary
Smith college (she has an obsession with Sylvia Plath!)
Colgate (not sure about this one)
University of vermont (no idea why.)
Suny Geneseo (Because we have to have a suny)
Bates (too far for my liking)
Georgetown (wishful thinking!!)
Carnegie Mellon (???)
already over 20, And it keeps growing every day!!! Like i said, clueless here!!

We are also in NY. D20 sounds pretty similar to yours and her list had several of the same schools. She decided pretty early on that she wanted a true LAC and that she wanted to be within 5 hours from home. I can share some of our impressions and maybe a few other suggestions. Swarthmore is pretty intense, academically, and is often referred to as a “pressure cooker”. Boston College, Georgetown, UVM, CMU and Lehigh are even bigger than Rochester so if UR is too big… Colgate is definitely very Greek and a big party school. We visited Vassar, Amherst, and Trinity and were supposed to see Dickinson and made it to campus in a blizzard just to have the visit rescheduled twice before we had to leave town. We also saw Connecticut College, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Franklin & Marshall, Skidmore, and Hamilton which might also fit the bill. I am assuming you have covered the bases financially and will run the NPC before adding. If you want specific feedback, ask away!

as a fellow junior and long time lurker of CC, i’ve heard trinity to be a more (very) conservative college. i don’t know how this would fit with activism especially if she leans more liberal, as activists tend to.

Thanks for your reply!! like i said she thinks she wants a small LAC but she really doesnt know, i think being able to visit would be beneficial as to determine kind of school. my husband and I are both immigrants and are clueless about the process. She likes Vassar, the only one we have visited (self guided tour) i like that is only 2 hours from home but honestly i do not see her there. I know that some of the schools in the list (Swarthmore, Williams…) are as rigorous and selective as an ivy. Colgate, dont know much just that is isolated and a party school with not much diversity. She wants to major in History, go to Law school and eventually get into politics so of course Georgetown is the place! or so she thinks. What about Trinity and Amherst, what vibe did you get??

We visited Trinity twice because she liked it enough to go back and interview. It is a really pretty campus and the proximity to downtown Hartford is great for internships. She ended up substituting another school for Trinity at the last minute and didn’t end up applying. Lots of people love Amherst and it is a great school but the second we stepped out of the car, the “vibe” felt off for us, almost like everyone there was doing us a favor by allowing us to visit. Honestly, it was the only visit where we bailed halfway through the tour. We had a great lunch in town, though.

What was it about Vassar that makes it so you don’t see her there? That might help narrow the list down, too.

Vassar seemed too “hippie” for lack of a better term. Dont know how to explain it, most kids we saw walking around had “interesting” outfits, multicolored hair, multiple piercings, my daughter is more a preppy, JCrew kind of kid, if it makes any sense

It might help if you were to be more specific about her stats. Type of school she attends, class rank or approximate percentile in class, standardized test scores, extracurriculars and awards/achievements. All this would help to give an idea of whether the top LAC’s are within reach for her, and whether other tippy-top or T20 schools are possibly within reach. Also, can you afford 600K for undergrad and law school? If not, is the family low income and eligible for great financial aid? Or are you like many, who make enough to not qualify for much if any financial aid, but don’t have the resources to pay full rate for private colleges?

Law school is expensive. Unless money is not an issue at all, I would urge you to have her look very closely at SUNY Bingahmton, Stonybrook, and Buffalo, along with Genesco. The SUNY schools are too good a deal, tuition-wise, for her to overlook them.

Now is the time when she SHOULD be casting the net wide, making a list of all the schools she might be interested in, then try to whittle it down.

I would add to the list Brandeis, Mt. Holyoke, Connecticut College, Muhlenberg, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, George Washington, American (both are in/near DC, if she’s interested in changing the world).


Public school, long island “afluent” neighborhood. 98 GPA 104 weighted, top 10 of her class, 1490 SAT. IB diploma candidate. By the time she graduates she will have 16 AP and IB clases, seal of biliteracy, Model UN captain, Mock trial captain, does also ethics bowl, ellected student body president for next year. Last 2 summers internship with local legislator (and this summer will do it too), she is also the political director of high school democrats of america latinx caucus, volunteers at horseability (horse therapy for special needs) and also has a job. She is a very busy girl. The financials… like you said make too much for aid not enough for full tuition, so merit aid would be great, but we will figure it out. Dont know much about the suny schools, Binghamton seems to big of a school, she did not like stony brook, hopefully we can visit Geneseo and albany

Definitely keep Dickinson on her list.

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Among schools not in Washington, Hamilton offers the most well established D.C. semester of which I’m aware, and should be on your daughter’s list for this and other reasons. Based on your daughter’s goals, Hamilton’s public policy concentration also may be of interest.

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Union College, a small (2200 enrollment) liberal arts college in Schenectady has a good history of placing students in internships both in Albany and in Washington. You live in NY, so it probably makes sense for her to stay in state where she can do an internship(s) with a NY politician.

Washington also makes sense because it has access to NY politicians in Washington, so Georgetown makes complete sense and she would have a reasonable chance of getting admitted there.

Gettysburg College is another small liberal arts college (2500 enrollment) but it is not in NY. What makes it special is the Eisenhower Institute, located both on campus and in Washington, DC. it provides numerous programs for students in the areas of civic leadership and public policy. It has opportunities for fellowships and scholarships as well as internships, a number of them in Washington. Also at Gettysburg are the Garthwait Leadership Center and the Center for Public Policy. Finally Gettysburg is part of a 13 college consortium offering a Washington semester with a 4-day per week internship. This program is also available in summers. Gettysburg is 37 miles south of PA state capital, Harrisburg, and 85 miles from DC, so both are accessible for learning about government at both the state and federal level.

NY senators have offices in NYC as do NYC House representatives and the UN is headquartered there, so NYC colleges like Columbia, Barnard, and Fordham are certainly worth considering. Perhaps the opportunity for an internship in AOC’s office?

Best of luck with your decision.

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Note that Union and Gettysburg tend to be Greek oriented socially, an atmosphere that doesn’t appeal to the OP’s daughter.


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Greek oriented socially? There’s lots of information available on the topic. I think she can evaluate this for herself on a visit as well as by reading. Nonetheless, these 2 colleges offer a lot in her area of interest and would make excellent target schools for her.

I’m wondering why you singled these two out. There are a number of others which have been mentioned which also have frats and sororities. Each campus culture has its own vibe. Not a fan of Greek life myself, but sometimes they are not a negative and sometimes they are.

If she is Latina, as an URM she could shoot higher. With those stats, as an URM, she could possibly get in anywhere in the country. I don’t know why you seem to think that Georgetown is a nearly impossible reach for her.

She needs a FINANCIAL safety that she would be happy to go to. You need to sit down with her after her finals are over, show her your finances, explain about retirement savings, the need to consider educating her siblings (if there are any), etc. You need to explain to her taxes, how many years more you need to work, just to make the after-tax money to pay for college, if it were full price. If the parents make 200K/yr, you probably pay at least 40% of your last dollar made to taxes. Essentially, to pay 300K for college (and we’re not even mentioning the additional 200-300 for law school), you’d have to make over 500K to have the 300K after taxes to pay for college. You also have to pay to live, during those years - it’s not as if during those years every penny you make is available for tuition. You need to talk about the cost of law school. So don’t go on a happy fantasy trip of ‘we’ll make it work, somehow’. That ‘somehow’ would mean crippling debt and nothing left for your other children, if you have any. You need to think about this BEFORE the applications go out, or she and you won’t have options. This is why she needs to put as much thought into her choice of a SUNY that she would be happy to go to, if that’s where she winds up, as into the perfect private ‘dream’ school .

Then, you need to run net price calculators on schools that tend to be generous with financial aid. If you own a business or rental real estate, expect that this will affect qualifying for financial aid. Next, look at schools that offer merit scholarships, in particular, merit scholarships for Hispanic students. She could very well qualify for a significant merit scholarship.

From what you describe, your daughter might get into any school in the country. In fact, the only thing that she could consider to improve her application is whether it is possible for her to bring up her very nice SAT score a bit more. Was that 1490 achieved by extensive test prep, or was it what she got, just by taking it cold? My kids and others found that a little bit of self-prep, especially for the math, was the easiest thing they could do to improve their application. I think my daughter brought her math score up by a hundred points with 6 hours of review. Also, some people find the ACT easier than the SAT. This was definitely the case for my son. His PSAT didn’t even qualify for commendation, but his ACT diagnostic test predicted a score in the low 30’s without any prep, and with 40 to 60 hrs of self-prep (mostly for math, some science practice sections, too) he brought it up to a 36. I’m not saying that she HAS to revisit the standardized test issue with a 1490. I’m just saying that it is the one thing that she could do at this point in the game that could improve her application credentials.

Don’t underestimate her chances. I would say that, with an application that properly showcases her achievements, she could possibly get into any school. Consider adding Columbia, maybe Fordham. I’d say that she is very likely to get into schools with 30% or higher acceptance rates, with merit money, has a decent shot at schools with 15% or higher acceptance rates, possibly with Hispanic-specific merit money, and has a chance at even more selective schools.


Below is a link to a list of prestigious scholarships that your daughter should consider applying to. Most of the scholarships on this list cover full tuition, room, and board; some provide additional funds for special study opportunities as well as connections with significant alumni/ae networks. Some are for only one school while others are applicable to a number of schools: