Which Colleges Should I Consider?

I’m a junior who is building a college list, and I would love some help deciding which colleges to look into! I’ve been considering Brown, Swarthmore, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Scripps, WUSTL, Pomona, Haverford, Smith, URochester, Mt. Holyoke, Uchicago and Barnard.
I’m not a partier/sports fan, so I would prefer a college where greek life and football games are not the main factor in social life. I prefer a school with an intellectual vibe (people talk about philosophy/science/reading for fun). My preferences are for a school in California or the Northeast, and I would not like to be in the South. I would prefer a school in a city. Suburban is ok. I just don’t want a rural school. As for school size, my preference is under 10,000 undergrad, but I am open to any size. I am also open to women’s colleges. I prefer smaller class sizes as opposed to lectures, but I also enjoy lectures. I am thinking about going pre-med and majoring in biology or astronomy/aerospace engineering, so strong programs in those fields would be great. I would definitely also like to study abroad at some point in college and I don’t want a core curriculum that is too strict.

White Female from Massachusetts Private School
I would not qualify for any aid, but merit scholarships would be great considering I plan on med school
I haven’t taken any standardized testing, but I tend to test well so I expect a high score
GPA - 4.0 (My school doesn’t do class rank, but I have been on high honor roll every semester)
My school is phasing out AP classes, so I think I’ll only have one (AP French)
Teacher and essays recs should be strong

ECs: I do biology research and have won a few awards for it
I stage manage and act in my school’s theatre program
Head of Outdoors Club
Head of GSA
Member of Medical Society
Member of Environmental club
Member of outdoor leadership team
Captain of 3rds Lacrosse Team
Author for School Newspaper
I volunteer at a nursing home and soup kitchen about once a week
I babysit pretty regularly during the summer (4-5 hours per day)

2 Awards for science research (that I would prefer not to name here, but they are mid-tier)
School-wide short story award

Your current list of considerations is great! I know you said you don’t want to be in the South, but the College of Charleston might be worth looking into as a safety. It is just under 10,000 undergrad situated in the heart of Charleston, SC so the city is right at your disposal. There is no football team, and the environment is very free-spirit and liberal — the direct opposite of what most would associate the South with. Students come from all over the country… name a state and there is someone from there that attends CofC. The vast majority of classes are pretty small, and the number of females certainly dominates the male population (about 3:1). With your stats, you would certainly get admitted to the Honors College and would most likely receive a pretty generous scholarship. Good luck with comprising your final list!


With your interests in biology, astronomy and aerospace engineering, I suggest you consider universities with programs in Astrobiology. That is a huge area of research right now.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium (WARC) that does research with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Other astrobiology undergraduate programs listed by NASA include the following:

Florida Institute of Technology – Astrobiology B.S. degree, the first degree program in this field

Pennsylvania State University – Astrobiology Minor Program

Princeton University – Certificate Program in Planets and Life

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Astrobiology Minor

University of Arizona – Undergraduate Minor in Astrobiology

I know you said you would not like to be in the south, but the south is not all uniform, and in some southern places, you’ll find tons of people from California and the Northeast. Let me remind you that NASA is also in the South – Houston in Texas, and Cape Canaveral in Florida. If you really do have strong interests in the subjects you listed, then you’ll likely find yourself in the south eventually.