Yale lite?

D is starting college search. She’s fallen in love with Yale, but I’m concerned that even if she got in, the stress would be too much (anxiety issues). So can anyone suggest schools that are a tier or two lower than Yale, but are like Yale, in that they have lots of opportunities for personal exploration? TIA

I personally am going to need more information. “Lots of opportunities for personal exploration” to me is almost the definition of going off to university.

Home state, budget, and your daughter’s stat’s might be useful information. Trying to understand what she liked about Yale might also be useful.

We’re in Arkansas. 3.8 GPA, 34 ACT. She’s into natural sciences. She likes that Yale encourages everyone to participate in things like plays, not just drama students, for example. U of Chicago has been recruiting her pretty enthusiastically, but it seems very competitive and grade-driven, which she’s not.

Doesn’t sound as though Yale these days is stressful - more like the opposite.

Yale alumna Heather MacDonald offers a thorough survey in www.city-journal.org’s Spring 2020 issue (article is called “The Therapeutic Campus”). Enjoy.

Don’t get too excited about the UChicago mailings. They send lots of people lots of mail. If anything, they are a step up from Yale academically. If you are worried about stress, avoid MIT, Caltech, UChicago, Reed, Swarthmore and Harvey Mudd.

Rhodes in Memphis is well worth a look, especially since she’s interested in the natural sciences. Academics are very strong, and the campus is beautiful. It’s a fairly preppy school but has a much more laidback social scene than some of the other southern schools like W&L or Sewanee. A few years ago a poster’s daughter turned down Yale for a major scholarship at Rhodes, did very well there, and got into Yale med school.

Davidson in NC is a good option as well.

Colleges with flexible curricula tend to be academically as well as extracurricularly accessible to all students. Look into Amherst, Hamilton, Brown, Smith and Grinnell for a range of academically outstanding options along these lines.

Take a look at St Olaf.

Wesleyan (20% Class of 2024 admit rate) is just up the road on Rte 9 and has been scooping up the crumbs from Yale’s table for over a century.

Many colleges will offer kids the opportunity for personal exploration. There are plenty of academically excellent LACs and mid sized universities which are not cutthroat, and where she can get involved in many activities. Avoid competitive environments where students have to try out to join a capella, or debate, or theater, etc…

She needs colleges less selective than Yale, which is a high reach for everyone. Her GPA is good, and being from Arkansas could be a bonus point. But she still needs a balanced list. You’re smart to recognize that she might not do well in a stressful environment. I think it’s better for many kids to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Or at least not be the minnow in the pond.

Agree re U Chicago mailings. Unless she’s got people calling her from the admissions office, or writing personalized letters, it’s all advertising, which UC is notorious for.

Good suggestions already. She might want to also consider Tufts, Rice, Brandeis, Emory, Bates, Whitman, Macalester, Tulane, Connecticut College, Kenyon, and so many others that I can’t list them all. I don’t know for sure if all those colleges have groups that students don’t have to tryout for, but they are all more collaborative than competitive and vary in selectivity.

Vassar and Oberlin

For a list of colleges across various levels of selectivity that tend to share attributes with Yale, scroll to Kenyon’s “THE COMPANY WE KEEP”: https://www.kenyon.edu/admissions-aid/admissions-statistics/.

Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut is another to consider.

Vassar College in New York state.

@Megletmom In what is she interested in majoring?

@Megletmom, As a general category, your daughter might look at small liberal arts colleges (LACs) a number of which have already been mentioned. LACs tend to be supportive and nurturing while still maintaining high academic standards. Selectivity varies widely, but there are several that can vie with Yale or other big name universities on academic rigor and fulfilling life opportunities.

Your family’s financial situation will also be an important factor in your daughter’s list: Whether or not you need (or just want) financial aid. And if you do, whether you qualify for need-based aid or expect merit aid. You’ll need to clarify this issue first before going further on list making.


Vassar and Yale were, at one time, considering a merger. Therefore, I would definitely say that these two schools are very closely aligned and it would be a great alternative.