Too much data, but not a good feel for the different schools

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Too much data, but not a good feel for the different schools
By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 03:54 pm: Edit

Well, I think that I have spent too long analyzing possible schools for my D- to the point that they have become stereotypical images. I need some fresh perspectives- especially from those with a fuller understanding of the culture at some of these schools.

Here goes:
As i have [posted before, my D has around a 3.5 uw in challenging courses at a challenging school. Her SAT score (1180) is mediocre and she will retake it in Oct. Although she has been practicing, I don't imagine it will jump to higher than 1250. AP USH and Euro grades of 4; AP Eng 3. SATII writing 750. SAT2USH 530 .
She is a bit artsy, alternative. Interested in filmmaking or journalism- probably something in communications.

The schools that keep making it onto our lists are reaches or probably safeties, so we need some that would be matches.

The list so far (from extreme, extreme reach to safety): Barnard, Brandeis, Skidmore, BU, Syracuse, Clark, Goucher, U Washington, Western Washington.

Other colleges floating in and out are: northeastern, scripps, and wheaton.

We have not seen syracuse, brandeis, northeastern, wheaton or goucher. We did see ithaca, but it left no strong impression. Emerson is too narrow a focus for my comfort level.

If people could speak to issues of the social climate and level of education at these schools, it would help. i know the stats. I guess i am just trying to identify a school that would be worth sending her across the country for and where i think she would get a good education and feel comfortable socially. She does want to be in nyc or boston, but I don't want that to limit the list. Nonetheless, i don't think a place like earlham would make the cut- even if it does have a good rep and fit her socially.

Doesn't like the preppy, or outdoorsy kind of places. Did a pre college program at barnard and loved it and the city. She wants to apply thrre ED. I don't want her to waste the ed ticket on an impossible choice, but she says she doesn't feel strongly about anyplace else. Doesn't want to be out in the boonies (but i have tried to explain that you can't have everything).

Is syracuse dangerous? Horribly cold?
Does anyone know if the BU college of general studies admits end up taking longer to graduate?
What about northeastern (from someone other than this alan guy who always posts about it)?
What is wheaton like? (MA). I think i read that everyone is like out of beverly hills 90210?
Can a more average student succeed at Brandeis if admitted? Is it really a social dead zone there?

If it seems we are all over the map (literally and figuratively), that is true. Even after viewing large and small schools, no clear preference emerged. D doesn't want west coast (we saw pitzer and oxy). But in the end i want to have a good group of schools- regardless of location.

What is the real deal on clark u? I know that it is listed in ctcl, but it is not very highly ranked by peer institutions and in a very depressing city? Any direct anecdotes.

Okay, now I'll go take a valium.

By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:20 pm: Edit

Try a soothing herbal tea. We visited Brandeis this spring (from Ohio - rural-suburban public school). The atmosphere seemed lively as well as academically challenging. My son loved it - one of his favorites along with Bowdoin.

You daughter might like Ohio University - that's pretty lively.

I can assure you that once you visit a few schools, you will have a much better idea of what suits and what doesn't. For example - Bowdoin and Colby look similar on paper - but son loved one and not the other.

Actually, identifying schools your D doesn't like is almost as important as finding ones she does. Of the seven schools we visited in the spring, 2 are definates, and one a maybe.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:21 pm: Edit

Re: Syracuse. I'm an alumni. If she's applying to the Newhouse School of Communications, count it as a reach - their admissions standards are much higher than the university overall. While some people hate the city of Syracuse, I enjoyed it (except for the weather - it's not so much cold as snowy). From recent visits, it's clear it still tends to attract some of the same types of students it did in my day: lots of wealthy or upper middle class kids from the NYC suburbs. However, Syracuse is big enough that it's very possible to find any niche you're looking for, including an artsy crowd.

We recently visited Goucher with our daughter. It was a last minute add on for us but Goucher came away as one of her top favorites. It has a beautiful campus surrounded by 200 acres of woods. The campus is very centralized with small number of buildings. Very nice dorms. My daughter felt the current students she met were very much like her - kind of artsy, outspoken, but somewhat easy going and not too preppy. She absolutely loved the idea that you are on this secluded feeling campus but when you step off of it there is a major mall, movie theaters, restaurants and other things right down the block in Towson. And, there is a shuttle service to the other schools in Baltimore (you can also take one course a semester at Johns Hopkins, etc.). Your daughter is right in their range so I think you can safely consider it a match.

I have heard that Wheaton, Skidmore and Goucher tend to attract very similar student bodies. They're artsy but you will have your share of wealth-off students at each school. I'd say, however, that Syracuse tends to have a higher proportion of students out to impress with their belongings and toys.

You might want to order some of the videos from - They're about $15 a piece and give a good non-marketing overview of each school. They were made by a couple of high school guidance counselors who actually video taped the admissions tours of each school. We found them to be pretty close to our actual experience at the schools we've visited so far.

Some nice matches for your daughter might include:
Ithaca (NY), The University of Redlands (Calif), American U, Villanova (PA), Chapman (CA), the University of Denver (Co), Emerson (MA), Susquehanna U (PA).

By Songman (Songman) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:29 pm: Edit

Wheaton, Ma has a mix but also a strong liberal agenda. If she is artsy she may like Wheaton. A nice campus located about 50 minutes to Boston by train the same to drive into Boston (no matter what the viewbook says). They are fairly generous with merit awards and are not SAT score crazy from what I have seen. We were impressed with the school but live in MA. Alas our son was not impressed. They pull students in from around the country and the northeast. In a way we felt that Wheaton has to try harder being in the shadow of all the big name Massachusetts schools.

Is your daughter in public high school currently?

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 07:52 pm: Edit

Thanks for the summaries. My d was considering newhouse and i know that is more competitive, but since the programs are so good, figured it was worth a shot. But I never would have been able to get the wealth thing from my sources, so thanks.
Although I realize ithaca is a match, i get the sense that it is very regional and that students not in the communications or phys therapy schools tend to party a great deal... D Liked ithaca( the town), though.

I am going to try to persuade D to think more about Goucher. it sounds like there is a nice balance there (rural, city, little, but with JHU's resources, too), She was put off by the small size and predominantly female student body. That one might be worth getting a video for! I have read so so things about american, and dropped that one from the list, but will look into a few you listed.

Ohiomom, our visits so far have not been very clarifying. Maybe it was the rushed nature, but , other than sarah lawrence, no impressions were clear enough to help form strong leanings either way. It did seem like she liked each school more than the one before, but when the dust settled, it wasn't so clear.

Songman, yes, my d is in public hs.


By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:46 pm: Edit

Be realistic about the SAT score and try to fall in love with the matches rather than the reaches. That's my first bit of advice.

Secondly, take a Princeton Review course to try to boost those scores...

Check out Fordham for NYC and Savannah College of Art for the artsy bit?

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:59 pm: Edit

We really liked the way we were treated at Braindeis. We have a really favorable impression of the place. Problem is it costs WAY too much money for us to attend.
Thisoldlady;Seems like cost is not a consideration for you. Lucky.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit

If your daughter would consider schools in the midwest, she might also want to take a look at:
Lawrence U (Wisc), Knox (Il.), and Denison (Ohio).
Although all three are liberal arts schools, they do have journalism and/or film majors or minors. Knox has a particularly good creative writing program as well.

In Pennsylvania, take a look at Muhlenberg and Gettysburg. Again, two liberal arts schools with decent communications programs

Another possibility with one of the top journalism programs in the country is the University of Missouri-Columbia.

I think you're going to find that all of the schools on your list in the northeast are "regional" in flavor in that they pull students mainly from the northeast.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:47 pm: Edit

Actually, people always talk about the predominately female student body at Goucher, but when we toured in the Spring we were told that male enrollment was now over 40%. There's a lot of schools out there with similar breakdowns: many more girls than boys are going to college. For example PR 2002 Best 331 Colleges indicates that Brandeis has a 43/57 male female split and BU a 41/59 split. My D really liked the school, and might well have attended, except when she looked closely, she realized that with the required classes, to finish her major would definitely take more than 4 years. She was offered a 50% tutition merit scholarship, but it was only for 4 years.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:03 pm: Edit

Thisoldlady: I can tell you more about Brandeis later; our son just arrived there.

Don't look for a beautiful wooded campus; Brandeis' campus is a hodgepodge of buildings, lots of them concrete and brick, a few more modern ones.

Lots of work there in building a community of students of all types. A special program (admission on essay and background) to train freshman in diversity issues and for leadership. Very strong welcoming effort for orientation. I suspect that if your D is admitted there will be plenty of efforts to help her succeed, and plenty of her fellow students to help, average student or not.

Brandeis is academicaly strong; cannot comment on social life at this time.

Check it out.

By Fredo (Fredo) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:55 pm: Edit

We checked out Clark. One of the most appealing aspects was its' diversity - like Occidental it's one of the things it's known for (as well as the strong psych dept). We didn't like Worcester - you could feel the old New England manufacturing town aura. Campus itself is okay, fairly compact. Plus, it was too far from Boston for my duaghter's tastes. My daughter was disappointed that it wasn't a better fit re: location and campus because she really liked the strength of the psych program and the diversity.

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

Thanks again, all.
Cheers, my sister recommended Fordham as well. Is this a Catholic school? How much influence does religion play there? I agree we should be realistic about the SAT scores. It's so damn hard! Especially after going thru practice tests with my d. I see that she often loses points on the really easy questions. If nothing else, having gone thru these tests and seen how they are graded, I am amazed that they carry so much weight. My d has scored as high as 660 on either part in the practice tests. Certainly, a 1300 looks much different from an 1180! But sometimes she scores hi, and sometimes low. Plus, i can't think of many real life scenarios where one has to concentrate, do academic work at a fast speed for 3 hrs with only a 5 min. break. And brain surgery doesn't count! (tedious, but not mind-bending). But this is starting to sound like a new topic.

Backhandgrip, Money is for sure an issue. Unfortunately, we will not qualify for aid. So, while I struggled (and still do) with the "is private school worth it ?" question, most of the private schools are in a pretty close range costwise for us. This is part of why it is so hard for me to focus on the matches instead of the reaches: 40k for Brandeis I might be able to justify. 35k for ithaca? i don't know.

Carolyn, i think there is regional and there is regional. Ithaca and muhlenberg seem like they draw heavily from the Li/northern NJ area and appeal to a pretty uniform population. Didn't get that impression from Clark. Skidmore seemed to have more kids from difft locales, too. As my NJ sister said, her daughter didn't want to consider muhlenberg- it would be filled with all her classmates from hs, and look just like her hometown.
Jenniferpa, thanks for the Goucher stats. My d actually knows a GUY from her hs who is starting there this year, so maybe he can tell her how he likes it.
Dadofsam, would love to hear about your son's impressions of brandeis. I actually was there for a post-doc yrs ago, so i know what the buildings and lovely waltham are like. That is not an issue- especially with boston relatively close. Definitely an energized student body. i wish we had visited during our april college trip. Classes were not in session and i didn't think it would be very informative to view the buildings! But at least it might have made it onto my d's radar. Her only chance there would be ED, I think. There are kids from her school who have gotten in with her stats, but i don't know the details.

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 01:08 am: Edit

As Fiske says, If Clark were in Boston, it would be the hottest thing around. We liked the diversity and kids, too. But had the same reaction to "icky Worcester". Also, i don't think it is that strong in m d's intended area- even though it has a communications and culture major.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 01:33 am: Edit

Fordham is Catholic but not overtly so. Avg SAT is 1212. Tuition is $30k. PR says it is very NE.

Savannah College of Art is $27k. Here is the website link.

Old lady, many many CC parents WISH they could buy the best 'name' degree for their children--but unless those children have 3.7+ GPAs, top 5% rank and 1500+ SAT scores, the tippy top is generally off limits.

Through sheer ignorance, my S applied to a school we thought was a "Reach" but turned out to be a "Fantasy". How did I find out? CC!! Check out the admitted student stats under Individual Schools/Brandeis, topic: "ADMITTED COME HERE TO CHAT".

That said, as you get farther into the process, (say maybe move-in day, haha), there is a good chance you will feel better about your $40k 'buying' an education that 'fits' your D.

My S wouldn't have fit into the Fantasy--and his SAT scores weren't that far off. But they weren't close enough either. My advice is to be careful about matching a D/S's demonstrated ability to school averages.

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:51 am: Edit



I don't care if the kids NEVER leave campus, I'd rather be in the ghetto of Hartford than the hideous and dreary suburb of Worcester. It's quite possibly my least favorite "city" in America.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:24 am: Edit

If you are gulping at the cost of Brandeis (I think it is $42K this year) then might I suggest a gander at some of the schools in the midwest. I think I am getting a bargain at Grinnell. Son also really liked Lawrence- upbeat, energetic, articulate kids in smallish city- nice setting. Great arts programs, facilities are top notch, lots of community opportunities for internships and such in the "Fox Cities" area. Bigger feel and more collegiate environment than we perceived at Earlham, for example. Goucher was generous with merit money. Like Earlham, we had the feeling it was a school where students lives were made easier for them through an explicit orientation towards support. It is in suburban area of a reasonable city, has exchange opportunities with several other nearby colleges, and a very strong internship office. It is less "collegiate" than Lawrence, perhaps a residual of the all woman's history. rr

By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:34 am: Edit

You D's a tough one. I've got a different suggestion - University of Delaware. Small (relatively speaking) state university, all sorts of programs, nice campus. My son went there for science olympiad finals in 2002. Besides Penn State, it is the only state school he is considering.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:33 pm: Edit

Jenniferpa - That's exactly what my daughter said about Goucher. In fact, just the day before we'd visited Dickinson where the male-female ratio was 60-40. And, St. Olaf, another school on her list has a 70-30 ratio. She felt that the male-female ratio at Goucher was about the same as other schools BUT she pointed out that you had opportunities to meet boys at schools like Johns Hopkins, Towson and Loyola - a shuttle bus connects all the schools in Baltimore.

Unfortunately, last night she admitted to me that she liked Goucher SO much that she really is having a hard time even thinking about other colleges. I agree with her - for her at least, Goucher is an excellent fit. Of course, she DOES need to find some other schools that she likes JUST as much!

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:54 pm: Edit

Yes, both daughter and I really liked Goucher - it just had a good feel about it. I think if you have a girl you have to expect that they will be in the majority everywhere except at "techie" schools like Case. Luckily my next one's a boy, so it should be easier (except for the fact that he's a smart slacker, groan). Did you look at Conn College? Mine quite liked that also.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:00 pm: Edit

My next one's a boy too. And his stated goal is Stanford. Since he just started high school this week, we'll have to see about that one. LOL!

I don't think my daughter would have any shot at Conn. College but it sounds like a great school. Skidmore was on her list for a while but something turned her off about it. Just as well as it would also be a reach. Wheaton is a possibility I hope to get her to look at - but Goucher has horses - my daughter's main extracurricular time stealer.

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:21 pm: Edit

Robyrm, There is no question you are getting a great bargain at Grinnell. My D will probably not consider anything between either coast. I know it's an unfair bias, but we've gotta work with it, anyway. Goucher sounds very good from everything I have heard (including an anecdote from the author of "the launching years").

Cheers, your point about demonstrated ability is well taken. I should qualify, however, that my daughter is not in a regular public school. She is in a school that draws the highly capable population from seattle. These kids score in the top 0.5 -2%. So, she is already surrounded by extremely bright kids, and has been holding her own. No, I don't think she would fare well at Barnard-even if accepted. Brandeis, I think, would be more doable. There is a wider range of students there, and my impression is that they are less bookish. More into political activism, etc. Also, you missed my point about value. I am not trying to "buy" her a brand name education. I don't think that the experience (ie the caliber of teaching and academic environment) at some of the schools i mentioned are worth the price to attend. A public school education would be more palatable. If we lived in a state that had some good options outside of our backyard, they would definitely be on the list. My d wants to go away. i can understand this.

Ohio Mom, I had considered both U Md and U Delaware as possibilities. Will look into them more, as well.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 08:18 pm: Edit

T-Old lady; My S attended elite academic private schools throughout too. The entire sixth grade tested above the 99th percentile nationally. I'm not sure it's relevant to adcom selection.

Even though it doesn't seem like there is a difference between the 93rd SAT percentile and the 99th percentile--and there isn't in real life--or the 80th percentile and the 93rd percentile, in fact I believe there is a difference in intensity at university.

Adcoms (wisely, I think) stick to those SAT and GPA numbers because those scores are a decent predictor of which kids will find success and happiness at their university. The average SAT score at Brandeis was 1330 in 2003. That must be the 90th percetile of all SAT test takers or thereabouts.

It sounds as if there is a HUGE disconnect between your D's capability and the SAT score. Have you researched that? Would she do better with an untimed test?

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:20 pm: Edit

I do consider Brandeis a major reach for my D. And, yes, I'm not sure how she would do in such an environment. That is why I requested info above from people who know the school on more than a "numbers" basis. Nonetheless, 6 out of 8 applicants from D's school were accepted there. While I don't know any more than their basic stats, the lowest SAT score accepted was 1180 (my D's first SAT attempt); the lowest GPA 3.41 (lower than my D's). Sure, the weakest candidate could have had an amazing hook. I am not privy to that data. This is not a school we would bet on for admission. But, with a 65% ED acceptance, I don't see why you have such problem with this being in the biggest reach category.

There is a big disconnect in my D's SAt scores. Not entirely sure why, though I've definitely identified some of the weaknesses. We have found that by merely practicing the damned tests, she reliably has boosted her math score by 40-60 pts and her verbal by 20-30. We'll see what happens on the next test. This will also serve as a basis for me to judge the suitability of different schools. If she scores 1250 or 1260, and Brandeis avg is 1330, I wouldn't worry about her bearing the load there. Hey, half the kids are scoring UNDER 1330. If she scores in the same range as before, I would be more hesitant.

By Momrath (Momrath) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 01:08 am: Edit

Thisoldlady, the only schools on your daughter's list that I'm familar with are Barnard and Skidmore. I think you're quite knowledgable about Barnard. I wish your daughter luck; it sounds like she'd be very happy there. For the record, one of the girls we know there also had weak SATs. She was just a lousy test taker. She had wonderful ECs, recs and writing ability and she put her whole heart into her application.

My son considered Skidmore because of its strong arts programs and I also have a young colleague who is a recent grad. She is an articulate, accomplished and intelligent young woman. Although decidedly un-urban, Saratoga Springs is a very pleasant and urbane place -- lots of culture and sophistication. One of the best college museums. I think Skidmore is trying really hard to overcome its rich girl image and has upgraded the curriculum lately. Some very interesting courses, especially in the humanities. Take a look at the course catalogue.

Another idea for kids who want urban but are not likely for Columbia or Chicago is the University of San Francisco. My son has friends there who are very smart, but didn't have the stats for more selective school. You can't get more alternative than SF.

By Thisoldlady (Thisoldlady) on Friday, September 03, 2004 - 07:52 pm: Edit

Thanks, Momrath. Skidmore was number one on D's list til she spent the summer at Barnard, so it is still very much in consideration. We, as parents, thought it would be a great place to visit. I will definitely check out University of SF. She loves that city, too!

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 03:05 pm: Edit

Thisoldlady: San Francisco is an alternative, but bear in mind that USF, while a good quality university with a nice campus, also is a Jesuit school.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 04:06 pm: Edit

DadofSam and Momrath - can you provide any other thoughts about USF? We were thinking of visiting but I really don't know much about this school. How urban is the campus? What is its academic reputation?

Also, to the original poster. You and your daughter might want to check out the schools listed at These are all schools that have made submitting SAT scores optional in the admissions process. There are some excellent schools on the list - Bowdoin, Dickinson, Muhlenberg, Lewis & Clark, etc. that might suit your daughter.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 04:58 pm: Edit

Carolyn: USF has a good repuation academically, though you are probably in a better position than I to know its specific strengths. It also has a very good law school.

The campus is in a residential neighborhood of San Francisco about 20 minutes by bus from the downtown area and about a mile north of the Haight-Ashbury district. The campus is not large but is nice, but like much of San Francisco it is located in a hilly area ("Lone Mountain" is its name).

By Momrath (Momrath) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 01:29 am: Edit

Carolyn, The only information I have about USF is anecdotal: my son has several friends -- all boys -- who attend. I would characterize them as quite smart, sophisticated kids, who let's say were "academic underachievers." There just aren't too many urban colleges appropriate for the B student.

I lived in SF in my youth [Ah, to be 20 years old in San Francisco!] and I imagine it's still a wonderful place to live. It's quite compact and transportation is good.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 04:39 am: Edit

TOL; The more I hear about your D, the more I think there is an SAT disconnect. Especially with 750 on WRiting??

But my reasoning behind the caution is this: the difference is currently 150 points. 150 SAT points is HUGE! My S would have been a National Merit finalist with another 150 points!! Yet we didn't dream of applying to schools with averages that were 150 points higher.

Well, we did apply to a school with 1500+ SAT averages, SFS, but it was a mistake. We had no idea Georgetown SAT averages were much lower than SFS. That's what CC is for! Good advice!

Anyway, does Brandeis have film? What about RISD? With a few crossover classes at Brown?

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