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Help on finding the the right colleges for me?

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Hi, I am a current junior beginning my college search. I am interested in chemistry and want to find colleges with good chemistry programs to add to my college list. I don't really care about the acceptance rate right now but am looking for colleges that have smaller class size and a good program. I also would like colleges with a good community feel that have a good balance of academic focused people and social life. I am considering Dartmouth, Northwestern, UMich, Bowdoin, and Carleton so if anyone has studied chemistry or STEM I would like to know more about their programs.


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Hey! I'm Matt, a data scientist here at CV. I went to Carleton, majored in math, and graduated about a year and a half ago. I didn't actually take any chem classes, but I think that everyone thought very highly of our chem department. That's also true of all of the other science departments. Carls would probably tell you that our chem, bio, and geology departments are some of the best in the country, and I personally had good experiences in physics too. Chem and bio are also two of the most popular majors on campus.

As far as class sizes go, Carleton is just about as good as you can get. Some of the intro classes (bio especially) might have 40 or 50 students in them, but after that classes will regularly be as small as 10-15 students, and classes normally will cap out around 30 (almost always in CS, which is overflowing with majors).

The community at Carleton is extremely academic (like, in the "students often go get PhDs and become professors because they like doing research" sense of the word), which is great if you like being in an intellectually curious environment where people like learning, doing research, etc. The profs also try to foster that kind of environment. A lot of them have total open door policies where you can just walk in any time and ask questions, and all of them go by their first names (which is underratedly awesome for building community and being less intimidating).

Last thing: social life. Carleton has some awesome traditions (big list here: like Rotblatt ( which is a softball game in the spring that has an inning for each year Carleton has existed (generally a lot get skipped) and the main rule is you have to have a cup in your hand at all times when playing. There's also plenty of the usual Wednesday / Friday / Saturday night party stuff going on in dorm rooms and houses around campus, and basically everything is open invite, which is super nice when you're a freshman especially. There are also a zillion clubs organizing all kinds of activities all the time, so I used to go to Welch Village to ski every Friday night in the Winter, groups have historically gone to do Book Across the Bay (, and you'd be hard-pressed to find nice weather days in spring and fall where there aren't classes being held outside, and people throwing frisbees around, grilling, slacklining, and playing music. Obviously, the social scene isn't the same as it'll be at a place like UMich, but I didn't find it lacking much either.

Go visit when that becomes an option again! I went in February to make sure I could deal with the cold, and don't regret it at all. Carleton's an awesome place!

Thanks for the info!!
Sure thing!
answered on

I'm a current senior (intended chem major) committed to Rice University. In my college search, I most valued community and academics. I really liked the welcoming culture of Rice, and their STEM departments are also strong. Some other schools intended to apply to were Northeastern, Bryn Mawr, and WashU. Northeastern has the most kids out of all of the other ones (20,000), but I liked its unique co-op program, where you can go on 2-3 co-ops. Co-ops are where you get a job for 6 months to check it out, and offers a lot of resume-building potential. Bryn Mawr, if you're a girl, is a women's liberal arts college. It has a similar close-knit community to Rice, and is the women's college with the most focus on STEM. WashU is another STEM-heavy school that has a similar welcoming culture to Rice.

As you can tell, I mainly included colleges only for their social life, given that their STEM departments were already strong. Of course, there are other schools out there that are also STEM-focused, but with different cultures I didn't vibe with as much. Other schools I'd considered (but took them off my list) are Case Western Reserve U and Vanderbilt University. Also, check out liberal arts colleges. I see you have a couple on your list right now. They are smaller than typical universities, and although they typically are more focused on liberal arts/humanities, there are a couple that focus more on STEM as well.

Can I ask you what was your collegevine chancing % for rice? Its my dream school so Im curious. Wish you the best.
Lol it's my dream school too! I would not trust the collegevine chancing by any means at all (sorry collegevine lol). Even if you have great stats and extracurriculars, you still need good essays to get in. My extracurriculars were by no means impressive, so I had to make that up with the essays. Collegevine said my chances were 36%-51%, and despite that, I still considered Rice a long reach. If you have a decent profile, all you need is like decent essays and you'd have a good shot. Good luck!
I also applied to Rice a month or so ago, but have not heard back yet. My SAT was 1500, which puts me at around 50% percentile for Rice, but I don't have many extracurriculars either. I did my best on the essays, but I'm not sure what will happen. We'll see- good luck to you guys as well.
Thanks! I'll consider looking at Rice.
answered on

Collegevine has a way to look up the best schools for chemistry! At the top of your screen, choose "Schools" instead of other options like Q&A or Network. On the dropdown box, you want to click on "Find Schools." Now at the top of the screen you'll see three options: Find schools, My list, and College rankings. Click on "College rankings." The dropdown box will give you many options. The one you are looking for is "Best for chemistry."

I also like looking at the Scorecard data based on major from the Department of Education (DOE). If salaries for Pell Grant recipients are much higher on Scorecard data, it can highlight a boutique program that recruiters seek out, which rankings don't always convey. Except for two schools, I noticed that it mostly lined up with Collegevine's ranking list. Northeastern chemistry undergrads made more their first year out of college than several higher-ranking schools. And College of the Holy Cross also had a decent showing despite not being on the rankings list at all.

I looked at the list and it's helpful to have a general idea of good colleges for chemistry. However, I am also looking for people who know about programs at specific schools and other factors like community and social life. It's more helpful if alumni or people like me who committed/applied to certain colleges also share info so I can research them more, but thanks for the info!
answered on

So like Wonton some ones to look at are Swathmore and Lehigh. Also as someone not looking for schools with lower class sizes (as such its not a primary factor but they should on the smaller size) some that likely fit your criteria are Tufts CMU and possibly Vandy. If you'd like a west coast there's not many options but San Jose St San Diego St and Washington are worth looking at. But they definitely have large class sizes than normal but all of them are really good STEM schools.