In other words, she NEEDS for college to be different, and she recognizes that the kids at the homegrown option.... just... aren't bright enough.

Yes... this is one reason I was all over the college search from early on. As hard as parents work out here to get acceleration and differentiation for their kids in the lower grades, you have to realize that most state universities and lower priced colleges also do not have a lot of intellectual peers for our kids.

My D attended THINK at Davidson for a couple of summers, and one thing she said in several of her college essays (the "Why College X?" essay so many schools want) was that the reason she wanted to attend their college is because they matched the intellectual environment she found at THINK. Seemed to resonate with admissions. smile She only used this with the colleges where she truly felt it was the case (did not say it for her "safeties"). But I think it was the deepest desire for her in her college search. And she would not get that at our state university -- at least not in our state.