Actually, Val, I think that what I was saying is that my DH and I have both witnessed "OHhhhhhh, this candidate went to Prestigious Institution" and "Ohhhhh, this candidate knows so-and-so from Prestigious Institution" and garnering preferences for interviews and shortlists by virtue of those things-- without having demonstrated anything else, basically.

Neither of us has anything like that because of our relative lack of elite pedigree-- and we both know that it has cost us professionally because we lack the natural network that attending an elite institution helps a person to build. WHEN we can get a food in the door, of course, our competence and professional experience speaks for itself. But our diplomas merely say "Yawwwwn."

I, too, met quirky and VERY bright (EG, at least) people in STEM at a virtually no-name state college during the 1980's. My test scores were clearly way above the mean for the institution, and probably for my department, even. Even so, of the handful people who graduated with me, well over half went on to earn terminal degrees and a fair percentage went to fairly high-powered graduate programs.

I also found the professors much more engaging and available at the state school. They liked their few challenging students.

This is also reflective of my own experience at my undergraduate college, and later-- as a faculty member. Not so much of my DH's at a large UC school, though he certainly drew attention by the time he was a junior in the department.

I don't think we're hunting for a brand name, so much, just hunting for a place (if such a thing still authentically exists) where the Tiger Cubs either learn to go with the flow (if they can) or go elsewhere, and the genuinely intellectually curious students are rewarded by being fed authentic challenge. Hopefully it isn't too late and the pincer grip of college-for-all on the one hand, and an escalating TigerParenting arms race on the other... hasn't ruined it all at this point in time. It's a narrowing target between the two, to be sure.

Part of the problem in being a PG polymath and college applicant at this point in time is that you DO look almost indistinguishable from a TigerKid on paper. Oh well-- we just have to hope that a few places will look at the fact that she's 14, and realize that there's only ONE possible explanation for the gestalt that they're seeing, and it isn't Tiger Parenting.

Yes, Mills, Smith, and Holyoke are all on our short list at this point in time.

At some point in late August, DD is going to have to go through each school's online footprint with a fine-toothed comb and start eliminating anything that doesn't feel like a good-- GOOD match. Then she needs to figure out what she's missing in terms of testing, and we'll need to schedule that for early fall.

Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.