Yes. To be clear, it's not that we're looking at ONLY test-score ranges to pick 'match' institutions for DD. It's a factor, though. Particularly so in second tier private institutions, which presumably draw high in SES, and therefore ought to represent "optimized" standardized test scores for the students. I do know that public colleges often don't.

Anything that places DD in the 95th (plus) percentile of those ranges has got some red flags to begin with, though.

What changed? Well, DD's internship experience changed things, as did recent (and brutally frank) conversations with friends who are STEM faculty at a variety of institutions in that lower tier-- some of which were originally on DD's interest lists. They are being told that they need to lower standards to keep retention high... to shut up and do what they are told... and in the end, converted to adjunct teaching and untenured teaching corps anyway.

The internship. Well, this is pretty high-level in theory-- highly selective (15-25% success rate), and a feeder for the INTEL and Google SciFair competitions.

DD does love the academic environment, but even she is aware and articulating that it is insufficiently stimulating/rigorous for what she needs as a next step. This is a huge problem out of the blue for us. We never anticipated that one of the state's two flagship Unis would not be suitable for DD in terms of challenge. But it is clear that this is the case. Certainly the other regional school we were thinking about won't be, in light of this. That is in complete agreement with our conversations with friends who are faculty at both institutions, by the way.

The problem is that we're seeing that SAT scores at some of the other institutions also look to be in the same range, in spite of those places being 'private' and nominally more rigorous/selective. DD is a good 200 points over that in each section of her SAT's, which were probably not that great relative to her capability. I'm not just saying that, either-- she just isn't a super-tester the way that I am.

Reed is pretty much the only institution in the region which doesn't look like a "low safety" for her. She's not a Reedie, even if we could afford it-- or were willing to pay for it.

The other problem which is emerging from DD's improving metacognition and self-awareness is that her underlying interests are going to wind up pulling her away from areas where challenge and peer groups would be something like a good fit (math, theoretical physics, etc.). In other words, she's discovering that probably her interest in math has been driven by the fact that this is the sole area in which she has ever been able to learn at a pace/level that feels okay to her.

I know that there are still schools that are in between the two extremes. I just have no idea how to find those that we don't already know about when all we have to go on are useless ranking systems that pander to the heinous aspects of the failing/failed portions of things. We need a nice independently owned restaurant that takes food seriously-- the trouble is that they get drowned out in the cacophony of advertising from the fast food places, and the hype of the high-prestige ones.

I'm also working against my DH here, who-- coming from an industry perspective-- sees MIT as vastly superior to Harvey-Mudd because of the branding associated. I don't, but opinions vary locally, let's just say. wink I think he's been hitting the Kool Aid, myself.

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