2 years ago
Admissions Advice

What classes do I need to take to be a competitive applicant? What is a good SAT or ACT score?

I go to a small school where advanced classes are offered according to grade level. So for juniors, we can only take Physics and AP Lit. Seniors can take Advanced Chem and AP Lang. I am taking both Physics and AP Lit and am scoring an A+ (100 in both). I have a 4.0 GPA, but advanced classes don't add extra weight to the GPA. However, I'm worried that these grades are not enough since people have access to more advanced classes at their schools. Should I seek to take college courses? What classes should I take?

I'm wondering if I should retake the SAT. I got close to 1600, but I wonder if it's worth it to try and get a perfect score?

I do have volunteer work, but my school doesn't offer any extracurriculars except sports (I did play volleyball this year). What should I do overall to increase the competitiveness of my application?

I'm also planning on taking advantage of opportunities (hopefully COVID won't stop this) to take part in a nursing simulation and shadow in a hospital at some point.

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

Congratulations, you are already a competitive applicant at 4250 colleges that offer a 4 year degree. Now if your question is really asking what you need to get in to an Ivy League college, an Elite college or a Top Liberal Arts college, then you need to do more work.

I break down my answers in 3 parts, COURSE RIGOR, TEST SCORES and ECs.

Course Rigor: Taking 4 APs is typically not enough these days to get into these types of schools. To improve your course rigor you can do a few things-

-Take dual enrollment classes at your local community colleges that your high school will give you credit for. If you HS doesn't have a DE program, talk to your Principal/VP/Counselor and see if they will allow you take concurrent CC classes

-Take online colleges class directly with universities that offer them. Many college have online classes you can register and take for full credit. The better the college, the better it will look like on your college application.

-You can take online college classes like I did on outlier.org. There are about a dozen excellent choices from Calculus, Psychology, Statistics, Economics, Astronomy that you can take online either during the school year or during the summer. These are affordable, give you college credit and are transferable credits. They are all taught be Ivy or Elite college instructors.

Test Scores:

For a top college you should aim for a 33+ACT score or a 1500+SAT score. If you get a 35 or 1550 that's a score that will qualify you solidly in any American college. It's true that those who submit high scores have a better chance of getting in to any college regardless of which round they apply, ED, EA, RD, or SCREA. However, keep in mind if your other parts of your application are not solid and impressive, a high test score alone will not help you. Think of it as requisite requirement that will take the doubt out of Admissions officers mind that you can do high level college work, and nothing more. I'm of the Harvard school mentality that as long as you have a 33 or 1500, getting the additional 3 points or 100 points, doesn't really matter much. (According to the Harvard lawsuit court documents). Keep in mind that more STEM colleges care less about a wow factor, or Spike or ECS, so if you are applying to RICE, CALTECH, MIT, you want a 35 or 1550 because many of those admits are good at Math and Science. I would say that Harvard, Princeton, Yale have lower test scores amongst its admits than some other elites but keep in mind that's also because a lot of ALDCs are admitted and as well as kids with hooks like being Black, Hispanic, marginalized or low income, First gen.


If you are not playing Varsity Volleyball, you should be occupying with impressive ECs with community service, leadership positions or working on some personal Spike Activity. If you don't have a lot of ECs, but high grades and test scores, then colleges like Boston College, Tufts, and BU are looking for students like you.

Good luck.

If you have more detailed questions about any of these topics, feel free to ask them on here 1 at a time.

2 years ago[edited]

I would maybe try to create a club you are really passionate about at your school. Top colleges really like to see this, especially if you are really involved and do a lot of things. Also if you have an SAT already within the schools "range" I would not stress about your score, it sounds really good already, and focus on your extracurriculars and current classes.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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