2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Did freshman year ruin my chances for my dream schools? How should I construct a narrative for my application?

I'm currently a Junior at a public high school and I'm aiming to be admitted to the more prestigious UC's such as Berkeley or Ivy Leagues and similar schools such as Stanford, Harvard, ect.. I have strong coursework and strong extracurriculars for these schools, (yet they don't construct much of a cohesive narrative, I'm working on that currently) and my SAT is good but has room for improvement (Currently a 1460, I plan on aiming for a 1500 with another test after the summer, if possible). I am mostly concerned with my current GPA and how my freshman year will affect my application and strength as a candidate. My 10-12 unweighted GPA currently is a 3.89 and weighted is a 4.5 but when factoring in freshman year where I got 6 B's, my total GPA drops to a 3.78 Unweighted and a 4.22 weighted. I was wondering if this ruined my chances of getting into these colleges or if it has less of an impact. I have no excuse for the grades freshman year, so is there any way to help my application recover from it? Are there any suggestions for how I could construct a narrative as well? I'm applying under computer science and I'm interested in computer science and astrophysics, yet my extracurriculars are kind of all over the place and I'm not sure how to make a cohesive story out of them. (Music, Environment nonprofit, Math competitions, Writing, Art, Summer Classes at Berkeley, ect...) Any tips or help are much appreciated! Thanks!

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

Regardless of which T25 college you apply to, your 3,78 GPA is borderline at all these schools because they report an avg of 3.90-4.00. I do not think you have enough runway to get it to 3.90+. Also your 1460 is also on the low end/borderline so your goal score should be a 1530-1540 not a 1500.

That being said the positive about your grades is that it they are better from 10th-11th versus 9th. Hopefully you can continue on this upward trajectory and get all or mostly As during 12th grade.

My recommendations to prop up your narrative are the following:

-Course Rigor: You do not mention how many APs or IBs you have taken what your performance grade wise and test scores are for these. I recommend having 8-12 APs if you are applying to these kind of schools. Or an IB Diploma with a 40+ composite score. If you are lacking in either APs/IBs, I would recommend taking some AP or college level course over the summer while you study for your SAT/ACT. 2 courses ideal, 1 minimum.

-IV/IC - Harvard/Stanford and many Ivys have an additional category called Intellectual Vitality or Intellectual Curiosity. You must show some positive evidence that you engage in intellectual activities outside of school work/clubs. This can be taking online courses (MOOCs, College classes), authoring a supervised research paper, engaging in prof. led research into a topic related to your intended major, or pursuing some independent project related to your intended major.

-Test Scores: If you choose to submit a test score and your intended major is CS or Astrophysics, at these schools most of your peer applicants will have scores higher than your current goal score of 1500. It needs to be higher unless you are a hooked applicant (BIPOC, low income, first gen) or are a Varsity recruited athlete, legacy, facbrat (child of faculty) or wealthy donor kid.

-Since CS is uber-competitive and astrophysics majors typically have the highest test scores and have taken advanced maths/STEM course, I would recommend that you consider another major to improve your odds if your priority goal is to attend a T25 school. Applying to Stanford/Harvard/Columbia Fu Engineering/Berkeley with your current STATs will most like you get you rejected. So you have to decide what's more important - either getting into a T25 school with a different major, or getting into a 2nd tier college T50-T75 with your intended major.

ECs- I would be impossible for anyone reading your inquiry to make heads or tails of your EC narrative. You do not list them in order of most important to least important. None of them have anything to do with Computer Science or AstroPhysics so I question how either of these 2 intended majors can be your "spike" narrative. I would re-visit and leverage what you have already done. Why? A strong CS major would have a some mastery of various coding languages by now and have taken some online courses to show evidence of that or have developed an App or a some research project that requires application of these skills. A strong AstroPhysics major would have some IV/IC evidence that they are engaged with a local observatory or lab that is conducting some leading research in that area. At a minimum, they would have their own telescope and have some ECs that have to do with star-gazing or completed some MOOCS with regards to learning about universe. You don't even reference Dr.Becky at ChristChurch College (Oxford). So it makes me think that your CS/Astrophysics majors are not something you wanted to so since you were elementary school but something more recent. These sound like a compulsive choice rather an long term intentional choice based in deep passion for wanting to explore the mysteries of the universe or wanting to design software to solve specific things.

I would consider all these schools more reach schools given your current narrative and think you need to be focused, deliberate and targeted in what you do with your time over the next 7 months to improve your odds to get into these schools. Make sure you have a handful of target colleges that you would be genuinely happy to attend if none of these work out for your in the next admissions cycle.

Good Luck.

2 years ago

It sounds like you're definitely on the right track with need for only minor improvements, so go you! For your GPA I would strongly suggest retaking the courses you got the worst grades on with Edgenuity if that's a resource offered by your high-school. Not only will it raise your GPA assuming you get the grade you want, but it will also show that you're committed to doing the best you can on everything, even going so far as to retake the courses you weren't happy with. I'm not sure how your specific high-school would add that to your GPA, a/i averaging it with the rest of your grades, or replacing the previous grade with the new one. Either way it should help your GPA, although replacing the grade is definitely better than averaging it assuming you get A's on the retaken courses. Now onto your extracurriculars, well-rounded applicants are preferred, so your previous/current extracurriculars shouldn't be a worry in the least, if anything they show you have a wide range of interests and like to explore options before committing, although I definitely agree with working on a more cohesive narrative towards your field of study. As for your SAT, study, study, study! Lots of retakes don't look good on college applications, so before you retake it make sure you're confident that you'll get the score you want. If all else fails and you need a last resort, go to different school, obviously the more selective and rigorous the better. Then get as close to a 4.0 as possible esp. in classes that pertain to your field of study, and apply again as a transfer applicant, by then they will consider your college GPA rather than your high-school GPA, and you'll also have extra time to create a more cohesive narrative.

2 years ago

Hi! Your chances definetly arent ruined, especially for Stanford because Stanford does not consider freshman year grades when admitting students. I'm not an expert, but I would recommend paying extra attention to Stanford and other schools that don't consider freshman year grades.

Hope this helps!

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Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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