I'm currently a high school junior hoping to go somewhere like ucla/berkely, stanford, mit, columbia, vanderbilt, etc as a psych or math major, and was wondering based off my creds and what i want to do what some other possible schools i should apply to are, as well as if i have a decent chance at getting accepted. My current unweighted gpa is a 4.0, and my weighted is a 4.156, with a 4.5 weighted gpa for this semester as a junior, and my class rank is 12/638. I got a 1200 on the psat, I'm currently in 3 ap classes and 1 honors class, and next year I'll be taking 4 AP classes. I get all A's, and I'm 1st chair in Band, play volleyball and red cross, but i still just feel like there's more i could do to further my chances, especially with admissions getting more competitive every year. if you could suggest other things to do to up my chances, or schools i should consider applying to, that'd be great!
You have a runway problem which is that you don't have enough time left to curate a Spike narrative on your college application. Maybe you have one but from what you wrote it's not apparent. The good news, depending on how you take it is that 90%+ of high school students have the same problem. They have been told by their parents, friends, teachers, and counselors to act and behave in this certain way they have exceeded everyones' expectations. You are an excellent student. So give yourself a hug and a pat on the back. You are great.
But great or excellent is not what gets HS students into T25 schools these days. Why? Because there is only 1 seat for every 10 to 20 applicants. If you are applying to T10 schools it's like 1 to 20 and about 1 to 10 for public research universities. And most of these applying, since it's self-selecting, have top grades, top test scores (if they are submitting), amazing course rigor, and great ECs. And I'm not even counting the countless perfect essays, recommendations, interviews, and honors and awards.
Each year Harvard and Stanford reject 75%+ of Valedictorians who ranked #1 in their class. There just isn't enough room for all the smart people on the planet to have desks and a room at T25 schools these days.
So the thing that makes a big difference in college admissions are not the Quantitative facts on your transcripts but your Qualitative facts and something called IV/IC or Intellectual Vitality/Curiosity. These are things like:
-College coursework taken outside of high school
-Independent research or supervised research or internships
-Published works in notable journals either authored or co-authored
-Sponsored scholarships to attend prestigious summer programs
-Winning difficult competitions (Math Olympiads, winning a Gold/Silver athletics medal at the Olympics)
-The quality of your writing as evidenced by your essays and supplemental essays and short answers
-The quality of your recommendations. Are you the best student this teacher has had in the last 10 years?
-The quality of your interview. Were you able to have a deep and interesting conversation with your interviewer and leave them with the impression that they absolutely must advocate for you?
When you run out of runway, and you still want to apply to T25 schools, you have to pick your battles because it's like a Chess Game with 2 minutes left on the clock where you are down 10 points. You have to be strategic and make huge sacrifices and perhaps even run the King. So work on the things you have control over like getting a high SAT or ACT test score, curating some great recommendations for next year, start working on your essays, cutting out ECs that are not impactful that is taking up a lot of your time and energy, and picking a major that is under-subscribed so you are not pitted against another 20 math majors from your HS that are all applying to the same schools.
My dad tells me that when he was a kid if you wanted a car, you could go to the dealer, and custom order a car. You could pick the paint color, the engine, and transmission options down to whether you wanted a pinstripe on the hood. These days you can only do that with cars that cost over $100,000. In college admissions, beggars can't be choosey. You have to be strategic and settle for majors and colleges that are not the best fit for you and vice versa.
For instance, I wouldn't waste my time applying to schools like Tulane or NorthEastern, Boston University, or Tufts because I think they are very difficult schools to get accepted into considering their rank. On the other hand, I think colleges like UC Santa Barbara, Michigan, UVA, Rochester, Notre Dame, NorthWestern, Wake Forest, WashU are highly prestigious schools that are well-ranked and easier to get into. Last year getting into NorthEastern was harder than NorthWestern and they are not in the same league whatsoever. Also, it makes no sense to me that USC has 6% ED rate when Columbia has an 11.3% rate and Brown and UPenn are 14%.
I did a quick query into Vandy, and they are definitely not very good at educating Math or Psych majors. They don't even register in the top 50 schools for those majors so I would be more precise about doing your research into what schools to apply to.
Where you go is very important but make sure you apply to schools you are happy to attend versus picking schools that have a lot of clout factors that are very difficult to get into. Fit is paramount to your success. I feel college admissions is like the Hype Sneaker market. Everyone wants the next big HYPE shoe whether it's a good fit for them or not. Personally, I think the Nike Air Force 1 Tiffany is ugly and even if I had $400 to buy one at retail I wouldn't. But there are plenty of people happy to pay $1000+ for them because they have been hyped up. You shouldn't pick colleges like that. Pick a school that is good for your soul.
The schools you listed are very prestigious and obviously very difficult to get into. Stanfords acceptance rate is 3.86%, Vanderbilt is 7%, and UCLA is 8.6%. Although I definitely think you should apply to these schools if you want to go there, i’d recommend applying to your state schools, or other safeties/likely schools you could enjoy going there.
Your profile looks great but the thing I notice is lacking is your extracurriculars. While the ones you have are good, particularly Red Cross, my only concern is that colleges will see that as not enough. That being said don’t overburden yourself with extracurriculars and don’t pile on ones that you aren’t interested in. Pick another 1-2 that you are passionate about and can devote time to. I hope this helps!
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