a year ago
Admissions Advice

What can I do about "reach" universities and colleges?


I'm a high school sophomore, currently under pressure to do better in academics, family-issues, and extracurriculars.

All in the name of college. Now, most of the schools I admire or have on my current list are all what my school calls "reach" schools. Some students from my school have been accepted to UC Berkeley, and UCLA. I'd like to go to UCLA, MIT, or Princeton. Why? Mostly the embodiment of their students, the personality, and the way they strive for more. These schools always want to learn something/teach something to the students most of them might not have known. It's amazing to me, because I adore details and aspects of life that I would've never known had it been because of someone or something.

However, everything is changed. My school has decided to give a heavier workload, and despite having one amazing teacher who's seen the entire class struggle with schoolwork (he's given us a week to turn in late assign. and isn't giving us any this week) and given us a chance and a bit of relief, plenty of students still have issues with internet, home-responsibility, and the loss of ability to participate in extracurriculars. The last part for most-due to the virus, and our family members' health. And, unfortunately, I'm falling behind forgotten coursework and current essays and assignments.

I don't take AP classes. YES! I only have regular courses, and had been doing well on them prior to the district assigning teachers to give more work. Even with Chem. and Geometry giving lots of work, I had all A's and B's. However, after the decision, I've been recently struggling so much sometimes I wonder if I can actually make it to my dream universities.

My grades have been terrible, I've gotten two D's this progress report, but I've managed to bring one up.

It's terrible, the social, economic, and pandemic part of this reality that we're living in. I want to help in a charity group-but can't. Most coding camps are off the list as well, so I'm between grades and teaching myself to code. I plan on learning to create a platform to help students and unemployed people, and using this as an achievement on my application could help, but who would even care if I didn't get the grades for it?

I need help, and answers. This pandemic isn't going to end soon. Many adults have said I have plenty of time before I go to college, and yet, afterwards, tell me I'm 15 and should understand I need to do much more than get D's on a report card.

I-and many others could really use some advice-even if it's hard for us to take in. Please do give any extra information for what I can do regarding grading/extracurriculars/the platform. If you'd like to help me with the platform, feel free to ask, and please share. I need help to make it-both academically and charitably.

I hope everyone is doing well right now, and hope every student the best of luck at school.

We all need it.


Earn karma by helping others:

1 karma for each ⬆️ upvote on your answer, and 20 karma if your answer is marked accepted.

2 answers

a year ago

Hi, I am Kranvagn. So this is a pretty hard predicament. I have two solutions. The nerd way is cutting off contact with friends and other people and focusing on bringing grades up or just working a bit harder or smarter. So you're a sophomore and Ds look very bad especially since they are not AP classes. UCLA/MIT/Princeton will have an acceptance bracket of around a 4.2+ GPA. That doesn't mean everything is GPA though. If you can bring them back up next semester to all As, maybe one B, then it will look much better as I have also been struggling with a single B, but slowly bringing it back up(current Freshman). Also the 'plenty of time going to college' is false. Many people prepare since they are in middle school. But don't worry! You still have time! Bring your grades up, take AP classes next year, get a good SAT/ACT score and write STELLAR essays. UCs usually care more about the academic scores such as GPA and SAT while the other schools are more focused on personality and ECs. So the bracket for your reach schools are around 4+ GPA(weighted). Usually 3.7+(Unweighted) and SAT scores are around 1450+ for UCs and 1500+ for Princeton/MIT/Ivies. However, stellar ECs and essays can make up for everything unless you have a 2.0 gpa and 1100 on the SAT of course. Also spend more time, I spent 8 hours per day for a math test and got a good score. Also I have seen that you code. If your coding is amazing/decent and you can create websites that show that you can impact your community, those look very good. I may be young but I have researched ages into the admission at the top colleges and have cracked the code. Also make an agenda! It sounds dumb, yes I thought that too. But if you use Google Calendar and make sure you follow the agenda, you won't believe how productive you are. It changes everything! (Good chance you might not but it's a good strategy(I thought it was dumb too lol)). Also, try and finish all the work first and well. Don't be the person that says working hard will help, it won't. You have to work efficient, if you spend 8 hours and 2 hours getting the same score, spend 2 hours instead of 8, then you can spend the other time on ECs/other classes.

a year ago

Hi there - thank you for sharing your story with us. With all the prominent health, financial, and academic issues the pandemic has brought, it's a grueling time to be a student. I hope you're able to take some time to take care of yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally).

It's not uncommon to be struggling in class now, and colleges are generally understanding of this, especially if you have external circumstances like family health issues. You can always explain these circumstances in the Additional Info section of your application.

That said, I do need to be frank - taking no AP classes, when they're available to you, will not make you a realistic candidate for schools like UCLA, MIT, and Princeton. This is the case even if you were to get all A's in those classes. These schools want to see you challenge yourself and make the most of the classes offered to you. Classes are extremely rigorous there, and they want to make sure you're ready for it.

Selective schools use something called the Academic Index as a screening tool for admissions (more about that here: https://blog.collegevine.com/what-is-the-academic-index-how-is-it-calculated/). If you don't meet their academic thresholds, your application may never get read. There are some exceptions though (under-represented minorities, legacies, recruited athletes).

Your platform sounds like a super useful tool, and would probably be very impressive in admissions if it became widely used. That said, for adcoms to ever see this accomplishment, you'd want to improve your grades as much as possible, take more challenging courses & do well, and get strong test scores. These are tall orders, and probably feel overwhelming.

Of course, you don't need to go to a top-ranked school to ultimately be successful in life, though. You can still get a great education at other schools, and you may end up feeling happier there. Academics at these top-ranked schools can feel very intense, and students who aren't quite ready may flounder - but if they attended a less-rigorous school, they might've excelled and still found ways to challenge themselves.

I hope this provides some clarity, and I wish you the best of luck!


Community Guidelines

To keep this community safe and supportive:

  1. Be kind and respectful!
  2. Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
  3. Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!

How karma works