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Should I even apply to top schools(like Stanford, usc, rice, Harvard)

roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
edited December 2012 in College Search & Selection
Hello everyone. While I know this type of topic is shown alot I am generally curious(and anxious) to see if I applied to some of these top private institutions, I might have the slightest chance of getting in. So, here are my credentials so far (also, for the SAT/ACT I will be using my PSAT scores)

G.P.A: 3.669 I know it really sucks. I'm trying my best to bring my grades up to some higher stats.

Courses: I have already taken AP U.S. History, and am currently taking honors and AP classes this year.

PSAT: I have low scores right now, so bare with me ( Reading: 520; Mathematics: 560; Writing 510) I know there terrible, but Ill try harder on the SAT and/or ACT.

Extracurricular: Here is where I know I fail. The only notable extracurriculars I have taken are tennis and orchestra. I have a job after school(I work at Burger King) that I have to do and I have much time already taken up. Also, our school is not the best in funding at the moment( we may have to cut costs by firing some teachers; this means that AP classes can go from 20-30 people in classes an hour to 40-50. I'm so ****ed)

Honors/Awards:
A Honor Roll
Star Student in Human Medical Biology
Overall best student in French 2
Student of the trimester in French 3
(Not that much compared to most people, I know)

A little Bio: I am an African American who lives in Minnesota. My family is of low income( I live in single parent household with me, my mom, brother, and grandmother.) Also, I qualify for free lunch. The school I attend is not the worst, but in no way I would call it the best in academics( In sports, oh yeah, we rule ;) My school doesn't have much clubs that I can join( maybe like less than 10 overall; not including sports).

So, the main question I am asking is: Should I even consider applying to Top schools with my credentials?
Post edited by roinujo1 on

Replies to: Should I even apply to top schools(like Stanford, usc, rice, Harvard)

  • racetrackracetrack Posts: 18Registered User New Member
    What grade are you? Junior or senior?

    I admire you and you should be very proud of yourself. I worked in a factory in high school and it was one of the most motivating and influential experiences of my life. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to concentrate only on schoolwork. I wrote about my job in my essay and spoke about it in my interviews. Try to think about the big picture you're learning at the job - meeting different kinds of people and so on. Analyze what you like and don't like about it; how it helps or holds you back in your personal growth.

    Also, you don't have to do organized clubs either. Pick an activity or interest that excites you and learn all about it. Self study it, build it, make it, whatever it is. Read about it in the library or online. Then list this in the activities section of the common app and you can write about it for activity essay. This activity will be just as valid as clubs, and really much more noteworthy because it will show that your mind and ambition are not limited by your geography.
  • roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
    Thank you so much! Just reading your comment makes me happy. I guess an activity I am into is playing card games(Magic the gathering, Cardfight Vangaurd). I like them alot because of the stradegy that is involved in them.

    P.S. I'm a junior! :)
  • sally305sally305 Posts: 6,932Registered User Senior Member
    First of all, your GPA does not "suck." My son's was worse than yours and he got into a lot of good colleges.

    I don't think you should bother with Harvard and Stanford. They only accept about 6 or 7 percent of applicants and most of them have EXTREMELY high stats. If you like USC and Rice, use those as your "reaches"--and then start focusing on schools you have a good chance of getting into ("matches") and a few more that you will for SURE get into ("safeties"). From the sound of it you are very motivated and intellectually curious. There are literally hundreds of colleges that you might find appealing--and that would be happy to have you. It's good you are thinking about this now, as a junior. You have time to do research and explore your options. Good luck!
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Posts: 4,342Registered User Senior Member
    Should I even consider applying to Top schools with my credentials?

    Just my opinion, but it sounds like you have a lot of promise, but so far your opportunities have been limited, and even with those, you haven't made the most of them judging by your GPA. If your SAT's are going to be in the 500s for each section, then I don't think the top schools will serve you best, even if they did accept you, and I don't think that they will accept you. Trying harder without additional knowledge isn't good enough. You need to PREPARE for the SAT. Use Xiggi's method that you can find on College Confidential. Xiggi is one really smart guy on CC and my kids have use his method.

    Frankly, I think you'd be best served by a liberal arts college (LAC) that will take you from where you are to where you want to be academically.

    Since you're from Minnesota, I think you might like a school not too far away like Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin which is a liberal arts college that's not THAT hard to get into, but has a tremendous track record of producing students who go on to get their PhD in the sciences. It seems like a great place to be academically challenged yet has the support system to handle students who may not have had the most academically challenging high school. In other words, they take students with decent but not stellar high school backgrounds, like you, and work you hard to get you to a place where you can be successful.

    I sat next to an African-American gentleman on a plane back to Boston and saw that he he was reading a book about quantum physics. It looked interesting and being the nosy geek that I am, and I started talking to him about it. He went to Lawrence and said that it was the best experience of his life. He was a math major who now worked as an actuary for an insurance company in Massachusetts. He was reading about quantum physics for fun. He said that he did his Masters degree at Wisconsin-Madison, and he was better prepared for it than graduates of Wisconsin-Madison. He said that he didn't have a lot of background going in, but the school just worked him and worked with him so that he could succeed. He highly recommended the small LAC experience where you can't hide.

    Lawrence is a need-blind (they don't look at ability to pay in consideration of admission) and full-need (they award a financial aid package that fully meets your demonstrated need). Another similar school in Wisconsin is Beloit.

    Good luck
  • sally305sally305 Posts: 6,932Registered User Senior Member
    ^This is great advice. My son is at a small LAC and loves it. A lot of them do a really good job preparing students for med school/law school/masters & PhD programs. And they offer a lot of personal attention from faculty and opportunities that might not be as easy to get at a large, competitive university.
  • roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
    Thank you for the comment ClaasicRockerDad. I will defiantly look into Lawrence. I guess you might be right. Stanford might be a little out of my "reach" at the moment. I really want to go to a school where I can thrive academically without being left behind because I am not prepared enough for a top school like Harvard.

    P.S. Question: What do you mean by I haven't made the most out of my opportunities?

    Also, when I said trying harder for the SAT I meant actually studying for it. What did you think I meant?
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad Posts: 4,342Registered User Senior Member
    P.S. Question: What do you mean by I haven't made the most out of my opportunities?

    I meant your 3.669, which doesn't really suck, but which given your comment, you appear not to be happy with and which I got the sense that you feel that you should have done better. That's an opportunity missed.
    when I said trying harder for the SAT I meant actually studying for it. What did you think I meant?

    I meant no disrespect. One of my daughters took the SAT but after 4 hours spaced out during the last critical reading section while reading a passage that she found interesting and ran out of time. You're not supposed to waste time reading the passages for enjoyment, you're supposed to take care of business, LOL! When she took her final ACT, she "willed" herself to concentrate harder and nailed it.

    I thought that you were intending to concentrate harder, which wouldn't do much good without actually preparing for the exam. I'm glad that you intend to study.
  • roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
    @ClassicRockerDad Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I was not to pleased with my GPA mainly because people in my school who are in honors classes and scored higher than me usually retake a lot. I tried my best not to retake as many times last trimester so my GPA isn't that good. Also, would you recommend Carleton College? I've been doing research into LAC's and saw that Carleton is pretty good.
  • racetrackracetrack Posts: 18Registered User New Member
    With your interest in competitive card games, you are obviously intellectual, quick, and math/tech oriented. You are a puzzle solver and have a good imagination. These are all factors that are incredibly important and will serve you well in life.

    Now let’s see how we can parlay that hobby into a potential future line of study, something you can use as a springboard for a rewarding, enjoyable, and financially successful career. And something that looks good on your college app. You want that admission’s officer to say, “Look what that person did!”

    Magic: The Gathering was written by a mathematics graduate student and the game won the Mensa Award (Mensa is a high intellect society) in 1994. So there is mathematics behind the game, and probability, statistics, game theory, strategy, and intuition.

    So it would be great if along with enjoying the game, you learned all about it. Read about its history, and learn more about its math. This game is different from some others like chess, in that Magic involves not only skill but the ability to navigate randomness.

    (Another game community you might like is Speedcubing Rubik’s cube. That also involves puzzle solving random combinations and the community is nice and really fun and there was a competition in Minnesota . Welcome to speedcubing.com!)

    Now there are many free really good math online courses. Here is just one that you might like from Yale on Game Theory. Check this one out and you’ll hear about game theory and how strategic thinking (like you do when you play the card games) relates to topics like economics or politics:

    Open Yale Courses | Game Theory | Lecture 1 - Introduction: Five First Lessons

    See, if you learn all about Game Theory, you can write an essay about that. There is tons of potential here, given your high intelligence.

    The big picture is to try to take your interest in the game to the next level of understanding and analyze how it works and why it is a successful game.

    There is a big social aspect, too. Here is a good research paper a graduate student wrote about the Magic:

    Exploring the Social World of Magic: The Gathering. :: CMU General Collection

    And I am going to quote him here. He wrote:
    “During my sixteen years of hobby gaming, I have met hundreds of gamers and made countless acquaintances, rivals, and friends, and while we all have different life experiences, I’ve found that many gamers have similar stories to those my friends and I share. Instead of having an alienating influence, hobby game fan culture has been an inclusive experience, allowing me to make friends, bridge gaps, and bond with existing friends. Instead of making me feel like a loner and a weirdo, hobby game fan culture
    helped me to create a positive self-identity. And instead of being something I was ashamed of, hobby game fan culture helped me develop a much-needed sense of self-confidence during the difficult early years of adolescence.”

    Now, one or two last thing in this long winded post. Our human brain gets good at whatever it does a lot. So schoolwork: you can ace these courses if you put in the time and effort. You have hours taken away by your job, but when you can, work as hard and efficiently on your school work as you can. Treat it like a job, too.

    And the standardized tests – these are definitely learned. The key is strategy and repeated practice. You personally have the capability of scoring very highly if you use time management and really work on these tests. And with your background they can have a BIG payoff for college acceptance and scholarship. The ACT is more what you learn in school, the SAT has more tricks. Plan on taking both tests. Get study books. The little book “Crash Course for the ACT” is fantastic. Short, perfect strategies. Read this and get books with many practice tests. This is key. You have to do many of these standardized tests under timed conditions before you take the real one.

    Good luck and I’m rooting for you. Me and all my friends who graduated from factory work to Ivy league level status with successful careers – we are blowing the wind into your sails.
  • roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks a bunch racetrack. I will find time during the week to read that essay and look into speed-cubing rubix cubes. Do you recommend any colleges that I could look into? My intended major would be something like biochemistry or molecular biology or anything science related.

    Also, do you agree with ClassicRockerDad that I should look into LAC? I have always thought those were for people who had the money to afford them.
  • roinujo1roinujo1 Posts: 113Registered User Junior Member
    Would anyone recommend Macalester College?
  • crizellocrizello Posts: 1,293Registered User Senior Member
    roinujo1: The short answer is that you shouldn't apply to 'top' colleges. The real question is why you think that is the only option for you.

    There are so many good schools out there. Life does not revolve around 'top' colleges.

    Focus on what you do well, realize that you do have above average grades, and look for schools that will suit you. You can have a very successful life without going to a 'top' college.
  • M's MomM's Mom Posts: 4,562Registered User Senior Member
    You should definitely look into LACs - those that offer good financial aid especially. However, your test scores make the top midwestern LACs (Carleton, Macalester, Grinnell and Oberlin) all reaches, even as a URM. Get those test scores up! Practice makes a lot of difference on the SAT and since you are competing against others who are practicing, you place yourself at a serious disadvantage by not doing so. You can buy a book of old SAT tests from the College Board to help you figure out where you need to focus your efforts.

    Right now, look at Beloit, Lawrence, Hendrix, St. Olafs and other similar schools. To chance yourself, google the Common Data Set for each school and go to Section C to look at the stats for the admitted student population.
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