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Struggling to categorize reach/match/safety

VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
I wasn’t really sure where to put this, but in my college search I’ve been having trouble even deciding which ones to apply to because I’m just not sure what level colleges would consider me to be?

My current SAT score is 1570, I’ve taken 3 APs (ap euro, calc ab, csp) and is currently taking 3 more (I’m a junior) have one 4 (ap euro) and two 5s so far. I’ve only taken one subject test so far, math level 2, with the score of 740.... which isn’t the best. I don’t really check my gpa but I’ve had all As so far. So overall I’d like to think I have fairly decent scores?

But scores aren’t everything, and when it comes to everything else, I find that I’m very unremarkable. I can’t say I’ve ever made a mark in my classes, I’m really just another A~A- student, to be quite blunt. I don’t even know who I’ll ask to write my rec letters, that’s just how memorable I am. I have a handful of extra curriculars, clubs mostly, but I’ve just been pursuing stuff I like and other than one at the place I volunteer, I have no leadership roles. So I’m left with schools that fit my general score range but seems very much out of my reach, and a safety school that, while I really like, I doubt my parents would want me to go to. I have no idea what my match is, which is obviously not ideal.

Tldr I have fairly good scores but am unremarkable otherwise, and I don’t know where to set my sights when apps roll around. Any advice?
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Replies to: Struggling to categorize reach/match/safety

  • VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    Thank you so much for the advice! That seems like a more productive way to look at it rather than worrying, I’ll definitely keep it in mind.
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  • intparentintparent 36272 replies644 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36,916 Senior Member
    I think you need to include some schools where your stats are at the 75% and above, and the acceptance rate is over 30%. At least a couple of them where you would really like to attend. Be sure you show interest if they consider it (see the Common Data Set for each school to figure that out). You also need an absolute safety -- a school you are certain to get into, would like to attend, and know you can afford. Put 2 on your list is advisable these days, and again -- show interest. Some schools will deny or waitlist you if they think they are a safety that you aren't likely to attend.

    Then feel free to pick out some reaches and apply to them. As long as you are happy with those safeties and "matches", try some higher ranked schools if they seem like a good fit for you academically and socially.
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  • JMS111JMS111 126 replies20 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 146 Junior Member
    Vestarn, nothing to add to the great advice given above, but seriously, congrats. Your GPA, standardized testing results, and academic rigor are going to give you some great options. You are showing wisdom and humility in not taking for granted that your stats mean you will admitted to highly-selective colleges, where lots of qualified applicants get turned away for reasons only known to the school's admission department. Wise, humble kids like you are cool. :) That wisdom and humility tends to convince me that you'll approach the process sensibly, end up with a good list of safeties/matches/reaches, and be an asset to whichever college you choose in the end.

    Lots of work and thinking to do, but you are off to a great start. Congrats!
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  • OttermaOtterma 1500 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,529 Senior Member
    edited January 2018
    There are a bunch of schools in the 20% - 35% acceptance range where your test scores will be above the 75%ile. Many of these are excellent mid-sized universities and terrific liberal arts colleges that aren't looking for captains of the football-rowing-polo team, president of the student body, etc. They are simply looking for excellent students who want to contribute to campus life in some way.

    If this sounds like what you want, start looking for some that appeal to you. Once you find some you like, you can make an impression very easily by reaching out and asking about interviews, visiting the campus if possible, going to any events or college fairs in your are that those schools will be participating in, etc. Showing interest like this can help offset your concern about not having a bunch of recommendations. (Also, Even though you don't think of yourself as "memorable" I suspect the recommendations you do get will be very good.)

    With your test scores, some of these schools could well offer you merit scholarships ...something that parents dearly love.
    edited January 2018
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  • melvin123melvin123 1523 replies18 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,541 Senior Member
    In addition to reach/target/safety, and scholarship/merit considerations, you might also think about timing. If you get into some schools early through rolling admission or early action, that might enable you to substantially shrink the number of target/safety schools you will apply to. For the schools my D was interested in EA school decisions results were posted between Dec 15-20 and regular decision applications were due between Jan 1-15. So it would have been tight if she had to put together a bunch of apps in the regular decision round, but thankfully that wasn't necessary because of the early decisions.
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  • VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    edited January 2018
    @doschicos Sorry for the late reply! I'm mostly interested in small colleges, with strong english programs. Bowdoin comes to mind, as does Amherst and Carleton, but these are definitely reach schools. (As for safety, as I've said I have one in mind with a 50+ percent acceptance rate that I really like, but my parents would likely wish for me to go elsewhere). Small colleges mainly because, as you can probably tell, I tend to keep to myself in classes, and I think I'd be absolutely buried in a large class. Not to say a small school will magically make me more driven and talkative, but I think it'd be a good change and a push. I don't really want to pigeonhole myself though, so I'm looking at larger colleges as well (UNC Chapel Hill, William & Mary, U Chicago, Brown, and the UCs). As for location, I would prefer east coast, it would be a nice change (I'm in California), but again, I want to avoid limiting myself, so I'm keeping my options open. Region-wise I'm okay with everything but the extremely rural, and generally I would like to avoid schools with a prominent Greek life and not a lot of diversity.

    As for the financial side, as an international student I don't really think I'll qualify for much, so I would have to rely on merit scholarships... Fingers crossed that I can net some. Cost is definitely very important to me, especially considering my siblings who are in college/will be in college in the future, so I'd really have to keep that in mind. Thank you for that reminder and the advice! :)
    edited January 2018
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  • VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    Thank you everyone for your helpful advice and kind words, I really appreciate it.
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  • merc81merc81 9915 replies144 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,059 Senior Member
    If you are male, your chances at Vassar would be pretty good, and they'd be a strong match for your general preferences and academic interests:

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  • proudmama2016proudmama2016 166 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    You ARE remarkable, Vestarn! Don't sell yourself short -- you're looking for a college where you can bloom, right? A school will sense that they might be that place where you can do it. As a Jr, you're taking ownership of the search process earlier than many of your peers. Well done!

    Why do you think your parents don't like your safety? Just wondering. Let's talk schools (since you asked). Here are some suggestions for you to investigate (adding onto what others have advised):

    -Kenyon, Oberlin in OH (both have excellent English Dept); high match to low reach range
    -Macalester. My S went to Mac, and loved it (he's a bit geeky, and somewhat introverted). Easier to get into than Carelton. Excellent English Dept. Super diverse. A match (38% admit rate).
    -Grinnell. Might be a good personality match for you. Also known for generous aid. But in the middle of IA, not near urban center.
    -Bates. If you like Bowdoin, look at Bates. Easier to get into. In Lewiston, ME, which isn't too far out there...a low reach high match range.
    -Connecticut College (match)
    -Mt. Holyoke (match)
    -Smith (match)
    -Wheaton (MA) a solid safety
    -Haverford (might be a nice fit for you -- mellow but smart), reach
    -Bryn Mawr (match).
    -Dickenson. A solid safety.
    -Davidson. A great school in NC. Small yet highly regarded. A no-loan school, so all scholarship! You'll be attractive to them being from CA. Reach but geography hook might help.It looks sporty, but I hear it's not as "jocky" as you'd think
    -Elon, a safety and an up-n-coming school in NC. Strong in the arts.
    -Whitman (in WA). match. It's not near a huge city, but it's a cool school and sounds like you'd feel at home there. Good merit aid.

    Many of the Midwest schools have seen dips in applications the past year or two. It's a good thing for students willing to be in snow in the winter. Means it's easier to get in! Some southern schools are having some of the highest application rates they've seen. (weather is attractive?)

    I'd be remiss if i didn't say it... CA has some excellent state schools. The in-state tuition and cost might be a far better deal than private and OOS options. But if it works out that you can go east, there are options for you to investigate.

    Good luck!
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76128 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,791 Senior Member
    Vestarn wrote:
    Region-wise I'm okay with everything but the extremely rural, and generally I would like to avoid schools with a prominent Greek life and not a lot of diversity.

    SES diversity tends to be higher in California public universities than in similarly-selective public and private universities in many other places. Ethnic diversity also tends to be high in universities in California compared to many other places due to the high ethnic diversity in the state of California.
    -Macalester. ... Super diverse.

    Not compared to many schools in California, which may be the OP's basis for comparison... https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=173902#finaid says only 15% of Macalester students have Pell grants, and the largest racial/ethnic group makes up 64% of the students.

    A quick look suggests that no UC or CSU has that low a percentage of Pell grant students (CPSLO appears to be the lowest at 19%), and only CSULA has 64% of students from the largest racial/ethnic group (other UCs and CSUs lower, although CSUSB has 63%).
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  • intparentintparent 36272 replies644 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36,916 Senior Member
    edited February 2018
    @Vestarn Your parents may "wish for you to go elsewhere", but you can't go to college where you don't get accepted. Applying to lots of reaches could leave you with no choices.

    However, your financial statements raise concerns. If you need a lot if financial aid, your competition will be very stiff at schools that give good aid to internationals. You could get into a lot of schools with your stats. But they may be unaffordable.

    Do you have a green card?
    edited February 2018
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  • VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    @proudmama2016 Thank you so much for your suggestions!!! And it's just that it doesn't have as much name recognition, as well as rankings. I don't think they'll stop me from applying or anything haha and it is my life and my decision in the end but I wouldn't really want to disappoint them, that's all.

    As for UCs, as I'm currently on a visa I wouldn't be eligible for in-state... It's unfortunate but I'd still be applying.
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  • VestarnVestarn 16 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20 Junior Member
    @intparent that's very true! I'll really have to not narrow my focus to the very selective.

    As for financial aid, while cost is very important to me, when I talked about it with my parents I got the sense that provided the school was good enough if need be we could go with full pay. They do heavily encourage that I look into scholarships, for obvious reasons. Full pay definitely wouldn't be very ideal, hence my focus on my safety school, where I think the chances of me getting a merit scholarship is pretty good, but I don't think competition for financial aid would be a significant factor for me. And no, I am currently on a visa.
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