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GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: ski_racer, a high-achiever in high school, was rejected by some of the elite schools she applied to. This rejection was the best thing that happened to her as she got to choose her own path. Learn how she fell in love with her safety school, ASK HER ANYTHING!
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I Need Matches and Safeties... And Maybe Lower Standards

awesomepolyglotawesomepolyglot 3882 replies69 threads Senior Member
My current list is ridiculously reach-heavy:
High Reach: UPenn, MIT (LOL), Yale (LOL)
Reach: Rice (hopefully going to ED!), JHU, Duke
Low Reach: Lehigh
Safety: I say UTK, but my parents say UAH (but I don't want to live in Alabama...)

Female from TN, rising senior
Will need aid
White and like fourth-gen college student (What’s a hook? Haven’t heard of her…)
Don’t want to go to my parents’, uncles’, aunt’s, or grandparents’ alma maters, so no legacy, unless you count my dad’s cousin.

(Sorry about the formatting--I tried it on Google Drive to see if it would be nicer, but it clearly wasn't.)
UWGPA: 4.0
WGPA: 4.605
Rank: 43/362 (as of February 1; definitely went up as people started to give up on APUSH)
SAT: 1500 (760E/740M), retook in June (with writing!) and it hopefully went up, although
probably not by much; will likely retake in August
ACT: 36 (35 science, everything else 36, no writing; my exact words when signing up were “not
today, satan, I’ll do it next time” and I very seriously doubt my ability to get a 36 again)
Subject Tests: 800 Math II, 780 Chem, 750 Bio E, 610 on German (somebody’s gotta get 38th
percentile, NOT going to send where I don’t have to)
AP Exams: APHG (5), Bio (5), APUSH, Lang, Chem, Physics 1
Senior Schedule: AP Lit, AP Calc BC, AP Physics C (both), APES, APCSA, weird hybrid
of AP US Gov and AP Micro
Will not be National Merit, as I took the L instead of the PSAT

Climbing, 9-12: Actually 4-12, but they wouldn’t appreciate putting elementary school on the
Common App. I started seriously competing in sophomore year. I’m not excellent, but I love it and definitely plan on climbing in college. (I’ve also been on my team since 8th grade.)
Science Bowl, 9-12: I wasn’t on the team freshman year, but I was on the same team
sophomore and junior years. I glowed up from alternate to captain. We made it to the round of 8 and got knocked out by the same school as we did my sophomore year. No officer positions, but as senior I’ll assume more HBIC duties.
Science Olympiad, 9-12: Actually 6-12, but whatever. I’ve done close to 20 events and gotten over a dozen medals at Regionals and States, mostly in Astronomy and Ecology. I’m the Vice President of Academics next year.
GSA, 9-12: VP junior year, President senior year. We don’t actually do very much, but the
younger members really really like it.
Linguistics Olympiad Club, 9-12: VP junior year, President senior year. (Side note: all of the
VP==>Presidents of this club have gotten into Rice, as far as I know. But that’s more of a
correlation thing than a causation thing, unfortunately…) Participate in NACLO and do
nerdy twists on random memes. (Won’t mention the last part.)
I’m also going to put Biology Olympiad, 9-12 (I’ve technically been VP all four years, but that’s kind of a dictatorship situation); Mu Alpha Theta, 10/11-12; my job at the climbing gym (9-12); and German Club (9-10) on my Common App.

Summer Stuff:
Kinda bare. I did the Governor’s School for Computational Physics (a selective summer program, and definitely the nerdiest Governor’s School in the state) this summer, where I learned a lot of math, basically no physics, and a healthy dislike for Fortran 95.

Also kinda bare--National German Exam Gold Award (9), USABO Semifinalist (10), some school awards, and the Jefferson Book Award, but they spelled my name wrong on the certificate.

And now, the weirdly long list of constraints that leaves only Rice as a viable school:
-I will not consider a school that isn’t LGBTQ+ friendly. I will not be in the closet in college.
-I like schools in urban areas (especially large cities), with bonus points if they have a pretty campus with at least two trees
-I want to have the freedom to have multiple majors and/or majors in varied science fields. (Right now, I’m pretty interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, earth sciences, environmental science, geology, astrophysics, and maybe math, but as a minor if at all.)
-I’d prefer STEM-focused schools, especially those with research opportunities for undergrads. (If a school isn’t primarily science and math nerds, I still want it to have a nerdy atmosphere.)
-I don’t care about sports.
-My dad is in law enforcement and is convinced that I’ll be shot immediately if I go to school in NYC, LA, Memphis, or Chicago. (JHU is seriously pushing it.) He also doesn’t want me going anywhere “too liberal”, as if my gay, atheist, science-loving self could go anywhere conservative.
-No religious colleges--I’m not religious.
-I need aid, so the UCs are out.
-I prefer smallerish schools to huge ones, but don’t really care between private or public with all other things considered.
-And finally, the one that makes me sound high-maintenance beyond belief: I really, really want to have a climbing gym within walking, biking, or public transport-friendly distance from my school. (Most large cities--and some small ones--have one or more gyms, which is good.) Bonus points if the school has a climbing team, but it’s OK if they don’t.

And suddenly, I have Bo Burnham's "Lower Your Standards (If You Want Love)" stuck in my head.
edited June 2018
31 replies
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Replies to: I Need Matches and Safeties... And Maybe Lower Standards

  • kalonskalons 625 replies21 threads Member
    edited June 2018
    hmmm... are you open to liberal arts colleges? if you are, that could open up another path. have you looked into barnard? it's a women's liberal arts college paired with columbia, and i think you stand a very, very good chance at being accepted (if you sway your dad into allowing you to add a school in new york onto your list, that is). more liberal arts colleges in or near cities include bryn mawr, haverford, swarthmore, macalester, colorado college, occidental, reed, and the claremont colleges.

    if you're 100% deadset on not looking into liberal arts colleges, you can also look into case western reserve, uofrochester, vanderbilt, and emory.

    (oh, also, i think you stand a good chance at all of the schools you listed. you're a very competitive candidate.)
    edited June 2018
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  • merc81merc81 11894 replies203 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Regarding Barnard with respect to the relative safety of the cities you mentioned, New York appears as the only US city in the top 10 in this article on the world's safest major cities: https://amp.businessinsider.com/the-20-safest-cities-in-the-world-2015-1.
    edited June 2018
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  • Houston1021Houston1021 Forum Champion Rice 1293 replies29 threads Forum Champion
    You should ED to Rice as it seems like a great fit for you. Send your ACT and your two great subject tests. Don't send the SAT. How about Tufts and other schools in/near Boston such as BU, Northeastern, etc? Tufts is close to Boston and might be a slightly easier admit than Rice. One of my daughter's gay friends attends there and is very happy. What about Carnegie Mellon? Still a hard admit, but checks a lot of your boxes. How about University of Pittsburg? It offers good merit, and the Greek presence is not too strong there. Georgia Tech and University of Washington should be on your list although they are harder for out of state applicants than in state. Harvey Mudd is in Claremont-an hour plus outside LA (maybe far enough away to appease your Dad).
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30850 replies198 threads Senior Member
    How much can your family pay? Have you helped your parents run the Net Price Calculators at the websites of the places currently on your list? Truly, until you know whether or not any of those places (other than UAH where you would qualify for serious automatic merit aid) are affordable, this discussion is moot.

    You sound delightfully cranky to me. If you are up for an LAC I'd encourage Bryn Mawr. So please do check out the women's colleges. I don't know if any have climbing gyms on campus, but surely there must be some reasonably close by. I do know that UND in Grand Forks has a climbing gym on campus, but don't think that place would necessarily be a good match for you.

    Look at the Quaker colleges. Most should be very LGBTQ+ friendly, and while the religious influence will be there (e.g. lots of seeking consensus rather than majority votes) they also tend to be pretty atheist friendly. I know one Guilford physics major whose HS grades were like yours, had lower test scores, and landed significant merit aid.
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  • awesomepolyglotawesomepolyglot 3882 replies69 threads Senior Member
    I wrote this post at 2 in the morning, so maybe I was a little cranky :) Thank you for all of these wonderful suggestions, everybody!
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 2392 replies15 threads Senior Member
    Also - consider Occidental for another S. Cal college (although your Dad would hate the location) it's got the right atmosphere, a green leafy campus in a very urban area, they've got a climbing club and check out the local climbing gym... :)https://www.strongholdclimb.com/index.php/facilities/climbing
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  • AroundHereAroundHere 3602 replies22 threads Senior Member
    As far as aid goes, have you started running net price calculators and taking to your parents about what they can afford? There is a tool to help you find NPCs here: https://collegecost.ed.gov/netpricecenter.aspx

    You should compare net prices to your EFC. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator

    The EFC calculator gives you an idea of what price range you can expect with need-based aid. That need will generally be met with an aid package that includes grants, jobs, and loans. Don't assume you can get a school to give you a grant to lower the price to EFC and then get a job and loan on top of that -- it doesn't usually work that way. In fact, many schools will not meet EFC even after your grant, job, and loan.

    If you need a price lower than the EFC calculator, then you are looking for big merit aid. That means going lower in the rankings. UAH has great merit aid but is culturally conservative.

    What is your major?
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43281 replies471 threads Senior Member
    Look into colleges with little to no core curriculum or requirements, such as Amherst (it'll be very welcoming) or URochester.
    Women's colleges would be good too - Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Wellesley, Agnes Scott as a safety.
    Macalester is another good suggestion.
    It should take little for you to see if they have a climbing team and most if not all will have a seriously good climbing wall. :)
    Show interest starting right now! Fill out the request info form, lick on what they send, ask questions to your region's rep.
    Run the npc and show your parents whatever results you get for each university.
    Btw sure you can indicate 4-12 in your description, but only include your 9-12 achievements.
    Submit your act and be done with it.
    Vanderbilt and Emory will love the 36.
    Why are your parents insisting on UAH?
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  • 3scoutsmom3scoutsmom 5668 replies338 threads Senior Member
    Look at UT Dallas for a safety you'd likely get full tuition plus

    -it is LGBTQ+ friendly, they have a center that offers services and hosts event www.utdallas.edu/gendercenter

    -it's in a suburban area (Richardson) but just outside Dallas, the school provides free public transit passes to students so it's easy to explore the city. Beautiful Magnolia trees line the reflecting pond. Very sleek, modern campus, lots of wild bunnies on campus!

    -You shouldn't have an issue with multiple majors, UTD is also pretty generous with AP credit.

    -You can't get much more STEM focused or nerdy than UTD! Lots of undergrad research opportunities! DS is doing the Clark pre-freshman research program there this summer. It's fully paid and he gets to be involved with research and gets to know his future professors before he even starts his freshman year! https://honors.utdallas.edu/clark-summer-research-program

    -No football at UTD but they have a world class chess team;-)

    -UTD is a very safe school I think this might be a good compromise for your dad

    - it's a public school not religious

    - for merit you'd likely get the honors AES award https://aes.utdallas.edu/prospective-freshmen/awards

    - it's a medium size school

    - not only does UTD have a climbing wall they have an active climbing club as well

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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10423 replies123 threads Senior Member
    Not sure about the aid piece but Northwestern would check a lot of your boxes. Because they are on quarters, it's super easy to double major. Run the EFC.
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  • SouthernHopeSouthernHope 2129 replies217 threads Senior Member
    I'm going to recommend Georgia Tech. At least do the visit...you can drive over from TN.

    They have a climbing wall! https://crc.gatech.edu/about/facilities#node-276
    Gay students! http://pride.gatech.edu/
    Research opportunities! http://www.undergradresearch.gatech.edu/
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  • quakerstakequakerstake 770 replies9 threads Member
    I haven't seen Tulane or UT-Austin mentioned. Also, though not in a big city, UGA might be interesting - you should be competitive for Foundation Fellowship: https://honors.uga.edu/c_s/scholarships/f_f/benefits.html
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  • aquaptaquapt 2455 replies51 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Northeastern has a terrific climbing team now, thanks to the world-class competitive climber who graduated a few years ago after building the program. https://northeasternclimbing.github.io/team/ You would likely get Honors and merit $$ there. Great urban campus and great flexibility for combining areas of interest. Their new STEM complex is gorgeous. Certainly LGBTQ+ friendly. Question is whether you would like the co-op model and and pre-professional vibe. (Though NU students certainly do continue on in academia too.) And also, merit aid and need-based aid won't stack, so you'd have to hit your price-point with one or the other, and that might or might not happen. And kinda big, although Honors could mitigate that. All in all it might not add up, but it's worth a look.

    On the other coast, Reed checks off all of the nerdy, urban, liberal/LGBTQ+ friendly, small-school-that-isn't-into-sports boxes. Phenomenal, rigorous science school. (Classified as liberal arts - no engineering - and is indeed strong in humanities and social sciences too, but is a top producer of future PhD's in sciences.) No merit aid but meets full documented need. Has a climbing wall on campus and lots of access to nearby outdoor opportunities. http://www.reed.edu/sports_center/rope/index.html
    edited June 2018
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  • Erin's DadErin's Dad 34148 replies4924 threads Super Moderator
    Look into Lewis and Clark college in Portland OR. Great little school, beautiful, close to urban setting. I would guess you would get at least 1/2 tuition. My D joined a rockwall gym there and they do slacklining on campus.
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  • RoaringMiceRoaringMice 693 replies2 threads Member
    Smith is interesting for you. You'd have access to everything at the other schools in the area, including UMass Amherst, and they can do well with aid. Probably the most LGBTQ friendly, small urban (so urban enough for you, but farm country enough for your dad?), wicked awesome location I can think of. It might be a nice alternative for your dad, if a place like Barnard is too NYC for him.
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  • gallentjillgallentjill 2387 replies84 threads Senior Member
    Look at Brandeis. Founded by Jews, but not religious at all. Lots of science nerds and very close to Boston.
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  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Mudd seems like a better fit for you than most of your reaches. It is a reach, but you might consider dropping a couple of the ones you have.
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  • awesomepolyglotawesomepolyglot 3882 replies69 threads Senior Member
    If memory serves, the calculator for Rice said something to the tune of $29K EFC, which is a bit high for my parents' taste--they also have to put my twin sister through college!
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  • aquaptaquapt 2455 replies51 threads Senior Member
    As for the financial-safety question... many might assume that Utah would be a no-fly-zone for those seeking an LGBT-friendly campus, but it's not https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865561017/University-of-Utah-named-as-top-25-LGBT-friendly-school.html University of Utah is affordable, gives great merit, and allows students to establish residency after a year and save even more money. STEM is strong and the Honors College is innovative. It's in a real city. It has a national-champion climbing team, an on-campus facility with "a 54-foot climbing wall and a 13-foot bouldering wall, equaling over 4,600 square feet of climbable surface," and easy access to some of the best outdoor climbing anywhere. There's even climbing-related research. https://www.climbing.com/gear/a-theoretically-perfect-climbing-rope/ Don't write it off-of-hand "because Utah" - it is not Brigham Young. On close examination, it could end up beating both UAH and UTK in the financial safety category.
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