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Suggestions for reaches, matches, and safeties?

LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
Hey everyone! I'm a rising senior from Iowa. I’m trying to finalize my college list, and there’s just so many colleges out there that I’m having a hard time narrowing it down! I prefer mid-size universities, and I would prefer a more urban environment. Neither of those are deal-breakers for me. I don’t qualify for any need-based aid, so I’m hoping to apply to schools that offer decent merit aid. I’m not in love with the Midwest either; I wouldn’t be opposed to staying, but I’m also very open to the idea of exploring a new location! I hope to major in economics or mathematics with a minor in Spanish. A few of my top choice schools right now are TCU and Vanderbilt, if that helps give an idea of the type of environment that I’m looking for.

Here are my stats:
Gender: Female
Race: Caucasian
GPA weighted: 4.4 Unweighted: 3.94 (I have gotten 2 B+ but from the same teacher in different classes, I am having this teacher write me a recommendation because I worked super hard in her classes but I am worried that this gpa will make it harder for me to get into certain schools)
Class rank: 1/690 (my school doesn’t officially report rank, which hurts me a bit but I am hoping to have my counselor include my rank unofficially in my recommendation)
ACT composite: 34, 35 superscore (I had Influenza A when I received this score, and I am retaking it in July with hopes to get to a 35 or 36)
I am taking the SAT subject tests for Math 2, Literature, and US History in August

I've taken 8 AP classes, including 5 my junior year. I'm still waiting on those scores, but the scores for the other tests are in parenthesis. Calculus AB (5), Statistics (5), European History (4), Psychology, Calculus BC, US History, Physics 1, English Language and Composition. I’m taking Lit, Gov, and Spanish my senior year and self studying either macro or microeconomics.

4 years of varsity tennis with 3 years at the #1 singles spot, 2 years at #1 doubles, and 3 years (hopefully 4) as a singles state tournament qualifier. Various coaches awards. I have been the team captain for 2 years

3 years of marching band, 1 year as section captain

4 years of mock trial, 3 years as head attorney, 1 year as team captain, 1 year as team state qualifier, and I have outstanding attorney and witness awards

4 years of concert band, 1 year as 1st chair in district honor band, 2 years as an All-State orchestra member (3rd and 4th chair in the state) and hoping to audition again. I've received 1st place awards at various solo contests and many 1+ ratings

3 years of pep band

1 year as an Iowa Youth Congress representative

President of NHS

Mathnasium instructor for 1 year

Waitress at a local pizza place for 4 years, and I received a promotion to a closer which includes the responsibility of closing the store and managing the finances

Business internship with a local startup company for 1 summer

Model UN for 1 year

Tennis instructor for elementary children for 1 summer

Around 200+ Volunteer hours including packaging food for the needy, performing at the retirement home, running tennis tournaments for the USTA (United States Tennis Association), and helping special needs children at my church. I’m also volunteering for my local congressman’s political campaign this summer.

My essays and recommendations should be pretty solid. Any suggestions or thoughts based on my stats and interests would be very appreciated. Thanks!
edited June 2018
31 replies
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Replies to: Suggestions for reaches, matches, and safeties?

  • merc81merc81 11678 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    The University of Rochester would meet most of your criteria, including, in good likelihood, your desire for merit scholarship recognition.

    Rice somewhat resembles your listed schools of interest and would be strong, particularly, for mathematics.
    edited June 2018
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    What is your budget?
    Many state universities have OOS sticker prices that may be below what you'd pay for a private school even after an above-average merit award.

    Check the Kiplinger listings for OOS public sticker prices, as well as for private school merit award numbers.

    FWIW, here's one ranking of economics programs (although it's focused on graduate programs).

    The University of Maryland - College Park is one school on that list that seems to fit some of your criteria (although it may be larger than you'd like). Other possibilities (if a midwestern location is OK) include Wisconsin and Minnesota.
    You may be priced out of many of the others, especially the elite private schools or public Ivies. Many of those schools have high sticker prices and little/no merit money. Duke and Chicago do offer merit awards, but they'd be extremely competitive. Rochester might work (as suggested above).
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  • GreatKidGreatKid 628 replies16 threads Member
    You have the academic and other credentials to be a viable candidate every where you wish to apply.
    Is your family income so high that you would not receive any needs based aid at Ivy's? Income eligibility is quite high at some Ivy's.The
    University of Richmond is a great school and you would be an excellent candidate for their merit awards.
    I would think any schools that are ranked 30th or higher would have you in a position to receive their more significant merit awards.
    Receiving merit money from top 20's puts you in pretty rarified air. Definitely worth pursuing but much more challenging to secure.
    There are lots of small liberal arts colleges that would likely provide you with significant merit money. I am less familiar with mid sized colleges.
    Congratulations on your exceptional credentials and best of luck!
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @privatebanker that’s for the input, that’s something I hadn’t considered! However, since I have had this teacher for 2 years, I feel as if she does know me better than almost all of my other teachers. The B+’s are mostly because she has extremely high expectations of her students (I had a girl in my class who got a 36 ACT without studying and she got a B+) which I appreciate as it made me better. Asking her for a rec is mostly based on how well she knows me, and very very minimally based on the grades. Would you still recommend finding a different teacher?
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @GreatKid Unfortunately, no need based merit at any ivies. I’m planning on applying to a few anyway (Brown, Princeton, Columbia), just to see what happens, but I know I’m probably not going to get in in the first place! I’m hoping to pursue outside scholarships just in case I somehow magically get in!
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @tk21769 Thank you so much, all of this information was very helpful! I’ll definitely look into University of Maryland.
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @merc81 thanks for the suggestions! I have actually looked into Rice and even visited it when I was visiting family. I really enjoyed it, but I’m worried that the school is too competitive for me to receive any merit scholarships there. What do you think? Also, University of Rochester looks very interesting and that is a school I haven’t considered so thank you so much!
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9833 replies110 threads Senior Member
    Maryland doesn't give much in the way of merit aid.
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  • prezbuckyprezbucky 4320 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Ideas for schools that are urban(ish), midsize (about 5000-20000ish), and anywhere:

    Harvard (too big?)

    Low reach:
    Washington U in St. Louis

    High match:
    Carnegie Mellon
    USC (Southern Cal)

    Boston College
    Case Western
    U of Miami
    U of Rochester
    Wake Forest

    Low match:

    Safety (lots of merit):
    New Mexico State (~25000 students)
    U of New Mexico (ditto)
    Ole Miss (ditto)

    Merit will be fairly easy to find at the match level and lower, but harder to find among reaches. But reaches tend to have better need-based aid.

    If you're willing to go small, including LACs will yield more merit options.
    edited June 2018
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6642 replies149 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    I can’t answer that. It depends on how they write their recommendations. If they are that tough a grader perhaps they are not naturally inclined to look beyond the facts. I have no idea.

    But I do know that we as humans want affirmation from the toughest nuts to crack in life and perhaps that isn’t always the wisest counsel to seek it, in this case from the tough teacher.

    Do you know anyone that has asked them in the past. Did they make it into their reach or where they surprised when they had to choose the safety instead because it didn’t work out. Has anyone you know seen one of their recs?

    Are you really close with a teacher or your guidance counselor. I would ask them about this and mention your questions. Or instead of putting them on the spot ask them who they would ask if they were you. Maybe they will give you names that indicate what they know about who without having to undermine a colleague. They talk about a lot of things in the teachers lounge.
    edited June 2018
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  • GreatKidGreatKid 628 replies16 threads Member
    I will reiterate my belief that you are as viable a candidate as any one at elite colleges.
    Great academic credentials, an athlete, tons of benevolent public service. It will not be a miracle at all for you to be admitted any where.
    The search for merit at the most elite schools who offer it is as competitive as gaining admission to the most elite schools. I still suggest you go for it. Duke, Notre Dame and I am sure other schools at similar levels have merit awards there are just not that many.
    Identify schools that appeal to you and then research their websites to see what merit awards they may have.
    I do believe there are a lot of options for you at either small liberal arts schools or larger university's.
    As examples, George Washington University and American University would very likely give you significant merit money. You will have a lot of options, you will just need to drill down with them.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Maryland doesn't give much in the way of merit aid.

    Right, other than the very competitive Banneker/Key scholarships (https://www.financialaid.umd.edu/scholarships/banneker_info.html), the awards may be rather small or not available to OOS students.

    However, the OOS sticker price is about $40K/year. Compared that to a private school such as Rochester, where the sticker price is ~$70K and the average merit award seems to be about $14K.

    To count on a net price significantly lower than Maryland's ~$40K, assuming you don't qualify for much/any n-b aid, you may want to consider somewhat less selective schools such as Alabama that offer large automatic merit scholarships for qualifying stats. Or, consider your in-state public options. But at many fairly selective private schools, most merit awards seem to top out at around $20K-$25K. If you see "full tuition" or "full ride" scholarship programs at a selective/prestigious school, expect the competition to be very tough.

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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @privatebanker I know a girl who got a B in her class, asked for a rec, and got into Brown ED. Of course, every student is different and I’m pretty sure this teacher adored the student. She likes me well, but I’m not sure if she likes me as much as the other girl. Everyone at school says she writes thoughtful recs, but I don’t know if anybody has actually seen one. Asking other people is a good suggestion, and I’ll probably do that!
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  • merc81merc81 11678 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    @LibbyJane: Judging by Rice's website, their tone suggests that one could be possible for you. (I.e., they don't use language such as "a limited number," "very few," etc.) After reading everything you've posted, I don't see why your chances wouldn't be as good as (nearly) anyone's.
    edited June 2018
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Everybody is mentioning LAC’s, does anybody have any suggestions for some of those that would give decent aid for my stats?
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  • merc81merc81 11678 replies199 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Macalester would be an example of one liberal arts college to consider for the possibility of a merit scholarship. With respect to your academic interests, they place a noteworthy 16th among LACs in this analysis of faculty publishing in economics: https://ideas.repec.org/top/top.uslacecon.html.
    edited June 2018
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  • aquaptaquapt 2419 replies49 threads Senior Member
    Rice is worth a try, but Vandy probably has better odds of merit.

    An important question is, which of your extracurriculars do you hope to pursue in college, and to what extent?

    Is playing D3 tennis a possibility? (Assuming you would have mentioned if D1 recruitment were in the picture...?) D3 schools don't give athletic-specific scholarships, but being an athlete they want can improve your prospects admissions and/or merit-wise.

    How about music? Is marching band something you want to continue? Other types of ensembles? Conservatory-level music instruction?

    There are a lot of good schools out there for math/econ and Spanish, so these other parameters would help to bring recommendations into focus.
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  • LibbyJaneLibbyJane 46 replies11 threads Junior Member
    I have been recruited by several D3 schools and a few lower D2, so I know I’m at that level for sure. Most of the schools that have reached out to me just aren’t at the academic level that I’m looking for. I would continue marching band but only if they have a frontline (I don’t want to learn a new instrument, and since I’m in frontline right now I don’t actually know how to march). I also hope to continue concert band to some degree. @aquapt
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  • aquaptaquapt 2419 replies49 threads Senior Member
    You definitely don't have to wait for D3 schools to reach out to you; most have Prospective Athlete questionnaires that you can submit on their websites.

    Just for example, since I'm familiar with the Claremont Colleges...
    Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps share an athletic program: https://www.cmsathletics.org/sports/wten/recruitquestionnaire
    and Pomona and Pitzer share another: http://www.sagehens.com/sports/wten/RecruitQuestionnaire

    As for the Claremonts specifically, Claremont McKenna is a tippy-top Econ school; and foreign languages, which are shared among all the colleges, are top-notch. Pomona would be excellent for you academically but doesn't offer merit. Scripps has good math/econ in its own right as well as ample cross-registration opportunities with the other schools, but CMC's Econ department is the exception - those courses are generally not open to other Consortium students. (Mudd is a STEM-specialty LAC and wouldn't be the right fit for you.) CMC, Pitzer, and Scripps all have merit scholarships - Scripps has the most (up to half-tuition) but CMC has some generous ones too. Pitzer, I believe, has only smaller merit awards unless there's something I'm not aware of. Instrumental music wise, Pomona has its own ensembles, and the other four schools have a joint music program.

    The academic level of D3 schools runs the gamut. There are some that rightfully wouldn't be on your radar at all, and some that are too elite to offer any merit, but definitely quite a few in the target zone in between. (Scripps and CMC being two good examples, with wonderful tennis weather!)

    There's not much, if any overlap between marching band programs and D3 athletics, because typically having a band on the field is a D1 attribute. (Maybe other people can point out exceptions?)

    But in the good-schools-with-a-serious-marching-band category, look at USC (good merit potential, and there's club tennis if their D1 team is out of reach http://www.trojantennisclub.com/ ), Northwestern (I don't think they give merit though?), and U of Miami (you could probably get significant merit there, and academically it wouldn't be a bad school for your interests). All of these have conservatory-level music instruction and concert band opportunities as well, of course.

    Another top school for you to look at would be U of Rochester. Phenomenal music (Eastman Conservatory is part of the University and there are ample opportunities for non-majors), D3 tennis (nice indoor facility, which is obviously needed because Rochester is crazy-cold), top-tier academics with an open curriculum that makes interdisciplinary/cross-disciplinary pursuits easy, and great merit aid potential. In addition to the expected math + econ offerings, this certificate might be of interest: http://www.rochester.edu/college/msc/certificates/mathmodel.html
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