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Reverse Chance?

HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
I'm currently a rising Senior, but I'm not sure where I should be applying. There are a few extremely selective institutions (in particular Caltech and Brown) whose campuses I've visited and fallen in love with, but I fear that I stand not a snowball's chance in hell of being admitted to such a university. Although my ACT and subject test scores are above the 75th percentile at every school I've considered, this is only sufficient to get my foot in the door. With MIT's 9% acceptance rate for near-perfect scores (which represent roughly-equivalent attainment to perfect scores under current ceilings), a bland, unhooked white male should only look forward to being thrown in the refuse pile, no matter how academically accomplished he may be. This being the case, I have spent much time agonizing over whether it would even behoove me to set my sights above the mid-tier state schools. Others have on occasion complimented my (supposedly) acuminous leadership skills, but I have not assumed (both due to lack of opportunity and lack of desire to do so) any impactful leadership positions during my tenure in high school. I am willing to accept responsibility for the consequent portrayal of myself on college applications as an academic robot, but would also like to find a college where I might both be content and have a reasonable chance of admission. With that in mind, here are my stats:
  • ACT (10th grade): 36 (36 M, 36 E, 35 S, 36 R)
  • SAT II (11th grade: 800 Math 2, 800 Physics
  • 9th Grade AP Tests: 5 Physics C: Mechanics, 5 Calculus AB
  • 10th Grade AP Tests: 5 Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism, 5 Calculus BC (self-study-ish: already studied calculus in middle school using online resources and textbooks, also reviewed some material with teacher; 5 AB Subscore), 4 Chemistry, 5 Statistics (self-studied for a couple days before the exam)
  • 11th Grade AP Tests: 5 Biology, 5 Computer Science A, 4 English Language (self-studied literally one day before the exam), 4 Microeconomics (same as Lang), 4 Macroeconomics (same as Lang and Micro)
  • GPA (High School): 3.946 (1st semester 11th grade, will be higher when applying, one B+ in Mandarin)
  • GPA (College and Graduate Classes): 4.0
  • College and College-level Coursework (post-AP): Differential Equations (200-level), General Biology (100-level), Modern Genetics (300-level), Molecular Cell Biology (300-level), Bioinformatics (300-level), Introduction to Music Theory (100-level), Life Fitness Training (100-level), Methods for Partial Differential Equations (400/500-level), Introduction to Complex Analysis, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics; will be taking Thermal Physics (200-level), Fluid Dynamics (500-level), and Computational Modeling of Biological Systems (500-level) in the Fall; anticipate taking Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos (400/500-level), Calculus of Variations (500-level), Biophysics (400-level), Applications of Quantum Physics (500-level), Advanced Dynamical Systems (500-level), Advanced Methods for Partial Differential Equations (500-level), and Cognitive Psychology (200-level) before finishing high school.
  • Extracurriculars: PROMYS (after 11th grade, attending advanced seminars in Algebra and Combinatorics), RCYS Summer Stretch Number Theory (after 9th grade), Aerospace & Rocketry Club (at college, 11th grade-present, high school has no serious clubs), Physics Club (11th grade, at college), self-studying advanced topics in math, origami, kayaking, programming (including the creation of a mod for The Witcher 3 that now has over 79000 downloads), will start research with professor in the Fall, will probably volunteer at Stonerose Interpretive Center in the Fall, participated in NACLO without any preparation and almost made the cut so will take again as a Senior, considering starting a Linguistics club but unlikely to occur before applications are due if at all.
  • Awards: Basically none. Three-year pi recitation champion at high school, science fair project deemed "most likely to save the world" (on diffusion problems and pollution), National AP Scholar, did not take PSAT/NMSQT so ineligible for NMS.
  • Essays: Haven't started yet, but my writing is quite mediocre. I suspect that I may perform relatively well on "creative"-type supplements such as UChicago's.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Will probably ask professor who taught PDEs and is teaching Fluid Dynamics (~9/10) and either USH teacher (~7/10) or professor for Philosophy of Science (if I take it in the Fall, which is uncertain, ?/10 but probably higher than 7).
  • Demographics: White male, family income in the 99th percentile nationally.
13 replies
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Replies to: Reverse Chance?

  • HamurtleHamurtle 2525 replies33 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Harvey Mudd would be a reasonable target given the grades and test scores. And I wouldn’t discount CalTech completely.

    For some of the top schools that practice so-called ‘holistic’ admissions, you will need some sort of community service and unless you neglected to list it, you do seem slightly lacking in that category.

    Given your grades/test scores, your application will not get tossed into the circular file quite yet. But you need to craft your essays to seem more interesting. How would you contribute to any of the schools you wish to apply to?

    If you are a California resident, UCs would be your most likely bet as they are GPA driven. Make sure that your in-state public school is your safety and that you are willing to attend.
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I'm afraid that I have not done any community service of note. The volunteering was both intended to address this and something I would choose to do anyway (I used to visit as a kid and would genuinely like to give back; my interest in the natural sciences was sparked by an interest in paleontology). If this doesn't fit the bill, what would? I have tried only to do things that I am passionate about rather than to cater to the tastes of AOs, which I don't consider worth my time or even morally justifiable. As a prospective Biophysics/Math major (or Physics/Biology if the college I attend doesn't offer a single Biophysics track), I don't have much interest in giving "back" to a community I was never a member of in the first place, and hence in many of the more traditional community service activities. What would you suggest? Should I bite the bullet and re-mulch trails, or could there be a more palatable solution? Would TAing a college course count?

    I'm also not a California resident. IIRC the UCs require ACT or SAT with writing, but I did not sit for the ACT essay. I did sit for the SAT essay, but I didn't study at all for the SAT or pace myself well, so that score is only in the mid-1500s. If I sent in the ACT as well to a UC, would it be considered even though it was taken without writing so long as they have the SAT?
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  • GumbymomGumbymom 27819 replies155 threadsForum Champion UC Forum Champion
    edited July 17
    The California UC’s will not consider your ACT without the essay. Also since they are public universities, they give little to no financial aid (need-based or merit) so full price will probably be your costs at $65K+/year however, affordability does not seem to be an issue.
    edited July 17
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I should also note that I'm all but guaranteed credit at my state's flagship for most of the college courses I will have taken by the time I graduate high school, especially since many of them are from that university.
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  • HamurtleHamurtle 2525 replies33 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You seem to be a good candidate for Oxbridge should you decide to take the route of a school outside the United States. Oxford looks at performance on the test scores plus their interview.

    I admire your honesty about not doing something to pander to others. It’s better to be true to yourself. That being said, holistic admissions is all about packaging yourself. Perhaps you can tutor underprivileged kids if that appeals to you.

    I wonder if Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech would fit the bill of schools that you should consider. They could be more viable than Ivies, especially since your profile is actually similar to the ‘robotic Asian kid’ and those students will generally get rejected regardless of their abilities.
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Thanks for your suggestions regarding schools. I'm a little concerned about placement policies at Oxbridge (which I considered applying to previously). If I were to read for the mathematical Tripos, it would seem difficult to account for how much more analysis I've been exposed to than discrete math or modern algebra. I did look at some of the admissions tests, which didn't seem too bad. Oxford's MAT and PAT papers from the past few years were quite easy (probably even easier now with the problem-solving experience I've gained this summer), and the STEP, while harder, is definitely doable. My deliberate avoidance of olympiad math may place me at a slight disadvantage, but it probably wouldn't be an issue.

    If possible, however, I would prefer to attend college in the US. Beyond personal preference, culture shock, placement, and the hassle of applying to British universities, I harbor certain concerns regarding the state of privacy and censorship of online communication in the UK.

    Tutoring would be a more genuine form of community service for me. I don't believe that anybody should be kept out of STEM for economic, social, or political reasons, or even simply decide they're "not good enough" because of a bad situation (this was me in elementary school).

    You're probably completely correct about how my academic profile comes across. As soon as I read how Harvard AOs described the applicant pseudonymously referred to as "Sergei," I realized exactly what kind of challenge I could be facing should I choose to apply to an Ivy. At least I have no interest in the majority of them, and especially not in Harvard.
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  • HamurtleHamurtle 2525 replies33 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 17
    Would McGill be a reasonable candidate school? You have the grades/test scores and Montreal isn’t a bad place to spend a few years of your life.
    edited July 17
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited July 17
    McGill seems to be a definite contender. I'd have to do much more research about the school's academic culture, course offerings, and so on, but it looks like I could get substantial credit for courses I've already taken. Given the overlap between some of my AP tests and some of my college courses, the 30-credit limit for AP should be a relatively minor issue. McGill has a good physics program and allows double-majors. There's even a biophysics track within the physics major, which is distinctly interesting.
    edited July 17
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Another question: have I hit the point of severely diminishing returns for domestic universities in terms of subject tests? Would it significantly help my chances at a school like Caltech to earn an 800 on Biology-M, Chemistry, or both? I would be surprised if so considering how elementary the material on subject tests is, but by the same token I don't doubt that I could achieve those scores.
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  • HamurtleHamurtle 2525 replies33 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 17
    Unless the schools recommend them, don’t bother with SAT Subject tests.
    edited July 17
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Caltech specifically requires two, which is why I mentioned it as an example. The question was whether there would be any significant benefit to taking more subject tests than required to submit to a school that requires them.
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  • washugradwashugrad 1131 replies13 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You aren't interested in Princeton? Your profile with your advanced math classes and PROMYS really reminds me of a friend's kid who ended up there. UC Berkeley would be another obvious choice... yes, I think you'd have to test once more but they would have the sort of advanced courses you want to get to. (Out of state tuition is the issue there, though).
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  • HomeOnLagrangeHomeOnLagrange 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    edited July 18
    I've absolutely considered Princeton. I wasn't quite as excited by the campus tour as by those at some of the other schools I've visited, but I acknowledge that it represents only a limited snapshot of the institution. The extreme strength of the math and physics programs there is undeniable, but I don't want to stretch myself too thin by applying to too many colleges.
    However, the individual departments would likely have a greater impact on my experience than many general aspects of the school. It's a shame that there was no physical science or math-specific tour like at Brown. I'm planning to do more research before finalizing my list of places to apply, and depending on how things shake out at the department level, Princeton might be substantially higher on that list than it is at present.
    Of course, I probably won't get in, but as long as I have some solid safeties and matches it won't hurt to apply.
    edited July 18
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