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SCEA: Helping Me Decide

FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi Everyone

As many people on this forum have been pushing me to do, I've been looking for schools that are not just the right fit for me, but also for them. I was always in love with Stanford, but I think I might be a decent fit for them, too. I'm trying to decide where to put my SCEA/ED. Brown seemed like a top candidate because of their Behavioral Decision Sciences course and entrepreneurship programs, but I don't think I would fit in as well as I would like for an ED. Then, I looked at schools like Babson and Northeastern. Though I think I could be a decent fit at either, I am not confident I would be comfortable at either (NEU with the lack of campus life and Babson with business and only/mostly business).

It's pretty much between Penn Wharton, Brown Behavioral Decision Sciences, or Stanford. I would most like to go to Stanford, but I don't want to SCEA before consulting some pros ;)

So, the main reason I am having this conversation is because of what I saw on the Stanford Admissions website: "Personal Context and Intellectual Vitality" are some of the main factors in the selection process.

Quick info: White, Canadian, Male, 18yo atm (19 at admission), near 4.0UW and straight As in APs. I am taking as many APs as possible next year (six I think?) and I took four this year. 33ACT. No subject tests yet, but I hope to take one or two in fall. I'm worried about the math ones. Live in a shared (five related families) cabin rural Canada at a village with very few people up at any given time.

Academic Context:
To give a very brief rundown on my story, personal context if you will, I started homeschooling back in something like 2015. I worked with my mom and my brother on four core classes that were p/f and I... well...failed hard. I did this homeschooling for three years and only finished those four core classes. I worked for maybe half an hour a day and did nothing else for the rest of the day except for some video games and tv. Fast forwarding to 2017, I got upset with myself. I always pictured myself as a CEO founder of this huge company after graduating from Harvard, but I didn't really think about how I would get there. After the three years of failure, I was faced with a decision: do I drop out and live off of my (wealthy) family like everyone is expecting me to or do I start up school again and throw that hail marry in hopes I can get through another three years. I chose that online school was the best option for me. This way, I was in 100% control and it was on me and only me to progress through high school. Fast forwarding again, and I have straight As throughout this time, much harder classes, a 33ACT, and I'm looking to apply to the top schools in America (I have a lot of safeties in Canada, don't worry!). I think I was able to really turn things around without much help or accountability.

Location:
I live (or spend most of my time, anyway) at a shared cottage in Northern Canada. I have done almost all my work up here, apart from a few times where I went on a workcation with my family. Since it is shared amongst five different families and it's such a small cabin, I learned a lot of great community-based skills. Apart from my schooling, I have done stuff like putting in and taking out four docks and boat lifts in fifty-degree water for my elderly neighbors every year. I also do a tone of stuff like top-to-bottom cabin cleans whenever we leave (every two weeks or so), packing a full car-load with groceries and stuff to get back up to the lack, tarping boats, volunteering in the community, making some custom products to improve our surf-boat, and common chores that go around a lot with all these people. I also learned simply how to be in a community. I've spent many weeks living in a small space with up to twenty other people.


Thanks! Sorry for the wall of text-- I tried to keep it as brief as possible. Let me know if you need any more information.
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Replies to: SCEA: Helping Me Decide

  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "I did this homeschooling for three years and only finished those four core classes."
    ALL of the colleges you are hoping to apply to need to see 4 years, not 1 year, of "Intellectual Vitality"
    One year of online classes won't cut it. And all of the life skills you have learned to do won't substitute for the lack of success over 4 years of rigorous academic study.
    Perhaps if you continue to take 3 more years of online classes, and do jsut as well as you are now, then you might be considered.
    But as of now, you should skip applying to top US colleges that receive tens of thousands of applications from students far more qualified to succeed in college than you currently are.
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited July 7
    @menloparkmom My mistake. I didn't' describe it well when I tried to make it brief. Here are my past six years. Also, I skipped a grade in elementary so I'm only 18 right now. I believe I fulfill most if not all of the credit requirements for top schools.

    Grade 9- Took three years; Homeschool; Pass or fail:(13yo-16yo I think)
    Social Sciences
    Science
    Math
    English

    Grade 10- Right after that third year; Online school; Graded system; 4.0 (16-17yo)
    World History
    Biology
    Geometry
    World Literature
    Intro to CS
    Business
    Another business

    Grade 11- (Same online as Grade 10; Currently just finishing; 4.0 UW and straight As in APs; 17yo-18yo)
    AP Psych
    Chemistry
    Honors Alg 2
    AP English Lang/Comp
    AP CSP

    Summer g11- (CURRENT; 18yo)
    Honors PreCalc
    ASL 1

    Grade 12- (next year, 18yo - 19yo)
    AP Econ (both)
    Honors Physics (no AP option available for me)
    AP Calc BC
    AP English Literature/Comp
    Arts
    AP CS
    ASL 2
    edited July 7
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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 7
    " I believe I fulfill most if not all of the credit requirements for top schools."
    @FakeName1332
    Incorrect.

    I dont see proof that you have taken any foreign language, and most top US colleges require/ suggest [which really means require] students take at least 2-4 years of FL.
    you will need to do research on which US colleges dont require applicants take ANY FL. Unless you take an AP Foreign Language test, with listening, that proves you are fluent in another language besides English. That still may or or may not be enough for US top colleges.
    A lack of FL means tossing the SCEA colleges on your list out the window.




    edited July 7
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @menloparkmom

    ASL is listed above. I didn't know about that requirement until it was too late. I have a deaf family member (extended, but still close to), so I wanted to take two years of ASL. Those two years are the only options for ASL at the moment, so I will have essentially mastered the language. My guidance counselor said she can speak to this and that it shouldn't be a problem.

    I'm not sure why you are so skeptical, but I appreciate it nonetheless. I've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours researching colleges, so the basic assumptions like only one year of high school classes or doing no FL won't be accurate, regardless of how I might make it seem.
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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'm skeptical because I've been on this site for 15 years, and have seen how ridiculously competitive applying to top US colleges has become.
    One additional piece of advise I offer is for you NOT to set your heart on getting into any top US college. Cause the odds are against any student these days, simply because of how many other top students all want what you want. And a 5% or lower acceptance rate , for instance, means that 95% of applicants will be rejected. International students are accepted at top US colleges at far lower rates than US students. I hope you are aware of that as well.
    If you do win the "lottery"- then consider it a wonderful, welcome gift .
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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 7
    I did a Google search and found this post written 2 years ago on CC.

    It may be helpful to you- in particular this suggestion-
    "Finally, if you want some help selecting colleges that are good fits for you and that won’t require language study in high school, you should consider a Stats Evaluation from my colleague Ann Playe at College Karma. See https://www.collegekarma.com/college_counseling/college_counseling.htm near the top of the page. Once you’ve ordered an Eval and completed the form that Ann will send to you, she will assess you admission odds at the colleges you’ve listed on the form, offer ways to improve those odds where possible, and also suggest other colleges that meet your profile and preferences. If you indicate on the form that you are seeking schools that won’t require a foreign language for admission as well as those that don’t require one for graduation, she can offer some recommendations. I think it’s a lot of bang for 150 bucks!"
    especially since the response was written by CC SR contributor and former college admissions officer Sally Rubenstone-
    "The co-author of multiple books on college admissions and a former Smith College admission counselor, Sally brings a rich history in admissions to her popular “Ask the Dean”

    https://www.collegeconfidential.com/articles/college-admission-student-foreign-language-classes/
    edited July 7
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @menloparkmom Understandable!

    I appreciate the reality check. My plan as of right now is to apply to around 6-7 top US schools ranging from Babson to Stanford and around four Canadian schools (including safeties).

    If I get into a top school in the states, I will be absolutely pumped and kind of shocked. If not, I'll be really happy to go to a school in Canada because the reality is I am close to my (extended) family here, so I would be able to spend my summers back at my lake, holidays would be easy to travel for, the cost would be lower, and I would be happy.

    As a reminder, I do have two FL classes as ASL is recognized at all my schools that I've checked so far. Regardless, I would say that my chances of admission right now are not mainly based on stats, not on ECs, not on courses, but on my story/personal context. My stats and courses won't be as good as most applicants (grade 10 courses are weak), and my ECs are much different than most applicants and show entirely different character traits. I won't get in based on these things regardless of my FL, so I would question whether it really matters at that point. I'm just trying to ride the personal context wave and hope even one adcom looks at me and my story and wants to add me to their campus.

    I will check out that site, but I don't think I'm in a place to change any of that regardless. I'm just looking for the best school where I have the highest chances and highest interest in.

    Also, as mentioned above, I have a good reason for taking ASL over any other 2+ year FL, so that probably ties in as well. I doubt they give much slack, but I'm also someone who had absolutely no knowledge of US college admissions when I was picking my courses, and I wasn't informed by my GC. I made a few mistakes, but I'm fixing what I can during this summer.
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  • RockySoilRockySoil 140 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Juts a counterpoint to the other responses you have received. You have a really unique story, and selling that story might just get you a spot at a dream school. For better or worse, AO's love a story that plays well in their press releases ("the most amazing class in school history, including our very own Grizzly Adams"), so take advantage of your strengths and write some really good essays about your life experiences. An admissions office might well look at you and say, "that is exactly the kind of diversity of experience we need here at College X" and let you in. I think I'd leave out the part about the rich family, though:)
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @RockySoil

    I appreciate that. That's kind of my dream here and the sole reason why I'm applying to some of these top schools.

    Quick question, should I mention the incredible financial contributions my family members have made? I thought about mentioning them to say how I want to follow in their footsteps (because I truly do want to do that), but I can leave it out if it will be offputting.

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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12455 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "incredible financial contributions my family members have made."
    no. I would not. your application should be about YOU, not your family.
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  • RockySoilRockySoil 140 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I agree with menloparkmom - your experience is interesting enough on it's own, and family $ can be a third rail in admissions these days.
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  • me29034me29034 1659 replies78 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Have any of these incredible financial contributions been to your potential colleges? If they have buildings named after your family, that could be helpful.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Here's the problem that everyone needs to be aware of: you never want a tippy top adcom to stop dead in his/her tracks and have the "Huh?" moment. You get 12-15-20 minutes of their attention and so many are in line behind you, for their reviews.

    You're asking them to trust you- and they have thousands of other candidates who clearly show it in their full records, not just tell what their dreams are or expect points for a living situation. Time and again, I've seen what poor kids, border kids, kids managing family (extreme) responsbilties, and on and on, can do and have done.

    Context: so, when S says, "your achievements within context, we evaluate how you have excelled within your unique school environment and how you have taken advantage of what was available to you in your school and community," they do not mean (no tippy top means) some kid lives remote, has good grades, so the rest of the epectations go out the window.

    The keyword there is "achievements." The translation is, casually put, "exceeded expectations, triumped despite challenges (context,) is remarkable for what they have done, for themselves/their academics, their local communities (not individuals, but generally organizations,) and the promise they are not just evidencing, but are en route to fulfilling." It has to show in the record.

    You could have gone to the nearest city, where you once said you do have a home, and gotten involved. Even a couple of hours/month, over time, is effort and continuity. You're asking them to accept that you have no standards ECs, little peer interactions of the sort most hs kids do with a top college in mind. You appear to live in the cabin by choice, not because your family has no other alternatives and lives a subsistence existence.

    Sorry that's harsh, but I previously suggested ways you could do just a few things to take you from, "Gosh, I hope they understand my context," to the magic, "This kid gets it, is already running at a great speed."

    Show, not just tell. You've got inspiration and persistence, but need to come to terms with the actual record.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Oh and btw, ASL may be accepted as a foreig lang, but that doesn't mean it is considered as strong as a traditional foreign language.
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @me29034
    Not to my potential colleges, no. Only to specific local stuff, charities, etc.
    I'll keep it out of my essay-- thanks for the help;)

    Trying to get slightly back on topic here-- does anyone think that SCEA/ED would be of better use somewhere else?

    Here is my current list (needs a lot of trimming right now; ones that have question marks are just potentials that I will add or not depending on how my upcoming college tours go). I would probably want to ED something in the top 8:

    Stanford
    Brown
    Penn
    Northwestern(?)
    Dartmouth

    Babson
    USC
    Bentley
    Boston College(?)
    Bowdoin(?)
    Pomona(?)
    Colby(?)
    Northeastern
    Tufts(?)
    Vanderbilt
    UDub Foster or Product Design

    U Minnesota
    Chapman


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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 22471 replies14 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    From that list, I think you might get into one school IF an admissions officer finds your story unique and interesting. Which school? You never know but I think it will be one of the smaller ones like Chapman or Babson.
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @lookingforward

    As I often do with your replies, I'll dissect this one.

    "You're asking them to trust you- and they have thousands of other candidates who clearly show it in their full records, not just tell what their dreams are or expect points for a living situation"

    Since you underlined "show," I am inferring that you don't think I have shown these qualities. I disagree to a certain extent, but even so, my hope is that there is a small chance adcoms would be willing to sacrifice some of the stuff I don't hate in exchange for a boost in "homeschool" numbers, diversity, or something like that.

    "they do not mean (no tippy top means) some kid lives remote, has good grades, so the rest of the epectations go out the window."

    This was not the personal context I was talking about, it was just additional information. I would agree that no tippy top schools would look at this as personal context and then throw everything else out the window, but that isn't why I included this part. I was explaining what I was going to write my essay about and how I could potentially add diversity.

    "The keyword there is "achievements." The translation is, casually put, "exceeded expectations, triumped despite challenges (context,) is remarkable for what they have done, for themselves/their academics"

    I believe I have absolutely done this. My expectations were literally to drop out. Nobody expected me to get my grade 12, let alone go to university or apply to top schools. Triumphed despite challenges? Sure, I had three years of failure and embarrassment, yet I continued on with my schooling for another three embarrassing years. Also, I did all of this work in a crappy-internet, lazy, wake-up at noon, distracting environment. I'm not sure if you have experienced this, but working without accountability in such an environment is extraordinarily difficult when compared to working in a room specifically designed for productivity. "Is remarkable for what they have done" confuses me a bit, but I would say my academic/life turn-around is pretty remarkable.

    I want to make it clear that I don't want to appear arrogant or self-centered. I have talked about these subjects so many times and if I don't use candor then we're all just dancing around the issue and there is no productivity.


    "their local communities (not individuals, but generally organizations,) and the promise they are not just evidencing, but are en route to fulfilling." It has to show in the record."

    You got me here. I can't really dispute any of this, but I will offer some kind of alternative for admissions officers. My essays and my life are both extremely community centered. I lived in a small community in my tiny shared cottage (among 5 families) for periods of time throughout my entire life and full-time over the past few years. My experiences with the docks and the general help I can provide to my community is demonstrated and I am absolutely proven to be able to function well in a tight group. I feel like a lot of applicants (not the accepted students) are somewhat fake, doing their volunteering or community activities with the main purpose of improving their application. My activities are certainly authentic and have been consistent throughout my life. There is nothing fake when it comes to my community service. Granted, this is worse than someone who has a ton of impressive ECs, but I don't think it's as bad as you would think.


    "You could have gone to the nearest city, where you once said you do have a home, and gotten involved. Even a couple of hours/month, over time, is effort and continuity. You're asking them to accept that you have no standards ECs, little peer interactions of the sort most hs kids do with a top college in mind. You appear to live in the cabin by choice, not because your family has no other alternatives and lives a subsistence existence."

    Yes, but that's not who I am. I am not going to be changing my entire persona and lifestyle to try and improve my application. I'm going to apply and hope they find these things attractive. If they don't, I'm not going to be in tears.

    I would argue that my peer interactions are incredible. I'm writing this in a small living room with eight other family members. There isn't much difference between talking with peers or talking with extended family members that you haven't seen often. The reason why I would say my interactions are incredible is that I live with people like this (not the same, they filter in and out) almost every day of the summer and every weekend in the fall.

    You are implying that choosing to live in a remote cottage is a bad thing for college admissions. This very likely could be the case and is also a reason why I'm so concerned with getting a lot of safeties, but I would argue it's a good thing. How do you stand out with your college app? Most have the same grades and test scores, so it goes to ECs, diversity, essays, and that kind of stuff. By living at my cottage, I can bring a huge amount of diversity (how many applicants come from remote villages in northern Canada?) and my essays can be extremely interesting. I'm an interesting applicant at the very least, and I have the stats required for admission, so I want to shoot my shot. You seem to constantly be batting me down by comparing me to a typical applicant. I don't want to be, and I am not, a typical applicant. My expectations are really low, but I want to throw that Hail Mary because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    I have to be quite honest with you, as you have been with me, I don't understand why we keep having this conversation. You comment on a lot of threads, so maybe you don't remember our talks, but it seems like this is extremely repetitive. You don't think my 'personal context' will outweigh my lackluster *standard* ECs, and I think that I have an extremely interesting personal context that will help me in admissions, so it's worth applying despite low expectations.

    I would appreciate a response because I'm genuinely curious how you would respond, but I feel like our talks are nothing but frustrating for both of us.

    About ASL:
    Nothing I can really do at this point. Going back, I would have taken four years of FL, but I made mistakes in my first years and now I can't change it (taking a summer FL course as is). I do have a really good reason for taking it, so maybe that will help. Who knows-- who cares. At this point, I'm not going to worry about it.
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  • Nocreativity1Nocreativity1 1103 replies55 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 10
    OP- While you and I previously had a seemingly productive private discussion about Brown, I wanted to pipe in and suggest you try and embrace the themes @lookingforward to is suggesting. She is one of the more respected members of the CC community given her experience, expertise and earnest desire to help and inform. I specifically had my sons read and contemplate her suggestions during their application process and this is what she does professionally. As you once quipped to me, she is not some parent throwing out uninformed thoughts.

    As I have said previously you have a strong voice but your written tone comes off as argumentative. You can't debate your way into a good school. Being from a lake is a tangent not a narrative or silver bullet. To get into the schools on your list your academic background will have to measure up and suggest that you will thrive in an extremely fast passed and challenging environment. Only then will the other aspects of your application be considered. Across both aspects of your background gaps or shortfalls exist. You need to find a way to "bridge" these gaps. Arguing a "diversity" angle along the lines of I worked hard in spite of not needing to while surrounded by others who didn't work hard is a recipe for disaster.

    Sorry but you keep asking the same question across multiple threads. This is your answer although you don't want to hear it. Please modify your approach and listen to answers rather than rebutting them.

    I am sure this will elicit a rebuke so please no need to respond...it's your application and I sincerely wish you success.
    edited July 10
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP, it's good to at least consider the advice given on a forum, not just the endorsements some give.

    I'm not just writing these comments for you. Your mind is set.
    Interesting is great. But they're looking for kids who primarily conform to their expectations- grades are just one part. A backstory can't swing a kid in if the other pieces aren't there. You're insisting you're non-standard and that that's an advantage. The tippy tops want the standard, time-proven basics. Then, some flourish here and there is intriguing.

    And some of your response mis-reads what I said.
    I'm on your case because I'd be heartened to hear you took some of our advice, not just re-spinning the same tale.
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  • FakeName1332FakeName1332 201 replies31 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Nocreativity1

    Above all else, I appreciate your time here, same with lookingforward.

    "I wanted to pipe in and suggest you try and embrace the themes @lookingforward to is suggesting."
    The issue here is that, in order to embrace these themes, I would have to have to completely change my lifestyle and my families lifestyle. It isn't an option at this point, but it could be in the future. I've been working with what I got, but that, unfortunately, means that it contradicts some of lookingforward's suggestions.

    "As I have said previously you have a strong voice but your written tone comes off as argumentative."
    I am trying to have an argumentative tone because I was arguing my case for personal context. I am using this tone because, when she compared me to other applicants' personal context, I strongly disagreed with her. That isn't to say that she is wrong, but she simply doesn't understand my story, so I wanted to provide some insight by showing how I demonstrated a lot of the stuff she listed.

    They key point here is that I'm not sitting here denying all the advice and going on my own path. What I am doing is saying I can't follow that advice and I'm trying to find angles that can support me best in the situation I am in. When I try to find those angles, I'm met with the understandable response of something along the lines of "that is far worse, you're doing it wrong." The thing is, I can't exactly do all of this advice, so why not try and figure out what I can do and have done.

    Also, to clarify, I did not try and argue a diversity claim with my workload. I was saying that it might help that I'm from an extremely rural part of northern Canada.

    @lookingforward
    That's totally understandable and I respect your commitment. I come to this forum only for advice and reality checks. I can assure you that I'm taking everything into consideration, but your advice seems to not apply to me. You said how, in order to have a personal context angle, I have to exhibit (show) x, y, and z qualities. I responded and showed how I exhibit these qualities. In order for me to take advice, I have to understand it and think it applies to me. In this context, I either don't understand it or genuinely don't think your advice applies to me-- this is why I commented. This isn't a fault of yours, but rather mine because I haven't told my story properly.

    I have to say, and I've reread this multiple times now, I don't quite understand how I misread you. I was directly quoting you throughout the text and didn't take anything out of context, as far as I know.

    I have nothing but respect for you and your advice. I'm not trying to sound ungrateful or anything like that, because I truly am grateful. I took your advice and responded with how I (think I) already met a lot of that advice.


    @Nocreativity1 @lookingforward
    I think this can all be summarized with one response to one quote. "The tippy tops want the standard, time-proven basics." I can't be that. I already have that six years of high school, online student, lack of ECs, and no APs in grade 10s on my application. I already lived at my lake for years. I already did my tests and my classes. I can't change this stuff, but I still want to apply to top schools with the extremely small bit of hope that I can get into one of the top schools. If not, I'm living a great life here in Canada and I will study at a great university here.

    I genuinely can't understand the purpose of your 'advice,' and I am sorry for that. It's not helping me to improve my application because I legitimately can't take most of your advice, and the purpose seems to be to make me realize that I am not a strong applicant at top schools and don't really have a shot-- which I already understand and am taking into consideration with my application.
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